Friday, September 30, 2011

Arugula, Radish, and Grains Salad

While normally I think of myself as an adventurous eater, there are some things, I still shy away from.  Beef tongue?  Pork trotter?  No problem.  Quinoa?  No, thanks.  Seriously.  I've been a flexitarian for years now (probably between 15 - 20 years of eating meat just a couple times a week, and sometimes less than that.  Of course, sometimes more, too).   I love tofu and have eaten it many different ways.  I love lentils and other beans.  However, I haven't branched out to the grains.  Too hippy, I've always thought (I know, I can hear you laughing at me now).  This recipe inspired me to buy no less than 3 grains I've never, ever bought before.  I will be buying those grains again.  I may even try some other quinoa recipes.

It was the radishes and arugula that inspired me to take the plunge into not typical US mainstream grains.  In our CSA box last week, we got two large bunches of different radishes.  My favorite were included---the red ones that when you slice you see pink rings in the middle.  I am not a radish fan.  I'll eat them in chicken tacos (aahh.....must make those again soon!), but that's about it.

Curtis and I loved this.  I didn't even offer it to our kids.  I figure once it's on the table a few more times, I'll have them taste it.  By then, they'll be used to seeing it and it won't seem so strange.  Plus, if I shared, then I wouldn't have any for lunch for myself today.  I also shared some with my in-laws and they thought it was pretty good.

I made a half recipe which easily served 4 - 6 people as a side.  The amounts included are my half recipe amounts.

Arugula, Radish and Grains Salad 
adapted slightly from Amanda Hesser on

1 c mixed grains, like farro, freekah, wheatberries, wild rice, quinoa, and/or pearl barley (I used wild rice, farro, and quinoa)
3/4 - 1 c arugula, torn if on the larger side, long stems trimmed off
1/2 c parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 c mint leaves, thinly sliced (cut in a chiffonade)
1/4 lb pecans
2 T hazelnut oil (or walnut oil, hazelnut was just what I had on hand)
2 T red wine vinegar
1/2 - 3/4 c radishes, cut as thinly as possible (a mandoline makes this easier)
2 T olive oil
1/4 c raisins
1/4 c dried cranberries

Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.  If using wild rice and wheat berries, add those first and cook for 10 minutes.  Add whatever remaining grains you are using and cook an additional 25 minutes or until just tender.  Drain the grains in a fine colander (if your holes are too big, the quinoa will all escape with the hot water) and set aside until just warm to the touch.  Combine the grains with the rest of the ingredients in a medium-large serving bowl and toss well.  Season with salt to taste (if you heavily salted the water, you probably won't need to add any extra salt).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Somewhat Thai Pork Pineapple Skewers

I am beginning to feel like a broken record.  It goes like this:  I found this great recipe in Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.  I am not sure exactly how many of her recipes I've posted, but I am starting to feel guilty.  Just go buy the cookbook so I don't need to feel guilty. Ok? Ok.  Let's say I am posting this recipe for myself, not you, so when I get my box of produce and plan my menu for the week, the recipes are here on the blog, the first place I check when menu planning.

Really, that dog of ours couldn't find a better cookbook for me for Christmas present last year (yep, the cookbook is from our dog).  I hope she does as well this year.

It being summer and all, we've been getting our CSA box every other week.  It just works out better for us to do it that way in July, August, and September.  I can work through all the produce in a 2 week time easily, but in a week is a bit of a stretch.  I need to supplement vegetable based meals with a little more meat.  I found a pork loin in my freezer (I wonder how that got there.....), and then found the easiest, least apt to heat up the kitchen recipe I could find.

All but M loved this (but to be honest, she didn't like a single thing I cooked all week. Seriously).  This was super easy and can be mostly made ahead of time and just cooked at the last minute.  I served it with brown rice.

Somewhat Thai Pork Pineapple Skewers
adapted from Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

1 c roasted, salted cashews
6 T cilantro
1/4 c olive oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 T soy sauce
2 t brown sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 lbs (approx) pork tenderloin, cut into 1" chunks (or you could use 1 1/2 lbs chicken)
2 c fresh pineapple, cut into 1" or so chunks

In a food processor, combine nuts, 2 T cilantro, oil, garlic, soy sauce, sugar, lemon juice and 2 T water.  Blend until smooth.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Season the pork chunks with salt and pepper.  Smear half of the cashew sauce over the pork to coat thoroughly.  Reserve remaining sauce as a serving/dipping sauce.  Let the pork marinate at room temperature while heating the grill or broiler or you can let the pork marinate in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours.  Alternately thread the pork and pineapple chunks onto metal skewers.  Grill or broil (I grill to avoid heating up the house) the skewers until the pork is cooked through, about 12 minutes, turning the skewers once halfway through.

Serve with rice, sprinkling pork with remaining cilantro and serving the remaining cashew sauce on the side.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Peach Blackberry Pie

I used to claim my peach pie was the best I ever had.  In fact, I think the recipe may be called Best Peach Pie, I was so confident.    This year though, when I started to make The Pie, something seemed lacking.  It didn't have that WOW factor I thought it once I had.  I felt like it was undercooked.  I didn't like how hard the top of the pie was.  I searched for a new recipe.

It took me last than 10 minutes to decide to try a this recipe.  Since then, we've made it no fewer than 4 times this summer.  We loved it that much.  I made a few tweaks after the first time to get the crust not to get so dark, but other than that, it's been good to us.  Curtis tried his hand with it one day, thinking he could improve on it.  The only thing he thought that really improved it, was slicing the peaches more thinly and more carefully arranging them in the pie crust (instead of my dump and clean out with a spatula method).

Now I feel like once again I can claim my peach pie is the best I've ever had.  It's perfect this time.  Really.  At least until one or two or five summers from now when I decide it isn't.

This does take a chunk of time to make, mostly because the crust is so fussy.  It's a wonderfully rich butter crust, but it does have to chill twice and blind bake before filling it with fruit and baking it again.

Peach Nectarine Pie
adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 1/4 c butter (20 T)
4 - 10 T water (I know that's a big range---I've used between 5 - 6 usually, sometimes more)
2 1/2 lbs (6 c) peaches, sliced thinly (we leave the peel on, but we're just like that)
1 T lemon juice
1/2 c sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
pinch of salt
2 1/2 T cornstarch
1 T vanilla
2 c blackberries
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
coarse sugar (Demera or "raw" or decorators's sugar)

For the crust:  Pulse together the flour and salt in a food processor.  Add the butter and very briefly pulse---just until butter breaks up into chickpea sized chunks.  Add the water, 1 T at a time and pulse just until the mixture holds together (you do not want the mixture forming a ball and spinning around the sides of the food processor bowl).  Form the dough into a two balls, set each on a piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a disk.  Firmly cover/seal the dough with the plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator at least an hour before rolling out and baking.

If you've refrigerated the dough for significantly more than an hour let rest on the counter a minute or two before rolling out.  You can tell if you need to do this if the dough is too hard to roll and immediately breaks apart when you are rolling it.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out one ball of pie crust to fit a 9" pan (the dough should maybe be 13 - 14 inches in diameter).  Place in 9" pan and flute the edges.  Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes or as long as overnight.  With the second ball, roll out thinly and cut out 10 - 15 shapes using a cookie cutter.  I choose flower shapes---both big and small (mostly because I didn't want Christmas or Halloween themed shapes on my summer pie).  Transfer to a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

For the filling:
Combine the peaches in a large bowl with lemon juice.  Gently stir in the sugar, brown sugar, and salt, and allow to macerate (sit unattended) on the counter for 30 minutes.  While the peaches macerate, prebake the crust in a preheated 375 degrees oven.  Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the edges of the crust begin to crisp.  Remove the weights and foil and bake an additional 5 minutes to crisp the bottom of the crust.

Once the peaches have finished macerating (I just like using that word!), add the cornstarch and vanilla to the fruit and stir until the cornstarch dissolves.  Add the blackberries and very gently toss.  Scrape the fruit into the pre-baked pie shell.  Arrange the pie crust cutouts on the tope, touching at places but not totally covering it.  Brush the cutouts with the egg white glaze and sprinkle lightly with the coarse sugar.  Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven (yes, this is higher than before) for 40 minutes.

