Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Orange Sponge Cake

I want to tell you what really goes on in the stainless steel kitchens of Nicole Partons Favorite Recipes.

But first ... To quote readers, friends, and my husband, Ron: You must be a great cook!” Ron says that because he’s been doing all the cooking around this joint since I started to write a book. He hasn’t tasted my cooking in a quite awhile: I hope to string that book out as long as I can ... 

I wish you’d return to blogging recipes!” Flattery will get you everywhere. My skills are a little rusty. So here’s the Orange Sponge Cake I made last week. Seriously ... It is! Ill eventually return to passing along recipes. 

I can’t be sure - and nor can you - if that’s a threat or a promise. Ahhh, Dollinks ... Be careful what you wish for.   

- Nicole

Unbaked in the middle ...

... This is what remained when I lifted the cake from the rack.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Goofy Buns

I’ve been making these great buns for 35 years! As I wrote in my 1987 cookbook, The Galley Gourmet, I cannot imagine a simpler or more delicious yeast-raised bun.
Goofy Buns:

1 tbsp. (15 mL) granular yeast (see Important! Note about yeast)
1/2 c. (125 mL) warm water
1 tsp. (5 mL) granulated sugar
1/2 c. (125 mL) shortening or butter or margarine
1/2 c. (125 mL) granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 c. (500 mL) cold water
7-to-7-1/2 c. (1.7-to-1.78 L) all-purpose flour
1-1/4 tsp. (6.2 mL) salt
1/2 tsp. (2 mL) baking powder

Stir together yeast, warm water, and 1 tsp. sugar. Let stand 10 min. Cream shortening or butter or margarine and 1/2 c. (125 mL) sugar. Add egg, mixing well. Stir in cold water. In small bowl, combine 1 c. (250 mL) flour, salt, and baking powder.

Add yeast mixture and combined flour, salt, and baking powder mixture so that dough handles easily. Add remaining flour in thirds, mixing well after each addition. Stir in remaining 2 c. (500 mL) flour with your hands. Dough should absorb all remaining flour, become smooth and elastic, and should lose its stickiness. Cover loosely and set in a cool place overnight.

The next morning, punch down dough and shape into small balls. Place on greased cookie sheets, cover loosely, and allow to rise 1-1/2-to-2 hr. on a warm place away from drafts. Grease tops of rolls lightly. Bake 15 min. Makes 30-to-36 buns. 

Important! Note about yeast: Don’t assume a standard packet of granulated yeast weighing 1/4 oz. (7 g) contains 1 tbsp. (15 mL). It does not! My recollection is that it once did, but many manufacturers and packagers of food products have reduced their quantities. 

A standard packet of granulated yeast now contains 2-1/4 tsp. (7 g) of yeast. Be sure to measure your yeast to the recipe’s specifications. If you use a 7 g packet of yeast for a bread recipe calling for 1 tbsp. (15 g), your recipe will probably fail. 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Sourdough Biscuits

Oh, I am a naughty little cabbage! Which makes me sound veddy British, which I’m not, or very silly, which I occasionally am. What I’ve actually been is very busy, with no time to blog and no time to - gasp! - cook.

I’ve been making this recipe since (yikes!) 1984. My starter recipe has disappeared ( so I’ve found one just like it.

Sourdough Biscuits

Sourdough Starter (below)

1/3 c. (80 mL) canola oil or butter, softened
1 c. (250 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. (2 mL) baking powder
1/4 tsp. (1.25 mL) salt
1/4 tsp. (1.25 mL) baking soda

Preheat oven to 425 deg. F. Add oil or butter to sourdough starter, combining well. To a separate bowl, add flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add to sourdough oil mixture, stirring well. Knead 1 min. on floured board. Pat or roll dough with floured hands or pin to approximately 1-in. thickness. Slice into squares, allowing to rest 10 min. Dough will be soft. Bake 12-to-15 min. with rack in center position.

Sourdough Starter:

See and follow the instructions precisely.

