Friday, December 18, 2009

Dinosaur Barbecue's Corn and Potato Chowder

Back in July I travelled with my husband to Syracuse, New York for
a few days. We went last July for the first time, and discovered this
incredible place through those booklets they place in hotel rooms so you
can scope the local restaurants. We were intrigued and when the desk staff gave
it two thumbs up, we decided to try it.

I know, I know, I hadn't learned how to take outdoor night pictures yet.
It appealed to my love of neon signs at night.

We loved Dinosaur BBQ. It's a very--um--unadorned interior, similar
to the best rock or sports bars, loud and raucous and fun. No frills here, just
great food and beer at very reasonable prices.
They feature a variety of down-home dishes, the best of which is the
barbecued pork. The recipe I'm posting today is something neither
of us tried at the restaurant, but after returning home, I found their
cookbook on the interwebs and ordered it toot sweet.

This is the first recipe I tried from the book so far, and I'm looking forward
to trying them all in time.

In the meantime I am waging a one-woman campaign to persuade
the owners to open a Dinosaur Barbecue here in Michigan.
Stay posted.

Corn and Potato Chowder
(adapted from Dinosaur Bar B Que: An American Roadhouse)


1 tablespoon butter
1/4 pound bacon, diced
1 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped green pepper
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken broth or stock

4 cups peeled, finely diced all-purpose potato
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
pinch of cayenne pepper*
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley


Place the butter in a soup kettle and melt over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp. Take bacon out and drain on paper towels.

Pour off all but 1/4 cup of fat from the pot. Toss in the onions and peppers, seasoning them with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until so
ft and then add garlic, cooking it all for 1 more minute.

Sprinkle on the flour and mix into the veggies. Pour in the broth and potatoes. Cover the pot and bring to a boil; lower the heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Add the shredded carrots and corn. Cover adn simmer everything 5-6 minutes longer to blend the flavors.

Stir in the half-and-half. Season with the thyme and cayenne, if you choose to add cayenne. Add the bacon bits you saved.

Feeds 6-8.

*I was out of cayenne pepper so used a few drops of some habanero-flavored Tabasco that was perched on the stove top.

This recipe is so perfect that I didn't change much at all. I was all out of fresh thyme so I omitted it at no sacrifice to the overall taste of the sou
p. It goes together quickly and easily. I doubled it and still didn't have as much left over as I wished. What did remain for my lunch the next day was even better, after the flavors had had time to blend further.

I know, I know, this one is terribly out of focus but I had to include it
because their outdoor art is so unique. There is an outdoor bar and numerous
picnic tables, some under a canopy. The horse stands atop a small shed or
something (I didn't particularly notice-did I mention the outdoor bar?).
It's a great place to quaff a cold one and wait for your table.
And wait you will, because this place is that good and that crowded.

And here's one more shot demonstrating my photographic inadequacies.
But I like it. Neon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The First Snow of '09

Let It Snow?
Let It Snow?
Let It Snow?

Just a quick post to share with you what I saw from my front door last
week when I was leaving for work.
(Please pardon the mini garbage dumpster in our driveway)

This is, of course, no novel sight to those of us living in the snow belt, but I
thought you of warmer climes might enjoy the sight of our first snow in

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Candy Cane Cookies

The Long and Winding Ropes
(with apologies to McCartney and Lennon)

This cookie recipe is one I have been making for donkeys' years.
(See the footnote if you really must know)

I first discovered it back when I had very few (three) cookbooks. One was
cooking for two, which we still numbered in those halcyon days; along with that I had the venerable red ring-bound Betty Crocker Cookbook; and then there was the
gold-covered but long-forgotten castoff of my mother's.

So you can see that my options were few. My childhood Christmas
memories are riddled with an apron-clad mother bustling around the kitchen,
turning out pan after pan of perfectly baked cookies for the holidays.
So what was more natural than when I started a family, that I should want to
carry on that all-American tradition with my kids?

Since my daughter was old enough to sit in her high chair and fiddle with a piece
of cookie dough without immediately scarfing it, she has assisted me in these bake-fests.
And when she was joined by three brothers in somewhat rapid succession,
they too joined us in our Christmas tradition.

In one afternoon, we'd decorate a double batch of cut-out sugar cookies, some almost
artfully done (those were mine), but most heaped high with colored frosting in the
dead center of the cookie, festooned with a variety of sprinkles, jimmies, and sugar sequins.
Never was a professional baker as proud of his most delicate and elaborate work
as they were of their very own creations.

I kick myself every time I look back on those days that I didn't take more
pictures. We have a precious few, mostly of my daughter the year she was
about six years old, and almost none of the boys while they worked.

And so it goes.

Every Christmas season I ask my kids which cookies I absolutely
have to make, and my youngest son always names these.

I usually try to make at least four or five new kinds each year, along with the
old favorites. Like this one.
And I always make the ropes too fat, so that they end up looking more like bent
cigars than candy canes. Rolled too thin, they're too hard to twist.
Colorful and a bit showy, they have a texture that's a cross between a standard sugar cookie
and a sable', toothsome and not too sweet.

This year I didn't even bother bending the crook into the top of the bloody--er, blessed
things; they are what they are.

And they taste just as good as every other year.

In the bottom picture you can see part of the recipe card that brought
me this dependable and delicious recipe.

Candy Cane Cookies
(adapted from an ancient* General Mills'
Betty Crocker Recipe Card Library)


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
red and green food coloring


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix thoroughly the butter, shortening, powdered sugar, egg, and flavorings. Blend in flour and salt. Divide dough in half; blend food colors (green and red for Christmas) into each half.