Around 30 minutes into baking time, check the edges of the crust.  If it appears to be browning to quickly or getting to dark, very, very lightly tent a piece of foil over top.  After the initial 40 minutes of baking at 400 degrees, lower the oven temp to 350 and bake an additional 15 - 40 minutes, until the filling is bubbling.   You want to leave the pie in the oven as long as possible so the cornstarch activates and thickens the filling.  However, if you are concerned that the crust just won't taste good because it's so dark, take it out of the oven.  It will be more edible with a runny filling than with burnt crust.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan--the rich version

Since June, I've been going on and on about the Texas heat. It's still going and that brings the diversity in the boxes down considerably. This past week we got probably 2 or 3 pounds of eggplant in our box.

It was time to find the eggplant parmesan recipe. My last attempt at eggplant parm (as I like to affectionately call it) was alright, but I thought a better recipe must be lurking somewhere.

Sure enough. What really makes this recipe is the cheese: bufala mozzarella. Bufala (buffalo) mozarella is a fresh mozzarella. It comes in a ball, soaking in a milky brine. It is soft, difficult to slice and impossible to grate. If this isn't easily available you can use fresh mozzarella, or even simpler just plain ole' mozzarella. There will be difference, but I don't doubt this will still be a good recipe.

We enjoyed this. To be honest, I can't remember if M ate this at all--M is my total eggplant boycotter. The boys both did though. This will be the eggplant parm I make again and again. You can just ignore the older recipe. :)

This serves 6. Hands off cooking time and resting time will be at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours, so plan accordingly. (Hands on time is significantly less....there's lots of resting, simmering, and baking time.)

Eggplant Parm
adapted from Nancy Jo on Food52

3 lbs eggplant, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices
1 c flour
olive oil
1 c Parmesan, grated
1/2 - 1 lb bufala mozzarella, sliced (or equal amount of other mozzarella, also sliced, not grated)

2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes (or equal amount of diced tomatoes)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Place a layer of eggplant in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Continue to layer, sprinkling each layer with salt until all the eggplant is in the colander. Weight with a heavy pot or a cookbook or tea kettle filled with water. Let the eggplants sweat for 30 minutes or more.

Meanwhile, cover the bottom of medium saucepan with olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant (don't brown). Add the canned tomatoes with their juices and a bit of salt. Stir and coarsely chop with a potato masher. Simmer until reduced by almost half.

Remove eggplant from the colander and pat dry. Put the flour in bowl or small baking pan. Dredge the eggplant slices through the floor, shaking off any excess. Place floured eggplant on a baking sheet covered with a coating of olive oil (you may need two pans. I did). Drizzle the eggplant with a little more olive oil. Bake in preheated 450 degrees oven for 15 minutes, or until browned on one side. Turn over and brown the other side, about 10 - 15 minutes.

Spread a thin layer of sauce in a 7 x 11 baking dish (don't use a 9 x 13"---it's too big). Cover the sauce with a layer of browned eggplant. Sprinkle with some parmesan. Add another layer of sauce, then eggplant and parmesan. When you are a two layers from the top (maybe the 3nd or 3rd layer you've made), add a layer of sliced mozzarella (this will be the only layer you use the mozzarella on). Continue to layer the eggplant, sauce, and parmesan (yes, this is in a different order than you started. The last layer should be the parmesan.

Bake in the upper third of a preheated 400 degrees oven for 30 - 35 minutes. Check the eggplant parm after the first 20 minutes. If it looks really juicy, drain some of the excess liquid off carefully with a spoon. Let stand 15 - 20 minutes before serving.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blackberry Popsicles

The summer popsicle love continues!!

I took a shortcut on this recipe. I think it made the difference between M eating them and her not. I didn't strain the blackberry puree to get rid of the seeds. I just left the seeds in the attempt to save time and effort. The seeds didn't bother the boys, my cousins, or I, but M found it unpalatable. I guess next time, the decision to strain the seeds will also depend on the time I want to spend making a popsicle recipe.

Other than that, this recipe is great--also using yogurt!!! which increases its benefits as a healthy summer snack. This recipe does have more sugar than the other popsicles, thanks to the simple syrup. The blackberries are also more tart than peaches, so they need more sugar. My cousin found these were a great follow-up to a 30 minute run in the 80+ degrees heat of Austin mornings.

This will make 10 popsicles.

Blackberry Popsicles
from Bon Appetit

2/3 c water
2/3 c sugar
3 (6-oz) containers fresh blackberries (3 1/2 - 3 3/4 c)
1 c plain yogurt (we prefer nonfat to keep the popsicles healthier)
5 t honey
4 t lemon juice

Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Transfer to simple syrup to small bowl and chill for 1 hour.

Puree blackberries in a food processor until smooth. If you have the time and energy (I didn't), pour the puree through a strainer set over a medium bowl. Using a spatula, press the solids through the strainer. The seeds should be left in the strainer and discarded. Measure 2 c puree (the rest can be used for another purpose, like spooning over ice cream or pancakes or waffles or angel food cake) and combine with simple syrup, yogurt, honey, and lime juice. Stir to combine.

Place in popsicle makers. If using a Zoku, these will take 8 - 10 minutes (slightly longer than popsicles without yogurt in them). Otherwise, freeze the popsicles at least 8 hours or overnight.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mock Manti with Eggplant

This summer, as I looked for eggplant recipes, I discovered they fell into two camps: a baked moussaka type dish or a tomato sauce/pasta type dish. Those recipes just seemed so last year to me. I wanted something different, something new.

I was excited to find this recipe. Manti is a Turkish/Armenian dish with homemade dumplings. The recipe I used substituted pasta for the homemade dumplings, a substitution I appreciated. Authentic manti also doesn't have eggplant, however the recipe also used that. I've never had real manti so I had no problem using this version of the recipe. It was exactly like I had expected it to taste, so no disappointment about it meeting any expectations. If you are a lover of true, authentic manti, maybe you shouldn't make this, or make it and call it something else.

I risked it and followed the recipe, using ground lamb instead of ground beef (Curtis isn't a lamb fan). It was worth the risk. We both loved it with the ground lamb and the different flavor the lamb gave it. The kids weren't excited about it, but I have yet to get them to eat eggplant in anything but baba ganoush consistently. I think it's the consistency.

I will definitely make this again.

This will serve 4.

Mock Manti with Eggplant
adapted from In the Kitchen with A Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

1 lb eggplant, diced into 1/2 " cubes
5 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 t salt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c onion (or 1 large shallot), minced
1 1/2 T fresh mint, chopped
1/2 lb bowtie or other thick, chunky pasta
6 T unsalted butter
2/3 c plain Greek Yogurt

Toss the eggplant with 1/4 c oil and large pinch of salt. Spread on a baking sheet and roast until crisp and brown, about 15 - 20 minutes. Stir gently once to help even browning.

After the eggplant is browned and crispy, heat remaining 1 T oil. Add 3 cloves minced garlic and onion and saute until garlic is fragrant. Add the lamb, a little salt, and a dash of black pepper, to taste. Saute until the lamb is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in the mint and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in the eggplant. Taste and add more salt or pepper as desired.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente. While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Watch closely and cook until the butter is browned and smells nutty (the nutty smell is the easiest way for me to tell). In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt and a pinch of salt.

To serve, drain cooked pasta and place on serving platter. Top with lamb-eggplant mixture. If you know your kids won't eat the yogurt sauce (like mine wouldn't), spread the yogurt sauce over half (or however much you want to eat). Pour the melted butter over top of yogurt.

Add roasted pepper flakes if desired.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Peaches and Cream Popsicles

While the kids loved the peach mango popsicles, my mom and I loved the peaches and cream popsicles. I plan to keep serving these to my kids, in hopes that they'll eventually like them.

The fact that these have Greek yogurt in them thrills me. I like the idea of getting some calcium and protein with the fruit.

Can't say much more about them than that. Great popsicles!

Makes 6 popsicles.

Peaches and Cream Popsicles

2 -3 peaches, pureed (equal to 1 c of pureed peaches)
1 peach, diced (equal to 1/2 c of diced peaches)
6 T milk
1 (5.3-oz) container of Greek vanilla yogurt
2 t agave nectar or sugar (or more depending on sweetness of peaches)

Mix together pureed peaches, milk, yogurt, and agave nectar until smooth. Stir in diced peaches. Fill popsicles molds and freeze, 7 -9 minutes in the magical Zoku popsicle maker or 4 hours in the freezer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mexican Cabbage Salad

One of the beauties of our CSA this summer has been the cold storage vegetables we are getting on these 107 degrees days. (Yes, days is plural). Thus, I get to have some nice cabbage salad to go with my meals, making the summer feel more summery sometimes.

