Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kelly Ripa on Cranberry Sauce

Kelly Ripa made an important observation on cranberry sauce this morning on the Live with Regis and Kelly.

Her conversation with Regis went something like this:
Did you know that one tablespoon of canned cranberry sauce has as much sugar as eight doughnuts! You know, I make my own cranberry sauce and no one eats it. If it isn't shaped like a can, they won't eat it.
Okay, I doubt you can pack that much sugar into a tablespoon of cranberry sauce. I don't see how anyone can eat the canned stuff. But her point is well-taken.

Most cranberry sauce is a sugar-laden cranberry-flavored jelly concoction at that. It's a "strained jellied or semi-jellied product prepared from clean, sound, mature cranberries sweetened with high fructose corn syrup/corn sweetener and water," according to USDA.

I don't know what attracts people to canned cranberry sauce. Maybe it's the ridges. Or maybe it's the fact that any real cranberries have been strained out and the remaining sauce jellied.

I'm not a big fan of cranberry sauce. I'd rather top my turkey with braised red cabbage. But I appreciate the effort parents put into introducing children to "real" food. It's a tough battle, but I've found that children respond to old-fashion recipes, especially when you serve them often.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I haven't posted any large quantity cookies recipes recently. This post by Mary at Growlies Recipe Exchange and Party Planning Board reminded me of my father's chocolate chip cookies (and here). Here's what Mary asked:

I need to bake 1,200 chocolate chip cookies. I was looking at the recipe for Big Batch Chocolate chip cookies and it looks like a good place to start. How many times will I need to multiply this recipe?
I advised Mary that I'd would start with the size of her mixer. Unless you have access to a large commercial bakery, I doubt you can fit the dough for 1,200 cookies in one mixing bowl. A 20-quart mixing bowl will yield approximately (at 2/3 of the way full) 32 dozen cookies when using a #30 disher. Using that formula, you'd prepare three to four batches of cookies.

I suppose that you could bake 1,200 cookies in a home kitchen. It'll mix 13 or 14 batches of the cookie dough recipe (which is similar to the big batch recipe she references). With three sheets per oven batch (one-dozen cookies per sheet), that means you'll need to bake about 33 oven loads. Assuming you can bake three loads per hour, you're looking at a 10- to 12-hour job.

I'd turn to a commercial kitchen any time you're looking at massive quantities of food. Locate a kitchen, like a church, non-profit or a rental facility (like the Kitchen Chicago, a shared-use kitchen), if possible. Commercial kitchens are equipped with multiple ovens and large-scale mixers that make a monumental task seem easy.


This recipe is adapted from Wayne Gisslen's Professional Baking, 4th edition (John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, New Jersey, 2005). This recipe will fit inside a 5-quart Kitchen Aid mixing bowl.
12 ounces butter
10 ounces granulated sugar
10 ounces brown sugar
1/4 ounce salt
6 ounces eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/4 pounds pastry flour
1/4-ounce baking soda
1-1/4 pounds chocolate chips
8 ounces chopped walnuts or pecans

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Cream butter, sugars and salt in a 5-quart mixing bowl with paddle attachment at low speed. For light cookies, cream until the mix is light and fluffy. For denser cookies, blend to a smooth paste, but do not cream until light.

Add eggs and vanilla and blend at low speed. Sift in the flour and baking soda. Mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Do not over mix, or gluten will develop.

Drop onto lightly oiled or parchment-lined sheet pans with a #30 disher. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 10-14 minutes. Makes about 7 dozen cookies.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Apple and Red Onion Relish

Isn't it interesting how a photograph attracts you to something? Take this picture of Woods Lake. The idyllic winter setting prompts you to return in July after the snows have melted and the wildflowers are in full bloom.

My reaction to the deep red color of the red onion and apple relish is similar. To me the dish resembled German red cabbage, a holiday side dish that I've loved since childhood. As soon as I saw the picture, I could smell the marriage of the sharp vinegar and sweet apple.

Like many recipes in Christine France's cookbook, The Complete Guide to Making Sauces by (Hermes House: London, 2005), this one comes together quickly. You can prepare the relish in a little more an hour.

