Oxytocin Diet Plan

What is Oxytocin?

 

Oxytocin is a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In layman’s terms, it is known as the “happy hormone”, thought to be released upon pleasurable physical contact in both sexes. It is the brain’s way of helping us to recognize social bonding. Oxytocin is also thought to be involved in the creation of trust between people and generosity.

 

In women, studies have shown that it is released after expansion of the cervix and vagina during labor, and after stimulation of the nipples, facilitating both birth and breastfeeding.

 

A synthetic version of oxytocin is sold under the labels of Pitocin and Syntocinon as well as a generic oxytocin.

 

HOW TO RELEASE OXYTOCIN INTO YOUR LIFE

 

Studies have shown that oxytocin levels increase after instance of generosity. It appears that kindness and giving are not good for society as a whole but also for the individual doing the giving.

 

Physical affection has shown to increase oxytocin levels as well. Couples who engage in hugging and cuddling (among other endeavors of physical affection) have tested higher for oxytocin levels than those who don’t.

 

Laughter. It is often said that laughing is the best medicine. That’s because it releases oxytocin throughout the body.

 

Food, however, can be used to raise oxytocin levels as well. Recipes that include turkey, chicken cottage cheese, nuts, fish, cheese, eggs and bananas have shown to raise oxytocin levels. This e-book includes such recipes that will take your oxytocin levels to the stratosphere.

 

I have worked as a chef for numerous restaurants in the Bay Area and started my own franchise late in 2004. Most of the recipes here, however, are taken from my family. A great deal of my love for cooking comes from my Uncle Rudy and Aunt Ana. They did not have a perfect relationship, but they are perhaps the happiest couple I’ve ever known nonetheless. So it came as no surprise that the majority of the recipes I learned from them were oxytocin rich.

 

THE RECIPES

 

ARMADILLO” STEW

My uncle Rudy grew up in southern Mexico but eventually moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. He  hated the cold weather of the bay and on rainy days treated myself and my younger brother to a hot and hearty stew consisting of turkey and bell peppers. Uncle Rudy often complained that what it really needed was “some of that chunky ass armadillo meat”. Of course, armadillos were not native in San Francisco so he settled on turkey as a substitute. Here you will discover the fantastic flavors from the turkey, peppers, paprika and the extra kick from the yogurt tomato sauce.

  • Prep time: 20 minutes

  • Cook time: 30 minutes

  • Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1 large onion, sliced, abut 2 cups

  • 2-4 bell peppers of various colors, sliced thinly

  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 teaspoon Mexican Smoked paprika or few dashes cayenne pepper

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds skinless, boneless turkey thigh or breast, cut into large chunks

  • 4 ounces mushrooms, sliced thinly

  • 1 14-ounce can of plum tomatoes with juice

  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced

  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Salt

  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

  • 3/4 cup plain (full fat is best, anything less will likely curdle*) yogurt

*To help prevent curdling, don’t skip the corn starch, use full fat yogurt, and add to dish only when the sauce has cooled below a simmer.

Method

1 Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil on high heat in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and peppers and sauté them until they begin to soften and lightly brown. Add the the hot paprika, and the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more, until the garlic is fragrant. Remove the peppers, onions, and garlic from the pan and set aside.

2 Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over high heat. Add the mushrooms and the turkey to the pan. Sear the mushrooms and turkey over high heat, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes, until the turkey and mushrooms begin to brown. Reduce the heat to medium, return the peppers-and-onion mixture to the pan and mix well.

3 Squeeze the tomatoes to break them up, and add them with their juices to the pan, along with the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, rosemary and black pepper. Mix well, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

4 Stir the cornstarch into the yogurt and add to stew. Cook over low heat (do not let simmer or boil), stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens a little.

Serve with rice, polenta, or refried beans.

 

TURKEY DEL FUEGO

I’m laughing out loud as I’m writing this. This dish reminds me of my first grade teacher, Mrs. Young. The Pepper Turkey recipe below was a mainstay at my home growing up. Times were tough (or my mother was simply unimaginative) and she made this dish at least 5-6 days a week with a plate of refried beans for dinner. This dish was responsible for yours truly passing gas uncontrollably at the most inopportune times during my first grade year in Mrs. Young’s class. Mrs. Young spoke Spanish fluently and nicknamed me “El Fuego” (The Fire) because I farted so much. No matter. This dish is muy delicioso. It will raise your oxytocin levels to astronomical levels and if you pass a little gas along the way, so be it.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes

  • Cook time: 15 minutes

  • Yield: Serves 4.

The method given is my mom’s “uno sartén” technique, because she’s only cooking up one pound of ground turkey, enough for 4 people or 1 sumo wrestler, so just throw all the ingredients together in one pan. If you are increasing the recipe to serve more people, you may want to remove the vegetables after they’ve cooked and set them aside as you cook the turkey meat, or cook the meat and the vegetables in two separate skillets.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil

  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion, including some chopped greens from scallions or green onions

  • 1 bell pepper (red or yellow preferred), chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • Kosher salt

  • 1 lb ground turkey, preferably ground turkey thighs

  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder or chili powder (or to taste)

  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

Method

1 Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the chopped onions and bell pepper and cook until onions and peppers are softened, a couple minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds more.

2 Push the vegetables to the edge of one side of the pan and position that side of the pan so that it is off the burner, away from the heat. The empty part of the pan should be right over the burner. Add one or two more tablespoons of oil to coat the empty part of the pan. Put crumpled chunks of ground turkey in the pan, sprinkle with salt and chipotle or chili powder.

3 Cook the turkey without stirring until it is browned on one side, then turn the pieces over to brown the other side. Once the turkey is just cooked through, stir in the onions and peppers, and sprinkle with more salt and chili powder to taste. Remove from heat. Stir in fresh chopped parsley or cilantro.