Note: You’ll need to wait two weeks before you can use the starter. No metal utensils or bowls! This terrific recipe is well worth the wait. Although this starter contains sugar, I’ve found it excellent in making these buns.

Further note: Thank you,! Your site’s Sourdough Starter recipe is precisely tailored to today’s standard packet of granulated yeast containing 2-1/4 tsp. (7 g).

Friday, February 15, 2019

Recipe for Disaster

I have a problem: Only you can help me out. I don’t want money. Im not asking you to contribute to a cause. Some of you know I began writing as a child, was first published at age 10, won a nice little award at 16, and later won a significant award that led to the privilege and pleasure of becoming a journalist. 

I studied English 100 under Margaret Atwood at university. I really did!

I retired more than 20 years ago, but flat-out love to write, which I’ve never stopped doing behind the scenes. 

My daughter Erin designed this cooking blog, surprising me with it eight years ago. She did that after I collapsed in a foreign country with a previously undiagnosed brain tumor. Medivacked to Costa Rica, I spent a month in hospital following surgery for its removal. The operation left my right arm and hand paralyzed. While I’ll always find it difficult to print and hand-write, a month of intensive physiotherapy almost fully restored my fine motor functions. I’m now a two-fingered typist. I’m grateful.

My husband and I had been married for seven months when this happened. Ron never once left my side, sleeping on a small couch  every night for a month.

Without my suspecting a thing, Erin copied some of my favorite recipes to this then-new recipe blog. She hoped that when she told me about my new blog, seeing those recipes would help me recover faster. 

At the time she did that, six months after my surgery, I didn’t remember how to cook, didn’t understand how to follow a recipe, and didn’t know how to find and use the ingredients in the kitchen cupboard. Thinking about that difficult time still makes me cry. 

Jump to the present and why I need your help. After having written and co-written 10 non-fiction books, I’m completing the last nitpick edits to my very first novel! I’m tremendously happy about that and have over-the-moon expectations for it. I think it’s a terrific book.

(Don’t look for it yet! The process of finding a great agent and having that agent find a great publisher and seeing my book in bookstores can easily take two years. I’ll let you know when that happens, and will provide more details when it does.)

So here’s the problem. Literary agents check social media for a writer’s recognition factor and ability to self-promote. On reading that advice from my favorite agent, I started a second blog in January to get my name out there. 

My new blog is called Whats On My Mind? You’ll find the URL on the header of this recipe blog. Titled The Joy of Sax, the post below appeared on Whats On My Mind? Feb. 7th. It explains the problem I’ve had with that blog - basically that Google’s search engines can’t find it. 

Blogger has updated its format since Erin designed this blog. I’ve had no luck in pleading with Google to fix this issue. Google’s online “help forum is far too difficult for my level of computerese. Ive learned my new blogs visibility is partially dependent on the number of readers it attracts. My blog needs many, many more readers before Google’s search bots learn to understand such key words as Whats On Nicole Partons Mind?

Please read my new blog. Share the URL with your friends. Ask them to read it, too. Don’t just click on its URL ... Read the posts (Google knows the difference)! 

So here’s my post about The Joy of Sax, which originally appeared on my new blog. I’ve attempted to explain my new blog’s “invisibility” problem by using humor. Unfortunately, there’s nothing funny” about it.

The Joy of Sax:

Whats on my mind? I have a new blog! You’re reading it at:

You probably stumbled on this blog by accident. Lucky you! Unfortunately, no one else can find it. No one. Sure, it’s viewable with its URL, but that’s the only way. No URL? No blog. Blogger’s help forum? No answer. 

Until I get this fixed, think of my blog as some trendy underground jazz club. You arrive with no idea where you are or what’s going on. The bouncer at the door says: “Gimme da password. No password, ya don’t get in.”

You, innocent cherub that you are, whisper: ?

Upon which the bouncer says: “Nicky’s at da bar. Tell ’er whatcha want, she’ll fix ya a drink.” 

At the bar, you say: “Um … Nicky? May I please have a …” 

“Shut yer pie hole,” I say. “Ya don’ got no password, you don’ get no soi-vice.” 

