Fruit Cubes

When I have extra fruit that I might not get to in time I like to puree it and freeze it for later use.  You can just simply puree the washed, clean fruit and freeze it or add some honey or sugar to it before freezing for instant drink mixes!

Certainly I didn’t invent this great idea but I do like to inspire and remind folks that it is a perfect way to have fruit on hand for blending smoothies, flavoring ice teas or my favorite adult beverage… “boat drinks!”

I use small 2-3 ounce containers so each one is just a portion size.

I use small 2-3 ounce containers so each one is just a portion size. (Make sure to leave a little room at the top for expansion!)

Parrot Head

I am a card-carrying member of the “parrotheads” elite.

And if you think I raise and breed birds you would be wrong.

For those who don’t know a “parrothead” is a big time fan of Jimmy Buffett’s music. We even have our own wiki page here!

So after having attended over 6 shows and many related events over the years, you would think I would have the lyrics to one of his most famous songs, “Cheeseburger In Paradise” perfectly memorized. Well I do, but recently I cleared up some grammatical confusion.

See I thought he was saying ” …not zucchini fettuccine or bulgar wheat…”  but what he was really saying was “not zucchini, fettuccine or bulgar wheat “

Small difference (see comma marked in red above) but it means the difference between 3 food items ( Zucchini AND Fettuccine AND Bulgar Wheat) instead of two food items. (Zucchini Fettuccine AND Bulgar Wheat)

Phew! glad I cleared that up!

zucchini 2

Actual “zucchini fettuccine” lightly sautéed in olive oil with fresh tomatoes, herbs, garlic,onions and a little feta cheese on top!

 

In case you want to verify the lyrics or maybe even catch a show…. www.margaritaville.com

Mother’s Day On The Porch

This year Mother’s Day also turned out to be the “season opener” for her deck. And nothing is better than an early evening supper on the porch of corn and tomatoes…

And of course I brought her “flowers” (the edible kind!)

rose

The next morning we enjoyed last night’s leftovers in a whole new way…a savory breakfast bread pudding!

I simply cubed up about 8 slices of good quality bread ( something alike a “pullman loaf” but really anything you have would do) and let them get all toasty and dry in a low oven for a few minutes. I piled them into a sprayed oven-proof dish and threw in all the rest of the leftover corn and tomatoes. I added some generous dashes of dried oregano, a couple good pinches of garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste, some pats of butter ( maybe like 4) and about 3 ounces of sharp cheddar. (Some grated and some chunked.) Now the wet stuff: whisk 6 large eggs with about 2 cups whole milk and make sure to use the back of your knife down the corn cobs and get all that delicious “milk” hiding in the cobs.  Pour it all over the top of everything.

Into a preheated 375 degree oven – covered tight with foil- for about 20-25 mins. No peeking under the foil. Remove the cover when the liquid is firm and edges just starting to take on some brown. (this is nice and easy to see in a glass baking dish!) Let it baked uncovered 8-10 mins longer just to dry out the top a bit as needed. Remove from the oven and let it cool a bit, just like lasagna, this is better served warm and not piping hot!

Read about my other “corn and tomato” adventures here!

A Match Made In Heaven

Name two things that are just destined to go together and I bet spinach and eggs would not be on the top of your list. But I often put these two together, in fact I almost always pair them up unless I am doing a straight up fried egg. (and even then a fried egg on a bed of wilted spinach would be great!)

Some classic pairings include:

spinach omelets

spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs

spinach frittata

scrambled eggs with spinach and Parmesan cheese

baked eggs in creamed spinach

There are probably more.

Here is one I made recently….

sliced

Spinach, potato and sweet onion frittata.

