The most elegant of desserts: Fresh Blueberries with cream and sugar

Max, Joe and I picked over 11 pounds of blueberries the other day. When we got them home, Joe and I selected a bowl full of only the largest berries. Late the next night he and I surprised the family with this elegant treat. We lined up the bowls on the kitchen counter, and when we each had a bowl full, we sat around on the kitchen floor and had a late night blueberry party.

Ruth’s Zucchini Soup

Soup and toast were all my dad needed for dinner last night. He loves zucchini soup.

This is a smooth and fresh soup, wonderful hot or cold. It freezes well, and is a terrific use for your bountiful crop of zucchini. I got home late last night but still was able to  have a pot of soup ready for the table in only 30 minutes. The recipe, much like many of my mother’s, is very loose. So here’s the gist of it:

In a big pot, saute one or two onions in just a bit of olive oil. When the onion is soft, throw in a lot of cut up zucchini—for two onions you might use 8-10 cups of zucchini. You can add mushrooms if you like (Maralee always does). Just barely cover the vegetables with water and cook until the zucchini is soft. This should only take 20-30 minutes. My mother would throw in 1 or 2 cubes of beef bouillon, but you don’t have to if you want to keep it vegetarian. The last step is to puree the softened vegetables in a blender. Use a slotted spoon to fish out the vegetables and just enough broth to make the soup liquidy. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Monster cookies

Most people won't have a bowl big enough to handle this recipe, so go ahead and divide it by 2, 3 or 4.

A recipe that starts with “12 eggs beaten” and also includes three entire jars of peanut butter, catches my attention. My friend Debi gave me this one, telling me that she made these when her kids were little and that they loved them. I’ve made them before by cutting the recipe into 1/3 or 1/4, but yesterday I decided to get out my BIG bowl and do the full batch. Wow. These are heavy cookies, with no flour (gluten free), and if you can look the other way on the chocolate, the oats and peanut butter make them a fairly healthy cookie.

Monster Cookies (I lost count, but think I came up with about 10 dozen)

  • 12 eggs, beaten
  • 2 pounds brown sugar
  • 2 c. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. vanilla
  • 8 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 pounds peanut butter
  • 18 c. quick oats
  • 1 pound chocolate chips
  • 1 pound M&Ms (optional)
  • 1 pound butter, softened

Add ingredients, in the order given, mixing with each addition. Drop by large spoon, or scoop, onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 14 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Lovely, "healthy" cookies for my little monsters.

Traveler’s Supper

Take out the fine china, and make a beautiful plate to welcome home the weary traveler. Here I used cherry tomatoes, focaccia bread, smoked cheddar cheese, a pluot with blackberries, and some sliced avocado.

Doug had been out of town traveling for a few days and wouldn’t arrive home until late into the evening. I’m very familiar with the traveler’s diet—catching little snacks at O’Hare, or grabbing a scone at Starbucks, and perhaps splurging for a bag of peanuts on the airplane. And when you land, your body is fervently craving fresh anything, especially fruits and vegetables. Since I was picking him up from the airport and wouldn’t be home to prepare a meal in advance, I shopped for raw, in-season produce, a fresh bread and a complex cheese, all of which I was able to slice up and plate in just a few minutes while Doug unpacked the kids’ souvenirs.

Don’t run to the store, just make them yourself: Homemade Hamburger Rolls (and great burgers)

I had everything I needed for dinner except for the hamburger buns, but I didn’t have it in me to make yet one more trip to the grocery store. Hamburger buns are not something that I think to make myself—but why not? Store bought rolls are fluffy and tasteless, and are merely a holder for the meat so that your hands stay clean. Imagining the ideal taste, I started with a challah dough, dialed down the sweet and boosted the yeast.

Homemade Hamburger Rolls (makes about 1 dozen)

Mix together the following and let sit for 10 minutes:

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. yeast

Stir in:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 4 c. white flour, and a bit more as you knead the dough

Knead until smooth, 5-10 minutes. Let rise for about 2 hours. Shape into small balls, then gently flatten into the desired diameter—as the rolls rise they will get a little taller, but not wider. Let rise again for 45 minutes. If you want a seeded roll, brush the tops with a beaten egg, and sprinkle on your favorite seeds. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until they are slightly brown. For softer rolls, loosen them, but leave on the pan, and cover with a towel as they cool. For crisper rolls, remove to a cooling rack.