Part of our summer craziness was having about 4 weeks worth of guests staying at our house this summer. All of those were family, but family or not, that's a lot of cooking, entertaining, and runs to the airport. When my cousins came, they got in late afternoon on a weekday, which made it difficult to plan or prepare for supper. I decided to do pulled pork tacos in the slow cooker and decided to have cabbage salad to go with it. Although this summer, I am mixing and matching cuisines on a regular basis, I decided to keep it kinda on a Mexican theme. Thanks to Jamie Oliver for calling this cabbage Mexican and letting me use it. (I see the humor in that sentence).

All the teenagers and adults enjoyed this. I believe my boys tried it. M didn't, but she's not a cabbage fan. It was a nice light salad, good with tacos. It was a nice change from my usual Asian cabbage salads or my other cabbage salads (this will be number 7 and I just discovered another favorite hasn't made it yet).

Serves 4 (maybe 6 if people aren't cabbage fans)

Mexican Cabbage Salad
adapted from Jamie Oliver

1 small cabbage (or 1/2 red and 1/2 white small cabbage), about 4 - 5 cups, thinly sliced
small bunch of radishes (optional--we have no radishes these days), thinly sliced
2 carrots, finely sliced
a large bunch of cilantro, finely chopped
1 -2 jalapeno or other chiles, thinly sliced (optional)
juice of 2 - 3 limes
extra virgin olive oil

Mix together cabbage, radishes, carrots, and most of the cilantro. If you are using red cabbage, you may want to wait until the very end to stir it in so the red color doesn't bleed into the white of the cabbage and radishes. Stir in the jalapenos, if using and a little olive oil. Add most of the lime juice, a fat pinch of salt, and toss. Taste, adjust seasonings, adding more olive oil, lime juice, or salt as necessary.

You could also add a thinly sliced red onion if you are a raw onion fan (I'm not).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Peach Mango Popsicles

Did you know that the 8th year wedding anniversary is popsicles? OK, maybe officially it is bronze, but bronze schmonze. In our house, it was popsicles! For our anniversary I got Curtis a Zoku popsicle maker.

Maybe this was one of those gifts that was as much for me as it was for Curtis. Maybe I loved the idea of having healthy popsicles for our kids in 7 minutes (how long it takes for popsicles to freeze). Maybe this was the first anniversary gift I had ever gotten Curtis. Maybe I won't get him another one for another 8 years, say for our 16th anniversary which I hear is an expensive saute pan year. :)

We've enjoyed many popsicles many times this summer. The kids' favorite (besides straight up orange juice popsicles) are the Peach Mango Popsicles.

Peach Mango Popsicles
from Whole Foods Market website

1 mango, peeled, seeded, and pureed (it should equal 1 c pureed)
2 -3 peaches, pitted and pureed (it should equal 1 c pureed)
1/4 c water
2 T sugar (or agave nectar would work too, use less agave nectar than you would sugar)
lime or lemon juice, to taste

Combine fruits in a medium bowl. In a small pan, heat water and sugar, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add to the fruit. Add lime or lemon juice to taste.

Fill popsicle molds. (Magical Zoku molds take 7 minutes to freeze! Otherwise, freeze until set, 3 - 4 hours).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cheesy Summer Squash Gratin with Parsley Pesto

Oh friends. I've missed you.

My blogging has been slim this summer, I know. I've been cooking though and I have a whole slew of recipes to post. Last summer, my unofficial theme was Eastern Mediteranean cuisine---mostly Greek with some Middle Eastern thrown in. This summer, any theme, official or unofficial has been thrown aside. I went through a no tomato sauce phase---tired of pasta with roasted eggplant. Homemade pita has seemed too time consuming this summer, so the mezze meal and souvlaki has been less frequent.

Instead, I have cooked whatever I have felt like---Turkish one day, Hill Country Texan the next day, Italian the next, and Vietnamese the following. I've been all over the place.

This recipe falls in the Hill Country Texan category, coming from Food52 via someone named Paula who is a chef in Austin (that narrows it down, doesn't it). It features summer squash, chiles, parsley, and mint, which all grow copiously in Austin (except for this year---our year of excessive heat and exceptional drought).

Curtis, my mom and I liked it. It was a way we could handle summer squash, one of our least favorite of all summer produce. Unfortunately, I made this in beginning of July and here it is the middle of August, the recipe on my iPad so I didn't scribble notes about the changes/adjustments I'd made. Sorry.

This will serve 4.

Cheesy Summer Squash Gratin with Parsley Pesto
adapted from Amanda Hesser on

1 t fresh oregano leaves (1/2 t dried)
1/4 c fresh mint, thick stems discarded
1 c parsley
1/2 - 3/4 c extra virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic
1 anchovy
1 T capers, drained
1/2 lemon

2 lbs summer squash, slice 1/8" thin
1 1/2 c breadcrumbs
3 T butter
3/4 c sliced shallot, green onion, or regular onion (I used a regular onion)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 T fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 green chile (Hatch or Jalapeno, depending on how spicy you want it, choose your chile accordingly), seeded and finely chopped (the chile is optional, too)
1 c grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese

To make the pesto: Using a food processor, process the oregano, mint, and parsley to a paste. Add some olive oil and process a little more. Add the anchovy and garlic and pulse a few times to incorporate with the pesto. Add the capers a pulse a few more times---you don't want the capers smashed to smithereens. Transfer to a bowl and stir in more of the oil, adding a couple of tablespoons at a time, until the pesto is somewhat runny and pourable. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

To make the gratin: Toss the sliced summer squash in a bowl with 1 t salt and let set 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan heated over medium heat. Cook the butter until is browned (it will smell nutty). Put the breadcrumbs in a bowl, pour browned butter over top, scraping the pan to get all the browned bits stuck to the bottom, and toss well. Drain the sweated squash (it's called sweating because the salt draws the water out of the squash, making it look like it has, in fact, sweated) and transfer it to a large mixing bowl. Add the onion (shallot, green onion, etc), garlic, thyme, chile (if using), 1/2 c of the pesto, and some pepper. Toss to combine. Add the cheese and half of the breadcrumbs. Toss again. Place the squash in a 9" round gratin dish or cast iron skillet (that's what I used). Top with the remaining bread crumbs and bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the top is crisp.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos

Every time I make this, I scour this blog looking for where I posted this recipe. I never find it. I guess I've never posted this before.

This is quickly becoming my go to slow cooker recipe. I make it when I have a late afternoon airport run and am not at home to make supper. I make it when we have a play date/supper date and I don't want to spend time making supper. I make it when I need an after swim practice meal. Yep. It's one of those go to meals.

A 4lb bone-in, boston butt will serve 6 - 8. If possible, make the onions, the day before you want to eat.

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos
adapted from Merrill at Food52

3 - 4 t cumin seeds (2 t ground)
1 - 2 t coriander seeds (1 t ground)
3 - 6 t chili powder (I like New Mexican because it has good flavor but isn't spicy)
1 t dried oregano
4 lbs bone-in, bost butt, very large pieces of fat trimmed
olive oil
1 medium onion chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped (optional)
1 serrano or jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 c water or chicken stock (fill the tomato can half up with water and use that)
2 large limes

corn tortillas
2 - 4 avocados, peeled and cut into thin slices
sour cream

Pickled Onions
1 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 T kosher salt
2 T sugar
1/4 medium beet, peeled
handful cilantro
a lot of cider vinegar

For the onions: Put the onion in a microwaveable container. Add the salt, sugar, beet, and cilantro. Cover everything with 1 part water to 2 parts vinegar (in other words, 1 c water to 2 c vinegar). Microwave 1 minute, stir, and microwave another minute. Cool, cover, and refrigerate overnight (or until serving).

For the pork: Put the cumin and coriander in a small pan and set over medium heat. Toast the spices a minute or two, shaking the pan occasionally, until they're fragrant. Grind the spices using a spice grinder and set aside. Meanwhile, heat 1 T oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season all sides of the pork with salt. Put in skillet and brown on all sides. Transfer to slow cooker. Drain a little of the fat off and saute the onions and peppers, if using, until soft. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Stir in the spice mixture and cook another minute. Transfer the onion and spices to the slow cooker. With the skillet still over the heat, pour the water into the skillet, stirring to loosen all the browned bits and spices on the bottom of the pan. Pour into the slow cooker along with the diced tomatoes and the juice of the a lime.

