Pasties for the Super Bowl

Well, that title is a double entendre if I ever saw one. And trust me when I say there's no stripper video here. LOL. This is a food blog so everyone settle down.

"Pasties" ALSO refers to the plural form of pasty, a delicious meat pie. And I can't think of a better snack for the Super Bowl. A pasty is basically a pot pie without the pot. They're hearty with lots of pastry and just about everyone loves them.

My first introduction to pasties was many years ago in Petoskey, Michigan; Mother bought them in a bakery on Mitchell Street called Lee Ann's, now Johan's. They're a staple up there, although one initially thinks of a British pub when one thinks of pasties.
The pasty arrived in Michigan's Upper Peninsula via Cornwall, England. When tin mining started going bad in England during the 1800's the Cornish miners immigrated to America hoping to earn their keep in newly developing mines. The pasty was originally made as lunch for miners who were unable to return to the surface to eat. The traditional recipe includes diced or sliced steak, finely sliced onion and potato. Other common ingredients included rutabaga and sometimes parsley. The use of any carrot in a Cornish pasty is frowned upon by purists.

Today, pasty contents vary. Common fillings include beef steak and stilton, chicken and ham, cheese and vegetable and even turkey and stuffing. Other speciality pasties include breakfast and vegetarian pasties. Pork and apple pasties are readily available in shops throughout Cornwall, with the ingredients including an apple flavoured sauce, mixed together throughout the pasty.

This recipe has been a hit every time I've served it. I discovered it in Sarah Leah Chase's Cold-Weather Cooking cookbook. She named them after a Scottish man named Jim Paterson who was working for her at the time. I think you'll really like the ingredients-sausage, leeks, shiitake mushrooms, apples (plus some Calvados!) and sage. I'm including the pastry recipe because it's lovely and flaky, but you can save time by just using ready made dough. Pillsbury's refrigerated rolled pie crusts work fine. Your pasty won't end up quite so cheesy, but there's some in the pasty filling anyway. These are also smaller than the traditional pasty, making it easier to serve as an appetizer or snack. They are traditionally eaten by hand, even the big ones. If I serve these for supper, I never can resist some fruit salsa with them. Try inventing your own pasty- it's easy.

One small note: you can make them ahead of time and refrigerate for several hours before baking.When you're ready to serve, brush on the egg wash and bake.

Paterson's Pasties
Adapted from Cold-Weather Cooking by Sarah Leah Chase


3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (2-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cold, cut into bits
2-1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
pinch salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts, rinsed well and minced
1/3 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, caps minced
12 ounces bulk pork sausage
3 tablespoons Calvados
2 apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried
3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Egg wash:
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons water

Prepare the pastry: Place all ingredients except eggs in a food processor. Process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the eggs and process just until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Prepare the filling:
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the leeks and mushrooms and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the sausage and Calvados and cook, crumbling the sausage with the back of a spoon, until the sausage is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.

Stir in the apples, sage and Cheddar cheese and cook a couple minutes more. Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375°. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.

Divide the pastry dough in half and roll out to 1/8 inch thick on a floured surface. At this point you can cut out any size circle you wish. I cut out 5-1/4 inch circles.

To make the pasties: Put a tablespoon or so of filling in upper half of the circle (keeping in mind the amount of filling you use will depend on the size circle you have cut).

 and fold the dough over to form a half-circle.

Seal by pressing edges together with a fork.

Repeat with the remainder of your circles and transfer the pasties to your lined baking sheet.
Beat the eggs and water together and brush over each pastry.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Serve hot.

The pasties can be stored in the refrigerator for a few hours before baking.
Makes 2-4 dozen, depending on the size of your circles.


Condos and Crabmeat

Have I mentioned I live in a condominium? It was the first one built in the U.S. That's right: the first. We have the plaque to prove it. Not a co-op, those were around way earlier, but the first condo. And this is not one of those ghastly high rises which came later, worse luck, but a city block of several smallish, pastel-colored buildings on A1A, which means the ocean is right across the street. I've lived here a while and condo living (or any apartment living for that matter) is often dicey. My father's advice: don't make waves.