You start sweating. You really, really want that drink. Everyone at the bar is talking and laughing and swaying to the joy of sax. 

“P-p-password?” you say. “Is it ?”

With a materfamilias grin wider than my hips, I say: “Name yer poison!” You settle in at the bar. You’re now part of the “in-crowd.” You’re “makin’ the scene.” You’re “hip.” 

(Nicole uses language like this because she’s a grandmother and an old bat. Pity her. When you settle in to read what’s on her mind, she’ll probably give you a piece of it.)

As much fun as you’ve had in this venue, there’s a further problem. The moment you leave this place, you’re going to forget where it was. None of your friends will know the password. Even Nicole can’t remember it, half the time. 

In a real underground jazz club, the notes sound discordant but everything comes together at the end. In Nicole Parton’s What’s on My Mind? blog/imaginary jazz club, nothing comes together at the end because no one’s swaying to the joy of sax at a bar in a jazz club they can’t find. 

I’m not sure what to do. The language in Google’s help forums is so far above me that I’m the one sweating at the bar because I’m the one who really, really wants needs that drink.

I hope to hire an tech expert in the next few days.

Until then, please read my blog. Share its URL (the “password”) with your friends and relatives. Share this post, too. Tell ’em Nicky sent you - and that the drinks are on the house, at:

© Nicole Parton, 2019

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Leek and Mushroom Risotto

Allow me to waddle over to my computer to tell you about this gorgeous dish. I ate far too much of it last night, and what I want to do now is slather it over my entire 
body. Alert the TV networks:  
Risotto Scandal Ensnares Gluttonous Blogger! 

Although this is a bona fide gourmet dish, it’s not difficult to make. The recipe comes via Dee Carthy of Bowral, NSW, who got it from former chef Marion Veigel of Sydney, whose mother is my pal Lyn Keane, also of Sydney. Dee worked out most of the proportions; I worked out the rest. 

A tip? Read my Notes before you start to cook. This recipe makes a 
generous amount. You can always cut it in half, but I’d advise you not to double it. Doing so would require a massive pan and a massive stove-top seen only in restaurants. Its always a challenge to make risotto in advance of guests’ arrival. The link below explains how:
Leek and Mushroom Risotto:

1/4 c. (60 mL) olive oil, divided
5-1/2 c. (1.3 L by volume; 400 g by weight) sliced, fresh mushrooms (see Mushroom Note)
1 large or 3 medium leeks (white part only), thinly sliced into rounds
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1-1/2 c. (350 mL) arborio rice (see Rice Note)
1 c. (250 mL) dry white wine
Approx. 4 c. (950 mL-to-1 L) vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 tsp. (1.25 mL) salt, or to taste (see Salt Note)
2 tbsp. (30 mL) butter or margarine
1 c. (250 mL) finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

Prepare and array all ingredients in advance of cooking. See Skillet Note). So let’s get moving!

Rinse and drain rice. To large skillet on medium-high heat, add 2 tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil, heating to just below spitting point. Add mushrooms, leeks, and garlic, immediately lowering heat and stirring constantly until soft and no liquid remains. Transfer veggies to bowl.

To same unwashed skillet, add remaining 2 tbsp. (30 mL) olive oil. Add rice when oil is hot, stirring constantly until rice becomes oil-coated. Add wine all at once, deglazing skillet with rice still in it. Remove tougher bits of over-browned leek that float to surface of liquid in pan. Lower heat to medium, continuing to stir until rice absorbs most of wine. 

Heat stock in separate container. Reduce heat under skillet to medium-low as you add a portion of hot stock to skillet. I generally add 3/4-to-1 c. (180-to-250 mL) stock for each addition. Add too much at one time, and your risotto will be gummy. Add too little, and it will be hard. Gently cook and stir until rice absorbs most or all of liquid in skillet. 

Youll want to continue adjusting stove-top heat as risotto cooks - not too high, not too low, but j-u-st right. Youll get the hang of this as you add liquid, stir, reduce liquid, and repeat the process.