Cook in a slow cooker over low heat for 6 - 8 hours. Before serving, remove meat from pot. Discard bone and large chunks of fat. Shred the pork using two forks and adjust seasonings (salt and chili powder) as needed. Serve on top of a tortilla with an avocado slice, some pickled onions, a sprig of cilantro, and a dollop of sour cream or salsa if desired. Squeeze a lime wedge over top.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tortilla Espanola

This is summer is turning out to be the hottest, driest summer I've ever lived through. I've learned that enduring oppressing heat can be just as hard mentally as the long, cold dark winters of the North. Like the harsh winters of the Northern locales, 51 days (and counting, with no end in sight), greatly decreases the diversity of crops in the CSA box.

Thankfully, our farm purchased several milk trucks that they've turned into cold storage. Thus in the midst of the heat that can bring down even the most optimistic person we are still getting BEETS! and POTATOES!! and CABBAGE!!!! All are welcome in tucked in between eggplant, peppers. and okra. (By the way, I have decided I want to buy a wine refrigerator for the sole person as using as a cold store for my root vegetables and winter squash. I wonder if I can convince Curtis?).

I have turned to this Tortilla Espanola (or Spanish tortilla) to help provide some potato variety. Spanish tortillas are nothing like tortilla you find in Mexico and Central America. A Spanish tortilla is more like a frittata----slices of potatoes, strips of onions, a little Spanish chorizo (again, nothing like Mexican chorizo), and lots of eggs. I make mine in a black skillet, both on the stove and finished in the oven.

A note on Spanish chorizo. Spanish chorizo is a cured sausage that will be found with other shelf stable salamis or summer sausage. It will not be refrigerated at the grocery store. If you can't find it, substitute shelf-stable salami.

Tortilla Espanola
adapted from Misskittin and Joy Manning on Food52

1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 lb potatoes
4 oz Spanish chorizo, diced small (shelf-stable, dried chorizo)
6 T olive oil
3/4 t salt
6 eggs, beaten
black pepper to taste

Cover potatoes with water in a pot and bring to a boil. Cook until potatoes can be pierced easily with a sharp knife. Remove from water and let cool. When they are cool enough to handle, slice into 1/8 - 1/4" slices.

In a black skillet (or your choice), heat 2 T oil over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until soft. Add the chorizo and cook until the chorizo renders some of its fat. Add the potatoes and toss gently so the potatoes aren't broken up. Pour beaten eggs over the potato mixture. Season with salt and pepper Allow to cook on the stove, without stirring, until the edges are setting up and the eggs are starting to look cooked on the bottom, between 5 - 10 minutes. Turn on the broiler and place skillet 4" under the heating unit. Broil until the tortilla puffs and is browned, about 5 - 10 minutes (depending on your broiler). Cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature. Add some tabasco, salsa, or a couple of slices of Manchego cheese on the side.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Brownies with Chile and Sea Salt

I am full of excuses for the month of July---the number one excuse being that I broke my arm and have been in a splint the past two and half weeks, which it makes it rather difficult to type. This morning, I have removed the splint just to add this recipe.

These brownies are addictive. They are the ultimate "adult beverage" (which my cousins and I jokingly call desserts because for the longest time, we only had dessert after the kids went to bed---similarly to how some people consume adult beverages.) It's easy to eat a quarter pan at a time, thanks to the salt sprinkled on top. The chile isn't enough to make the brownies spicy (M would eat them which would mean they are not spicy whatsoever). It's just enough to leave a little hint of tickle in the back of your throat after you ate the brownies (a tickle in a good sense as opposed to a choking tickle or a full out spicy throat burn).

Enough said. There are no pictures. The brownies don't last long enough. Plus, it's hard to get a good picture of a brownie. :)

Brownies with Chile and Sea Salt
adapted ever so slightly, maybe, from In the Kitchen with Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

18 T butter (also equal to 1 c plus 2 T butter or 2 sticks plus 2 T butter)
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1/8 - 1/4 t cayenne (I think I used closer to 1/4. Don't substitute chile powder)
1/2 c plus 1 T cocoa powder
2 1/2 c sugar
3 large eggs
1 T vanilla
fancy sea salt flakes like Fleur de Sel or Maldon, for sprinkling

Melt together the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler, stirring until smooth. In a separate small to medium bowl, combine the flour, kosher salt, and cayenne. Transfer the chocolate and butter mixture to a larger bowl. Stir in the cocoa powder and sugar (it will be rather thick). Add the eggs and vanilla, stirring until smooth. Fold in the dry ingredients (flour, etc) and continue to fold until batter is lump-free. Scrape the batter into a 9 x 13" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper (alternately, you could just butter the bottom really well, but it may stick). Smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle all over with the sea salt flakes. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees oven or until the edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and the top is set and shiny (if you like your brownies undercooked, just bake a minute or two less). Allow to cool until they won't burn your mouth any more and enjoy.

By the way---these, like most good brownies, are fabulous served warm with a scoop of ice cream melting over top. :)

Friday, July 1, 2011

Vietnamese Cabbage and Chicken Salad

I am discovering my cooking is evolving and changing. That's pretty much a constant with me--my cooking changes, I frequently try new recipes and discard ones I liked really well. Last summer it was all about Greek and Mediterranean food. While those are still regulars on our menu, I am finding a new theme for this incredibly hot summer (are we at 20 days over 100 degrees yet without even hitting July? Probably. I keep thinking there is no way this heat can last all summer, but it seems to be attempting to do that). Quick, easy, and minimal cooking.

We spend many an afternoon at the pool (it's within walking/biking distance of our house), which leaves me not a lot of time to make supper. Years and years ago, back before I even considered cabbage to be an ingredient I'd eat, I made a cabbage/chicken salad that I just barely found palatable. Things have changed, I like cabbage as long as it's not too cabbage-y, and Curtis and I thought this was a great hot summer afternoon meal. The kids didn't think so, as much, but I didn't expect them too, so I planned for a little more to the meal than just that.

This recipe is a great summer meal to use up some of the cabbage that just lingers on, long past the memory of the cold weather when it was planted and grown. I'd make it again, next June, when I have cabbage, it's hot, and I'd rather be swimming than cooking.

Vietnamese Cabbage and Chicken Salad
adapted from Food and Wine

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 t salt
2 T sesame oil
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger
2 1/2 lbs cabbage, shredded
2 T cider vinegar
2 T Asian fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
1 1/2 T lime juice
3 medium carrots, grated
3 radishes, grated
2 c mint, basil, or cilantro (or a combination), coarsely chopped
1 tart apple (like Granny Smith), cored and grated

Rub the chicken breasts with 1 t salt and 1 T sesame oil. Put ginger in a medium pot. Add 2 c of water and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and cover the pan. Simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the chicken continue to cook for 5 minutes. If the chicken is not done, turn the heat back on and simmer for a few more minutes. Remove the chicken from the saucepan and let cool. Pull into shreds when the chicken is cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, combine the cabbage with vinegar, fish sauce, lime juice and 2 t salt in large serving bowl (glass or stainless steel). Let stand for 10 minutes. Add the carrots, radishes, 1 1/2 c of the herbs, and the apples to the cabbage mixture. Stir in remaining 1 T sesame oil. Gently toss in the chicken and garnish with remaining 1/2 c herbs.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Homemade Gnocchi with light Spring Sauce

We're not great at eating potatoes in our house. I know it's crazy, who has a problem cooking with plain ole' tators? Boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, baked potatoes, roasted potato wedges, the options are endless. However, unless the potatoes are going into a roast or a stew, they tend to just hang out in my potato basket until the sprout, shrivel, and then mold. Sad, I know. It's just how things are.

We've had several weeks now of getting potatoes in our CSA box, off and on. I've made smashed potatoes and a yummy Spanish tapas-style tortilla. Yet, still the potatoes sat there. I then remembered my favorite potato dish (almost ever, but maybe not quite). Gnocchi.

