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.

    Monday, February 11, 2013

    Asian Red Roast Pork

    I wish I had taken a photo of this one.  Although I am not sure what you get through your eyes would do what you're going to taste justice...this is a GREAT recipe and well worth hitting the Asian section of your grocery store to stock up on these ingredients.  Because I bet it would be great on chicken also.

    Asian Red Roast Pork
    Serves 4. (Or 2 hungry people at our house.)

    2 tablespoons honey
    2 tablespoons light soy sauce
    2 teaspoons dark soy sauce
    3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
    1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
    1 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
    2 tablespoons sesame oil
    1 pound pork tenderloin

    Mix the first 7 ingredients in a bowl.  Add the pork tenderloin and turn until well-coated.  Cover and marinate overnight, turning occasionally.

    Line a baking dish with foil and place tenderloin on a rack. (Reserve marinade.)  Place in a pre-heated 400 degree oven and roast until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, around 25 minutes. Remove from the oven, place on cutting board and tent loosely with foil. Let rest for 10 minutes or so.

    Meanwhile, place the marinade in a small sauce pan and simmer over medium-low heat until reduced by about half.

    Slice the pork thinly and serve drizzled with the sauce.  It's great over steamed rice garnished with scallion greens.  Or put on a bun that you have bought frozen at the Asian market.  Drizzle with the sauce and throw on a couple thin slices of pickled cucumber.


    Sunday, February 10, 2013

    Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan Breadcrumbs

    I was feeling nutritiously righteous last night.  No steak, no pizza, no Saturday night Italian take-out.  And, even more dramatically, no martinis.

    Instead, I grabbed some Brussels sprouts that we got last weekend in our produce share, pulled out this wonderful cookbook and started to plot.

    No, I said I was feeling righteous.  That doesn't mean here's the recipe I concocted from one in the book that flash-fries the sprouts before topping them with seasoned breadcrumbs for a final blast of deliciousness.

    Brussels Sprouts with Parmesan Breadcrumbs
    Serves 2 as a main course, maybe 4 as a side.

    1/2 pound (about 2 cups) Brussels sprouts
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1 cup seasoned dry breadcrumbs
    1/4 freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    2 tablespoons oil

    In a sauce pan, bring 2 cups salted water to a boil.  Add the Brussels sprouts (cut an x in the base to help the cooking along) and cook until bright green and tender-crisp, 7-9 minutes.  Drain and briefly rinse under cold water to stop the cooking.

    Heat the 1/3 cup oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Add the Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a small gratin or baking dish covering loosely to keep warm.

    Meanwhile, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and 2 table spoons olive oil in a small bowl and stir to combine.  Place in a dry skillet over medium-low hat until toasted, stirring frequently, 3-5 minutes.

    Sprinkle the toasted breadcrumbs over the sprouts and serve immediately.

    Sunday, January 27, 2013

    Cocktail of the Week: Rose Sangria

    If you're like me, when you think of sangria, you think of a warm summer evening on the patio. Probably not a beverage for the chill of winter. But you forget this is a special week. It's Super Bowl time. And if you're having a party, a pitcher of sangria is a perfect option for your non-beer drinking guests. Here's a nice recipe I ran across.

    Rose Sangria
    Serves 4-6. (You can easily double it for your big shindig.)

    2 (750 ml) bottles rose wine
    1/2 cup Spanish brandy (You can omit this, but it DOES add a nice boozy kick.)
    1/2 cup orange liqueur
    Juice of 1 orange
    1/2 cup superfine sugar
    1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries (frozen work just fine)
    1/2 orange, cut in thin slices and then cut in half
    1/2 lemon, cut in thin slices and then cut in half
    1/2 plum, pitted, and sliced into thin wedges (couldn't find one in my grocery during winter so left it out.)
    1/2 peach, pitted and sliced into thin wedges (I substituted a small bag of frozen peach slices)
    1 (10 ounce) bottle club soda, chilled

    Combine first five ingredients in a pitcher and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the fruit and stir well to combine.

    Refrigerate until well-chilled, about two hours.

    Right before serving, stir in the club soda.  Serve in large wineglasses over ice.

    Tuesday, January 22, 2013

    Cocktail of the Week: The Paloma

    It's that time of year when citrus fruits are plentiful.  Especially the gorgeous glorious ruby red grapefruit that comes from South Texas.  It's even been featured in our produce share. I've eaten it halved with a sprinkling of sugar (gilding the lily, dontcha know?) and incorporated it into salads, but it also is a star in this refreshing cocktail.

    The Paloma
    Makes one cocktail.

    Combine 2 ounces freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice, 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lime juice and 1 teaspoon sugar in a cocktail shaker and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in 2 ounces tequila.  (For a smokier drink, substitute mescal for some or all of the tequila.)  Pour into an ice-filled glass with a salted rim. Top off with club soda.


    Monday, January 21, 2013

    Chard/Garbanzo Fritters

    Now THIS is not the kind of recipe you necessarily go searching for on the Internet.  But we have been "blessed" with a surfeit of greens in our produce co-op share. Not just lettuce and cabbage,  but kale, chard and mustard greens as well.  All. At. Once.

