Selma’s Chicken Liver Pate

In which my brother submits a guest post.

I asked all of my siblings if they’d like to make a recipe and submit a guest post.  My brother, Greg Ehrendreich, agreed.  I sent him a few different recipes to choose from.  He chose this one.  If anyone else would like to submit a guest post, please contact me.  If you’ve made one of these recipes and your take is different than mine, I’m interested in your thoughts.  If you changed something up to make it gluten-free or healthier and had great results, tell me about it.  If you have a recipe from your grandmother you’d like to use, I’d love to hear about it.  If your grandma didn’t cook and you’d like to use one of my grandmother’s or great-grandmother’s, let me know.

When my work decided to hold a potluck holiday party, I knew where to turn for inspiration. My dear sister had been asking me to do a guest post for her blog, so I asked her to supply some recipes. She sent several options – a weird chopped herring recipe that had crumbled sponge cake (?!) in it, an orange meringue pie that would probably have been great but would not have traveled well on my bike commute, and Selma’s Chicken Liver Pâté, which is what I decided to make.

I know that my sister would have preferred that I make this recipe exactly as written, for the sake of authenticity, and then discuss how I would change it to modernize it. But look at that recipe and think about it a little bit and you’ll see how impractical that would have been. (I would’ve been fine with it in any capacity.  I’m just excited that he wanted to play along.)

To start with, the recipe calls for ¼ lb each of chicken livers and mushrooms – but each of those comes in 1 lb quantities from the store and it wasn’t like I had another chicken liver recipe I was just aching to make. Therefore, I made a quadruple batch. In retrospect, that wasn’t a good call. Nobody needs that much pate. My wife and I both love liver, but even after taking half of it to the holiday party, I still had more left over than we could eat before tiring of it. Maybe someday I will thaw out the portion I put in the freezer to see if it froze well, or maybe someday I will just toss it out when I find it in a freezer burned lump forgotten in a back corner. Only time will tell.

Then there is the fact that 10 Tbsp. of butter times a quadruple batch = 40 Tbsp. of butter. That’s 5 sticks. I didn’t even have that much butter on hand, and if I had, I still just couldn’t. I used 2 sticks of butter for the quadruple batch. It was plenty.

Once it was bubbling away in the cast iron, wow did it start to smell great in my kitchen. I could have just dug in to that pan with a spoon and a loaf of good bread (if I wasn’t on a low carb diet since last September…another reason I didn’t make the pie). inthepan

Now, let’s talk about seasoned salt. I get it, it’s an old recipe. But I haven’t had plain old “seasoned salt” in my spice shelf for decades. What I did have though is Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning. Which is great stuff and I highly recommend it. My Chicago Greek coworker says that in his family they literally put it on everything. (This is where I insert that I would’ve used Penzey’s 4/S salt.)suppliesThe Spotted Cow was not part of the recipe, but was a vital part of the cooking process. I was whipping this up after coming home from dinner at my mother-in-law’s house and had a pleasant buzz going so it would have been a shame to not keep riding that while I cooked. Spotted Cow is one of the benefits you get from having a sister who still lives in Wisconsin.

Once everything was all cooked and ready for blending, that’s when I realized that I had forgotten to hard boil the eggs. Thanks to my InstantPot, that hurdle was promptly overcome. The eggs was another place where I cut back from what was called for in the original recipe – I only did 4 eggs for the batch instead of 2 per recipe quadrupled to 8 because I was lazy and didn’t want to have to peel that many eggs. Sue me.

I am allergic to tree nuts, so I subbed in pine nuts for the pistachios. Lightly toasted the pine nuts in a dry pan until they were golden brown and added them at the end after the blending just as it calls for with the pistachios. I didn’t really measure, just used the whole package.

I also realized once I was all done and molded into bowls that I had forgotten to add the lemon juice, but I didn’t want to try to hand mix that in or re-blend it and lose the whole pine nuts into the mush. It wasn’t vital. Your mileage may vary.

The result was not pretty. It was a grey lump. It might have looked nicer if I had some kind of fancier mold instead of just a metal mixing bowl. It was prettier in cross section, though.

Reactions from my coworkers were mixed. I solicited their feedback and prepared a chart. My sister may have mentioned that she has one nerdy brother and one artistic brother. Guess which one I am…

Reactions to Selmas Chicken Liver Pate

Here’s my thoughts on improvements to the recipe:

  • Don’t quadruple it. Find something else to do with ¾ of a pound of chicken livers. Nobody wants that much pate.
  • As I noted before, you definitely don’t need that much butter. For a single recipe, I wouldn’t go over a single stick. Probably only a half stick.
  •  It definitely could take some additional spice beyond what the seasoned salt provides. A heavy hand with some coarse black pepper would have been a good start, as one of my coworkers noted. It is very sweet and rich so additional spice would have helped balance it.
  • The lemon juice that I forgot might have also helped balance the sweetness with some acid. Cider vinegar would work well as a substitute there and would give a different flavor profile.
  • Some kind of final add-in – like the nuts – is definitely necessary to provide contrasting texture. You could get fun with this. Chopped cornichons, different kinds of nuts (if that’s your thing), coarsely-chopped hard boiled eggs (in addition to or subbed in for part of the blended-in ones), capers, chives, crispy bacon bits…you could really change it up with your choice of accessories.

Thanks, Sis, for the recipe and the opportunity to share it with your audience. (Thanks, Greg, for doing this!)

