Sunday, September 30, 2012

Feeding the Throngs

I believe my sister Kelley oversaw a recent effort that
holds the Deetz record for number of bean tacos made: 1000

To quote Kelley: "It was for my bday / phd party. 1000 tacos made by Nicole and
Marilyn and myself. Cindy kindly let us invade her kitchen while she worked."

Prepped by the dozens
Yes We Can!  And DO!

Two of my gorgeous nieces, Nicole and Marilyn, working the taco line
for Kelley's Night of Massive Taco Consumption.

Growing up my family made a large amount of something, everyday. We ate out at restaurants, occasionally, had amazing take out feasts, but for the most part, we cooked day in and day out. It used to be pretty simple, because my mom did not cater to individual preferences. She made what we liked, but there were 10 kids in all in our house, so if you didn't like it, you figured something out on your own. I remember sitting at the table and having one brother trade with another brother, one liked egg yolks, the other the whites, so they swapped. Easy! My mom Jody once told me she either left things in big enough chunks that we could pick around them, or small enough that we didn't know they were there.

With my four, Laura, Jacki, James and Sara, I approached it the same way. As they became adults, they each developed their own food preferences and food choices, from vegetarian, to non-beef/pork eater; lots of veggies, no veggies. I have endless recipes that can be made and will satisfy everyone's eating choices. It is not hard to swap out ingredients and make them into something else, that is the fun of cooking at home. I cook a lot of meals that are vegetarian, like bean tacos (recipe coming soon, a Deetz staple!), pastas, soups, etc. In many cases, we have come to enjoy the vegetarian versions more than the originals. So hunt around my blog, and you should be able to find many dishes that suit whatever your food choices are. You don't live in Berkeley for a decade and not know how to meet a wide range of preferences.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sonoran Style Cheese Crisps

melted and ready to cut and serve
When we were little, we traveled across country a lot. All of us kids, friends, babysitters, animals, snakes, lizards, I kid you not, all piled into a station wagon. We visited Tucson on a few occasions and stayed with Jack and Jane Chilcott and their kids. They took us to an amazing place (actually, a few amazing places) called Karichimakas, a Mexican restaurant out near Mission San Xavier. They introduced us to gigantic cheese crisps, not soft, cheesy quesadillas, but flat, cracker crisp, cheesy topped flour tortillas, topped with tiny morsels--scallions, olives, shreds of carne seca, peppers. Served as appetizers, they sat on metal pizza stands above the surface of the tables and we could eat as many pieces as we wanted. I lived in Tucson with my Rock Family for many years, and I fell in love with these all over again. They are so simple and allow you to dress them up with very small amounts of ingredients, all cut into a very small, fine dice and lightly covering the cheesy top.

The following is more of a method than a hard and fast recipe.

crisped and ready for toppings

lightly cover with finely grated
cheese and tidbits of your choice
Set the oven to about 400 degrees F. Place as many flour tortillas as you want to crisp up in a single layer on cookie or pizza pans. Place in the oven and bake until they get lightly crisped and start to hold their shape when picked up. I usually turn them over once part way through to crisp both sides. Watch them, once the moisture leaves the tortilla they can get too brown very quickly.

Sprinkle with enough cheese to lightly cover the surface of the tortilla, and add whatever small bits of toppings you want. I like finely diced tomatoes (seeded), scallions, and when you can get it, carne seca. Sprinkle with little trails of hot sauce, green or red, or both. I like a more bitter green tomatillo salsa on mine. This is also a good time to use cholulu or tapatio style bottled hot sauces. Do not overload, you don't want them weighted down.

Return to the oven and bake until the cheese is melted and a little bubbly. Remove and cut with a pizza cutter. They should be flakey but not brittle. These would be good with lightly dressed, bitter greens spread over the top the way people like to eat pizza these days, but they are pretty close to perfect like this already.

