Jeanette - Off The Cuff

My photo
Blogger at: and -- My name is Jeanette, and I was born in Sweden, but unlike the famous Muppet, I am not a professional Swedish Chef. I actually studied design and photography. I also was a freelance indie-rock critic for several magazines from 1998-2005, and had an in-house PR company for a while. Cooking is in my DNA--my dad's brother was a chef and their father was a pastry chef, my mom's mother was a caterer, who published a cookbook of traditional Finnish breads and pastries when she was 92. Everyone else in my family loves to cook, and we're not afraid to experiment. I have a yen for interior design and remodeling.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie

First of all, these photos are a little dark and uninspired, but as is usually the case, I do most of my cooking late at night, and it's currently 11 p.m. Pacific Time.  So I'm a little sleepy, and it's very dark and very rainy out.  In fact, I believe we got nearly 2 inches of rain today.  Now then, I made the promise to try to do my chili-themed blogs this month, but I will admit that I overlooked how fast this month would fly by, and how side-tracked I would be by holiday-related crafting and other projects.  So ... it's still on deck for me to finish up the chili-recipes, and I think I'll get a chance to do so in December, but for now, let me do a last minute Thanksgiving appropriate dessert, which is really yummy.

The recipe came via my mother-in-law, as it was apparently one of my husband's favorite Thanksgiving desserts.  I've modified the spices a little bit, but other than that it's the same as the one she gave me.  It's a very fast, easy and tasty pie; and totally All-American. I mean, it has Jell-O brand vanilla pudding, and you can't get much more All-American than by putting Jell-O brand pudding into a recipe! (Which reminds me of how much I miss Jell-O Pudding Pops, and those ads by Bill Cosby.)  Oh... and HAPPY THANKSGIVING.  May we all find something in our lives we are profoundly thankful for.  If you are reading this, I can already remind you have a computer or smart-phone, electricity and a roof over your head. And that's more than what much of the world has.  We are blessed.


1 cup canned pumpkin
2 cups vanilla ice cream (softened a bit)
1 3.4 ounce package of Jell-O vanilla instant pudding
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1 dash nutmeg
1 dash all-spice

1 pie crust (I like the graham cracker no-bake crusts, as a great contrast to the pumpkin ice cream, but you could also do a regular pie crust, and bake it first according to directions or make your own from scratch.)


Cover top of pie with whipped cream, after it is set up.

Blend all ingredients in a large bowl with electric mixer until fluffy, and fill into the pie-crust.  Chill, at least overnight (you can also freeze it and let it thaw a half hour prior to serving, if you want it more ice-cream like.  Otherwise, it serves up nicely, like a 'cream pie.' And you will clearly not be able to refrain from licking the beaters or possibly licking out the bowl with your tongue.  It can't be done.

Monday, November 14, 2011


When I was a young whipper-snapper of a hipster, and I was always hanging out in Seattle, there was a place called Aladdin's on The Ave in the University of Washington District. (Now, if you're not a local, you won't know that The Ave is actually officially called University Way, not University Avenue.   It's anyone's best guess why it's called The Ave.)  Aladdin's had really great Mediterranean food, and my go-to was falafel sandwiches with tzatziki.  So good. Mmmmm.

Going even farther back, into the misty, water-colored memory windmills of my mind, when I was a kid in Sweden, our mom had a recipe which she occasionally made, and at the time we referred to this recipe as "√§rtbullar" (or pea-balls) from an authentic Mediterranean recipe of chickpeas.  I'm not sure if the recipe just called them √§rtbullar or if we just were too ignorant to call it Falafel.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Note About Spices and Seasonings

I wanted to take this opportunity to mention that knowing the proper balance in seasoning your dishes is the difference between simply following a recipe versus cooking with a gut instinct (ha ha!) for a true "off the cuff" cooking experience.  Some recipes you should probably not mess around with too much (for instance, due to the scientific nature of baking, cookies, pastries and breads are left best unaltered.)  But with herbs, spices and seasonings, there is an acquired learning curve that will eventually take a novice chef up to a more instinctual level.  So I'm going to give a few points here to ponder if you are just learning to cook.   It took me a while to master some of these myself, so don't be discouraged if you have to approach these suggestions with some trepidation. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Black Bean Chili with Cilantro

I promised in the last entry that there will be a "Chili" theme on the blog. Quite overly ambitious as I tend to be, I may have even promised a "Chili Week" but then I realized that would involve cooking chili multiple times in *ONE* week, and that led to the sure knowledge that I'd probably quickly tire of both cooking and eating chili.  Thus, to be realistic, I will just make a reasonable attempt to blog all the chili recipes by the end of November.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I know, I know...

