Thursday, July 26, 2012

Where's the beef? (You won't miss it, I promise!)

Lord knows I am not a vegetarian or vegan, though I probably should be. Unfortunately, I love a ribeye beyond what is reasonable and good for me. But for health's sake, we have been trying to achieve a small amount of balance by committing one night a week (usually Meatless Monday) to a dinner without meat as the starring attraction. So infrequently vegetarian is about as far as I usually go. But my college friend and former roomie, Vicki, recently posted a picture on Facebook of a vegan salad that she made from a blog called "Oh She Glows." And though it was a raw salad with no animal products of any kind, and I am a passionate carnivore, it seduced my imagination.

I thought about it off and on for weeks until I finally got brave enough to try it, and I am very sorry that I waited as long as I did. It was DELICIOUS, and I swear, if you served it to someone and didn't tell them it was vegan, they would never know! Of course, I added crushed tortilla chips to the top of mine and some leftover roasted corn cut from the cob, so my salad wasn't raw. Plus, I also added some shredded cheese, so it wasn't vegan, either. Still, I did make a taco "meat" from walnuts, and the sour "cream" from cashews and lemon juice, and they were both yummy! And the leftovers made awesome nachos, too. Even if vegan dishes frighten you a bit, I urge you to try this one. You and your family will love it, and so will your healthful bodies!

Layered Raw Taco Salad for Two
(Source: Oh She Glows)
Don’t let the long ingredient list put you off; the entire recipe takes about 30 minutes or so. Feel free to adapt this salad depending on what you have in your kitchen.

Walnut Taco Meat
Yield: scant 1/2 cup
1/2 cup walnuts, soaked for 2-8 hours
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
fine grain sea salt, to taste (I added a teaspoon of taco seasoning and skipped the salt)
cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

Nut Cream Sauce
Yield: 1 heaping cup
1 cup macadamia (or cashew) nuts, soaked in water for 2-8 hours
11-12 tablespoons water (use as needed to achieve desired consistency)
2-3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, to taste
fine grain sea salt, to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon)

3-Minute Guacamole:
Yield: 3/4 cup
1 large ripe avocado
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 small tomato, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin (I would omit this, as it makes the guac brownish)
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
scant 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste

Other salad ingredients:
  • greens of choice
  • salsa
  • green onion (optional)
  • crackers or tortilla chips (but then it's not raw)
  • cheese (but then it's not vegan)
  • corn (but then it's not raw)
  • beans (ditto)
Taco meat: In a food processor (or by hand), pulse (or chop) the ingredients until combined. Make sure to leave the walnuts chunky. Remove and set aside.

Cream sauce: Drain and rinse the soaked nuts. Add them into a processor and process. Stream in about 1/2 cup water and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice. Add more water as needed to achieve your desired consistency. The nut sauce should be super smooth and not grainy. Add salt to taste.

Guacamole: In a medium-sized bowl, mash the avocado flesh with a fork, leaving some chunks. Stir in the chopped tomato, red onion, lime juice, and seasonings to taste.

To assemble: (per bowl) Add a hefty base of greens in a large bowl followed by a heaping 1/4 cup scoop of guacamole in the middle. Spoon on 2 tablespoons of salsa over the greens followed by half of the taco meat. Add a couple tablespoons of cream into a plastic baggie, snip off end, and pipe over top the taco meat. Garnish with a chopped green onion and leftover chopped tomato and red onion. Place a few crackers or crushed tortila chips into the salad before serving.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Eating cheese by the lake...yes, please!

Last week, my cousin Mandi contacted me and asked if Cyd and I had any plans for Sunday. I thought maybe she and her wife, Ashley, might be returning to Plattsburgh to visit our Tar-ghay, as they don't have one near them in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. But as it turns out, they had two extra tickets to the Vermont Cheesemakers Festival ("Blessed are the cheesemakers!") at Shelburne Farms. Can you believe that I've lived here for 12 years, and I've never been to Shelburne Farms? And this certainly seemed like the best of excuses; eating local artisan cheeses by the lake AND I get to see my beloved cousin, her wife, and their PRECIOUS baby, Andy, whom I've never met in person? Count me in!

It was a delightful day, despite being very hot and extremely crowded. And such a GLORIOUS setting along beautiful Lake Champlain! By the end of the day, we had spent way too much money, and had acquired approximately five pounds of various regional cheeses (=14 kinds!), one tub of sundried tomato and artichoke tzatziki, one jar of vanilla bean goat's milk caramel, five containers of artisan vanilla yogurt, and one bottle of ice wine. And honestly, I had tasted SO MUCH cheese--and I never thought I'd say this--if I had to eat one more even wafer-thin piece of cheese, I might have hurled. ;-)

Another fun thing about the event was that there were cooking demonstrations. One showed folks how to make ricotta/paneer/queso fresco. And another was about cooking with cheese, hosted by our favorite Healthy Living Market in Burlington. The chef prepared several dishes, but the one we all got to sample was a cheesy corn polenta topped with heirloom tomatoes. So seasonal and absolutely DELISH! So of course, I had to come right home and make it for myself. I think I even improved upon it a little (don't tell the chef!). In fact, Cyd raved about it, and she claims to not even like polenta! This is a great recipe to make at this time of year, to take advantage of the wonderful corn and tomatoes. And it's quick and easy, too!