Serve alone or with a multiple cans of refried beans

 

THE JOHNSON BURGER

Uncle Rudy grew zucchinis because it was so easy to cultivate and he grew out some big ones. I remember one time he played a practical joke on the hot next door neighbor (Rudy was married but that didn’t stop him). He took one of the more phallic shaped zucchinis from his garden and taped it to his groin area. The idea was of course to make it look like he was more endowed than what he really was. He would then water the lawn at around the time the neighbor would get home from work. He’d meet her in the driveway and chat her up, one hand on the water hose the other on his lower back as he extended out his hips, showing off his “manhood”.  He laughed and told me the hot neighbor couldn’t take her eyes off his crotch and invited him offer for “peanut butter and pickles”. He declined and told me not to tell Aunt Ana.

Rudy had other uses for the zucchini, however, and made the best turkey zucchini burgers my mind could imagine. I just hope it wasn’t the zucchini he had taped to his johnson.

 

 

  • Prep time: 25 minutes

  • Cook time: 25 minutes

  • Yield: Serves 4-6

  • 1 pound ground turkey meat

  • Just under 2 cups, lightly packed, coarsely grated zucchini (from about 2 to 3 small zucchinis or one medium zucchini)

  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced, onion greens included

  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint (spearmint)

  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (tender stems included)

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil

Sour cream sauce:

  • 1/4 cup sour cream

  • 1/3 cup plain Alpura Mexican yogurt

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Method

1 Make the sour cream sauce by placing all of the sauce ingredients in a bowl and stirring until combined. Chill until ready to use. 

2 In a large bowl place the grated zucchini, sliced green onions, chopped mint, cilantro, and garlic, ground cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir to combine. With your hands, mix in the ground turkey until the zucchini mixture is well distributed through the ground turkey.

3 Use your hands to form 3 to 4 inch wide patties, placing them on a baking sheet. Note that the patties will be rather wet, so they may be a little tricky to handle.

4 Heat 3 Tbsp of vegetable oil in a large frying pan on medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, lower the heat to medium. Working in batches, place the patties in the pan. Let cook for about 5 minutes, then flip the patties over and cook for another 5 to 6 minutes. You want them to brown and to gently cook all the way through. If the temperature is too high, they’ll get browned on the outside but the inside will still be raw. So, cook them gently. If the outsides are browned and the insides still aren’t done, lower the heat and cook longer.

5 Once the first batch of patties are done, remove to a paper towel-lined plate while you cook the second batch. Or you can keep the patties warm in a 200°F oven.

Makes 8 large patties or up to 18 small ones. Serve with the sour cream sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DAY OF THE DEAD SOUP

Uncle Rudy thought a lot of Mexican traditions were silly, particularly the Day of the Dead celebrations. He also loved the George Romero zombie movies as much as he hated his mother in law, whom he called “El Chupacabra”. There was one occasion when El Chupacabra came to pick up  Aunt Ana and himself him to attend the Day of the Dead celebrations in East Oakland. El Chupacabra was always passive aggressive toward Rudy, not speaking to him and being very brusque when she did. She thought of Rudy as a peasant that wasn’t good enough for her daughter. Rudy did not want to go to the festival with her so he made what he termed the Day of the Dead soup. It was made up of left over turkey and red food-coloring…So, El Chupacabra arrived to pick them up and as per usual, gave Rudy dirty look once over as if to say ‘you ain’t shit’. Rudy,however, growled like a zombie and began regurgitating the ‘Day of the Dead’ soup out of his mouth like he was spitting out his guts. This, of course, appalled El Chupacabra and she left the house in a huff.

I remember Aunt Ana being really pissed off at him. But I don’t remember El Chupacabra coming over again. Guess he achieved his goal.

I have included the recipe below excluding the red food-coloring. Like everything Rudy made, it is muy delicioso.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup raw basmati rice (rinsed if package directs you to rinse)

  • 4 cups turkey stock (or chicken stock)

  • 2-3 cups cooked leftover turkey meat, dark or light, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 1 cup full-fat plain yogurt

  • 1 large egg yolk

  • 2 Tbsp flour

  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)

  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika (can also use smoked paprika for a smokey added touch)

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to taste)

  • 3 Tbsp finely chopped mint

  • Lemon wedges, for serving

You can also make this starting with raw turkey, with 2 pounds of bone-in, skin-on turkey thighs or legs (as Rudy would say ‘thighs are the best place to start, whether it be a woman or a turkey’). Place the turkey parts in a pot with half an onion, a chopped carrot, and a bit of parsley. Cover with cold water by an inch. Bring to a simmer and cook until the turkey is cooked through, about 45 minutes to an hour. Remove turkey to a plate and let cool. Pour pot contents through a strainer into a bowl to capture the stock. Once the turkey meat has cooled, remove and discard the skins and bones. Cut the meat into 1-inch pieces. Now you should have enough stock and turkey meat recipe.

Method

1 Bring water, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and rice to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes.

2 In a medium saucepan, add the turkey stock and bring to a simmer, remove from heat.

3 Whisk together the yogurt, egg yolk, and flour in a large pot. Slowly add the heated stock, whisking after each small addition to incorporate. Heat to a simmer. Add the chickpeas, cooked turkey, and cooked rice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4 Melt the butter on medium heat in a small skillet. Stir in the garlic, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Cook for a couple minutes, until fragrant, then remove from heat.

Serve with flour tortillas.