    So as I felt guilty the other night about the greens wilting away and what the heck I was going to do with them, I was ecstatic to run across this recipe in Real Simple. Healthy combination of veggies and protein with just enough spice and a bit of cheese.  I will admit I adapted it slightly.  Scroll down for the delicious results.

    Chard/Garbanzo Fritters
    Adapted from Real Simple.
    Makes four servings.

    8 cups stemmed and torn Swiss chard (about 1 bunch) and/or spinach (I bet a combination of the two would be delicious.)
    1-15 1/2 ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
     1 clove garlic, minced
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    3/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese
    1/4 cup flour
    1 egg, slightly beaten
    4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
    1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
    2 tablespoons chopped dill, mint or chives (optional)
    Hot sauce

    Combine the yogurt and chopped herbs and set aside.

    In a food processor, combine the chard, garbanzo beans, garlic, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Pulse until finely chopped, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Transfer to a large bowl and add the Feta, flour and beaten egg.  Mix until combined.  Form the mixture into eight 2 1/2 inch patties.

    Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in  large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Working in two batches, cook the fritters until browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side.  Add the remaining oil to the skillet for the second batch.

    Serve with the herbed yogurt and hot sauce.

    Sunday, January 20, 2013

    Vegetable Stock

    Our produce share has been heavy on the greens lately, but also lots of onions and carrots.  So I've been making a big batch of vegetable stock almost every weekend.  It's a great base for soups (one way to use up all the aforementioned greens), but I've also been taking little bottles of it to work to heat up and sip out of a coffee mug as an afternoon snack.  You could also use it to poach fish for a nice additional bit of flavor.

    Vegetable Stock
    Adapted from Bon Appetit.
    Makes 2 quarts

    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 medium onions, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
    10 celery stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces
    2 large carrots, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
    8 ounces button mushrooms, halved if large
    2 heads of garlic, halved crosswise
    6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
    1 bay leaf
    1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

    Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, 5-7 minutes. Add 4 quarts cold water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until stock is reduced by half, 1-1 1/2 hours.

    Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl; discard solids.

    Tuesday, January 15, 2013

    Stir-Fry Beef and Broccoli

    This is a great healthful recipe for the New Year. It could be even healthier (and just as delicious) if you used the same technique and sauce with shrimp, chicken, or just your favorite stir-fried vegetables. I will definitely be using the sauce recipe again. It is the perfect balance of salty and sweet with just enough spice.

    Stir-Fry Beef and Broccoli
    Makes two generous servings.

    3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    2 tablespoons dry sherry
    2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
    2 teaspoons sambal oelek
    1 1/2 teaspoons light brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
    2 teaspoons dry sherry
    2 teaspoons cornstarch
    8 ounces sirloin steak, thinly sliced and seasoned with salt & pepper
    1 bunch broccoli, florets separated in to 1 inch chunks.  (Peel and slice the stems thinly or reserve for another use.)
    1/4 cup water
    4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
    1 large carrot, ribbon-sliced
    1/2 cup sliced onion
    (You could also add sliced mushrooms, sliced celery or sliced water chestnuts at your pleasure.)
    2 teaspoons minced garlic
    2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
    1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds or 1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped roughly

    Combine soy sauce, 2 tablespoons sherry, vinegar, hoisin, sambal oelek, brown sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.

    Whisk together 2 teaspoons sherry and cornstarch in a med bowl; add steak and toss to coat.

    Steam broccoli in 1/4 cup water in a wok, covered over high heat until crisp tender (about 5 minutes). Transfer broccoli to a plate. Discard the steaming liquid and wipe the wok dry.

    Heat 2 teaspoons oil in wok. Add sirloin and cook until brown but slightly pink, about 2 minutes. Transfer steak to a plate and tent loosely with foil to keep warm.

    Add remaining 2 teaspoons sesame oil; stir in mushrooms, carrots and onions (and other vegetables as desired) and cook until vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

    Add broccoli, beef and soy sauce mixture back to the wok; cook until sauce is thick and syrupy, about 1 minute.  Serve with rice or noodles and garnish each serving with toasted sesame seeds or chopped cashews.

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Cocktail(s) of the Week: Downton Abbey Cocktails

    I was quite conflicted last night.  What to watch on TV? Downton Abbey...which we waited it seems like forever for.  The Good Sunday night date with the incredibly talented Juliana Margulies.  Or the once-a-year drunkfest that is The Golden Globes?

    I ended up with the Golden Globes...couldn't miss Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and hopefully a gaffe or two.

    But I multi-tasked and had this delicious cocktail inspired by Lady Sibyl I found on It's a mix of gin, St. Germain, and bubbly and as the author said, just like the character, it's "sweet, lovely, and stronger than you'd expect."

    Next week I will be back to Masterpiece live.  And plan to kick back with either the Lady Edith (grapefruit juice and sloe gin) or the Lady Mary (with Lillet Blanc and basil).


    Tuesday, January 01, 2013

    Happy New Year!

    And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been. -Rainer Maria Rilke

    May Life for you in 2013 be Beautiful!