Normally, I don't. But..... it's all about a new fire alarm system the city says we have to install. I have no objections to complying with code but with who will do the installing. The Board chose an expensive company...costing nearly $60,000...and did not bother to look further. Appalled, we got another bid from a well-regarded company, $20,000 less for the same work. The Board refused to meet with them, discuss their references or consider their bid and informed us they had signed a contract with the other firm and that was that. Go away.

I really do hate arrogance.

So, the upstarts in Building A (that's us) made waves. We wrote letters; we asked for arbitration; we ignored the invoice; and we finally refused access to our apartments. Our entire building was on the same page. Which is nothing short of amazing. The end result? Threatening letters from Board attorneys (which we pay for) and finally a notice that the city would start fining us $500 for each day the work was not in progress. Request for arbitration is law but the Board informed us by registered letter we would have to pay all attorney fees and any fines while waiting for arbitration and ditto if we lost. Dicey indeed. It may well end up costing more than the savings we hoped for. It. Just. Ain't. Fair.

Most of us caved. Some did not, but they haven't a hope in hell of beating the system. It's gonna happen. Work has begun on the willing (I use the word loosely) apartments. There'll be stobe lights, klaxons, speaker systems telling you to get out! get out! and if this ever goes off in the night, just dial 911- forget the fire- because I will have had a heart attack. The equipment is 5 feet from the head of my bed.

Are you ready? I now have 4 fire alarm systems:

1. Was here when I moved in and will eventually be disconnected (I assume), though the detectors will not be removed.
2. Was installed by my home alarm company. More detectors, active.
3. Was added when the fire department came by and told us we needed to install some extra battery operated ones a few years ago. Still more active detectors.
4. The brand new one. Detectors galore.

What d'ya think? Overkill?
I need a drink.

And just what has this to do with Crabmeat? Not much, except I had company coming for dinner and had to work around installers, ladders, boxes of tools and coils of wire in the kitchen. It was a near thing, but I pulled it off.

My Deviled Crab was on the menu and it's a really old recipe; so old, I have no idea where I found it. Do you remember the funky clam shells we used to serve our crab dishes in? When I first started making this recipe, I used them. That's how old. Mine turned yellow and cracked so I finally got rid of them. It's an interesting combination of ingredients but the most important tip is to use really fresh crabmeat. And then haul out your old clamshells!

Stuffed Deviled Crab


1 pound fresh crab, flaked
4 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons onion pulp (I grate mine)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 or 3 dashes Tobasco
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped green pepper
1 small tomato, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch dry mustard
Pinch mace
Pinch dried basil
2 tablespoons light rum
2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
Cracker crumbs

Grated Parmesan cheese


In a bowl mix the flaked crabmeat, the lime juice, onion pulp, black pepper, Tobasco and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for a couple hours before serving.

In a skillet melt the butter and add the chopped onions, green pepper, tomato, the garlic and the parsley. Sauté until the vegetables are tender. Add the dry mustard, mace, basil, rum and breadcrumbs. Stir over low heat for a couple minutes.

Add the crab mixture to the stuffing and heat, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and pack into cleaned crab shells or individual ramekins. Sprinkle with a mixture of cracker crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Dot with butter and bake in a 350° oven until the top is browned and everything is heated through, 5-10 minutes.
Serves 6.


I'm On a Pudding Kick.....

My dad loved his rice pudding. Mother made it a lot, a very basic recipe with some raisins thrown in. She made custard much the same way, sans raisins. Nothing fussy, just quick and easy. Dad liked to take some softened butter, add brown sugar and cinnamon, mix it together and dump a heaping spoonful on top of his hot rice pudding. No cream, just the brown sugar/butter topping. It melted all over it; he loved that kind of stuff. His eating habits were really appalling when I think back on it, lots of butter, cream (he actually used sweetened condensed milk in his coffee), white bread and he liked his desserts. He kept one of those enormous chocolate bars in the refrigerator and broke off a piece every single evening of his life. He lived to be 94, was in good health (until prostate cancer hit at age  92), had all his teeth in spite of the chocolate, no cholesterol problems and still had a trim figure. What's up with that? Genes, you'll say, no doubt you're right.