Triple Corn Herbed Polenta with Marinated Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes
(Source: adapted from Healthy Living Market, Burlington, VT)

3 large ears sweet corn, boiled/grilled/microwaved just until tender, then kernels cut from the cob and reserved
5 cups corn stock* (or a quart of milk plus a cup of water or 2 cups milk + 2 cups buttermilk + 1 cup water)
1 cup polenta
1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
1/4 cup basil, chopped salt and pepper, to taste
3/4 cup Tarantaise (or your favorite hard, slightly sharp Alpine cheese such as: Gruyère, Comté, Emmental, or Beaufort), grated
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup chives, chopped

If you wish to make corn stock, cut the corn cobs into quarters, and add them and a few pieces of the cheese rind to the milk and water mixture in a stock pot over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes. Strain out the cobs and rinds, then proceed.

Or just bring milk and water to a boil, then slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly. Once the polenta comes back to a boil, turn it down to a low simmer. Whisking frequently so that it doesn't clump or scorch, cook the polenta until it looks like a thick, creamy porridge and the grains are completely tender, about 20-25 minutes.

While the polenta is cooking, halve the cherry tomatoes, drizzle them with olive oil and balsamic, and gently toss in the minced garlic and chopped basil. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside to marinate.

When the polenta has finished cooking, remove from the heat, then whisk in the cheese. Fold in the reserved corn, the chopped parsley and chives, and some salt and pepper. Serve immediately, topped with a big spoonful or two of the marinated cherry tomatoes.

OH, and LOOK whose cheese I sampled! (I should have bought some to see if they wrapped the package in brown paper tied up with string. Tee hee.)

And I have one more recipe to share...something I found on Pinterest, naturally. I had yet to send a gift after Andy was born, because I wanted to make him some homemade baby food. I saw this great pin with instructions for making different fruit flavors of applesauce. I made five pints each of strawberry and blueberry, but I lost steam before I got to peach. So maybe I'll make a batch of that later, and perhaps some blackberry and/or raspberry, too, and save it until the next time I see them...hopefully very soon!

Applesauce Fruit Blends
(Source: adapted from Family Feed Bag via Pinterest)
Yield: I got give pints for each recipe

Blueberry Applesauce:
5 lbs. apples, cored, quartered (skins on)
2 cups blueberries
2-4 cups water*

Strawberry Applesauce:
5 lbs apples, cored, quartered (skins on)
3 cups strawberries, hulled
2-4 cups water*

Peach Applesauce:
5 lbs apples, cored, quartered (skins on)
2 lbs. peaches, pitted, sliced (skins on)
2-4 cups water*

bottled lemon juice

*The amount of water is variable depending on whether you like a thicker or thinner applesauce. Generally, you want the water to come about halfway up the fruit.

For each recipe, combine the fruit and water in a large stock pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and stir occasionally while the sauce simmers, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Each sauce is then ladled into a chinois (I used my tomato press!) and pressed using the wooden dowel. The sauce could also be pressed through a mesh sieve or run through a food processor, skins and all. The sauce is then ladled into clean jars with a teaspoon and half of lemon juice added to each, leaving a half inch of head room.

Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth, and secure the lids in place with the bands. Process the jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Let cool for 24 hours to make sure they seal before labelling and then storing in a cool, dry place.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Best Dishes of 2012: Mid-Year Report

From an assortment of Pinterest losers to two of the BEST things I've made all year, even though it's only July! The first is the easiest Asian noodle dish topped with whatever fresh, delicious ingredients that your heart desires.

Spicy Thai Noodles
(Source: A Small Snippet via Pinterest)

1 pound box linguine (I used fettucine)
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper, more or less (to taste)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
6 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce, optional
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

cooked/peeled shrimp
green onions, sliced
carrots, shredded
radishes, sliced thinly
snow peas
chopped peanuts (I used honey roasted)
cilantro leaves, chopped (1/4 to 1/2 cup for the whole batch)

Cook the noodles according to package instructions. Drain and cool.

Heat the vegetable oil with the red pepper flakes for two minutes over medium heat. Strain out the pepper and reserve the oil. Add the toasted sesame oil. Whisk in the honey, soy sauce, fish sauce (if using), garlic and ginger. Toss this mixture with the drained and cooled noodles, then chill for about four hours, or preferably, overnight.

Before serving, top each portion of noodles with any or all of the toppings suggested. Serve cold.

The spicy noodles are GOOD, but the next recipe is the over-the-top winner, especially now that the tomato season is in full swing. I pinned this one months ago, but I knew better than to make it right away with substandard, off-season tomatoes. My patience was rewarded a hundredfold, especially as I decided to add some fresh, local corn roasted and cut from the cob. WOW!! Admittedly, this dish is a little involved with several stages and quite a few steps, but soooooooooooooo worth your while. TRUST ME on this!

