Tag Archives: fast

S’mores Bars: The Classic Campfire Treat, Indoors or Out

When was the last time you had s’mores around a raging campfire? Yesterday?  Sometime during your childhood?  Never?

For those of you who did not have a North American childhood, “s’mores” is a contraction of “some more” – it is a challenge to eat just one.  S’mores consist of graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. There are two ways of making them:

1. Large marshmallows are toasted on a stick or skewer over a campfire and then placed between two graham crackers with a piece of chocolate (the residual heat will melt the chocolate or at least soften it to make the sandwich.

2.  Marshmallows and chocolate are placed in between two graham crackers and wrapped in a piece of aluminum foil (or in a wire basket) which then go close to the fire to heat up the mixture for a melted chocolate-marshmallow result.

Apparently, it was the Girl Scouts in the U.S. who can claim bragging rights to these delectable sandwiches.   Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts came out way back in 1927.  The first published recipe made it into this fascinating guide-book (the title alone makes it worth seeking, at used book stores or rummage sales…).

I made s’mores bars for a new year’s bonfire/potluck party.  Originally, I planned to bring the ingredients for s’mores:  However I could not figure out how anyone could make these in a relatively safe manner, in front of raging fire – not your average campfire.  Fortunately, I had come across a simple and quick recipe Cajun Chef Ryan posted right before new year’s.

On our island, recycling is a major past-time, as is composting and “burns”.  The latter only can take place between mid-October and mid-April.  Such fires are ways of getting rid of non-toxic debris, as we have no municipal garbage pick up.

Gratuitous kitty pictures – to keep things in perspective:

Jinja likes to hide at the bottom of a branch-filled giant vase.

From this angle, Jinja looks like a giant cat, emerging from said vase.

For the recipe and the review…

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1897 Brownies: The Original Recipe to Honour National Chocolate Brownie Day

Did you know that today is National Chocolate Brownie Day? While I have no idea who proclaims such things, it is still cause for celebration.

To mark this momentous occasion, I finally tried a recipe I have wanted to make for some time – one which is purported to be the very first. The earliest published brownie recipe was in the 1897 Sears, Roebuck catalog, and its name, for that reason, is simply “1897 Brownies”.  I came across this in Food:  True Stories of Life on the Road, edited by Richard Sterling.  This is a wonderful collection of short essays on food experiences and explorations around the world.

The recipe followed a charming story of a young American woman who started a covert brownie business in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1970s.  I read it before our recent trip there, and I thought I might stumble upon a Scottish brownie somewhere.   While I did discover millionaire’s shortbread, there were no brownies to be had in Scotland (“nae brunies”…).

This recipe is fascinating – not only because it could be the original brownie – but it also has no butter.  (There is an alternative to using unsweetened chocolate, which includes cocoa and a modest amount of butter).  Thus, it is a lighter, lower-fat brownie. In fact, as National Brownie Day coincides this year with the last night of Chanukkah, it could be a good follow-up to the oil-laden or dairy-rich foods of the holiday.  The 1897 Brownie could be a good holiday treat for Xmas or New Year’s, as well.

For the review – and the recipe

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Almond-Butter Hummous: A New Twist on Tradition

Is hummous still hummous without the tahini?  I asked myself this question recently, when I had an urge for hummous but found that there was no tahini in sight (thank you, baba ganouj, for demanding all the tahini, a few days earlier).  What to do in the evening on a small island where food shops are closed by 5 or 6 pm typically?

I had a big jar of almond butter in the fridge, so I thought that this substitution could work.  As I always cook with sesame oil for various Asian dishes, I added a bit to impart that essential open-sesame flavour to this adaptation of hummous.

My hummous allegiance goes back to my vegetarian youth, yet it took me years – and a food processor – before I actually made it.  Hummous is so easy to make and versatile as a spread, filling, or a dip.  It works equally as an appetizer, condiment (instead of mayonnaise on a sandwich, for instance). or main course,

David Lebovitz, he of the Parisian-pastry-chocolate-sarcasm fame, has the best recipe for hummous.  It came from a restaurant, Cabbagetown Cafe, at which he worked in Ithaca, while at Cornell.  I use his version these days, after previously relying on Ina Garten’s recipe for some time before (in the original Barefoot Contessa); Ina’s is also very good.

