Just Dessert

HH and I visited the State Street Bistro, with Uncle Larry as the head chef. You may remember Uncle Larry from the Frito Pork Roast, so yummy! Anyway, with the Bistros wonderful view of downtown San Diego, we got the best table in the house – literally.

Anyway, Chef Uncle Larry did a great job on a delightful grilled dinner on a very warm summer night. HH and I were asked to bring dessert, and something light for the summer seemed in order. So, Lemon Angel Food Cake with Blueberry/Lemon Sauce.

The dessert recipe started off as Orange Angel Food Cake with Fruit Compote, which meant dried apricots and dried cranberries. But that just didn’t sound good, so I changed it. The new Holly’s Diner creation was delicious, if I do say so myself!

Here’s the Holly’s Diner recipe:

Lemon Angel Food Cake with Blueberry/Lemon Sauce
1 ½ cups of egg whites (11 – 13 large)
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/3 cups baking sugar (extra fine)
1 tbsp finely shredded lemon peel (one lemon)
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 1/3 cups water
1 pint fresh blueberries
2/3 cup lemon juice (a little less is okay)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp lemon extract
Splash of almond extract

In an extra-large bowl allow egg whites to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Add cream of tartar to egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add the 1 1/3 cups baking sugar, about 2 tbsp at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight).

Sprinkle lemon peel over beaten egg whites. Sift about one-fourth of the flour over beaten egg whites; fold in gently. Repeat, folding in the remaining flour by fourths. Pour batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Gently cut through batter to remove any large air pockets.

Bake on the lowest rack in a 350º oven about 40 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched. Immediately invert cake (leave in pan); cool thoroughly. Loosen sides of cake from pan: remove cake.

Meanwhile, for sauce, in a medium saucepan combine water, blueberries, lemon juice, the 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, lemon extract, almond extract. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for ten minutes. Remove from heat. Discard cinnamon. Transfer the sauce to a serving bowl. Serve warm or cool over cake slices.

Side note: Next time I would cook the sauce longer to end up with a compote – a little thicker.



Emergency Preparedness

HH brought an article home the other day. It’s been sitting on the lunch counter, and I thought I would share it with all my Diners. It’s an article about foods to have on hand in case of an emergency, whether man-made or created by Mother Nature.

Here it goes:

Peanut Butter – we have plenty of that, both Jif crunch and nature crunch
Nuts and trail mix – well, we have some, but the nuts that have been sitting there the longest are the almonds which are no longer crunchy and the peanuts in a can that are so salty I can hardly stand them! And the Wild West trail mix is all gone; have to wait until it’s on sale again at Henry’s
Cereal – does knock-off Frosted Flakes count?
Granola bars and power bars – the only thing close are the Fiber One bars and they gave HH and I such stomachs after the first try, I’m not sure this works in an emergency!
Dried fruits – Yick. Oh! I have craisins, that will work!
Canned tuna, salmon, chicken or turkey – canned tuna √
Canned vegetables – I grew up on these and refuse to eat any put canned corn IN something; HH will do better with his canned peas and green beans than I will “in case of an emergency”
Canned soups and chili – tomato for me; vegetable for HH; Oh! And the fixin’s for Baby Dipper Dip – canned chili, canned tamales, just need some cream cheese
Bottled water – Hmm, I thought we were supposed to be getting away from this and the five gallon jug is a bit challenging; I’ll have to work on this
Sports drinks – there’s one bottle of Gatorade in the frig, but have you read the ingredients list lately? There’s some kind of oil substance in it, and that’s just not right!
Powdered milk – I don’t think I have EVER had this in my cupboard
Sugar, salt, and pepper – check, check and check
Multivitamins – do they still need to be current?

Well, I hope this has been helpful to you diners. Also, please do what we have done at the Diner, create an evacuation list. Now this should not come as any surprise to some of you that the Diner has a list! HH and I did this a few years ago, and I updated it and made sure I was ready during the wildfires three years ago.

Be prepared!


Canning - Day Two (Who Knew!)

So, Canning – Day Two...
After Day One taking longer than I anticipated, I started earlier and closed the Diner for the day, just in case.

I had all the tomatoes, onions and garlic prepped from Day One; I knew the process; had the stock pots out and the oil ready for sautéing – I was ready!

I went out and found two more large tomatoes that were ready for harvesting and prepped them real quick to all the process as many “into the pool” as possible! Today was going to be sauce and quart, wide-mouth jars (HH offered to go out at the end of the day on Day One to get more, it was obvious I needed more!)

But sauce meant cooking down, pureeing the hot liquid, straining, cooking down, and then canning! So what started off as “an earlier day” didn’t take any less time, that’s for sure.

On Day One I got 11 pint jars of tomatoes. On Day Two I got four (4) quart jars and one (1) pint jar. I would say I could have used more tomatoes (there was more room in the stock pot for the cooking down process), but the pureeing and straining of the hot liquid was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately, I had time to clean up the splatter of RED in the kitchen before anyone might notice. Although, who knows what will be found in days to come…

I realized after everything was done that I had forgotten one step on Day Two – getting the bubbles out of the jars before the final “hot bath” – that’s not a problem, right? If they didn’t explode in the hot bath, they’ll be fine…I hope.

