Tuesday, December 27, 2011


If simple soups are my food theme for Winter, then the title of this post is my home theme for the new year. (The real challenge being to remain organized for more than two weeks.) 

I posted a link on the FB page to some free, printable labels on the Better Homes & Gardens website, but there are a lot of freebies to be had out there. Printed some onto 2"x4" address label stickers and labeled all of the basement toy bins:

Printed some out onto regular paper and self-laminated them with packing tape on both sides. Punched holes and tied to art supply baskets in the kitchen:

And inside:

Now there's no excuse for finding this stuff stashed under the covers in my bed. Right?

Organized 2012, here I come.

Maple Roasted Potato & Rosemary Soup

I hope you are all enjoying a relaxing holiday with your families. Our Christmas was quiet and blessed. We didn't travel, we aren't entertaining. We cooked our big meal on Christmas Eve, so the big day was spent Skyping with family and setting up Legos.

We've also been enjoying a lot of glazed ham leftovers. Josh handled the ham, and the glaze and resulting gravy were nothing short of spectacular! Maple syrup and homemade orange marmalade were involved. He will have to do a post on it one day. Perhaps when he sits down to do that Thanksgiving post.

*cough cough*

I have decided that simple, satisfying, fortifying soups = my theme for the rest of Winter. And this one I made last week, was a doozy: Incredibly simple, but with delicately nuanced flavors to keep it interesting. Everyone had seconds.

There is no dairy in this potato soup. And it could easily go vegetarian/vegan with a flavorful vegetable stock substituted for the chicken stock.

Oh yeah! Take note: Maple Roasted Potatoes are officially the Way To Go. Next time you're roasting red potatoes as a dinner side, try it this way. Add some chopped rosemary after they come out of the oven, if you want. Delicious! Or, if you're serving home fries with a big weekend breakfast or brunch, leave out the rosemary and dish out alongside your scrambled eggs or omelette... You know how you soak up leftover maple syrup with whatever is left on you plate when you're eating breakfast out? These taste like that. Only better.

This color means they're done.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hazelnut Hot Chocolate Teacher Gifts

Or co-worker gifts, or neighbor gifts, or hostess gifts...

It's not too late! 

This was a quick trip to the craft store for us, a little tracing, cutting and gluing. Very kid-friendly, at least for ages 6 and up, if you want to get your kid into making their own teacher gifts. I must confess I just went ahead and made these wile Ingrid was in school yesterday. She helped with the labels, though. 

Now, before you go thinking how awesome I am... You should know: I did not get around to gifting Malcolm's preschool teachers this year. Whoops. And I've given them something handmade for the past 3 years, too. But I'm thinking I may just cook some of this up, after school starts back in January. I've got the jars and leftover craft supplies for packaging. (I also have plenty of ingredients to make more hot chocolate mix. I just want an excuse to make peppermint hot fudge sauce.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What do you think?

Are the new blog adjustments showing up okay? Got rid of the background images because I thought they were a little distracting. And I used a highly-rated, free-to-download photo editing program, not unlike Photoshop -- though much simpler and, um... freer, to make my header. I may fancy it up a bit when time allows*. Here is a link to the program I used. Still lots to learn...

*Having said (or blogged) that out loud, though, we can be pretty sure time will not allow. So, I hope you like it!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Garam Masala Chicken Tenders w/ Sweet Curry Dipping Sauce

Putting my Garam Masala obsession to good use! 

I made these last week, after talking to my mom on the phone... She mentioned seeing this, which she thought we might like. In it, Bobby Deen makes one of his mother's recipes a little bit more healthy. We are indeed shrimp fans around here, but I had chicken tenders on hand. (They were on sale. If you're watching your budget like we do, just buy breasts and slice your own tenders, or carve up a whole chicken if you are so brave and inclined.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Meatless Monday

Making this tonight, and I can't wait! Will post a pic later on tonight tomorrow:

Seriously good. I snagged the recipe from this blog here, and it was a big hit! It could also use chicken, and I think that would be fantastic, but we used veggie broth and omitted the bird. We didn't miss it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Take a minute and "like" And the Dish on Facebook, for worthwhile recipe, craft and gardening links, and some other sometimes interesting stuff :-).

If I get enough "likes," I may do a give-away... Have I mentioned how many little knitting projects I've got going?

