Easter Pineapple

Happy Easter and Happy “National Pineapple Upside Down Cake” Day!

yup its a real day and you can read all about it here.

While I didn’t make cake, I did make muffins. With one simple substitution to basic corn muffin mix I was able to turn something ordinary into something special.

pinneapple corn muffins

Simply substitute the oil called for in your cornbread recipe/mix with equal amounts of pureed pineapple. This gives a nice citrus zing to the muffins. If you want it a little sweeter, add in some honey or brown sugar to the batter – or better yet serve with honey butter!

 

On Another Note…

Please forgive my lack of blogging/cooking lately as I am finishing up a crucial semester in grad school and thesis deadlines are making it almost impossible to cook at all! Be done soon and looking forward to more cooking!

 

 

What Are You Doing For New Year’s Eve?

A popular question right now and also a very beautiful song by Ella Fitzgerald.

Listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFdfzNMV52Q

In past years I have celebrated big and small. Warm and cold. Quiet and loud. These days my celebrations tend to be more quiet than loud but always include some reflection on the year behind and some consideration of the year ahead.

I also use the New Year as a catalyst to de-clutter my house and usually spend January/February cleaning out forgotten drawers and closets. There is something about February with its brighter days and lighter snows that always puts a little spring in my step. Perhaps even more than the month of April which for most New Englanders marks the hope of spring.

I would like to say thanks to all my visitors and readers this year, old and new, who took a moment from their busy lives to read about my latest cooking creations. A special thanks to new friend Rachelle !!

So whether you celebrate big and loud….

firework 8b

Or small and quiet…

winter at the shore

Make it great and safe and…

Happy New Year

If you are interested: January 2011  &   January 2012

A “Green” Christmas

Veggies not money!

Holiday dinners like Christmas can be so full of heavy, rich dishes that I decided to take a really “light” approach with the salad course. Just fresh shaved greens – 3 kinds, all raw and lots of them! Plus some fresh grated raw turnip for a sweet-spicy crunch and some dried cranberries for a little color and sweetness.

Green Number one….

Thinly sliced Brussels sprouts.

Thinly sliced raw Brussels sprouts.

Green number two plus some orange…

sliced celery and shredded raw turnip

Sliced raw celery and shredded raw turnip – Celery is like “beginners fennel”

Green Number three…

Kale sent through the shredding disc on my cusinart

Kale sent through the shredding disc on my Cuisinart – I used “Curly kale” and took out the stems first!

All together now…

All mixed up with some dried cranberries

All mixed up with some dried cranberries

Dress this with a light lemon-garlic vinaigrette and enjoy a fresh start to a holiday feast!

Cookie Experiment

The “cake mix cookies” went so well that I felt kind of confidant and decided to experiment. What if I used chocolate cake mix? What if instead of peanut butter I used marshmallow Fluff? This seemed logical – after all both peanut butter and Fluff are gooey? That has to count for something when substituting in baking, right?

Wrong.

They looked really promising as I mixed it together – the white marshmallow Fluff giving the chocolate cake batter a kind of “designer grey” color! Once I started to portion them out on the cookie sheet, I really started feeling confidant and dug up some candy canes that I thought would be great all smashed up as a topping! They looked really promising as they went into the oven!

But when they came out…..

They seem to spread a lot more than I thought they would. In fact they spread a lot! And they had to be cut away from each other. But that wasn’t even the worst part.

They deflated too. While they were baking they had puffed up nicely and I was deceived into thinking I would have a nice puffy, chewy cookie. Instead they deflated to a flat, really flat cookie. And as a result I had really thin, crispy cookies. Maybe not the kind you want. I forged on anyway, making small dough balls and placing them further apart so at least I wouldn’t have to cut them away from each other, but I still had flat crisp little rounds.

They were still kinda tasty, despite the flat crispness. And it didn’t stop me from eating too many. But if any baker out there can tell me what to add (I suspect it is either baking soda or powder) I would love to get these a little “Fluffier.” (Pun intended!)

