Planning the Holidays

22 Dec

I have been away from the house for nearly three weeks now.  Getting back to cooking meals for ourselves is going to seem really weird. To top it off, our first full day home is going to be Christmas Eve, so I have to figure out holiday meals just when I don’t remember how my kitchen works any more.  Happily, I read a Facebook notice that Daisy Mae’s Market has blood oranges, so I’ll be stopping by there Sunday afternoon or Monday.

My wonderful mother-in-law would usually make standing rib roast for Christmas Dinner, complete with Yorkshire pudding.  I did so myself last year, which was the first year I had actually cooked Christmas Dinner at our house.  In the interest of preserving the fragile health of my bad shoulder, I have decided to go with short ribs for dinner.  Short ribs and grits.  With a blood orange salad before and a repeat of that gorgeous caramelized pear tart afterwards.

Christmas Eve, I think we’ll have fish.  My family in Florida often has seafood on Christmas Eve (the Christmas Eve Dinner antidote?) and I will keep that up, despite the fact that there have been no oceans near Ohio for a few eras.

My mother gave me a pair of dolsots for Christmas.  She actually had them shipped from Korea.  They came packed in cake boxes and surrounded by little envelopes of sushi seaweed to cushion them.  We’ll definitely be having dolsot bibimbap this week.

Looking forward to cooking, enjoying and hearing what others have decided to have for whenever and whoever are special to them.





16 Nov

I am in LOVE with Pepperplate!  Pepperplate is a website with associated app that lets me gather all of the recipes I use from the internet with my own recipes, work my meal plans, develop menus for parties and create a shopping list (including only the items that I needed to actually BUY.  I can deselect the olive oil, salt and pepper, for example).  I already added some of my favorite recipes from Bon Appetit and Gourmet ( and Cooking Light (

I don’t know if there is a cost associated with the Pepperplate app, but you can get a free download key from Crate & Barrel.

Happy planning, organizing and cooking up a storm!

– Mrs. U.

Hotel Breakfast OR Why I Need Egg Cups

1 Nov

I’m traveling this week, having escaped the US just before Sandy, the Frankenstorm, shut down every flight out of the country. I’m starting the week in Worms, Germany, southwest of Frankfurt. I speak French very well, but I only know two phrases in German. The first, “where is the key?” because the restroom in the plant is always locked, and the second “I would like capers, please” because the hotel has smoked salmon on the breakfast buffet, but the capers are locked away as a strictly afternoon sort of condiment. When informed that my German had improved to include this second all-important phrase about capers, my husband said, “Really? That’s what you decided to learn?” or something to that effect.

He clearly has no appreciation for the importance of capers with smoked salmon, but I have to think at least one person will agree with me.

I didn’t come here to talk about smoked salmon, delightful though it is. I wanted to talk about kiwis. Kiwis are one of those fruits I eat in two situations: when someone else cut it up and provided it (fruit salad, fruit tray, fruit tart) or when I’m staying in a hotel and find them on the breakfast buffet, in which case I cut it in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon and wonder why I don’t do this at home.

Today, I had a kiwi and it was so good that I went back for a second. I noticed it was a bit less fuzzy and when I cut it open, I found the flesh was yellow. Golden kiwi fruit!  It was delicious and a bit more tropical tasting than the green.

This has suddenly turned into a new obsession to serve kiwis in egg cups.  I don’t own any egg cups.

Good Things from the Earth: Roasted Root Vegetables

30 Oct

Short and simple:

1 huge parsnip
4 carrots
3 beets
1 shallot, minced
olive oil
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400F. Peel and cut the vegetables. Toss with shallot, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until tender, about 45 minutes, depending on size. Beets will be slowest to cook, so manage the cut size accordingly. Eat the whole plate, ignoring everything else that was served for dinner that night. Talk about how good it was.

Servings: 2 (because Mr. U. insisted that I share, otherwise 1).

Clockwork Orange Pekoe

26 Oct

One of my husband’s original cocktail creations and a personal favorite of mine.

  • 2 oz. (Glenlivet 12 year) Whiskey, Scotch
  • 1 oz. Triple Sec (Cointreau)
  • 1 oz. Vermouth, red
  • 1/2 oz. Bitters, blood orange
  • 2 dashes Bitters, Angostura

Combine ingredients in glass.  Stir and add copious quantities of ice.