 

MACHO CHICKEN

Uncle Rudy liked his food hot and always had chili sauce on the side. And he wasn’t afraid to diversify his methods and exchanged recipes with a Jamaican co-worker. He modified the recipe with his Mexican sensibilities and came up with a creation he called the “Macho Chicken”.  He would invite his friends over and have this as the main course with a side of Tequila shots.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup malt vinegar (or white vinegar)

  • 2 Tbsp dark rum

  • 2 Habanero peppers, chopped

  • 1 red onion, chopped

  • 4 green onion tops, chopped

  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 teaspoons ground allspice

  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg

  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger

  • 2 teaspoons molasses

  • 1 (5 or 6 pound) roasting chicken, cut in half, lengthwise

  • 1/2 cup lime juice

  • Salt and pepper

Precautionary tale. Uncle Rudy was a bit tipsy as he prepared this dish one day and some of the pepper sauce got into his eyes. He screamed and cried for his momma (the only time I ever saw Uncle Rudy be less than macho.) Please be careful when working with the Habaneros and paste and wear protective gloves. Do NOT let these items come in contact with your eyes.

Method

1 Put vinegar, rum, hot peppers, onion, green onion tops, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and molasses into a blender. Pulse until mostly smooth. 

2 Place chicken in a large freezer bag, or in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Pour lime juice over the chicken and coat well. Add the jerk paste to the chicken pieces and coat well. Seal the bag or cover the chicken in the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

3 When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove chicken from the marinade bag or pan. Put the remaining marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to use as a basting sauce for the chicken. If you want you can reserve a little of the marinade (once boiled for 10 minutes since it has been in contact with raw chicken) to serve with the chicken or to mix with some ketchup and a dash of soy sauce for a serving sauce.

 

4aGrilling Method Preheat grill to medium high. Sprinkle chicken halves with salt and pepper. Place chicken halves, skin side down on the grill grates. Cover. Cook for approximately one hour, keeping the internal grill temperature between 350°F and 400°F, turning the chickens occasionally and basting with marinade, until the chicken halves are cooked through. The chicken is done when the juices run clear (not pink) when a knife tip is inserted into both the chicken breast and thigh, about 165-170°F for the breast and 180-185°F for the thigh. Transfer chicken to platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm and let stand 15 minutes.

4bOven Method Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chicken halves in a rimmed baking pan, skin side up. Roast until chicken halves are cooked through, about 50-60 minutes. The chicken is done when the juices run clear (not pink) when a knife tip is inserted into both the chicken breast and thigh, about 165-170°F for the breast and 180-185°F for the thigh. Transfer chicken to platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm and let stand 15 minutes.

Cut chicken into pieces. Serve with refried beans and tequila shots if you are so inclined.

Serves 6 to 8.

FISH FACE SANDWICH

One of the reasons of the occasional strife between Uncle Rudy and Aunt Ana was Ana’s stubborness. She was the quiet and shy type but very set in her ways. She only had one way of doing things and when it worked she stayed as rigid as could be. When it came to cooking, however, this could be a benefit. Aunt Ana insisted there was only one way to make a tuna fish sandwich and it is among my favorites. Uncle Rudy would tease her, ‘oh no, not fish again’ and make a ‘fish face’ while putting both hands under his chin and flipping them like they were gills. He never complained while eating the tuna sandwiches though, alternately saying “mmmm” and “aaaahhhh” after each bite. You will do same.

The key here is to use either tuna steaks or very high quality canned tuna if you can find them. Avoid the tuna packed in water.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 (6 ounce) can or steak of tuna fish

  • 1/3 cup of cottage cheese

  • 2 Tablespoons of mayonnaise

  • 1/4 purple onion, chopped finely

  • 1 celery stalk, chopped finely

  • 1 Tablespoon of capers

  • Juice of half of a lemon

  • Pinch or two of dill

  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley

  • 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard

  • (optional – lettuce and sliced tomatoes)

  • Slices of French bread, lightly toasted

Method

Mix all of the ingredients. Aunt Ana would serve it grilled but you can do the healthy thing and serve it on the healthy bread of your choice or on lettuce if you are low-carbing.

 

PINK PATTY MELT

Uncle Rudy was a ladies’ man and would tell me about a girl named Patty whenever Ana was out of earshot. I remember we had this conversation over an occasion where Uncle Rudy was preparing salmon patties for us, hence the title. “Ahhh, Patty,” he said wistfully. “She wore this pink beret all the time. Whenever I see the color pink I think of her. Ahhh, Patty. ”

This is a pretty easy recipe, the ingredients are cooked salmon, shredded bread, chopped onions and eggs. Uncle Rudy would zest things up by adding in garlic, dill, bill pepper and paprika.

Ingredients

  • 1 (14.75 ounce) can salmon, undrained and flaked

  • 1 slice of bread, shredded or a handful of saltines

  • 3 Tbsp chopped green onion, including the green parts

  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced

  • 1 Tbsp fresh chopped dill weed, or 1 teaspoon dried

  • 3 Tbsp minced green bell pepper

  • 1 Tbsp flour

  • 1 egg

  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • Several turns of freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil

Method

1 In a large bowl, gently mix together the salmon, bread, green onion, garlic, dill, bell pepper, flour, egg, paprika, salt and pepper. Form into 8 patties; each about 1/2 inch thick.

2 Heat oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Cook the patties until nicely browned on both sides, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Serve on a toasted bun or with a bowl of refried beans.

IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT
SOUP

Uncle Rudy told me about a date he had with Patty. Evidently she was the Brazilian cousin of a friend he had during his twenties. They were both connoisseurs of the kitchen and she taught him the finer points of a fish stew called “Moqueca”.  The two began making the brew but in Rudy’s words, “I just couldn’t keep my hands off Patty.”  Rudy had a 45 record of “In the Still of the Night” and put it on while Patty finished making the stew. The mood set, they decided to let the stew simmer on the stove while they indulged in physical affections for the rest of the evening…

The morning after, Rudy said that he had the culinary experience of his life as the fish was allowed to marinate overnight. “It was incredible, erotic and life changing,” Rudy recalled. “and Patty was memorable as well.”