I happened to have some extra baked potatoes (because when I fire up the oven to bake two, I bake four.) and adding these in gives this frittata some “heft.” And my husband is more likely to eat it if it’s packing some “heft” in lieu of “meat.” :)

Production Notes:

Be sure to spray your pan liberally with cooking spray, and I use a large pat of butter as well, heat till bubbly on the cooktop and layer in the potatoes, onions, spinach and S &P to taste. Once that gets going, I pour in 6 eggs (+/- depending on pan size) that have been whisked with a little bit of (1/2 cup?) of whole milk or cream or half-n-half or whatever you have on hand. Add a little optional crumbled cheese (sharp cheddar or feta is nice) and some dried thyme and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven (right in the same oven proof skillet you started with on the cooktop) till firm and starting to brown and pull away from edges. (30 mins +/-)

Notice I am NOT using a non-stick pan… I am not afraid.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Mother’s Challenge

My mom often has a little trouble in restaurants. She is a vegetarian. And she’s allergic to onions. And she only likes romaine lettuce. She doesn’t like heavily spiced food. Or salty food. And there are quite a few other things she doesn’t like. (mushrooms)

Now before you get all judge-y, just picture a nice little lady who wants a salad without iceberg lettuce and more veggies than old shredded carrots and radishes.  That doesn’t seem hard right? Especially in the nice restaurants where the chefs aim to please, where the fresh produce is in abundance, where the chef is professionally trained?

You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to get a decent salad these days. or heck, how about some pasta with a few hot veggies on it. Sometimes she even has trouble in vegetarian restaurants because this community relies so heavily on the use of onions (basis for just about everything) and mushrooms (often a “meat substitute.”)

It amazes me each time we go out to dinner how hard it is for a restaurant to accommodate. Sometimes they can’t even grasp substituting the romaine lettuce that they are already serving  for their Caesar salads as the lettuce for their garden salad. Anyway I digress.

Each time she comes to my house I make it my personal challenge to make delicious, vegetarian, onion-free food for her. (And of course it helps that I know all her likes/dislikes too.)

But if I can do this…

Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup
Onion-free, 5 ingredient Carrot Soup with cream swirled in at serving time.

6-8 medium size carrots roasted on a sheet pan brushed with the tiniest bit of oil and the tiniest bit of salt and pepper.**

1 small head of garlic roasted in a foil packet with the same tiniest bit of oil.**

1 tsp fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tsp honey or agave syrup

1-2 tsp dried dill ( or 1 tbsp fresh if you have it)

blend the carrots, ginger, agave/honey and 2-3 of the cloves from the roasted garlic head in a medium size sauce pan over medium heat.  Add the dill. Add enough water till you have your desired consistency. Heat thru. Taste for seasoning and add extra salt and pepper if you need/want it.  Ladle into bowls and swirl a little cream, milk or half and half on top for extra creaminess.

**I roasted these a couple of days ahead when I had the oven on for something else. That makes this soup as easy as opening a can.

Author’s Notes

don’t add too much roasted garlic or this can easily become orange-colored garlic soup – which is okay if that is what you love.

Stock or milk could be used for all or part, as a substitute for the water.

Makes about 2-4 bowls depending on your level of consistency.

carrot soup in pan

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!

Simple Smoothies

Raise your hand if you thought you would get on the smoothie band wagon with Doctor Oz, Daphne and the whole gang!

Raise your hand if that lasted even a week.

All that shopping, cleaning and chopping of various ingredients is too much! I love and recognize kale’s magical benefits along with the rest of the world, but frankly I would rather eat it for dinner in a savory dish than hide it in a fruit smoothie. Or how about lime and cucumber? Some how I don’t think they belong in the same glass unless it is with vodka at some over-priced, trendy Boston bar specializing in “hand crafted” everything.

So I like to keep it simple when it comes to smoothies. Banana plus 1 fruit. Usually a berry. Could be fresh or could be frozen. Depends on the time of year. I add one unexpected surprise in the form of a spice. Usually a dash of cinnamon. It goes beautifully with all berries. Not too much – just a couple of dashes. Now add milk. And if you are feeling sweet – a little honey or agave. Blend and drink. No fuss, no muss – tastes yummy. Like a healthy shake. No sneaky stuff. (Plus it is a nicer color than puke green don’t you think?)

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!

Old Fashioned Idea

Most people who like to cook and eat also collect recipes. Sometimes it’s in the form of books and sometimes it’s in the form of a mess of recipe cards, newspaper articles and general scraps of paper.

This is just a tiny fraction of my mess of a collection!

This is just a tiny fraction of my mess of a collection!

