Unlocking Memories

Unlocking Memories
Revealing Old Memories and Creating New Ones

Monday, December 31, 2012

Black-Eyed Pea Stew

They are here! But only for a season. These New year goodies are fresh from the field and never dried. Here's to a prosperous New year! Does everyone know why people cook these for New Years?

This is my new comfort food favorite for New Year's. I generally enjoy black-eyed peas and my husband makes a great pot-o-peas. However, last New Year's I tried this recipe that I found on Melissa's website for fresh produce. I came across this because I purchased a container of fresh black-eyed peas from my local whole food store. I followed the recipe (except for the bacon - I didn't add bacon) and the result was one of the best stew I've ever had. It was great with brown rice, great as a dip for brown rice/sea salt chips, and even great with matzo/flat bread. Give it a try.


  • 1 pound bacon - diced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 tub of black eyed peas (11oz)
  • 14.5 oz vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 Can diced Tomatoes - about 29 oz
  • *Note: I also opt to use fresh pico de gallo since it has the tomato, onion, cilantro, and green peppers for a zesty taste.


In a large pot over medium high heat, sauté the bacon until crisp. Set aside the bacon, reserving the fat in the pot.
Add the celery, onion and green bell pepper, then sauté 10 minutes, or until tender (I cook mine until it's nice and thickened).
Add the black eyed peas, broth and stewed tomatoes and allow to heat through, about 15 more minutes.
Top with crumbled bacon when serving.
Sometimes I add browned ground turkey or ground beef, ham, shrimp, or shredded chicken. 
The choice is yours! 
Plate this with country greens and buttermilk cornbread, or any variation of rice, and you've got yourself some good ol' down home comfort food.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Flaky Biscuits

I made biscuits from scratch for the first time ever this morning. I found a good recipe from a cooking show that I watch. The result . . . a nice biscuit. 

But it could use some improvement. So I did what I do best. I researched different recipes and compared. Some recipes had both baking soda and baking powder. Some has one or the other. Some recipes used yeast. Every recipe varied in measurements of leavening agents and salt. As for sugar, some included it and others left it out.
I'm looking for a biscuit that is tasty of course; but I also want it fluffy and flaky like those nice layers you get with the cans of biscuit dough that you just pop open and put in the oven. While the biscuits I made taste great and yes, they were soft and fluffy inside, they were not as flaky as I would have liked, nor did they rise to the level I would prefer. 
Biscuits are a bit touchy and the problem could have been that I let the butter get soft (the butter should be as cold as possible and should not be allowed to get warm and soft in the cutting/kneading process, which is why you should not knead the dough more than a few times). 
Now I'm faced with a challenge . . . to improve my biscuit-making skills. Here is the recipe I've decided to try next. This is sort of a consensus of all the recipes I compared.

And here are the pictures. They were soft and flaky. Adding 2 extra minutes to the cooking time made all the difference in the taste. No flour flavor. Only buttery goodness.


  • Freeze the butter and then shred with a cheese grater.
  • *Before and after cutting the flour mixture with the butter, set the bowl in the freezer for a few minutes.
  • Cut your biscuits into squares to reduce the amount of leftover dough.
  • Add extra milk to your dough while mixing, 1 tablespoon at a time. I think I added about 2 - 3 extra tablespoons of milk.

These are not touching . . . make them touch.

See . . . very few scraps.

Third time is the charm! I added 1 tsp of yeast, grated my butter, made sure everything stayed very cold, brushed butter on the tops before baking, cut them thicker, and baked them twice as long. Here is the result - flaky, light and fluffy, buttery pillows of goodness!