Selma's Chicken Liver Pate


Pumpkin Muffins

In which my children consume mass quantities of muffins.

If you accidentally used a big can of pumpkin while making the pumpkin pies I posted about on Tuesday, you probably have a some leftover pumpkin sitting in a plastic container in your fridge and are trying to figure out what you want to do with it.  Let me help you.  Pumpkin muffins.  DSCN3409.JPGI have made many, many versions of pumpkin muffins over the years.  They are one of my kids’ all time favorite treats.  We cheat and substitute the raisins with chocolate chips.  My kids tend to not prefer raisins.  And there are only so many times a week that I can put them into something before someone starts to complain.  (Wait until we get into the sour cream raisin pie and the raisin sauce and raisin dumplings.) They never have the same reaction to chocolate chips for some strange reason.


I caught the little monkey girl at the counter multiple times with a butter knife in her hand popping the muffins out of the pan.  There is something so enticing about the fun color, the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg, and the meltiness of the chocolate chips.  When the boys were little, they ate nearly an entire dozen for breakfast one morning.DSCN3410.JPGYou get what I’m saying, right?  There are lots of reasons to make pumpkin muffins other than leftover pumpkin.  You know, like you like good food, you are hungry, a good song comes on the radio and you want to dance in the kitchen, but feel like you should be productive at the same time, or you want to reward your husband for investigating the gross dead animal smell in the basement (and want to cover up the smell).  DSCN3414Whatever the reason…or for none at all.  Make a batch of pumpkin muffins with chocolate chips.  Leave the raisins for other things.  Pumpkin Muffins



Caramel Corn

In which I am “pop”arazzi.

Sometimes I make recipes and they sit in my backlog languishing there.  Sometimes it’s because the photos aren’t great.  Sometimes it’s because the recipe wasn’t that great.  Sometimes it’s because it’s so similar to something else that I feel like we all might need a little space.  Sometimes I’m just not inspired, or feel like I should remake it.  Then there are other times where I make a recipe and immediately want to share it because it was so amazing…or in this case because I downloaded the pictures from my camera and realized that my photos are WAY better than the recipe.DSCN3186.JPGThe table runner was one of my Grandma’s.  It seems seasonally appropriate and it makes me smile.DSCN3191.JPGWe air-popped rainbow colored popcorn for the popcorn.DSCN3188.JPGThe teacup is an amazing piece of Wedgwood that I found at Goodwill with 2 saucers for less than $3.  They matched another saucer I found at a different thrift shop for 60 cents.

The caramel color of this is so light because it uses white sugar and light corn syrup.  Despite getting up to temperature, nothing caramelized enough to get to that point of golden we normally see in caramel corn. This recipe was fine.  It was what it was, but seriously, check out those photos.

Caramel Corn

Caramel Corn

1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp butter
1 tsp soda

Boil the first 5 ingredients together until 290 degrees.  Add baking soda and mix well.  Pour over popped corn and stir until well coated.

Halloween Treats: Popcorn Balls

“John, do we have any pumpkin left in the freezer?” I called from my secure place on the couch.  Unless it had somehow turned into something that resembled apples, he was pretty sure we didn’t.  “Maybe downstairs?” he suggested.  I decided that was WAY too much effort.  Instead, I just scrolled through all of the recipes searching for a perfect Halloween treat.  We were about to have a group of tweens and early teens descend upon our house for pumpkin carving and bonfire, so I figured it was the perfect time to test out one of 4 popcorn ball recipes.

My friend’s mom made the pumpkin in the background. It’s handmade paper.

Does anyone even still eat popcorn balls?  I remember getting the ones as a kid, they were rock hard, but at the same time were sort of like Styrofoam.  Maybe making my own would be better.
img_2865Now for the scary stuff before we get into this too far.  Sugar syrup is HOT and STICKY.  This means, if you are not careful, not only could you burn yourself, but it’s hard to remove the heat from your skin quickly.  If you don’t remove the old maids (unpopped kernels) from the popcorn, you may run into some pain.  If you have dental work, the syrup will harden and stick in your dental work.img_2867

The mechanics of this are simple. Pop the corn and have it in a large bowl. Boil the syrup ingredients together until they reach the hard ball stage, 260 degrees. Pour the syrup over the popped corn and mix thoroughly.  Before the syrup becomes hard, but after it’s cool enough to handle, grab handfuls of the popcorn and pack it like you would a snowball.  If you have never packed a snowball, then maybe like a really large meatball.  If you haven’t done that either, then I’ll explain.  First you need to stand on one foot.  Now take that other foot and slowly place it behind your head.  As you are spinning in a circle, put enough popcorn in one hand to fill it.  Then take your other hand and place it on top of the hand with the popcorn in it, covering the popcorn.  Now, as you say the magic words, “Pop, pop, until you stop, stop.  I’ve got to hop, hop” pat your hands together.  Magically a ball will form.  (and if you do this, please post a video in the comments)

This photo was really just to show off the needle felted acorns I made.
Popcorn Balls (4)

Popcorn Balls

1 cup Karo Syrup (Corn syrup)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup water
1 t. vinegar

Boil together until the temperature reaches 260 degrees (hard ball stage).  Add 2 TB butter, Stir until butter has melted, Pour over about 4 quarts of popcorn (about 2 batches in our air popper).  Mix until coated and form into balls.