The secret to cooking a successful risotto is “low and slow.” Cook and stir 20-to-25 min., judging stock additions accordingly. 

Stir gently but thoroughly until rice absorbs almost all liquid. Repeat this step until rice reaches desired tenderness, absorbing most or all hot stock. Stir in reserved mushroom-leek-garlic mixture; heat through and season to taste. 

Add butter or margarine and freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino. Serve at once. Yields 8-to-10 portions as a side dish. Serves 6 as a main dish with (optional) poultry, pork, seafood or (prepared meatless and with vegetable broth) as a vegetarian meal. 

Mushroom Note: Brush mushrooms clean; don’t wash them. Give larger mushrooms a cross-cut after slicing them vertically, leaving them slightly bigger than bite-sized. Theyll shrink as they cook; you wont want to make them too small. 

Rice Note: Dont even think about substituting another type of rice in this recipe. Risotto requires arborio rice!) 

Salt Note: Taste before you serve! Today’s commercially made stock is often unsalted. Adding a pinch of salt to your risotto makes a big flavor difference. 

Skillet Note: Use a wide, deep skillet to make this recipe. The base diameter of mine is 10-1/2 in. (26.5 cm), flaring to 13-1/2 in. (34 cm) at the top. This skillet size is exactly perfect for a risotto recipe of this size. To make the full recipe in anything smaller is to court disaster! A wok’s narrow base will not produce satisfactory results.

Great ingredients make great risotto!
Stir mushrooms, leeks, garlic over medium-high heat.

Heat olive oil in unwashed skillet. Add
arborio rice. Deglaze pan with wine.

Return mushroom mixture to skillet.
Gradually add hot stock to rice-and-
mushroom mixture.

Add butter and finely grated cheese.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Double-Ginger Cookies

These cookies are soft, puffy, and
perfectly spiced. Im ashamed to say that when Ron baked these, I ate 10 of the first batch. Which is why my hips are larger than Texas, but lets not go there, Dollinks ...

Double-Ginger Cookies:

3/4 c. (180 mL) butter or margarine, softened
1 c. (250 mL) demerara (i.e., dark brown) sugar, packed
1 egg
1/4 c. (60 mL) molasses
2-1/4 c. (560 mL) flour  
1-1/2 tbsp.(22 mL) freshly grated ginger  
1-1/2 tsp. (7.5 mL) cinnamon
1/2 tsp. (10 mL) nutmeg
2 tsp. (10 mL) baking soda
1/2 tsp. (2.5 mL) salt
1 c. (250 mL) crystallized ginger, chopped
1/4 c. (60 mL) granulated sugar, or as needed 

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Spray-grease large cookie sheet or cover with parchment paper. Set aside. Combine butter and demerara sugar in large bowl, beating with electric mixer until fluffy. Add egg and molasses, continuing to beat until well blended.

To medium bowl, add flour, spices, baking soda, and salt, combining thoroughly. Stir in crystallized ginger. Gradually add flour-mixture to butter-sugar mixture, mixing just until blended. Cover and refrigerate 1 hr. To small bowl, add granulated sugar, setting aside until needed. 

Working assembly-style, roll dough into 1-1/4 in. (3 cm) balls - no need to set on cookie sheets yet. Gently roll in granulated sugar, coating entire surface of ball. Set balls 2 in. (5 cm) apart on prepared cookie sheet.

Bake 12-to-13 min., or until tops of cookies are puffed and start to crack. Do not over-bake. Cool on cookie sheet 1 or 2 min. before transferring to wire racks to cool thoroughly. These cookies freeze well. Makes 2-1/2 dozen.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Peanut Sriracha Salad Dressing

Terrific! Thats what this interesting salad dressing is! My supermarket passed it along
on a package of coleslaw. I find its  strong Asian influence a perfect blend for something new. 

Tip: Don’t substitute another hot sauce for the sriracha, because you’ll wonder what all the hooplas about. Billed as one of the world’s most potent hot sauces, the sriracha elevates these everyday ingredients to a magical combination! Messing with perfection is never a wise idea (I neither solicit nor receive and gratuities or freebies for saying this). 

