Croque Madame

Did I ever mention that the Hunka-hunka and I have yearly Nancy Meyer film marathons?  I also can’t ignore one of her movies if I see it on TV.  For myself, her interior design is incredible, and except for the crying, her women are on the most part strong, and the food, yes, the food.  I still haven’t forgiven Diane Keaton for dumping Keanu Reeves for Jack Nicholson though; what a maroon.

But I digress, again.  The first time I saw a Croque Madame was in It’s Complicated.  So simple that it became elegant.  Good food done perfectly is the height of class to me.  Since then, I’ve seen Ina and Jeffery have them at a bistro in Paris while sharing a bottle of champagne.  When I grow up I’m going to be this classy.

They couldn’t be any easier to make.  You’ve basically been making them for years without the bechamel sauce.  The Croque Madam has an egg and the Croque Monsiuer does not, other than that they are identical.  They are incredibly rich, so I often cut down on the cheese.  To make 2 sandwiches assemble:

For the Bechamel Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • ¾ cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour for a minute or 2.  Slowly add the milk until thickened.  Add the Parmesan.  Season and set aside.

For the Croque Monsiuer or Madame:

  • 4 Slices sandwich bread (good solid rustic white or sourdough bread)
  • 4 slices good quality ham
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere cheese (my favorite)

Grill the bread.  I can’t grill bread without butter, but it’s entirely up to you.  Place 2 slices of the grilled bread on a baking sheet.  Add a tablespoon or 2 of the bechamel sauce to each stack.  Top each pair with a couple slices of ham.  Mix together half of the Gruyere cheese and the bechamel sauce and spread on the ham.  Top with the remaining cheese and grill until toasty.

For the Croque Madame:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg per sandwich
  • freshly cracked pepper

Be frying your eggs in the meantime, low and slow.  Serve on top of bechamel sauce.

*  From the Recipe Box:

I usually serve these open face, so only 1 slice of bread each.

This is breakfast, lunch or dinner at my house.  I love an arugula salad with it.  Just arugula tossed with good olive oil and S & P.  Bon Appetit as Julia would say.

This is a composite of several different recipes.  They are all fairly similar.

and remember what Charles Bukowski said:  We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that death will tremble to take us.   Big kiss, Lynn

Cranberry Orange Muffins

This recipe really takes me back.  Once upon a time, there were small 25 to 30 page cookbooks at every grocery check out.  I’m fairly sure Mom and Julie bought every one.  The cookbooks  would focus on a specific subject like all the Pillsbury Bake-off winners for that year.  This recipe came from one of those.  When I originally made it, the recipe called for a bundt pan.  The trouble with that is leftovers.  We don’t get the company we used to.  I find it much easier to freeze a muffin than 3/4 of a bundt pan.

This is from one of mom’s books.  She wrote ‘fantastic’ next to the recipe.  I have to agree with her.  The orange is subtle.  The cranberry is sharp.  The apple adds mellowness.  It’s refreshing and not at all heavy as muffins can be.  I wish I’d kept more of the books.  Like the mid-west church books, these come from a simpler past and have a wealth of good ideas in them.

Ingredients

  • 2-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons grated orange zest
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 1 large apple, peeled and chopped

  • In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugars, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk the egg, milk, orange juice, oil and orange zest; stir into dry ingredients just until blended. Fold in the cranberries and apple.
  • Pour into two greased 8 x 4-in. loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

*  From the Recipe Box:

I did not peel my apple.  As if!!!!

I wanted a streusel top, so I mixed up 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour and 3 tablespoons butter until crumbly and sprinkled it over the top.  I wish I’d added pecans as well.

I baked my dough in muffin pans.  Optimally, this would have made 14 or 15 muffins, but I only have one muffin pan.  Bummer.  Next time I’ll make 6 muffins and one loaf.

I didn’t use to be a messy cook, but this is my total prep space.  I do have a great view though.

And yes, that is one half of a Death Star bowl.  I’m cool, I own both halves.  Eat your heart out.

and remember:  I am only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.  Big kiss, Lynn

 

 

Polenta and Eggs

I think I’ve mentioned before how we sold our house and moved to our cabin a few years back.  The big house had bookcases for days and I kept them all filled.  Now I’m a regular library user.  Fortunately we do have the best library in the world here on the Island.  But there are some things I want for my very own and that’s cookbooks.  I have a rule now:  I check out the book twice and if I love it after two check-outs, it’s OK to buy it.  And trust me, it’s got to be good because the cabin is small and does not have a lot of bookcases.

Another digression, sorry.  This is all about Chrissy Teigen’s new cookbook:  Cravings: Hungry for More.  I loved her first book.  She cooks the way I do, easy squeezy.  Her new book came out this year and I’ve checked it out from the library the required two times and it’s so good, I bought it last week.  There’s some really good looking, laid back recipes that I can’t wait to try.  Gluten Free Girl was up today and I decided to feed her the Polenta, mushrooms and eggs.  Nummy!