Shape 1 teaspoon dough from each half into a 4 inch rope. For smooth, even ropes, roll them back and forth on lightly floured board (remember making snakes out of PlayDoh?). Place ropes side by side and twist them together, then roll to smooth out twisted colored ropes. Complete cookies one at a time and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets, curving one end of cookie rope to form a candy cane.

Bake about 8-9 minutes or until set and very, very light brown. If desired, crush peppermint candy canes and 1/2 cup white sugar and immediately sprinkle cookies with candy mixture; remove from baking sheet and transfer to wire cooling rack.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

*If you absolutely MUST know, it's from an old collection dated 1971. I received the collection in 1981 as a wedding gift.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Scourge Called Cafe World and Nutella Shortbreads

I promised myself that I would never grovel to my reader(s) if I
was a little less-than-frequent in my posts, but here I am, hat in hand and
head down, mumbling my apology.

I blame a certain woman in Ypsilanti who introduced me to CafeWorld.

This insidious time-gobbler is from the same lovable people
who bring you Facebook.

It's a game which allows you to set up your own cafe, complete with a basic
set of equipment and furniture and funds to cook a few dishes and then you
start and at first it seems harmless enough but soon you're plotting how to get
those long-cooking dishes finished and served so you can serve more customers
and get far enough ahead of the cooking so you can take a minute to breathe and then it's
back at it again, cooking more and more bacon cheeseburgers and fruit salads
so you can afford to expand and draw more business and then you expand again and
pretty soon you're planning your entire life around this dumb game, timing
your leisure hours around when your food is finished and can be served.

Friends who introduce you to this terrible time-waster are not
your friends at all.

I mean you, Carmen!!

And now, back to your regularly-scheduled program.


I thought I was raised in a cultured, well-rounded atmosphere,
traveling now and then, exposed to much of what life has to offer.

But never, never, did anyone tell me about this stuff.
This wondrous stuff.

It's quite a mystery to me because, as you know, I hate and loathe
nuts in any form or shape.
This marvelous goop is hazelnut-flavored.
So why do I like it?
Because it looks so much like chocolate?

I researched this product thoroughly (thank you, google) and
found surprisingly little information about it, other than the fact
that Nutella was developed during World War II to compensate for
the scarcity of chocolate in those lean years. Can it be that something
so good came out of something so bad?
Life is strange.

There are many recipes out there that include Nutella, so many that I had to
find out what the fuss was all about.

Now I know, and here's a delicious recipe for you, too. It's a softly crisp
shortbread that goes together so easily, you'll wonder why people would
ever buy shortbread cookies.
These are far superior.

Try them and see!

Nutella Shortbread Cookies
(adapted from a recipe from Besotted Gourmet)


3 sticks (or 3/4 of a pound) of butter, softened
1 cup sugar, white
1 teaspoon vanilla

3 1/2 cups AP flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
1 cup Nutella


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In electric mixer, cream the but
ter, sugar, and vanilla. Mix flour, salt, and mix well. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture, mixing well until blended.

Place dough on large piece of waxed paper. Cover with another sheet and roll out dough to 1/2 inch thickness and using round biscuit cutter, cut out cookies and place on cookie sheets lined with silpat or parchment paper.

Sprinkle cookies with turbinado sugar and bake for 10-12 minutes*
Let them cool for 5 minutes before removing to cooling rack.

To make sandwich-type cookies**, frost one cookie with Nutella and cover with another cookie. Rinse, lather, repeat.

*When I tried this recipe, I found to my dismay that the baking time was woefully inaccurate--or I should say, probably, that for the thickness I rolled my cookies, baking time was way off (22-25 minutes!) My first tray was too dark, although still tasty.
I would suggest that you watch them closely while baking and dete
rmine length of bake time for yourself.

**These would also be pretty much delicious if you left them as singles frosted with Nutella, too.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bruschetta with Peppers and Blue Cheese

Bruschetta with Peppers and Blue Cheese

I love blue cheese so much it's almost unnatural.
My passion knows no bounds
and brooks no interference in its efforts to satisfy its cravings.

I have dallied with gorgonzola but find it weak and a little wishy-washy.
To tempt me, it has to be Danish blue, he of the pungent aroma and sharp bite.
I like a lot of sass in my food and my men.

If it had been up to me, this pan would have been rife with blue cheese,
and, oh, yeah, better put some peppers on there, too.

It's a little hard to distinguish, but I placed all the bread slices on the pan
and then sprinkled them with all the toppings.
Much, much easier than making each one individually.

I've even included before and after pics so you can see what it looks like before
going into the oven, and then all the creamy goodness when the cheese melts
in the third picture.

Bruschetta with Peppers and Blue Cheese
(adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
by Ina Garten)


1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing bread
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into short, thin strips
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and cut into short, thin strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and cut into short, thin strips

1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup julienned fresh basil leaves
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12-15 1 inch slices of fresh baguette
4-5 oz. Danish blue cheese at room temperature


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add all the peppers and saute' for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender. Sprinkle with the sugar and saute' for 2-3 more minutes. Stir in the basil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.
Arrange the bread slices in rows on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Brush each slice lightly with olive oil and toast for 7-10 minutes
until lightly browned.*

Top each toast with a spoonful of the pepper mixture and sprinkle with blue cheese crumbles. Return to the oven for a minute or two to warm the cheese. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

I skipped a step and omitted toasting the bread first. Instead I piled on the toppings and broiled them until the cheese looked slightly melted.