P.S. probably not going to take these versions to the cookie swap!

Not A New Idea

I thought I was on the cutting edge by adding pumpkin to my macaroni and cheese – after a quick check of google – I realized this was not a new idea!

That’s okay, it was new to my Thanksgiving table and that is all that counts right?

I was craving mac-n-cheese AND wanted to add seasonality to the dish so I could serve it at the holiday table, so that is how my “mash-up” came about. I simply started with my usual mac-n-cheese white sauce and added a little extra nutmeg and the tiniest pinch of ground cinnamon. For the cheese I decided to keep it kinda plain with a medium cheddar and lots of salty grated Romano. (You could use Parmesan, I just happen to have Romano) Next I stirred in 1 can of pure pumpkin. (Do I need to say.. “not pie filling, just pumpkin?”)

pumpkin mix

Next I combined it with al dente cooked penne pasta and topped it with some more cheese. You can stop here and let it cool and put it in the fridge till you are ready to bake it or even freeze it until then. Don’t you just love a good make-ahead-freezer dish? I sure do!

When you are ready, bake in a 350 degree preheated oven of for 30 mins (longer if frozen) until it is bubbly and brown on top!

This recipe is based on 1 regular box of pasta and 1 14oz +/- can of pumpkin. The basic white sauce recipe can vary for me depending on what’s on hand and how “saucy” I want the dish. But generally I start with 4oz butter and flour for the roux and add in 2 cups of whole milk. I probably used 8oz of grated cheddar and at least a cup of grated Parmesan and/or Romano. Don’t forget to season with S&P and what ever flavorings you like…dry mustard, smoked paprika, nutmeg etc.

This portions out beautifully for lunch leftovers….if there is any leftover!

pumpkin mac and cheese

Patriotic Dessert

What is more American than apple pie?

A “red, white and blue” berry dessert of course!

IMG_5107

Served in a little mason jar for fun and enjoyed in the most beautiful dining room!

or if you want to be a little fancier you can break out a pretty dessert bowl…

IMG_5109

…and yes that is a bit of cubed pound cake you spy. Think “trifle” in a personal size.

Production notes

Strawberries were lightly sweetened with honey and mashed just a bit to get them nice and juicy. The whipped cream (homemade) is sweetened with a bit of vanilla and agave. The blueberries didn’t need a thing. The pound cake was purchased and cubed up. The mason jar version could be made ahead ( not too far – but like a couple of hours) and stored with lids on, in the refrigerator till party time.

Or what about using ice cream instead of pound cake?

Happy 4th of July!

On this very special day in America and in the wake of the marathon bombings I thought it would be nice to showcase some wonderful images from Boston.  These pictures are from a previous year spent on the water in Boston Harbor. If you have never been to see the U.S.S Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat, you should plan a trip. I am lucky enough to work in Boston everyday and be surrounded by this and lots of other history, along some strong, proud people.

Have a wonderful day with lots of great food, family and friends on this simple but special holiday!

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They “turn” the Constitution a couple of times a year and sail it at least 1 nautical mile to keep its current status as a “commissioned warship.” It sails through the harbor each 4th of July with much fanfare and blows off its cannons at Castle Island Park (South Boston) which returns fire on the cannons located there.

My Easter Egg

When there are no little kids in the family to hunt for eggs and the Easter bunny ( A.K.A mom and dad) doesn’t leave chocolate for you anymore, (mostly because you live in another state) all you have left on this holiday is a great meal and maybe some church if you are inclined.

For me it is about a great meal and this is how I prefer my Easter eggs…

ham-eggs and asparagus

With some great sautéed asparagus, ham and toast. Happy Easter!!

Be My Valentine

Some folks get flowers. Some get chocolates. Some just a card. Or maybe just something unexpected  – a dreaded task done for them around the house or maybe a nice dinner.

For me – it was a sandwich.