Ruth’s Hamburger

My mother was the kind of cook who doctored up everything. A frozen pizza wouldn’t recognize itself when she was done with it. And her hamburgers were moist and flavorful. Forget about just seasoning the meat with salt and pepper, try it doctored up, and give those fresh rolls the meat they deserve!

Mix together the following, form into patties and cook as usual:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3 Tbs. ketchup
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbs. minced onion (fresh or dried)

Molasses Whirly Bread

This is my favorite bread—a little fussy to make, but I love the finished product with its beautiful swirls, it’s surprising height, deliciously complex flavor and chewy texture. Make these loaves when you’re having someone special over for dinner, or use it to dress up a meal of simple summer salads or a pot of winter soup.

Molasses Whirly Bread (makes two tall loaves)

In a large bowl (it is ideal if you have two identical bowls), mix together and let proof for 10 minutes:

  • 3 c. warm water
  • 1/c c. honey
  • 2 Tbs. yeast

Add the following and mix well:

  • 3-1/2 c. white flour
  • 1/2 c. nonfat dry milk
  • 1/2 c. oil
  • 2 tsp. salt

Pour half of the dough into a second bowl. To one half stir in the following, then knead, adding extra white flour as needed until you have a smooth and elastic dough:

  • 1/2 c. wheat bran, wheat germ or flax meal
  • 2 c. white flour

Into the other bowl stir in the following, then knead, adding extra white flour as needed until you have a smooth and elastic dough:

  • 1/4 c. molasses (coat the measuring cup with a tiny bit of oil before measuring and the molasses will pour out cleanly)
  • 2 Tbs. instant coffee
  • 2-1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 c. white flour
  1. Let the doughs rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. Divide each dough in half. Roll out one piece of the dark dough into a rectangle about 8″ x 10″. Roll out one piece of the light dough and place it on top of the dark dough, then roll together tightly and place into a greased bread pan, seam side down. Repeat for the second loaf (If you like, you can change the order of the dark and light loaves ) Cover and let rise for 45 minutes. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

Rolling up the light and dark doughs.

The finished roll before it is placed into the bread pan.

An awesome idea for a summer meal: Shrimp salad

Cooked shrimp, green onions, hard boiled eggs, mayo with a dash of ketchup and salt—that's it.

You never know what will be a winner. Tonight my 91 year old father used the word “awesome” to describe our dinner. I’ve never heard him use that word before. Maybe my children have become a bad influence on him? This shrimp salad can be made in the time it takes to hard boil an egg. I served it with some sliced, toasted and buttered ciabatta bread and some extremely fresh and cold watermelon. Also, I put the salad on a bed of iceberg lettuce, because sometimes you have to go for the cold crunch of iceberg and save the nutritious dark green lettuces for a night when it’s not quite so hot. It really was an awesome summer meal.

Aunt Annie’s Old Fashioned Scones

Bake these scones as a wheel, then separate to eat.

In my quest for the perfect scone recipe I stumbled across this one for Aunt Annie’s old fashioned scones. These are the perfect scones. I’m going to make up some dough with fresh blueberries tonight, so we can enjoy these tomorrow on the 4th of July.

Aunt Annie’s Old Fashioned Scones

1. Mix together with a whisk:

  • 1-3/4 c.  flour
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt

2. Cut in:

  • 1/3 c. cold butter, with fingertips or pastry cutter

3. Stir in:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. milk (or half and half if you’re fancy free)

4. Fold in:

  • 1/3 c. dried cherries
  • 1/3 c. walnuts

5. Knead 10 strokes. Form into 8″ circle, sprinkle with sugar and wrap in  wax paper. Fridge overnight (or skip this if you didn’t plan ahead—don’t worry they’ll still be pretty good).

6. Cut into wedges, bake on parchment or a greased cookie sheet at 400 degrees for 16-18 mins. or until golden.
Separate and cool.

Options to fold in:

  • 1/2 c. blueberries
  • 1/3 c. pecans, orange peel
  • 1/3 c. choc chips, orange peel
  • 1/3 c. cranberries, 1/3 c. nuts
  • 1 Tbs. poppy seed, lemon peel
  • 1 Tbs. cinnamon and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar