Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hamburger Stroganoff

I decided this was the perfect recipe for a cold, rainy day here in North Texas.  After huddling last night in the hallway as tornadoes battered parts of the region, comfort food was in order.  I realized I hadn't posted this recipe online before.  Luckily, I found a blurry recipe card in my old-fashioned index card file.

Now, full disclosure: This is NOT a gourmet version of  stroganoff.  The beef is ground, there are no vegetables involved, and the hardest tasks are opening a couple of cans.  What it IS is that wonderful nostalgic kind of food that those of us who grew up in the 1970's remember fondly.  (I will admit that I have increased the seasoning and tinkered with the healthfulness of the ingredients a bit.)

Try it and see what you think.

Hamburger Stroganoff
Serves 6-8.

1/4 cup unsalted butter (You could use olive oil, I guess, but I don't.)
1/2 cup minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced (I substitute 2 tablespoons garlic pepper to kick up the flavor.)
1 pound ground beef (I use a mix of lean ground beef and ground turkey.)
2 tablespoons flour
8 ounces sliced mushrooms  (The original calls for a can of "Broiled in Butter" mushrooms, but I don't think they are made anymore.  You can use fresh.  I split the difference and used a jar of Green Giant sliced mushrooms. Don't drain them.  If you use fresh, you might add 2 or 3 ounces of water. You want the liquid.)
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I know, I know.  But at least I use "Healthy Request.")
1 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and a pinch of salt.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic (or garlic pepper) and continue to cook for 30 seconds.  Add the ground meat and cook until slightly browned, stirring occasionally to break meat up.

Add flour and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.

Add soup and cook for 10 minutes.

Taste and add salt, pepper and/or garlic pepper to taste.

Stir in the sour cream and heat through.  Taste once more and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve over rice (my preference) or buttered egg noodles.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Food and Wine Says, "Make, Don't Buy" These Things

Here's an interesting interactive feature from Food & Wine on things you should make yourself, rather than buy.  I would agree, especially on mac and cheese and vinaigrette.  I would also add ricotta to this list.  So easy.

What would you add to the list?  Post in the comments below.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

"What's in the Refrigerator" Soup

I am sick and tired of throwing food away.  Even if it's just into the compost bin, I hate it.  So, in the spirit of "Clean Out the Refrigerator Quiche", I've been salvaging bits of veggies from the produce share to make soup about once a week.  It's a healthy lunch...and sometimes for me, even a quick breakfast.)  Here's this week's edition.  But remember, it's a technique, not a recipe.  Riff on it to your heart's content.

"What's in the Refrigerator" Soup
Servings?  Depends on you...

Take one link smoked sausage (I used andouille.) and chop into half-inch pieces.  Put in a stock pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until barely browned.  Add one onion, chopped; four stalks of celery, thinly sliced; and four carrots, thinly sliced. Continue to saute, stirring periodically, for 4-5 minutes.

Add one bunch coarsely chopped collard greens and one-half head of cabbage, chopped.  Stir until incorporated.

Add 6-8 cups liquid.  (I used a combination of storebought chicken stock and water.) Season with whatever moves you...a bit of salt and pepper, some Italian seasoning, thyme, a bay leaf or two.  Like I said, whatever moves you.  Bring to the boil and then simmer until vegetables are softened, about 25 minutes. (If desired, add one can of white beans, rinsed and drained, during the last 10 minutes of cooking.)

Enjoy with some crusty bread and feel superior because you didn't throw food away.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Momofuku Ssam Sauce

I've not been big on recipes lately.  Instead, have been experimenting.  Or just cooking simply with good ingredients.

But one way to add interest is new sauces and seasonings.  I wrangled an on-sale pork shoulder into the Dutch over last week for a braise and decided to make it Momofuku Bo Ssam style. Made the two sauces that come with...but did lettuce wraps instead of steamed buns.

And the wonderful surprise?  Plenty of Ssam sauce leftover.  I put it in a squeeze bottle and threw it in the fridge.  So far, it's been great on seared tuna, roasted asparagus and steamed new potatoes.  The possibilities seem endless. Post your ideas/successes in the comments below.

This one is definitely worth the trip to an Asian supermarket.

Makes one cup.

2 tablespoons fermented bean-and-chili paste (ssamjang) (Pictured.)
1 tablespoon chili paste (kochujang)
½ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Salmon with Greek Yogurt Sauce

I know, I's been a while.  Sorry.  Sometimes the beautiful life doesn't include being chained to a blog posting schedule.  That said, I'll try to do better.

While it's only spring, we're already starting to see talk of Alaskan wild salmon.  (Which is the only kind you should eat, by the way.  It's the most sustainable of all.)  And even if you're not seeing the fresh stuff yet, "previously frozen" is perfectly fine.

I found some beautiful fish on big-time sale at our local supermarket and couldn't resist.  We've been into Greek flavors lately.  (Even found our favorite gyros place that delivers!)  So I took some of those ubiquitous ingredients and created this cool (literally and figuratively) sauce/relish to top salmon called however you like it best...whether roasted, steamed or poached. Hopefully, you'll have leftovers that you can flake over spinach with some additional cucumber, maybe a cut-up tomato, and the yogurt sauce as a creamy dressing.  Let me know what you think.

Greek Yogurt Sauce
Makes enough for 3-4 servings of salmon. (Use don't overwhelm the delicious salmon you're craving.)

1 cup yogurt (Plain and non-fat preferably.  You can use Greek, but it makes the sauce a little thick for my taste.)
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cucumber, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon oregano (more if you want)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped dill (if you have it)
Pinch of kosher salt
Generous shake or two of ground pepper

Mix all ingredients.  Refrigerate, but let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving on the salmon.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

I enjoy playing a little game of Chopped with myself as I fix dinner.  What's in the pantry/fridge/freezer that can be combined in creative and delicious ways?  Mind you I don't throw myself the loop of some weird ingredient that doesn't go with anything.  (Ted you're just cruel.) Lord know I should do it more often...given three freezers worth of stuff to work with.  But I digress.

The latest game was a victory.  I had: 1) chicken breasts (Just stop reading now if you don't have chicken breasts somewhere in your house.) 2) Prosciutto (Too much purchased for a party vacuum-packed and frozen afterwards.) 3) Spinach (Those huge containers are just too tempting at Costco.) 4) Ricotta cheese (Yes, I make my own.  Don't you???)

Now mind you I didn't concoct this on my own.  Just used my well-tagged Evernote recipe database and found this one...

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Spinach and Ricotta Stuffed Prosciutto-Wrapped Chicken Breasts
Makes 4 servings.

4 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon  minced garlic
4 cups baby spinach
A pinch freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 cup drained fresh ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
8 slices prosciutto, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butterfly the chicken by slicing horizontally into the thick, long side of each breast, taking care not to slice all the way through. Open each breast like a book and place on a work surface. Using a mallet, pound the chicken to even it out a bit. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

In a medium skillet, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the spinach and stir until wilted, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the nutmeg.. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drain the spinach well, let cool, then finely chop. (You should have 3 to 4 tablespoons chopped spinach.) In a medium bowl, mix the spinach with the cheeses; season to taste.

Spread some of the spinach mixture on one side of each chicken breast, leaving a small border. Close the other half of the chicken breast over the filling to cover. Wrap each chicken breast with 2 slices prosciutto.

In a large, ovenproof skillet, heat the remaining two tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until the prosciutto is just browned, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the chicken is cooked through, about 12 minutes.

Remove from oven let chicken rest 10 minutes and serve.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Buttermilk-Goat Cheese Dressing

Here is a tangy dressing that is easy to make and great on just about any kind of salad you can think of.  Romaine.  Just some sliced tomatoes.  Even as a dip for a snack of crudite.

Buttermilk-Goat Cheese Dressing
Makes a scant 2 cups.

1 teaspoon minced garlic, mashed into a paste with a little salt
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon (substitute chives if you'd like)
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (red wine vinegar also ok)
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (you can sub regular milk with a tablespoon or so of lemon juice)

Place all ingredients in a jar. Close lid tightly and shake until well-combined.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Seared Scallops with White Wine-Butter Sauce

I am in that zone nowadays where I haven't been using a lot of recipes.  (Might I use that as my excuse for not posting regularly?  Or at all?)

Anyway...when I DO use recipes, it usually means checking the table of contents of several of the hundreds of cookbooks I have and laying them side-by-side.  A little bit of this. (ooo...I like that it calls for goat cheese.) A little less of that.  (No tarragon, thank you.)  The result is a wonderful amalgam.  And I have given myself permission not to try and codify them and write them down.

Right now, the kitchen is my laboratory.

That said, I DID follow this recipe step for step. It's fussier than I am up for these days, but it was a pairing for a bottle of Chardonnay that I received in my Food & Wine wine club shipment.  After going through all the steps and tasting the sauce on its own, I was disappointed.  Tasted a little tinny...too acidic.

But when all the components were put together, it was wonderful.  Use them all.  Spinach, pine nuts, and Aleppo pepper if you have it.  The dish was sublime with an almost tropical French Chardonnay.  (2013 Domaine de Grezen)

And you wonder why I still call Food & Wine my favorite foodie publication...

Seared Scallops with White Wine-Butter Sauce
From Food & Wine magazine.

2 tablespoons pine nuts
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium shallots, minced
2 cups white wine
2 thyme sprigs
1 cup fish stock
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 tablespoon minced chives
Salt and ground pepper
1 packed cup baby spinach
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
16 large sea scallops
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes (optional)

In a skillet, toast the pine nuts over moderate heat until golden, 2 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool. Lightly crush the nuts.

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until browned, 4 minutes. Add the wine and thyme; boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, 15 minutes. Add the stock and boil until reduced to 1/4 cup, 9 minutes longer. Add the cream, bring to a boil and remove from the heat.

Strain the wine sauce into a clean saucepan. Whisk in the butter, 4 pieces at a time, until the sauce is thickened and smooth; set the pan over low heat as necessary to help melt the butter. Stir in the chives and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, toss the spinach with the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil; season with salt and pepper.

In the skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Season the scallops with salt and pepper, add to the skillet and cook over high heat, turning once, until browned but barely cooked through, 2 minutes per side. Transfer the scallops and spinach to plates. Garnish with the pine nuts and pepper flakes. Gently reheat the sauce, spoon on top and serve.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

New Potato Salad with Creamy Dill Dressing

Have a picnic or cookout coming up for Labor Day or some other end-of-summer occasion?  You won't go wrong taking this creamy and brightly flavored potato salad.

New Potato Salad with Creamy Dill Dressing
Makes eight servings.

  • 3 pounds new potatoes, halved
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 6 scallions, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper

  • Fill a large saucepan with 1 inch of water and fit with a steamer basket. Steam the potatoes until tender, 15 to 18 minutes; let cool.

  • Mix the sour cream and next four ingredients in a mixing bowl until combined.  Toss the potatoes and scallions in the dressing and season to taste. Chill for at least eight hours.

  • Note: If you like a creamier potato salad, mix an additional 1/3 cup each sour cream and mayonnaise with one tablespoon Dijon, one tablespoon white wine vinegar and a bit more dill and chill separately.  Stir in right before serving. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Parmesan Cream Sauce

Yes, I like to make things from scratch.  But there's no need to make EVERYTHING yourself.  I have made ravioli before, but don't shy away from buying high-quality filled pasta from a pasta purveyor or even a warehouse store.

I draw the line with the sauce though. I am scared of the tubs of Alfredo and other sauces you can buy at the grocery store.  Too many preservatives, gums and -ates for my liking.  Plus, when a sauce can be easily and quickly made with ingredients you're likely to have in the pantry, why bother?

Here's a rich creamy, cheesy sauce I concocted for some spinach ravioli we had last weekend.  It would be wonderful as a mac and cheese base too, I am betting.

Parmesan Cream Cheese
Makes about 2 cups.

1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon garlic pepper (or freshly ground black pepper to taste)
Kosher salt to taste (You might not need any thanks to the saltiness of the Parmesan.)

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour; cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, and cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Grilled Romaine and Shrimp Salad with Roasted Garlic Caesar Dressing

It's the time of year for grilling...everything.  Even salad.  Yes, salad.

The other night, having been tempted for years to try it, we grilled our Caesar salad.  We cut the romaine hearts in half lengthwise (leaving the root end intact so it didn't fall apart on the grill) drizzled them with a little olive oil and put them on a hot grill for about three minutes on each side.  Just long enough to wilt them a bit and give them a little bit of smoke.

I gilded the lily by grilling onions and shrimp as well.  Then served it all up with this roasted-garlic Caesar dressing.  Yummy.

Roasted Garlic Caesar Dressing
Makes about one cup dressing.

1 head garlic, top third cut off
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 anchovy fillets, minced

Drizzle the garlic head with olive oil and wrap in foil.  Roast in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  Set aside and let cool slightly.

Squeeze softened garlic out of peel and into a mini food processor.  Add the buttermilk, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and anchovies. Process until smooth.

With the motor running, drizzle the olive oil into the processor until the dressing is combined and emulsified.  Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.  (You might not need any salt since the anchovies are salty to begin with.)  Pulse again until combined.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Avocado-Arugula Pesto

We've been buying beautiful avocados on the cheap lately.  I love eating them simply--sliced with some good olive oil and flaky salt. Also added to sandwiches and, obviously, salads.

But I've been branching out recently and including them as ingredients in less-expected ways. (Including the green goddess sauce I posted earlier this week.)  Here's a great pesto inspired by Giada.  (I am still not completely on the arugula bandwagon so went with more basil in the ratio than she suggests.) It was great on pasta with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan and a few toasted sliced almonds.

Avocado-Arugula Pesto
Makes around 2 cups of pesto.

1 large (or 2 medium) ripe avocados, halved, peeled and pitted
2 cups baby arugula
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil (You don't really need this from a liquid standpoint...I just like the richness it brings.)
Pinch of salt
Grind of black pepper

Place all ingredients in the food processor and blend until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and pulse to combine.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Green Goddess Chicken Pitas

I was thrilled to run across Food52 not too long ago.  It's become one of my favorite websites and their regular e-mails of recipes and great products for foodies inspire on a daily basis.

Recently, they sent a recipe for a chicken sandwich dressed with a zingy, herby green goddess sauce. I adapted it slightly and served it in a puffy pita pocket.  GREAT summer dinner.  Try it for yourself.

Green Goddess Sauce
Makes about 1/ 1/2 cups.

1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons fresh basil
3 tablespoons chives
3 tablespoons flat leaf parsley
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1 cup yogurt (preferably Greek)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Into a food processor, place a roughly chopped garlic clove and the torn herbs.  Pulse until finely chopped.  Add the avocado (cut into large chunks will help the food processor do its job), yogurt, lemon juice and vinegar.  Process until combined (I liked mine slightly chunky with nice flecks of herbs still visible).  Taste for seasoning and blend in salt and pepper to taste.

This would make a great dip for pita chips or crudite.  It was delicious in a pita sandwich with a little rotisserie chicken, thinly sliced tomato, baby spinach and swiss cheese.  The other half's was just as good with cheddar cheese, bacon and some sliced red onion.  Combine away and enjoy!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Balsamic Fig Jam

Those of us who think Life Should Be Beautiful know all about summer produce. Here in north Texas, I can't get enough of the tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow squash, and peaches that are on offer at local farmers markets.  But rather than fall into the proverbial rut, I am pleased to say that I have expanded my horizons with a new favorite: figs.

I first discovered them at the upscale grocery store, but as our locavore offerings have broadened I have more often been able to find them at the market.  They are delicious eaten out-of-hand, grilled alongside chicken, or sauteed and drizzled with honey and dolloped with mascarpone cheese.

Here's a recipe I tried this afternoon with some gorgeous figs in our produce share.  Its jammy goodness is going to be great with crackers and blue cheese.  I am also thinking a grilled panini of prosciutto and fontina with a bit of the jam spread on sourdough.

You could easily multiply this recipe and then can in a hot water bath, but I settled for a single batch this time.  It should last me just about two weeks and then it will be time for more figs.

Balsamic Fig Jam
Makes about 1 1/2 cup

8-10 ounces figs, stems removed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Over medium-high heat, combine the figs, sugar, balsamic vinegar and water in a 12-inch saute pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and add lemon juice, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened, 25-35 minutes.  You'll know its done when you drag a wooden spoon across the bottom of the pan and it leaves a trail without the liquid coming back in to cover.  Watch it carefully for the last 10 minutes or so.  It can go from wonderful jam to burned sugar quickly if you're not careful.

Let cool slightly and place in food processor.  Pulse 3-5 times; you want a slightly chunky consistency.  Transfer jam to glass jar or container and let cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate for up to one month,

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mixed Berry Buckle

This time of year, on my weekly produce runs to Sprouts, the berries seem to jump into my shopping basket.  (And at 3 pints for $5 this week, I am betting they will again very soon.)  Yes, they are wonderful in smoothies, stirred into yogurt, dropped over ice cream or pound cake.  But there still seems to be plenty leftover. Here's a delicious way to use up a bounty of berries.  As you can see from the photo, it got the office's seal of approval.

Mixed Berry Buckle
Makes 9-inch square cake.

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

Pulse pecans in food processor until roughly chopped. Add the brown sugar, flour, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Pulse several times to combine. Add the butter, and pulse until everything is incorporated and the mixture looks damp and clumpy. Set aside..

Cake Batter

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 large egg, cold
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 pints of berries (for the one in the photo, I used a mix of mostly blueberries and blackberries with a few raspberries thrown in for good measure.)

Preheat oven to 350º F. Butter and flour a 2-inch deep, 9-inch square baking pan.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl.

Put melted butter in separate mixing bowl. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla to the bowl, then whisk until combined. Gradually beat in the buttermilk.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and stir just until the batter is smooth.

Gently fold in the berries.  (Be's all right if a few berries break, but it's nice to have the contrast of the golden cake and the dark berries.)

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Sprinkle with the streusel topping.