One day I presented Dad with a different kind of rice pudding. A new recipe I had found called French Custard Rice Pudding and I wanted to try it out on him. He looked at it with dismay; he really didn't like change, but being a polite and also a kind father, he took a bite. After his first bite he smiled, looked up and said: "Is it rice pudding or custard?"

Well, both actually. And because he liked custard nearly as much, it was a success. He still wanted his brown sugar invention on top, even though I thought it was overkill. But then I'm not crazy about an overly sweet rice pudding. If you like a sweeter dessert, try a nice raspberry or apricot sauce (something made with melted jams, a bit of water and perhaps some rum or kirsch if you want to get fancy.); that would give the pudding a nice touch of color. Or you could make a crème anglaise. And there's always cream. Not appealing to me but there it is. Another wonderful thing about this pudding is it's just as good cold, if not better. But you sure can't melt your brown sugar topping on a dish of cold rice pudding. So Dad started to use maple syrup on it! Funny.

I've made it a lot since then. First for my parents, but also for my own family. Sometimes, if I don't have raisins, I've used whatever dried fruit I happened to have handy. But I must admit, I like raisins best. Talk about not liking change.

So... I give you double comfort food: rice pudding AND custard, all in one dish. I should also mention it's perfect to take to someone who's been housebound for one reason or another. Nearly everyone likes rice pudding and custard...pretty much from childhood on. Comforting. I think it's kind of neat to get two desserts in one.

French Custard Rice Pudding
From Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts


4 cups whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup uncooked rice ( not instant; I use Uncle Ben's converted rice)
3/4 cup raisins
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


In the top of a large double boiler, mix 3 cups of the milk (reserve the remaining 1 cup), sugar, salt and rice. Cook over direct heat until very hot. Then place over hot water in the bottom of the double boiler. Cover. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hours or until rice is very tender and the milk is almost but not completely absorbed.

While the rice is cooking, pour boiling water over the raisins to cover. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain.
Place rack in the center of the oven, preheat it to 350°. Butter a 6 cup shallow casserole or baking dish.
Stir yolks with a whisk and add the last cup of milk along with the vanilla and almond extracts.
Gradually mix some of the hot rice mixture into the cold milk mixture and then mix the yolk mixture with the rest of the rice. Stir in the raisins. Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle with nutmeg. Place into a larger pan, which must not be deeper than the baking dish. Pour hot water into the pan to about halfway up the baking dish.
Bake for 45 minutes or until a sharp knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove pudding from the hot water and cool on a rack. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
Makes 6-8 portions.


Super Bowl Gougères

There are some exciting cookbooks around right now. My daughter, who knows her mother's tastes extremely well, gave me a bunch for Christmas. I love reading them- you learn so much when you read everything the author has to say. Little hints and ideas scattered about in the books. My first post-holiday read has been the award winning Zuni Cafe Cookbook.

Those of you on the west coast no doubt know all about it. But for everyone else, here's a little history I culled from the book:

Billy West opened Zuni Café  in 1979, with a huge heart and exactly ten thousand dollars. He chose the name Zuni, after the native American tribe, and decided to offer mostly simple and authentic Mexican food. Two years later, Billy hired Vince Calcagno to help run his struggling café. They made a success of this rather improbable restaurant and in 1987 Billy and Vince asked Judy Rodgers to be chef. She was confident that the owners' affection for France and Italy, and for traditional food, would sanction lots of experimentation and change. She asked Billy and Vince for a brick oven which ushered in a litany of dishes and introduced patrons to Zuni's very special whole roasted chickens. The Zuni caesar and their bread salad are two more of their iconic dishes -- and their ricotta gnocchi.

And about the author:

Award-winning chef Judy Rodgers, a fixture in the San Francisco food world, has been at Zuni Café since 1987 as chef and co-owner. She was a very lucky exchange student at Les Frères Troisgros in Roanne, France in the early seventies. It was then that she fell in love with cooking and the world of restaurants.
''BREAD is my favorite starch,'' Judy Rodgers said. ''I even thought about writing 'The Stale Bread Cookbook'." Ms. Rodgers uses leftover bread to make puddings, toasted garlicky slabs called ''chapons'' and the warm salad that accompanies her restaurant's roast chicken. ''The bread salad is a little like stuffing on the side,'' she said. Judy was fortunate enough to work at Poilane Bakery in Paris for a while. No wonder bread is a favorite with her! Judy won Chef of the Year from the James Beard Foundation in 2004.