You may need to cover your eyes while the onions braise in their own juices. But as they soften into a thick relish, the sharp bite of the onion will mellow into a delicately sweet condiment.

You may find that the relish is a refreshing change from candied cranberry sauce. Use the relish in place of cranberry sauce at the Thanksgiving table this week. And it's great as a condiment on ham or turkey sandwiches made with holiday leftovers.


A pinch of salt will help extract the juices from the onion during the first step. Be careful not to brown the relish. You want it to slowly braise in its own juices and the vinegar.

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large red onions, thinly sliced (about 2 pounds)
6 tablespoons granulated sugar.
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and grated
6 tablespoons cider vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and stir in the sugar. Let cook, uncovered, for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions have softened.

Add apples to the skillet with the vinegar. Continue to cook for an additional 20 minutes until the relish is thick and sticky. Cool and place in an airtight container. It'll keep for a month in the refrigerator. Makes about 3 cups.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Save the Best for Last

This is actually the last photo that I took of Woods Lake yesterday. After walking around the lake's outlet for 30 minutes, I climbed back in the truck and was struck by this view. So, I grabbed my camera from the front seat, stepped back out and drdged melting snow as I took a series of pictures before the light changed.

Shot settings: f/6.7, 1/180 second shutter speed, ISO 100, 54 mm focal length in manual exposure mode.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Dessert Dining Facility

A tribute to U.S. Air Force cooks serving our nation on this Veteran's Day ...

Airman 1st Class Katherine Parker, 386th Expeditionary Services Squadron food services specialist, performs a quality assurance temperature check Nov. 2 here. Airman Parker is deployed from Minot Air Force Base, N.D.

U.S. Air Force photograph by Staff Sgt. Tia Schroeder.

Philly Cheesesteak on Watch

A tribute to U.S. Coast Guard cooks serving our nation on this Veteran's Day ...

April 16, 2007 -- Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Allen prepares meat, as the ship's cook, for philly cheesesteaks to serve at lunch for the crew of the Cutter Sitkinak.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by PA3 Barry Bena.

Stew for Dinner

A tribute to U.S. Marine cooks serving our nation on this Veteran's Day ...

May 4, 2007 -- Pfc. Bryant S. Flores picks up diced beef inside the mess hall kitchen at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in preparation for making a stew for dinner. Flores and his fellow Marine cooks took back responsibility for preparing meals at Gonsalves Mess Hall from civilian contractors May 1. The change from civilian to Marine cooks is part of the standard operating procedure at the mess hall in which civilians cook while the Marines are deployed and the Marines cook when back in garrison. Flores, a Long Island, N.Y. native, is a cook with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

U.S. Marine Corps photograph by Cpl. Jonathan K. Teslevich.

Chow Time in Iraq

A tribute to U.S. Army cooks serving our nation on this Veteran's Day ...

Pfc. Emril Getscher, a cook for the 15th Infantry Regiment's 1st Battalion, serves mashed potatoes to Spc. Brendan Murphy, a medic at Combat Outpost Cleary, Iraq.

U.S. Army photograph by Sgt. Natalie Rostek.

Crab Cakes and Pasta for the Crew

A tribute to U.S. Navy cooks serving our nation on this Veteran's Day ...

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 5, 2007) - Culinary Specialist Seaman Darrell Gunartt prepares a meal of crab cakes and pasta for the crew in the ship's galley aboard guided missile destroyer USS Shoup (DDG 86). Shoup is part of Carrier Strike Group 9 underway off the coast of Southern California participating in Composite Training Unit Exercise, an exercise designed to enhance the interoperability of the strike group.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class James R. Evans.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Don Mason's Dutch Oven Newsletter

Here is Don Mason's late fall edition of his Dutch Oven Cooking newsletter. To have a copy emailed directly to your computer, contact Don at

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Gateway to the Desolation

When my son and I were preparing for a backpacking trip in 2000, we hiked to Twin Lakes from this point. The Twin Lakes trailhead is located in the shadow of Blue Mountain and a few hundred feet from the inlet to Wrights Lake. The Desolation Wilderness sets behind the mountain.