I didn’t actually use Chrissy’s recipe; I have a polenta/cornmeal mush/grits recipe I really like that I shared last month.  Basically, I used her picture and that’s why I have to break down and buy cookbooks.  I would never have thought about using polenta as the base for my eggs.  It really did need a kick up though.  Just an egg would have been kind of boring.  The mushrooms were just the right addition.  Due to the amount of starch the cornmeal provided, no one needed toast or the like.

  1. cook your polenta
  2. saute the mushrooms
  3. fry eggs
  4. assemble

We all voted after eating them.  G was a little reluctant to try them at first; he was not convinced it would be something he would enjoy.  After he cleaned his plate, he offered to finish off mine.  What a nice guy.  Unfortunately, I got busy multitasking and my egg pictures aren’t as pretty as they should be, but that did not affect the taste at all.

Thanks, Chrissy

and remember:  Be a mess.  It’s fine.  The universe is a mess.  Galaxies are drifting all over the place.  To be tidy is to be out of tune with the cosmos.  Big kiss, Lynn 

Banana Bread/Muffins

I can’t remember a time when my mom did not make banana bread.  She always had a loaf or 2 hanging around.  As I write this, it happens to be her birthday so my thoughts are with her today.  While I rarely make banana bread, I did have a request for the pumpkin muffins made with chocolate chips instead of pecans.  That sounds totally ka-ka to me, so I’ve been thinking about alternatives.  Up popped mom’s birthday and the rest is history.

Chocolate chips do not ring my chimes, but I think I’m the only person who feels that way.   This is a truly fine banana bread recipe.  I just decided to add chocolate chips to make my little sous chef happy.  He’ll do anything for me, it seems only fair I do it for him.

If you choose to follow the recipe as originally intended, you will end up with 2 moist loaves with intense banana flavor, although a smear of butter makes it even better.  If you choose to make it into muffins, you will still get a moist muffin but with J’s requested chocolate chips.  You choose and let me know what you think.

½ cup butter

1 ¼ cup sugar

2 eggs

¼ sour cream

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 tablespoons rum (or milk if you’d rather)

1 cup mashed bananas, very ripe

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon soda

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ cup chopped nuts or mini-chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar; beat in eggs and sour cream.  Mix in almond extract and rum.  Add dry ingredients alternately with bananas, beginning and ending with flour.  Stir in nuts.  Bake in 2 greased 8 x 4 loaf pans at 350 degrees for 60 to 70 minutes.  Cool on racks.

To make the muffins, follow all the steps until “stir in nuts”.  Instead, add a cup or a cup and 1/2 of mini chocolate chips.  Using an ice cream scoop, portion into paper lined muffins cups.  This will make approximately 18.  Bake for approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

*  From the Recipe Box:

This is mom’s recipe.  The woman could bake!  I’ve tasted a lot of Banana Bread in my time, but none better than this.  Great flavor, moist, nummy and I don’t even like bananas.

One banana equals approximately 1/2 cup mashed banana.

and remember:  Never be cool.  Never try and be cool.  Never worry about what the cool people think.  Head for the warm people.  Life is warmth.  You’ll be cool when you’re dead.

Big kiss, Lynn

Polenta

If I gave you the choice between cornmeal mush, grits and polenta, which would you choose?  Polenta, or as my dad would call it, Cornmeal Mush or Grits, are the exact same thing.  Cornmeal made for mush is ground a little finer.  Do some things not translate?  Is it fancier to call something by a foreign name even though it’s the exact same thing you grew up with?  When I was a kid, my dad would request cornmeal mush for breakfast.  Am I guilty of a little snobbery here?  You noticed I labeled this post polenta, not cornmeal mush or grits, so I’m just as guilty.  I wanted you to look.

In this era of gluten-free everything, why aren’t we using cornmeal more often?  My dad grew up in Idaho.  Until the day he died, he said it was a good place to be from.  Mush was a part of his daily meals, if he was lucky.  Poverty was the norm in Depression era Idaho and yet dad had nothing but good memories of cornmeal mush.

This wasn’t a staple in my mom’s Minnesota home, so we all had to learn from dad.  He liked it formed into a loaf to firm and then sliced and fried.  He then liked it served with syrup.  And not maple syrup, but dark Karo syrup or molasses.  Or along side pork chops with gravy.  He liked it in a bowl with milk and sugar.  It’s a different taste if you aren’t used to it, but on a cold winter day, it might be worth a try.