Hello faithful readers -- all 16 of you at last count.  .... Happy Fall!  First off, my apologies.  I'm SO delinquent in updating the blog lately. I've been sick, hubby was sick, things just got kind of uninspired, tired, and just flat-out busy there for a while.  But, if I maybe can whet your appetite, stay tuned for my upcoming theme of CHILI-week, where I will be featuring several chili recipes, including:
1. My trademark "Black Bean chicken chili with cilantro"
2. My mother-in-law's recent experiment with the regional favorite, "Cincinnati Chili"
3. My husband's aunt's cook-off-winning "Real Texas Chili"
4. ...and a potential fourth recipe from another friend who recently placed in a chili cook-off as well.

In the meantime, go check out some cookbooks on Amazon for inspiration

Oh, and by all means try this recipe out for pumpkin cookies that have the texture and flavor of a spice-cake, and are just amazingly delicious.  For my own variation I drizzle a tangy icing that I make from powdered sugar, and lemon juice.  There's no exact measurements-- just take about 1/3 cup of powdered sugar and add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice and stir ... add more juice or more sugar to control the thickness.  It is meant to be drizzled, and not spread.  Lemon sounds like a  strange contrast to the spicy pumpkin flavor, but believe me it's really good.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Some Tips about Onions

Given that I have not bothered to write up a recipe for a good while, I'm going to 'pepper' my blog with some random tips, as in the previous entry about cleaning a stove without the use of chemicals. 

So we shall talk about chopping onions, fast and efficiently.  If you weep uncontrollably at the thought of chopping onions, you can borrow my little trick of keeping some swim goggles handy in the kitchen.  No -- not a snorkel goggle-- I mean those sleek things that folks like Matt Biondi or Michael Phelps would wear. It might look a little ridiculous to wear swim goggles, but hey... better than having your mascara run all over your face.

Now, I realize that most people with rudimentary knife skills can probably figure out how to chop an onion.  I mean, you just chop it, right?   However, if you want to really increase your efficiency, I figured out a way to speed things up and control the size of your diced onion cubes with a little more calculation involved.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Chemical-Free Range/Oven Cleaning; A Tutorial

Hi faithful readers. Okay, I know... I'm quite delinquent on updating a recipe; our big summer project was getting some contractors to rebuild our retaining wall, and it is going on week 4 now. Thus, not much new inspiration for foods and recipes. However, I was on a cleaning binge today, and decided to show you how to deeply and thoroughly clean your stove/oven/ range combo, to keep your kitchen cooking area spic-n-span, for easy and low-maintenance clean ups.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Roasted Eggplant Soup

roasted eggplant soup 016 Okay, I know that it's July and most of the United States are in a heatwave.  However, here in the Pacific Northwest, it's been way cooler than even our normal summertime averages. So I felt like making something a bit savory, and I realized just now as I typed up the title that I cook with eggplant a lot.  I have other recipes up my sleeve, too, which I’m sure I’ll get around to eventually.  But anyway, I had meant to do my recipe for Cordoba Fried Eggplant (Berenjenas Con Miel) but as time did not allow today to haul out the deep fryer, I opted to do something a little easier.  I found this similar recipe online at, and made it with a few minor modifications.   It was a hearty, but light soup, full of rich, savory flavors, and it was delicious with some bread on the side.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp (Strubarb Crisp)

For some people, rhubarb is a word that makes the hair on the neck stand up.  And then there are folks like me who can't get enough of the stuff.  My amazing mother sometimes makes rhubarb 'creme' (sort of a soupy mess of rhubarb, made with fresh rhubarb, sugar, and potato starch that is absolutely delicious...)  I will probably make some of that in a few days as I have a lot of rhubarb in my garden which I need to use up.  But that's not what I'm making today.  I'm going to share a recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp.  I don't know where the recipe came from, but as it is so frequently the case, I will just assume that my mom gave it to me.  Crisps are fairly universally similar (oats, sugar, butter, spices) so I don't know if this one has any particularly unique qualities, but I shared a pan of it with my neighbors last month, and got an email back that said "Oh my, that crisp is so good! Wow. Thanks again!"  It's especially good with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on top.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A little rock-n-roll...