Spaghetti in Garlic Gravy with Herb-and-Lemon Marinated Chicken, Roasted Corn, and Cherry Tomatoes
(Source: Adapted from Goddess of Scrumptiousness via Pinterest)

1 pound spaghetti pasta (cooked al dente)
1 pound chicken breast fillets (skinless and boneless, sliced into 1 inch chunks)
For the chicken marinade:
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped (if using dried, use half of the amount)
zest of one lemon
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt (not table salt)
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (to sauté the marinated chicken)

Add all the marinade ingredients into the chicken and marinate for 20 minutes (if making this dish in pronto) or over night (if making this dish the next day… much better). Saute the marinated chicken in extra virgin olive oil until cooked (about 4-5 minutes) then set aside.

For the garlic gravy:
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup parsley, chopped (to sprinkle/finish the pasta)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 cups whole cherry tomatoes

3 small ears of corn, roasted in their husks at 375 degrees for 25 minutes then cut from the cob, optional

Place sauté pan over medium heat and add butter and olive oil. Saute garlic until fragrant and soft. Add the flour and cook for a minute. Add chicken stock and simmer gravy until thickened then add the chopped basil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the sauteed chicken in the gravy then toss the cooked spaghetti into this sauce. Add the cherry tomatoes and roasted corn (if using) and finish the dish with the chopped parsley and grated parmesan cheese (serve extra on the side).

Makes 5-6 servings.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pinterest, how I love you! (Pinterest, how I hate you!)

As a recent, reluctant Pinterest joiner, I have a love-hate relationship with the newest, hottest social media site. I stayed away as long as I could for two main reasons: 1) Because it seemed like yet ANOTHER huge online time suck that would keep me from getting off the couch and going out into the world to make it a better place, and 2) it seemed like the next step in the degeneration of reading and actual conversation (from long-form blogging, to Facebook, to 140 character tweets, and finally, to online picture books like those that amuse toddlers!).
But eventually, I cracked under the peer pressure and checked it out. And I must say, it has been the source of much inspiration, especially in the kitchen. However, what I need to remember is that, unlike Facebook, where I am mainly interacting with my peers and people who know me, like me, and like stuff that I like, Pinterest has you interact mostly with strangers--people who may have tastes that are very dissimilar to yours--so you may end up making some unappealing things that many other pinners rave about.

Another love-hate thing about Pinterest is, even though I haven't posted any of my own recipes there yet, I was shocked and delighted to find that others had posted stuff from this blog. Imagine scrolling through the pins and thinking, "Hey! I took that picture! Wait a minute, that's the Chili's chicken enchilada soup copycat that I created!" Fun, right? That is, until strangers feel comfortable saying harshly critical things to you about your recipe. I don't care for that. Of course, I anticipate some blowback when I put myself out there publicly, but repinning and repinning something creates more distance and anonymity from the original author, and that seems to give people license to be mean. Boo hiss. Ok, climbing down off of my soapbox now...

My point is, and I do have one, sometimes the recipes that I pin to try and then subsequently make turn out fantastic, and some are just...meh. For one example, I recently made something called Meatball Bubble Bread. It's basically a prefab meatball and a cube of cheese wrapped in a canned biscuit, sprinkled with herbs and cheese, and baked. Then you dunk them in marinara sauce. Sounds easy and yummy, right? Easy, yes. Yummy?'s not that they tasted bad or anything. They tasted like a prefab meatball baked in a biscuit. My roomie's review: "Ehh. It is what is is." That pretty much hit the nail on the proverbial head. Maybe kids with undeveloped palates would dig it. Also, I had to bake them much longer than the recipe called for until they were no longer doughy, so they got too dark on the top. If you make these--and I don't recommend it--you might want to cover the pan with foil once the bread is golden

Another recipe along these lines was something cheerfully called Funeral Sandwiches, or perhaps Ham and Cheese Sliders would be better. I guess people take them to funerals because they're easy and makes a whole pan full of little sammies all at once. So you slice a package of King's Hawaiian rolls in half (leaving them all connected), then layer on Swiss cheese and ham slices, then put the top layer on, then mix up this sauce made of butter, onions, Worcestershire sauce, and dijon mustard. Your pour the stuff over the sandwiches (alternately, put half of the sauce inside the sandwiches and the other half on top), cover, and bake for 20 minutes until the sauce gets absorbed and the cheese melts. Then you cut them up into little sliders. Again, sounds easy and fun. Again, underwhelming result. The sauce didn't absorb all the way, so the sandwiches were a little soggy. The flavor was okay, though, and it certainly fed us quickly when I got home late on a work night. But I wouldn't take them to events to share with others...unless, once again, those others were kids who might find the little sandwiches fun to eat.