Peanut Butter Balls

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hand warmers?

Don't mind if I do:
Image from The Purl Bee
Against my better judgement. Just cast-on my umpteenth project...

Maple Pecan Brittle

Christmas candy time!

It's no secret I love pecans. Preferably Texas ones. I will, however, keep it a secret how much of a batch of this I can consume before anyone else has a chance to try it...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Malcolm's Oatmeal Scones

Most Sunday mornings, Josh makes omelets or crepes, but this morning we had just one egg in the fridge. What to do?

Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen Almond-Apricot Oatmeal Scones.

These are Malcolm's scones because they're adapted to reflect how we dress up his oatmeal for breakfast, during the week (minus the half & half). Also because he made them! He's been WAY into cooking lately. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Pumpkin-Sage Pizza Crust

Been working on this one for a while, and finally seemed to have gotten it right, last night. (It's awesome.) 

FIRST of all, though... A few things I've learned about how to get the most out of almost any homemade pizza crust at home:

1. HOT oven. 500 degrees F.
2. HOT baking stone. If you don't have a baking stone (even though you should), you can also use an over-turned baking sheet. Preheat the stone (or sheet) along with the oven.
3. Oven rack needs to be in the top-third of the oven. For me, that's the second to the highest position.

These steps help you to simulate a wood-fired pizza oven at home. It's not the same as your favorite pizza joint, but it does get a pretty good showing out of your vastly inferior home oven.

Once you've rolled out the dough --on a very well-floured surface, make sure the toppings are all lined up and ready to go. Carefully remove the hot stone or sheet from the oven; lightly fold the crust in half, twice; transfer to the stone or sheet and unfold. QUICKLY brush the top with a little olive oil, then add your toppings and pop it back in the oven for 8-10 minutes.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Calling all Homesick Texans

I love her gift guides. (Though I sort of wish she'd kept the TX pecans a secret.) And I would also add Adams Extract brand Adams Best Vanilla -- nothing compares*.

*hint hint, Mom ;-)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Cake with Penuche Frosting

Am I the only one who mistakenly buys pumpkin pie mix instead of canned pumpkin? At least once a year? 

SO frustrating to get home and realize you can't make pumpkin scones, like you planned. However, as I discovered yesterday, all is not lost:

Thankfully, the result of combining one can of mistakenly purchased pumpkin pie mix with the box of yellow cake mix from the back of the pantry is... pretty spectacular. 

Add to that a little homemade penuche frosting...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Quinoa, Carrot & Lentil Stew

Mine with toasted potato bread.
The kids got half-sandwiches with butter and leftover cranberry sauce.

Meatless Monday: Originally a World War 1 & 2 campaign by the U.S. Food Administration to conserve resources, is now a public health campaign (revived in 2003) backed by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. I've known about it for several years, but I was a vegetarian back then... Now that we eat meat, I want to make this a part of our weekly routine. Interesting tidbit I did not know: Wheat-less Wednesday was also part of the original campaign. Sounds like a good idea to me. I wonder why that part was not revived?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Baked Brie

Thank you to my friend who asked about easy appetizers for entertaining. It's a slow, rainy day here and I was feeling kind of blah. Making this slightly fancy-pants dish to go with Tuesday night dinner was just the thing!

Seriously indulgent.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Make this stuffing

Photo from Epicurious.com

I have been remiss in my food blogging, not having addressed the coming feast for at least the past two weeks. Worse than that, I have a confession to make: I am not in charge of Thanksgiving dinner this year. 


Nope. Josh is an excellent cook. I think I've said that before. Better than me in a lot of ways. He has a mind for the science of cooking, whereas I just kind of feel my way through and rely on past experience to be my (sometimes misguided) guide. I have commissioned a guest post from the attorney-chef, and expect that as soon as he finds time... before Thursday. I have faith that this will happen. He has some amazing dishes on the docket, and I can't wait.

I'm not totally wussing out, now -- I'll be making the important stuff, like dessert. Chocolate pie. I'll be making my spiced pecans, too. And the stuffing. But I can't take credit for my stuffing recipe. I found this a few years back, and it is tha bomb. 

