About Lisa

Mom, wife, retired physician assistant and multi award winning home cook including Food Network CHOPPED CHAMPION

It's a Win-Win-Win

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Lately, I have had a fun run of good luck in recipe contests. This recipe for SKILLET ROASTED SICILIAN CAULIFLOWER RED LENTIL PENNE took an honorable mention in the Explore Cuisine contest and this recipe, SALTED CHOCOLATE PEAR POUND CAKE, won the dessert category in USA Pears. Finally, my entry into the Coast Packing Company #lardlovers contest took a second place. Here is the recipe.

From Coast Packing: This Strawberry Rhubarb Skillet Cake recipe, submitted by Lisa Keys of Kennett Square, Penn. took second place in our 3rd Annual #LardLovers Recipe Contest. The contest drew homegrown recipes — savory and sweet alike — from around the country. Her winning cake has a nice overall balance of sweet and tart. It is easy to make with readily accessible ingredients. And it can be made with or without a cast iron pan and still achieve great results!

Strawberry Rhubarb Skillet Cake

  • ½ cup lard
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 5 fresh or frozen large strawberries, stemmed, sliced in half
  • 3 cups diced fresh rhubarb
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Sweetened whipped cream

Directions:

Heat oven to 350F. In a 10-inch oven-safe skillet (I use cast iron), over low heat, melt ¼ cup of lard. Add ½ cup of brown sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon; mix and spread evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Remove from heat. Place 5 strawberry halves, cut side up, around the center of the skillet. Place remaining strawberry halves around them toward the edge of the skillet. Sprinkle rhubarb evenly over the skillet. In large bowl, combine all-purpose flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, salt and remaining ½ cup brown sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon; blend well. Melt remaining ¼ cup of lard and add it along with the buttermilk, egg and ½ teaspoon of vanilla to dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with an electric mixture until well mixed. Pour and spread batter evenly over fruit in skillet. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. If cake is getting too brown then cover loosely with foil during last 5 minutes of baking time. Cool cake for 5 minutes before running a knife around the edge and then inverting onto a serving plate. Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream. Garnish as desired.

I am so very grateful to the sponsors who run a good recipe contest with real food experts testing and mulling over the results. I just love being in the mix. I always feel quite lucky and proud to make the top 3.

Comfort Dreams & Lemon Meringue Pie

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I am inspired to write this today after my FB cooking buddy, Lois, posted about dreaming of her dad. Lois took great care of her father and prior to his passing spoke with him on the phone on a daily basis. She had been struggling with her grief until her dad came to her in a dream. They were talking on the phone. Dreaming of a shared experience affirming his life brought her peace.

Lois with her dad, Jerry, and two sons

I had a comfort dream of my own. One year after William’s death, I realized I needed out of my old life…that I would never heal if I did not move on, move away and simply just take care of myself. It was my first brave decision…but one filled with incredible conflict, as I would be leaving our home in Connecticut that was filled with 30 years of delicious memories and the place my son adored.

Imagine me packing up his room. The scent of his cologne still on his pillow. His dirty hand-print on the wall. Touching his things I was transported back to the places we had been, the fun we had had and the plans we had made…. the memories flooded over me.  Preserving these memories would allow me to move forward, but how? On our very first night in the new house now in PA I had the most vivid dream. I got up from my bed and looked out the window and in the driveway was my son looking up at me. It was then I knew he goes where I go. I carry him in my heart.

a bittersweet moment as the peak of my pie hit the oven grate and pulled away

Comfort dreams are moments of light and hope. They are stories of support and faith and what is most precious. To tell the story is a way of moving our grief along, but also is a gift to those we share it with. We all heal in the telling of our stories. It’s an uncomfortable blessing to express our pain, but in doing so there is a release and relief. Thank you, Lois for having the courage to mourn out loud. I’d like to think that your dad was telling you in that dream that he is always with you and that everything is going to be all right.

In honor of Lois’ dad I am sharing a recipe for lemon meringue pie. It was one of Jerry’s favorites and a recipe I have been tinkering with recently. The mile high cloud of meringue featured in the first photo above is an Italian meringue made with roasted sugar. It is light and fluffy with less sticky sweetness than the meringue featured in my lattice recipe design. As much as I love the lattice design the real reason behind it was to use less of the meringue I did not want to eat. Delicious citrus fruit is abundant this time of year, but if you can’t find meyer lemons go ahead and use regular lemons which will yield just a slight more pucker power.

Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust*

1 ½ cups (6 oz) all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar plus additional for pie edge

½ teaspoon salt

10 tablespoons (4 oz) vegetable shortening, cold

2 tablespoons (1 ounce) cold water

1 egg white

Meyer Lemon Filling

2 eggs

7 egg yolks

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar

2/3 cup meyer lemon juice (about 4 lemons)

