Saturday, June 29, 2013

Toaster Oven S'mores

Lazy days of summer.  I love not being on a schedule (well, at least for the most part).  No forced wake up in the morning is completely wonderful. I feel very fortunate. 

Dinners are easier.  Everything is fresh and just eating it plain is amazing.  A tossed salad, grilled vegetables... Delicious. 

And desserts can be easy too.  Like Ice Box Cake.  Made that about five times so far.  In small and big quantities.  I have been thinking about s'mores a lot lately.  I decided to do a toaster oven variety of smores.  How easy is that?  The kids loved them!  This is what I had on hand.  It would be a whole lot easier to smack a piece of a bar of chocolate on there rather than morsels.  And one big marshmallow would be easier as well.  Nevertheless, the kids ate them up just fine.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Fried Calamari How To

This is my husbands favorite dinner.  Some fresh baked bread, fried calamari, shrimp and some tossed salad. I served it for him on Fathers Day.  Yes, I know, the bread doesn't look pretty but it sure tasted good.

The bread in the picture is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and as you can see I am clearly trying to perfect the shaping of that bread.  I think more flour is needed because it is a bit too floppy to shape properly. I did add some granulated garlic, kalongi seeds, minced dried onion, sesame seeds on top for more flavor.  I also replaced about a cup of the flour with whole wheat pastry flour. Click here to visit Artisan Bread in Five...

Calamari has been a big learning thing for me.  The first time I made it - it was greasy and gooey.  I would like to pass along some tricks for making it tender, crisp and delicious. Each time I have made it I have discovered another way to perfect them.  It has taken a long time of trial and error but I feel a whole lot more confident about it now.

If you don't want to fry your calamari go here to this absolutely delicious dish of calamari.


I buy my calamari cleaned with no heads but still in the body shape of a tube.  I cut the tentacles away and set them aside to fry separately (usually my last set of frying batch).  I cut the tubes into uniform sized rings.

Defrost (because I buy mine frozen) thoroughly and pat dry.  It doesnt have to be perfectly dry because you want the flour to stick.  Mainly you just want the excess water gone.

Fill a deep frying pan with about 3 inches of oil (more if you are frying a lot). Heat oil to 350F.  You really want to take the oils temperature.  It makes a huge difference in your outcome.  To low and they will absorb a lot of grease and toughen because you will have to cook them longer.  Too high and they will burn before they are cooked.

While the oil is heating up get a plastic bag or a paper bag nad put about a cup of flour in it. Place the calamari in the bag of flour and shake.  Make sure it is a big enough bag that you can really get them tossing in there.  You want a light coating of flour.  You can season the flour if you like.  Do the tentacles separately because you want to keep them separate for frying.

Place your first round of calamari in the pan.  Not too much calamari at a time- overcrowding will cause too much of a temperature drop and it won't cook evenly either.  You want space around the rings so they can fry perfectly. A perfect way to tell it is ready (besides the thermometer) is to put one in - if it bubbles up and fries all around immediately then the temp is good.

While those delicious morsels of the sea are frying up, line a cookie sheet with paper towel on it to place the calamari on.  If you like you can warm up the oven on the lowest possible setting to keep them warm while you fry the rest.  For me this doesn't matter because my husband really doesn't like his food piping hot anyway.

It is at this point when I lay them on the paper towel that I season them.  I put a light dusting of granulated garlic on them and salt them.  Next time I think I will try Lawry's Seasoning (No- I am not paid to say that).

One last thing, make sure your oil is back to 350F after each batch because the temperature WILL change. You want each and every batch to come out perfect.  Oh, and don't put them in a bowl after frying because they will pile on each other and the bottoms ones wont be so nice after sitting there a while.

So far, I think that is it but after my next batch of calamari, who knows, I may add something else that I learned- maybe to tell you how good season salt tastes on them.  But hey, if you try it first. feel free to let me know.  I would love to hear about it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sushi with Lox, Arugula and Avocado

My on again off again diet is on again at present.  I have had this diet THANG going on for way too long in my life.  I lay in bed some nights and think, man I really need to get this weight off of me because I need to live to be with my kids.  I do well for a while.  Then BAM off again.  Eating like there is no tomorrow.  Making lots of bad food choices.  But you know I feel so good when I am doing good.  Clothes start to fit better, I feel good about my progress, and then I dont know what happens.  I fall off the wagon.  Hopefully, this time I can stay on the wagon.