Italian Wedding Soup

Italian Wedding soup with acini de pepi pasta

Italian Wedding Soup, which I made completely on the fly one day, is a wonderful soup, and a favorite of my daughter Sara's. When I decided to make Italian Wedding soup, I improvised, and it came out so yummy, I tried to recreate it in writing right afterward. As you can see, there are a lot of ways you can adjust this and make it into your own version. I imagine there are as many versions of this soup as there are families who make it. It's Sara's birthday this week, and she is a very busy junior at William and Mary. Perhaps I will make her some for her dorm fridge.

Individual sized servings for the freezer

1 lb. lean gound turkey breast
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 egg, slightly beaten
salt and pepper to taste, maybe a little red pepper flake to brighten it up a bit

3 Tbl. olive oil
3 ribs of celery, diced fine
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cups of diced carrots
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp. dried basil
64 oz. chicken broth and almost same amount of water (I like the Trader Joe's boxed organic free range)
1/3 lb. ditalini pasta (or small shells. or other small pasta shape)
1/4 c. flour
1 small zucchini, ends trimmed but peel on
1/2 lb. fresh baby spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste
grated parmesan cheese to garnish

In a medium bowl, mix all meatball ingredients together, and roll into small, walnut-sized meatballs. Set aside on a plate or cookie sheet.

In a heavy kettle, heat olive oil and saute celery, onions, carrots, and garlic until the onions are transparent and softened. Do not brown. Add dry basil, and mix well. 

In a small bowl, mix the flour with a little hot water, making sure there are no lumps. Add to vegetables and simmer a little. If it gets a little thick or dry, add a small amount of the chicken broth and stir well to incorporate. Top off with all the chicken stock and the water. Bring to a simmer, stirring to make sure the flour gets completely incorporated, so it can thicken a little.

Add meatballs carefully, lowering them into the broth with a long spoon. Take care stirring, but make sure they are not getting stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add the pasta, and simmer until the meatballs are cooked (they will float to the top) and the pasta is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste, and grate the zucchini directly into the pot. Just before serving, shred the spinach leaves and add to simmering broth, cooking until just wilted.

This is good as is or served with a little grated parmesan or asiago cheese on top.


Three generations of Deetzes in view, as well as many friends, family and should-be-family members . . . no one does fictive kinship like the Deetzes! From the plate count and my knowledge of that space, we are only seeing about 1/3 of the people slated to eat. My mother's basic rule on food was abundance is never enough. It would make my Dad crazy, but we are a family who knows how to relish good leftovers, make something out of nothing and stretch basic ingredients into something spectacular. Many of the recipes I will share embrace the same creed, and will be things from my parents' families, friends of our family, and the many things my siblings have perfected themselves through the years. I look forward to posting them all here so that we can keep the love we had for food and family (no parsing out friends here) going.

Banana Bread

Making batches, and freezing, pre-sliced, makes this a healthy, easy snack.

When we were growing up, my mom just cooked, no recipe books, no blue box mac and cheese. When she did use a cookbook, it was primarily for baking, and the one singular cookbook I remember from my early cooking days was Fannie Farmer--an old edition that didn't even give you oven temperatures, but instead gave directions like "Bake in a moderate oven, cook until done." She collected several Fannie Farmer editions over the years, and had intended on gifting one to each Deetz Kid. I don't know if we all got one, but when I was sixteen, she gave me one from circa 1930. She collected a lot of cook books through the years, but I believe she used them mostly as general reading material, and as a place to write random recipes into the blank end pages. I have some of them. When I moved away one last time, she gave me a few of her older cookbooks.

This recipe comes directly and unadulterated from a more current Fannie Farmer, but it is such an easy, simple, no fuss recipe that makes a perfect banana bread with very few ingredients, I rarely alter it.

When you have three ripe bananas and very little else, so good!