Last fall, I attempted sweet potato gnocchi and last winter I made regular gnocchi (I just didn't post about it, ooops). One hot spring day (as all spring days were this year, sigh) I boiled some potatoes and started to make gnocchi. The kids wanted in on the process, which was a lot of fun. They helped roll out the gnocchi snakes. M, now 6, did a great job. I had to laugh at John's snake--it was complete with an enlarged flattened head at the front, just like a snake. At that point, John's helping was over. He lost interest when I had to roll the snake to be uniform and then cut it. He just wanted to use the gnocchi dough like play dough.

Don't let shaping the gnocchi correctly discourage you from trying. I make the saddest looking gnocchi you've ever seen. It doesn't prevent it from tasting good. I think I need to keep trying in hopes of someday getting it right.

For the sauce, I slightly adapted the macaroni, peas, and cheese recipe and topped the gnocchi with that. It was perfect for spring when I wasn't very hungry for a heavy tomato sauce.

We loved it. Curtis didn't partake. I know he's not gnocchi fan, so I made it on a day he wasn't home for supper. The gnocchi fills you up pretty quickly so this recipe goes a long way.

Serves 4 -6.

Potato Gnocchi with Spring Sauce
from + Melissa Clark's In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite

2 lbs potatoes, scrubbed
salt (about 3 T)
2 c + 2 T flour
2 large eggs
dash of freshly ground pepper

For the sauce
2 oz bacon or pancetta, chopped
1 1/2 c frozen peas
3 T heavy cream
2 T fresh mint or basil, chopped
2 t lemon juice

To make the gnocchi: Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with 2 inches of water. Add 1 T of salt, bring to a boil, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes (less depending on the size of your potatoes). Drain the potatoes, and while they are still hot, peel the potatoes, using a clean kitchen towel to help you hold them, if necessary. Using a potato ricer or food mill (I use the food mill attachment for my kitchenaid---the same one I use for making applesauce), process the potatoes, letting them fall onto a lightly floured work surface (ie the counter). Make a well in the center of the potatoes, sprinkle flour evenly over the potatoes, redefining the well if necessary. Break the eggs into the well. Add 1 T salt and a dash of pepper. Lightly beat eggs, then incorporate the flour and potatoes to make a soft dough. Knead the dough when it is too difficult to mix with a fork. You want to use as little extra dough as possible to keep the gnocchi light and fluffy like little pillows.

Divide the dough into 4 balls and on a lightly floured work surface, shape each ball into a 3/4" in diameter snake (no heads, please). Cut the rope into a 1/2 - 3/4" pieces. To shape the gnocchi, hold the gnocchi in one hand. Push the back of fork tines against the gnocchi and roll the gnocchi off the tines, making a indentation on the back as you do so with your index finger. (check out this recipe for a better explanation. Disclaimer: my gnocchi was malformed and ugly, but tasty). Put the gnocchi on a baking sheet, not letting them touch until all the gnocchi is shaped and you are ready to cook the gnocchi.

While you bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, make the sauce. To make the sauce: Cook the bacon or pancetta in a large skillet until crispy. Stir in the peas and cook for a minute to defrost. Add the heavy cream and herbs. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly, 2 - 3 minutes. Stir in the cheese. While the sauce cooks, put half the gnocchi in the pot of boiling water. Cook until the gnocchi floats to the surface, 2 - 3 minutes. Remove from boiling water and put directly into hot bacon and pea sauce. Repeat with remaining gnocchi, drizzle lemon juice on top of sauce, and stir gently to combine gnocchi and sauce. Serve immediately.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Peaches

There are not many things I make that Curtis complains about while he watches me make them. I think those he does complain about, before trying can be grouped together in one of two categories: shellfish, and fruit in anything but a dessert. Needless to say, when Curtis saw this, he winced and told me that was a waste of perfectly good peaches.

I am pleased to report, that although Curtis complained before trying them, after trying them the complaining ceased. He decided he really liked this recipe. It helped that I substituted chicken breasts for the thighs. While I am usually a thigh girl, in this recipe I actually prefer breasts (we had both when I made it). We served this with crusty bread (you could also serve it with rice).

Everyone liked this and it's a nice dish to make when you just can't enough of the peaches that start showing up in the heat of the summer. You can make part of this ahead of time. Mix together everything but the peaches and refrigerate. Slice and add the peaches just before roasting.

This seves 4 - 6

Roasted Chicken with Peaches
adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

1 lb peaches (they can even be hard, any stage of ripeness works), pit removed and sliced 1/2" thick
2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" strips
1/4 T olive oil
1/4 c red wine or chicken broth
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1" piece fresh ginger, grated
1 t salt
1 t pepper

crusty bread or rice, for serving

In a 9 x 13" pan, toss together the peaches, chicken, olive oil, red wine, basil, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper. Roast in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the peaches have softened. Serve with crusty bread for sopping up juices or with rice.

Do ahead: toss together the chicken, olive oil, red wine, basil, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to roast, then toss with the peaches (don't slice the peaches ahead of time, just slice them when ready to roast). Roast as directed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

French Tuna Salad Sandwich

This is another of our summer staples this year. I've found it's particularly nice on a Sunday afternoon after we've been at the swimming pool. According to the original recipe, this is another recipe to make the day before and let sit overnight (in fact, you assemble the whole sandwich, and refrigerate, pressed, overnight in order for the oils/juices to make the bread soggy). However, while I can get my act together to make Cold Sauce Pasta the night before, I can't seem to do this the night before. It tastes great when you make it about 10 minutes before you eat it, you just miss out on the soggy bread.

My children don't like this. I'm not sure why, but to be honest, it makes me a little happy. Curtis and I get to happily eat our fancy tuna while they eat traditional tuna salad (ie tuna + mayonaisse) sandwiches. They don't know what they are missing out on. I usually cook a whole pound of green beans, put a few in our tuna and the kids eat the rest on the side.

This meal is perfect right now for what we are getting in our CSA box. Last night we used a bell pepper, green beans, and parsley from our box.

This serves between 2 -4, depending on how big your sandwiches are.

French Tuna Salad Sandwich
adapted from Waverly on Food52

1/2 - 1 loaf crusty baguette
1 (6-oz) can tuna
3/4 c black olives (Nicoise preferable), sliced
1/2 c bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1/4 c parsley, finely chopped
1 (net weight 14.5-oz) can artichoke hearts (not in oil), reserving about 3 hearts for another use
1/4 c green beans, cut and blanched
3 T lemon juice
6 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine the tuna, olive, pepper, parsley, artichoke hearts, and green beans. In a small jar, shake together the lemon juice and olive oil until it is emulsified (or well-combined). Pour the lemon/olive oil vinaigrette over the tuna mixture and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut baguette into desired sandwich sizes and then in half, lengthwise (to fill). Remove some of the bread of the bottom half to create a trough to fill (just eat the bread you pulled out, yum.). Fill each bottom piece with tuna salad and enjoy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cold Sauce Pasta

I have entered full-on summer cooking mode. It isn't even half way through June yet and we've hit 100 degrees at least 8 (maybe 10?) times. It is not surprising that I am no longer interested in long meals that I spend hours (or even 1 hour) over the stove stirring or cooking in the oven. I have been on the lookout for recipes that use minimal stovetop/oven time and are slightly lighter fair.

I stumbled up upon this when we were still in the midst of swim practice during prime cooking time. It was a God-send. Almost all the work is done the evening before. It just takes a little foresight (this isn't a last minute type of meal). The only stuff that uses the stove is cooking the pasta the day you serve this.

Again, let me reiterate: You must make this sauce the day before you want to eat the meal. The sauce takes almost no time to make, but it sits in the fridge over night to let the flavors marry and enrich.

We all enjoyed it. I do think my favorite part was the ease of it all. This will definitely be a swim team/summer staple.

This serves 4 - 6. I served it with a loaf of homemade basil pecan bread (once I get a loaf of that I'm proud of, I'll post the recipe. The recipe is over on Food52 if you want to check it out yourself).

Cold Sauce Pasta
adapted from Roxanne DeRosa on with the help of DRBAB's testing notes

1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 c basil, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, left whole
2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
long skinny pasta (I probably used capellini, but spaghetti or anything else similar will do)

In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, stir the olive oil into the sauce and remove the garlic cloves. Drain the hot pasta, place in a serving bowl and top with the sauce. Serve.

That's it. Really. It is that easy.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Sloppy Joes

If your childhood was at all like mine, you remember Sloppy Joes. We had them as an easy meal at my house, sometimes over potatoes instead of buns (or more likely, bread). We ate them in school cafeterias in both elementary school and high school. They were everywhere. When too much beef became bad for you, we made them out of ground turkey (ewww....).