I love lox.  Such a treat.  I know this is not a usual filling for sushi but I just wanted to give it a try.  It was delicious.  Would like to try it again with some dill. 

I know, mine are not perfect.  I need more practice.

Salmon Sushi


8 oz salmon, give or take depending on how much you want to put into the roll

1 Haas avocado
a couple handfulls of arugula
1 carrot cut into strips with a vegetable peeler
2 1/2 cups sushi rice
2 1/2 cups water
2 tabelspoons seasoned rice vinegar
4-6 nori sheets

If you want to be technical about how you make your sushi, go to this post for a more complete list of instructions.  The day I made these I did it in kind of a relaxed way because I didn't want to be bothered with so many steps. Read on for the sloppy way.

Make sushi rice.  Rinse rice.  Bring rice to a boil, simmer for about ten or fifteen minutes.  Remove from heat without taking lid off and let sit for fifteen minutes.

After that time, pour seasoned rice vinegar over the rice and stir.  Let cool to room temp.

Toast nori sheets for a few moments.  Lay nori sheet textured side up on a bamboo rolling sheet.  Parchment paper will work in a pinch. Wet your hands.  Lay the rice about a 1/2 inch on nori sheet, leaving a one inch space at the bottom and top of the roll.  Place whatever you are putting in the roll at the center.  Bring bottom part of the sheet up and over the center, tucking them and holding them in place.  Begin to roll as tightly as possible.  When you get to the end of the rice, smooth a little water on the last part of the sheet at the top. Place seam side down on cutting board and cut.  I use the side of the knife to make uniform thickness on my sushi.


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tender Pea, Swiss and Ham Risotto

Its a mad dash around here to get some things done before the kids get out of school.  But it never works like that.  Things come up and there I am sidetracked.  Eh, in the end, it all works out.

One of the things that I have been working on is putting in a patch of berries.  Not sure how that will go... Lots of preparation.  I found the berries half price at a local nursery.  Kind toward the end of the Spring planting season.  If you are reading this and dont have a garden but would like blueberry bushes- you can plant them in pots.  They double as ornamentals as well.  If you get three, you can buy different varieties so that you will have blueberries each month in the summer - July, August and September.  How's that if you are a blueberry lover?

Tonight I made some risotto.  A real quick dish if you have the ingredients, like some chopped ham, chicken broth and some fresh garden peas (or frozen).

Tender Pea, Swiss and Ham Risotto

I wanted to use up my risotto so this recipe makes quite a bit.  If you want to reduce it, just use 1 cup of risotto and 2 cups of broth

2 1/4 cups risotto
36 ounces chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine ( I freeze wine in half cup portions when we dont finish a bottle)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon Lawry salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup onion, finely minced
1 cup peas
1 cup chopped ham
4 ounces, chopped Swiss cheese ( I used Alpine Lace)

In one sauce pan have the broth simmering gently.

In a saucepan saute onion in olive oil and butter until translucent. Add risotto and cook for one minute more, stirring frequently.  Add wine and once it evaporates add 1/2 cup chicken broth. Once it evaporates, add the next 1/2 cup to a cup.  Give a good stir.  Once you notice that it has stopped getting bigger and is looking creamier, give it a taste.  It should be tender but a bit toothsome.  Stir in the ham, peas and swiss cheese.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Chicken Enchiladas

What to do with some leftover chicken.  Boy, I tell you that is a really good problem.  And there must be a bazillion answers to that question.  There is really so many options for leftover chicken.  Usually it is fodder for salads for a few days for me.  This time, however, it morphed into enchiladas since there was a bag of flour tortillas right there on the counter. 