The salad? Here’s what I did, but anything you throw together will work just fine. To loose leaf lettuce, I added a small amount of coleslaw (for color), 1 mandarin orange (peeled and sectioned, with the sections cut in half), roughly 1/3 c. (80 mL) cherry tomatoes (sliced into halves or thirds), and a generous handful of parsley (stems removed). This, I tossed with enough dressing until the leaves glistened. Wow, was this salad ever delicious!

Peanut Sriracha Salad Dressing:

1/4 c. (60 mL) smooth or creamy peanut butter

1/4 c. (60 mL) rice vinegar
2 tbsp. (30 mL) soy sauce
2 tbsp. (30 mL) canola oil
1 tbsp. (15 mL) sesame oil
1 tbsp. (15 mL) honey
1 tsp. (5 mL) sriracha Asian hot sauce

Blend all ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate until needed. Makes 1 cup (250 mL).

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Jack Cudney, I’m Looking for YOU!

So here’s the deal, Jack. I have no idea who you are. I have no idea where you live. I have no idea what your email address is. You opened a Twitter account more than a year ago, but when I Twittered, you didn’t answer - mainly because youve never Twittered to a single soul.

But hey, Jack, you wrote my blog last July looking for a Butchart Gardens’ recipe for bourbon-glazed dark bread with orange peel. Sorry, Dollink, I don’t have it, but it shouldn’t be too hard to replicate. If it soothes your sad heart, the web offers several similar recipes. Not that particular one, mind you - but similar. 

I’m writing you this note, Jack, because - once again - didn’t let me know a reader had commented on my recipe page. Ahhh, but I’ve also found nearly 1,000 emails from eager readers in Armenia (and points elsewhere) who are panting to give me a free tattoo; hook me up with the love of my life (sorry, but I’m taken); hire me to drive an Uber in Texas or Tanzania (whichever’s closer); teach me a language in 20 minutes, and other can’t-live-without-it stuff. Wow! It sure is nice to be popular! 

So back to Nicole Parton’s Favorite Recipes, a little later. I do hope Armenians enjoy my cooking! 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Safety Warning: Home-Canned Carrot Pudding

Readers Lynn Tungseth and Randal Oulton separately wrote me in December to report that current safe home-canning procedures suggest not canning cake - to which Home-Canned Carrot Pudding is very similar. I removed this old-time recipe as soon as I saw their remarks today. This recipe appeared in my blog on or about Dec. 13, 2015. 

Im sorry not to have seen your comments sooner, Lynn and Randal. doesnt alert me when comments come in; I’ve just sent a note on the importance of letting bloggers know when reader comments arrive. If youve home-canned this recipe, toss it out. In the past, I’ve made it with great success, but my family ate it quickly. The issue both writers present is below. Better to be safe than sorry! 

I know this post is 5 years old, but if you stumble across it like I just did, this is NOT a safe canning recipe! My mother and I both have canned Christmas pudding in the past before I educated myself on safe canning. Make your carrot pudding to eat soon, but don’t can it. There are several ingredients that cannot be safely canned, and the pudding is far too dense for safe canning. I wish the author would remove this post. There are great reference links in the previous comment. on Christmas Carrot Pudding (Home-Canned Version)
in response to Very unsafe! Tons of warnings from all home canning experts NOT to can cake, which basically Christmas pudding is in another form. The very real risk is botulism! Do not store those jars on the shelf; freeze or refrigerate. If someone gets sick from following your advice you could be liable. I personally wouldn't want that risk., by Randal Oulton.
on 12/26/18
Very unsafe! Tons of warnings from all home canning experts NOT to can cake, which basically Christmas pudding is in another form. The very real risk is botulism! Do not store those jars on the shelf; freeze or refrigerate. If someone gets sick from following your advice you could be liable. I personally wouldn't want that risk. on Christmas Carrot Pudding (Home-Canned Version)