And then, I went years and years and years without eating sloppy joes because they somehow got a bad wrap. Maybe it was the ground turkey substitution. Maybe it was the commercials for ManWich (or whatever sloppy joe in a can was called). Whatever it was, sloppy joes weren't cool enough for me.

Then I had kids. I also had a split 1/4 of cow in my freezer which meant lots of ground beef. It helped too, that Ree of The Pioneer Woman fame had a sloppy joe recipe last year with fabulous pictures (as usual). The stars aligned correctly and I tried sloppy joes again.

We all loved them. Even Curtis, the one who doesn't love casseroles and jello salads, stated they were good. This past time I made them (yes, I've made them several times before posting), I used large whole wheat dinner rolls for the buns--we didn't need hamburger sized sloppy joes. These are sloppy (I had a very sloppy J picture that didn't make the cut because it was just way too sloppy!)

Sloppy Joes
adapted just slightly from The Pioneer Woman Cooks

1 lb ground beef
1/4 large onion, diced
1/2 large bell pepper, diced (any color will do)
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c ketchup
1/2 c water
1 T brown sugar
1 t chili powder
1/2 t dry mustard
1/2 -1 t Worcestershire sauce (I have to be honest, I didn't measure this)
1 T tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste
buns, cooked/baked potatoes, or bread

Saute the ground beef in a large skillet until brown. Drain off excess fat. Add the onions, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables soften. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, chili pepper, dry mustard and water. Stir and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add Worcestershire sauce and tomato paste. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in buns, over boiled or baked potatoes, or in bread.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Orange Peel Chicken

Ever have one of those days when you go to make a recipe and you discover one of the headliners your kids ate for a snack the day before? This was one of those days. Thus, my orange peel chicken didn't have orange peel, but it still tasted great. Next time, I'll use orange peel.

This was based off a Pei Wei (PF Chang's fast food little sister) dish. I was a little hesitant about the recipe because it was from a source I hadn't used before (I am learning to take caution on the internet in regards to recipes). However, it turned out great, but I already said that, didn't I. I made some serious adjustments to the recipes between not having oranges and not liking to fry foods. It was a hit though and everyone loved it.

Orange Peel Chicken
adapted from PF Chang (supposedly)

1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 green onions, sliced
1 c tomato sauce
1/2 c water
1/4 c sugar
2 T chili garlic sauce (optional)
1 T soy sauce
4 chicken breast fillets (2 whole breasts), cut into bite sized pieces
peel from 1/4 orange, julienned (18" thick strips), optional

Place olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and green onions and saute for 30 seconds. Add tomato sauce, water, sugar, chili garlic sauce, and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 - 6 minutes, or until sauce thickens. Set aside.

In a wok or large skillet, heat a couple of T olive oil. Add the chicken and stir fry, until chicken is cooked. Add the orange peel and cook 30 seconds before adding the sauce. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring gently a couple of times, or until the sauce thickens. Serve on brown or white rice.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vegetable Enchiladas

It is officially zucchini and summer squash season. It has begun. Unfortunately, I still remember disliking summer squash last summer and just the knowledge that it is in a dish is enough to make me want to go running and screaming away.

I attempted this anyway, knowing there would be large hunks of zucchini in it. It was alright. My kids didn't love it, but Curtis thought it was great and I found it tolerable (which is equal to great when it comes to recipes with chunks of zucchini in it). This recipe is based off of the enchilada's at Mother's Cafe and Garden, supposedly.

I will make this again this summer. For those of you who like zucchini more than me, you will probably love this.

This serves 4 - 6.

Vegetable Enchiladas
adapted from nannydeb on

3 red bell peppers, cut into 4 large pieces each, seeds, and stem removed
2 zucchini, cut into 1" chunks
2 summer squash, cut into 1" chunks
1/2 yellow onion, cut into 1" chunks
1 med jalapeno, cut in half, seeds and stem removed (optional)
2 garlic cloves, skin still on
1 (15-oz) can black, kidney, or pinto beans
8 oz sour cream
2 T cilantro, chopped
1 t cumin
salt and pepper
8 - 10 corn tortillas
1 c queso fresco, crumbled (or Monterey Jack cheese will do too).

Spread peppers, zucchini, squash, onion, jalapeno, and onion on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast vegetables in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 20 - 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. As soon as vegetables are tender, remove from oven (you're not going for mush here). The bell peppers and garlic will probably be tender first and browned first. Remove those first if they are. Place the bell peppers in a bag or covered bowl and allow to sweat for 10 minutes. Remove the skins from the bell peppers and garlic. Set the remaining vegetables aside to cool.

Place the bell peppers, jalapeno (if using), and garlic in a food processor along with the sour cream, 1 T cilantro, and the cumin. Puree until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together the cooled vegetables and the can of beans (your choice). Put a large spoonful or two of sauce in a 9 x 9" baking pan. Soften the tortillas by your preferred method--mine is microwaving 4 of them at a time for 15 - 20 seconds (or 30 if I accidently don't get them out in time). Place approx. 1/4 cup of vegetable mixture and a sprinkling of cheese into each tortilla. Roll up as tightly as possible and put into baking pan. Repeat until you use all the filling---I think I made 10 enchiladas. Spread the remaining sauce over top and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. (If you want, you can refrigerate until baking at this point). Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until hot. Garnish with remaining cilantro, your favorite salsa (especially if you left out the jalapenos because of your children), and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Smoky Minestrone with Cheesy Tortellini and Parsley Pesto

I am coming to learn that Minestrone is the Italian version of stone soup or the Mexican chicken caldo. It works great as a clean out the vegetable crisper soup, which could be why I have so many different versions of minestrone on my blog. This one is great for using zucchini, potatoes, and leafy greens.

There are several things I love about this soup. Thing 1 is the tortellini. In my humble opinion, one can never go wrong with cheese tortellini. Ever. Thing 2 is the parsley pesto. Although we are starting basil season her in CenTex, I used store bought parsley that was languishing in my crisper drawer. I like the slight bite of parsley better and had no desire to use the basil that was also languishing in my crisper drawer.

We all love this soup. The kids even ate the zucchini in this without a complaint. Being swim season and all these days, M ate three servings. I was pleased to be able to pull a leek from my little raised garden to use in this soup. The vegetable amounts are estimates--since I had small carrots and potatoes, I used 6 small carrots and 4 small potatoes.

This serves at least 6 and possibly 8. It is equally good on a warm, muggy early summer (yes, the end of May is early summer here) afternoon as it is on a cold winter's evening.

Smoky Minestrone with Cheesy Tortellini
adapted from WinnieAb on Food52

3 T olive oil
2 oz bacon or pancetta, chopped into small pieces (both chop easier if partially frozen)
1 lg onion, peeled and chopped
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 ribs of celery, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 medium-large potato, peeled and chopped
4 c chicken stock
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes
1 c kale, chard, or collards, roughly chopped
1 (9-oz) pkg cheese tortellini

1 c packed parsley leaves
2 T pine nuts, toasted
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T Parmesan cheese, grated
1 T olive oil

Heat 1 T of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook until they have started to brown. Add 2 more T of oil, if the pot looks dry, along with the onion, leek, and garlic. Continue to cook over medium heat until softened. Add the celery, carrot, zucchini, and potato. Stir for a minute or two. Add the stock, chickpeas, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes or so, or until the potatoes are tender (that will depend on how small you cut the potatoes).

If you are making this soup ahead of time, stop here. Finish right before you are ready to eat.

While the soup simmers, make the pesto. I find it easiest to do this by hand, based on the small recipe. Chop the parsley until it is very, very fine. Chop the toasted pine nuts and garlic. Add to the parsley, along with the Parmesan. Stir in the olive oil. Set aside.

Add the kale and tortellini to the soup(if you are using chard, add that a minute or two after the tortellini), and cook 7 minutes, or until cooked through. Taste and add more salt. Serve and garnish individual bowls with a nice spoonful of parsley pesto, as desired.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Boston Creme Pie

It was my birthday the other day. I made my own birthday cake.

That's right. For the past couple of years, I have requested to make my own cake. My daughter tells me that's just wrong, I can't make my own cake. However, I am a cake snob. I don't like grocery store cakes and bakery cakes tend to get right pricey. So, I make my own. That means I get to choose the kind of cake I get and generally, I know I will like how it tastes. Granted, if my husband volunteered to make me a cake (which he has before), I would let him. I also have many friends who I would let make my cake. At this point though, based off of all of our busy lives, it's just easiest to make my own.

