Posts Tagged ‘Judie Choate’


As I mentioned upon my return to writing these posts, one of my joys is watching our youngest granddaughter thrive.  So, we often go to the west coast to visit her which is where we’ve been these past couple of weeks.  This is a photo of the two of us doing what she loves best – playing and learning.  We are at a cash register that she recently got as a birthday gift learning about how to pay at the grocery store as well as the worth of each bill and coin that you have to spend to buy your groceries.  Her monies – as she calls the play money – all seem to have the same value to her at the moment no matter how many times we try to point out the differences it is all there just to spend.  As we neared the end of our visit, I told her parents that she should have been named Sunshine as that is what she brings to each day.  A have never known such a happy, joyful child and I’m so happy that we are able to frequently spend time with her.



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Steve loves this photo of me – why I don’t know.  But it might be because it amuses him and everyone I know that I can wield a knife and talk on the phone at the same time.  Looks like – in this instance – that I was putting together one of my impromptu fried rice meals, but I really don’t remember what I was doing.  I was probably on the phone with one of the many health professionals that have recently been part of our lives, but I could just as easily been gossiping with a friend.  I hope the photo amuses you as much as it does my family and friends.

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Along with a new book, our family has welcomed a brand new baby girl, Willa Elizabeth, who has just spent a week with her adoring grandparents (that be us!).  I even got to take her into the kitchen to help me cook.  It is thrilling to see the family line of cooks to continue.  Welcome to our lives and to the world, little Willa.

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Cheers to the end-of-summer!  Celebrate the coming of fall and the family holidays ahead with my latest cookbook  An American Family Cooks to be published by Welcome Books on September 24th.  It may be pre-ordered online:


or through your favorite bookstore.

Mine is Micawber’s Books in St. Paul. ( micawbers.blogspot.com )

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I’ve decided that I want to do a lot of cooking for gift giving this coming holiday season so I have begun looking through some of my old cookbooks for “new” old ideas.  In my original Gift Giver’s Cookbook (written with my dear friend Jane Green and published in 1970) I found one of my mom’s most favorite breads for gift giving – Boston brown bread – or, at least her version of it.  I made it for years but then, like many favorite dishes, it fell off my radar and had been forgotten.  One of the reasons might have been my mom’s requirement that it be baked in gold-lined No. 303 cans.  I rarely use commercially canned products so no longer had any cans in which to bake it.  But I went on a scavenger hunt and came up with cans I thought would do but being of a cautious nature (well, sometimes) I also had some small loaf pans on hand when I made my first return batch.  The photo should give you a good idea of my failure to find the right cans – but, since for some reason the bread tastes better baked in the can, I’m going to keep trying to find the correct No. 303 can.  In the meantime, the loaves tasted pretty good, too.  This recipe should be enough to make 6 No. 303 cans or about 5 small loaf pans.


8 ounces dark raisins

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, at room temperature

4 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped walnuts


Place the raisins in a heat-proof bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water.  Stir in the baking soda and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Combine the sugar, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle.  Beat on low to lighten.  Raise the speed to medium and beat until blended.

With the motor running, add the eggs, one at time, and beat to blend.  When well-blended, add the flour and salt and beat until well-incorporated.  Then, add the raisins along with their soaking water and beat to blend.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir in the nuts.

Carefully scoop the mixture into the cans, filling each one about half full.  (If you are using loaf pans, either coat them with Baker’s Joy or butter and flour them).

Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the breads begin to pull away from the sides of the cans.

Remove from the oven and place on wire racks for 10 minutes before removing the breads from the cans by running a small, sharp knife around the interior of the cans and then popping the breads out.

Serve warm or at room temperature with butter or cream cheese or alongside Boston Baked Beans.

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Lately I seem to be on a bok choy kick, but who could resist this absolutely flowery bunch of purple bok choy that found its way into the kitchen?   I was going to incorporate it into some fried rice but decided it was just too pretty to not stand on its own.  So, I cut it into pieces and quickly sautéed it in a bit of grapeseed oil and butter, seasoned it with salt and pepper, and cooked it just until it wilted.  I added a good measure of ponzu sauce that I found in the fridge, gave it a toss, and served it up as a side to soft shell crab sandwiches we had made from our leftovers.  A simple, easy, and very tasty dish.