Fat Tire Fritters

Defying my better judgment, I pulled the Deep Fat Fryer out of hibernation. I received December's Bon Appetit today, and on the last page is a little Q&A with Jaques Pepin, one of my cooking idols. I love his story: 13 years old, drops out of school to apprentice at a restaurant... and the rest is public television history. A quick little blurb in the story tells us that he likes to mix a can of beer with 1 1/2 c. flour for a quick and tasty batter; adding coarsely chopped apples makes a tasty fritter!

I've been really good lately -- that is, running, counting calories and generally depriving myself of my customary daily gorging on the children's Halloween candy. And, for the most part, it's been pretty easy. I've felt better: more productive, less fatigued and all that. It's great! But then I read the word fritter... Okay, okay... and beer (which I've forgone for the last couple of weeks in the interest of conserving calories), in the same sentence. I had to do it. 

Pulled out of the fryer and draining on double-layer of paper towels + brown paper bag.
 Something about deep-frying foods makes me very, very happy. Is it the Southerner in me?

Dusted with powdered sugar.
Served with warmed maple syrup, it's like a pancake on steroids.
These are super easy, and should probably be served for dessert, or as an indulgent weekend breakfast/brunch. We had them for dinner tonight with eggs and Odwalla Super Food juice (it's green).

12 oz. Fat Tire Amber Ale
1 1/2 c. flour
2-3 coarsely chopped Honey Crisp (my favorite!) apples
vegetable oil for fryer

Heat the oil (enough that it will cover the fritters) in your fryer (or stock pot) to 375 degrees F. Mix the flour and the beer, and fold in apples. Use an ice cream scoop to spoon 3-4 scoops into the fryer at a time, depending on the size of your fryer. Set a timer for 5 minutes. Watch them, though. Turn with a slotted spoon once or twice. Then, once they're a deep, golden brown, take them out and set on paper towels to drain.

Cool, then dust with powdered sugar. Makes 12.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Seriously Good Baked Oatmeal

Name courtesy of my 6 year old daughter. That is to say, the kids LOVE this. (They are regular oatmeal lovers, too, though. So their perspective skews that way.) 

You could turn this gluten-free fairly easily, by using gluten-free rolled oats (we like Bob's Red Mill) and either omitting or replacing with a GF flour the 2 TB in the topping. It could even go dairy-free by replacing the milk with soy or almond milk, the yogurt with mashed banana and the butter with vegetable oil. I've made it that way before, and it is not drastically different. Either way, I've got full and happy kids and a kitchen that smells great! 

PLUS... and here is the real advantage to baked oatmeal on a Sunday... You can refrigerate individual leftover portions, then dish them out as breakfast on busy weekday mornings. Bonus, right? Put a piece in a bowl,  pour some milk on top and microwave for 30 sec. or so, then dress with your favorite toppings.

1/4 c. light brown sugar
2 TB flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
2 TB cold unsalted butter
1/2 c. chopped pecans

3 c. old fashioned rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
2 TB granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 c. dried cherries

1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 c. yogurt
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. melted unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

Optional toppings:
dried cherries
warm milk
sliced almonds (toast them if you're an over-achiever!)

Grease an 8x8 baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, combine first four ingredients. "Cut" in the cold butter, until mixture resembles course crumbs, then toss in pecans. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine oats, baking powder, granulated sugar, 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, kosher salt and dried cherries. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together until well combined. Pour over oat mixture and stir to combine. Pour into greased 8x8 and top with the brown sugar/pecan mix. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until toothpick comes out mostly clean. Cool on rack for at least 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

Serve coffee cake style on a plate, OR serve in a bowl, topped with warm milk, extra dried cherries and sliced almonds (my fave).

Homemede Applesauce

I woke up this morning with a hankerin' for Baked Oatmeal. (It's in the oven now; recipe to follow.) But my recipe calls for applesauce, and... I'm out. I do, however, have a crisper drawer full of local apples, as any self-respecting New Englander (transplant or not) should at this time of year. Add to that the fact that Daylight Savings Time ended last night, and we were all up and at 'em well before 7, and voila! Homemade Applesauce.