2 1/4 Cups flour (set aside the 1/4 c of flour to dust your board)
2 tsp sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp rapid-rise yeast
1 tsp salt
8 TBSP (1 stick) cold, cubed butter*
1 Cup Milk

Combine dry ingredients.
Use a dough cutter or fork to cut butter into the mixture until it looks like corn meal. Don't use your hands. You will cause the butter to melt and that results in a less flaky biscuit.
Make a well in the center of the flour and gradually pour the milk while mixing the milk and the flour with your fingertips. Mix just until it begins to hold together.
Turn dough out on floured surface and gently "knead" the dough, folding over about 3 or 4 times to create layers.
Roll out the dough to 3/4 inch thickness and cut with a floured biscuit cutter.
Place barely touching on a buttered aluminum pan or buttered cast iron skillet (using a dark nonstick pan will cause the bottoms to be darker than the tops).
Brush tops with melted butter.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 17 to 20 minutes.
Brush tops again with melted butter and serve with your favorite preserve or plain.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Quick Stove Top Yams

Baking yams are great when you are cooking a large amount. But, did you know that you can do the same recipe on the stove top when cooking a small amount? The end result is just as scrumdiddlyumptious!
The measurements below are just a starting point. You can adjust up or down according to your preference. Once the yams are tender, I will taste and see what I might need more of . . . if anything. You may like yours sweeter, or not. That's the beauty of yams. You can make them any way you prefer.

4 Large yams
1 C firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 C white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp banana extract
1/2 tsp salt
1TBSP cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 stick of butter (in slices or cubes)
1/4 C water
Orange slice (optional)

Slice or cube your yams and layer them in a saucepan. You can even use left over or fresh baked yams if you have them.
If you are not using precooked/baked yams, add water and steam until soft. 
Then add the rest of the ingredients to the sauce pan.
Heat until it boils.
Cover and reduce to low simmer.
Cook until thickened.

Leave me a comment and let me know what adjustments you made. There's more than one way to skin a yam.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sweet Potato Style Pumpkin Pie

In my family it is customary to celebrate Thanksgiving with a Sweet Potato Pie. This year I decided to make a lighter pumpkin pie. But, not your regular ho-hum pumpkin pie with the basic pumpkin pie season. I wanted this pie to have the same flavor as my moms sweet potato pie. I wanted the same light texture, the same golden glossy color, and the same spiced flavor. Many people make their pies on the heavy side and a little dry in my opinion. Then again, perhaps that is the way they are supposed to be and maybe we are the ones who make ours different. I say that because my mom's sweet potato pies have the same look and consistency of a pumpkin pie. That's how she always made them so that's what I like. With that said, how do I make a pumpkin pie taste like a sweet potato pie? Here's how.

This recipe makes 3 deep dish pies.

29 oz. can pumpkin puree (or 100% pumpkin)
1 to 1 1/3 cans Carnation Evaporated Milk
4 large eggs
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp banana extract
2 tsp flour (optional)
4 TBSP water
6 TBSP butter
3/4 C dark brown sugar
3/4 white sugar

3 - 9 inch deep dish pie crusts
Pie Shell (Blind Bake)
Preheat oven at 350 degrees for pie crusts. Bake pie crusts according to package directions or for about 10 to 15 minutes. 
Whether you bake the crust before filling them or not makes no difference really. Some people like to bake them first. Some people do not. Be aware that if you do bake the crust first it might actually shrink a little and crack, so don't bake them completely. Line the dough top with aluminum foil and fill the pie crust with dry beans or rice (or pie weights). 
You may even choose to not pre-bake them at all. It's up to you and your preference.

Pumpkin Filling - Preheat the oven at 425 degrees.

Whisk together eggs and sugars. Add butter, pumpkin, spices, salt, extracts, flour, and water.
Add evaporated milk, pouring slowly, and mix until the milk is completely incorporated into the pumpkin mixture.

Set pie crusts on a cookie sheet. Pour pumpkin mixture into pie crusts. Fill to just below edges. 

Bake in center of oven at 425 degrees for 15 minutes.
Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 40 to 50 minutes.

Challah French Toast

What do you do with all that challah that doesn't get eaten at dinner time? You start the next morning with good old French toast. My mother never made this for us and I didn't mind much because I never really liked it whenever I ate it at friend's houses. Growing up, my friends would rave about French toast. I never developed an appreciation for it until I started making it with challah. 

