how to make: berry tea loaf

They can sort of pass for quick bread, but they’re really more like cake–tea loaves are the best.  They’re the perfect thing to enjoy with an afternoon cup of tea.

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Without fail, I use this recipe.

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Though, this one, full of chocolate, is a major fave, too (From BAKED EXPLORATIONS).

And PUMPKIN BREAD, from a few years ago, on this blog (originally inspired by a Greek teacher of mine from college–he’d make it for us on test days).

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It’s one of those simple pleasures.

how to make: leek & potato tart

Last week, I bought some leeks.  I thought perhaps I’d make some soup, but it was in the mid-to-high 90s every day.  With vegetarians coming over to dinner and red potatoes languishing in my pantry, I was once again inspired by France.

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Leeks are delicious members of the onion family, though they are also famous for catching and keeping dirt.  Once chopped, one or more water baths with much swooshing is necessary to release the grit trapped in between the many layers.

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Heat a tablespoon each of olive oil & butter in a skillet at medium heat, add 2 chopped and cleaned leeks, and cook till soft–about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the leeks cook, slice 8 ounces small potatoes.

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I believe that good is not the enemy of perfect (or I try to live as if I believe this), and so I keep pie crusts from Trader Joe’s in my freezer.  De-frost, press into a tart pan (or pie dish, or even a 9-inch round cake pan), lay down a layer of foil or parchment, and pour some rice, dried beans, or fancy pie weights into the middle of the crust (to keep it from putting on airs and getting all bubbly while it bakes).

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 10 minutes.

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Remove the rice/beans/weights, and let the tart crust cool slightly.

Add potatoes to the leeks in the skillet, along with about 2/3 cup liquid–some cream, some wine, some broth–whatever is on hand and sounds desirable.  Season with salt and pepper, and some thyme or parsley or sage or rosemary–anything that seems Frenchy and that happens to be fresh.  For me, today, it was thyme.  I even threw a few sprigs on top of the tart for good measure.

Add the potato-leek mixture to the tart crust and spread evenly.  Sprinkle with cheese if desired (I meant to, and forgot).  Bake for 35-45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Because of the temperature outside, I served this room temperature–you can also serve it warm.  With a little vinaigrette & some greens, it’s a perfect lunch or dinner.

how to make: croque madame!

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Melty, broiled ham & cheese with a runny fried egg–what’s not to like?

When I first went to Paris probably 15 years ago, I did not learn the brilliance of this dish.  I may have even turned up my nose at it–no wonder my parents were frustrated!  That little girl had no sense, absolutely no sense at all.

I’ve now learned my lesson.  It’s a favorite sick-food of mine, and easy enough both for sick girls and for well-meaning husbands to attempt!

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For two sandwiches, melt a tablespoon of butter into a small saucepan (medium heat).  Add a tablespoon of flour, and whisk.  The flour will start to brown–this is good!–and once it’s a nice caramel color, add about 2/3 cup milk and continue whisking.  The mixture will thicken, and now, you’ve made bechamel sauce!  Congratulations!

We’re not done yet.  Add a healthy handful, maybe a bit more than 1/2 cup, of a good hard cheese like gruyere, parmesan, or little bits of whatever is in your fridge.  Now, you have Mornay sauce.  Isn’t that much better?

Now, take four slices of bread (the airier the better, as to soak up the sauce), spread two with mustard, and layer a slice or two of ham with a slice of cheese (can be something different–I had Havarti–or the same as above), and top with the other slices of bread.  Pour the Mornay sauce over the top, and sprinkle a few tablespoons of grated gruyere on top.  BROIL.

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While broiling, heat up your nonstick skillet and fry two eggs.  Once the cheese is bubbling on the sandwiches, take ’em out, top ’em with an egg, and grab a fork & knife–no way to eat this “sandwich” with fingers!

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cold remedies

Been fighting something nasty this week.  Just coming out of the tailspin now.  My experience compels me to pass along to you something to help stuffy sinuses and something to fend off aches and pains.

1. a hot drink (2 T raw Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 T honey, hot water)IMG_0165

 

2. yoga for colds  (via yoga journal)

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Then, when the oppressive virus begins to let up, try my ritual: take a shower and wash your bed linens.  Nothing makes you feel alive again like a good hot shower & fresh sheets!

how to make: banana chocolate chip muffins

Based on my favorite muffin recipe at Durham’s Nosh Food restaurant, these muffins have the best texture–crunch, moisture, and a little chewiness–ever.

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Oven at 350 degrees, greased 12-cup muffin tin.

In a large bowl, combine:
¾ cup white flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a two-cup liquid measuring cup, combine:
¼ cup oil
¼ cup butter, melted
¼ cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
2 mashed bananas (small to medium sized)
1 large egg
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

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I add the ingredients to the measuring
cup in that order, so that I can use the cup’s lines for the first three ingredients. I dry-measure the sugar, but add it to the wet ingredients, because I’ve found it helps to let the sugar dissolve a bit before baking.

Carefully pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and fold just to combine–they’ll rise better if the batter isn’t over-mixed.

Bake for 25 minutes, cool for at least 5 minutes before removing from the muffin tin & serving. If not eaten right away, these keep best frozen–take out as needed and warm up in a toaster oven set to 400 for 5 minutes (to preserve crunchy outer shell–the microwave will work of course, though the crisp top will go soft).