Old Fashioned Gingerbread with Orange Scented Whipped Cream

Gingerbread with Orange Scented Whipped Cream

Gingerbread with Orange Scented Whipped Cream

Gingerbread goes hand in hand with the holidays. Its spicy warmth is irresistible on those cold winter nights in front of the fireplace or admiring the Christmas tree. We often associate gingerbread with cookies or even houses these days, but it actually takes many different forms – often depending on its European origin. This cake form is now considered particularly old fashioned. The recipe is adapted from “The James Beard Cookbook” and when it was published in 1959, James Beard was already describing it as truly old fashioned – which means it’s pretty darn old. However, classics such as these are timeless and good food never gets old especially if the ingredients and preparation remain simple.

I couldn’t resist adding a twist to the whipped cream, a must-have on top of each steaming hot piece. The cinnamon and cloves get along famously with citrus so a touch of fresh zest along with the juice of an orange, balances the spicy sweet flavors of this understated holiday specialty. My grandmother used whipped cream in many of her desserts. She actually has a page in her baking book devoted to how to make, flavor, and stabilize it. I like to think of this combination of old fashioned gingerbread with orange scented whipped cream as a joint recipe among two accomplished friends (James Beard and my grandmother, Paula Peck).


1 cup molasses
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
pinch salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup sour cream

Orange Scented Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest

For the Gingerbread:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8×8 cake pan.

Put molasses and butter in a saucepan and heat until they boil. Sift the flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon, and ground cloves. When the butter and molasses are slightly cooled, add sour cream and then stir in spices and flour. Pour into prepared baking pan and bake 30-40 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm with a large dollop of orange scented whipped cream.

For the Whipped Cream:

Whip heavy cream in an electric mixer. When cream begins to thicken, gradually add sugar, vanilla, and orange juice. Fold in orange zest.

Gingerbread recipe adapted from “The James Beard Cookbook,” by James Beard.

Gingerbread with Orange Scented Whipped Cream


Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon closeThese Brussels sprouts might be just an excuse to eat bacon but with Thanksgiving upon us, they are also the perfect side dish for that traditional Turkey. This is not a Paula Peck recipe but rather an adaptation from “The James Beard Cookbook” by her good friend and mentor James Beard. Although Brussels sprouts are more popular now than ever, it seems people either love them or hate them. If you hate them, than you probably haven’t tasted those that are cooked right. These bright green bulbs can be bland and mushy when overcooked but are tender with almost crunchy light leafy layers when cooked correctly. A little bacon doesn’t hurt either.

With just a few additions, brussels sprouts with bacon is the perfect example of the important culinary concept of balancing fat, acid, sweet, and salt. The fat is the bacon (obviously) plus a finishing of butter…just a tablespoon. The sweet is both the brussel sprouts themselves as well as a pinch of sugar. The acid is a squeeze lemon juice at the end and the salt is the seasoning combined with some of the saltiness of the bacon. Ok so I didn’t say this is healthy but at least we are eating vegetables!  Even those friends or family members that “never eat green things” will be back for seconds. This dish might also be in the running to outshine that drab dry turkey and stuffing. Now I’ve gone too far…Happy Thanksgiving.


1 lb or 1 quart Brussels Sprouts
6 slices bacon
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons grated onion or shallot
pinch (large) sugar
1 tablespoon or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Trim the stems close to the sprouts and remove any discolored leaves. Soak the sprouts for 15-20 minutes in water with 1 teaspoon salt. In a medium pot, pour enough water to cover the brussels sprouts and add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring water to a boil and add sprouts. Do not cover. Cook gently for 5 minutes until sprouts turn bright green and are just barely tender when pierced with a fork.

While brussls sprouts cook, fry the 6 slices of bacon in a large skillet. When crisp, remove and chop. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Heat the skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon grated onion. Return chopped bacon to the pan and add the cooked, drained brussels sprouts. Add sugar and saute until brussels sprouts are tender. To finish, add 1 tablespoon grated onion, squeeze lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from “The James Beard Cookbook,” by James Beard.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon


Chicken Saltimbocca

Saltimbocca has become somewhat of a classic. Originally Mediterranean, the name Saltimbocca is Italian for “jump in mouth” – a reference to the flavor explosion that takes place while eating this dish. There are varying ways to make saltimbocca. Veal, sage, capers, and sometimes provolone cheese are common ingredients. However, in each scenario the basics remain the same: the chicken or veal is sautéed and prosciutto is always involved (though I see no reason why you couldn’t use ham for a less expensive version). This recipe for Chicken Saltimbocca from “The Art of Good Cooking” happens to include black olives, which is somewhat rare but the beauty of this dish is its flexibility. Though I didn’t add it here, I think roasted red pepper could also make a nice addition to the center filling. The mozzarella is a natural match with the prosciutto and the crunchiness of the breading that soaks up some of the garlic butter is a combination that’s worth it alone – the other ingredients are just a bonus!

Note: the original recipe did not include toothpicks. I find that it’s easier to ensure the filling stays between the two cutlets by securing each package with a couple of toothpicks. Just make sure to take them out after cooking!

Chicken Saltimbocca


6 chicken breasts, boned, skinned, and cut in half (or 12 thin chicken cutlets)
6 thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half
12 pieces of mozzarella cheese, about ½ inch thick rectangles
12 pitted black olives, halved
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup flour
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups bread crumbs of your choice
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
½ cup chopped Italian parsley
toothpicks (optional)
¼ cup butter and ¼ cup olive oil (or enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet to a ¼ inch depth, equal parts)


On one side of each breast or cutlet, place a piece of prosciutto, a piece of mozzarella, and two olive halves. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Fold unfilled side over to cover filling, and press edges firmly together to enclose filling or secure with toothpicks.