My husband knows the way to my heart is through my stomach and the best sandwich for me always involves beef and tomatoes! Of course it being February in New England – the tomatoes are fairly pathetic but any tomato is better than no tomato in my book.

Broiled Steaktips with tomatoes, spicy pepperoncini rings and crumbled feta

Broiled Steaktips with tomatoes, spicy pepperoncini rings and crumbled feta

For anybody following along…you might remember the last time I posted a love story about a very similar sandwich!

ok now you can bring on the chocolate……

The Not-So-Lucky Chicken

There are a lot of lucky “food traditions” surrounding New Year’s Day.  Across the world certain lucky foods are eaten on the first day of the year (Hoppin’ John) or at the stroke of midnight. (12 grapes)

But chicken wouldn’t be one of them. And a surprise to many New Englanders… Lobster! Lobster is considered a poor choice because lobsters move backwards and could lead to setbacks, regrets, and dwelling on the past. Chickens also scratch and move backwards too and could lead to the same kind of year!

Oh! And chickens also have the added bonus of taking all your luck as they fly away. Basically any “winged” food is off-limits on New Years Day.

Phew! Good thing I made this chicken dish well before New Year’s Eve!

red and green chicken

This is just seared chicken breast that I cut down and dusted with some basic seasoning blend before browning in a hot skillet. (Because everything needs to be “browned” in this house.)

After that I combined the chicken with cooked al dente  pasta, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fresh green onions and put it all into an oiled baking dish. I whipped up a quick basic white sauce (flour,butter roux – add warm milk) and then emptied the cheese drawer of its bits-n-pieces. Pour this cheese sauce over all, toss to combine and at this point you can either bake it for 30 mins at 350 degrees or refrigerate and bake-off for a later dinner time or even freeze it for another day altogether.

Just don’t eat it on New Year’s Eve or Day!

To All My Acquaintances…

..old and new, here is a little something I put together for you.

(be sure to turn on the speakers!)
Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to next year’s menu!

A “Soup-er” Thanksgiving!

This year I decided to try my hand at soup. Not just any soup but “pumpkin bisque.”

Now I would love to tell you that I used a pumpkin grown right in my yard. All organic and local and freshly roasted in my oven the day before.

But the truth of the matter is that even though I did actually grow a little sugar pumpkin this year in my front yard. (This picture is really from my front yard!!) It was just too cute (and too small!) to really be cooked. Plus I really liked admiring my handiwork once I picked it and put it on the front steps for fall!

So I did what anybody in their right mind would do. I bought organic, 100% pure pumpkin in a can. And you know what…it was delicious!
In fact it was “Soup-er!”

After doing a little research on soups, I settled on a simple approach. Apples for sweetness and whole milk for creaminess. A little roasted garlic goes a long way towards giving a warm “undertone.” I also decided to get fancy and make my own little brown-butter croutons and some fried sage. (Which by the way was harvested from my back yard herb garden!) I served it with wedges of Parmesan-sage cornbread.

The Recipe

2 cans (15oz) 100% pumpkin puree

1 box (32oz) low-sodium vegetable broth

1 apple peeled, cored and finely chopped

2 tb butter

2 cups +/-whole milk (depends on how creamy you want it)

1/4 tsp ground ginger

1 tb fresh sage, finely minced

1 or 2 small cloves of roasted garlic

salt and pepper to taste

Saute the apple, sage and ginger in the butter until the apples are soft and slightly caramelized. Maybe 4-5 mins. Add the pumpkin and kinda ‘toast” it for another minute or two. De-glaze the pan with the broth. Puree the soup in the pan with one of those immersible stick blenders. ( If you don’t have one – get one – they are worth it! or I suppose you could use a blender and transfer it back to the pot.) At this point I taste for seasoning adding salt/pepper and if you want it sweeter, add some apple sauce or apple cider. I also judge at this point if I want to serve this quantity. Since I was serving a small crowd, I actually removed half of this from the pan, cooled and froze it as a “soup starter” for another day. THEN I added the whole milk (1 to 2 cups) to the remainder of the soup to create a creamy bisque. I just added and stirred until it got to the consistency that was right for me. Now I let this simmer on very low, covered until time to serve. The soup starter in the freezer can just be defrosted another day, heated up and have the milk added at that time.

