Saturday, November 21, 2009

Just Fudge

Grandma Sofia's Fudge

I used to sit in my grandmother’s kitchen in Goleta, California and stir and stir this fudge.  I remember complaining about the constant stirring.  I didn’t complain about the end result.  If you don’t cook the marshmallow/sugar mixture long enough the fudge won’t set.  You’ll have mushy fudge that cannot be sliced.  It won’t be tragic, you just won’t be able to give them away.  You’ll have to eat them standing at the fridge with a spoon.  Really not such a bad outcome...  I made a batch recently with organic marshmallows (yes, they really make such a thing).  My sister thought that it “didn’t taste like Grandma’s fudge.”  Apparently if you want the “real” 1970s version you must use non-organic marshmallows.  Pick your poison.

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1 package best quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup stick margarine or unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 ounces evaporated milk
20 regular sized marshmallows (not the eency-teency ones)
2 cups sugar

Place first four ingredients into a bowl.
In a heavy saucepan put the evaporated milk, marshmallows and sugar. Cook for six minutes AFTER the mixture starts to boil, stirring constantly.

Pour the hot marshmallow mixture over the nuts and chocolate chips. Mix until blended. Pour mixture into a greased 9x9 pan. Refrigerate until set. Slice and serve.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Stuffed Artichokes

What a way to begin!

There is a wonderful, homey restaurant in Santa Barbara call Pan e Vino (no connection to the one in LA). They have been serving an appetizer like this one for years. We liked it so much that we begged my father to try to replicate it at home. This is his version.

4 artichokes, washed and trim the leaves - with a very sharp knife cut off about 1 ½ inches off of the top of the leaves. With kitchen scissors remove the sharp portions of any leaves that still have tops.
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon onion, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons best quality extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon

Boil all four artichokes until tender, approximately 30 minutes. I boil artichokes by placing them in about ½ inch of water in a large covered pot. Each artichoke should rest on the bottom of the pot. They should not be stacked on top of each other. Add a small amount of lemon juice to the water and the artichokes will maintain their color. Once they have been boiling for 30 minutes pull a leaf off and taste it. Make sure it is tender before you stop the cooking process.

Take two of the artichokes and trim off all of the leaves and the fur. Finely chop the artichoke hearts.

Take the remaining two artichokes and remove all center leaves and fur down to the heart. Leave the exterior leaves attached. Spread the leaves outward so that there is a center cavity.

Blend the tomatoes, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice in a small bowl. Fill the center cavities of the two artichokes with the filling, and spread the filling into the spaces of the surrounding leaves.

Keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gotta Have S'More

I know thus far this food blog has been devoted to things you can prepare at home.  However, this weekend I had the most incredible dessert and unfortunately, or fortunately - depending on your perspective, you'll have to buy this one.  I was at the P.S. Arts fundraiser "Express Yourself" and one of the generous vendors who was there giving away her baked goods, was Carmen Lindner, the CEO of a new company called "Gotta Have S'More."  She makes a product called a S'Muffin which is basically a S'More in the shape of a muffin.  It was really good.  Seriously.  A nice crunchy graham cracker crust, semi-sweet chocolate in the middle, and toasted marshmallow on the top.  Stuff this good should be illegal.  If you're interested check out her website, Gotta Have S'More.  Don't blame me if you gain ten pounds.  Oh, and she's already agreed to come to Planned Parenthood's Shop for Choice and Planned Parenthood's Food Fare.  Is she great or what?

Simple Salad Dressing

We eat a lot of salad at my house.  My husband and children truly love salad.  I know most people buy salad dressing.  It’s one of those things that just seem silly to make at home given all of the options that are available in the stores.  Let me just make a counter-argument for one moment.  Simple vinaigrettes made with high quality olive oil and high quality vinegar just cannot be beat.  They taste qualitatively better than any commercial dressing.  Go to your neighborhood market and buy one bottle of better quality extra virgin olive oil and one bottle of better quality red wine vinegar and give this dressing a shot.  I think after you try it once, you’ll be hooked.  You can buy nearly the best olive oil on the planet and your homemade dressing will still be cheaper than commercial dressing. 