A few years back I did put together a bunch of recipes from family and friends to create one of those little homemade cookbooks. You know the kind – you make it on your home computer software and have it bound into a little book at the local copy shop. It turned out pretty good and makes nice gifts!
I would love to say that I tested every recipe that was included but that would have been an extra year and 20 pounds so I went ahead and included them even if I haven’t actually made them. (I had to believe my family and friends wouldn’t make bad stuff right?)
Recently I decided to make one of the vintage recipes that was submitted by an aunt on my father’s side. Old fashioned Persimmon cookies.
baked cookies
His side of the family hails from California so Aunt Ethel probably had a persimmon tree growing in her backyard. (circa 1958) This was a considerable undertaking as I really had no idea what a persimmon even was or tasted like. But I hunted some down at my local supermarket. (It helps that I live in a big city area with access to foods from around the world.) I bought a few, ripened them in a paper bag with a banana for a few days and then the big moment…


The flesh kinda reminded me of a tomato with thicker skin. They tasted good – mild not citrus-y.
The cookies turned out pretty good considering I am not great at baking. I made myself follow the directions EXACTLY – it was tough. These cookies seem to be the kind that are moist and cake-like. (unless I just under-cooked them.) The spices play a big role in the cookies and the persimmon is mild so maybe cutting the spice amount in half might let the fruit shine through a bit more? Also I think I should have mashed the fruit more for even distribution or perhaps they weren’t ripe/soft enough?

fruit rinds

I cleaned them out as best I could and didn’t seem to find any seeds!

The Recipe
1 cup persimmon pulp (I needed about 3-4 small ones to get this)
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg (large)
1 “cube” (stick) margarine**
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup chopped nut of choice (I used pecans)
3/4 cup raisins (I used chopped dried cranberries instead)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl mix pulp and baking soda – set aside. In larger bowl cream the margarine and sugar together. Beat the egg lightly and add to sugar mixture. Add pulp and mix again. Sift flour, baking soda, salt and spices together and add to mix. Stir in chopped nuts and raisins/cranberries. Drop golf ball size balls onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until just browning. Cool on wire rack. Store in airtight container.

**I translated a “cube” of margarine to mean 1 stick and therefore used 4 ounces of shortening (Crisco). I am pretty sure the “cube” reference probably referred to the old-fashioned margarine product named “oleo” READERS please straighten me out if you think otherwise!!

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

Cookie Rehearsal

Recently I was invited by my neighbor to a cookie swap. Of course she knows I love to cook – but I am not sure she knows about my lack of baking skills. On top of that she and her daughter are practically professionals in the baking department. So there is a fair amount of pressure here to make some good cookies! I have never been to a cookie swap but I am pretty sure the concept is arrive with a bunch of cookies you made and leave with a similar amount of cookies, except they will all be the different kinds that everybody brought. i.e “the swap!”

So just as I was thinking about whether or not I wanted to accept this challenge invitation, fate inserted itself in the form of a recipe posting on Facebook! 4 ingredients! One of them from a box! It seemed easy enough for even me!

Peanut Butter Cake Mix Cookies….

Yup – I know the baking purists are gasping out there, never mind the anti-processed food crowd! I like to think I am just as organic, healthy and veggie eating as the next but sometimes you just gotta break down and go with it.

Simply mix 1 box of yellow cake mix (no I didn’t worry about box size or ounces, just grabbed one, off the shelf) and 1/2 cup canola oil, 2 large eggs and 1 cup of peanut butter. (and for some reason I had 3 open jars of 3 different kinds of peanut butter and I used up 2 to consolidate – yay!)

cookie dough

Now simply form small balls – about golf ball shape – and place on the cookie sheet. No spraying of the sheet needed (I guess) but I did use parchment paper. (not sure if it needed it – just seemed like the thing to do.) Squish each twice (opposite directions) with a fork to form the classic peanut butter cookie look.

forming the cookies

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until browned perfectly. Watch them in last couple of minutes because they can turn on you quickly. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

ready to eat

Easy and delicious – these not-to-sweet cookies came out perfect! hmm…What would happen if I used chocolate cake mix? Watch out neighbors – here I come with cookies!

