Monday, July 2, 2012


It's still hot here in Vermont, though not quite as hot as it has been, and Grandma is busy cleaning up and getting ready for the Fourth of July.  Well, after sleeping in until nearly noon that is.  Fourth of July is, of course,  the big summer holiday here in the USA, a time for parades, picnics and trips to the beach.  In two short days it will all come together, but right this minute it feels a bit more like this:

Don't you just love the chef?!

Before Grandma tells you what she's doing today to get ready, though, here is a peek at a few things that have crossed her desk you might like.

As many of you know, Grandma reviews books and other things.  Many of them are cookbooks but she also enjoys & reviews other sorts as well.  One that  made an appearance a couple of weeks ago is Island Apart from author Steven Raichlen  You probably know Steve as Guru of the Grill, author of How to Grill: The Complete Illustrated Book of Barbecue Techniques


After more than 30 cookbooks and two decades as a food writer, Steven has branched out and written a novel;

Island Apart is great summer reading material, perfect for the beach.  Here's Grandma's review.

So New You Can't Read Them Yet!

Sometimes the books Grandma gets to read haven't even hit the shelves yet.  Such is the case with a couple of pretty darned good mysteries/thrillers.  Both of these are available for pre-order.  If you're not familiar with Amazon pre-orders, Amazon offers a pre-order price guarantee.  Whenever you order, if Amazon offers a lower price between the time of your order and the date of release, you pay the lowest price.  Grandma has saved big money on pre-orders, sometimes as much as half the price the book will be selling for on the day it is released.

 Coming August 21, 2012 - The former US CIA station chief in Azerbaijan finds himself in the middle of an espionage war when the entire US presence in the country is assassinated.  Grandma hasn't had time to review this one yet, but she'll be giving it 5 stars.   The Colonel's Mistake is available in both paperback and Kindle.

  Coming July 17, 2012 -  Featuring a strong female lead character, something unusual in a spy novel,  Cloaks and Veils is set a bit closer to home.  Here's Grandma's review.  Available in paperback and Kindle

Great Finds - July $3.99 or Less

Grandma didn't find much on the July $3.99 or Less list, but there were a couple of treasures:

  The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook, a 1985 classic, is as timely today as it was then.   Divided into seasons and celebrations, there are more than 450 recipes and dozens of ideas for entertaining that range from a summer brunch on the porch to formal holiday dinner parties.  Many of the recipes feed 8-12.  Here's a summer on the porch recipe wonderful for a Fourth of July brunch.


These are beautiful for a lazy summer brunch or holiday buffet table with the pink tint of fresh raspberries and the yellow hue of lemons.

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup milk
1 ½ cups fresh raspberries
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest


½ cup chopped pecans
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
¼ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 350 ° F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

2. To make the muffin batter, sift the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together into a medium-size mixing bowl and make a well in the center.

3. Place the egg, melted butter, and milk in the well. Stir with a wooden spoon just until ingredients are combined. Quickly stir in the raspberries and lemon zest. Fill each muffin cup three-fourths full with the batter.

4. To make the streusel topping, combine the pecans, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and lemon zest in a small bowl. Pour in the melted butter and stir to combine. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the top of each muffin.

5. Bake until nicely browned and firm, 20 to 25 minutes.

Lukins, Sheila; Chase, Sarah Leah; Rosso, Julee (1985-01-04). The Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook (Kindle Locations 3564-3592). Workman Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Veggie Burgers Every Which Way: Fresh, Flavorful and Healthy Vegan and Vegetarian Burgers-Plus Toppings, Sides, Buns and More   If you've ever tried those frozen veggie burgers, you know they most unfortunately resemble nothing quite so much as cardboard. Don't leave the vegetarians out of the BBQ fun on the Fourth of July.  Packed full of everything you need to know about making and cooking veggie burgers, almost everyone will find something to love here.  The layout is very well done, with plenty of pictures.


These simple burgers can be made from almost any medium or large bean. My favorites are chickpeas, black beans, and red beans, but I find that this recipe is also a good place to experiment with heirloom beans, such as red calypso beans or moon beans. (You can also use any of the hundreds of different beans available at farmers’ markets and through the internet— just be sure to choose medium to large starchy beans.) Feel free to use a combination of beans. And if ever called upon to cook for a crowd in a pinch, multiply this recipe by three, and use three full cans of different beans.


1 ½ cups cooked beans
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
¼ cup grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
¾ cup toasted bread crumbs, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 375 ° F.

2. In a mixing bowl, mash the beans using a potato masher or fork. Fold in the eggs, parsley, Parmesan, mustard, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Fold in the bread crumbs, adding more if the mixture is too loose. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes for the crumbs to soak up some moisture. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 4 patties.