Ingredients

Marinade:

  • The cloves from 1/2 head of garlic, peeled, crushed, minced

  • 2 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice

  • 3/4 teaspoon of coarse salt

  • 1 Tablespoon of sweet paprika

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of dry cumin

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of freshly ground black pepper

Other:

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of salmon, cut into 2-inch pieces (largish-bite sized pieces)

  • Olive oil

  • 2 medium onions, sliced

  • 1 large bell pepper, seeded, de-stemmed, and sliced

  • 2 medium tomatoes, sliced

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 1 14-ounce can thick coconut milk

  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro, chopped, 1-2 cups

  • Freshly cooked rice for serving

Method

1 Mix together the marinade ingredients. Let the salmon marinate in this paste for at least 2 hours. The longer, the better.

2 In a large pan (large covered skillet or Dutch oven), coat the bottom of the pan with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add a layer of sliced onions, and then a layer of sliced bell peppers, and a layer of sliced tomatoes. Place the fish pieces, with the marinade, on top of everything, and start layering again – onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Add about half of your fresh cilantro to the top. Pour coconut milk over the top. Drizzle generously with olive oil over the top (several tablespoons).

3 Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, until the vegetables are cooked through.

Serve with refried beans on the side.

POACHER’S DELIGHT

My mother was often in a rush and sometimes didn’t want to be bothered with lengthy preparations for dinner. When she wasn’t cooking Turkey Del Fuego, she would often come up with a Poached Salmon dish that was quick and easy. It is quite good and a welcome change from the Turkey Del Fuego.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes

  • Cook time: 10 minutes

  • Yield: Serves 2 to 4 or more, depending on the size of the fillet.

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1½ pounds salmon fillets, pin bones removed

  • Salt

  • ½ cup dry white wine (a good Sauvignon Blanc)

  • ½ cup water

  • A few thin slices of yellow onion and/or 1 shallot, peeled and sliced thin

  • Several sprigs of fresh dill or sprinkle of dried dill

  • A sprig of fresh parsley

  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

 

1 Sprinkle the salmon fillets with a little salt. Put the wine, water, dill, parsley and onions in a sauté pan, and bring to a simmer on medium heat.

2 Place salmon fillets, skin-side down on the pan. Cover. Cook 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet, or to desired done-ness. Do not overcook. Serve sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.

 

POPEYE’S OMELETTE

Uncle Rudy was a huge boxing fan and had fought professionally in his teenaged years. He told me about “power foods” when I was getting involved in high school athletics.

I remember before my swim meets Uncle Rudy would cook up this special omelette for me which he insisted would give me strength and energy…an edge over my opposition. Oftentimes, it did have an effect on me (placebo?) as I did believe eating his breakfast creations gave me an advantage over my competition.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes

  • Cook time: 5 minutes

  • Yield: Serves 2.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion

  • Pinch of red pepper flakes

  • 1 ounce fresh kale (no stems) and thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

  • 4 eggs, beaten

  • 1/2 cup of grated Monterey Jack cheese

  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning (dried rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil)

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

1 Heat olive oil in a stick-free frying pan on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chopped onion and red pepper flakes. Cook for one minute.

2 Add the thinly sliced kale to the pan, toss with the onions and olive oil. Cook for a few minutes, until the kale is just wilted.

3 Lower the heat to medium. Add the beaten eggs to the pan. Stir until the eggs begin to set. Then stir in the shredded mozzarella cheese and Italian seasoning.  Remove from heat and continue to stir a few times until the cheese is melted and the eggs are cooked. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

AMOROUS EGGS

Aunt Ana wasn’t always a grim faced presence in the kitchen. There were times when perhaps she had a particularly amorous evening with Rudy or he did something nice for her and she seemed to be floating on air in the morning. She would prepare a most flavorful breakfast dish for about a half an hour. Painstakingly simmering a tomato and onion sauce and then adding in some eggs. Add some flour tortillas on the side and you some serious oxytocin heightening going on.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped

  • 1 1/4 lb (600g) plum tomatoes, peeled and chopped or 1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes

  • 6 eggs

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

     

Method

 

1 Heat olive oil on medium heat in a nonstick skillet. Add the onions and cook until translucent, just starting to turn golden in color, about 6 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over low heat until the liquid evaporates, about 40 minutes.

2 Whisk the eggs in a bowl until well blended. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add the eggs to the tomato and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, and scraping from the bottom with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat as soon as the eggs begin to set, but are still moist, about 3 minutes. Turn out onto a serving plate. Serve immediately.

CHICKEN SHIT SOUP

In Uncle Rudy’s world, “chicken shit” wasn’t in reference to something or someone cowardly. “Chicken shit” was an inability to pay attention to details or paying way too much attention to the wrong details. I recall us getting some Chinese takeout one time and Rudy getting upset at the lack of taste in his egg drop soup. “What is this, ‘Chicken Shit’ Soup?” he exclaimed.

Eager to prove his own superiority, he cobbled together his own version of Chicken Shit Soup. It is quite tasty and if prepared correctly can certainly rival that of your own neighborhood Chinese restaurant.

Ingredients

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

  • 4 cups of chicken stock

  • 1 tablespoon of corn starch

  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce

  • 3 green onions, chopped

  • 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper

  • 3/4 cup of straw, enoki, or sliced shitaki mushrooms

 

Method

1 Reserve 1/2 cup of the stock and mix with the cornstarch until dissolved.

2 Place the chicken stock, ginger, soy sauce, green onions, mushrooms and white pepper in a pot and bring to a boil. Add the cornstarch and stock mixture and stir. Reduce heat to a simmer.

3 Slowly pour in the beaten eggs while stirring the soup. The egg will spread out into ribbons. Turn off the heat and garnish with a few more chopped green onions. Serve immediately.