3 cups water

1 cup milk

1 cup cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese if you are using this as a side dish

Bring the water and the salt to a boil in a saucepan.  In a separate bowl, combine the milk and cornmeal to a smooth paste.  Slowly add the cornmeal to the boiling water.  Return to a boil and then reduce to low.  Stir almost constantly for about 15 minutes until it thickens to a consistency you find pleasing.  Serve it warm with a little more cheese sprinkled on top.

and remember what my super amazing Nina Simone had to say:  It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me and I’m feelin’ good.  Big kiss, Lynn

 

Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

Just because you don’t enjoy a Pumpkin Spice Latte, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a little pumpkin in your life.  Muffins are a vessel for pumpkin.  I want them a little dense and moist with lots of spice and flavor.

These muffins are wonderful.  The perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea.  The streusel topping isn’t overly sweet.  It does add the perfect crunch to the muffin.  I’m not a huge walnut fan, but pecans are another story; there is no bitterness here.  Freezing these little darlings is the perfect way to go.  One will thaw in 15 minutes or so.  Or, you can set it in the microwave in 30 second intervals until it reaches your perfect temp.

I may have a few bags in the freezer right now just in case you stop by and need a wee pick me up.

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • TOPPING:
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
Directions
  • In a large bowl, combine the first seven ingredients. In another bowl, combine the eggs, pumpkin, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in pecans. Fill 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full.  I used a medium ice cream scoop to keep them even.
  • In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, pecans and flour; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter.
  • Bake at 375° for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm.

From the Recipe Box:

I did not use buttermilk.  I used ½ cup whole milk with 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar.  Let it sit for about 10 minutes, give it a stir and use as buttermilk.  I rarely buy buttermilk; I never use it up so why bother.  Sour milk is just as good and usually much more handy.  You will not notice the difference.  I swear.

Great flavor in these muffins.

and remember:  People don’t always want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.  Big kiss, Lynn

Eggs Benedict for the Lazy Butt

Raise your hand if you enjoy good food, but you want to make things as easily and quickly as possible.  I started making Eggs Benedict 30 plus years ago.  We are a family who loves breakfast for dinner.  I started out doing the full magila:  Canadian bacon, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce all on a toasted English muffin.  But then I thought, how could I streamline this process?  If you are cooking for more than 2 or 3 people, Eggs Benedict are a pain.

My first lazy step was the removal of the hollandaise.  Why not melt American cheese on top?  It would still be creamy and a similar color.  Plus, you don’t have to worry about bacteria slowly growing in your hollandaise while you wait to serve everyone.  Check, step one.  But, I also want to share Knorr Hollandaise Sauce Mix with you.  OMG.  Someone told me about this years ago.  I used to buy envelopes at the grocery in the soup aisle, now I order it by the vat from Amazon.  Don’t forget to add a bit of fresh lemon juice.

My next lazy step involved poaching eggs.  So, why did they have to be poached?  As long as you have a runny yolk, you should be happy.  Keeping poached eggs at temp for 5 or 6 people is tough.  Frying sunny side up eggs is the perfect way to get a nice soft egg yolk or consider boiling eggs for 3 and 1/2 minutes.  Check, step 2.

Moving right along, have you priced Canadian bacon lately?  Whatever!  Is it the tariffs?  I don’t use it anymore.  I love a nice Boar’s Head ham or if the Hunka-hunka deserves a treat I will use Spam.  No rude remarks, the man loves Spam.  Give either one a quick browning and you’re done.

Finally, English muffins.  Do you always have muffins on hand?  I do not.  While we like them, they are pretty singular for us.  The only thing I use them for is, you guessed it, Eggs Benedict.  Now, what do I always have on hand?  That’s right, bagels.  What’s more if you are feeding hungry people, a bagel adds a lot more bulk than a muffin.

As I was saying, these are lazy Eggs Benedict.  Change out one or two of the steps and it will totally change your meal time speed.  Or better yet, use the baked ham and egg cups on a toasted muffin or bagel.  You will be shouting ta-da! to everyone willing to listen.

 

and remember:  I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am.  Big kiss, Lynn

 

Ham and Egg Cups 2 ways

Let’s talk a minute about baked eggs.  These used to be a staple when G and I were still working.  Being able to reach into the refrigerator and pull out a complete breakfast is a wonderful thing.  I’m not sure which way I like them best, so you have to choose.  One version comes out fluffy like scrambled eggs and the other version has a nice runny yolk that screams out for a piece of toast for dipping.

I can’t give anyone credit for this recipe; I’ve seen so many versions in magazines or on-line.   Back in the day, we were always looking for time saving ideas and ways to get the kids a good breakfast.  There are so many variations to make these eggs your own.  You can change it up and start with a 4 inch street tortilla.  They make a more sturdy package.  Go for chorizo and peppers and a drizzle of salsa with your eggs and you have an instant breakfast buritto.  That’s one of my favorites.  Hash browns left over from the weekend make a great base, as do pancakes.  Go ahead and laugh at me, but mold a pancake into a muffin cup, add sliced up little pigs (link sausage for you adults) and the egg mixture without the green onions and you will see smiling faces.