1 C best quality extra virgin olive oil
C best quality red wine vinegar
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp dijon mustard (or dry mustard)

Dissolve the salt in the vinegar.  Keep stirring until all of the salt granules have disappeared.  Add the olive oil and the mustard.  Whisk until blended.
The dressing can be kept in the refrigerator for many weeks.  Take out 15-30 minutes before using.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

One of my favorite cookie cookbooks EVER is the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book, currently out of print but available used at for $2.26 – and let me tell you it will be $2.26 well spent.  Log on and buy one before they are gone forever.  Yesterday we made her perfectly chewy, fabulously tasty peanut butter cookies.  The only change I make is that we feed our family chocolate obsession by adding high-quality bittersweet chocolate chips to the batter.

Mrs. Fields Peanut Butter Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 ¼ cups white sugar
1 cup salted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 cup creamy peanut butter (we used Kirkland Organic Creamy Peanut Butter)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ½ cups best quality semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (optional but SO GOOD)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
In a medium bowl combine flour, soda, and salt.  Whisk until blended.  Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer blend together the butter and sugars until it they form a grainy paste.  Add eggs, one at a time until just blended.  Add peanut butter and vanilla and mix on medium speed until the batter is light and fluffy. 

Add the flour mixture and blend at low speed until just mixed.  Do not over-mix.

Take the bowl out of the mixer and hand blend in the chocolate chips – well, not actually with your HANDS, I use a large spoon, but you knew that – right?

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  If you find the batter is too soft to handle you can put the bowl into the fridge for 15-20 minutes first so that the dough hardens a bit.  It will make forming the cookies a bit easier.  These cookies SPREAD so leave lots of room between them.  Bake for 18-22 minutes until they are slightly brown around the edges.  Do not over-bake or they will be crunchy, rather than chewy.  Transfer immediately to wax paper to cool.

I find that if we bake a lot of cookies, we eat a lot of cookies.  It is some sort of immutable mathematical theorem.  My solution is that we bake only eight cookies and we divide the cookie batter into small containers and freeze the remainder.  This recipe will produce 2-3 containers for freezing in addition to the eight you bake right away.  Enjoy. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Scrambled Eggs and Leftover Chili

I had the best breakfast this morning.  I am married to a protein obsessed man.  Seriously.  My man loves protein.  I had a small container of The Pioneer Woman Cooks Beef Chili left over (I made it TWICE last week) and I scrambled some eggs and topped the cooked eggs with beef chili.  Let me tell you it was so good and it will satisfy even the most protein-obsessed eaters.  This breakfast will keep you going for a week and won’t weigh you down.

Scrambled Eggs and Leftover Chili (2 servings)

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup leftover chili (see my post last week for one option but any chili will do)
  • Grated cheese (optional)
  • Chopped onions (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)

Scramble the eggs.  Divide the eggs onto two plates.  Serve the eggs topped with ½ cup of hot leftover Chili.  You could garnish this with chopped onions, grated cheese and/or sour cream.  I think this would make a great brunch entrĂ©e.  You can prep the chili the day prior and just leave it warming on the stove.  At mealtime all you would need to do is scramble the eggs.  Put out a bunch of toppings and you have a festive, easy brunch.      

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pear Pecan Salad

The markets are filled with all sorts of pears this time of year.  My children love them.  We have a family tradition of starting our Thanksgiving meal with a winter salad that has slightly sweetened roasted pecans, sliced pears and a lovely maple vinaigrette.  Just one bit of fair warning, getting the pecans to come out right takes a bit of patience.  My father and I have a delightful song and dance routine we do every year as we prepare the pecans. “Is the simple sugar syrup ready yet??” “Not quite yet.” “Are you sure?”  We check the syrup over and over again.  A little white wine (not for the syrup - for you!) is a must.  Rest assured that the salad will be good no matter how the pecans turn out.  Just head into the process with a sense of humor and all will be well.


2 cups sugar
2 cups water
3 cups pecans
12 cups mixed greens
5 ripe pears (Anjou, Bartlett or other)


4 tablespoons maple syrup
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ cup walnut oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Get out a ½ sheet pan or large cookie sheet.
First make a Simple Syrup by placing 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water in a small pot.  Bring the sugar/water mixture to a boil.  Boil for approximately 15-25 minutes. Stir intermittently.  The syrup should be slightly thick.  Think light syrup on canned fruit, not heavy syrup.  This is not a science, it is an art and in all likelihood your pecans will turn out a bit differently each time you make them because your syrup will be different each time.  You may decide that you like the outcome with really thick syrup (it means the pecans will have a heavy sugar coating on them), or you may like yours better using quite thin syrup.  You could do half a batch with thin syrup, and half with thicker syrup and see which makes you happiest.  Just a thought.

