May 27, 2020

Dear friends,
Tony was supportive when I joined a weight-loss program last May. He cheered me on for eight months, though vacations and holidays, as I lost 30 pounds. By January he’d had enough. Would I please abandon my sensible eating plan for our two-month stay in Florida? Could we just live a little?

Good lord, it was like firing a starting gun.

I ate sweet rolls and pasta. I had deep-fried shrimp and ice cream cones. I snacked on chips in the evenings with Tony. By the time I stepped on the scale at home in March, I had gained ten pounds. And I was HAPPY! I thought I had gained more.

No problem, I thought. Then the pandemic hit and in lockdown, all bets were off for many of us. We baked. We ate. We did not exercise. From March to May I gained another ten.

This time I was NOT happy. My health is on the line, so once more I am watching what I eat. Is this the month you, too, rang down the curtain on corona-eating? I see fewer photos of breads and cakes on social media. Hardly anyone is sharing recipes for cinnamon rolls these days. It was fun, but now we must face the flab.

My game plan, as it was last year, is simply eating sensibly — lean proteins, lots of vegetables, fewer carbs and smaller portions. Boring but effective.

I’ m trying to eliminate the boring part by dreaming up recipes for filling, flavor-packed meals that fit into my lower-carb, lower-cal plan. That’s how I came up with this latest full-meal salad. It features two poached eggs (lean protein) over a pile of foraged dandelion greens, showered with a chopped tomato salad in a Vietnamese-inspired dressing. Fresh basil and mint punch up the flavor.

The night I made the salad Tony prepared his own dinner (ramen, I think) and complained later about the absence of snacks in the house. He’ll get over it. I just hope never again will he tell me to “live a little.”


Tomato salad:
2 tomatoes, seeded and diced (2 cups)
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. lime juice
2 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. water
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, minced

4 large eggs
4 to 6 cups torn dandelion greens, arugula or leaf lettuce, washed and dried
Coarse sea salt, fresh-ground pepper

Place tomatoes and chopped herbs in a medium bowl. In a custard cup, combine remaining tomato salad ingredients and stir well. Pour over tomatoes and toss to coat. Set aside.

Break eggs one at a time, spacing evenly, into a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Gently nudge the eggs with a slotted spoon to prevent them from sticking to the bottom. Cook to desired degree of doneness (I like set but moist yolks, which take about 7 minutes). While the eggs cook, pile greens on two dinner plates. Remove eggs with a slotted spoon and nestle atop the greens. Spoon tomato salad over all. Season with coarse salt and pepper. Makes 2 servings.

What I cooked last week:
Tomato, pesto and melted Cheddar on toast; poached eggs on dandelion greens with basil-mint tomato salad; cauliflower-coconut soup with Thai curry; chicken, tomato and pesto on toast; pesto, tomato, hard-fried egg and melted feta on toast; hamburgers and bagged chopped salad; roast steelhead trout glazed with sweet soy sauce, with roast cauliflower, cherry tomatoes, red peppers and potatoes; grilled filet mignons, steamed asparagus and a 2010 Black Ridge Merlot.

What I ordered out:
Thai chicken and pibil conchinita tacos from Funky Truckeria in Norton.

From Lauren F.:
Forget the Instant Pot for hard-boiled eggs and don’t worry about buying them early. Here’s the fail-proof method for easy-to-peel eggs that I learned from Cooks Illustrated Magazine:

Put steamer basket in saucepan and add water to level just below bottom of steamer. Remove basket. Set pan on heat and bring to boil. Set eggs in basket and set basket in saucepan. Cover and lower heat to a high simmer. Simmer for 14 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Remove eggs with tongs or slotted spoon into bowl of ice water. Let sit until cold.

I am not scientifically inclined, but the steaming method vs. the boiling method has something to do with causing that membrane between the shell and the white to release, making the eggs a breeze to peel.

Dear Lauren:
Thanks for that great tip. I will try it the next time I have fresh eggs and a batch of deviled eggs to make.

From Ann F.:
You are absolutely correct about Béarnaise sauce – it is the best, especially over a nice medium rare piece of beef. Like you I only make it on rare occasions, but when I do I have used the red wine Béarnaise recipe from Madeline Kamen. It is always a hit and I have broken it a couple of times but my friend Cheryl learned how to rescue it so that you don’t throw away a whole cup of butter. I find the real problem is locating fresh chervil as I like the fresh herb version. Still miss the old West Point; they always had it. I have managed to find it when needed, but right now it is not a good idea to have to go to multiple stores to find it.