Give them a try and let me know what you think.  I believe this is a winner.

The ingredients are identical:

12 slices of ham

1 dozen eggs

approximately one cup of grated cheddar cheeses

1 or 2 sliced green onions depending on the size

Salt and pepper

A muffin pan well sprayed

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Fit ham slices into muffin cups, pressing firmly into cup.  Sprinkle with cheese.  I break half the eggs into a bowl, add salt and pepper and sliced green onions and pour into a prepared muffin cup.  The remaining eggs get cracked individually into a prepared muffin cup.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and sliced green onions.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes depending how big your eggs are.

The eggs will easily lift out with a fork or soup spoon.

and remember:    Shonda Rhimes said it best – “No” is a complete sentence.  Big kiss, Lynn

Rhode’s Butterscotch Rolls

 ( I put a roll on the plate, went to get my camera, came back and viola! )

You know how much we love traditions in this family.  These rolls are players on 2 different holidays:  Christmas and the 4th of July.  Before we open a single present, we have taken these rolls out of the oven and everyone has 1 or 2 to maintain their strength for the great present extravaganza.  And what would the 4th of July be if we didn’t have a roll or 2 before we head down to the annual community games.

This is a super simple recipe, but it looks like you put some time into it.  I prefer them with nuts, they remind me of the pecan rolls my mom used to make.  Unfortunately the kids prefer them nut-free.  Sigh!  You know I’m going to always let my kiddos win.

Don’t forget to start them rising the night before.  This Christmas, I may have forgotten due to______________ (I’ll think of something), but was able to put a speed rise on them and Christmas was saved.  Hooray!  You will love these.

 

25 to 26 frozen Rhode’s dinner rolls

3 ounce box butterscotch pudding, not instant

¾ cup brown sugar

1 ½ cubes butter

½ cup chopped pecans

In an ungreased Bundt pan, put a layer of chopped pecans if you are so inclined.  Arrange rolls next.  Sprinkle the whole box of dry pudding over rolls.  Melt butter and add brown sugar.  Stir to blend and pour over rolls.  Cover and let rise overnight.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.  Let cool in pan approximately 15 minutes and then invert on a plate.

*  From the Recipe Box:

I’ve been making these for Christmas morning for years.  The kids might not think it’s Christmas without them.

I originally got the recipe from Barbara.  We constantly try to one up the other with a new recipe.  I really owe her for this one.

Once we bought the cabin, they became a part of that tradition as well.

and remember:  There comes a time in life when you have to let go of all the pointless drama and the people who create it and surround yourself with people who make you laugh so hard that you forget the bad and focus only on the good.  After all, life is too short to be anything but happy.  Big kiss, Lynn

Morning Glory Muffins

I look back now and laugh at the idea of a healthy muffin.  These are good, they don’t taste very sweet, they have veggies and lots of fiber, but good for me?  I don’t know.  They were great in a lunch sack for the boys.  At least, I think they ate them; I found out years later they never ate the oranges.  Who knew?

This really goes back to the Norwegian tradition of Hygge.  It’s that cozy time with a cup of coffee or tea, a time to connect with a friend or a moment for yourself.  I may just give up on scones altogether.  Muffins and I seem to do ever so much better.  These also got the seal of approval from the Hunka-hunka.

Keep your eye on the baking time.  It will really vary depending on how juicy your apple is and how moist your batter is.  I think you are going to be really surprised at the lack of sweetness considering all the sweet additions the basic recipe has.  Enjoy a little Hygge time.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/4 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

1 cup oil

1 medium apple, shredded, approximately 1/2 to 1 cup ( I used Honey Crisp, my favorite eating apple.  I won’t next time, I’ll go with a Braeburn or a Granny Smith.  You don’t want the apple too juicy.  Maybe that’s why they took longer to bake than mom’s did.)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups grated carrot

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

In large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, combine the eggs, oil, apple and vanilla. Stir into the dry ingredients just until combined. Fold in the carrot, raisins, coconut and pecans.

Fill 18 paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. I used a large ice cream scoop.  Bake at 350° for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Mom’s oven must have been warmer than mine.  I ended up baking the muffins for 22 minutes and I think they could have used a little longer.

*   From the Recipe Box:

This was in mom’s recipe box, how very hippy-dippy of her.  These were supposed to be a very healthy muffin.

My favorite Gkid, you know the one, said they were the best muffins she ever ate.  This was after her 5th or 9th.

and remember:  One of the hardest things in life to learn is which bridges to cross and which bridges to burn.  Big kiss, Lynn