Once the syrup is thick, but not too thick, turn off the fire.  Add the pecans to the pot. Stir until they are coated evenly.  Remove with a slotted spoon and spread the syrup-coated pecans evenly across the ½ sheet pan or cookie sheet. 

 The pecans should glisten with the sugar syrup before you put them in the oven to toast.

Place the pan in the center of oven.  Cook until the sugar starts to bubble on the nuts but before the nuts start to brown.  Stir the nuts twice so that they don’t stick together.  The baking period should be about ten minutes.  Remove the nuts from the oven.  Stir one last time.  Leave on sheet pan to cool.  

The nuts can be prepared 2-3 days before and stored in an airtight container until needed.  The only problem with this strategy is that once you’ve tasted them you’ll start snacking on them and by the time you need them for your salad there won’t be any left.

This batch turned out exactly the way I like them.  The pecans have a nice, light, sugary crust.
Prepare salad dressing.  Place all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Whisk to blend.

Immediately before serving, place greens in large bowl.  Dress and toss. Plate the greens on salad plates.  Core the pears and cut them into ths. I don’t peel the pears because I really like the look of the color of the skin against the color of the greens, but that is just my personal preference.  Distribute the pears attractively on the mixed greens.  Toss pecans on top.  Eat all remaining pecans before anyone notices that there were any left.  Serve salads immediately.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Hungarian Goulash

Never Made Hungarian Goulash?
Perhaps you should.

This is my family’s adaptation of a British recipe that my mother acquired while living in Scotland in the 1960s. The recipe starts out by saying, “Rather too highly flavoured for most young children.” I take it in those days using paprika was pushing the taste sensation envelope of most children. I also love that my mother’s old notes say, “2 stalks of celery, if available!” My mother tells me that in the winter you’d go to the grocery store in Edinburgh and there would be an assortment of two vegetables available for your purchasing pleasure, and it often did not include celery. Good grief, hard to imagine a world where the availability of celery was in question!
Hungarian Goulash (5-6 servings)

  • 2 pounds tri-tip steak
  • 2 tablespoons flour seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium sized onions, quartered
  • 3 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 20 ounces vegetable or beef stock
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 pinch of caraway seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt or sour cream
  • 1 can (or jar) roasted red bell pepper cut into strips

Prepped veggies, ready to brown. As you can see, I bought baby carrots rather than peeling and slicing whole carrots.

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
Cut the steak into cubes and roll it in the seasoned flour. Fry the steak in the olive oil over medium high heat turning it to brown evenly.

Cubes of tri-tip browning in the pan.

When the meat is browned remove it from the pan and set it aside. Lightly brown the onions in the same pan. Stir in the paprika and continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes. Add the stock and the wine and bring to a boil. Put the meat, carrots, celery, caraway seeds, and the bay leaf into an ovenproof casserole and cover it with the liquid.

Goulash ready to be popped in the oven.

Cover the pot and cook the Goulash at 325 for 2 hours.

Check the Goulash and add salt and pepper to taste. Place in a serving dish. Spoon the yogurt or sour cream right in the middle (if desired) and scatter the roasted red bell pepper strips over the top. This dish can easily be made a few hours ahead, or a full day ahead and reheated at serving time. We serve Goulash over wide flat noodles, or you could serve it over toasted country bread.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cranberry-Orange Relish and Cranberry-Orange Cake with Lemon Glaze

Naked Simplicity.  An orange.  A bag of cranberries.

It’s already November, though here in LA you still wouldn’t know it by the weather. It was a ridiculous 88 degrees yesterday. It occurred to me, as I wiped my sweaty brow, that I should start posting my favorite Thanksgiving recipes. I love making my Stepmother’s simple cranberry relish. It is a three-ingredient recipe that despite its naked simplicity is delightfully complex. I usually have some left over after Thanksgiving and I fell asleep last night thinking about using the leftover relish in a cake. I got up this morning, made the relish – which takes two minutes – and then invented a cake for it to be in. My children, housekeeper and French teacher gave the cake eight thumbs up. It is super moist, full of flavor and easy to prepare. Getting it out of the pan is the only challenge.