The last Pinterest disappointment was a little more successful, but I still don't think make it again as is. I have a sweet friend, Kym, who recently gave me a big box full of zucchini and summer squash, so I wanted to return the gift with something made from the bounty of her garden. Kym is multi-talented, and she is doing a short run of performances in the hilarious musical, "Nunsense" as a scholarship fundraiser at a local vineyard. So for opening night tonight, instead of taking her flowers, I took a loaf of lemon blueberry zucchini bread! I hope she thought it was a nice gesture, although my glaze turned out too runny to set up properly, and the texture of the cake itself was too heavy and wet, almost (cellulose) spongey. The flavor was very good, though. It probably just needed more flour or something. Damn you, Pinterest (she screams, shaking her fist at the sky)!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Road Trip: Craftsbury Antiques & Uniques

My friend Vicky invited me to a "Antiques and Uniques" show in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont today (Craftsbury, to be precise). It was a beautiful drive over, which took us about two hours through the twisty, gloriously verdant back roads of the Green Mountain State. When we arrived, we met up with our friend, Rita. She and her husband were selling Adirondack pack baskets that Scott makes, furniture that they had refinished and wanted to "flip" (they billed themselves as The Sciota Pickers..ha ha), and also lovely homemade soaps that Rita makes and sells to raise money for an uninsured friend with a life-threatening illness and steep medical bills.

We spent the day browsing through all the tents and booths. I bought a lovely pair of handmade earrings and, more importantly, a blueberry ice cream cone because it was A THOUSAND DEGREES outside and the pale gingers like myself were wilting in the heat! We also did a brief walking tour of Sterling College, a very small, progressive liberal arts college that emphasizes environmentalism and grassroots sustainability. It is also one of only seven work-learning-service colleges in the U.S., where all students work and perform community service and earn part of their tuition. Quite fascinating! At one point, as Vicky was grilling a couple of students on their educational experience at Sterling, I noticed a rack of bikes that were there for students to borrow at will and return when they were finished. Then I wandered into the cafeteria and saw a map on the wall of the state with pins and string marking the farms where their food products came from. Awesome, eh?

After our visit to Sterling, to get a break from the heat, we popped into the little art gallery/internet cafe in town. (The only downside to charming Craftsbury that I could detect was their appalling lack of cell service and wifi!) In addition to my ice cream earlier, seasonal blueberries remained the food motif of the day. At the Art House Cafe, I had a superb vegan blueberry smoothie made with soy milk and sweetened with honey. YUM!

Then we walked over to the little Craftsbury farmer's market, where we sampled such local and ethnically diverse goodies as Indian Pudding and Michelle's Spicy Kimchi. The kimchi was particularly outstanding, so Vicky decided to buy a jar, and naturally, I decided to come home and make my own! I had planned to make kimchi last year when I was on my lacto-fermentation kick, but after making a bunch of sauerkraut, I was sick of cabbage, and the only kimchi I could muster up was cucumber-based. I had even ordered a bag of authentic Korean red chili flakes direct from Seoul (via eBay) that I still had in the cupboard. So with Sandor Katz' fermentation bible in hand, I bravely prepared my first small batch of the spicy Korean condiment. Here was my process:

Cabbage (Baechu) Kimchi
(adapted from Wild Fermentation)

3 pounds Napa cabbage, washed, cored, and cut into one-inch squares (or shredded)
1 very large daikon radish, peeled and sliced or shredded
6 carrots, scrubbed and fairly thinly sliced
6 tablespoons canning salt
6 cups water
1 bunch (about 8) baby leeks or scallions, sliced on the bias
1/2 large onion, small dice
12 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (adjust to taste)
1/2 cup grated ginger root (peeled)
1/2 cup Korean red pepper flakes, more or less
1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce (without preservatives), optional
3 teaspoons sugar

You should start by washing and soaking your cabbage in cold water for a couple/few hours. Then peel, cut, chop, slice and/or shred the cabbage, radish and carrots. Dissolve the canning salt in the water, and cover the vegetables with the brine. Loosely cover and leave overnight in a cool corner of the kitchen. The next day, drain and reserve a little of the brine, and then rinse the salted vegetables at least three times. Taste it. It shouldn't taste too salty nor salt-less. (I ended up having to rinse mine twice more for a total of five times until it tasted pleasantly seasoned.) Squeeze out as much excess water from the brined veggies as you can manage. 

Now cut and chop everything else that you wish to add to your kimchi. I used a bunch of baby leeks, half an onion that was rattling around on the counter, a whole huge head of garlic, and three fingers of ginger. You are supposed to mix the garlic, ginger, chili and fish sauce into a paste and then mix the paste into the veggies, but I can't imagine why. I just threw everything into the big bucket along with a little sugar to jump start the fermentation, mixed it all by hand, and called it good.

Then pack the  into clean jars, pressing it down tightly until the juice oozes up over the veggies. If it doesn't, then add a little of the reserved brine on top. Leave some head room to allow for expansion during fermentation*. You're supposed to weight down the kimchi with a smaller jar, a clean rock, or a baggie of water or brine. But I am going to check on it every day and re-submerge the kimchi manually. I plan to leave it out at room temperature, loosely covered, for just two days, but some people go 4-5 days, or up to a week. I suspect that would make kimchi that is too sour for my personal tastes. But you'll know it's "done" when it tastes ripe enough to suit you. Then you store it in the fridge from that point on. It will keep fermenting, but at a much slower rate. They say it keeps for three weeks, but I suspect it would fine for much longer than that...IF you don't eat it all before then, that is!

Follow-up: When I checked on the kimchi the next day, I knew it was working because it was rising and overflowing the jars like yeasted bread dough! So do heed the tip about leaving enough head room in your jars, or you'll have kimchi threatening to explode all over your kitchen like I did. By the following morning, when I came downstairs, the aroma of fermented cabbage wafted up to greet me, and I knew it was done enough for my preferences. So I packed up a smaller jar to take to my kimchi-loving colleague at school, and tucked the other two quarts in the fridge.