1 tablespoon meyer lemon zest

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons heavy cream

Lattice Topping**

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

For the crust combine the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl; cut in shortening. Add water and mix until just combined. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill 15 minutes. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface and fit into a 9-inch pie dish. Decorate edge with pastry cut-outs. Line the pie shell with aluminum foil and weigh down with dry beans or pie weights. Place pie dish on a baking sheet. Bake at 375F for 20 minutes. Remove foil and weights. Lightly brush edge of crust with egg white; sprinkle with sugar. Return crust to oven and bake 10 minutes more or until a light golden brown.  Reduce oven temperature to 325F.  Meanwhile, prepare filling. In a medium saucepan, whisk eggs, egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice and zest. Add butter and stir over medium heat for 5 minutes or until mixture thickens and reaches 170F. on an instant read thermometer. Remove from heat; stir in heavy cream. Pour filling into warm pie shell.  For lattice topping, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Gradually add sugar and vanilla beating to stiff peaks. Pipe meringue over pie in a lattice pattern. Bake 20 minutes or until meringue is golden brown. Cool and chill pie before serving. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

*ready made pie crust can be substituted for home made crust

** I suggest taking your meringue to the next level with this mile high light Italian Meringue made with roasted sugar. To roast the sugar: spread 1/2 cup of sugar on a piece of foil and place it in a pie plate at 350F for 30 minutes. Then continue with this recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Pie and Pastry Bible

1/2 cup sugar (that you just roasted)

2 tablespoons water

4 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

In small heavy saucepan, (I use one that has a pouring spout edge), stir the sugar and water until sugar is moistened. Heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved and syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring and turn heat to lowest setting or remove from heat as you attend to the egg whites. In stand mixer with whip attachment, beat egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and beat to stiff peaks. Increase the heat of the sugar syrup and boil until thermometer registers 236F. With mixer on high, immediately drizzle syrup into the egg whites avoiding the beaters. Beat for 2 minutes or until the mixer bowl no longer feels too hot to touch. Starting from the edges of the pie and covering the inside edge of the crust with meringue spread the meringue on top of the filling making swirls and peaks with a spatula. Bake the pie for 5 minutes at 350F to set the meringue and then place pie under broiler for 20 to 30 seconds for a deeper browning. You could also torch it.

Sous Vide Cooking Give Away

Recently, I was asked, “What is the intent of my blog?” My response, “To share something that I love.”

For as long as I have been cooking and baking, I still get excited about food. It’s a continuous learning process that never gets boring. I still love creating new recipes. I still love to read cookbooks like novels. I still search the grocery store aisles for new products and it’s not unheard of for me to drive miles out of my way seeking the best, the freshest and the most exotic ingredients. People who know me understand that vacation time includes a stroll through a local market for foodie souvenirs and perhaps a cooking class to better understand the regional cuisine.

So, it was with great joy that I accepted an invitation to the International Sous Vide Association (ISVA) Summit last summer to learn a new cooking technique. This was exciting stuff with new food possibilities. To be honest, before the conference, I wasn’t at all familiar with cooking food under vacuum in a temperature-controlled water bath. In fact, I don’t think I ever even ate anything cooked that way. In my ignorance, I was pretty sure that only very high-end restaurants were serving sous vide. The French Laundry, Alinea and Per Se were not in my budget nor were the cost of the immersion circulator (sous vide machine) and accessories. I had a lot to learn.

And the conference delivered. In an ongoing flow over 2 ½ days I was immersed in a wonderful world of knowledgeable speakers and vendors. I was captivated by the enthusiasm of not only the professional chefs, but also that of the home cooks and even BBQ guys. The conference had something for everyone including sessions on sous vide science, history, cooking demos and food photography plus lots to eat and drink.

The overwhelming take-away from the conference is that this type of cooking has indeed trickled down to the home kitchen for a number of good reasons. First and foremost, it is affordable. I purchased a highly rated immersion circulator for under $115.00 at the conference. A large stockpot, some heavy-duty Ziploc bags and a clip (things I already had in my kitchen) complete the tools needed. Second, precision cooking insures whatever it is you are making comes out consistently great. I can guarantee that my sous vide steak will be cooked to my perfectly juicy 134 degrees or your perfect 130 degrees every time.

In addition, I can set it and forget it. There is no hovering over an immersion circulator like you would a stove. Big bonus is that the machine itself is compact and takes up little room in my already crowded cabinets. Further, it is great for batch cooking on the weekends for those who are working and want to come home and fix dinner in just a few minutes. Grab your sous vide steak from the fridge and give it a quick sear in a pan or on the grill and dinner is done. Finally, just about anything from entrees to desserts (maybe not popcorn) can be cooked sous vide. There are plenty of cookbooks and recipes on the subject available including a new book I happen to have a recipe in. Champions of Sous Vide (available on Amazon) is a collection of 75 delicious recipes including a mouth-watering photo of each plus the best tips and steps from 2 dozen sous vide enthusiasts. Would you like a copy? Lucky you! I am giving the book away on my Instagram page.

So, is sous vide cooking for everyone? I don’t know. Like my favorite knife or skillet, I look at it as one more option in my kitchen toolbox as well as a new way to think about and experiment with food. If you would like to learn more about sous vide cooking be sure to check out the ISVA web site and consider attending the 2020 conference in San Francisco. And if you are ready to give sous vide cooking a try shop around for an immersion circulator and read reviews. You can find a really nice one for the home cook or professional here.

This is NOT a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. I purchased the book to give away.

Now for the GIVE AWAY: Go to my Instagram page @goodgriefcook and look for the photo of the cookbook and follow the very simple instructions. Good luck. ❤