This recipe is EASY and highly adaptable. If your apples are pretty juicy, use less water. If they're especially sweet, less sugar. Sweeten with granulated sugar or brown, agave nectar, maple syrup or any combination thereof. Instead of water, you can use unsweetened fruit juice. Spices! If you've read any of my recipes, you probably know I'm a fan of the Garam Masala (I like Whole Foods brand). I use it in all sorts of stuff. It's an Indian blend, usually including: black pepper, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin and coriander. I. Love. It. I use 3/4 tsp. of it in my applesauce. But if you are feeling a bit less experimental, try just simmering it with a cinnamon stick. Lastly, you can make as much or as little as you want. Double, triple... freeze it even. But I find 2-2.5 pounds of apples makes just enough to meet about a week of our (not-so-great) applesauce needs.

2.5 lbs cooking apples, peeled, cored and quartered (about 2 lbs after prep)
juice of one lemon
1/4-1/2 c. sugar (I used brown sugar)
1/4-1/2 c. water
3/4 tsp. Garam Masala
1 tsp. peeled, chopped fresh ginger (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large pot and simmer until apples are very soft, about 30 minutes. For chunky applesauce, mash with a potato masher (a good job for little "helpers"). Run through a food mill or sieve for a finer texture. Blend if you like it smooth.

Next, bake with it, serve it warm over vanilla ice cream, dip crispy french toast sticks in it. Or, my favorite: Pack it up for the kids' lunches and instruct them to look down upon those children with the store-bought stuff... Just kidding.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Stuff, and stuff

So, you may have noticed my little note on the ads, there in the sidebar. I didn't start this blog to make money (it's a good thing, too!). However, it's been collecting a few cents here and there, and I thought it would be cool to donate the proceeds to charity. I should get a check in the mail when revenue reaches $100... Now, after 5 months of diligently typing away... I'm nearly there. Ha! But every little bit helps. Especially as we get closer to the holidays. If you can suggest a worthy cause, please feel free to do so in the comments. And on that note, if you are neither my mother, father, in-laws, husband or very close friend, please feel free to leave a comment as well! I'm curious who's out there reading.

P.S. Go "like" the Dish on Facebook. I share good food articles and recipes from the 'net there.

Orange Curry Spiced Pecans

Try serving them with Manchego and dried cherries.

The perfect combination.
I love it when flavors come together like this. Seriously, seriously good. You can take this basic formula for roasted nuts and adapt it to your taste, too. Almonds, cashews, peanuts... cinnamon/sugar, garlic/cayenne. Just be sure to get the sugar processed to a fine dust. I think that's the secret to a nice even coating of flavoring over the nuts.

These will definitely be making an encore appearance come December, when I'm scrambling to get something special together for the kids' teachers. Probably two batches will do it, scooped into a clear plastic gift sack and tied with a festive ribbon. 

1 egg white
1 TB. water
1 tsp. salt
1lb pecan halves
2/3 c. white granulated sugar
1 tsp. curry powder (I like Whole Foods brand Muchi Curry powder)
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (McCormick's)
1 tsp. freshly grated (organic) orange zest
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
3/4 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. Process the sugar in food processor for 30 sec. to 1 min., until superfine and dusty. Combine sugar and spices; set aside. Whisk egg white, water and salt together, then toss with pecans to coat. Use your hands to be sure they are each well-coated. (Note: As a native Texan, I am obligated to tell you that it is pronounced "pe-CAHN." Y'all.) Drain pecans in colander, and toss with the sugar/spice mixture. Spread evenly over the parchment-lined baking sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until dry -- 45 minutes to 1 hour. Cool and store in airtight container for up to two weeks.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What blog?

Wrestling tigers.

Let me tell you. I understand EXACTLY how kids grow up so fast. Exactly how time flies. How one day you turn around and your tiny little bean of a baby is a six year old singing Justin Beiber. I understand. I just can't explain it. (I can't explain Justin Beiber, either).