Bake for 45-50  minutes. When done, the top will be golden and a toothpick inserted in the center will emerge clean of batter, although it might have a bit of berry on it.)

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before serving and serve warm or at room temperature.

It's pretty great at any time of the day...breakfast, snack or dessert.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tomato Pie

If you're like me (OK...if you're SMART like me), you're dropping 15-20 bucks at Farmer Lemley's tomato stand at the Dallas Farmer's Market once a week.

And, if you, like me, can't use or share all those beauties soon enough, you look for recipes with tomatoes (lots of them) in the ingredient list.  I have a couple of gazpacho-type cold tomato soup recipes I'll post soon, but here is a hearty tomato recipe that is easily a main course.  If the meat eaters in your house revolt, you could always serve a grilled chicken breast alongside.

Tomato Pie
Makes 6-8 servings.

1 refrigerated pie crust
2 3/4 pounds assorted large tomatoes, divided (It's great if you have a couple different colors i.e. golden and red)
2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar (or Colby-Jack) cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons fresh dill sprigs
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon apple cider (or white or white wine...whatever you have) vinegar
1 green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons plain yellow cornmeal
(If you'd like, you can add 3-4 tablespoons of crumbled cooked bacon to the filling before baking.)

Press pie crust into 9-inch pie plate and set aside.

Cut 2 pounds (2-4 biggies) tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together Cheddar cheese, next 10 ingredients, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl until combined.

Pat tomato slices dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle cornmeal over bottom of crust. Lightly spread 1/2 cup cheese mixture onto crust; layer with half of tomato slices in slightly overlapping rows. Spread with 1/2 cup cheese mixture. Repeat layers, using remaining tomato slices and cheese mixture. Cut remaining 3/4 pound (1 big one) tomatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices, and arrange on top of pie.
Bake at 425° for 40 to 45 minutes, shielding edges with foil or a pie shield during the last 20 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Let stand 1 to 2 hours before serving.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tomato Mozzarella Bliss

This isn't a recipe as much as it is a preparation.  Although with summer tomatoes plentiful at Farmer Lemley's stand at the farmers market, it's really a mandate.

Thickly slice a couple of tomatoes...if they are heirlooms or you have a variety of colors, all the better.

Slice the best-quality mozzarella you can get your hands on.  Although I will confess, when tomatoes are wonderful, I can even settle for the stuff you can easily find at the supermarket.  You'll want one slice of mozzarella for each slice of tomato.  And a serving will be 2-3 slices of each.

Overlap the slices on your plate.  Drizzle with high-quality olive oil and scatter some shredded fresh basil on top.  Season with flake salt and freshly cracked black pepper. If you are so inclined you can add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar...I skip it. I feel like it overwhelms the tomatoes, the stars of this delicious show.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Dilled Tartar Sauce

You don't buy bottled tartar sauce, do you?  All you need to do to make it yourself is mix a little pickle relish (or even better chowchow) into some mayonnaise.  Or a little chopped dill pickle.  Diced onion is a nice add-in.  This recipe kicks it up a notch further with some fresh dill.  Use it on the crispy halibut recipe I posted yesterday. 

Dilled Tartar Sauce
Makes about 1/2 cup.

1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped dill pickle
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4-6 tablespoons chopped fresh dill (according to your taste)
Freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.  Season with black pepper to taste.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Crispy Panko Halibut

Long time, no see. has been beautiful, but busy.  Still trying lots of recipes and picking up ideas.  Promise to do a better job of sharing them with you.  Starting with this easy delicious dinner.

Got an e-mail from The Other Half yesterday saying "We're having cod for dinner."

Translation: "I bought cod at the grocery store.  Now you need to figure out what to do with it and make it so."

I'm used to this routine, so pulled up recipes tagged "cod" in my Evernote files.  (I haven't told you about Evernote, have I?  Well, I will soon.)  We passed on a couple of interesting poached ideas.  Also set aside one made en papillote for very soon.  Settled on this easy way to make it crispy but keep it light.

Crispy Panko Halibut
Serves 2.

2 portions halibut (5-6 ounces each)
2 egg whites
1 cup panko
3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the egg whites until frothy and set aside.  Season the panko whatever strikes your fancy...salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, thyme, you get the idea.  Dip the halibut into the egg whites and then dredge in the seasoned panko.  If the coating seems light, press a little more panko onto the halibut.

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering.  Place the halibut in the pan and allow to fry until browned on one side.  Turn fish over and place skillet into preheated oven.  Bake until fish is cooked through and panko browned on top, another 6-8 minutes.

Remove from oven and serve.  You can top it with a little salsa, some sauteed summer veggies, or the tasty dill sauce I will post here tomorrow.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

A Downton Abbey-Inspired Cocktail of the Week: An Earl Grey Gin Cocktail

Hear ye, hear ye...that program that we colonists have grown to love return for a fourth season tonight.  How will Lady Mary cope as a single mother...with only a household of servants to help out?  What cause will Matthew's grieving mother take up next?  Which outfit will Cora wear to dinner? In just a few hours, we'll know...

Such an auspicious occasion cries out for a dignified oh-so-English tipple.  When I think of British beverages, two leap to mind.  Early Grey breakfast cup most mornings. (Two lumps and milk, please.)  And gin.  But none of that cucumber-infused boutique stuff.  Dry London gin. My favorite is Bombay Sapphire...there's a picture of Queen Victoria on the label.  Can't be much more authentic than that.

This cocktail, inspired by several I found online, combines the two.  Serve it in your best cocktail class-a 1920's style coupe if you have it.  After a couple of these, you'll be throwing off bon mots that would make the Dowager Countess envious.

Earl Grey Gin Cocktail
Makes one cocktail.

In saucepan, heat 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.  Remove from the heat and add two Early Grey tea bags.  Or even better, 1 tablespoon of loose Earl Grey tea in a tea ball.  Let cool completely and strain into a small jar or bottle.  This is the Earl Grey simple syrup the recipe calls for.

2 ounces London dry gin
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 ounce Earl Grey simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker.  Shake until well-combined and the outside of the shaker is frosty.  Strain into a cocktail glass.  Garnish with witty repartee and a disdain for the working class.    