Dear Ann:
You probably noticed I left out the chervil. I would plant some but I use it so seldom it doesn’t seem worth the trouble. Does anyone else use chervil on a semi-regular basis? What do you use it for besides Béarnaise?

For those who are wondering, a broken Béarnaise can be rescued by whisking the sauce, drop by drop, into an egg yolk in another bowl.

May 21, 2020

Dear friends,
Half of Northeast Ohio was a step ahead of us in placing orders for Cinco de Mayo tacos at Funky Truckeria in Norton. Geez, it was like dialing in for tickets to an Eagles concert. The restaurant sold a night’s worth of carryout in the blink of an eye and had to stop taking orders.

If you haven’t had the upscale tacos (aka fancy-pants tacos, fusion tacos) from Funky Truckeria, correct your mistake at the earliest opportunity. The food is awesome.

On the other hand, if it’s another Mexican holiday of some sort and you get closed out, you might want to make my back-up tacos, as I did. They’re pretty good, too.

My favorite tacos feature the unlikely combination of chicken, butternut squash and feta cheese. I know that sounds odd but it’s seriously good. I add various items depending on what’s in the fridge and you should, too. Post-Cinco de Mayo it was avocado, cilantro and hot sauce. Sautéed mushrooms would be good. So would Mexican crema or salsa fresca.

The key to a good taco is a good corn tortilla, so if you have an Hispanic grocery nearby hit it for fresh tortillas. Or fresh-ish. I just had supermarket tortillas and they were OK after I warmed them in a skillet, a critical step. To avoid adding tons of fat, spray a hot cast-iron or nonstick pan with oil spray and warm the tortilla for 10 to 15 seconds on each side. Remove it with tongs and immediately fold it in half.

My “recipe” is more a list of ingredients with notes. I prep the ingredients throughout the day or even start the day before and reheat the fillings in the microwave. My strange combination makes me think there may be another delicious combo I haven’t thought of. What do you stuff in your tacos? If you get a minute, let me know.


* Chicken breasts, sautéed or oven-baked, then cut across the grain into 1/2-inch-wide strips. One breast will feed two or three people.
* A butternut squash, peeled, halved, de-seeded, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and roasted on a greased baking sheet at 400 degrees until tender and starting to caramelize at the edges. You’ll have way too much for tacos, which is a good thing if you love butternut squash.
* Crumbled feta cheese. About 1 tablespoon per taco is all you’ll need. I’m stuffed after two tacos but Tony can eat four, so plan according to your appetites.
* 1 avocado for 6 tacos. At the last minute, halve and cut the flesh into slivers. Tony’s sushi-chef tip is to leave the avocado halves in the shell and cut away slivers with a dull dinner knife.
* Corn tortillas, warmed per the directions above. Tony likes two stacked tortillas for each taco. I save calories with just one.
* Cilantro, washed and rolled in a clean dish towel to dry. Use the stems if they’re tender. If not, just the leaves.
* Hot pepper sauce to taste.

Prepare all of the ingredients, leaving the tortillas and avocado for the last. Warm the tortillas to order and fill with the remaining ingredients. Happy post-Cinco de Mayo.

What I cooked last week:
Hummus; Genghis Khan (griddled thin-sliced lamb in a ginger-soy sauce), steamed rice, stir-fried carrots, green onions and bean sprouts; Sonoran shrimp ceviche with baked corn tortilla chips; crustless quiche; poached egg, chopped jicama and celery with chile oil in a pita (strange but good); ramen with soy-glazed pork loin, bean sprouts, wilted spinach, sliced sweet potato and 7-minute egg; stir fried sesame-hoisin asparagus over oven-crisped tofu chunks; broiled feta, tomato and pesto toast; spaghetti squash baked with meat sauce, ricotta and Parmesan.

What I ordered out:
Kefteh and falafel sandwiches from Sanibel Middle East Bakery in Akron.


From Marlene:
Just wanted to thank you and Anna S. for the Jenny Can Cook 2-hour no-knead bread recipe. I made it and it was delicious — crunchy crust and soft interior with a nice chew, which I liked. I shared the recipe and pictures with family across the country and OMG, so many made it too! Some of them had yeast from 2019 and some didn’t have Dutch ovens, but they made it work! The 2019 yeast was still good (like you said it might be) and metal roasting pans with lids work too.

Thanks again! You brought a lot of joy!

Dear Marlene:
I, too, tried the recipe after Anna S. recommended it and I just loved it. I won’t go back to regular no-knead bread as long as I have plenty of yeast (it takes 2 teaspoons rather than the 1/4 teaspoon of the original recipe). I actually like the 2-hour version better. The flavor isn’t quite as developed but the crust is a bit more tender while still delivering the crunch.