Along the same lines, I probably could not explain how these past couple of weeks flew by without my knowledge or consent, but I know a few things happened, at least. The last time I sat down to this blog, I was lazily sipping a new red wine, while Josh cooked dinner on a Saturday night and the kids watched a movie. My favorite kind of Saturday night, these days. Since then, I promise I have cooked:

Homemade yogurt 
Orange curry pecans with dried cherries and manchego 
A most remarkable warm winter salad 
Simple scones
I also enjoyed a fabulous birthday weekend in NYC with my fabulous husband, while his fabulous parents held down The Fort. We ate at Les Halles (Anthony Bourdain's restaurant), Maze by Gordon Ramsay (fabulous!), and several other delicious spots (much thanks to the Yelp app on my phone!). I saw my first musical on Broadway:

Daniel and John were both great!
We walked everywhere and must have seen everything within a 5 mile radius of our hotel. Times Square, Central Park, The Plaza, FAO Schwartz, World Trade Center Memorial, Wall Street and the Wall Street Occupation. It was so nice and more than a little surreal to just hike around with Josh all day -- it occurred to me that we'd probably not hung out during the day, sans lovelies, since I worked at Vermont Law, and he was a student. And no... after 6+ years of waking up by 7 every morning (often much earlier)... I could not sleep in. But I did wake up on my own terms, and that's something!

Other than that, we've just been goofing off. Recipes to match the photos coming soon! I think you'll especially want to try the pecans. Easy, delicious and highly adaptable, they've been a big hit at several gatherings and are going to make awesome teacher gifts come Christmas time.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Corte Mayor 2006 Rioja

Great value! A 90 point (excellent rating) wine for $9.99. Deep, ruby red, smells of ripe plum with slight hints of vanilla and dried herb. The importer, Bottle Green Ltd., calls it "confident." Whatever that means... It is very smooth and mellow. Nothing shocking to the palate here. Light tasting at first, but with a fuller body toward the middle and an easy finish.

This Rioja is made from Tempranillo grapes, native to Spain, but grown in many places now, including the US. The name refers to the Spanish "temprano," meaning early. The grapes are harvested several weeks earlier than most. It is a Crianza, as opposed to a Reserva. Crianza is a classification that means it was aged in oak for a minimum of 1 year. This particular wine was aged in "new oak" then bottle-aged for an additional year. I don't taste any oak at all. Maybe on account of the oak being "new?" I don't know. I didn't research it that far. Josh tells me the vanilla I'm smelling might be a bit of oakiness... So, that's up for debate. Reason enough for a second glass, I'd say. (Btw, a Reserva must be aged for a total of 3 years, with at least one of those years in oak.)

I'm not sure this would stand up to a meat-heavy meal. Maybe something mild like lamb. It is certainly good sipping with Manchego cheese, while you laze around on a Saturday afternoon and try to decide what to cook for dinner. I will buy it again.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Truck Stop Chili - Three Ways

This wins the award for the dinner that kept on giving this week. It could be easily adapted for a slow-cooker, doing the initial browning of meats and onions over the stove, then transferring to the cooker. Low for 6-8 hours would probably do the trick. I used the stove-top; prepped it at lunch time, then let it simmer all afternoon. Our often hectic evenings always go much more smoothly when I manage to cook/plan ahead like this. 

I modified the original recipe to reduce the heat a bit and to include a few more spices. Using center-cut bacon reduced the fat and sodium. Look for a 5 lb. packaged beef brisket and take it to the butcher counter. Ask to have as much of the fat trimmed off as possible and to have it cubed. Because who wants to mess around with trimming beef at home?

 6 slices center cut bacon
3.5 lbs well-trimmed beef brisket, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large sweet onion (Vidalia, Texas 1015 or Mayan Sweet), chopped
2 TB cumin
2 TB chili powder
1.5 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
grating fresh nutmeg
4 large garlic cloves, pressed or minced
32 oz. low-sodium beef broth
one 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes in puree
1 dried chipotle chili
2 bay leaves

chopped tomatoes
chopped onions
shredded cheddar or Mexican mix
chopped cilantro
sour cream
blue corn chips

Dinner #1: Over rice, topped with cheese, sour cream, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and blue corn chips.
Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Remove bacon and set on paper towels to drain. Over high heat, brown the beef in the bacon drippings, then set aside to drain in colander. Over medium heat, saute chopped onion in the remaining drippings until lightly browned, 8-10 minutes.

Toast cumin in a small skillet over medium heat for just about a minute. Add cumin and other spices to onions and stir constantly for one minute. Transfer to soup pot. Crumble in bacon, add beef broth, tomatoes, chipotle chili, bay leaves and beef. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 4-5 hours, partially covered.

Set the garnish choices out and let everyone choose their own toppings.

Modified from "Truck Stop Chili" in The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh.