Now...what will I make with them? Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chicken Casserole for the Soul (and Body)

One of my dearest friends has a sweet little old mom who lives with her that I also adore. Evelyn loves to cook and bake, and she often has Lee Ann bring special treats to the office for me. But Evelyn and Lee Ann have recently had it rough, as Evelyn had to spend some time in the hospital, and is now facing a lengthy recuperation at home. I tried to help out a little by taking Lee Ann's daughters on a couple of outings, and I also took over dinner for them one night.

As Lee Ann and her mom are from Ohio, I figured some hearty midwestern fare might soothe Evelyn's body and spirit. I found a recipe for a cheesy chicken and wild rice casserole from Picky Palate on Pinterest that looked like it would do the trick. And the great thing about this dish is that it is so filling and makes so much, that it will easily feed Lee Ann's family of five for at least two days. To make it a little more nutritious, I peeled (to fool the children!) and shredded a medium zucchini and threw that into the mix, and I also added some sliced almonds on top for texture and visual appeal.

And I came up with another great idea for transforming the leftovers. This casserole works perfectly as a soup starter. The second day, just add chicken broth to desired consistency, heat through, and finish with a good shot of cream or milk, and PRESTO, cream of chicken and wild rice soup! You should really consider this recipe the next time you want to drop something off for a sick friend, a new mother, or after a funeral. Just make it in a disposable aluminum baking pan, and you're all set.

For dessert, I made yet another item that I had pinned, something called Snickerdoodle Bread. It's basically just a cinnamon quick loaf, but it was very good and so homey and comforting. In fact, Lee Ann told me that Evelyn ate a piece of that first--before dinner! Tee hee. This bakes up nicely and packages easily for transport. I'm sure it would also freeze beautifully if need be.

Cheesy Chicken and Wild Rice Casserole
(Source: Picky Palate)

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 cups shredded, cooked chicken breast
2 cups steamed white rice
16 oz prepared wild rice (or prepare it yourself ahead of time--I used a package of Bob's red Mill brown and wild rice blend)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1 zucchini or yellow squash, shredded, optional

Cheese sauce:
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Top with 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese and a big handful of sliced almonds, if you like

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat oil into a medium dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Saute onion, celery and carrots (and squash, if using) until softened, about ten minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for one minute. Stir in chicken, both rices, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Reduce heat to low.
2. To prepare cheese sauce melt butter into a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper then slowly pour in chicken broth whisking continuously. Whisk until thick and nearly boiling then stir in cheese until melted. Pour cheese sauce into rice mixture then transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish. Top with additional cheddar cheese and bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese is melted through. Serve.

8-10 servings

Snickerdoodle Bread
(Source: Barbara Bakes)

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1 cup butter, softened
2 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup cinnamon chips (1 pkg. Hershey’s)
2 T. flour

2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Combined 2 1/2 cups flour and baking powder in a bowl. In a separate bowl, cream butter and two cups sugar, salt and cinnamon until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla and sour cream and mix to combined. Add flour mixture stirring until just combined. Coat the cinnamon chips with two tablespoons of flour and stir into batter.

Spoon batter into four/five greased mini loaf pans (5 3/4 x 3 1/4 x 2 1/4. Don’t fill more than 2/3 full.) Combined two tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of batter in the pans. Bake at 350º for 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a crack in the center of the loaf comes clean.

Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Note: You can also make this in two 9×5 loaf pans. Bake at 350º for 60 to 70 minutes until a toothpick inserted into a crack in the center of the loaf comes clean.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Your local farm stand beckons...make haste!

Even though I still have a few quarts of last year's pickles, it's getting to that point in the season where I can't be trusted at the farm stand. If it looks good, I'll buy it and pickle it! This is especially true when they have smaller cukes suitable for making cornichons, those little French mustard pickles. (Well, they weren't really that small, but I have them the cornichon treatment nonetheless!) These turned out delicious--the only recipe that might rival my favorite garlic dills!

(Source: adapted from Epicurious via All Four Burners)
Makes 12 pints

120 to 144 very small pickling cucumbers (more or less, depending on size)
6 cups white vinegar
6 cups water
6 tablespoons canning salt (do not substitute other types of salt)
12 teaspoons (4T) dried mustard seeds
6 teaspoons (2T) dried dill seeds
6 teaspoons (2T) dried tarragon leaves (though fresh sprigs would have been better!)
3 teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
72 black peppercorns
12 cloves of peeled garlic

Scrub each cucumber clean. Cut the blossom end from each cucumber. Soak them overnight in the fridge.

The next day, combine vinegar, water, and salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Place one teaspoon mustard seeds, 1/2 teaspoon dill seeds, 1/2 teaspoon tarragon leaves, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, about six peppercorns, and a clove of garlic into each jar. Pack in cucumbers. Pour boiling vinegar mixture over cucumbers to within 1/2 inch of rim. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Store in a dark, cool place undisturbed for at least one week (preferably, a month).