Monday, December 30, 2013

Chinese Chicken Salad...Recess Between Bacchanalias

As usual, the other half and I have eaten our way through the holidays...Tex-Mex on Christmas Eve, brunch and prime rib on Christmas Day.  Still to come: champagne and pasta on New Years Eve, eggs benedict in the morning and fried catfish and black-eyed peas for dinner.

Today then was the break in the storm. Breakfast was green juice and an English muffin. Lunch was a hard-boiled egg and half a roast beef sandwich on multi-grain.  And dinner was this delicious Chinese chicken salad.  As luck would have it, we saw the recipe on television yesterday.  As I am wont to do, I adapted it slightly, but kept the cooking method--which gives the chicken lots of flavor.  With crisp veggies and a tangy/spicy dressing, it's a healthy meal that you'll be using well into 2014 to keep up with those New Years resolutions.

Chinese Chicken Salad
Makes 4-6 servings worth of chicken.  Alter the vegetables as you see fit.

For the chicken and dressing:
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons sambal oelek
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons canola oil

For the salad:
Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
Romaine lettuce, thinly sliced
Carrot, peeled and grated
Celery, very thinly sliced (best done on a mandoline)
Red bell pepper, cut in very thin julienne
Scallion, thinly sliced
Chopped toasted cashews, peanuts or sliced almonds

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper and set aside.

Combine the orange juice and the next six ingredients (through sambal oelek) in a bowl.  Whisk until thoroughly combined.  Remove 1/2 cup mixture to use to cook chicken.  To remaining dressing, add sesame oil and canola oil, whisking until emulsified.

In a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, add the 1/2 cup reserved dressing mixture and heat until simmering.  Add the chicken breasts and cover pan.  Cook until chicken is done, about 12 minutes, turning several times.  Remove the chicken to a plate and continue to simmer the liquid in the pan until reduced by half.  Turn off the heat.

After the chicken has cooled slightly, shred it and return to the saute pan, adding 3 tablespoons of the finished dressing.  Heat over low heat just until heated through and liquid has been absorbed by the chicken.

The chicken can be served over the salad warm, at room temperature or chilled.  Add additional dressing to your liking and garnish with the nuts of your choice.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Getting Ready for New Years...

New Years Eve and New Years Day are just around the corner.  And I have your list of how to get ready. you have your bubbly yet?  I've become quite partial to Schramsberg, a lovely sparkler from California.  We're in the wine club and have a wonderful bottle in the wine fridge waiting for us.  But if you still need to to hit the liquor store, here's a list to consider.

Next...what are you serving with your New Years toasts?  I think it's a night for delicious bites.  Whether you're throwing  a party or just sitting on the couch watching movies, I think it's a night for grazing.  I am thinking about making these delicious little canapes with ricotta and chive puree. Also perhaps this hot crab dip.

And, of course, you need to get the black-eyed peas ready for New Years Day.  We've decided to go really Southern with fried catfish and oysters, cole slaw, and my easy, but delicious, black-eyed (really purple hulled) peas.

Enjoy and....Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cabernet and Balsamic-Caramelized Onions

Made up a batch of these flavorful onions to go on--and actually IN--some burgers we fixed the other night. But it would make a wonderful relish for roast pork or chicken, on a roast beef sandwich or even heated and used to wilt a spinach salad.

Cabernet and Balsamic-Caramelized Onions
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups thinly sliced red onions
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon garlic pepper (or freshly ground black pepper)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Over medium-low heat, heat olive oil and butter in a saute pan.  Add the onions, thyme, pepper and salt and cook, stirring occasionally until the onions are golden and very tender. (Low and slow is your friend here.) Add the wine and balsamic and continue to cook, until the liquid is almost completely reduced.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Turkey, Swiss and Apple Sandwich

We all have our favorite sandwich recipes which include leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  Cranberry and dressing.  Mayo and veggies.  Whatever.

Here's a new one you MUST try.

Thinly sliced apple.
Coarse mustard.
Swiss cheese.
Multi-grain bread.

Coat the outsides of the bread with a little butter/margarine and throw into a sandwich press/George Foreman grill until nice and toasty.

You love me now, right???

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Cocktail of the Week: Pumpkin Martini

Happy Thanksgiving!

At our family feast, pecan pie is the dessert of choice.  But that doesn't mean I don't like a nibble of pumpkin pie.  I don't really want to take the time to bake one for just a bite though.

Here's the solution.  The tastes of pumpkin a cocktail glass.  It's the perfect nightcap to a day of eating and drinking.

Pumpkin Martini
Makes one cocktail.

1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons vodka
2 tablespoons half and half
1 tablespoon canned pure pumpkin puree
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine the sugar and ⅛ teaspoon of the pumpkin pie spice on a small plate. Dip the rim of a chilled martini glass in water, then dip in the sugar to coat.

In a martini shaker filled with ice, combine the vodka, half and half, pumpkin puree, maple syrup, vanilla extract, and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon of the pumpkin pie spice. Shake vigorously, then strain into the prepared glass.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blue Cheese Sauce

Great recipe for a summer evening when it's actually cool enough for a cocktail on the deck: a ribeye perfectly grilled to medium-rare and a big ol' Napa Cabernet.  But while I usually serve the steak au naturel, I wanted a special something more this time.

Thanks to this Stilton sauce recipe from the Barefoot Contessa, I had what I was looking for. Now I just have to figure out how to use the yummy leftovers...would love to hear your ideas in the comments below.

Blue Cheese Sauce
The recipe makes a generous 2 cups or so of sauce, so you might consider cutting it in half if you are just amkinf for a steak or two.

4 ounces Stilton cheese, crumbled 
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature 
1/2 cup good mayonnaise 
1/2 cup sour cream 
1 tablespoon chopped scallions, white and green parts 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce 

Place the Stilton in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and blend until finely minced. Add the cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, scallions, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Process until smooth. Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Eggs Baked in Whole Tomatoes

This was a perfect breakfast this morning...made even better because I could enjoy it out on the deck on this unseasonably mild Dallas Saturday.  Here's the recipe for one, but you can multiply it as many times as you need to.