3 ripe bananas, well mashed
2 eggs, well beaten
2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease loaf pan. Mix bananas and eggs together in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda. Add walnuts and mix well. Put the batter in the pan and bake for 1 hour. (I use the standard toothpick doneness test). Remove from pan to cool on a rack.  

So easy and I have substituted brown sugar when needed, and also made this with chocolate chips added in too.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Orzo Stuffed Peppers

I love these, they are so colorful, and actually very filling. I couldn't find orzo the other day so these are a smaller version, done with mini sweet peppers, blanched for 1 minute, and stuffed with acini de pepi instead of orzo. I used smaller peppers, the ones that come in the mixed bags in the produce department, so it seemed appropriate to use an even smaller pasta than the orzo. You can also make these with cooked brown rice in the mix instead of orzo.

Leftover idea: I heated the leftover, surplus filling, and ate small spoonfuls wrapped in crispy romaine lettuce bundles.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2 large red, yellow, or green peppers, halved lengthwise
2/3 cup dried orzo, cooked and drained.
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 Tbl. olive oil
4 tsp. flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
3/4 c. skim milk
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped (3/4 cup)
2 cups of cleaned and chopped spinach leaves
1/4 c. sliced green onions
1/2 c. shredded provolone cheese (1-1/2 oz.)
about 6 leaves snipped fresh basil
1/4 c. grated asiago or parmesan cheese

Remove stems, membranes and seeds from peppers. in a large pot of boiling water, cook peppers for 3 minutes. drain well.

For filling: in small saucepan cook garlic in oil for 1 minute, stir in flour, salt and pepper, add milk all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in orzo, tomato, green onion, provolone, spinach and basil.

Place sweet pepper halves in a 2 qt square baking dish. spoon filling into peppers. Sprinkle with asiago/parmesan cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through.

Baked Ziti

When my daughter Sara and her friends were planning their pre-prom dinner, there were a lot of concerns about allergies, cost, timing, crowded restaurants, etc. SO . . . they had decided they would have a pot luck dinner and all the kids would bring something. All I could imagine was some poor soul arriving at the dinner with a pan full of gravy all over her brand new dress. So Sara's friend Emma and her parents hosted the dinner, and Sara and I planned a full menu that took everyone's preferences and allergies into consideration. We read every label three times, and put together dinner for a dozen prom goers. This was the main dish, and it is so easy, so good, and travels really well. I have also made double batches, because it is perfect to put into individual serving sized freezer containers.

1 lb. ziti (i actually like using trader joes organic penne)
@32 oz of marinara sauce (I use a can of Trader Joe's organic marinara)
1 lb ricotta cheese
8 oz grated mozzerella plus a little for sprinkling on the top, maybe another 4 oz?
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan plus some for the top
2 eggs
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbl chopped fresh parsley

Cook pasta according to directions, drain and place in large bowl. toss with a small spoon of the sauce to keep it from sticking.

Combine the ricotta, 8 oz of mozz, 1/4 c. parm, eggs, salt and pepper, whisk it all together. add to the hot pasta and toss lightly to mix through.

Spread a small amount of sauce in bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. turn all the pasta into it. top with a layer of sauce, if you like you can keep some aside for serving , i use all of it. top with reserved cheeses. sprinkle with parsley.

Cover with foil, and bake in reheated 350 degree oven on the middle rack for 25 minutes. Allow it to rest for 20 minutes (yes, you have to wait). Serve with any leftover sauce that has been heated.

Wonder Salad

My father in law, Jack, at the age of 99, was instructed by his doctors to increase his calcium. His appetite had waned quite a bit by this time, and we had a hard time getting him to eat much. But Jack always loved a good green salad, especially made with spinach. So I came up with a combination of things all high in calcium and came up with the rare salad that I actually try to make the same way every time. If you can not get the dressing mentioned, any creamy, slighty sweet dressing would be great.  We dubbed this "Wonder Salad."