For the love of pears

23 Oct

We love pears.  I was looking for an easy pear tart recipe and came across this one on epicurious.  Few ingredients, tout simple, and it cooks while you are eating dinner, so it’s perfect for guests.

For dinner timing – make the dough during a lull period, even the day before and leave it to rest in the refrigerator.  You can roll the dough out to the right size AHEAD of time if you like, dust it with flour, put it between two sheet of parchment paper and stick the whole thing in the fridge.  Much easier to deal with at the final moment.  You’ll want to start the pears 20-25 minutes before dinner service and then you can just pop the whole thing in the oven just before you sit down.

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT:  Cast iron skillet or other all-metal skillet that can go into the oven.

Here is the link for the original recipe for Carmelized Upside Down Pear Tart.

The pastry recipe is listed separately on epicurious as “Pastry Dough“.  Very elegant, I think.

Pastry Dough:

  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 3/4 stick (6 T. or 3/8 cup) cold unsalted butter
  • 2 T (1/8 cup) vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 to 4 T ice water

Blend the flour, butter, shortening and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender until most of the mixture resembles coarse meal with some small butter lumps.  If you have naturally warm hands, you should use a food processor or pastry blender.

Drizzle 2 T ice water over and gently stir until incorporated.  Squeeze a small handful to see if it holds together, if not add more ice water, just a bit at a time until it does hold.  Do not overwork.

The recipe calls for working the fat into the dough by smearing on the counter.  I didn’t bother doing that.  I’ve been working with pastry dough long enough to know when it’s just right.

Flatten to 5″ disk and refrigerate at least 1 hour OR just go ahead and quickly work it into a circle big enough for your skillet and refrigerate between two layers of parchment.


  • 4 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, halved and cored
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425F.

Heat butter in a 9-10 inch oven-safe skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides.  Stir in sugar (it will not dissolve and it will be lumpy and look like the proportions are wrong).  Add pears, cut sides up, in a circle with wide ends toward the edge of the skillet.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and cook, undisturbed, until the sugar begins to caramelize.  Note the recipe says ‘deep golden caramel’, but reading the reviews some people said it got very burned in the oven, so I tested the caramel with a spoon – when just barely starting to turn, but clearly in a caramel form (smell and taste), I moved on to the next step.  Be careful tasting caramel – it’s smoking hot and will burn you!

I did not cool the pears in the skillet as the recipe said.  I just draped the pastry over the hot pairs and popped it straight into a preheated oven.  Baked 30 minutes and it was perfect.

Cool 5 minutes on a trivet, then, using two pot holders, put a plate over the skillet and invert it QUICKLY so the caramel doesn’t ooze out everywhere – including on you, because you can easily get burned.  Let it cool just a minute before serving.  Yummy!

Chicken in a Pot! (Poule au Pot Henri IV)

21 Oct

This recipe is from my favorite restaurant in Paris, which is “très sympa et on y mange bien” (very pleasant/nice and one eats well there).  This was the recommendation of the owners of an apartment I rented in the 1er, between the Louvre and Les Halles.  I will be in Paris in about 2 weeks, but I don’t think I’ll get to go there for a meal, unfortunately.  I don’t write French well at all, so if I made any mistakes, I apologize in advance.  I wanted to include the metric measurements since I had them and I’m sort of paraphrasing the original recipe at the same time because the ingredients were in a bizarre order.

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT NEEDED:  Covered dutch oven, cheesecloth, kitchen twine