Put The Lime In The Coconut

piece The combination of rich coconut and bright citrus-y lime is undeniable and one of my favorites! And it couldn’t be simpler than here in this “impossibly easy pie!”

It is not my first time making this pie – in fact if you have been reading along you might have seen this same pie (really more of a custard) without the lime and decked out for the holidays in a berry sauce.

But this time around I was craving lime (Thanks Lydia for that!) and I had all the ingredients on hand to make this.

The original recipe can be found here and the only change I made was to omit the vanilla and mix in 3 tablespoons of fresh lime juice along with the zest of two limes. (1 in the mix and 1 on top to garnish)

It definitely cured the craving, but the lime is subtle – it you want more lime flavor you have to change the alchemy of recipe – something I am not good with. But feel free to report back with new ratios!

Trust me this won't hang around the house very long!

Trust me this won’t hang around the house very long!

Spicy Peppers

Spicy filling, sweet peppers!

Recently while visiting New Hampshire I acquired the most wonderful local goat cheese and the cutest mini sweet red peppers. (Thanks mom!)

After I got them home it occurred to me that with a little help from the basil and oregano lingering in my garden and a couple pantry ingredients I could have myself a nice little snack or game day party bites. GO RED SOX!!  So the “spice” in this case wasn’t from the peppers but the filling I made for them.

3 main ingredients

Little spicy bites!

pepper for sizeI mixed the goat cheese and chopped herbs with a healthy dose of seasoned salt, black pepper, plenty of spicy, red chili flakes, some dashes of hot sauce, dash of garlic powder and some EVO oil to thin the consistency and add flavor. I also added a very small amount of “half and half” (you could use milk or cream too) to make it more creamy and spreadable. The mixture becomes a wonderful mix of tang and spice!

Stuff it into peppers or dip into it with veggies or use as a sandwich spread!

If I wasn't so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!

What a perfect snack for the Red Sox game! (oh and if I wasn’t so lazy, I would have used a piping bag to neatly and prettily fill the peppers. But they tasted just a good stuffed all messy with a spoon!)

Happy Anniversary Anthony

prince spaghettiWednesday is “Prince® Spaghetti Day” if you didn’t already know that. But you probably did because their commercial ran for something like 13 years straight! That is commercial where Anthony is running home for dinner through the famed North End neighborhood of Boston. Who hasn’t yelled “Anthony” at least once in their life in that same famous way as his mother did!

I am a bit embarrassed to admit that although I knew they filmed the commercial in Boston’s famous Italian North End, I had no idea it was because this is where the pasta company started, back in 1912, on Prince Street!  duh!

So it being the 100th birthday and all, I decided to have an urban hike and visit all the famous locations in the North End.

 
 
original window 2
Above: The original window as it appeared in the 1969 commercial
Above: as it looks now in 2013 – not much has changed – just cars and roof decks!

Of course I had to track down the original location of the pasta company…or wait is it across the street from this corner? So hard to tell now that the location has been converted to high-end condos! Well anyway this is the corner of Thatcher and Prince street in the vicinity of #92.

prince street 2prince spagetti location

And of course to complete the day….

Farmstand Nachos

Who doesn’t love nachos? To me nachos mean anything on a tortilla chip! So why not put one of my favorite combinations – corn and tomatoes – on some chips.

nacho 3

I lightly sautéed some finely diced onion and some fresh corn off a random couple of leftover cobs.

I added some leftover white garlic sauce to the pan to heat through. And a little extra shake of grated Parmesan cheese.

I simply poured this on top of my chips with some freshly halved cherry tomatoes and torn basil leaves. Fresh cracked pepper completed the dish.

Fresh ingredients from the farm stand (or your backyard) make these a great snack or party appetizer for a late summer evening!

Heirloom Pie

the stars

I recently acquired a small batch of heirloom tomatoes from the local farm stand and after thinking about BLTs and Panzanellas, I settled on pie. “Pizza Pie” that is! Basically a cross between a white pizza and a Margherita pizza, I piled on slices of the fresh tomato on top of a crisp thin crust, that had been spread liberally with a garlic- cheese white sauce.

Fresh basil snipped from my back yard pot, gave the pizza that undeniable flavor and freshness. A touch of sea salt and cracked black pepper were the only finishing touches. A drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil would also be a nice addition.