DIE HARD GRATIN

Every now and then we’d have “movie night” at Uncle Rudy’s. His all time favorite movie was “Die Hard” and I remember him going all out for the meal we would eat while watching this and other flicks. Rudy wouldn’t be satisfied with serving us standard movie watching food fare like popcorn or hot dogs. He went all out and prepared this gratin dish he learned from a fellow chef who was French. This concoction is made best with fresh spinach combined with a white béchamel sauce seasoned with nutmeg and black pepper. Halves of hard boiled eggs dot the surface, and the whole thing is sprinkled with grated gruyere cheese and seasoned breadcrumbs.

  • Prep time: 20 minutes

  • Cook time: 1 hour

  • Yield: Serves 6 to 8.

If you want, you can also sauté some chopped onion, and/or a combo of minced garlic and parsley to mix in with the cooked spinach and béchamel. Up to you. Without these aromatics, a cleaner flavor of the spinach comes through.

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds of fresh spinach, cleaned (or 24 ounces of frozen spinach, thawed and drained)

  • 2 cups of milk

  • 2 Tbsp butter

  • 2 Tbsp flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg, or 3/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg if you aren’t starting with a whole nutmeg

  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or more to taste

  • 1/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese (about 1 ounce)

  • 6 hard boiled eggs*

  • 3 to 4 Tbsp seasoned bread crumbs**

  • Olive oil

*To hard boil eggs, place eggs in a 2-quart saucepan and cover with at least an inch of cold water. Bring the water to a boil, remove the pan from heat, and cover. Let sit for 10-12 minutes, covered. Then run under cold water to keep from overcooking. Crack the shells while the eggs are still under water and let sit for a while to cool before peeling.

**To make your own bread crumbs, take a few slices of day old bread and toast either in a toaster or in the oven until browned, then pulse in a food processor or blender until you have crumbs. Stir in a little herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning and a little salt to taste.

Method

 

1 If working with fresh spinach, blanche the spinach in boiling water for 1 minute, drain and run cool water over it to cool it down. Press as much water as you can out of the spinach. (A good way to do this is to put the drained spinach in the center of a large, clean tea towel, wrap it with the towel, and wring the moisture out by wringing the towel.) Chop the spinach. Place in a large bowl. Season to taste with salt and set aside while you make the béchamel.

2 Heat milk in a medium saucepan until steamy, set aside. In a separate saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter on medium heat. Sprinkle in the flour, whisking the mixture until smooth, about a minute or two. Remove from heat. Slowly pour in the hot milk, whisking the whole time so that the mixture is not lumpy. Continue to whisk until there are no lumps. Return the pan to heat and let heat to a simmer, continuing to whisk to keep the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The béchamel sauce will thicken as it cooks. Sprinkle in the ground nutmeg and black pepper.

3 Stir the thickened béchamel sauce into the bowl of spinach.

 

4 Grease the inside of a 2-quart gratin pan or casserole all around with a little butter. Pour the spinach béchamel mixture into a gratin pan, and even out the surface. Sprinkle the surface with the grated Gruyere cheese. Slice the hard boiled eggs in half, and arrange, cut side up, on the surface of the spinach mixture. Press into the spinach mixture so that the cut side of the eggs are level with the spinach. Sprinkle with 3 to 4 tablespoons of seasoned bread crumbs. Drizzle the top with a tablespoon or so of olive oil. At this point you can make the gratin a day ahead and chill until ready to cook to serve.

5 Bake, uncovered, in a 375°F oven for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned.

STOOP LABOR BREAKFAST

Uncle Rudy stated that is toughest job was working as a day laborer in Fresno. It was back breaking work, literally, as he had to stoop all day to pick vegetables. He refused to wilt under the hot Fresno sun, however, and intuitively knew that he had to keep his spirits high despite his current circumstance. He would make himself this breakfast every morning before he shoved off to labor. Here is that recipe.

Ingredients

  • 3 large potatoes, skinned and quartered lengthwise

  • 3 Tbsp bacon fat or olive oil

  • 2 cups roughly chopped green and white onions (include the greens from the green onions)

  • 2 cups roughly chopped bell peppers

  • Salt to taste

  • 1-2 cups chopped ham

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

  • 4 eggs, whisked

Method

 

1 Boil the potatoes in a saucepan of lightly salted water for 10-15 minutes until just cooked (test for doneness). Drain, rinse with cold water to cool. Cut into 1-inch squares. Set aside.

2 Heat 2 Tbsp bacon fat (or olive oil) in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the onions and chopped bell peppers. Increase the heat to high. Brown the onions and bell peppers, stirring frequently, about 2-3 minutes.

3 Push the vegetables to the side of the pan, add the potatoes and another Tbsp of bacon fat (or olive oil) to the pan. Brown the potatoes for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Sprinkle on salt to taste as you cook. Add the ham to the potatoes and cook, stirring frequently until the ham is heated through, 1-2 minutes.

4 Mix all of the vegetables, potato and ham together and mix in the parsley. Add the eggs, stirring to distribute the eggs among the vegetables and ham. As soon as eggs begin to firm up, remove from heat.

Serve immediately. Great with a side plate of refried beans and tortillas.

PATTY CAKES

Evidently, cooking was a shared hobby between Uncle Rudy and his ex-girlfriend Patty. He attributed this recipe (out of Ana’s earshot, of course) to his Brazilian girlfriend. This is called Pão de Queijo, or Brazilian cheese puff. There are a couple of ways to make  Pão de Queijo. One method includes cooked potatoes. One method is sort of like a pâte a choux in which you cook the dough first. The quickest, easiest, short-cut method is what Uncle Rudy used to do. You put the ingredients in a blender. Pour them out into a mini-muffin tin, and bake. The beauty of this recipe is that you can make a big batch of batter and just store it in the refrigerator (for up to a week), pouring out just as many mini-muffins as you want to eat. You can even cook them in a toaster oven.