Eggs Baked in Whole Tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 400˚.

Cut the top quarter off a tomato and use a spoon to remove most of the flesh and seeds.  (I leave a little bit...make the final creation deliciously saucy and soupy.) Place in a ramekin and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little thyme (fresh preferably) and minced garlic on top. Bake until soft and starting to caramelize, 25-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle a tablespoon or so of goat cheese or grated Gruyere into the tomato cavity. Crack an egg into the tomato and return to the oven. Continue to bake until egg is just set, another 6-8 minutes.

Let cool slightly before serving.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette

When you get tired of eating the delicious cherry tomatoes that you've been buying at the grocery...or even better the farmers market...(although that sounds really insane doesn't it?), here's another way to use them.  It's especially good for those tomatoes just about to wrinkle up and spoil.

Serve warm or at room temperature over pasta, roasted fish or grilled chicken. Also delicious over grilled flank steak and salad greens.

Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette
Makes 1 1/2 cups.
From Bon Appetit magazine.

1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (or more) red wine vinegar
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Cut half of cherry tomatoes in half. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 4 minutes.
Add halved and whole tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to release juices, 4–6 minutes. Mash some of tomatoes with a spoon.
Add 1 tablespoon vinegar and remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or room temperature; add chives just before serving.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Pimiento Cheese-Stuffed Peppadew Peppers

Looking for an easy nibble for a summer picnic or party?  Head to the "olive bar" at your fancy grocery store and pick up some pickled Peppadew peppers (They are probably already hollowed out and ready to stuff.) and some pimiento cheese. (Or you can make your own pretty easily with this recipe.)

Spoon a little of the cheese into each pepper and arrange on a serving platter.  Sprinkle with a dusting of cayenne pepper for some added heat if you are so inclined. Perfect one-bite flavor explosions.

(You can always stuff hollowed-out cherry tomatoes if you'd rather...)

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Summer Squash and Corn Casserole

This is a great take on the classic squash casserole.  Adding corn makes it even more summery. Next time, I am going to add a few tomatoes also...

The original comes from Southern Living. I lightened it up a little bit since I am in the midst of a healthier eating plan. And made it a bit smaller to fit into a house with only two people in it.  Double it for your family summer feast. (P.S. You don't need added salt...plenty of it in the mayo and Parmesan cheese.)

Summer Squash and Corn Casserole
Makes 6-8 servings.

1 pound yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 pound zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups diced sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh corn kernels
3/4 cup freshly shredded Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup light sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 cup soft, fresh breadcrumbs, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Bring first 2 ingredients and water to cover to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and boil 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain; gently press between paper towels.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat; add onion, and sauté 10 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, and sauté 2 minutes.

Stir together squash, onion mixture, corn, next 5 ingredients, and 1/4 cup each breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese just until blended. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 7 x 11-inch baking dish.

Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, and 1/2 cup Parmesan. Set aside.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes.  Sprinkle bread crumb mixture on top and bake and additional 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and set.

Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Cabbage and Collards

Southerners are used to greens.  Collards cooked with some kind of pork fat and stewed until they fall apart.  They can be a bit bitter though, so my other half always insists we throw some sugar in.  This recipe from Saveur magazine eliminates the need for sugar, adding naturally sweet cabbage instead.

But, yes, the bacon is still there.

Cabbage and Collards
Serves 8-10.
From Saveur magazine.

2 tablespoons canola oil
6 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1″ slices
1 large yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 cup chicken stock
1 pound collard greens, stalks removed and roughly chopped
1 large head cabbage (about 2 3/4 pounds), cored and roughly chopped
Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Crushed red chile flakes, to taste

Heat oil in a 6 quart saucepan over medium heat and add bacon; cook, stirring, until fat renders, about 6 minutes. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock, then collards and cabbage; season with salt, pepper, and chile flakes. Cook, covered and stirring, until collards and cabbage are tender, about 25 minutes. Remove lid and continue cooking until liquid is reduced in volume, about 5 minutes.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Peach and Blueberry "Cobbler"

I went on a canning binge this weekend.  Jams, pickles, you name it.  (More to come on that later...)

But I was left with several gorgeous peaches.  What to do, what to do?

How about THIS?

It was a BIG hit when I brought into our weekly staff meeting at work this morning.  Although it was a great coffee cake, it would be just as wonderful at dessert time with a big scoop of Blue Bell homemade vanilla on top. 

(Point of order: Is this a cobbler, cake or "buckle"?  You decide.)

    Peach and Blueberry Cobbler
    From Real Simple magazine.
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
    2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 cup packed light brown sugar
    1 large egg, at room temperature
    1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1/2 cup sour cream
    4 peaches, each cut into 8 wedges (about 4 cups)
    1 pint blueberries
    1/3 cup sliced almonds

    Heat oven to 350° F. 
    Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
    In a separate bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
    Reduce mixer speed to low. Add half the flour mixture, then the sour cream, and then the remaining flour mixture, mixing well between additions. Fold in the peaches and blueberries. (Don’t worry if there seems to be too much fruit in proportion to batter. The batter will rise around it while baking.)
    Transfer the batter to an 8-by-8-inch or other 2-quart baking dish and sprinkle with the almonds. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (aim for the batter, not the fruit), 1½ hours to 1 hour, 45 minutes. (If it's browning too much, loosely cover with foil.
     Let cool slightly. Dust with the confectioners’ sugar and serve warm.

    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    Summer Squash with Almonds and Parmesan

    Toasted almonds and grated parmesan kick up the flavor of plain old summer squash in this yummy side dish.

    Summer Squash with Almonds and Parmesan
    Makes 4 servings.

    2 pounds summer squash and/or zucchini, cut into matchsticks
    1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
    1/4 cup sliced almonds
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 garlic cloves, sliced
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan
    Freshly ground black pepper

    Place squash in a colander set in the sink or over a large bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon salt. Let squash stand 10 minutes, then squeeze well to remove as much excess moisture as possible (do not rinse).
    Meanwhile, toast almonds in a large dry skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate; let cool.
    Heat oil in same skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring often, until fragrant but not browned, about 2 minutes. Add squash and cook, tossing occasionally, until crisptender, about 5 minutes. Fold in Parmesan and season with salt and pepper. Fold in almonds.