Chicken Enchiladas

11 tortillas (eight inch)
2 jars of salsa and or enchilada sauce
5 cups chicken, chopped
1 cup sour cream
1 cup onion minced finely
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
6 ounces cheddar cheese divided, 2 ounces of that reserved
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
4 ounces cream cheese

IN a bowl combine chicken, cheddar, salt, pepper, sour cream, cumin, cilantro and onion.  Pour one jar of salsa (about 12 to 15 ounces) in bottom of baking dish.  My 13 x 9 was occupied so I used two smaller pans.  Spread about two teaspoons of cream cheese on a tortilla.  Then place about a half cup of filling into the tortilla and roll. Place in pan, seam side down.  Keep rolling until the mixture is gone. Pour other jar of sauce over top. Place in an oven preheated to 350 Degrees F, covered.  Bake about 45 minutes, remove cover and sprinkle with reserved cheese.  Return to oven and bake until cheese is melted.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Devastating Fire to Local Beanery

I just read about this and am doing a shout out to people locally and of course anyone, anywhere who can also help.

"Cayuga Pure Organics is a small farm near Ithaca, New York that grows organic, non-GMO dry beans and grains, including several heirloom varieties. Working with a few other local organic farmers, they distribute this healthy food to restaurants, stores, farmers markets and CSAs throughout New York and the Northeast. Cayuga Pure Organics is the only major supplier of locally grown organic dried beans in the region. CPO truly occupies a unique position in the food system and plays a key role in the movement to rebuild our food system on a local, sustainable basis.
On May 30, 2013, a devastating fire destroyed the barn that housed all of CPO's cleaning and packaging equipment and a considerable amount of inventory. With the new harvest starting in July, they need to replace the equipment before any of these new crops can be sold.
Insurance policies will amount to about 20 percent of the necessary funds to replace the lost facilities and most of this is needed just for ongoing expenses while a new facility is built. If Cayuga Pure Organics cannot raise funds to rebuild, the farm will not survive.
The total cost of rebuilding the facility is estimated to be $238,350, of which $25,000 has already been provided by two local residents strongly committed to this project. In order to raise the balance of $213,350 we need the support of the broad community.  Every dollar counts so please remember that even small amounts add up. "

Read more or to donate, click here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kickin Baked Beans and GMO Information

I have been wanting some home made baked beans for a while now.  I see all these snazzy canned baked beans at the store and want to buy them but so many times I have been very disappointed by them.  I want to make my own, control the ingredients and end up with a stellar bowl of baked beans.  These beans DELIVERED!

And no GMOS's (genetically modified organisms) in my beans... BONUS.  I made a commitment the other day to give up GMO products as mush as possible.  This meant giving up my beloved Hellman's Mayonnaise and God knows how many other products I will give up.  For my husband this was even more of a sacrifice.  He slathers it on everything.  Tah tah for now.  I can only hope that the movement to stop GMO's will force the hands of corporations to stop using them in their products.  If you use processed food a lot, know that your product most likely contains GMO's.   So from now on it will be homemade mayo or Earth Balance (the only brand available with no GMOS's)

Click here for a WIKI on how to avoid GMO's.

One more thing, don't say to yourself, "now, what? I am so tired of hearing what stuff is bad for you."  This is way bigger than that.  Do the research yourself.  If we do not start to fight GMO's our food supply itself will be totally controlled.  Just think of the ramifications of that.  If you want to learn even more, view below for a very intelligent talk given through TED on GMO's from Robyn O'Brien.

BTW- I did make a mistake and covered the beans in the first hour and a half that is why mine are a tad soupy.  Still delicious mind you.

Kickin' Baked Beans
for original recipe at Foodista, click here.

1 pound navy beans
1 cup ketchup, organic
1 cup barbeque sauce (homemade Mutha sauce)
1/2 pound hickory smoked bacon
6 ounces organic andouille sausage
1 teaspoon allspice
2 heaping tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped bell pepper
2 cups tomatoes, chopped (used my canned stewed tomatoes)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup pineapple juice
1 teaspoon mustard

Soak beans overnight if possible, if nto even a couple hours will help.  After soaking, drain the beanss, fill pot with water.  You want the water to cover the beans by one inch.  Just use the tip of your pointer finger.  If it some up to your first knuckle then it is the perfect height.  Gently simmer the beans until they are just tender.