Too Early For “Tom?”

Last month the lady I work for made a turkey for family supper on the weekend and told me about it.

And that is all it took. The ripple effect was powerful.

First me, than my neighbors, probably half of the staff at the hospital my husband works in. Definitely the bus driver I chatted up on the way home one day soon after we ate the meal.

And now you: my faithful and growing list of readers.

Many of you will start to find yourself craving a full-blown turkey dinner. The whole bit. The stuffing, the mash, the squash, and the pan gravy. Don’t forget the cranberry sauce.  Or the peas.

So, I ask you,  is September too early for Tom? Or is it just dress rehearsal?

(p.s. I used my own garden grown fresh sage in the stuffing! Just bragging sayin’)

We Interupt Our Reguarly Scheduled Programming…

…to announce the arrival of the “annual peach!”

(Cue heavenly angel music)

You can read about this annual event here.

In the meantime I will be taking a few minutes out to savor my peaches.

(Shhh I took two this year because it is my last year!)

El Día de la Batalla de Puebla

… “The Day of the Battle of Puebla” … Also Known As …. “Cinco De Mayo”

Not unlike our Evacuation Day here in Boston, Cinco De Mayo celebrates the defeat of a well-equipped, large French army by a small, tired Mexican army. They effectively kicked the French out – just as we kicked the British out!

And how fitting that yesterday a Mexican jockey road to victory on “I’ll Have another!” at The Kentucky Derby.

There was some heavy decision-making in terms of food choice in our house yesterday… go Mexican or go Kentucky Derb-ian? Go all chilli pepper or go all bourbon-pecans?

In the end it was Lydia’s recipe that made the decision easy. Her recipe for slow-cooked beef and green chili stew just immediately spoke to me!

So with a few adaptations, because I have trouble following directions, we were off and running to a day of Mexican victories!

My adapted recipe

- I omitted some things from the original. I substituted and I increased amounts on others.

3 lbs +/- stew beef – I used a pot roast & cut it up and trimmed it myself
3 Tbsp margarine
1 medium onion, diced
2 4-oz cans green chiles, mild “diced”
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
1 chipotle chili in adobo, chopped. WOO HOO it was still too hot for us – use your own judgement here!
1/4 cup barbecue sauce, homemade or store-bought – Emeril’s original rocks!
2 cups homemade or canned low-sodium beef broth
2 tsp cumin
1 14 oz can of black beans drained (low sodium) optional
1/4 cup Masa dissolved into 1/2 cup of warm water – a “slurry”

Brown the beef in batches in the melted margarine. Set beef aside, turn heat down and add onions, brown for a few mins. Add cumin and chipotle chili to kinda “toast” for a minute. Add both cans of diced green chili – pan will start to de-glaze. Add the diced tomatoes and finish de-glazing the pan. Add back in the beef and any juices. Add the BBQ sauce and broth – liquid shouldn’t quite cover meat. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for two hours. I cooked mine in a heavy enameled cast iron pot – you know the one with the fancy French name – you could use any heavy bottom pot with a lid or your slow-cooker but double the time if you use a slow-cooker. Check the meat – if it is falling apart tender, then add the Masa slurry, stir and cook another hour on a slightly lower setting. If after two hours the meat is not meltingly tender cook another hour before adding the Masa slurry.  Check for seasoning level, add salt and pepper to taste.  Hot sauce too if you don’t have “baby mouths” like us! Add the drained can of black beans about a 1/2 hour before serving.

Makes a ridiculously large amount. Serve over rice with warm corn tortillas and cold sour cream – or better yet Mexican Crema!