In lieu of vittles and pictures of edibles, I thought I'd throw some free music at ya this evening.  Shane Tutmarc is an old client and friend of mine that I used to promote and hang out with frequently in Seattle many moons ago.  He now lives in Nashville, and I'm an old stuffy housewife who writes about food, and not music. (Oh yeah, for those of you who don't know me personally, I was a rock critic, freelance music journalist, and did some off-the-cuff PR for various indie musicians for about eight years.  I still occasionally write bios, and send out some press releases, but not often enough to call it a business anymore.  I even have an old dinosaur of a website featuring archived projects with my old clientele -- I'm talkin'  like 2003-HTML-dinosaur. You can see it at: if you really want to see what I used to do before I became a foodster, and not a hipster.)

Now then, back to Shane's music ... here it be:

Sunday, June 5, 2011



Onions, celery, carrots, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, potatoes... and some fresh herbs= one delicious and hearty soup. 

Time for The Off The Cuff Chef to butcher a traditional French recipe.   Ratatouille (ra-ta-TOO-ee) is a vegetable stew, although mine always ends up more like a soup, so that is what I'm showing you how to make below here.  For more information about more authentic versions, please consult this link.  Please don't report me to Julia Child's estate.  I know my recipe is not quite up to par, but it's a darn good version, in my humblest of opinions.  And isn't that basically what always happens? Alternate ingredients come into the picture, substitutions are made, etc.  So here's something similar to a traditional ratatouille, that I make every so often.  I regret that I did not have a nice crusty loaf of bread to go with this, but alas, you can't always have everything.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Potato & Leek Au Gratin

A really good "gratin" is such European comfort food... it's kind of like Mac and Cheese, to me, but fancier so you could serve it up with a nice cut of meat, and there it would make for a really festive meal.  But it's also so easy to do. 

I put together this little casserole a few days ago, but didn't have time to write up the description.  So without further ado, here it is, in all its beautiful simplicity! 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Thai Swimming Rama (or Showering Rama)-- Chicken, steamed spinach and peanut sauce

While I’m not entirely sure of the first time I had Rama (or whether it was referred to as Showering or Swimming) it is one of my very favorite types of Thai food.  Basically, it’s steamed spinach, sauteed chicken, and a peanut sauce that is TO DIE FOR.  I seriously have to stop myself from eating half the sauce out of the pot with a spoon while I’m “tasting it” … Yeah, it’s so good. It’s almost like a dessert.  I think I love it as much as I love David Lebovitz's salted butter caramel ice cream.  And that does speak volumes.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Orange Ginger Ahi steaks with Bok Choy

Orange Ginger Ahi Steaks (9)A few weeks ago I tried a recipe for a similar chicken dish with orange, ginger & bok choy, but I wanted to try Ahi steaks, because I just had some delicious seared ahi last night at a restaurant, which usually means I crave it for another 24 hours afterwards.  So I merged the two together here. (This recipe is a little bit of a hybrid between a couple of other recipes on my blog: Mandarin Ginger Glazed Mahi Mahi and Grilled Teriyaki Ahi Tuna –  I just love citrus-savory recipes!)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pork & Bok Choy Gyozas

Hi all ten of you loyal readers.  It’s been a while.  Did you miss me? I’m sure you’ve been staying up at night wondering when I’d have a new recipe to share.  Oh, don’t you worry.  This one is SURE to disappoint, as I didn’t even take photos… I was up to my wrists in raw meat, and my husband was exercising and couldn’t help hold the camera.  And it was late, dangit.  We were hungry, so I just cooked, and did not pause to consider the repercussions of a photo-free blog.  But take heart – there are OTHER blogs that show you how to assemble gyozas, and they have expertly taken photos, so if you like my recipe, you can just imagine what the photos would have looked like.  And the best part is that this recipe is approximately $5 worth of ingredients and you’ll have about 40 gyozas when you’re done, and you can freeze uncooked ones for later use.