Dinner #2: As the sauce for cheese and onion enchiladas.
Cheese and onion enchiladas for dinner #2 were so easy, I even managed them on soccer practice night. Prep a side salad to go along with them early in the day. If you're going to eat chili three nights in a row, don't forget to include something green! Heat up 10-12 corn tortillas, fill and roll. Top with chili, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until heated through. Uncover and cook until the cheese is melted. Broil for a couple of minutes at the end, for a nice, browned top.

Dinner #3, and my personal favorite: Migas!
I'm a sucker for migas. This was the kids' favorite incarnation of the chili, too. Scrambled eggs on top of corn chips, topped with chili, cheese, chopped onions and green pepper. BTW, Xochitl Blue Corn Chips = Awesome. Thin, crispy and perfect. (And no, I'm not being paid to say that, but if anyone from Xochitl should read this, I'll totally accept a free bag or two.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pink Pancakes

I made these for dinner the other night -- "Brupper," if you will, and the kids really got a kick out of them. The batter is very, very pink. Yet another way to dish up beets for the non-beet enthusiast. A little note on Greek or strained yogurt: It has nearly twice the protein of regular yogurt; I love it; I often substitute it (plus a little milk for thinning) in recipes that call for buttermilk.

12 oz. (~3 small) beets
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
16 oz. nonfat greek yogurt
1/2. c. milk
2 eggs
1 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. brown sugar

Wrap beets in foil and roast at 350 degrees for about an hour and a half, until tender. Do this as early in the day as you can find time. Once cool, peel and chop. In a large bowl, add to the beets the oil, yogurt, milk and eggs. Blend with immersion blender until smooth.

Whisk dry ingredients in medium bowl, then stir into wet ingredients. Pour a scant 1/3 cup onto your pre-heated griddle and cook until puffed, bubbly and dry around the edges. Turn and cook the other side. Slather with butter and real (preferably Grade B) maple syrup.

OPTIONAL: Add chopped walnuts or fruit (I used pears) to the pancakes just after you pour them onto the griddle (that way you can customize each for varying tastes). EVEN MORE OPTIONAL: 3/4 tsp. allspice, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. freshly grated (organic) orange peel and 1 tsp. freshly grated ginger... This may sound a little... out there... for pancakes, but they were really quite good: a delicately spiced, wonderful-smelling, lovely tasting pancake that you can be proud to serve for dinner.

(Don't be surprised if I repost this for Valentine's Day!)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Teething and Tex-Mex

Finding time to write has all of a sudden (okay, 2.5 weeks ago, to be exact) become a real challenge. Toward the end of summer, we'd finally fallen into a flexible routine that allowed me to cook blog-worthy mealls 4-5 times a week AND sit down to write on some short stories. A couple of months ago, I set a goal to polish at least one of them off and enter it in a contest. Now... I don't know if I can have it ready in time.

So, what have I been up to these past few weeks, besides posting once or twice? School started. And if you'll recall, I predicted this excuse back in August. Now, just like last year, I'm truly shocked by how busy the activities and social calendars of a 4 and 6 year old can keep us. Homework, violin, soccer, play dates, birthday parties. Add to that a furiously independent 16 month old with swollen, aching gums and s-l-o-w-l-y emerging incisors... a 15 month old well check-up (3 shots), 4 year old check-up (4 shots) and flu-shots all around. Oh and a silly, infected splinter in my foot that sent me to the emergency room this past Sunday night for antibiotics. My blood pressure was (understandably, I'd like to think) elevated enough at the ER to elicit a lecture from the nurse. Now all week I've been looking for just 20 minutes to donate to the treadmill. Why doesn't hauling a 25 pound baby around all day count as exercise?

Who, me?

This morning, I would have loved to relax and align some chakras with my favorite Yoga Zone video, but faced with a 25 lb lovely who is completely uninterested in morning naps (*sniff*), I opted for a therapy of the retail variety. Bea and I spent an hour or so wandering the book store before we picked Mal up from preschool. I realize the library would have been much more budget-friendly, but I talked myself into a trip to the store, saying we needed to find our new neighbor friend a birthday present before his party on Saturday. We found one. I also came home with an entire cookbook for quinoa (which is great, considering I bought a ginormous bag of it at Costco the other day):

Find it on Amazon.