The almond butter provides a satisfying nutty quality, yet there is still the sesame oil for a hint of tahini’s traditional sesame flavour.  In a pinch or for a variation on a great classic, this version fills the bill for any desperate hummous-cravings.

For the recipe….

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Brown Sugar Cookies – Speedy, Simple, & Superb: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 16

The easiest recipes are often the best.  This four-ingredient recipe, from my grandmother’s recipe files, which I recently discovered, is quick, straightforward, traditional,and toothsome.


I am a big fan of brown sugar, especially dark or demerara, so I was glad to have found this recipe, among my grandmother’s hand-written and typed cards.  While it is not the brown-sugar-beurre-noisette cookie which ranks among my very favourite cookie recipes, this version is much faster and a classic shortbread or sablé.  I remember well my grandmother’s tubular aluminum cookie press, which made fancy beribboned butter cookies.  I can picture only the plain melt-in-your-mouth white butter cookies, which Jessie often adorned with glacé cherries.

In thinking about brown sugar, I thought about “Bubbling Brown Sugar” and jazz, which Jessie liked.  This led me to think I might find a picture of my grandmother Jessie at the Stork Club in New York City (I remember she had matchbooks from there but no such luck in the photo realm).  At various nightclubs, Jessie liked the many-layered and coloured liqueur drink, the “pousse-café” (she unfortunately pronounced this confection-concoction as “pussy café” – I kid you not…) , with layers of brandy, green chartreuse, white crème de cacao, crème de cassis, yellow chartreuse, and grenadine, as Wikipedia describes one variant, though there were many other versions.  This depends on the specific density of each liqueur to float on top of the previous one.  It was all the rage in the early 20th century.

Jessie and Louie - cocktails at a race track press club, 1950s

For the description of the cookie and the recipe …

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My Grandmother’s “Pan Cakes” Failure & Success: Neither Pancakes nor “Pan Cakes” – What Would Jessie Dish? Week 15

What are “pan cakes” exactly?  My late Grandmother Jessie’s recipe – from her files I discovered this spring – was truly perplexing.  This dish is one I certainly cannot recall ever having eaten.

Like some of my grandmother’s other recipes, this one is not much more than a list of ingredients.  Most confounding for me was the lack of pan size, which might have revealed a bit more, e.g., round versus square or rectangular.  The notes also have provisions for double the recipe.

However, what I found amusing was on reverse of the paper.  It is a recipe from a downtown Los Angeles address.  From a bit of Google-research, I could not find out what was at this address – a newspaper?  Magazine?  Television station?  Initially, I figured it might have been the Los Angeles Times, as my late uncle (Jessie’s son) and my aunt were close friends with the publisher and his wife, which leads me to think that Jessie would have been reading it on a trip to California, perhaps in the 1970s from the typeface used.  The recipe is a confusing one (read the “preparation” section) for some sort of seabass-asparagus terrine.  I think I shall skip trying this recipe, however….

Given the citrus in this recipe, I thought of Jessie and her time spent in Florida, which was far more than her trips to California.  My late grandfather was a sports writer and public relations specialist for sporting events, as I had described in an earlier post, and he covered the dog-racing season in Miami.

In this photo in Florida in the late 1940s, I suspect my grandfather might have taken the shot of my grandmother, mother, uncle, and my aunt (who had gotten a terrible sunburn and all was covered up here with a jacket and cap, on this visit which was right around the time they had gotten married).

For the cake failure then triumph and the recipe… Continue reading

“Karma Chameleon” Bucatini with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil – Red, Gold, and Green

At the risk of being sued by Boy George (as opposed to a-wannabe-lawyer-who-liked-to-bathe-in-apricot-Jell-o), I decided to call this treatment of bucatini with cherry tomatoes “Karma Chameleon” for obvious reasons.  The pure red cherry tomatoes with the vibrant “sungold” cherry tomatoes (from our deck-top garden) and fresh basil (right off the deck, too) made me think of the lyrics:

Loving would be easy if your colours were like my dream
Red, gold, and green, red, gold, and green.