The White Sauce

I simply sautéed some finely minced garlic in butter until soft and very fragrant. At this point I decided to make a classic roux by adding some flour and browning it for a minute. But if you wanted to make this gluten-free (and use a gluten-free crust) you could skip ahead to adding some “half and half” then stirring in a slurry of arrowroot to thicken it. Add in some finely grated Parmesan cheese. Whisk and cook until desired thickness – you can add more milk/cream to thin or more cheese to thicken.

Salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate any extra for up to 5 days.

(oh and yes it is yet another post about tomatoes!)

Cobbled Again

Is there any easier dessert than taking whatever fruit you have on hand…

… adding some brown sugar, cinnamon and butter on top

…adding some biscuit mix on top…

…and baking until the top looks delicious and the fruit is just plain oozing goodness?

The hardest part is waiting for it to cool a bit so you don’t burn your mouth!

have a piece

Peach-Raspberry “cobbler”

Production Notes

I used my favorite gluten free mix from Betty and just added brown sugar, pinch of salt and ground cinnamon to the fruit with some pats of butter. Bake at 375 degrees until delicious and you can’t stand the smell anymore! P.S. I did spray the baking dish with cooking spray first.

Summer “Boats”

peppers stuffed

This is my kind of “boat!” This lighter, summer version of stuffed peppers was inspired by the quinoa I had hanging around my pantry waiting to be cooked. (use your rice cooker!) I added in seasoned cooked lima beans to give it some texture. ( I love them!) But the real flavor boost comes from the herbaceous mixture that I started with. (Fresh herbs from my garden!)

herbs 1 I chopped them up and combined them with some finely diced, sautéed onion and garlic and dried “Herb de Provence.” flavor base

 

 

 

 

I also added in the extra bits of the peppers themselves.

And of course everything is better with a little cheese on top, so after baking in the oven for 35 mins or so covered, I added handfuls of cheese on top and bake uncovered for 10 mins more.

with cheese on top

The Recipe:

1/2 large onion diced

1/2 each sweet red & green bell pepper diced (or just the extra bits from trimming the peppers)

1-2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tb of butter or oil for saute

1 tb dried “Herb de Provence” mix

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup mixed fresh herbs, minced finely: I used basil, sage and parsley

2 cups seasoned, cooked quinoa

1 cup +/- seasoned, cooked lima beans

2 large peppers, cut in half, seeded and stemmed

1 1/2 cups +/- shredded cheese of choice

Saute the top 6 ingredients together until onions are soft and slightly colored. Take off the heat, let cool a bit and mix in the fresh herbs mix. Mix in the quinoa and beans.

Stuff the pepper halves in an oven proof dish. Add an inch of hot water to the dish around the peppers, trying not to get any water splashed into/onto the peppers. Bake covered* in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-40 mins. Remove the cover, top with cheese and bake another 10 mins or until cheese is melted.

*Just a note: I covered the dish loosely, with foil and the peppers steamed nicely and the water evaporates, if you cover tightly with a lid – you may be able to reduce cooking time but may have water leftover.

(makes enough to stuff about 6-8 pepper halves, depending on the size.)

New Hampshire Pie

fruit

Recently, I acquired some early New Hampshire grown peaches and some late New Hampshire grown blueberries. (Thanks mom!) The  peaches were really ripe and soft – too delicate to eat without dripping juice all over everything. The blueberries were dwindling in amount after being added to morning smoothies. So I decided to combine efforts and put them both into a pie. Because everything is better with butter and brown sugar right?

filling the pietopping on pie

I simply combined the roughly cut up the peaches (4) and the 1/2 pint of blueberries and added the “universal pie mix” of:  a bit of brown sugar, pinch of salt, teaspoon of cornstarch, a healthy shake of ground cinnamon and a good squirt of lemon juice.

Into my store-bought pie shell (don’t judge – it was easy) and I made the effort to create a streusel topping out of cubed butter, flour and lots of brown sugar with a pinch more of ground cinnamon and a tiny bit of ground cloves!