For those who missed it, the recipe can be found at

From S.S.:
I know it is totally unclassy of me, but I always do the blender prep versions of Hollandaise and Béarnaise and they are perfect every time. I fully understand that I am an embarrassment to French culinary standards, and frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Dear S.S.:
Good for you. I have had some excellent blender versions. With nothing but time on my hands, I go the classic route.

From Carol B.:
I know that you don’t use your Instant Pot. However, if you want hard-cooked eggs that peel VERY easily, I suggest that you use it for that. I was amazed.

Dear Carol:
So I’ve heard. I just can’t see reading an instruction book that I won’t understand anyway (I’m mechanically uninclined) to perform a task I can do without thinking on the stove. And possibly (not a sure thing by any means) I will buy the eggs far enough in advance for the shells to peel easily.

May 13, 2020

Dear friends,
I dyed my hair teal with food coloring last week. This is Day 60 of self-isolation for me and I am losing touch with reality, like Tom Hanks when he befriended a soccer ball in “Castaway.”

I think that explains the Béarnaise sauce. I haven’t eaten the butter-rich sauce in decades, even though it is just about the most delicious stuff on the planet. In real life, I couldn’t justify the calories. Now: Bring it on.

If I’m going to go off the deep end I can’t think of a lovelier place to land than a puddle of Béarnaise, the classic egg-butter emulsion that can turn a steak into a night on the town without leaving your kitchen.

Béarnaise is more than just Hollandaise without the lemon. It has the same voluptuous, silky texture but is flavored with a vinegar-shallot reduction and my favorite herb, tarragon. I didn’t have a shallot nor fresh tarragon, so I substituted chopped onion and dried tarragon. It was fine.

You shouldn’t get cocky with Béarnaise sauce, though. Unless you’re a chef who makes it day after day, you really should haul out a recipe and read it. Follow the steps until a thick, glossy yellow ribbon drops in folds from your whisk.

I have made Béarnaise sauce maybe a dozen times in my life. I have failed when I rushed or merely glanced at the directions and thought, “I can take it from here.” Uh, no. Mostly I have succeeded, though, thanks to Julia or whomever I tapped that day to help.

Don’t make this sauce too far in advance. If it stands too long it will separate, although you may hold it for up to a half hour on the back of the stove atop a pan filled with an inch or so of hot water.

Ready to cosset yourself?


¼ cup white-wine vinegar
1 small shallot, peeled and minced, or 1 tbsp. minced onion
1 tsp. dried tarragon or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
2 egg yolks
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
Salt to taste

Place the vinegar, shallots and tarragon in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until just a few tablespoons are left. Transfer to a metal bowl to cool. When tepid, whisk in the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of water.

Fill a small saucepan with 1 inch of water and bring almost to a simmer. The pan should be large enough to hold the metal bowl without the bottom of the bowl touching the water. Reduce heat to low and place the bowl over the saucepan. Whisk the yolk mixture until the yolks thicken and almost double in volume, about 5 to 7 minutes. This is tedious but keep at it. The reward is great.

Slowly drizzle in the melted butter by tablespoons while whisking, making sure each tablespoon is incorporated before adding more. Continue until all the the butter has been absorbed by the eggs. You may remove the bowl from the water from time to time if necessary to prevent the yolks from cooking. When the sauce is thick and glossy, season to taste with salt. Drape over steaks and serve.

What I cooked last week:
No-knead bread; Indian butter chicken with steamed rice; coconut meringues; chocolate mug cake; chicken and butternut squash tacos with grilled onions, feta, avocado, cilantro and Crystal Hot Sauce; lemon pudding; sausage and onion sandwiches; 2-hour no-knead bread; sausage and potato soup; sausage, tomato and potato scrambled eggs with toast; stewed rhubarb; pan-grilled asparagus and pan-fried tofu chunks with spicy gochuchang sauce; pork roast and fresh pineapple in mojo sauce with a baked potato.

What I ate from restaurants:
Wonton soup, steamed rice and homestyle tofu from House of Hunan in Fairlawn; chicken sandwich from KFC; hamburger with onions, pickles and Bob’s Sauce from Bob’s Hamburg in Akron; barbecued pork bun and ginger cookies from Park to Shop in Cleveland.

From Noreen:
Wow, Jane. You really need to finish that mug cake cookbook. Like you, I have not baked at all, knowing I would end up eating 75% of what I baked. This little mug cake with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream was heavenly. Thank you for the great recipe.

Dear Noreen:
Thanks for the encouragement. The book is actually about all kinds of microwave mug desserts — cakes, puddings, pies, crisps, bread puddings and cheesecakes. Here’s a pudding recipe. Note that the hot mixture is stirred gently. If you beat a cornstarch pudding after it has thickened, it will turn watery after it cools.