The past two years, this is the cake I've requested. Growing up, my mom would always make her chocolate cake. Boston Creme Pie has replaced that cake though, thanks to the layer of pudding in the middle (those who know me well, know I am a total sucker for pudding) and a rich bittersweet chocolate ganache on the top. The only downfall is that it doesn't serve as many people as a traditional three layer cake because of it's size. I tend to cut these pieces much larger than a chocolate cake because overall, it isn't as sweet or as rich.

Boston Creme Pie
from my mom (who got it maybe from Betty Crocker cookbook) plus a few adaptions of my own

Chiffon Cake
2 eggs, separated
1 1/2 c sugar, divided
2 1/4 c sifted cake flour
3 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 c milk, divided
1 1/2 t vanilla

Beat egg whites until frothy to soft peaks stage (easiest to use a rotary beater---my large kitchenaid doesn't beat just two egg whites very well). Gradually beat in 1/2 c sugar. Continue beating until very stiff and glossy. Set aside. In a bowl of a mixer, blend flour, 1 c sugar baking powder and salt. Add oil, 1/2 c milk, and vanilla. Beat one minute at medium speed. Add remaining milk and egg yolks. Beat another minute, scraping sides of bowl frequently. Fold in beaten egg whites. Divide batter evenly between two greased, floured 9" round pans or split between 12 cupcakes and 1 greased, floured 9" pan. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 - 35 minutes for round pan and 17 - 20 minutes for cupcakes.

Pudding Filling
1/2 c sugar
2 T cornstarch
1/2 t salt
2 c milk
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 T butter
2 t vanilla

While the cake bakes, make the pudding filling. Mix together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a medium saucepan. Gradually stir in meat. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil one minute, continuing to stir constantly. Remove from heat and slowly stir in 1/2 of hot mixture into the egg yolk in a heat proof bowl or measuring cup. Blend egg mixture into remaining hot mixture in saucepan. Boil one additional minute. Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla, stirring to combine. Push pudding through a sieve to prevent any lumps (like any egg whites that may have ended up with the yolks). Cool, stirring occasionally.

Chocolate Ganache
1/4 c heavy cream
2 T water
2 T sugar
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, cut into large chunks

Once the cake and pudding has cooled, prepared the chocolate ganache. Bring the cream, water, and sugar to a full boil. Put the chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling cream mixture over the chocolate and let sit for 30 seconds. Stir with a whisk to melt chocolate. Allow to cool slightly so it can pour in a thick ribbon.

To assemble cake: Cut the 9" round cake in half. Top bottom half with about 3/4 of the pudding (you can use it all if you want, but I only use about 3/4 of the pudding. I eat the rest of the pudding plain). Put top half on the pudding layer. Pour the ganache over the top, smoothing with an offset spatula. If you are so inclined, you can attempt to drizzle the ganache down the sides of the cake as well. (I usually only drizzle accidentally).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pork and Shrimp Dumplings with Bok Choy and Noodles

My children are getting older. That is a "Well, duh, Melani" comment if there ever was one, but sometimes, these observations are more evident than others.

Take this meal for instance. For a change, cooking supper was made infinitely easier because of my daughter's help. Going on 6, M is becoming quite a commis (don't be impressed, I had to wikipedia it to find the right word). We have found some recipes that she can almost make by herself now that she can read recipes. For this meal, I did the chopping and M did the mixing and shaping of the dumplings.

Making dumplings are perfect for little hands that want to help in the kitchen. Being the non-artistic, non-perfectionist that I am, I wasn't concerned what the dumplings looked like. This could have to do with the fact that the recipe I was using had no instructions on how to shape dumplings except: "seal and shape." Hmm. Thus, I basically went for sealed.

We loved this meal. M particularly loved it because she had such an integral part of making the meal. The recipe makes twice as many dumplings as we used. I froze the leftovers dumplings and will pull them out next time I have some bok choy that I need to use. Easy dinner.

While making dumplings may seem daunting and time consuming, on a whole this recipe wasn't terribly difficult to make or that time consuming. I am sure it helped considerably that I had M doing all the dirty work. :)

Pork and Shrimp Dumplings with Bok Choy and Noodles
adapted from Cindy Lee Roberts on Food52

1 lb ground pork
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and chopped
1/4 c spring onions or scallions, chopped
1/2 inch piece of ginger, finely grated
3/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 t sesame oil
1 t Mirin or white cooking wine
1 packet dumpling or wonton wrappers (you'll need 50)
8 oz somen, soba, or udon noodles
a bunch (approx 8 oz) of bok choy, sliced into 1" ribbons and roughly chopped

1 1/2 T fish sauce (Nuac Mam or something similar)
1 T soy sauce
2 t white vinegar
1 t chili garlic paste (optional)
1/2 t sesame oil
1/3 c spring onion or scallions, finely chopped
1/3 c cilantro, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced

Mix together the pork, shrimp, spring onions, ginger, salt, pepper, sesame oil, and wine in a medium bowl. Place about 1 T of the mixture into the bottom half of a dumpling or wonton wrapper. Using your index finger, make a border of water around the filling. Fold the top half over and seal (the water is necessary for the dumpling to seal shut).

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. The following will depend on what kind of noodles you use. If you use a fast cooking, thin noodle like somen or rice threads (vermicelli), add the dumplings to the boil water first and add the noodles when there are two or three minutes left. If you are using a slower cooking, thicker noodle, like udon, add the noodles first, cook for a couple of minutes, and then add the dumplings. The dumplings need around 8 minutes in the boiling water to cook through. The easiest way to test to see if the dumplings are finished is to just break one open.

Meanwhile, mix all the sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Add the bok choy to the noodles and the dumplings and cook a minute or so more, or until the bok choy has wilted. Drain the noodles, et al. Pour the sauce over top and gently combine, being careful not to break the noodles. Garnish with a little cilantro and serve. (If you left out the chili garlic sauce because of children's sensitive tastes, you can put a little bit on top of each serving, as desired).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Macaroni, Peas, and Cheese

This is not macaroni and cheese. Don't sell it to whoever you are serving it as mac and cheese. They'll form a mutiny. It is not macaroni and cheese.

What it is is a light spring (or anytime) pasta dish full of flavor that makes you feel good about yourself (unlike mac and cheese). Well, it makes you feel good about yourself if you ignore the little bit of bacon and heavy cream you added to the pot.

As you may be able to tell, I learned from my mistakes. M didn't eat it for supper because it wasn't mac and cheese. The boys both loved it. I'll definitely make it again and not sell it as mac and cheese and I suspect she'll eat it just fine.

Macaroni, Peas, and Cheese
from in The Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

8 oz elbows or other cute small pasta
1 T butter*
1 t olive oil*
2 oz bacon (2 strips store bought, 1 strip farmer's market), diced (optional)
1 1/2 c frozen peas
3 T heavy cream
2 T fresh basil or mint, chopped
2 t lemon juice
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, grated

*If not using bacon, you need, otherwise the bacon creates enough grease.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain well. If you are not using bacon, melt the butter and oil together in a large skillet. If you are using bacon, cook bacon in a large skillet until crispy. Stir in the peas and cook for a minute to defrost. Add the heavy cream and herbs. Cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly, 2 - 3 minutes. Add the pasta and drizzle with lemon juice. Stir in the cheese until the past is completely coated and the mixture is creamy. Serve.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli

Curtis is not a shellfish fan. I can't quite understand that, but regardless of my understanding, he's not a fan. The rest of us are. So when Curtis went out of town for work for a few days, I jumped on the opportunity to try a new shrimp recipe that I thought looked good.

And good it was! The kids and I loved this. For M, it was close to the ultimate meal--she loves shrimp and she loves, loves broccoli. I thought the broccoli outshone the shrimp in this recipe. I had no problem letting the kids eat the bulk of the shrimp and sticking to the broccoli. The boys enjoyed this too.

My only changes were with the spices. I didn't have whole coriander and cumin seeds (nor a good method of grinding them either), so I threw some ground spices in.

This will serve 4, maybe.