I baked it in a hot oven (400 degrees!) for 35 mins or so. Tip: you may want to cover it with a loose piece of foil for the first 25 mins so the top bits of exposed sugar don’t burn too quickly. Notice that I did exactly that. Not.

slice to eat

If can you stand it – let this pie cool at least 40 mins before slicing into it!

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?

#1720

….That is how many hits come up when you search the term “mexican orzo.”

And this post will make #1721!

I have to say I thought maybe I had an original on my hands one night, when I decided to make “mexican rice” and used orzo pasta instead of actual rice. But it looks like I was beat out of the gate.

These are the kinda friends to have hanging around your kitchen for easy weeknight dinners!

These are the kinda friends to have hanging around your kitchen for easy weeknight dinners!

That’s okay – because I still think mine was easiest!

Of course I had a little help from my friends——————->

To be honest, I had rice on hand – several kinds. I could have gone all healthy and high-brow using brown rice. But the truth is…(by the way isn’t that the name of some new internet facebook thing the kids are all doing these days?)…I had two boxes of orzo in the pantry to use up and I thought “why not?”

So I cooked the pasta (stopping it at very al dente) and poured it into a sprayed casserole dish and mixed in: 1 can ro*tel ( 10 oz -mild or hot) 1 can (80z) tomato sauce, 1/2 tsp +/- ground cumin, 1/2 tsp +/- seasoned salt, black pepper to taste, 1 medium onion that had been diced and sautéed in a little butter. You can also spice this up by adding more of any of the above ingredients, some of your favorite hot sauce or even sliced jalapenos. Not everybody in my house loves spicy so I kept it conservative.

Bake in the oven, covered in foil, for 25-30 mins on 350 degrees. Pull out, remove foil and add as much shredded cheese on top as you dare and bake another 5-10 mins until cheese bubbly and brown.

Tip: This can be made ahead, cooled and refrigerated and re-heated when it is time for the party! Or make it Gluten free by using the rice instead of the orzo pasta.

Serve with some “old standbys” like grilled chicken and fresh avocado salsa.

mexican-orzo      tex-mex dinner

Strawberry Memories

The month of June means a lot of different things to people.

To my dad it made him think of D-Day and actually landing on Normandy beach  in 1944 as an innocent 18-year-old kid. To my brother it means a birthday.  And of course to my mom that same special day of June reminds her of giving birth to my brother, her first baby.

For me: it is strawberries.

I can mark my “Junes” throughout my life by strawberry memories…

homegrown

Homegrown: not perfectly shaped but sweeter than any supermarket variety!

As a small child sitting among the PYO fields in New Hampshire – eating more than I was picking, wishing we could get out of the hot sun.

Later as a middle-school child visiting the relatives in California and having my first real “diner-style” strawberry pie. I remember picking it out from the glass case and how REALLY delicious it was. (We went back for another piece the next day!)

In high school, on a family trip to France, we strolled through a farmer’s market outside of Chartres Cathedral near Paris and discovered the most delicious strawberry tart ever.  To this day. Just sat there in the sun and enjoyed every bite of it.

In my 20′s, living away from home, returning to visit mom and having her famous strawberry shortcake on the porch. We have been known as a family to eat that, and only that, for dinner.

And now as a grown up, with my own house, with strawberries growing in my front yard. The sunny patch has grown from one small pot to rambling all over the place, among the grass and  flowers at the base of the chimney. Each year yields more and so far this year I have harvested about a quart!

However, strawberry shortcake season is short, and one needs to supplement the fruit with purchases from the local market or farm stand. That way you can have  lots of “strawberry shortcake dinners!”

strawberries shortcake dessert

Big, ripe, perfect, in-season strawberries can not be beat in the beauty department!

P.S. If you are not a baker, or gluten-free, or just don’t want the biscuit
- I find serving this with vanilla ice cream instead just divine!
 
P.P.S In case you missed it, June 14 was National Strawberry Shortcake day!

Squash Salad

We’re not talking roasted and we’re not talking about zucchini.

We are talking about raw butternut squash.

Yep – raw.

And no, I have not converted to an all raw, vegan diet. Thanks to Lydia I was inspired to just simply try something new. And I like to make new and interesting things for my mom, who does happen to enjoy eating very healthy.