3. In an oven-safe skillet or nonstick sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the patties and cook until browned on each side, 6 to 10 minutes total. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the burgers are firm and cooked through.

▶ Prep and cook time: 30 minutes

Volger, Lukas (2010-07-20). Veggie Burgers Every Which Way: Fresh, Flavorful and Healthy Vegan and Vegetarian Burgers—Plus Toppings, Sides, Buns and More (Kindle Locations 466-482). Workman Publishing. Kindle Edition.

PS - Grandma bought a package of hamburg at the store two nights ago and paid just under $6 for enough ground beef to make 3 hamburgers.  Beans are very high in fiber and other nutrients and much easier on your food budget.  This recipe will cost under $2 to make.

Planning Ahead

Grandma has never been much of one for planning a week's menus and then sticking to them like glue. How does anyone know what on earth they will want to eat a week from Tuesday?  What if the weather is too hot to cook that beef stew - or the barbecue you planned gets rained out?  And frankly, sometimes Grandma just doesn't want to stand over a stove even for a few minutes.  She wants something she can throw together in a bowl and be done with it.  So, Grandma likes to keep certain things on hand, ready to go at the drop of a pin for a pick-up meal or even a spur of the moment trip to the beach.  And of course a little advanced planning takes a tremendous amount of the stress out of hosting a party.

One thing that Grandma almost always has in her fridge is hard boiled eggs, probably the single cheapest source of quality, non-vegetable protein to be had anywhere.  Boiled eggs will keep for 3-5 days as long as you do not crack their shells.

Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs

Grandma loves Deviled Eggs, but sometimes it just seems impossible to get the eggs out of the shell in one piece! Over the years, though, Grandma has learned a trick or two to make things a bit easier. 

Take a look at this illustration of the structure of an egg, courtesy of Food Safety Net.

Structure of an Egg

First notice the outer shell and the inner membrane surrounding the egg.  That membrane is the papery stuff that separates from the egg itself when you peel it - at least, it is supposed to.  We've all had many a "stuck" egg that ended up in shreds.

Now, notice that little blue air cell at the wider end of the egg.  As an egg ages that air pocket becomes larger and the inner membrane will no longer cling so tightly to the shell, making the egg easier to peel.  Thus, the first rule of perfect hard boiled eggs:

Use eggs you've had at least a week rather than eggs fresh from the store or hen!

Once you have your week old eggs, follow along with the Tinfoil Chef:

Did you see that Tinfoil Chef is using an old aluminum saucepan to boil his eggs?  Notice all that black and discoloration inside the pan?  That is from boiling eggs.  Hard boiled eggs and aluminum pans don't mix well.  Use stainless steel, non-stick or ceramic lined saucepans instead.

Also, remember that if you are trying to hard boil eggs at more than 3,000 feet above sea level you will need to leave them in the water a bit longer - 20 to 25 minutes.  Water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes, so the eggs aren't exposed to as much heat.

There is a little bit more to it than this though.  Here's Grandma's secret weapon, guaranteed to make sure the egg comes out of the shell in one party-perfect piece,  without any ding or dents:

Just take an ordinary pushpin and make a hole in the wide end of the eggshell where that air cell is.  (Don't worry - you won't break the shell!)   A tiny bit of water will displace some of the air during cooking and force the membrane away from the shell so your egg will peel perfectly every time.

Grandma's Simple Deviled Eggs

It wouldn't be a holiday at Grandma's without Deviled Eggs.  While there are dozens of variations, even whole collections of Deviled Egg recipes, this is the one that is traditional at Grandma's and the one that we all love the best.  Simple, straightforward, easy enough for an older child to make.

Each egg contains just enough yolk to stuff itself, so Grandma does not make these in the mini food processor -  too much yolk gets left behind and there won't be enough to go around.  If you want to use a pastry bag to distribute the yolk instead of two teaspoons, then use the yolks from two extra eggs. 

6 hard boiled eggs, peeled, sliced in half length-wise, with the yolks removed and placed in a small bowl
1 generous teaspoon of mustard
salt & pepper to taste
2-4 tablespoons of good mayonnaise
several pimiento stuffed green olives &/or paprika, cilantro for garnish

Use a fork to carefully mash the egg yolks.  When they are fairly smooth add the mustard, salt, pepper and 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise.  Continue to mix and mash until the egg yolks are a smooth mass.  Stir in more mayonnaise if they are dry.  Use two teaspoons to divide the egg yolk mixture evenly between the egg white halves.  (Like dropping cookie dough.)  Garnish with a slice of green olive &/or a sprinkle of paprika or a teeny sprig of cilantro.

Keep covered and refrigerated or well iced until serving time.

What are you doing for the Fourth of July?  Here's a little tune to get you in the mood . .

Grandma is off to the kitchen to get a couple of salads ready for that picnic.  Pictures tomorrow.  Stay cool!

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