Roasted Shrimp and Broccoli
adapted from In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite by Melissa Clark

1 - 2 lbs broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 t ground coriander (or 1 t whole seeds)
1/2 t ground cumin (or 1 t whole seeds)
1 1/2 t slat
1 t black pepper (optional--I omitted)
1/8 t hot chili powder (optional--I omitted this as well)
1 lb shrimp, shelled and deveined if you desire
zest from one large lemon

lemon wedges for serving

In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with 2 T olive, all the coriander and cumin, 1 t salt, 1/2 t pepper, and all the chili powder (if using). Spread the broccoli on a single layer on a jellyroll pan (a cookie sheet--but with sides) with a silpat sheet (for easiest cleanup. A silpat isn't necessary, just helpful). Roast for 10 minutes in a preheated 425 degrees oven. Meanwhile, combine the shrimp, remaining 2 T olive oil, lemon zest and remaining salt and pepper. Add the shrimp to the broccoli and toss. Roast, tossing once, until shrimp are just opaque and the broccoli is tender, 5 to 10 minutes more. Serve with lemon wedges or squeeze lemon juice over shrimp and broccoli before serving.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bagna Cauda Salad

Raw beets? Raw turnips? Raw radishes? In a salad with anchovies? I wasn't sold but the picture looked so pretty I decided to try it anyway, mostly because I had so many turnips in my fridge.

Turns out, Curtis and I both love it. I've made this twice now. I've rotated some different winter veggies in to the dish as they show up in my CSA box (and then crisper). If you have it on hand, you can also use 1/4 small butternut squash (seed and peel it--the send end is preferable) and 8 trimmed brussels sprouts. Thinly slice the squash and pull all the leaves off the brussels sprouts.

This recipe calls for a lot of thin slicing. If you are not adept with a knife to cut the vegetables paper thin, use a mandoline. Just watch your knuckles---slicing your thumb knuckle on a mandoline because your kids have lost the protective guide. I'm not talking from experience or anything. :) Almost all your prep time is spent cutting and slicing the vegetables. The rest goes quite quickly.

Just a note on the beets. If you don't care if your turnips and cabbage turn pinkish, you can stir in the beets as enthusiastically as you desire. However, if you want your whites white, stir a little dressing into the beets before you add them to the salad. Toss the salad very gently just to incorporate the beets.

Bagna Cauda Salad
adapted from Amanda Hesser's recipe on

2 small carrots, trimmed (peeled if store bought, not necessary if just picked)
2 radishes, trimmed
2 small turnips (or 4 very small turnips), trimmed and peeled
2 small beets (or 4 very small beets), trimmed and peeled
2 - 3 leaves of cabbage, sliced thinly
1/4 c parsley, chopped
4 anchovy fillets
2 small (1 medium) garlic clove
2 T lemon juice
5 T good extra virgin olive oil

Prep the veggies: The radishes, turnips, and beets should be sliced as thinly as possible using a mandoline or your wicked knife skills. These veggies should be translucent. Put the radishes and turnips in a small to medium sized serving bowl. Set the beets aside in a small mixing bowl. Cut the carrots into 3" long matchsticks (each matchstick about 1/8" thick or so). Add the carrots, cabbage and parsley to the radishes and turnips in the serving bowl. Mix with your hands to combine vegetables.

The dressing: You have several options. If you have a good mortar and pestle, that is sufficient. I don't. You could also use a mini food processor or blender. I don't have those either. Using a knife (or one of the other methods which involves the equipment I don't have), finely mince the anchovies and garlic. Combine to make with the salt to make a paste. Place in a small glass jar, add the lemon juice and olive oil, and shake vigorously. Season with salt and adjust the amount of lemon juice and oil as needed.

To create salad: Pour half of the dressing over the vegetables (not the beets yet) and blend with your hands, separating the vegetables as necessary. Mix very well. Taste and add more dressing if you would like. Once seasonings are how you like, very, very gently mix in the beets. Let rest for 15 minutes or so before serving.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Polenta with Chard and Mushrooms

On occasion, I have an incredible cooking day. I not only make a supper everyone loves, but I make lunch for myself too. The lunches are generally just for me. My kids are happy with peanut butter and jelly, fresh fruit, and fresh veggies for lunch so I tend to take that route. For me though, sometimes some cooked, veggie-based meal is called for.

Curtis has needed to travel a lot for work in the past 9 months. Granted, I have many friends whose husbands travel a lot more than mine, but for us, it's a lot. (Curtis never used to travel at all, so the approximate once a month trips seem like a lot). Usually, I take it all in stride, but sometimes I find myself exhausted and in need of some grown-up comfort food. When I found this recipe online, I knew I had found my middle of the day comfort (after the kids are in bed comfort food almost always comes in the form of chocolate pudding, mini nutella cupcakes, or cowboy cookie bars).

I loved this recipe. I love polenta. I love, love shitake mushrooms. Yes, this was pure love. I don't have bets on my kids eating this. M loves mushrooms, but she prefers hers uncooks. Plus, the addition of chard makes it a little questionable as well, not to mention the polenta, which doesn't like at all. J and little I would probably be even less impressed than M. But for me, it's the perfect middle of the day, I need some beauty and happiness in my life meal. This is my happy meal. I don't even need a toy.

I was tempted to leave out the lemon juice because I was too impatient to take the time to squeeze/zest one. I am so thankful I didn't. This dish NEEDS the lemon juice, don't make the mistake I almost did. The lemon juice is as crucial as the mushrooms.

This will supposedly serve 2. Hmm....I'm not commenting on how many it actually served. :)

Polenta with Chard and Mushrooms
adapted from Hail's Kitchen

4 - 6 oz chard, stems removed and coarsely chopped
8 oz mushrooms, combination of button, cremini, and/or shitakes
1/4 c onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 oz pancetta or bacon, diced (you could, hypothetically leave this out if you don't do pork)
1/4 c broth, either chicken or veggie
2 T dry white wine (optional)
1/2 T olive oil
1/2 T butter
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/2 t salt or to taste
dash of pepper, or to taste
1/4 c polenta
1 c water

Bring 1 c water to a boil in a small saucepan.

While the water comes to boil, cook the pancetta in a large skillet over medium high heat until it is crispy. Remove and set aside. Saute the onions and garlic in the same skillet for 2 minutes. Add the olive oil, butter, and mushrooms. Stir well to combine and then cook for a couple of minutes without stirring. Then stir the mushrooms well again and allow to cook undisturbed a few more minutes, or until the mushrooms have released all their juices. Add the wine to the pan and cook until all the liquid is evaporated. Remove the mushroom mixture from the pan.

Once the water boils, add the polenta and cook, stirring frequently until the polenta is thickened (how thick you want it is up to you). Meanwhile, add the chard to the pan. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the chard is wilted. Once the chard has wilted, return the mushroom mixture to the pan, along with the broth. Allow the broth to reduce and the chard to soften. Taste and adjust salt and pepper seasonings as necessary. Remove from heat, stir in the lemon juice and zest and thyme. Serve immediately over hot polenta.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

When I was young, every once in a while my mom would have her "Ladies" over. While this bothered my brother, sister, and I slightly because we had to stay out of sight and quiet, for the most part it was ok because my mom almost always made this for dessert for them. It was some what of a magical dessert to me---cake on the top with hot fudge pudding on the bottom. A piece was inverted on a plate and topped with vanilla ice cream. The vanilla ice cream always melted a bit in the hot fudge and it was wonderfully gooey mess of ice cream, hot fudge, and cake--perfect for a little girl.

Once I started making this for myself, it was no less magical or special, although for some different reasons. My favorite discovery was my mom used no bowls to make this. Every thing was measured and then mixed in the 9 x 9" pan it was baked in. I still love how during baking the cake floats to top and the vanilla ice cream makes a gooey mess with the hot fudge and cake.

This is always a hit when I make it. I love it because it's easy and good!

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
from my Mom :)

1 c flour
3/4 c sugar
2 T cocoa
2 t baking powder
1/2 c milk
2 T oil
1 t vanilla
1 c brown sugar
1/4 c cocoa
1 3/4 c hot tap water

Mix flour, sugar, 2 T cocoa and baking powder in an ungreased 9 x9" pan. Mix in milk, oil, and vanilla with a fork until smooth. Spread evenly in pan. Sprinkle with brown sugar and 1/4 c cocoa. Pour hot water over batter. Bake 40 minutes in a preheated 350 degrees oven. Let stand 20 - 30 minutes. To serve, invert on dessert plates and top with vanilla ice cream.