    Monday, July 22, 2013

    Tomato and Almond Pesto

    I am a big fan of ye olde "traditional" pesto...frech basil blended with pine nuts, garlic, parmesan and olive oil.  As a matter of fact, I made a batch last night from my backyard basil bounty and enjoyed it with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella.

    But there are many variations on that great theme.  I have seen plenty of recipes using othyer green herbs like parsley and even cilantro.  And you could use pecans or walnuts.  You get the idea.

    This fresh and delicious recipe adds tomatoes into the mix and goes for almonds as its nut choice.  It's yummy.  Perfect with some pan-roasted cod as pictured above.  But would also be good on sauteed vegetables, grilled chicken or even just a piece of toasted baguette.

    Try's likely to become one of your summer go-to condiments.

    Tomato and Almond Pesto
    From Food & Wine magazine.
    Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
    1 cup cherry tomatoes
    2 large garlic cloves, minced
    1 packed cup basil leaves
    1/4 cup water
    Freshly ground black pepper
    In a skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the almonds and toast over high heat, shaking the pan, until lightly browned, 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until the skins just brown, 2 minutes. Let cool, then transfer to a food processor. Add the garlic, basil and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil; pulse until the almonds are chopped. Add the water and process to a chunky puree. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

    Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    It's National Hot Dog Day!

    You can celebrate with a ballpark dog (The enormity above is what they serve at Texas Rangers games), a chili dog, or one topped with kraut, but, for my money, ain't nothing better than a good old-fashioned Chicago dog.  Here's how to construct yours.

    The Chicago Hot Dog
    This makes one...multiply to your heart's content.

    Brush the outside of a hot dog bun with a bit of melted unsalted butter. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake split sides down at 350°about 5 minutes until warm.

    Warm a hot dog (all-beef please) in boiling water for 5 minutes and place in your bun.

    Place a dill pickle spear on one side of the hot dog and two tomato wedges on the other.

    Zig-zag with yellow mustard and top with a dollop of sweet pickle relish.

    Sprinkle a little chopped onion on top.

    Final touch? Two, actually. A sport pepper. (A peperoncino makes a good substitute. And then a generous sprinkling of celery salt. (NO. You may not omit the celery salt.)

    Monday, July 08, 2013

    Pattypan Squash Casserole

    It's that time of year in Texas where our produce shares, farmers markets and gardens are overflowing with summer squash.  Here's one of the most basic (and delicious) ways to fix it. The recipe calls for pattypan squash, but you can make it just as easily with zucchini or yellow squash...or a mix of all three.  You can gild the lily by adding a little grated cheese to the squash mixture or some Parmesan to the breadcrumb topping, but it doesn't really need it.

    Pattypan Squash Casserole
    Makes 6-8 servings.

    2 pounds pattypan squash, cleaned and  cut into chunks
    2 tablespoons butter
    2 tablespoons chopped onion 
    2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper 
    1 cup milk 
    1 cup soft breadcrumbs
    2 tablespoons butter, melted

    Cook squash, covered, in boiling salted water 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash. Drain again, if necessary. (You don't want too much liquid in the mixture.)

    Combine squash, 2 tablespoons butter, onion, flour, salt, pepper, and milk; stir well. Pour mixture into a lightly greased 1-quart casserole.

    Combine breadcrumbs and melted butter; spoon over squash mixture. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

    Sunday, July 07, 2013

    Quinoa, Corn and Poblano Stuffed Peppers

    Here's something for a great healthy summer dinner.  This recipe was inspired by a Cooking Light recipe for baked tomatoes.  I changed the filling around a bit and stuffed red bell peppers instead.  Feel free to make your own variations...

    Quinoa, Corn and Poblano Stuffed Peppers
    Makes four servings.

    2 poblano chiles
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 cup chopped onion
    2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 4 ears)
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 tablespoon dried oregano, Mexican preferably)
    1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
    3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon chili powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    4 red (or green) bell peppers
    1 cup uncooked quinoa
    1 1/2 cups cup chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
    4 ounces colby-Jack cheese, shredded (about 1 cup packed)

    Preheat broiler to high.

    Cut the chiles in half lengthwise; discard seeds and membranes. Place chile halves, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet; flatten with hand. Broil 8 minutes or until blackened. Place in a paper bag; close tightly. Let stand 10 minutes. 

    Peel chiles. Coarsely chop chiles; place in a bowl.

    In a saute pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add the corn and saute until just slightly browned, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 30 seconds.  Remove from the pan and add to the bowl with the poblanos.  Stir in the oregano, lime juice, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper.

    Place quinoa in a fine sieve, and place sieve in a large bowl. Cover quinoa with water. Using your hands, rub the grains together for 30 seconds; rinse and drain. Repeat the procedure twice. Drain well. Combine quinoa and stock or water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; fluff with a fork. Add quinoa mixture to corn mixture; toss well.

    Preheat oven to 350°.

    Spoon about 3/4 cup corn mixture into each pepper. Divide cheese evenly among peppers. Place peppers in a baking dish and bake at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Preheat broiler. Broil the peppers 1 1/2 minutes or until cheese melts. 

    Friday, July 05, 2013

    It's National Fried Chicken Day!

    So get out your cast pans, your deep fryer, your skillet....

    Or take the easy way out and cook this oven recipe.

    Whatever you choose, enjoy!

    Evernote has changed my life....

    That elephant above?  He's my hero....

    I have been ripping pages out of cooking magazines for years.  My antiquated storage system involved sorting them into a variety of labeled folders...braised chicken, summer squash, or fancy canapes for example.  Theoretically, it meant I had what I needed at my fingertips.

    Two problems though: 1) I haven't sorted in a couple of years meaning there are hundreds of recipes out there in limbo...and they are the more recent ones.  2) There is no way to place a recipe in multiple folders.  Having a recipe in the short ribs folder doesn't help when I specifically want a dish with Asian or Mexican flair.