It was nearly impossible to narrow it down to just one recipe... I have little yellow notes stuck all over in the book. Sadly, there are very few photos, but I loved the photo of (what Judy calls) New Year's Eve Gougères with Arugula, Bacon, & Carol's Pickled Onions. These little sandwiches looked so good I couldn't resist and thought they might make a  delicious appetizer for Super Bowl parties.  I mean, who doesn't love bacon, onions and cheese? You can make the gougères ahead of time and warm them up before serving. And make the pickled onions a week ahead. You are going to love the pickled onions because they can be used on  burgers, with fried fish, with a steak sandwich or even on a BLT.

My photo is not as gorgeous as the one in the book, but I can tell you that it tastes every bit as good as the Zuni Cafe's does. I loved the bits of crunch from the baked Gruyère.

Super Bowl Gougères
Adapted from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook


1 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs, cold
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Gruyère, diced into 1/4 inch cubes (about 1/2 cup)
12 slices bacon
1-1/2 ounce arugula, washed and drained
1 cup Carol's Pickled Onions (recipe below), drained


Preheat oven to 400°.
In a 2-4 quart saucepan, bring the water, butter and salt to a simmer over medium heat. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously until the mixture masses and detaches itself from the sides. Reduce the heat to low and cook, beating constantly (you need a really strong arm for this) until the batter is stiff and shiny looking. Remove from heat and beat in the cold eggs, one at a time. The mixture will resist addition; you'll find yourself cutting through and slapping together slabs of slippery warm paste until it finally absorbs the egg and becomes sticky again. Repeat with each egg.

The final mixture should be no hotter than tepid. Add the black pepper and Gruyère.
Use a heaping tablespoon of batter per gougère and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. You will need a second spoon to scrape it into a peaky mound. If you're good with a pastry bag you can make perfect little gougère rounds. I prefer the irregular shapes. Bake until firm and brown, about 25 minutes. Some bit of cheese will ooze and form a delicious crispy edge on the gougères. Open one to make certain it is done inside; it should be tender and moist but not mushy. You can always put it back in oven...simply turn off the oven and let it finish cooking in the ambient heat.

Meanwhile, cut the bacon into 3 inch segments and panfry or roast. Drain on towels.

Serve the gougères warm from the oven (or reheated) split through the middle and overstuffed with bacon, pickled onion and peppery arugula.

Carol's Pickled Onions


12 firm yellow onions, no more than 2-1/2 inches in diameter
1-1/2 cups white wine vinegar
1-1/2 cups water
2 generous tablespoon sugar
2 bay leaves
1 small dried chili

A few whole black peppercorns


Peel and slice the onions into rings about 1/8 inch thick. Separate into rings.
Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaves, chili pod, peppercorns and salt in a small saucepan. If you like things hot, but the chili pod in half before adding. Bring this mixture to a simmer, turn heat up to medium and add the onions. Gently stir the crowded onions while they return to a simmer. Simmer for 1 minute.
Pour the onions and brine into a wide bowl or glass container. Cool They will turn glassy as they cool. Cover and store in the refrigerater.

I know we are all thinking of Haiti this week and keeping them in our prayers. Please do all you can by donating at:  http://www.redcross.org/


Comfort Food: A Perfect Banana Pudding

I know, I know. You're thinking: boring, old fashioned and it uses Vanilla Wafers, for heaven's sake! Wrong. When done right, it's comfort food at it's finest.

There's a lot of debate about its origins. Which came first: 'Nilla wafers or the pudding? (This is not the recipe on the 'Nilla Wafers box, which uses cornstarch and not flour.) And why is it considered a southern dish?

The first recipe for banana pudding was found in Mrs. Rorer's New Cook Book, by Sarah Tyson Rorer (1902) in a section labeled "Hawaiian Recipes".