All-You-Can-Eat-Buffet

That is what I served up for a light, healthy Easter lunch this year! I know it doesn’t sound possible that “light” & “healthy” could be part of an “all-you-can-eat-buffet” but it was…

I gave everybody a plate of clean, dry, organic spinach and then they could top it with some or all of their favorites:

Shredded carrot, sliced beets, toasted garbanzo beans, roasted asparagus with lemon & butter, crumbled blue cheese, diced red pepper, baby peas, hard-cooked eggs, sautéed mushrooms & onions, crispy bacon (who can resist?), Dijon vinaigrette dressing.

And some sweet potato biscuits just to add a little home-baked goodness!

But of course no Easter would be complete without one of these…

or these…

Happy Evacuation Day (again)

(original post March 17, 2011 – have never recycled a posting before but very busy this year and upon re-reading this one I thought it deserved another year – enjoy!)

Today is a big day in Boston. (And many other cities and countries.) Not just because of  St. Patrick’s Day. It is also “Evacuation Day.” What? You have never heard of that one?! Well you are not alone. Until I started working and living in Boston I had no idea either.

Evacuation Day is holiday that commemorates the evacuation of British forces from the city of Boston following the Siege of Boston, early in the American Revolutionary War. Big stuff around here. Most importantly it falls on the same day as St. Patrick’s Day. Very convenient. So Suffolk County schools and government offices are closed. Also if March 17 falls on a weekend, like this year, than those schools and government offices are closed on the following Monday in observance. Also very convenient.

But I don’t mind. I think having the day off to attend the parade and hit the local pubs is as important as celebrating the kicking out of the British. Who knows, maybe that is what everybody is actually celebrating this morning at 8am. Yes – we get started early around here!

However my Irish husband would be very disappointed if I didn’t post an Irish recipe today.  So here goes….

Irish Stout Beef Stew

1-2 lbs of lean stew beef or lamb cubed into 1″ or 2″ chunks

1 lb +/- of turnips peeled and cut into large chunks (2″ and up)

1 lb bag of carrots peeled and each long one cut in half to fit into pot. If really thick, cut the width once or twice.

2 large onions, peeled and sliced into thick slices.

1 can Guinness© Stout Beer (14.9 oz)

All purpose flour to coat meat

several tablespoons of vegetable oil for browning meat

plenty of salt and pepper

To make:

Coat the meat with a light dusting of flour, salt and pepper. Add the oil to the bottom of a LARGE  heavy-bottom pot and heat till almost smoking. (Best to use a large cast iron enameled pot or dutch oven for this dish.) Add the coated beef and sear each side. Adjust heat as needed. Make sure you get a good sear and meat un-sticks itself before you turn pieces, but don’t let them burn either. Add onions just after final turn of meat pieces and turn heat down. The onions should get a little “quick fry” on them from the high heat of the meat searing. That is good. After the heat is lowered add all the other veggies to the meat and onions. Add the can of Guinness© to de-glaze the bottom and toss everything gently. Fill the can with water and add to the pot. Repeat until water level is just at the top of the veggies and meat. Adjust heat to keep contents at a simmer, cover. Check in 1 hour: taste, add salt and pepper as needed. Add more water if too dry. Cook 1 hour more and enjoy anytime after that as long as turnips are soft enough.

Serve with buttered mashed potatoes and a little boiled cabbage if you like.

production notes:

My husband is typical Irish guy who likes plain food. But if you wanted to boost the flavor of this dish, a bay leaf would do wonders and some garlic would be delicious too. A dash of malt vinegar might just brighten the pot.

Also: amounts don’t have to be exact – it is stew after all, so a little less or little more of anything won’t be a big deal.

See You Next Year!

I put together a little “scrapbook” of sorts.. A year in review if you will.

A year of family, friends, good food and about 10 extra pounds.

Some of the pictures are iffy (cellphone) some of the meals weren’t great (not shown) but all of it is genuine.