Combine all ingredients (except bacon) in Dutch oven or any pot that is heavy and will go into your oven.  Lay bacon slices over top.  Cook in a 300 degree oven for 3 hours- uncovered.

Serve and enjoy.  The flavor of these beans is incredible!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Whole Wheat Banana Snack Cake with Maple Frosting

There are a few things that for some reason I have to try every recipe under the sun- chocolate cake, chocolate chips cookies, carrot cake, pie crust, granola bars, zucchini bread and yes, banana bread.  This particular recipe attracted me because it has whole wheat flour.

Whole Wheat Banana Snack Cake with Maple Frosting

Adapted from this recipe at Taste of Home

1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose 
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
6 tablespoons 2% milk
2-1/2 to 3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon maple flavor extract

In a large bowl, cream shortening and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. On a plate mash bananas and add them to the mix along with the vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition. Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

For frosting,  combine the brown sugar, butter, extract and milk. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until frosting reaches spreading consistency. Frost cake.
Yield: 12 servings.

Nutritional Facts 1 serving (1 piece) equals 461 calories, 16 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 47 mg cholesterol, 376 mg sodium, 76 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 6 g protein.


My daughter likes lots of frosting so I split her piece in half and put some of the extra frosting on it and made a sandwich.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

No Bake Granola Bars

I love granola bars and certainly the amount of granola bars I make and the amount of recipes for granola bars on my site, are a testament to that statement. These are fabulous because no baking is involved.  

I actually have a few more of these granola bar recipes to share with you.  I am always trying new recipes and tweaking them.  As stated in a previous post, I get on kicks.  And yes granola bars have been an ongoing kick for me.  Mainly because I like to have them on hand for the kids lunch, a quick breakfast or a snack.

I use to eat one of the commercial brands but after I have been making my own for years- it is super de duper hard for me to go back to those.  I must make them as an obligation to taste and the goodness factor.  How is that for super corny?  But yet so true.

No Bake Oatmeal Bars

1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups quick oats
1/2 cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 cup chopped pretzels
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Cut out an 8 x 14 inch rectangle of parchment paper. Place the parchment paper in the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch baking pan, hanging over the sides for quick and easy extraction (how is that for a big word?).

In a sauce pan, add butter, brown sugar, honey and peanut butter. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to bubble. Once bubbling, cook for 2 minutes while stirring. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. WHile that is heating, in a large bowl combine the dry ingredients- cereals, wheat germ, chocolate chips and oats.

Pour the mixture into the dry mixture. Stir until well coated. Pour into the prepared pan. Press the mixture evenly into the pan. Lightly spray the back of a rubber spatula with cooking spray and use it to press down the mixture into the prepared pan. Place the bars in the refrigerator and let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting. Cut into bars and serve.

Monday, June 3, 2013

GMO Labeling NY State

Okay people of NY State - you know I do not usually use my blog as a place for political statements but this is important.  Please call the assemblymen today and let them know you have a right to know if the food you are purchasing is genetically modified. 



Tell New York - I want GMO labeling now!