1 large head of romaine, cut into bite size chunks
Half a bag of spinach, baby is best
2 scallions, sliced
1/2 english cucumber, split lenthwise and sliced
1 small carrot, diced
4 slices of havarti cheese, cut into smaller pieces (I stack them up and cut them into 1/2" x 1-1/2 " rectangles and let them kind of stay stacked in little blocks)
1 handful of almonds, roughly chopped

AND the key:  Trader Joes pear champagne gorgonzola dressing (its usually in the refrdgerator section.
Toss and about 5 minutes before serving, dress with some trader joe's champagne pear gorgonzola dressing. it doesn't need to be drenched. you can always add more.  I sometimes add diced dried apricots and dried cranberries would be good as well.   OMG.

Dark Chocolate Wafers with Pinot Noir Sea Salt

These are fabulous, and bring the new combination of salt and sweet to a crispy cookie. They are my variation of a classic refridgerator cookie. If you can not find pinot noir salt, it will be just as good with regular sea salt. I might try using pinot noir instead of the vanilla.

I will add a picture as soon as we have any last long enough for a photo op!

Keep the rolls of dough in the freezer and slice and bake in small batches.  Refrigerate no longer than 1 month. Freeze dough up to 3 months. These are great for sending with your kids, as they can keep them in the freezer, and cut and bake them easily, even in a dorm.

1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed brown sugar
2/3 c. shortening
2/3 c. softened butter
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
3-1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. special dark cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. pinot noir sea salt and maybe a little more for sprinkling, to taste

Mix sugars, shortening, margarine, vanilla and eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Divide dough into halves, shape each half into a roll about 2 inches in diameter and about 8 inches long. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 8 hours.

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Cut rolls into 1/2 inch slices. (They can be cut as thin as 1/4 inch, but adjust cooking time to about 8 minutes.) Place 2-inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. if you like chocolate fairly salty, sprinkle a little bt on top, or reduce the amount in the batch to 1 tsp, and sprinkle some on top. You'll figure out your level of salt that you like. Bake until set, about 11 minutes. Remove from cookie sheets immediately. Makes about 5-1/2 dozen cookies.

Peperoni Rolls

2 cup very warm water
2 Tbl. rapid rise yeast
4 tsp. salt
2 Tbl. sugar
1 tsp. garlic powder
6 Tbl. olive oil
5 to 6 c. all purpose flour
48 slices peperoni (I use turkey)
4 slices provolone cheese, cut into quarters (16 pieces)
Put very warm water in a large bowl. Add yeast, sugar, salt and garlic powder and stir unitl well dissolved. Let stand for a couple of minutes to let yeast start to foam.  Stir in olive oil, add 2 cup of the flour, sitr t mix well. Add another 2 cups of flour, mixing thoroughly. Stir in the remaining flour a little at a time, unitl the dough stops being sticky and can be kneaded easily. Do not put too much flour in, you can always add more.
Once the dough is well mixed, and elastic, knead for about 5 minutes, or until you start seeing bubbles form under the surface of the dough. Place in an oiled bowl, rolling dough around until ntire ball of dough has been oiled. Let rest in bottom of bowl, and cover with either cloth or plastic wrap. Let rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a small baking pan or cookie sheet.
Punch down dough and place on the counter. covered with an upside down bowl to rest for ten minutes.
Divide into 16 evenly sized pieces. On a slightly floured surface, roll out a ball of dough, one at a time.  Roll until very thin and about 4 or 5"  in diameter. Place one quarter cheese slice and three slices of peperoni in the center. Fold up the edges of the dough  over and around the filling and pinch together. Place on prepared pan, and repeat with other rolls. Place rolls so they are very close or barely touching each other, so that as they rise, they will touch. Cover with a cloth and let rise for another 30 minutes.
Bake for about 16 to 18 minutes, or until the rolls are browned nicely. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

variation: you can also make four baquettes, roll out four equal sizes of dough, line with peperoni and cheese, roll and bake until golden brown.