I decided to make a salad rather than a “slaw” as Lydia did based on the fact that the spinach in the store looked really good. I added walnuts because they were already in the house. I kept my salad simple for mom but the addition of your favorite crumbly cheese would put it over the top I think. The real star here was the dressing which I modified a bit from Lydia’s.

Don’t knock the raw squash until you try it. Even my red-meat loving, Irish-American guy appeared to eat some. I served it as part of a Mother’s day brunch with french toast and watermelon at the world’s most beautiful dining room.

Caution: use a machine to slice the raw squash thin, as I did for salad or shred it for slaw.

Caution: use a machine to slice the raw squash thin, as I did for salad or shred it for slaw.


Production Notes:

The dressing is adapted from Lydia’s recipe because my mom likes things a little sweeter.

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp Apple Cider vinegar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

Move Over Blueberries….

…You don’t have to rule the pancake world! Other berries can play too!!

Inspired the other day by Trisha’s blueberry pancakes but not having any blueberries (or sour cream) on hand, I had to make a few changes to the original recipe.

I almost always have fresh strawberries in the fridge and so I thought “why let blueberries have all the fun?”

Strawberries and lemon posing for their "beauty shot"I just cut the strawberries into smaller chunks so they would distribute evenly in the pancake batter and have a chance to “cook” a bit in the brief time that a pancake stays on the griddle.

I also went a little heavier on the lemon zest than the recipe advised, because really, “who doesn’t love a little lemon?!”

With the substitution of some low-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, these pancakes turn out so light and yummy. You don’t feel weighted down after eating 3 or maybe like 6. (they were small!)

Make sure to use real maple syrup and for a little something extra, warm the syrup and add just a tiny dash of cinnamon to it.

Also a good trick is to cool all the extra pancakes on a rack and then package them for the freezer in singles or enough to make a serving. They can be pulled out and heated up in your toaster – just like those ones that “pop” out of your toaster only with out all the artificial flavors/colors.

pancakes 2

It’s All About The Frosting

Obviously right?

When it comes to cupcakes, it is definitely about frosting. Wedding cake – definitely the frosting (and the many layers of it in between). What about the glaze on the coffee cake: usually the best part. I consider finding a cake (or cupcake) that is actually moist and delicious, along with its wonderful frosting, something along the lines of hitting the lottery. When I have a sweet tooth, the high standards come out to play!

That is why I generally don’t bake. I like to leave it to the pros. (Quick shout out to my neighbor Meaghan who leaves those cupcake chains in the dust with her skills!)

But every once in a while I get my “Betty” on and whip up a baked good. This time I combined a craving for orange juice and walnuts.  I was shooting for “orange-walnut sour cream coffee cake” and ended up with “not really what want I wanted but totally awesome cream cheese frosting.”

I basically checked out a few versions of the cream cheese frosting online and saw that most involved cream cheese, butter and powdered sugar. I threw in some chopped walnuts for crunch. YUM!

As for the cake… I am not  even going to bother finding the scrap piece of paper around this house somewhere with the cake recipe written on it, because it just wasn’t that good.

But the frosting…..

Enough frosting can save any cake!

Enough frosting can save any cake!

The Sunflower Surprise

Lately I have been experimenting with oils other than olive. There is quite a lot out there when you really look.

I had been using walnut oil for my salad dressings but I found it to be fairly neutral in taste and kinda “oily.” I know that is weird because it IS oil but it was just not the same as olive oil.

Pumpkin seed oil is nice but very expensive.

So the other day I noticed “sunflower oil” on the shelf. Organic and “first cold pressed” no less. And a fairly reasonable price. So I bought it and tried it. To my surprise it was quite good. It has a distinct nutty flavor (obviously of sunflower seeds) and a great thick texture to it. It is like warm and cozy version of extra virgin olive oil. It doesn’t have the sometimes bitter, green taste that is prized in olive oils.

Although the label suggests to only use it for salad dressings and drizzles (which I will definitely do) I decided to use for roasting my veggies. Kinda like when people use EVOO for roasting and cooking even though it is meant to be used in dressings and drizzles.

So what veggie would I try this on?