Challah is the perfect bread for this wonderfully sweet breakfast treat. It soaks up the egg mixture without getting soggy, and is just the right density whether you like your toast thick or thin . . . or somewhere in between. So if you've made way too much challah for the night or Shabbat.

Here are the few simple steps.

  • Start with your leftover challah. Day old is best. Slice it to your desire thickness and length.

  • Whip together two eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla extract (1 tsp), and a splash of milk (maybe 2 tablespoons). Sorry, I don't measure the cinnamon or nutmeg. I just sprinkle until it looks the way I want it to. This is one of those dishes that require personal adjustments according to your preference. I do measure the vanilla extract because it's expensive and I don't want to overuse it. Besides, if it's a good extract (and real), a little will go a long way.

  • Heat up your skillet or griddle with a little oil (just enough to coat the bottom) and a pat of butter (the oil will keep the butter from burning too soon). My favorite go-to skillet is my black cast iron skillet. The way it conducts heat and is naturally non-stick (if you keep it seasoned right) is a plus. And it gets extra brownie points from me because I don't have to worry about carcinogens leaking into my food from those pans with man-made non-stick coatings. 

  • Dip your challah slices in the egg mixture and coat both sides evenly.

  • Toast it in your heated griddle/skillet on both sides until it's golden brown. There should not be any wetness, yet it should still be soft and fluffy. Be sure to not press it down with the spatula. I see many people use the spatula to press down on the bread. Don't do that. It ruins the fluffiness of the toast.

  • Plate your food. Arrange nicely on a plate, because presentation is everything. You don't have to be fancy to have good presentation. You don't need to buy mint leaves or parsley just to decorate your plate for breakfast everyday. Just make your plate look pleasing to the eye instead of slapped together.

  • With or without powdered sugar? That's up to you. I like the way it makes it look, so I dust about 1/2 tsp of powdered sugar over the toast. You can also you more cinnamon if you like. Then top with your favorite syrup (I'm partial to real maple syrup) and enjoy.

  1. Top with fresh strawberries or blueberries (or whatever is your favorite). 
  2. Top with a fruit compote.
  3. Add whipped cream.
  4. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts or pecans.
  5. Top with ice cream, nuts, and whipped cream.
  6. Drizzle with chocolate syrup.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sweet Cinnamon Challah from Smitten Kitchen's Best Challah

This is my go-to recipe for great Challah. If you've never had Challah, you should . . . and you should have it homemade or fresh from a real bakery that specializes in Kosher foods. It's so different from what you buy in a grocery store. The flavors are divine and the aroma is heavenly. 

Tonight is not Shabbat nor is it a High Holy Day. But a friend asked me to bring some of my delicious Challah to work tomorrow, so I could not say no. However, this time I am taking my favorite recipe (and I've tried many good ones) and I'm sweetening it up. I want something reminiscent of cinnamon bread but not as sweet as a cinnamon roll. I've decided to take this recipe and add a few . . . just a few . . . ingredients to make it my own cinnamon challah. If you click on the link above it will take you to the recipe for Smitten Kitchen Best Challah (created by Smitten Kitchen). Try that recipe and practice the braiding. I cut the recipe in half for smaller loaves. Then for a twist, add the following ingredients to sweeten it up just a little bit.

4 tsp Cinnamon
2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Smitten Kitchen Best Challah recipe will yield 2 loaves (2 large loaves), so I have cut the recipe in half (excpt for the sugar because I want a sweet loaf). I also use a bread machine on the dough setting to do all the mixing and kneading for me. Here are the results:

1 C Warm Water                                               
1/2 C Oil
3 Eggs (save 1 for the egg wash)
1 Tsp Vanilla
1 TBSP Honey
4 C Flour
1 1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 C white sugar
2 1/4 tsp yeast

put to the side for an egg wash:
1 egg (beaten)
1 TBSP of water

Add ingredients to your bread machine in the order of ingredients list. Basically, liquids go in first and then the dry ingredients. Before you add the yeast, make a small well (hole) in the the middle of the flour and pour the yeast in the well. This ensures that it does not mix with the liquids too soon.