The only somewhat hard to find ingredient is tapioca flour. I have found some at Whole Foods and at Mexican specialty stores. 

  • Prep time: 5 minutes

  • Cook time: 15 minutes

  • Yield: Enough batter for 16 mini muffin sized cheese breads.

Ingredients

  • 1 egg*

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 2/3 cup milk

  • Scant 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) tapioca flour

  • 1/2 cup (packed, about 66 grams) grated cheese, your preference, though Uncle Rudy insisted upon Mexican farmer’s cheese – queso fresco

  • 1 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)

 

Special equipment recommended:

  • One or two mini muffin tins. Mini muffin tins are about half the size of a regular muffin pan. The muffin openings are about 1-inch deep, and 1 3/4 inch wide at the top.

Method

 

1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a mini-muffin tin. Put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until smooth. You may need to use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the blender so that everything gets blended well. At this point you can store the batter in the refrigerator for up to a week.

2 Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until all puffy and just lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for a few minutes.

Eat while warm or save to reheat later.

NUTCRACKERS

Uncle Rudy wasn’t a violent guy but he as an immigrant he saw the need to defend himself. He was an amateur boxer and often crushed walnuts with his hands to strengthen his grip. He’d take two walnuts together and squeeze them until they cracked. It was a point of pride with him, to crack the toughest nut.

One day he was in a bar and got into a fight with a “cracker”. The white man was a big gent, according to Rudy, about a foot taller and with a one hundred pound weight advantage. So when Rudy was getting the tail end of the beating he reverted to one last tactic…He grabbed the man “by his nuts” and squeezed. Uncle Rudy said the man “squealed like a pig” and went down on his knees, “nursing his ‘short and curlies’.”

His friends nicknamed him the “Nutcracker” in jest and this recipe  of candied walnuts(actually Aunt Ana would make this) reminded me of that story.

A little salt adds a bit to this. The key here is to work quickly once the sugar starts melting, because once it gets on the walnuts it cools quickly and the walnuts will stick together. You have 30 seconds or so to separate them before they are forever bonded by glassy, cooked sugar. The other key is to not burn the walnuts when you toast them.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves

  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse salt

Method

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Use middle rack in oven. Lay walnuts out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 5 minutes. Test to see if it is done. If not quite toasted enough, toast for 1 or 2 more minutes. Be careful not to burn. Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack.

2 Pour sugar into a medium saucepan with a thick bottom. Have walnuts nearby, ready to quickly add to the pan at the right time. Cook sugar on medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon as soon as the sugar begins to melt. Keep stirring until all the sugar has melted and the color is a medium amber. As soon as sugar is melted and the color is a medium amber, add the walnuts to the pan, quickly stirring and coating each piece with the sugar mixture.

3 As soon as the walnuts are coated with the sugar mixture, spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet, lined either with a Silpat non-stick mat, or parchment paper. Use two forks to separate the walnuts from each other, working very quickly. Sprinkle the nuts with the salt. Let cool completely then scarf them down.

 

THE TART’S TART

Uncle Rudy didn’t always have a roving eye. Aunt Ana was quite beautiful in her own right. She simply didn’t like to use make-up or “face paint” as she used to call it. On holidays, however, she would get all decked out. Full face of make up and her best dress. Uncle Rudy would be smitten and dote on her the whole day.

Aunt Ana was no slouch in the kitchen. Her tart was a feast for the senses with a buttery short bread creast, sprinkled with bits of walnut and covered with raspberries. Damn. Just damn.

It’s easy to make. The crust requires no rolling out. You just process flour, butter, and powdered sugar in a food processor or blender until it comes together in a dough, and then you press the dough into a tart pan with your fingers. You do pre-bake the crust, and I find that freezing a crust before you pre-bake it helps keep the crust sides from collapsing as they bake, so this step may be take a little practice, but it’s not hard.

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups (200g) flour

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (80g)

  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup or 12 Tbsp) butter

Filling:

  • 3/4 cup (75g) chopped walnuts

  • 10 ounces (283g) frozen or fresh raspberries (do not defrost if frozen)

  • 2 eggs

  • 3/4 cup (150g) white granulated sugar

  • 1/4 (35g) cup flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Method

 

1 Make the crust. Place the crust ingredients—flour, powdered sugar, and butter—in a blender or food processor. Process until a dough forms, about 30 seconds to a minute. Lightly grease the inside of  a 9 to 10 inch wide, 1 inch high, tart pan with a little butter.  Place the dough in the tart pan. Use your fingers to spread the dough and press it evenly all over the inside of the tart pan.  (You can use a rolling pin to roll over the top of the tart pan to remove any excess dough and create an even top edge.) Place in the freezer and freeze for one hour or longer.

Pre-bake in a 350°F (175°C) oven for 25  minutes. (It helps if before baking you line the crust with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights, such as dry beans; this will keep the tart crust from slumping.)  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

2 Heat the oven again to 350F (175°C). Place the chopped walnuts in the crust in the tart pan and spread evenly over the bottom. Place the fresh or frozen raspberries on top of the walnuts and spread in an even layer.

3 Beat together the remaining filling ingredients—eggs, sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla—until smooth. Pour the egg mixture over the raspberries and walnuts in the crust.

4 Bake in the oven on the middle rack for 40 minutes, or until the top is nicely browned all over and the filling has set.  When you remove the tart from the oven the center should still wiggle just a little. Take a sharp knife around the edge of the tart to separate it a little bit from the pan. This will make it easier to remove pieces once the tart has cooled.

Let cool to room temperature to serve.

NOOKIE LICKER STEW

Uncle Rudy would invent nicknames for dishes just as he invented nicknames for people. He often called me the “Rhino” (I have no idea why) and called one of my friends “Uncle Fester” because of his shaved head.