Well, there has been a lot of conversation flying around the blogs about cauliflower lately – apparently some folks love it and some don’t. You know who you are ;-)

Well I love it and when I found this fresh beauty at the store recently, I knew I had to have it.

beautiful cauliflower

So I cut it up and tossed it with my new sunflower oil, salt, pepper and a little dried rosemary. And some carrots.

add a little oil and seasoning

Into a hot 400 degree oven until they were toasty and delicious!

roasted veggie goodness

Enjoyed on its own or as a tasty side dish to something else – these veggies were delicious wrapped in a subtle perfume of toasted sunflower seeds and rosemary.

Too Much Quinoa!

“Wait! There can never be too much quinoa!”  That was just what you were thinking, right?

Well I love this new darling of the culinary world as much as the next person, but sometimes you just get tired of eating the same leftovers again and again – even if it is a super food!

It started out innocently enough with plans for a quinoa salad that I could munch on for a couple of days this week. I got my rice cooker out because that is how I cook my quinoa – it’s perfect every time.

I also had some leftover carrot and celery sticks, and some extra fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes in the fridge.

So I started a mirepoix:

mire poix

When the veggies were softened, off  the heat, I added: a pint of split cherry tomatoes, 2-3 tablespoons of chopped basil, 1  jar of capers, (3.5oz -drained) 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley, the juice and zest of 1 large lemon and 1 tablespoon of Herb de Provence seasoning.

Looks good just as it is right?

delicious on it's own!

I mean personally I could stop right there and eat this by the spoonful. Or on toasted bread or mixed with pasta. Or with a can of white beans. Which is exactly what I added because I thought that might really give some “heft” to this salad. Again, at this point with the beans added, you had a complete meal all done. You could just stop there.

But I decided it would be terrific with my cooked and cooled quinoa.

All 6+ cups of it!!!

Why 6 cups??   Because as I was pouring out a dry cup of uncooked quinoa, I thought.. “why don’t I double it because it is great to have in the fridge to throw in stuff. Right?” So two cups of dry quinoa went into the rice cooker with 4 cups of water. Math not really being my strong point, I didn’t think about the fact that this would yield at least 6 cups of cooked quinoa.

So I ended up with a giant party-sized bowl of salad. It needed a little seasoning adjustment, salt, pepper-more lemon at the end because although the initial mix was super flavorful, it got a little diluted in the “sea of quinoa.”

quinoa salad

My advice is next time use half as much quinoa or double the amount of the other stuff and invite 12 people over.

Check out a “winter salad” version here.

“Hakuna Frittata”

Loosely translates to “no worries egg dish”

Although a frittata IS an easy egg dish and a great way to use up whatever is hanging around your kitchen, for us, making one instantly has us singing tunes from “The Lion King.”    As in “Hakuna Frittata” – corny right?

(Kinda of like when I make “empanadas” and we sing the song “Desparado!”)

Anyway this one started out because I had a bag of spinach hanging around needing to be used up and some of the baby gold potatoes.

spinachin the pan

So I sliced up the baby gold potatoes (about a 1/4″ thick) and layered them in a well-sprayed, oven proof 10″ saute pan with some butter on med heat to start softening while I prepped (de-stem the spinach, crack eggs and pour cream) the other stuff. Turn the heat off and add all the goodies in first on top of the potatoes:

1/2 of an 8oz bag of spinach (raw), about 4 oz. crumbled feta, about 8 sundried tomatoes chopped small, plenty of salt and pepper, a shake of garlic powder for a little “warmth.”

And than the liquids get poured carefully over this – I used about a cup of “half and half” ( I was out of milk) and 8 large eggs. Make sure you whisk the eggs and cream (or milk) together first. A little more salt and pepper on top.

ready for the oven

Pop this into a preheated 350 degree oven for 35 mins or until the middle is set and fluffy. Kinda like this….

out of the oven

Now be patient and let it cool a bit – this is best served, and slices cleaner, if you let it cool significantly. This frittata is filling and satisfying, yet deceiving in that it is light. But it is by no means “diet food.” My husband loved it and that is saying a lot since he doesn’t eat anything that might seem at all like “diet food.”

Might I suggest a glass of wine and some crusty warm bread with this?

have a slice