Set your bread machine to the dough setting. You can also use the bread machine on one of the bread baking settings if you just want  loaf of bread without the braiding. This could be good for sandwiches and such.

Once the bread machine has completed it's cycle of kneading and rising (usually this happens twice), remove the dough from the machine, place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it rise once more (I read that an extra rise is key to a better challah). 

When it has doubled in size, dump the dough onto your board. Cut the dough in half. Take each half and divide it in 3 to make 3 strands. Take each 3rd of the loaf and roll it into a strand about 12 inches long. 
Lay each strand out and pinch together at the ends. 
Now braid (just like braiding hair using a hand over hand motion instead of under).
Now pinch the strands together at the opposite end from which you started. 
Lay onto a greased cookies sheet or jelly roll pan, baste with egg wash, cover, and let it rise until it doubles in size. You can let it rise in the oven at 150 degrees if you like (or if it's the middle of winter and cold).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Brush with egg wash again before putting in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. You know it's done if you tap the bottom and it sounds hollow.

*** Variation - Sometimes I take the 2nd loaf and stack it on top of the 1st loaf before rising. Why? This gives it the look of a 6-braid challah and looks especially lovely when making the round challah for Jewish New Year. For this one, the baking takes almost twice as long.

Thank you Smitten Kitchen for this great Challah recipe!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday's Chicken Stoup

Looks like a soup, feels like a stew. It's a hearty chicken soup!

I made this tonight. I love soups/stews in the cold winter months. I also have a cold, so I'm really going for comfort on this one. Nothing like being able to wrap up in a warm blanket with a hot  bowl of soup or stew to warm you from the inside out.

For this dish I don't really measure anything. I just throw it together and see what happens. However, it you feel you need to measure, just start with the following measurements and then adjust to taste during the simmering process. It just depends on how you want your soup to taste - more hearty and smokey? Add more cumin, paprika, pepper, and Old Bay. A less sweetened broth? Replace the rub on the chicken for a chicken rub or whatever your favorite rub is.

Let's talk about rice. 

My favorite . . . absolute favorite . . . is Japanese rice. I love the stickiness and the slight sweetness of it. However, I am aware that Japanese rice is not the perfect compliment to every single dish I make. For that reason, I prefer to keep a variety of rice types on hand - Japanese, Jasmine, regular long grain, wild rice, etc. For this dish I chose long grain rice; and I set it on top of the soup instead of spooning the soup over the rice so that my rice stays a bit dry and I can spoon in as much of it into the soup as I want gradually as I eat. That's just my preference and pickiness (if there is such a word).

Okay, let's get started. 

6 Chicken Wings
1 Onion
1/2 lb smoked beef sausage
1 garlic clove
1 tsp Lawry's seasoned salt
1-2 tsp red pepper (more or less according to preference)
2 tsp Grill Mate Chicken Rub
1 TBSP + 2 tsp Grill Mate Smokehouse Maple or Applewood Rub
1 tsp Sweet Paprika
1 tsp regular Paprika
2 tsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Italian Herb Mix (or 1 tsp of each oregano, 
thyme, basil)
2 tsp Old Bay Season                                                           
Mixture of you favorite veggies (I used carrots,             
peas, sweet corn, green beans, bell peppers and 
sometimes asparagus/red potato)
1 Cup of water
1 Cup Vegetable Broth
1 16 oz can of stewed tomato (Italian style)

  • Clean your chicken. Add chicken rub and the 2 tsp Smokehouse Maple or Applewood Rub (or whatever is your favorite). Add olive oil (about a tablespoon) and massage the ingredients into the meat. Let it rest while you prepare your soup.

  • Cut up the smoked sausage and onions.