Here I have what he called his “Nookie Licker” stew. I didn’t ask how or why he came up with the name (probably best I didn’t.) The end result, however, will have you licking the bottom of the bowl.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes

  • Cook time: 2 hours

  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 large yellow onions, chopped, (3 cups)

  • 2 Tbps unsalted butter

  • 3 Tbsp olive oil

  • 5 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (granted you may have trouble finding this ingredient, I’d try Whole Foods)

  • 1/2 pound walnut halves (about 2 cups)

  • 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs and/or breasts, trimmed of excess fat, cut into medium size pieces, patted dry and salted

  • 2 cups chicken stock

  • 2 Tbsp plus 2 teaspoons of sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric

  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • Salt

Method

1 First toast the walnuts. You can do that one of two ways. You can either spread them out in a single layer in a large skillet, and toast them on medium high heat, stirring frequently until lightly toasted, or you can spread them out in a single layer in a baking rimmed baking sheet, and toast at 350°F in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes. In either case, once toasted, remove from heat and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, pulse in a food processor or blender until finely ground.

2 In a large pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted, pat the chicken pieces dry again and place the chicken pieces in the pan, working in batches if necessary to not crowd the pan, and cook until golden brown on all sides. Sprinkle the chicken with salt while they are cooking.

3 Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the chicken from the pan, set aside. Add a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of oil to the pan. Lower the heat to medium low. Add chopped onions to the pan and sauté until translucent, stirring on occasion to release the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

4 Return the chicken pieces to the pan with the onions. Pour 2 cups of chicken stock over the chicken and onions. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

5 Stir in the ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, sugar, and spices. Cover and cook on very low heat for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so to prevent the walnuts from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

6 Remove from heat and adjust sugar/salt to taste. At this point the chicken should be fall apart tender.

Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serve over rice.

BERRY ASS COBBLER

Uncle Rudy had an appreciation for all things beautiful. I remember one time we were walking down to the Mexican grocery store and a pair of young women walked by. Rudy did a double take at both of the women and then howled like he was The Wolfman. He embarrassed me but the girls just laughed it off. “Look at that girl’s ass,” said Rudy as they disappeared over the horizon. “One day, that ass is going to droop. It is ripe and juicy now…but in a few years…pffftt….gone. And that, that is a tragedy.”

The conversation continued as we began picking the berries in the grocery store. “Ripe and juicy now,” said Rudy. “Pick only the moistest and freshest…Too old is always bitter. Too young has no taste. Has to be just right…Like that girl’s ass.”

Later that evening, Uncle Rudy whipped up a berry cobbler that he baked in a heart shaped bowl. He presented it to Ana that evening and she went all goo goo eyed…

Ingredients

Filling

  • 4 cups mixed berries (i.e. blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, boysenberries, strawberries), fresh or frozen

  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar

  • 2 Tbsp instant tapioca

  • 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Topping

  • 1/2 cup flour

  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • Pinch of salt

  • 4 Tbsp (1/4 cup) cold, unsalted butter, cut into cubes

Method

1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 9×9 inch baking dish.

2 In a large bowl, mix together the filling ingredients – berries, sugar, tapioca, and lemon juice. Pour into the baking dish.

3 In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, coconut, sugar, walnuts, baking powder and salt from the topping ingredients. Use your fingers to mix in the cubes of butter. Rub the butter into the other ingredients until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

4 Sprinkle the topping over the filling. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the topping is golden brown and crispy, and the filling is bubbling.

5 Let cool for at least an hour. Serve with whipped cream.

Makes 6 servings

TOP BANANA MUFFIN

After and only after Uncle Rudy would cook up a nice desert for Ana would she follow suit. I noticed she invariably made muffins. He loved coming home from work and smelling them the moment he walked in the door. “Hey Cupcake, is that your muffin I smell?” he would ask Ana before an embrace. “I must be your ‘top banana’”, he said with a wolfish laugh.

Again, Rudy had a lot of weird and off the wall sayings but I think here he was referring to the banana muffin recipe that Ana whipped up.

  • Prep time: 15 minutes

  • Cook time: 30 minutes

  • Yield: Makes 12 muffins.

Ingredients

  • 3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed

  • 1/3 cup melted butter

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 Tbsp espresso or strong coffee (optional)

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • Pinch of salt

  • 1 1/2 cup of flour

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (toasted or raw)

Method

No need for a mixer with this recipe.

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. With a wooden spoon, mix butter into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl.

2 Mix in the sugar, egg, espresso and vanilla.

3 Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the mixture and mix in.

4 Add the flour, mix until it is just incorporated. Fold in the chopped walnuts.

5 Pour mixture into a prepared muffin tin. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Check to see if it is done with a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Cool on a rack.

 

BE-LISH

From here on in are my own recipes. The focus will be on fruit (mostly berry) based desserts. Rich in oxytocin and high in scrumptiousness.

My suggestion with the recipe below is to  use unflavored gelatin with white grape juice. The bananas are there for added sweetness but can be removed if you have an excess of berries.

  • Prep time: 3 hours, 10 minutes

  • Yield: Serves 6-8.

    Ingredients

  • 2 envelopes (1/4 ounce each) unflavored gelatin

  • 2 cups white grape juice

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups of mixed fresh berries and slices of banana (berries can include boysenberries, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries)

Method

1 In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 cup grape juice; let soften 2 to 3 minutes.

2 Heat sugar with another 1/4 cup grape juice in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until dissolved. Remove from heat; stir in softened gelatin until dissolved, then stir in remaining 1 1/2 cups grape juice.

3 Place berries in a 4-by-8-inch (6 cup capacity) loaf pan; pour gelatin mixture over, pressing berries gently to submerge completely (remove a few berries if necessary.) Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.

4 To unmold, dip bottom of pan in hot water about 5 seconds. Invert onto a serving platter, and shake firmly to release. Slice to serve.

Serve with whipped cream.