1 1/2 tbsp. packed brown sugar
1/2 tbsp. (1 1/2 tsp.) cornstarch
1/2 tsp. flour
Dash of salt
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tbsp. butter
1/8 tsp. vanilla
1 tbsp. butterscotch chips (optional but recommended)

Combine brown sugar, cornstarch, flour and salt in a 12-ounce microwave-safe mug. Beat in milk with a fork until smooth. Microwave on high power for 1 minute, or until pudding comes to a hard boil and rises to the top of the mug. Stir gently.

Drizzle about 4 tablespoons of hot pudding over the egg yolk a little at a time in a custard cup, beating rapidly with a fork to prevent the egg from cooking. With a small rubber spatula, scrape egg mixture back into the pudding in the mug and combine gently but thoroughly. Microwave on high power for 10 to 15 seconds, until pudding just comes to a boil. Stir gently. If necessary, microwave 5 seconds longer to thicken.

Cut the butter in two pieces and add with the vanilla and butterscotch chips to the hot pudding. Let stand 1 minute. Stir slowly until the butter melts completely and the butterscotch chips mostly melt. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes. The pudding will be soft-set and may be eaten at this point. For a firmer texture, chill in refrigerator until set.

May 6, 2020

Dear friends,

Thank goodness for Michele’s electronic calendar. She called on April 28 after a nudge from her phone to wish me a happy anniversary. I was deep into the New York Times and Tony was cleaning the garage. We had completely forgotten.

I swung into action. I wanted to have a cake and a card to shame him with when he returned from sorting his tool. Heh heh. That could be anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour. I made it with time to spare, thanks to some Crayons and my annoyingly unfinished cookbook. I knew that sucker would come in handy someday.

In about the time it takes to make a cup of tea, I made two moist chocolate mug cakes in my microwave. They were honestly as good as a homemade cake from the oven. Once again I was struck by how dumb I was not to make a buck on my microwave cake technique, which is different from any I’ve seen.The secret is use an egg yolk instead of a whole egg, which is too large for a mug-sized cake, and to bake the cake at 50 percent power to slow down the activation of the baking powder. The result is a moist, tender texture identical to oven-baked.

This is the second or third mug cake I’ve made in quarantine. I’ve been dipping into my stash of orphan recipes for a sweet little something rather than bake an entire cake and deal with the weight gain later. Mug cakes are ideal for corona snacking. I’ve seen photos of friends’ trays of cinnamon buns and counters paved with banana bread and wonder how (or if) they resist the temptation to polish off the batch. With a mug cake, I don’t worry.

My miniature chocolate cake is excellent in part because I use good ingredients — butter, milk, vanilla, flour, etc. — instead of a mix. You’ll have to separate an egg and drag out the baking powder and measuring spoons but the batter goes together quickly and bakes in just two minutes in an 1100- to 1200-watt microwave.

Because I’m not wasting a scrap of food these days, I beat the leftover egg whites with sugar, added a half-cup of coconut, dolloped the meringue in puffy disks on a baking sheet and baked them slowly until they crisped up. They were delicious.

The meringues came later, though. After nuking the two chocolate mug cakes, I fetched our box of wedding keepsakes to look through and made an anniversary card with copy paper and Crayons.

Tony was surprised and happy when he returned from the garage. He was even happier when I admitted I had forgotten about our 13th anniversary, too. We ate the cake and reminisced about our corny ceremony at Cupid’s Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The minister was confused afterwards when he told Tony to tell what my name was.

“Jane Snow,’’ Tony said. No, her NEW name, the minister insisted.

At that point I jumped in to tell him Tony would be taking my last name. The guy’s mouth fell open. “Well, that’s a first,” he said.


3 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. sugar, preferably superfine
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp. flour
1/8 tsp. baking powder
Dash of salt
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp. milk

Cut butter into pieces and melt on high power in a 12-ounce microwave-safe mug, about 30 to 45 seconds. Stir in sugar with a fork. Stir in cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt, mixing well. Add vanilla, egg yolk and milk and beat until very smooth. Scrape any bits off the bottom and beat again.

Microwave at 50 percent power for 2 minutes for 1000-to 1200-watt microwave ovens, or until the top is shiny but firm when pressed with a finger. If desired, immediately remove the cake from the mug by running a knife around the edge and inverting onto a plate. The texture will be slightly gooey while hot, and more typically cake-like when allowed to cool. Serve with ice cream or whipped topping if desired.

Note: If making more than one cake, microwave each one separately.


