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.

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.