Cranberry Orange Relish
  • 1 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 naval orange including peel and pith, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1 cup, less 1 ½ tablespoons sugar
This used to be a recipe for a 16-ounce bag of cranberries and a cup of sugar. This year I cannot find any 16-ounce bags so I modified by dropping some of the sugar. If you find a 16-ounce bag add a full cup of sugar.
Place the cranberries and orange pieces in a food processor. Process on pulse until the orange and cranberries are small enough to make relish.
Remove from the food processor. Add sugar, mix well. Put in the refrigerator. The relish will be best if it is made two days in advance of use (I put some straight into my cake recipe today and it worked fine).

Cranberry-Orange Cake with Lemon Glaze
  • ¾ cup of Cranberry Relish (recipe above)
  • 2 cups less 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 ounces whole milk plain yogurt
Lemon Glaze
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (I use Mayer Lemons)
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

The easiest way to measure the flour is to put 2 cups of flour into the sifter and then remove 4 tablespoons of flour from the sifter BEFORE you sift or add any other ingredients. Once you have removed the extra flour, add the baking powder, baking soda and salt and sift.

In the bowl of a mixer cream together the sugar, butter and vanilla. Thoroughly beat in the eggs, one at a time.
Stir in the sifted dry ingredients in four additions, alternating with the yogurt, just until smooth.

Turn half of the batter into a greased and floured 9x13 inch angel food cake pan or similar sized spring form pan. Dot the batter with the cranberry relish. You don’t want to mix it in – just place it lightly on top of the batter trying to spread it evenly around the cake pan. Carefully add the remaining batter, spreading it gently so that the cranberry relish is covered.

Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Allow cake to rest for 15 minutes. Loosen sides and turn out on a platter.

While the cake is resting, whisk together the lemon juice and the powdered sugar. This is a glaze, rather than frosting and it will be a bit runny.

Once you have the cake turned out on a platter, drizzle the lemon glaze over the top. It will harden in about 15 minutes. This cake is wonderful served warm, and will also be lovely at room temperature. It makes a perfect addition to a Thanksgiving or Holiday dinner.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Simple Beef Chili

I recently bought the cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks, because anyone who gets 100,000 hits per day on her food blog is clearly doing something right. If you haven’t seen her website click here Pioneer Woman. Basically her gig is that she makes relatively simple, comfort food and she shoots amazing photos of the cooking process and posts her recipes with lots of commentary mixed with gorgeous photos. I have to give it to her, her shots are good, and there are lots of them (sometimes too many, but no one asked me).

So, I made her “Simple, Perfect Chili,” and since I’ve never actually followed a recipe in my life without making a half dozen changes I thought I’d post “The Pioneer Woman Cooks Chili edited and adjusted by Inside the Kaganoff Kitchen.” My family loved the end result and I have to say, it was delicious and took almost no time to prep. So this is an easy, high fiber, low carb, high protein, low fat chili that tastes absolutely super. Thanks Pioneer Woman, I wouldn’t have gotten to my version without you.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks Chili
Adjusted by Rachel Kaganoff Stern
(serves six)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 pounds ground beef (I use organic grass fed ground beef )
  • One 15-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup Masa (Mexican corn flour)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can pinto beans (drained - pintos can be hard to drain, don't sweat it either way)
  • 1 can kidney beans (drained)
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with chilies (don’t drain)
Brown the ground beef in a large pot with the garlic and the onions. Once it is browned drain off the excess fat. Add the tomato sauce and the spices and the salt. Stir together and cover. Reduce heat to medium/low for 30 mins. Add ½ cup water, stir well, reduce heat to low and cook an additional 30 minutes.

I measured out the spices and they were too lovely not to photograph.

After the beef has cooked for an hour, place the masa in a medium bowl and pour in the cup of water. Blend together with a fork or a whisk until it forms a smooth paste. Add the masa to the chili and mix well.
Add the beans and chopped tomatoes and cook on low for ten more minutes. Serve with whatever you like on chili. Sour cream, grated cheese, green onions or white onions all work. We like our chili over rice. You can also cool the chili and freeze it.