Then, in 1903, the following recipe from "The Kentucky Receipt Book," by Mary Harris Frazer, was published:

Banana Pudding.
Take ½ dozen bananas , peel and cut in pieces an inch thick, put in baking dish and pour over custard made in the following manner: Custard-One pint of milk, 3 eggs, beat the yolks light, add milk, also 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Have the milk boiling, add the eggs and let it cook until it thickens; when cool pour over the bananas. Make a meringue with whites of the eggs and granulated sugar, put on top of custard, set in oven a few minutes to brown. Serve at once.

So, by about 1900, we have the custard, bananas and meringue parts of banana pudding in place. Nabisco began selling the final piece of the puzzle, vanilla wafers, in about 1901. No one seems to know who thought of lining the banana pudding dish or layering the pudding with vanilla wafers.

Have you ever had banana pudding at Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House in Savannah? They're famous for it. Why, I can't imagine. Her recipe is typical and also why gourmands turns their noses up when you mention banana pudding: Mrs. Wilkes uses instant vanilla pudding, very few bananas, and a 'Nilla wafer. No wonder it has a bad name!

But this recipe is the real McCoy. Is it trendy? No. Is it glamorous? No.
Is it the perfect comfort food? YES.

It's a snap to make. Not as simple as instant pudding on top of bananas with a 'Nilla wafer stuck in the top but the little extra effort is the difference between a Mrs. Wilkes' type banana pudding and a pudding that will make you roll your eyes and moan. I'm serious here, people. You have no idea.

There are a couple basic rules to follow: you must use a 9" by 9" baking pan and you must have ripe bananas. The kind with some black speckles on them. Not mushy, ripe.

Ready? Here we go!

Perfect Banana Pudding
From Texas Cooking Online


1 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon butter
4 egg yolks
1 box of Vanilla Wafers
5 large ripe bananas

For the meringue:
4 egg whites, at room temperature
5 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 375°.

Line the bottom of a 9x9-inch baking dish with a layer of vanilla wafers. (This recipe will not use the whole box, so you may snack along the way, but don't get carried away.)

Peel the bananas and slice into 3/8-inch rounds; use a ruler (I'm kidding!). Cover the banana slices with plastic wrap to keep them from darkening, and quickly make your pudding.

Note: I didn't do it this way. I made the pudding first, covered it with plastic wrap and then sliced the bananas.

Combine the sugar, flour and salt in bowl, mix well, and set aside. In a heavy saucepan, beat egg yolks well (just use a fork or a whisk, but beat well). Over medium heat, add the flour mixture to the egg yolks alternately with the milk and vanilla, stirring constantly.

Bring to a gentle boil and, when mixture begins to thicken, add butter, continuing to stir to prevent scorching. When the mixture reaches pudding consistency, remove from heat.  

Place a layer of banana slices in the baking dish on top of the vanilla wafers. Don't stint and put one slice of banana per wafer. Line those banana slices up edge-to-edge.

Pour, spreading as necessary, half of the pudding over the banana layer. Put down another layer of vanilla wafers, another layer of banana slices, and cover with the remaining pudding.

For the meringue, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until they form soft peaks. Add the cream of tartar.  Beat and then add sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until stiff peaks are formed. Fold the vanilla into the meringue, and spread the meringue over the pudding, sealing it at the sides of the dish.
Place in a preheated 375° oven and bake until browned, 12 to 15 minutes, depending upon your oven.

This recipe makes 6 or 8 servings. Any leftovers should be covered and refrigerated.
And, yes, it's hard to cover anything with a meringue top and although banana pudding is not attractive after it's been refrigerated, it's still just as delicious.


Spaghetti Casserole

My mother came by her talents in the kitchen naturally, from her own mother, my Grandma Sarah Doherty. Grandma Doherty and her sister Carrie owned a bakery in Detroit for many years. When I was a child, she lived with us 5 or 6 months of the year and did we love it! Her pies and pastries were out of this world and her homemade noodles could weaken you at the knees. I would come home for lunch from school (Ah yes, we went home for lunch back then!) and noodles would be hanging over open cabinet doors, drying on dishtowels. Mother would grab a batch, boil them briefly, dump them in a frying pan with butter and a little scallion and when they were nearly brown, she dropped in some swiss cheese just to add insult to injury.
We never knew what to expect from the kitchen when Grandma was there. The house always smelled like bread and pastry. However, I think my favorite treat was something called a Long John. Does anyone even make them anymore? Guess it doesn't matter, 'cause nobody could possibly make them as good as Grandma Doherty. In case you don't know what I'm talking about, Long Johns are a rectangular yeast-based donut and Grandma dolloped them with confectioner's icing. Right out of the fryer, words cannot begin to describe....