And a Tex-Mex cookbook I absolutely cannot wait to try:

Find it on Amazon.

I'll let you know how they turn out. And I'll share some adaptations. Meanwhile, I promise to post more than once this week!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Scallops and Kielbasa with pan sauce

Paired well with a not-too-sweet Riesling.

Watching Josh sear the scallops, I had a sudden urge to yell at him in a British accent, "RAW!!" (So, I did.) I love watching Gordon Ramsey terrorize young chefs on Hell's Kitchen.

However, Josh was not fazed by my antics, and his scallops would have definitely stood up to Chef Ramsey. He always does our green beans, by the way. They are so simple: blanched for a couple of minutes, then warmed in butter. But, somehow I almost always manage to over or under cook them. Maybe they just taste better when somebody else makes them. I'd sure hate to think I can't cook green beans. 

Moving on... This was a random Thursday treat for us last week, and it surprised me in more ways than one. First, after several days of rain, several nights of a teething one year old, for whom the only way to end her 2 AM screaming fit was to allow her to flop endlessly about between her (exhausted) mother and father, plus a necessarily hectic first week back to school... it made me really, Really happy. Less tired, more... Happy. It's wonderful what a plate of good food can do. 

Second, the kielbasa! Who knew? Maybe it's been done... Yeah, it probably has, but I've never seen it: Scallops and Kielbasa. Awesome. The contrasting textures, sweet pan sauce, slightly spicy sausage. (Is this contrast thing becoming a theme in my recipes?) I totally wanted to bottle this pan sauce and eat it on everything for the next week, but it was especially tasty on the green beans. 

12 fresh sea scallops
1/2 lb. cooked kielbasa
1/2 c. dry white wine
2 Tbsp. shallots
3-4 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
kosher salt

In a large, medium-high pan, heat one Tbsp. olive oil and one Tbsp. butter. Just as fat begins to smoke, add scallops and dust with a pinch of kosher salt and pepper. Don't move the scallops around in the pan! Cook 3-4 minutes or until about 1/4'' browned up the side. Flip and cook another 3-4 minutes.

Remove pan from heat, and set scallops aside. Add one Tbsp. butter to pan and return to medium heat. Add shallots and cook until translucent, 4-6 minutes. Add wine and remaining 1-2 Tbsp. butter in generous chunks. Stir occasionally until sauce is desired thickness.

Serve each scallop on top of thin slice of kielbasa, drizzle with sauce. Serves 4.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Want to Knit

Image from designer Cat Wong. Found here.
I feel a knitted jewelry kick coming on... I still have the kit to knit the Butin necklace... and I want to do some of these bracelets, too.

I bought some really gorgeous hand-dyed sock yarn recently, with which I fully intended to knit socks... but to be honest, the Turkish Cast On threw me for a loop. I tried so many times to get it just right, that the delicate cashmere/merino yarn started to get fuzzy. Boo.

I will knit socks. Someday. But, for now I want to use my super fancy yarn for something a little easier and a lot more visible!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Cucumber Margarita time!

I believe it was quite some time ago that I promised this recipe... No, I didn't forget. And yes... oh yes, we have been testing a good number of them. In fact, I'm drinking one right now. I have come to understand that simple syrup is the secret to a really great margarita. Mix up a couple of these this weekend and toast the end to a great summer. Makes one big drink:

5 oz. cucumber juice (from 1 med. cucumber)
2 oz. lime flavored simple syrup
2-3 oz. tequila
3 oz. limeade (I like Simply Limeade)

For lime simple syrup, heat one part sugar to one part lime juice (the refrigerated stuff is easiest!) until sugar is dissolved, cool.

Peel, seed and chop cucumber. Blend and strain through mesh sieve. Or use the juice leftover from making the Baja Cream Sauce you'll serve with Fish Tacos?

Mix it all together in a cocktail shaker with ice, pour and ENJOY.

You can also substitute all or part pureed melon for cucumber.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Perfectly Minty Couscous with Beets

Laughter and mayhem. A happy-for-the-first-time-today, teething toddler; early evening sunlight streaming in across the table, and there sits a simple, nutritious, amazingly tasty dish -- that I didn't make!

My idea of a Perfect Sunday Night Supper.