B-SMOOTH

Nothing like a smooth berry drink to swill on those hot summer nights. You can also substitute a banana here (aunt Ana would use homemade jam.) Either/or, we’re talking an oxytocin blast to the senses.

  • Prep time: 5 minutes

  • Yield: Makes 2 smoothies.

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana, cut into pieces

  • 2 cups of berries – blueberries (fresh or frozen), strawberries (quartered), or other berries

  • 1/2 cup crushed ice

  • 2 cups plain yogurt

  • 1/4 cup honey

Method

 

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

JERKY FRUIT

Uncle Rudy used to make this when I was a kid and damn…just damn…Unfortunately, I don’t remember the specifics of his recipe but here is my own approximation. I honestly don’t recall if he processed the raw fruit but here I recommended cooking the fruit first to bring out the flavor (as well as kill any germs.)

Ingredients

  • Fresh fruit (apricots, peaches, plums, berries, apples, pears, grapes)

  • Water

  • Lemon juice

  • Sugar (if needed)

  • Spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg (optional)

Method

1 Rinse the fruit. If you working with stone fruit, take out the pits, chop the fruit. If working with apples or pears, peel and core them, then chop. If working with grapes, de-stem them.

Test the sweetness of the fruit before sallying forth. If very sweet (ripe Concord grapes for example) you will not need to add any sugar. If still a little tart, you may need to add some sugar in the next step.

2 Place fruit in a large saucepan. Add a half cup of water for every 4 cups of chopped fruit. Bring to a simmer, cover and let cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the fruit is cooked through. Uncover and stir. Use a potato masher to mash up the fruit in the pan. Taste the fruit and determine what and how much sugar, lemon juice, or spices to add. Add sugar in small amounts (1 Tbsp at a time if working with 4 cups of fruit), to desired level of sweetness. Add lemon juice one teaspoon at a time to help brighten the flavor of the fruit. Add a pinch or two of cinnamon, nutmeg, or other spices to augment the flavor.

Continue to simmer and stir until any added sugar is completely dissolved and the fruit purée has thickened, another 5 or 10 minutes (or more).

Note if you are working with grapes – strain the juice out of the mashed grapes to make grape juice.  Force what is left behind, after straining, through a food mill, to make the purée for the next step.

3 Put the purée through a food mill or chinoise. Alternatively purée it thoroughly in a blender or food processor. Taste again and adjust sugar/lemon/spices if necessary. The purée should be very smooth.

4 Line a rimmed baking sheet with sturdy plastic wrap (the kind that is microwave safe). Pour out the purée into the lined baking sheet to about an 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness.

5 Place the baking sheet in the oven, try to keep any plastic wrap from touch the sides of the oven or the oven racks. Also try to make sure that the plastic wrap hasn’t folded back over on top of the purée. If this happens, the purée won’t dry out. Heat the oven to a low 140°F. If you have a convection setting, use it, it will speed up the process and help dry out the purée. Let dry in the oven like this for as long as it takes for the purée to dry out and form fruit leather. We usually keep it in the oven overnight, so about 8-12 hours. The fruit leather is ready when it is no longer sticky, but has a smooth surface.

Alternatives to the oven. If you have a food dehydrator, this would be a great use of it. My mother suggested putting the tray in the weber grill, and leaving covered, in the sun all day. Sounds like a good trick, but I haven’t tried it yet. My parents remember the traditional way of making fruit leather was just to tent the tray with some cheesecloth and leave it outside in the sun on a hot day.

6 When the fruit leather is ready, you can easily peel it up from the plastic wrap. To store it, roll it in its plastic wrap, put it in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

BERRY BREAD

I’m spoiled because I live in Northern California and there is an abundance of produce 24/7/365. Walnuts are in season as well as navel oranges. Take a fresh orange and squeeze it dry to get the best juice for this recipe (grate the peel first). Frozen cranberries work well, just slice them in half. I’ve seen suggestions online to pulse the cranberries in a food processor as a way to more easily chop them, but I think you could easily get too many small bits using that method. The best results will come from chopping them yourself, all they need is to be cut in half, just cut a few at a time to keep them from rolling off the table. The result is a tangy, slightly sweet bread with occasional pleasant surprise of cranberry tartness, softened with walnuts.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

  • 1 cup chopped cranberries

  • 3/4 cup orange juice

  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 1 Tbsp grated orange peel

Method

1 Pre-heat oven to 350°F.

2 Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the chopped cranberries and walnuts to coat with the flour mixture.

3 Mix together orange juice, sugar, butter, egg, and orange peel. Add to flour, cranberry, nut mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until just blended.

4 Pour into a greased 9×5 or 8×4 loaf pan. Bake at 350°F for 55 to 60 minutes or until done (a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean).

5 Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Serves 8.

OXY-COOKIES

These cookies are so damn good that it should b required eating for anyone in a bad mood. Bake up a batch of these and bring it to your neighborhood sourpuss, cubicle jack ass or that anyone else that needs to put a damn smile on their face for a change. No…Scratch that…Once you bake this, you will want it all to yourself and to hell with everyone else.

The key here is to add in just the right amount of spices and pecans for an addictive treat.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1 cup of sugar

  • 1 egg, room temperature

  • 1 cup of mashed bananas (about 2 ½ large bananas)

  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda

  • 2 cups of flour

  • pinch of salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground mace or nutmeg

  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

  • 1 cup of pecans (walnuts and chocolate chips are fine alternatives)

Method

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

2 In a bowl, mix the mashed bananas and baking soda. Let sit for 2 minutes. The baking soda will react with the acid in the bananas which in turn will give the cookies their lift and rise.

3 Mix the banana mixture into the butter mixture. Mix together the flour, salt, and spices and sift into the butter and banana mixture and mix until just combined.

4 Fold into the batter the pecans or chocolate chips if using. Drop in dollops onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

 

 

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