Mother, who cooked as well as HER mother, not only could do pies and pastries, but was creative as well. She was one of those home cooks who could taste something and go home and replicate it, nearly exactly. Wish I could do that!

One casserole in particular was a long time family favorite. We had it for supper off and on and Mother sent it with us for church suppers, school events and whenever we had to take food someplace. I don't make it much anymore but it was the first dish my middle son taught himself to make and he has been cooking it ever since he left home. Now it's one of HIS family's favorites. It's simple, it's vegetarian and I bet you have every single ingredient needed to make it in your pantry right this minute. There's no reason you can't add meat or just about anything else you like, but I still prefer it plain, simple and very cheesy. In fact, I think whole wheat spaghetti would taste delicious in this dish, so you could at least claim there was something healthy in it! My father used to look at it and ask "Is there something under the melted cheese?" I still like plenty of cheese, cooked until it's crunchy on the top and sides. And wait 'til you taste it warmed up for lunch the next day.

Mother's Spaghetti Casserole


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large can whole tomatoes, drained and cut up
1/4 cup tomato ketchup
1 pound box spaghetti (use just a little less)
8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup tomato paste (optional, I never use it)
salt and pepper to taste


Sauté the onion in the butter and olive oil. When nearly done, add the garlic so both are slightly caramelized. Set aside. Boil the spaghetti in salted water until al dente. Drain the spaghetti and add the onion mixture. Cut up the cheese and add half. Add the tomato ketchup and salt and pepper. If you are using tomato paste, add it here. I don't ever use it.
Pour into a casserole, top with the rest of the cheese and bake in a 375° oven for 35 minutes until brown and bubbly. Serves 4 big eaters with leftovers.


Baby, It's Cold Outside!

It was in the 30's last night and will be again tonight. Brrrrr. Big deal, you say. Well in South Florida, it IS a big deal. Our homes are not insulated as well as yours; the cold comes pouring in all the sliding doors and windows, all while we're setting records for cold. (Yes, we have heat, but it just isn't very efficient when temps drop this low.) And I know pretty much across the rest of the country, you're setting records too. Luckily, I kept my Michigan warm clothes!  Down jackets, sweaters, wool caps, gloves and boots are the order of the day down here. It's funny, really, to see everyone dressed like this with palm trees in the background!
Did I ever mention it snowed down here in the 70's? Nobody believes me, but it did. Didn't stick, of course, but we had flurries. I was driving the kids to school when it started. Snow wasn't new to us because we had lived in Michigan for years, but you should have heard the commotion from kids who had never seen it before.

Anyway, it's perfect weather for soup - something I don't say very often. My sister to the rescue! She has a simple but delicious recipe for a Seafood Chowder which I love. Sharon is the master soup-maker in the family....she has an endless supply of hearty, delicious soup recipes and this is yet another winner. Frankly, I think it comes from living in the north country and she loves soup every day for lunch. I like this particular soup because it takes no time at all, you can freeze it and you can use any kind of crabmeat, including imitation crabmeat. In fact, I think this soup is better with the imitation crab. Certainly cheaper.

Here's the skinny on imitation crabmeat:

The processing of imitation crabmeat begins with the skinning and boning of (usually) Alaska Pollock. Then the meat is minced and rinsed, and the water is leached out. This creates a thick paste called surimi. The word means "minced fish" in Japanese, and the essential techniques for making it were developed in Japan over 800 years ago. Surimi is commonly used in Japan to make a type of fish ball or cake called kamaboko. In 1975, a method for processing imitation crabmeat from surimi was invented in Japan, and in 1983, American companies started production. Many ingredients are added to the surimi to give it a stable form, appealing texture, and crab-like flavor. Sugar, sorbitol, wheat or tapioca starch, egg whites, and vegetable or soybean oil can all help improve the form of the surimi. Natural and artificial crab flavorings are added, and some of these flavorings are made from real crab or from boiled shells. Carmine, caramel, paprika, and annatto extract are often used to make the crab's red, orange, or pink coloring. Imitation crab is cooked, which helps set the surimi and give it the final texture and appearance. Nutritionally speaking, surimi is not that different from real crab, although it is lower in cholesterol.