    Never fear, Evernote steps in to save the day.  With the web clipper tool, I can look at a magazine page and search for the recipe online.  Then, all I have to do is click a button on my tool bar and it goes into my Evernote folder. And I can apply multiple tags to it: ingredient, technique, or even possible occasion to use.

    If the recipe isn't online, you can scan it in and tag the PDF.  I'm even thinking about creating notes on cookbook recipes.  The note could include tags and then Evernote serves as a master index to the hundred or more cookbooks on the shelf.

    The possibilities are endless.  Try it for yourself.  In the meantime, I'm going back to work.  1200 recipes digitized so far...and counting.

    Thursday, July 04, 2013

    Happy Fourth of July!

    Here's something easy and edible to add to your Independence Day spread.  Using twelve wooden skewers and the photo above as a guide, layer blueberries, raspberries and mini marshmallows to create this Fourth of July fruity flag.

    Enjoy the fireworks!

    Saturday, May 25, 2013

    Road Trip Essentials

    Hitting the road for this Memorial Day Weekend?  Thanks to Real Simple, here's an edited list of things you should not forget...


    • Cell phone
    • Car manual (Are you SURE you know where that jack is stashed?)
    • First-aid kit
    • Flash light
    • Jumper cables
    • Emergency reflective triangles
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Medications (including ones you don't take every day)
    • Sunscreen
    • Paper towels
    • Toilet tissue
    • Wet wipes
    • CD's
    • Portable DVD player
    • Charger for all your phones, players, IPods and tablets
    • Portable games (Go old school...remember those little Bingo games with the red plastic sliders?)
    • Navigator (But as I have learned when you MOST needs it, you won't have signal, so also bring the....)
    • Road atlas
    • Reusable water bottles with water or juice. (Freeze the water bottles half-full to keep them even colder on the journey.)
    • Apples and oranges
    • Crackers and popcorn in individual containers
    • Nuts and dried fruit (How about come old-fashioned GORP?)
    • Carrot and celery sticks with squeezable peanut butter
    • The oven if off.
    • All doors are locked.
    • All windows are closed and locked.
    • All kids (and pets) are in the car.
    BON VOYAGE!!!!!

    Friday, May 24, 2013

    Thyme-Scented Goat Cheese with Prosciutto and Shallots

    Those of you who follow this blog regularly know that I am all about the small bites.  And not just for parties.  I love coming home after work and fixing a little nibble for happy hour.  A couple of snacks and a cocktail and I am ready to cook dinner.  And since I am not ravenous, it's likely to be healthier than not.  Here's a great example of the kind of thing I enjoy.  You can make the components ahead of time, refrigerate and assemble as needed. 

    And, yes...these ARE great at parties.

    Thyme-Scented Goat Cheese with Prosciutto and Shallots
    Makes about 24 crackers.

    2 teaspoons olive oil
    2 large shallots, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    4 ounces goat cheese, softened
    1 tablespoon milk
    1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    3 ounces thinly slices prosciutto, cut into 1 1/2 inch wide strips
    24 butter-flavor crackers (I use Town House.)

    In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned.  Add the vinegar and cook, uncovered, for about 30 seconds until slightly reduced.

    In a small bowl, combine the goat cheese, milk, and thyme.  Mix until soft and creamy.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

    To assemble, place one piece prosciutto on a cracker.  Top with 1 teaspoon of the goat cheese mixture. Top with a bit of the shallot mixture.


    Thursday, May 23, 2013

    Potato, Leek and Fennel Gratin

    Hard to believe it's been February since I have last posted.  Life has continued to be beautiful, but has also been BUSY.  That doesn't mean I haven't been collecting recipes and tips to share with you.  Here we go...beginning today, let's get through the stack.

    I am obsessive about not letting the goodies in our biweekly produce share from Urban Acres go to waste.  All organic and mostly locally-sourced, the fruits and veggies are simply to valuable to let wither and die.  So it's bonus time when I find a recipe that deliciously combines two or more of the ingredients in the bin.  Here's a great example.  There's just enough cheese and cream to bring things together, but the healthy flavor of the veggies still shines through.  (And this is a perfect recipe for those of you who don't love fennel.  The other ingredients mellow it leaving it as an earth undertone to the final dish.)  I adapted this from a recipe I found online at We're a twosome here (with one who avoids leftovers like the plague), so this is a smaller version.  It could easliy be doubled and cooked in a 9 x 13 baking dish.

    Potato, Leek and Fennel Gratin
    Makes 4-6 servings.

    1 large fennel bulb
    1 leek
    1 tablespoon butter
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1 pounds new potatoes, thinly sliced
    1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    Pinch of kosher salt
    1/2 cup half and half
    1/2 cup low-fat milk
    1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese, divided (You could substitute Swiss if you need to.)
    1 teaspoon dried thyme, divided
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

    Rinse fennel thoroughly. Trim stalks to within 1" of bulbs. Discard hard outside stalks; reserve fennel tops for another use if desired. Cut a slice off bottom of bulbs. Cut out core from bottom of bulbs. Starting at 1 side, cut bulbs lengthwise into 1/4"-thick slices, then crosswise into 1/4" pieces. Set aside.

    Remove root, tough outer leaves, and tops from leeks, leaving 1 inch of dark leaves. Cut lengthwise and wash leeks thoroughly; cut into 1/4"-thick half moons.

    Sauté fennel and leeks in melted butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 3-4 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon thyme; cover, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 7-8 minutes. (Watch the mixture carefully.  You want it soft but not browned much at all or it will be bitter.) Set aside.

    Combine potato, flour, and pinch of salt in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal; toss to coat well. Arrange half of potato in a buttered gratin dish or 9" x 9" baking dish.

    Combine half and half and milk; pour half of cream mixture over potato. Sprinkle 3/4 cups cheese and 1/2 teaspoon thyme over potato. Spoon sautéed fennel and leek over cheese, and top with remaining potato. Pour remaining cream mixture over potato, and sprinkle with remaining 3/4 cups cheese, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, and pepper.

    Bake, covered, at 400° for 35 minutes. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes or until browned. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.