While you're at the farmer's market or farm stand, I have a few more things to add to your shopping list. I'm not sure what's happening in your area, but we're coming to the tail end of the garlic scapes (or ramps, if you prefer). If they are still available in your neck o' the woods, snap some up, and along with fresh herbs and other good things, you can make an OUTSTANDING green goddess dressing! For dinner tonight, we had wonderful entree salads made with lovely local and organic butter lettuces, local spring onions, radishes (yet another treat from dear friend Jaymie's CSA basket!), yellow cherry tomatoes, grilled sirloin, garlic and butter croutons, and the homemade garlicky green goddess dressing. YUM YUM YUM!

Garlic Scape Green Goddess Dressing
(Source: This is my own recipe creation, but idea credit goes to my fabulous friend, Carl!)

Combine the following in a food processor, thin with a little water if necessary, drizzle and serve.

1/2 bunch parsley
6 sprigs of dill
1 cup chives
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 anchovies
1 cup mayonnaise
1 avocado
8 garlic scapes
4 large spring onions
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Pinterest Palatables...

So I finally took the plunge and got involved with Pinterest. As I feared, it's a HUGE time suck, plus it compels me to cook even more than I normally do! But I must confess, there are lots of tempting recipes to try that I have pinned on my boards, and here are just two of them:

(Crock Pot) Sausage and Lentil Soup
(Source: adapted from via Pinterest)

1/2 pound sweet Italian sausage (I used chorizo)
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped (I used two)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic (I chopped up some garlic scapes and threw those in as well)
1 (16 ounce) package dry lentils, rinsed
1 cup shredded carrot
8 cups water (I cut this to 6)
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 pound ditalini pasta (optional--I used cooked elbows that I added to each serving)

Place sausage in a large pot. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Add onion, celery and chopped garlic, and saute until tender and translucent. Stir in lentils, carrot, water, chicken broth and tomatoes. Season with garlic powder, parsley, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, basil, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Cover, and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until lentils are tender*.
Stir in pasta, and cook 15 to 20 minutes, or until pasta is tender.   

*I cooked the soup in the crock pot for about eight hours. I reduced the water by two cups, and I boiled the pasta separately and just added some to each bowl.

No matter how hearty the soup, my roommate never feels that it is substantive enough to consider a meal. So I also made these quick-and-easy parmesan garlic knots out of refrigerator biscuits. They aren't as good as real rolls, of course, but they are pretty decent if you're short on time and/or energy.

Easy Parmesan Knots
(Source: Real Mom Kitchen via Pinterest)

1 tube (12 ounces) refrigerated buttermilk biscuits
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

1. Roll each biscuit into a 12-in. rope and tie into a knot; tuck ends under. Place 2 in. apart on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

2. In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients; brush the warm knots with the mixture.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

More delicious brunchiness....

After I posted a picture of the quiche that I made last weekend on Facebook, my friend Jay shared the "recipe" and methodology for his signature frittata. As we are still trying to use up things from Jaymie's CSA share (can you believe it?), I sort of went my own way with Jay's frittata. But I came up with was full-on DELICIOUS! However, unless you don't mind waiting for a couple of hours for your brunch, I strongly suggest that you do much of the prep the night before--i.e. caramelizing the onions, sauteeing the other veggies, and cooking the potatoes. Then you can easily assemble and bake the frittata when you get up the next day. Or it would make a lovely, light, summer dinner, too!

Caramelized Onion, Garlic Scape, Swiss Chard and Potato Frittata with Farmer's Cheese and Chives
(Inspiration: Jay Dean Lenn)

3 tablespoons olive oil, divded
2 tablespoons butter
2 large onions, cut in half and sliced
sprigs of fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
4 large stalks of Swiss chard, stems removed and chopped, leaves sliced/slivered
4 garlic scapes, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 medium potatoes, microwaved for 9 or 10 minutes) until tender, peeled, and sliced
10 eggs
1/2 cup grated hard cheese like Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago (I used Parrano Reserve)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup soft cheese, such as farmer's or chevre
2 tablespoons chopped chives

In a 12-inch skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil along with the butter and cook the onions with the springs of fresh thyme for 45-minutes to an hour over medium-low heat until medium golden brown. Remove from pan (leaving the oil behind and throwing away the thyme stems) and set aside. Add the chopped chard stems and garlic scapes and saute for about ten minutes or until tender. Remove chard stems and scapes from pan (leaving the oil behind) and reserve. Throw the slivered chard leaves into the pan and cook for a few minutes, until wilted. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for another couple of minutes to reduce the vinegar a little.

Meanwhile, pierce the potatoes with the tip of a sharp knife and microwave until tender, about ten minutes. Let cool enough to handle, peel, slice, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Whisk together ten eggs with a couple of pinches of salt and a good pinch of black pepper. Also whisk in the grated hard cheese, then the cooked veggies.

Add the last tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet, then pour in the egg mixture, cover and cook over medium-low heat until almost set, about ten minutes. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 500 degrees on broiling mode. When the eggs are almost done, place the skillet in the oven and broil for about five minutes, until the frittata is puffed and a little browned.