  •  Brown the sausage and add the onions with a small bit of oil to saute until tender. Season the onions with a little salt and add the garlic. 
  • Now add the other seasoning and stir (the heat releases the flavors and aromas).

  • When the onions are clear, add about 1-2 cups of water and 1 Cup of vegetable broth.You can always add more liquid if you like.


  •  Add your vegetables - fresh or frozen - and stewed tomato. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.


  •  While that is cooking, heat up your skillet with a touch of oil (if you use a cast iron skillet that is well seasoned you won't need the oil). Brown the chicken wings on both sides. They will finish cooking in the soup.

  •  Add the chicken to the simmering pot of broth and veggies. Cover and let it simmer until the chicken is tender and falling apart.

  •  Serve with rice.

*** Variations: Try this with shrimp instead of sausage, or go meatless and spoon over a nicely grilled white fish for a lighter meal.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sufganiyah (Israeli Donut)

Sufganiyah (plural for sufganiyot) are delectable Israeli Jelly Donuts traditionally eaten by Jews during Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the oil. 

In my quest to make a Hanukkah treat I scoured the internet for recipes that seemed like they would yield a great product. Thanks to The Saturday Evening Post and The Huffington Post, I found two such recipes.
What I have done is I have taken the best of both recipes and added my own little spin and a few additional ingredients to make it my own. To make the dough-making even easier, I have replaced the kneading steps and incorporated the use of my handy bread machine. After all . . . why knead if you don't need to? You just pop everything into the bread machine and let the machine do it's thing. Then you let the dough rise. After that, you form your donuts, let them rise again, and deep fry all of that wonderful goodness. Then you roll it in sugar glaze, powdered sugar, granulated sugar, drizzle chocolate syrup on top, fill with jelly, whatever your taste buds desire.
The result, a wonderfully aromatic, palate tickling Hanukkah treat that will surely become a family tradition for years to come (if it's not already).
Here's what you need:

6 tbsp warm water
2 C flour (+1/4 cup set aside if you want to roll out dough to cut in rounds - I didn't do this)
3/4 C sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast
6 tbsp milk
1 Large egg
1 tsp Vanilla
approx 3 C oil for frying

For Glaze:
1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1/4 C milk
Combine the yeast, warm water, and sugar. Let it sit for 10 minutes, until it gets bubbly. 

Combine the milk, egg, and vanilla. Put in the bread machine.
Add yeast mixture to the bread machine.

Combine flour, salt, and cinnamon and add                                            
to the bread machine.

Use the dough setting. When complete, let it rise for 2 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

                    Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness if you want to cut out the rounds. For fritters or donut holes, pull off enough dough to roll in a ball of the desired size keeping in mind that you will allow them to rise again for at least 30 minutes.

I like to work with oiled hands, otherwise spray the dough with oil before you cover them.

After 30 minutes
Place them on parchment or wax paper. Cover them and let them rise.

Tip: If you want jelly filled donuts and you do not have a pastry bag for filling, just take one cut-out round, place the filling in the center, cover with another round, spread an egg mixture on edges and pinch together.

Pour oil into a deep fryer or dutch oven. The temperature should be around 325 degrees so heat the oil on high (or medium-high if you are using the power plus burner that some stoves have). While the oil is heating up you can make your glaze. 

 Combine powdered sugar and milk. Heat over medium-low heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Prep your frying/glazing area by setting up layers of paper towels to put hot donuts on for draining, your sauce pan of glaze for dipping (or whatever you are coating with - sugar, powdered sugar, etc) and your plate for cooling. This is where everything starts happening very fast, so do not put more than 3 or four in the fryer at a time.

Deep fry about 2 minutes per side for donuts, 30 seconds per side for fritters or donut holes.
Drain them on the towels then dip them into the glaze and cool them on the plate or rack. You can probably glaze while a new batch is frying. It's up to you.

The result? A fritter sort of like a mini apple fritter because of the look and the texture, which makes me think that next time I should put a cinnamon, butter, sugar, nutmeg and apple filling inside.