I did take SS’s advice and put them out in the garage for storage instead of the pantry. If one explodes it won’t cover all the other food – just the golf clubs and fishin’ poles. Don’t tell HH!


Canning Tomatoes

Well, all those tomatoes had to go somewhere and I can only serve so many! Anyone that comes within 50 feet of the Diner gets a bag of tomatoes. Menu planning, this time of year, is done around tomatoes. But there can only be so many days of scrambled omelets with tomatoes for breakfast, tomato sandwiches for lunch and, well, you’ve-heard-it-before for dinner.

Last year I decided I would save some tomatoes for the winter and freeze them – whole. When I took the three bags of tomatoes out of the freezer in December to make Art’s Special Sauce last year, the tomatoes looked fine and I was hopeful. Then I thawed them out – not so good. What a lumpy, soggy, squishy mess! The tomatoes promptly went into the compost pile!

So this year I was determined to can. Then at the Garlic Festival last month, I ran across some coupons for Ball/Kerr canning kits and jars. Aha! It was meant to be!

The next challenge was finding a recipe. Then the September issue of The Food Network Magazine arrived in the mail with recipes and photos for the canning process. Great! Well, it turned out a little “exotic” (Spicy Tomato Jam) for my first try. I finally found two recipes on the Ball website – freshpreserving.com – and printed them. One was for simple canned tomatoes, the other for tomato sauce.

I knew I needed some time, but was still not realistic about how much time!

I tackled the task on Sunday, thinking the Diner was open for breakfast and dinner that day (with HH fixing breakfast), so piece of cake! I would have all afternoon! I started at Noon and stopped at 4 PM, with only the canned tomatoes complete! Oh my, 11 pint jars and I was only a little over half done!

I decided to take all the cherry tomatoes (and the few yellow pear tomatoes from my neighbor), but prep all the tomatoes – even all the big ones for the sauce. I had been harvesting every other day all week, and not giving any away, to make sure I had enough. I talked to someone last month who canned tomatoes for the first time and she talked about how what looked like an over abundance of tomatoes in her stock pot cooking down to less than half the volume. That was NOT going to happen to me! If I’m canning, there will be plenty.

There were plenty - it took me an hour and a half to harvest a bit more, clean and cut all those tomatoes!

There were three big stock pots on the stove, two with jars and lids and one for tomatoes. And I did NOT have a problem with not enough tomatoes, I had to do one batch, and then cook down the rest – of just cherry tomatoes for canning!

In the middle of all of this, SS called and asked a simple question, “what are you up to?” “I’m canning!” So I had to fill her in and tell her all about it, she gave me her canning tips, all of which she has learned from Housewives of New Jersey and Cake Boss, none of which she has personally practiced. But all helpful and made me think…later.

By 4 PM I was exhausted, and the dinner crowd was still due at the Diner for the Scampi special that was on the menu!

Here are the fruits of labor for Day One, tomorrow, Day Two.



“Summertime and the livin’s easy...” (Everybody sing along!)
Ahh, that’s what cookin’ in summer, should be…easy. As you may have noticed, recipes are a bit lacking these days. Although there is cooking going on at the Diner, it’s more about grilling and smoking and what to do with all those tomatoes (there is still abundance, thankfully.)

Recently, HH did the grillin’ and we had steak, baked potatoes and tomatoes on the patio. I am so bad at buying cuts of meat, it’s very sad. I’m GREAT at purchasing and cooking with hamburger, but when it comes to an actual cut of beef, I’m a little lost and have very little confidence.

The steaks HH grilled, I got recently and thought they were good-sized, thick cuts of rib-eye (I think). But when HH served them, they were much skinnier (not nearly as thick) as I anticipated and a bit of a disappointment. I try to get steaks every now and then because HH is a “meat and potatoes” man, but, unfortunately for him, he married me – a hamburger girl.

Oh well, he remain patient with me, but I really think I need to leave the “meat” buying up to him!


Tomatoes Galore!

The bumper crop of tomatoes continues; that will happen when you plant seven plants and have a volunteer from last October! So the sweet summer tomato fest continues at the Diner with:

Burgers on the grill with tomato slices as thick as the burgers
Deep dish pizza with tomatoes
BTL’s with lots of “T”
Scrambled omelets with spinach, tomatoes, cheese and avocados
Home-made tacos with beautiful red, delicious tomatoes
Caprese salad, so delicious

I really do plan on canning some this summer to make marinara sauce in the fall – anyone have canning instructions/recipe to share?

In the meantime, each meal at the Diner is served with tomatoes, and all of our friends and neighbors are enjoying tomatoes too!


Smokin' at the Diner

It was smokin’ at the Diner this weekend! In a good way!

HH was in charge of the cookin’ on a beautiful summer evening – it could not have been any more perfect for a mid-summer evening. HH decided he wanted to smoke ribs, so I got the baby back ribs; he did the research and tricked out the Weber; we searched for a “starter” rub and the smokin’ was on.

The ribs were delicious! Although there were a lot of ribs for our table of two!

HH has a few ideas for his next attempt; they tasted pretty perfect to me!

Anyone else smokin’ out there this summer?