Over the weekend, an historic compromise was reached between the Governor’s office and House and Senate leadership in Connecticut to pass a strong GMO labeling bill, which could become the first in the nation mandatory state labeling bill for genetically engineered foods.
Right now in New York advocates for GMO labeling are making their case to the New York Assembly to make sure that New Yorkers will have a right to know what’s in their food as well. Two bills that would label genetically engineered foods in New York, S3835 and A3525, need your help to get pushed out of committees and onto the floor for votes in the state legislature.
Currently Members of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee and the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection in the Assembly hold the power to make or break these bills and they need to hear from you today!
This morning GMO labeling bill A3525 is currently being considered in the Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection. If approved, the bill could still move to a floor vote this session and New Yorkers would be one step closer to winning GMO labeling.
Because of the vote in Connecticut this weekend, what happens in New York is more important than ever! Join Food Democracy Now! and our allies at GMO Free NY to make sure that New Yorkers lead the way in GMO labeling in the U.S. We are at a critical point and every voice counts!
Once you sign the letter, please take a moment to make a call to contact these committee members below and ask them to support and co-sponsor S3835 and A3525 today - there's an urgent vote in the committee this morning and we need your help!
Assemblymember Abbate:      518-455-3053
Assemblymember Buchwald:   518-455-5397
Assemblymember Camara:     518-455-5262
Assemblymember Gabryszak:  518-455-5921
Assemblymember Hennessey: 518-455-4901
Assemblymember McKevitt:    518-455-5341
Assemblymember Nojay:        518-455-5662
Assemblymember Quart:        518-455-4794
Assemblymember Simanowitz: 518-455-4404
Assemblymember Skoufis:       518-455-5441
It’s urgent that we let our elected officials know that we want a strong GMO labeling bill in New York.
Right now we need your help to make sure these bills pass over the objections of the biotech industry.                        
Already citizens in 64 other countries enjoy the basic right of knowing if their food has been genetically engineered in a laboratory. But for the past 20 years Americans have been denied this democratic right because of powerful special interests of Big Food, the biotech industry and agribusiness lobbyists.
You can help change that today! For years, activists across New York have been working hard to introduce reasonable legislation that would give this basic information to consumers about their food.
Click here if you think you have a Right to Know what's in your food! Join Food Democracy Now! in telling your elected officials that you care about GMO labeling and want to see them act immediately to pass a bill into law. Every voice counts!
If passed, New York would become the first state in the U.S. to require mandatory labeling of GMOs in our food. The issue of labeling has never been more important!
Passing GMO labeling in New York is urgent.
Right now 13 new GMO crops are awaiting approval at the USDA, including Monsanto’s 2,4-D Agent Orange corn and the “botox” GMO apple.
At the same time, the FDA is getting ready to approve genetically engineered salmon. If approved, Aquabounty’s GMO salmon would be the first genetically engineered animal allowed on the market and it would appear on your plates unlabeled! Without a bill on GMO labeling, you will continue to be left in the dark as you try to feed yourself and your family.
Besides eating organic food, the only way to guarantee that you’re not eating GMOs or feeding your family genetically engineered foods is to make sure they’re properly labeled. Join us today to gain that right for you, your family and everyone in New York.
Tell your friends and elected officials that you have a Right to Know - pass a GMO labeling bill and help New York lead the way! Every voice counts!
Currently 37 states are working to pass GMO labeling legislation in 2013. New York is one of those states and with your help, we can make history.
Remember, democracy is like a muscle... either use or lose it!
Thanks for participating in food democracy,
Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! team
At Food Democracy Now!, we're working with activists on the ground in New York to pass a solid bill on GMO labeling to protect your future. Please join the grassroots movement, GMO Free NY to win your right to know what is in your food:

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Strawberry and Chocolate Ice Box Cake

I get on these kicks with food.  One summer it was bean burgers.  Couldn't get enough of them, then it was granola bars, although I still make them pretty regularly.  Then it was crepes.  Anyway- you get the message.  Now, it is ice box cake time.
At an Amish store about an hour South of here they have these chocolate flower cookies.  They are for making ice cream sandwiches.  They sell rather large bag of them.  It has taken me a while to go through them but they were perfect for this dessert.  You can sub in chocolate graham crackers.

Chocolate Strawberry Icebox Cake

chocolate wafers (ice cream sandwich type or chocolate graham crackers
1 1/2 whipped heavy cream with about two tablespoons of sugar thrown in
Strawberries sliced flat with a few left whole or cut in half
chocolate sauce

Start with a layer of chocolate wafer.
Next straberries layed out flat and covering as much of the cookie as possible.
Next a lay of whipped cream
Drizzle chocolate sauce over that if you like.
Then another layer just like that ending with whipped cream and whatever garnish you desire.  Strawberry, maybe some mint, chocolate drizzle.

Place in refrigerator for at least two hours and up to overnight.

The possibilities are endless for this.