Remove frittata from the oven (turning off the heat) and top with soft cheese. Optionally, you may place the whole thing back in the oven for a couple of minutes to soften the cheese. Let the frittata cool and set for ten minutes or so before garnishing with snips of fresh chives, slicing into eight portions, and serving, perhaps with a simple salad on the side.

And then, of course, what brunch would be complete without a sweet treat? I first saw these muffins in a King Arthur email some time ago, and I was reminded of them recently on Pinterest. They really do taste like a glazed cake doughnut! YUM! Plus, they are very simple and quick to make--and I'll bet you already have all of the ingredients on hand. So why are you still sitting here surfing the internet? Get thee to the kitchen and make these muffins at once!

Glazed Doughnut Muffins
(Source: King Arthur Flour by way of  My Baking Addiction)

For the Batter:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground nutmeg, or to taste
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup milk

For the Glaze:
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons hot water

1) Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin tin. Or line with 12 paper muffin cups (I got 17 muffins!), and grease the cups with non-stick vegetable oil spray; this will ensure that they peel off the muffins nicely.
2) In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars till smooth.
3) Add the eggs, beating to combine.
4) Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.
5) Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.
6) Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared pan, filling the cups nearly full.
7) Bake the muffins for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they’re a pale golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the middle of one of the center muffins comes out clean.
8.) In a medium bowl, prepare the glaze by mixing together the melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and water. Whisk until smooth.
9.) When muffins have cooled slightly, dip the muffin crown into the glaze and allow the glaze to harden. At this point, you can leave them as is or go for the double dip. I glazed my muffins twice. (This required a batch and a half of the glaze.)
10.) Serve warm, or cool on a rack and store in plastic container with a lid. Muffins will keep at room temperature for about a day.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Happy Belated Independence Day, or Barbecuing without Barbecuing

We didn't go anywhere or do anything special for the Fourth of July, because Cyd wasn't feeling very well, but that didn't stop me from making a kick-ass, pork-tacular holiday feast without taking one step outside. (I am an indoor dweller if I have my druthers--nocturnal and sparkly, like a Cullen.) However, we didn't eat this fine meal until today when my roomie had more of an appetite. And it was definitely a celebration worth waiting for!

Bacon Ranch Macaroni Salad

1 lb. small shells, cooked according to package, drained and cooled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chipotle ranch dressing
1 tablespoon sweet and spicy mustard
1 tablespoon cider vinegar, optional (I like things tangy!)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground celery
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon zucchini relish
1 tablespoon chopped pickled jalapenos
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons finely-chopped cooked bacon (smoky!)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
salt, to taste

Combine all of the above ingredients and chill overnight.

Baked Beans Fit for the Fourth (or the Fifth!)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 medium sweet pepper (any color you prefer), seeded and diced
2 (smallish) links chorizo
1 can baked beans (I prefer Bush's)
1 can chili beans (in sauce)
1 can butter beans, drained
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (your favorite)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
8 slices bacon, cut into sixths

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, then sautee the onion, pepper, and chorizo until the veggies are tender. Stir in everything else (except the bacon), and pour into a sprayed 9x13 baking dish. Top with the bacon pieces and bake for about two hours at 325F or until the bacon is suitably browned and the bean sauce has thickened considerably.

Jalapeño-Beer Brined Pork Roast
(Source: adapted from Cooks' Recipes)

2 1/2 cups water
1 (12-ounce) can beer (I used a dark beer for more flavor)
1 (4-ounce) can diced jalapeños (I used pickled nacho slices)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher (coarse) salt
6 quarter-sized slices fresh ginger
6 cloves garlic, crushed (or...a whole head!)
3-4 lb, pork roast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, sliced black pepper

Combine water, beer, jalapeños, sugar, salt, ginger and garlic in medium bowl. Stir until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add pork and cover. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours, turning pork occasionally.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Brown the roast on all sides. Deglaze the pan with about a cup of the marinade. Add the sliced onion, and fish out the pepper rings and garlic cloves and throw those in there, too. Sprinkle the roast with black pepper. Cover and braise in a 300F oven for about three hours until tender, flipping and basting every so often.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A Gluten-Free Treat for the Fourth

My dear friend, Ken, got in touch with me the other day and asked if I might create a gluten-free dessert for him to take to a Fourth of July picnic. GF baking makes me a little nervous, because I don't have much experience with it, but I would do anything for Ken, so I gave it a try. I decided to make a blueberry crisp, and I actually made a little extra in a loaf pan as a sampler. My roommate loved it, especially warm with vanilla ice cream. Ken took it to his holiday gathering today, and he said that they didn't tell anyone that it was gluten-free, and still the partygoers raved! So if the berries are ready in your area, you might want to try this easy but flavorful crisp. And your celiac friends will adore you for it!

Blueberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars
(adapted from Tessa the Domestic Diva)

1 cup GF baking mix (I used Bob's Red Mill) 
1 1/2 cups GF oat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup walnut pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 tablespoons any milk, more or less (I used almond milk)

3 cups fresh blueberries (or thawed frozen)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Combine the baking mix, oat flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and brown sugar. Use a pastry cutter or your fingers to work the the fat into the dry ingredients until it is well dispersed and no bigger than small peas. When well combined, toss in the oats and walnuts, and sprinkle the mixtur with the vanilla and then the milk, one tablespoon at a time. Stop adding milk when the dough can be pressed together with your fingers. HINT: If you like a softer dough, add a bit more milk, if you prefer more crunch, don’t! Press half of the dough into the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan (wet fingers to help it not stick to your hands).