Huh? What exactly does that mean?

This is from an era of many pop songs with memorable refrains but not much meaning:  the 1980s, of course.  The song was very catchy but did not really have the “deeper” meaning indicated by the references to “karma” and the changeability of the chameleon. There is good alliteration with “karma chameleon” together, while “red, gold, and green” make a nice vivid trio of colours.  But does the song really say anything, other than just being a fun tune?

Like the song, bucatini is a fun pasta. However, it is not always easy to find bucatini in your grocer’s shelves, nestled among its more popular cousins, spaghetti and linguine (do not even try to find “buca-what?” on a small island like this one).  Bucatini is like a drinking straw, with a hollow centre, a kind of tubular spaghetti, which provides, a nice al dente contrast to the warmed cherry tomatoes, and good textural counterpoint to the light olive oil-butter sauce.

My inspiration for combining bucatini with cherry tomatoes comes from a casual dinner a few years back, hosted by friend and fellow island blogger, Lynn, of Real Food from a Small Island.  Lynn’s sauce was delicious yet somewhat different from this recipe.

I like the classic Italian base of garlic-olive-oil-black-pepper-and-Parmigiano-Reggiano.  This base also can include parsley, bread crumbs, red chili flakes, anchovies, lemon juice, capers, or many other ingredients, depending on the region. time of day, and the chef.  I posted about a combination that I did a few months back, Umami Linguine.  A bit of butter, I find, in a sauce like this helps improve with the mouth feel and adds a bit of richness to the sauce without becoming heavy.

For the recipe…

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Apricot Mould – A Light Summer Retro Jell-o Dessert: What Would Jessie Dish? Week 13

When was the last time you gave any thought to apricot Jell-o?  Prior to finding a recipe for “apricot mold” among my late grandmother Jessie’s recently discovered recipes, I associated apricot Jell-o with a dorm-mate from the University of Chicago.

In my orientation week as a first-year student in the College there, a very bright young woman seemed to tell everyone in our “house” immediately that she liked to “take baths in apricot Jell-o!”  Her name will not appear here, as she is now a lawyer and one can only surmise what could happen…. She either had just turned or was about to turn 16 years old – very bright and precocious.  The apricot Jell-o reference was one many of us remembered.  Another friend from our dorm actually wrote into the UChicago alumni magazine with this anecdote recently.

The University of Chicago figured prominently in Jessie’s life, as she lived in Hyde Park, where it is located, for many decades.  Both her children went to the College, as did three of her grandchildren.  As for apricots, Jessie relished apricots in desserts, e.g., her apricot strudel or the “mystery” dough, which I filled with apricot butter in tribute to her.

On Jessie's lap, I pose with my parents, brother, and grandfather in 1968 in Jessie and Louie's Hyde Park apartment.

As for Jell-o, the link is a bit more tenuous.   (Note my usage of the trademarked name with its hyphenated spelling; I really do not use other brands, so I will recognize this classic American dessert by its trademark.)  I remember that Jessie often had boxes of Jell-o in her kitchen cabinets, where I was searching for packaged cookies she always had on hand.  Jessie also had boxes of a whipped topping called “Dromedary,” which made me think of camels (of course!).  But who wants to think of camels in conjunction with dessert?!? I do remember the occasional Jell-o mould at family dinners, though I do not seem to recall apricot.

Apricot Jell-o was not one of the oldest flavours for this dessert, I discovered in my research.  I looked into whether it was still available, after not being able to scrounge up a box on a trip to Sidney, BC on big Vancouver Island yesterday –  it really is an extremely big land mass.  Two supermarkets there stocked many flavours except for this apricot.   Had it been all used up in baths, by young lawyers-to-be, I wondered.  So I decided to substitute its closest fruit substitute, peach, which actually debuted in 1907 – just a few years after Jessie’s birth – making it one of the oldest flavours.

For the dessert itself and the detailed recipe…

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