Shot settings: f/16, 1/90 second, shutter speed, 31 mm focal length, ISO 200 in aperture priority.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Peaceful Shorline

This is a real lake to me. The natural shoreline with its forest canopy offered a peaceful visit as my son and I hiked along the east end of Wrights Lake last Saturday. Cabin owners (there's close to a hundred on the lake) have done a good job of hiding their summer abodes among the tree cover. Most cabins aren't visible until you walk up on them.

Shot settings: f/5.6, 1/250 second shutter speed, 48 mm focal length, ISO 200 in aperture priority.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wright's Lake Lagoon

The photo that I posted Saturday is of the wier to Wright's Lake, a sub-alpine lake along the western boundary of the Desolation Wilderness. This shot was taken at the other end of the lake. The lagoon is formed as the South Fork of Silver Creek meanders through a large, swampy meadow on its journey to the lake.

The stand of young Lodgepole Pines borders the lagoon, now cut off from the creek by low water. Freezing temperature at the 6940-foot elevation have left a thick layer of ice on the lagoon, even an hour before sunset.

Shot settings: f/5.6, 1/250 second shutter speed, 48 mm focal length, ISO 200 in aperture priority.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Oh Lake, Wier Art Thou?

This is my first attempt to blur water in motion. The water rushing through the wier is located at a local lake in Eldorado National Forest. Can you guess where this picture was taken?

Shot settings: f/11, 1/4 second shutter speed, 42 mm focal length, ISO 200 in shutter priority.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Morning Business

By Lee Henry

Rattlin' of pans in the pre-dawn light
Signals the end of a cold bitter night.

Jawin' and gratin' of the coffee grinders song
Says get up cowboy its near breakin' dawn.

A grouchy ole figure with pot hook in hand
Reflects a lifetime of cookin' with his wrinkles and tan.

His breakfast from memory is simple to fix
It's salt pork, coffee, sourdough and lick.

His kitchen of canvas, chuckwagon and Hanes
Prances and dances in the flickerin' flames.

From inside the chuckbox the Cookie removes
A large sack of flour and a bottle of booze.

With his back to the bedrolls from the bottle he takes
A nip of "White Lightnin'" to ward off the snakes.

The tools of his trade, a bowl he has kept
Thru thunder and lightin’ and rustlers he’s met.

Washed in the streams and scrubbed by the sands
His large wooden bowl he carved with his hands.

Blendin' the lard in the fixins so neat
From the crock pours the sourdough, it's sour but sweet.

The biscuits are cut and then to the Dutch
Are crowded together by the master’s touch.

The coals from the fire on the lid with a lip
Are hot as a Colt drawn from the hip.

The golden brown sourdoughs from his Dutch oven pan
Has filled the craw of many-a-man.

With his back to the cowboys ridin' over the crest
A nip he will take before attackin’ the mess.

With bottle in hand, and the marks from a quirt
As he Toasts, "Thanks Cookie" Cut in the Dirt.

Reprinted with permission.

Thursday, November 01, 2007


I often view centered subjects in pictures with a jaundiced eye. After all, my artistic side of tells me that I must to apply the rule of thirds to all my photographs.

Centered pictures often lack interest. The object of the camera lens just seems to sit there. You don't get the sense that the subject is doing anything.

But the more I gazed at the picture of a local Native American bark tee pee, the more I like it. The picture almost looks like the trunk of a towering redwood that's reaching for the humid coastal air.

If you're looking for application of the rule of thirds, it's there. The native hut may be centered. But the leaves from the nearby liquid amber come alive at the proper points in the grid.

This shot shows the photographer that you can mold the rules -- like the long venerated rule of thirds -- to fit your artistic style and interpretation of the scene.

As with my last three or four pictures, this photo was taken in the yard of the El Dorado County Historical Museum on Octover 13, 2007.

Shot settings: f/11, 1/30 second shutter speed, 39 mm focal length, ISO 200 in aperture priority.