…oh and be sure to turn your earbuds on… ’cause there’s music!

Do We Really Need Another Leftover Recipe?

Sure. Why not.

Besides this could be used with regular leftovers (roast chicken) and not just Thanksgiving leftovers.

And it only has 4 ingredients. Unless you count the non-stick spray and the salt/pepper. Which I am not.

1. uncooked rice 2. cooked turkey (could be chicken) 3. frozen peas (could be leftovers) 4. stock/gravy (could be canned or could be leftovers.)

I put 1 cup rinsed, un-cooked, short grain rice into a sprayed 8×12 (could be 9×13) baking dish. I layered all the leftover turkey meat on top. Poured over the top the 2.5 cups of leftover gravy – most fat removed and brought to a boil first. (My Thanksgiving day gravy was really more like an Au Jus-style sauce this year.) Lazily I sprinkled 1/2 a bag of frozen peas on top before covering tightly with foil and putting in a 375 degree oven for 45 mins until rice was soft and fluffy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Leftover creamed onions would be yummy here too.

Plain Jane and simple; I made this Sunday night after Thanksgiving and it effectively took care of all those bits of turkey still on the bird. I froze the leftover mashed and baked potatoes for another day, another casserole.

OOPS!

You got me – I forgot that I couldn’t resist breaking up a spring of rosemary from my still-producing summer pot of herbs!

Okay that makes 5 ingredients!

Three Goddesses & Lunch

We spent Easter Sunday in the presence of Three Goddesses at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

Ceres, Pomona & Flora (grain, fruit and flowers respectively) – shown below

Along with these ladies we saw a few spots of early spring blooms -


And some things not in bloom but very old…

… Back at home for lunch, we enjoyed a trio of three delicious things …

Tomato and Feta tart with Brussels Sprouts salad with roasted apples and toasted walnuts.

and a sweet treat at the end of cinnamon pear and banana coffee cake.

Special thanks to Lydia  (pantry goddess) for inspiring this menu!

Tradition or Bust!!

My husband stayed home to cook a turkey today.

Call it a turkey “dress rehearsal” or call it a craving from all the instant marketing for the holidays that starts in July and creates a full-blown frenzy by November 1st.

But whatever you call it, make sure you don’t mess with tradition. That is what my husband is all about. Keeping traditions alive and re-creating fond childhood food memories.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

My childhood was full of travel and adventure, and some traditions. Those are my fond childhood food memories. (see Dear Mom for explanation)

So when he told me he was making the stuffing from scratch (we used Pepperidge Farm in my house growing up) I immediately put on my “cabinet stew hat” and started emailing suggestions.  (Now let me just note that my husband is a pretty good cook and both his parents cooked for the family when he was growing up.)

The email I sent from work went a little something like this….

Subject: wife’s use-it-up stuffing suggestion

If you don’t want to go to the store for onions – there are frozen diced ones in freezer!!!!!!
You could add 2 cups of corn kernels -(you could saute first with onions for added color/flavor) and the rest of any red bell pepper you find in the crisper – diced small first. Try adding 1 tbsp Emeril’s essence
Add extra hot water if stuffing doesn’t seem moist enough. Extra melted butter could be added as well. Stuff bird (not too tight) and cook as usual. I think some shredded carrot would be great too – we have some in the crisper….

…you get the idea…

He is used to me, so he just read the email and moved onto making his mother’s tried and true traditional stuffing like the email never happened. That’s okay – nothing wrong with tradition.

The recipe his mom used comes from the actual bag of the “stuffing bread” – you know that un-sliced white bread that starts showing up in the stores about now? Don’t worry, I never saw it either until I met my husband! The recipe on the back pretty much follows standard stuffing protocol of butter, celery, onions and poultry seasoning.

Tom turkey will be delicious with his belly full of traditional stuffing! I can’t wait to get home from work

….look at the cell phone pic sent in halfway through cooking time! (Better get some foil on the breast…….)