I'm making a big pot of this soup today, having it for lunch, giving some to a friend and then freezing the rest for the next deep cold front, which is due Saturday, with no time in between to recover from this one!

Sharon's Seafood Chowder


1 small onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped ( with leaves)
5 mushrooms, chopped
1/3 cup salted butter
2 cans cream of potato soup
1 can cream of shrimp soup
4 cups milk or half and half
1 can minced clams with juice
8 ounces crabmeat, shredded
10 ounces small frozen shrimp
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
4 dashes angostura bitters
1/3 cup sherry


In a medium soup pot, sauté celery, onions, and mushrooms in butter until almost caramelized. Stir in remaining ingredients except the sherry. Heat but do not boil. Add sherry and adjust with more cream if desired and season to taste with salt and pepper. Freezes well in small containers.


On Diets and Dieting

Let's be brutally honest here. I ate too much over the holidays. Did you? Were you nibbling in the kitchen as you cooked? How about the leftovers in the fridge? Now don't get me wrong, I'm a believer in a long term (read forever here) plan to keep your weight under control. And exercise. But there are times when it just doesn't happen for me and I need some incentive to get back on track.

One of the oddest diets I've ever seen was posted on Noble Pig's blog last fall. It was called  "The 11 day, Fit-In-Your-Jeans-Again, Diet". Did you see it? It was off the wall, but an 8 to 9 pound loss is nothing to sniff at. Just not sure I can hang in there with those truly odd ball meals for 11 days. All those nuts and some totally strange food pairings. Not a good diet if you work either. Impossible, actually. Some of the comments were a scream. Read about the diet HERE.....brace yourself .

Years ago a model friend of mine was complaining about a show coming up; she'd been on holiday so needed to lose a few pounds fast. Someone had given her what she called "The 3-Day Model's Diet." She proceeded to sing its praises and then wrote it out for me. This diet has been kicking around for a number of years so you may be familiar with it under its real name: The Cleveland Clinic Diet.

I have used it off and on to kick-start myself, then morph into my "forever" diet; which really never lasts forever no matter how good my intentions. Let's face it: the kitchen is my favorite room in the house. Anyway, it really does work. You will lose anywhere from 4-8 pounds (which must be nearly impossible when you are already a size 2 as my friend is); although realistically, most of that weight is likely due to fluid loss and not the more desirable fat loss. I never lost more than 4 pounds on it but it always did the trick and has the advantage of being easier to take than the 11 day diet. Oh well, any port in an diet emergency storm. Especially if the emergency is fitting into that little black dress in 4 days.

Do any of you have diet secrets to share?

Cleveland Clinic Diet (3 Day Model's Diet)
( Only salt and pepper for seasoning, no fat. Tea and coffee allowed- no cream or sugar; Splenda or Equal allowed)
Hints: I always use fresh veggies and good quality cheese
Let me also add that I HATE canned tuna. So I used canned salmon in one place and broiled fish in the other.

Day One:

2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 slice toast

½ cup canned tuna ( I eat canned salmon)
1 slice toast

3 slices any meat ( I eat turkey or chicken, small slices)
1 cup beets
½ cup green beans
1 apple
½ cup vanilla ice cream

Day Two:


1 egg 1 banana
1 slice toast


1 cup cottage cheese
8 saltines


2 hot dogs
1 cup cauliflower
½ cup carrots
1 banana
½ cup vanilla ice cream

Day Three:


3-5 slices cheddar cheese
8 saltine crackers
1 apple and 1 banana


1 hard boiled egg
1 slice toast


1 cup canned tuna ( I eat some other kind of fish )
1 cup beets
½ cup broccoli
½ cup any fruit
½ cup vanilla ice cream


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