Are ya ready? Okay!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bacon-Asparagus Lasagna

Asparagus Bacon Lasagna (9) A few years ago, I found a recipe on Epicurious, that was basically like the recipe I’m about to post here. (I have since made a few substitutions.)   So the second time I decided to make it, was on the day that my in-laws came to our new house, after we got married.  It was only my third time of meeting them (once after our engagement, and then on our wedding and then this third time) so trying to be extra efficient, I started prepping all my ingredients in the morning so that we could just put it in the oven after they arrived from the airport.   Easy Peasy, Lemon Squeezy.  Right?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pork Schnitzel with sauteed mushrooms and egg noodles


My husband and I recently celebrated our anniversary by going up to the quaint Bavarian-themed tourist town of Leavenworth, located in the Cascade mountains in Washington State.  Clearly, with the Alpine menu options that are prevalent, we had to do at least one “authentic German” meal.  So we had schnitzel, with red cabbage sauerkraut, and egg noodles with mushrooms. Now back in the day-to-day of normal life, I thought we would try to recreate that meal (all but the red cabbage sauerkraut which I didn't have...) to take a bit of Bavaria back home to us. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Chicken, Bell Pepper & Mushroom soup with rice

Mushroom-bell pepper-chicken soup

I have been blogging three mushroom-based recipes that I made the last few days with a CostCo container of Baby Bellas. I like buying in bulk and finding fun things to do with the ingredients during the course of a week, without feeling like I’m eating the same thing over and over.

This soup is completely ‘off the cuff’, and I will do my best to replicate the ingredients as I was just kind of throwing them in to my pot.

Beef & Mushroom pie

Mushroom-beef-pieThis is another amazingly simple and delicious dish my mother has been making for years, and who knows where she got the recipe originally.  But given her stack of vintage cooking magazines from the early 1970s and on, there is probably a source somewhere.   However, I don’t know the source, and she probably barely remembers where it came from herself, since she has been making it for decades.
I was in a hurry when I made this, having painted all day at my in-laws’ house, so I used a store-bought crust to expedite it all.  Otherwise, feel free to use the pie crust recipe of your choice.  It’s a pretty standard butter, flour, cold water type of crust.

Potato Mushroom Pizza

Potato-Mushroom-pizza (19) The first place I ever had a potato pizza was at the famed Vic's Pizza in Olympia while I was in college. I just don’t go out much these days, being the frugal housewife that I am, so I finally got around to making my own potato pizza.  And seriously… don’t knock it till you try it.  It’s SO good.
Mine, of course, has its own tweaks and variations, and I worked with the ingredients I had on hand—this week, my theme seems to be food with mushrooms.   You’ll see two other mushroom-inclusive recipes in the next 2 installments as well.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Mole Pulled Pork Tacos & Spanish rice

Happy New Year, readers.  Did you miss me? All four of you?

I haven’t blogged for a while, because as much baking & cooking as I did during Christmas it was all Christmas food, with Swedish recipes, and I don’t know how many of you really want a recipe for pickled-herring and beet salad?

Plus I just didn’t cook a lot of new stuff in the busyness of the Christmas season.  Most of the food I made had already been entered on the blog.  But it’s a new year, and I’m hoping to have a few more recipes up my cuffs.

I made this meal yesterday, and mostly made it to deliver to a family from our church that was recovering from a rather major car accident, and in my haste to make the food, I didn’t even think of blogging it, let alone photographing my progress.  So this will be mostly from memory, and you’ll just have to use your imagination.  And you know what pulled pork looks like.

[PS. This was edited a year later after the original posting to adjust the ingredients, because I made it again today and it was even better than the first version.  So here it is -- updated.  Please note that this is still by no means a fully authentic recipe.  At least it's a good pseudo recipe for the harried (or hairy) housewife.]