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My son, Mickey, remembers my mother’s lemon meringue pie with such intensity that I have never made one for him – don’t want to risk failure.  But after years and years of avoiding it I finally decided to take a stab at duplicating my mother’s famous pie.  Since Mickey wasn’t around I didn’t have anyone to judge the result based on the “real thing” so I really didn’t have much to lose.  Though I have to admit I was more than ready to judge myself but fortunately the end result was pretty darn good.

I have been working at perfecting my pastry – not that I haven’t made okay pastry – but it has never brought mom immediately to mind.  I think that I’ve finally nailed it and I hope that I will inspire you to try your hand at what I think is, after brownies and chocolate chip cookies, the quintessential American dessert – even more than apple.  This recipe is a combination of the recipes used by my mom and my Aunt Frances, now departed but remembered always through their love of feeding family and friends.

A further note about the pastry.  When making savory pies and tarts, I do use lard which you can order online or purchase at most farmers markets (I get mine directly from Gaia’s Breath Farm and you can email them at mtoro@wildblue.net).  Whether to use vegetable shortening or butter is your choice – I combine them – sometimes using more butter than shortening when making open-faced French-style fruit tarts.

½ recipe My Near-Perfect Pie Pastry

1 egg white

Lemon Filling:

1½ cups sugar

¼ cup cornstarch

⅛ teaspoon salt

Juice of 3 lemons

3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (you will use the whites for the


¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

Aunt Frances’ Never-Fail Meringue

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Lightly flour a clean, flat surface.  Place the chilled dough in the center and, using a rolling pin, begin rolling the dough out to a circle about 10- to 12-inches to fit into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan, leaving an edge for fluting.

Transfer the dough to the pie pan and carefully push on it to make a neat fit, leaving the edges overhanging the pan.  Fold the excess dough under the edge and then, using your thumb and forefinger, crimp the dough into a decorative edge.  Using a table fork, randomly prick the bottom the pie shell.

Place the one egg white into a small bowl and whisk in 1 tablespoon of cold water.  Using a pastry brush lightly coat the bottom of the pie shell with egg white wash.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the pie pan and fit it into the shell.  Layer the bottom with pie weights, dried beans or rice.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes or until the pastry has set and is lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and set aside on a wire rack to cool.

Do not turn off the oven.

Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Stir in 1¾ cups of cold water and place over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 6 minutes or until thickened.  Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.

Place the egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in about ½ cup of the lemon mixture to temper.  Quickly whisk the egg yolk mixture back into the hot lemon mixture.  Return to medium heat and, whisking constantly, beat in the butter and lemon zest.  Cook for another couple of minutes or until thick.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

While the pastry and filling are cooling, make the meringue.

When cooled slightly, pour the filling into the pastry shell, smoothing out the top with an offset spatula.

Spoon most of the meringue on top of the center of the filling and spoon small amounts of the remaining meringue around the edges.  Using a spatula or wide knife, gently spread the meringue out from the center to meet the edge, making sure that the entire top is covered and the edge is sealed.

Place the pie into the preheated oven and bake for about 10 minutes or until the meringue is golden brown.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting.

My Near-Perfect Pie Pastry

Enough dough for one double-crust 9-inch pie

            2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted

            ¼ teaspoon salt

            Pinch sugar

            ¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening, chilled

            ½ cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes and chilled

            ½ cup ice water

Combine the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade.  Process to aerate and blend.

Add the shortening and butter and, using quick on and off turns, process just until crumbly.  With the motor running, add the water and process just until the dough begins to ball.

Scrape the dough from the processor bowl and divide it into two equal pieces.  Wrap each piece in plastic film and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to chill before rolling.  The dough may also be frozen; thaw before using.

Aunt Frances’ Never-Fail Meringue

            1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water

            3 large egg whites

            6 tablespoons superfine sugar

Combine the cornstarch mixture with ½ cup cold water in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until the liquid is clear.  Remove from the heat and set in a pan of ice water to cool quickly.  Stir frequently to keep the mixture liquid.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whip.  Begin beating on low to froth.  Increase the speed and continue to beat, alternately adding the cooled cornstarch mixture and the sugar, beating until stiff and shiny.

Use a directed in the pie recipe or for any dessert requiring a stiff meringue.

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