  • 4 1/2 pound chicken (1 belle poule de 2 kg environ), cleaned and rinsed
  • 1 pork belly (1 demi poitrine du porc, demi-sel) – see my note below.
  • 1/2 pound ground veal (250 g de veau haché)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork (250 g de porc haché)
  • 1 egg yolk (1 jaune d’oeuf)
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley, washed and minced (1 bouquet de persil, préalablement lavé et haché) – but the parsley bunches are bigger in the US, so I think 1/2 is fine
  • 2 large onions, 1 of which will be minced, the other peeled with 2 whole cloves stuck in it (2 gros oignons, dont 1 ciselé et l’autre piqué avec 2 clous de girofle)
  • 2# carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces (1 kg de carrottes)
  • 2# turnips, peeled and cut into large pieces (1 kg de navets)
  • 2 large leeks, cleaned and chopped into large pieces (2 gros poireaux)
  • 1 stalk of celery, rough chopped (1 branche de céleris) – I am confused as to whether this indicated a single stalk or an entire bunch.  I went with stalk.
  • 2# potatoes (1 kg pommes de terre)
  • 1 branch each of rosemary and fresh thyme (romarin et thym, laurier)
  • salt and pepper
  • mustard and cornichons, for serving (and please don’t skip these, as they really add to the flavor of the meal!)

Note:  It may be difficult for the American cook to find pork belly, especially the lightly-salted version that the French like to cook with.  Basically, it’s bacon – but I would not use American-style bacon as a substitute here.  If you can find fresh, unsalted pork belly at a butcher, you can soak it in brine for about 1 hour to make it ‘demi-sel’ (lightly salted).  If you cannot find it, I recommend using a small portion of pancetta (1/4 pound or so) and soak it in water while the chicken is cooking to remove much of the salt.  Chop it and add it.  It’s the closest thing you are likely to find to poitrine or lardons and don’t skip this as it adds a lot of flavor to the finished product!

Put the chicken in a large, covered pot, and fill about 3/4 with cold water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and let cook about 2 hours, skimming fat frequently.

Soak the pancetta if you are not using pork belly.

Meanwhile, combine pork, veal, minced onion, chopped parsley, egg yolk, salt and pepper in a bowl.  Mix well.  Note you should mince the onion very finely to make it easier to cut later – these onion pieces are too big!

Place on pieces of cheesecloth, roll up and secure with twine at ends and one or two place in the middle to secure the cheesecloth (making fresh pork/veal sausages).  Set aside.

After the chicken has cooked, add the vegetables EXCEPT the potatoes, the cheesecloth-cased sausages, the pork belly/pancetta, the rosemary and thyme.  Cook another 1 hour. Remove the meats and allow them to cool slightly.  Meanwhile, add the potatoes and let them cook another 20-30 minutes.

Remove the meat from the chicken and add back to the pot.  Slice the sausages and add back to the pot.  Slice the pork belly and add it back in as well.

Serve it steaming hot with a little pot of Dijon mustard and some cornichons.  Really.  Don’t skip the mustard, please!

This recipe makes enough for pretty much everyone you’ve ever met to have some.  Eat some now and freeze some for later – it’s such a yummy, flavorful chicken soup for a cold, rainy evening!

Blood Orange Bash

19 Oct

One of my husband’s original cocktail mixes.  This is right tasty.

I buy Italian Volcano blood orange juice in the produce section (not the juice section!) at Fresh Market.

We use Stirrings blood orange bitters, which are fairly sweet.

Pour Blood Orange juice into glass, then add remaining ingredients. Stir and top off with ice. Add a sprig of mint if desired.


Introducing: Mr. U.

18 Oct

My husband gets big billing on Planned Overs.  He is always referred to as “Mr. U.” or “my husband”.  I do this because it’s not his blog, this is the internet, and I don’t want his identity made easily searchable on my blog, although it isn’t a big secret who we are.  We’ve been married over 20 years.

Some notes on Mr. U.:

  • He cooks.  Really well.  When I started dating him, I opened the door to his fridge expecting some sort of bachelor desertland of ketchup and beer.  Not so.  There was every bizarre condiment and ingredient known to man jammed in there, including Chinese bean paste.  I knew this could be the start of something beautiful.  His words on this are that if you like to eat, you need to learn to cook.  Amen.  Don’t let this fool you into thinking there wasn’t also beer in there, because there definitely was.
  • He eats.  Like me, he will eat just about anything.  He isn’t concerned with “What kind of meat’s in that?”  He’s not a meat and potatoes guy at all and in particular, he likes nothing better than a big bowl full of noodles from a Japanese, Vietnamese or Chinese restaurant.  In short, he isn’t picky.  He will eat whatever is planned for dinner without complaint, even on one famous occasion when we had literally no food and no money and I made lasagna out of canned pumpkin and some lasagna noodles.  When reminded of this event, he still claims that he liked that meal.
  • He appreciates the artistry of food.  I love that my husband understands that a great restaurant is theatre.  Sometimes you just have to splurge on some really great theatre tickets and enjoy the show.
  • He doesn’t like me to watch him cook.  He always thinks I think he’s doing it wrong.  It’s very hard for me not to offer advice when I see him doing something that could be done more efficiently.  Now I just say, “you want me to leave now, don’t you?”  He’s never turned that offer down that I can remember.
  • He mixes a great cocktail.  I’ll post a few of these as asides for your pleasure.
  • He works from home.  This means that we can have a roasted chicken on a weeknight if I truss it in the morning and leave it for him to put in the oven at 4 p.m.  It also means I can send him an email saying, “I forgot to defrost the ___!” and he will pull it out for me and save the day.
  • We share cooking and cleaning responsibilities.  I’m not saying this just for him to get some good press.  I write about planning meals and grocery shopping and so on because I’m better organized than he is.  More often than not, he is the one who actually does the shopping, or who finishes cooking the Frozen Overs.  In this case, I say, “Thank you for cooking dinner” and he says, “Thank you for cooking dinner.”

He’s also a talented artist and an avid reader of everything, including cereal boxes.  You can check out his literature and reading blog, Dispatches from Outer Libraria, on WordPress.

Frozen Overs – Curry

16 Oct

This started out as a strange Southern-style curry dish that involved ketchup.  I learned it while working at Susannah’s Gourmet Pantry in Jacksonville, Florida.  This recipe is my own take on that one that I made more times than I can count.  It’s definitely nothing like authentic curry, but it’s good comfort food and it’s something my husband often reaches for in the freezer when sent down to ‘pull something out’.  He loves it especially with roasted cauliflower, chick peas and green peas, which is how I have been making it lately.

Ingredients (makes enough for 5 square GladWare trays 8″ x 8″ plus fillings:

  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 stick butter (I said this was a Southern thing, didn’t I?)
  • 1/2 c. flour
  • 5 T. curry powder (I used Penzey’s Maharajah)
  • 2 T. cumin
  • 1 T. crushed ginger
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 quart (4 c.) vegetable stock
  • 1/2 gallon of milk
  • salt to taste

If using chicken, you will use 8-10 breasts for this much sauce.  For cauliflower and chickpeas, use 1 head cauliflower, roasted and 1 can of chickpeas, drained.

Saute onion in butter.  Add dry ingredients and cook for several minutes, stirring constantly.  Add tomato paste and then slowly add vegetable broth and milk to make a smooth but thin sauce.  Cook until thickened, at least 15 minutes at simmering temperature, stirring frequently.

(The red bits in the sauce are saffron.)

While it is cooking, roast the cauliflower at 400F in the oven.  I toss it in some olive oil and Creole seasoning first.  DO NOT roast cauliflower in GladWare.  Use a sheet pan.  This is what it looks like after it has been cooked and portioned into the GladWare.

Portion the cauliflower and chick peas into freezer pans.  You can also freeze this sauce by itself or add some chopped cooked chicken.  It’s nice to freeze it by itself so you can add leftover bits and bobs to it on a busy night.  I use zip lock bags, stack them in a pan until they are frozen and then move the frozen flat bags to a freezer shelf.

Portion the sauce over each pan.

Or just toss it together if you are going to serve it right away.  Mr. U. really likes green peas in this.  I don’t freeze them in the sauce because then they’ll get lost and possibly lose color.  I add them, frozen, when I reheat the sauce and it makes for a very pretty dish.

My cousin’s husband said this sounded good but wondered if you could add different things to it instead, like instead of the cauliflower and chick peas!

Serve with a fun group of condiments if you like.  This is how we served it at Susannah’s, but with a good curry powder and the right add-ins, I don’t find I need the condiments any more.  It is fun to serve it with the condiments, though, and I even got my picky brother-in-law to eat it that way.  Pictured are:  cilantro, scallion, peanuts, dates, raisins, chutney and toasted coconut.

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