2 egg whites
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup (or so) sweetened shredded coconut

Beat egg whites until frothy. Continue to beat on high speed while slowly adding the sugar. Beat until stiff and glossy. Scatter in the coconut and beat briefly. Dollop onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, shaping into two circles about 1 inch thick. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour, or until golden brown and fairly dry. Eat out of hand like a cookie.

What I cooked last week:
Szechuan spicy noodles with ground venison; no-knead bread; chocolate mug cakes; pan-grilled boneless pork chop with port wine sauce and blue cheese-almond topping, honey-glazed roast carrots; Japanese pork curry; shepherd’s pie with ground venison and mushrooms; sautéed chard and dandelion greens with garlic and burst tomatoes, olive oil-fried eggs, craggy toast with butter; cottage cheese pancakes; charcoal-grilled ribeye steaks with horseradish sauce, broccoli rabe with garlic and olive oil, baked potatoes with sour cream.

What I ate from restaurants:
Salad, filet mignon and baked potato from the Brown Derby in Medina.

The recipe for khatchapuri bread in last week’s newsletter was a victim of bad editing (my own). The amount of shredded cheese should be 1 1/2 cups. Sorry for the confusion.

From Nancy H.:
Have you noticed any difference in the ground beef lately… say since the first of the year?

The reason I ask is because in years past, I never kept ground beef more than a few days because it would turn brown and sort of seep. Not very appetizing color and the fat portion seemed pale grey and really not fresh.

But now, selling at about 6.99 a pound, the ground meat is totally pink, very firm consistency and attractive in the same packaging even after a week. What could have been added or removed from the meat to keep it fresh even after days in the package?

Dear Nancy:
I don’t buy ground beef often because I have a supply of ground venison in the freezer. Check the package to make sure it is entirely ground beef, with no soy additives. If a preservative was added, that, too, must be revealed on the label. In any case, I would advise you not to keep ground beef in the refrigerator for a week. If you must store it longer than three or four days, freeze it.

From Marlene H.:
I made the khachapuri this morning, and of course, shared pictures with the family. Thanks for making me the hit of the day! I have out-of-town family wanting me to teleport it to them. Haha!

Dear Marlene:
Thanks for letting me know. I am crazy about that recipe, too.

From Anna S.:
I used to use the Mark Bittman’s no-knead bread recipe, too, until I found Jenny Can Cook and her 2-hour recipe. I’ve made it two times now in quarantine and love that I don’t have to plan ahead! Check out her other recipes and she has a YouTube channel. Jenny Jones, the old talk show host — who knew she could cook and is so fun to watch cook?

Dear Anna:
I must try that 2-hour no-knead bread recipe. I checked it out and it uses lots more yeast than Bittman’s, which may be a problem for those like me who keep running out. Thanks for the tip, though. Speaking of yeast….

From Patty:
I wanted to let you know that The Ashery in Amish country has a good supply of yeast. My daughter and family drove down to get out of the house. They brought me back a good supply. Seemed reasonable, too.

From Jane in Loraine:
I’m in my mid 70s and most younger new bakers do not know about fresh yeast — found in the dairy case. One cube equals a 3-pack of dried yeast. Happy baking.

From Sharon C.:
There’s a little Mennonite farm market on the outskirts of Wadsworth that has yeast and a variety of flour in bulk. Homemade breads and pies, produce, eggs, Pearl Valley cheese, etc. also are sold. It’s also the place to go for garden and herb plants. Drive west out of Wadsworth on Greenwich Road (College Street when you are in Wadsworth) maybe 3 miles. It’s on left side on top of the hill across from Sky Park Airport and Filia Winery. Great little place…Elvin, Marvin and Anita are very accommodating. They have a sign out front announcing specials. Last week it said “We have yeast!”

Acme Farm Market
3054 Greenwich Road

Dear Patty, Jane, Sharon and others:
Thank you to everyone who offered to give me yeast or pointed me to stores that have it in stock. As soon as I got Sharon’s email I drove to Acme Farm Market (a favorite place to buy vegetables in the summer) and bought a 1-pound package of yeast, enough to last me a year.

From Pat S.:
You mentioned missing fresh ginger. Perhaps you aren’t aware that it stores well in the freezer. That’s where I always keep several knobs, ready to grate or chop as needed for recipes. What I miss most during this pandemic is fresh lettuce! I’ll remedy that by planting my garden soon.

Dear Pat:
I used to keep ginger in the freezer but got out of the habit because it doesn’t taste quite as good as fresh. I finally braved a supermarket last week and bought a lot of ginger. I’m going to plant a knob of it in a pot and grow my own with instructions I found at