Flour each package so it is dusted on all sides. Beat egg slightly, adding milk. Dip chicken packages into mixture on both sides. Then dip into bread crumbs. Chill for at least a ½ hour or longer.

Melt ¼ cup butter in a small saucepan. Add half the chopped garlic and parsley. Keep warm until chicken is cooked.

Heat butter and olive oil in skillet with remaining garlic and parsley until fats are hot but not smoking. Place breaded chicken in skillet and turn heat to medium high. Saute chicken quickly, only until golden. Turn once to cook the other side.

Remove to heated serving dish. Remove toothpicks, if using. Pour warm garlic parsley butter on top.

Serves 8-10.

Adapted from “The Art of Good Cooking,” by Paula Peck.


Vegetable Risotto

Vegetable Risotto

In true Paula Peck fashion, this seemingly vegetarian recipe actually includes bacon. It definitely adds a smokey deep flavor to the dish. Possibly so rich it could be eaten as a meal by itself. However, the bacon can easily be omitted for a slightly lighter, more vegetarian friendly version. I use what I know as the traditional method for making a risotto: stock or liquid is added a little at a time, allowing to absorb after each addition. Her recipe from “The Art of Good Cooking” is a little more like rice pilaf, where most of the liquid is added all at once and put in the oven until the liquid is absorbed. I personally like to watch the rice and texture as it softens to ensure the rice doesn’t overcook. I’m more comfortable with this stove top method and prefer to save the oven for pilaf but I have included both instructions below.
This is also a great recipe for using all of that wonderful spring produce that should be available any day now. Feel free to swap out the vegetables for whatever you have on hand.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 slices of bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
3 small zucchini, halved and sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 – 10oz package frozen cut beans
2 cups arborio rice
3 1/2 – 4 cups stock or a mixture of stock and tomato juice
salt and pepper
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese

Combine butter, bacon, and olive oil in a deep, heavy pot. When hot and bacon is sizzling, add onion, garlic, potatoes, and carrot. Saute over high heat for 4-5 minutes. Add remaining vegetables and saute for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add dry rice and saute for a few minutes longer.

Stovetop Method
Meanwhile warm stock over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat.
Add stock to rice mixture, about a 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy. About 20 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Original/Oven Method
Add 3 cups of liquid (stock, tomato juice, or any combination), along with a good amount of salt and pepper. Place in 350 degree oven, uncovered, and allow to simmer until liquid is almost absorbed. Add a little more liquid, and continue to cook, uncovered until rice and vegetables are tender. A bit more or less, liquid maybe needed. Check seasoning and stir in grated Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6-8



Pastitsio Pastetseo Potato Patato


Titled Pastetseo in “The Art of Good Cooking,” with only a brief introduction stating that the recipe may be Greek or Syrian, I wanted to know more about this multilayer lamb casserole with the strange name. I naturally turned to google but was surprised that nothing came up. Unable to resist the excessive layering of ground lamb, pasta, cheese, sauce, and eggplant, I moved forward with this recipe for Pastetseo and figured I would continue my research on it’s name and origin another time. It wasn’t until later, when I happened to be enjoying the delicious leftovers of this casserole that reminds me of a gourmet hamburger helper (but way better), that I came across an article about a Greek Easter feast in a magazine I was flipping through. A full page photo of a casserole and a recipe next to it titled “Pastitsio” caught my eye. The ingredients were almost the same, give or take few minor ones, and the eggplant was missing (one of best parts, in my opinion). Mystery solved. Googling “Pastitsio” brings up tons of photos, recipes, and info. This moussaka like casserole appears to be Greek, but even with the correct spelling online, the exact origin seems debatable since Cyprus, Egypt, and Malta all seem to have similar versions. Since I still haven’t found any recipes online that include eggplant, I’m not sure where this addition came from but it definitely gives this Pastitsio another unique layer of flavor that in my opinion makes it better than any of the others out there. Enjoy.


1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound ground lamb
1 28oz can plum tomatoes, slightly drained
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 pound elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
1 large eggplant, peeled, sliced 1/4″ thick, lightly salted, and sauteed in olive oil until tender and brown
1 recipe Cheese Custard (recipe follows)
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons butter until soft. Add the lamb and cook for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes. Break up meat and tomatoes with a spoon or fork and cook until mixture is almost dry. Season well with salt, pepper, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Add eggs and 1/3 of a cup of grated cheese.

Combine the mixture with cooked, drained macaroni and pour into a deep well-greased baking dish. The dish should be about half full. Place slices of sauteed eggplant over the meat-macaroni mixture.

Pour the Cheese Custard (below) over all. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and an additional 2 tablespoons melted butter (optional). Bake for 45 minutes or until custard is set and browned. Serves 4-6.

Cheese Custard


1 tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups milk, heated
3 beaten eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
salt and pepper

Melt butter in saucepan. Add cornstarch and cook over low heat, stirring constantly. Add hot milk and cook until slightly thickened. Pour some of the thickened hot sauce into the beaten eggs, beating constantly. Then pour egg mixture into the rest of the hot sauce, beating while you pour. Remove from flame and beat in ricotta cheese. Season lightly with salt and pepper.


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