This may be the real reason why I started keeping this blog. We stumble across dishes like this every so often; Josh will comment, "We should save this recipe." I say, "Yeah. I'll write it down." Enter distraction, and I have exactly 0 recipes written down prior to the beginning of this blog.

Josh made this tonight. He is such a great cook! Why is it amazing that this dish is so tasty? Well... Darn. I have a confession to make. (I am not a fan of beets.) I want to love the beet. I really do. We received more beets than I knew what to do with in Vermont, as participants in the Luna Bleu CSA (which I LOVED, and still miss to this day). Beets are hearty, and healthy, and red. "Eat the rainbow everyday," right? Dare I say they're even a bit trendy, at least within the gourmet, farm-to-table crowd?

Yes. I wish I loved the beet. But I don't. Yet, every once in a while, I come across a beet recipe that makes me reconsider this stance. Here is a good one, for example. Mint is a similar ingredient, for me: one that I love --in theory-- not necessarily in practice. It's overdone, or too much, or... something. It's just not usually all that I want it to be in a dish with "Mint" in its name.

Today, however, Josh presented me with a keeper on both fronts.

4 small to medium sized beets, roasted and chopped
1 lb. green beans, blanched and cut into 1 inch pieces
3/4 c. Israeli (big pearl) couscous, cooked according to package instructions
1 tsp. cumin
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. mint, minced
1/3 c. Spanish olive oil
1/3 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. red onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. crumbled feta cheese

Roast the beets. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush with olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast for an hour and a half, until easily pierced with a fork. Cool and remove skins. Chop.

Meanwhile, blanch the green beans -- cook 3-4 minutes in boiling water with a pinch of sugar, then dunk in icy water. Cook the couscous according to package.

Whisk the next 7 ingredients together. Pour over beets and green beans, top with feta.

A great dish to share. Potlucks, book clubs. People will say, "I usually hate beets!" Then they'll ask for the recipe. Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for up to one day. It's also great warm.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Curried Stone Fruit Cobbler

My original vision for this tiny, tiny corner of the internet was not necessarily a recipe site. Recipes plus was more like it... At the moment, however, I find myself cooking a LOT, creating new recipes and modifying old ones: I've been turning to cooking as my creative outlet.

Lately, it feels like the summer just shot right past me. A moving train that never pulled into the station and I'm standing there, stunned and windblown, ticket and luggage in hand, ready to go. But it's gone...  hmmm... 

Cobbler, anyone?

Cherries, plums and peaches... Oh my!

Sweet & spicy. Hot & cold (to be served with ice cream, of course). This dessert brings together a variety of complex and complimentary flavors in an extremely satisfying way. Plus, it has more than one potential incarnation: Omit the cobbled topping and call it a chutney, then serve over warmed brie and baguettes. Or ice cream. Can it and save for when these fruits are no longer in season or turn it into pie filling. You could even freeze the pie and serve it with Thanksgiving dinner in a few months! What? You don't plan that far ahead*?

A couple of notes: If you can't find white balsamic vinegar (Trader Joe's makes a pretty good one), regular balsamic should work just fine; it will just color your fruit some. I use the Whole Foods brand Muchi Curry Powder and Garam Masala seasoning. Lastly, I think any combination of stone fruits (maybe even blueberries?) would work well with this.

Weird lighting... I cannot guarantee you the same florescent results.
For the filling:
2 c. Ranier cherries, chopped
2 c. ripe but firm, peeled peaches, chopped
2 c. ripe but firm plums, chopped
1/4 c. white balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. maple syrup
3/4 tsp. Garam Masala
1/4 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. grated orange zest
pinch anise seeds

1 tsp. cornstarch
pinch table salt
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

For the topping:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar +
1/3 c. plain whole milk yogurt

Mix fruit and spices, then pour into colander set over a bowl. Drain for approx. 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Pour fruit into 8x8 baking dish, reserving 1/4 c. of the drained juice. Whisk cornstarch, salt and lemon juice into the reserved fruit juice. Pour this mixture over the fruit and bake in 425 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles course crumbs. Mix in yogurt until dough just holds together... add a tablespoon of milk, if necessary, but don't over mix, as this will make the biscuits tough.

Remove fruit from oven and form 9 balls of biscuit dough, space 1/2 inch apart on the cobbler and return to oven for 15-17 more minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

*Me, either.