Mix the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and cornstarch together. Spread this over the crust, and crumble the remaining crust mixture over the top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes until the crust is golden and the center is set. Let cool before cutting.

Monday, July 02, 2012


We used two more goodies from Jaymie's CSA basket tonight: sugar snap peas and more of the beloved garlic scapes! Props to my roomie Cyd for making this one--the simplest of recipes, but so incredibly delicious. Be sure to check out the web site of the community garden in Wisconsin. They have a recipe for a soba noodle and sugar snap salad that I want to try, too, as soon as I can acquire more sugar snaps.

Snap Peas with Garlic Scapes
(Source: Spring Hill Community Farm, Prairie Hill, WI)

1 tablespoon butter
3 garlic scapes cut in 1'' pieces
4 cups snap peas, left whole, with strings and tips removed
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons vegetable broth or water

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the scapes and sauté 2-3 minutes. Add the peas, sprinkle with salt, and stir to coat with butter. Add liquid to the pan, cover, and cook for 3 or 4 minutes more or until peas are barely tender-crisp and still bright green. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Follow up (7/21/12): I scored the last of the local sugar snaps at my favorite farm stand (Northern Orchards in Peru, NY), so I got to try one more of the simple, but simply luscious recipes from Spring Hill Community Farm--their Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Lemon-Mint Vinaigrette. However, I made one critical change, swapping out fresh basil for mint. So YUMMY!

Sugar Snap Pea Salad with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette
Spring Hill Community Farm, Prairie Hill, WI)

1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Whisk all above ingredients together.

1 lb. sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/3 cup chopped pistachios

Cook sugar snap peas in boiling water two minutes, or until bright green. Drain. Toss peas with three tablespoons lemon-basil vinaigrette. Stir in pistachios. Serve. (Or chill first, then serve, if you prefer.)

Sunday, July 01, 2012


Don'tcha just LOVE brunch? I sure do. And today, I decided that the best way to make use of some of the treasures in the CSA basket that my friend Jaymie shared with me was to make a quiche. I was inspired--dare I admit it--by the quiche that I saw Trisha Yearwood make on her new Food Network show. Below was the recipe from which I took my inspiration, but mine hardly resembled Trisha's quiche.
First of all, I halved the recipe and only made one quiche. Instead of sausage, I used smoky bacon ends from Oscar's Smokehouse (which always has chunks of ham in it as well) that I browned in advance and roughly chopped. I also sauteed half an onion, and three big stalks of rainbow chard (stems and leaves--chopped). Then for the cheese, I used mozzarella and smoked gouda (grated). Also, I pre-baked my pie shell (Marie Callender's), because I LOATHE a soggy crust! Finally, I added a couple of tablespoons of light cream to the egg mixture which, in my opinion, could have used at least one more egg to fill up the shell. It took 35 minutes to bake at 350 (covered with foil, since I pre-baked the crust). DELISH, especially if you let it sit for awhile and cool to warm or even room temperature before serving.

Trisha Yearwood's Country Quiche
(Source: Food Network)

1 pound ground pork sausage with sage
1 teaspoon baking powder
20 grape tomatoes, sliced in half and sprinkled with salt
6 large eggs
10 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 1/2 cups)
salt and pepper
two 9-inch unbaked frozen pie shells (set them out to thaw while preparing the other ingredients)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large skillet, cook the sausage until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Then remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the baking powder, tomatoes and eggs together. Add the cooked sausage and the cheese to the egg mixture and stir together with a large spoon. Add salt and pepper and divide the mixture between both unbaked pie shells. Bake until the filling is set, about 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Cook's Notes: To lighten up this quiche, use turkey sausage and egg substitute.

I also blame Jaymie for the next bit of decadence as well. While the quiche was still baking, she posted a recipe for a "kick-ass" homemade Bloody Mary mix that I just had to try. After all, it ain't brunch without a Bloody Mary, right? I sorta followed the recipe, but I only made about a third of it, and I started with Spicy Hot V-8, so I didn't add the hot sauce. Also, I didn't have jarred olive brine or horseradish, so I substituted dill pickle juice and some grated garlic. Annnnd, I was also out of celery, so I threw in a few pickled green beans for stirrers and a couple of pickled carrots for color and to make it like a liquid salad experience. Tee hee. SO YUMMY!

Homemade Bloody Mary Mix
(Source: Former Chef)

3 tablespoons dijon mustard
3 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
2 tablespoon prepared horseradish
2 tablespoon hot sauce (like Tabasco)
2.5 oz lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1.5 oz lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 tablespoon olive brine
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
64 oz tomato vegetable juice

Mix all ingredients together and--preferably---refrigerate overnight. Add vodka and a celery stick stirrer for a Bloody Mary, tequila for a Bloody margarita, or just drink it straight up for a Virgin Mary. ;-)