Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spinach Cous Cous with Fava Beans and Zucchini

It takes a whole lot of pods to make a dish of favas. So after all that work, you want it to be something special. Well, for me, this dish was something special. It was tastey, quick and light. It tasted even better the next day when I reheated it.
Have you ever heard of favism? I don't know where the heck I learn these little factoids. A friend of my friends in AZ use to call me Cliff, as in the trivia man on Cheers (watch him here). Ah, was that a nice thing to say? Anyway favism is a "a hereditary disorder involving an allergic-like reaction to the broad, or fava, bean (Vicia faba). Susceptible persons may develop a blood disorder (hemolytic anemia) by eating the beans, or even by walking through a field where the plants are in flower." Encyclopedia of Brittanica.

Spinach Cous Cous with Fava Beans and Zucchini

4 cups diced zucchini
2 1/2 cups fava beans shelled and peeled (can substitute frozen lima beans)
1/2 cup onion, minced
1/2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup mint chopped
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
s and p to taste
1 cup cous cous ( I used spinach cous cous)
1 1/4 cups boiling water

Place cous cous in a large bowl. Add boiling water, cover and set aside.

Meanwhile saute onion, and zucchini in butter and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Cook until lightly golden. Add garlic cook one minute more and add favas. Remove from heat and add remaining tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

*Next time I make this I think I will add some toasted pine nuts.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chevre, Rosemary and Shamia

I guess it is kind of normal to go around and look at blogs and think, hey, I wish I had that. I wish I had that many readers. I wish I could bake, cook or decorate like that. I wish I lived there. I wish I had those people in my life. Kind of like a child, "mine, mine, mine" and "gimme, gimme, gimme". Well, this all came into a new light for me as I was reading this book by Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture. The book has really helped me to take a look at my life and look at what dreams I have realized. While I may have known while I was in those moments that they were my dreams come true, I think I may have forgotten. Looking back I realize how blessed I am. I am filled with gratitude and I like that feeling a lot better than feeling jealous of what other people have.

When I was growing up I had a dream that I would own a horse some day. In my dream, I would partake in all the activities of owning a horse, cleaning the stable, brushing, and of course riding and training and all of that. This dream lasted for quite a while. I took riding lessons when I was in my early twenties. For a college level English class, I interviewed an owner of a horse farm. I learned about how she started her business and how she ran it. I loved it.

Fast forward a few years to my late twenties, I found myself living in Tennessee with my brother for a while. I was trying to find a job. I had recently relocated from Phoenix and did not want to go back to NY. While I was there, my brother and sister in law, who owned horses had me do chores around the barn to earn my keep. I cleaned out the stables and such. One of the horses did not really have anyone paying attention to her. She was a beautiful Arabian horse who was as nervous and loud as all get out. Her named was Shamia (Okay, like long before Shania got big). Shamia was also plump like me. Okay, I am nervous and loud (I have quieted down a bit) too. So we were like soul mates. My sister in law asked me if I wanted to have Shamia as my horse, train her, take care of her, etc. Oh yes, I was all over that.

I remember walking around on the farm with her and teaching her some signals. Each time she did the signal correctly she would get a carrot. Sometimes as we would walk she would spot a stump of a tree and get all nervous and jerky which would just totally cracked me up. As the horse learns the commands you begin to take away the treats. So each time she stopped when I said whoa she did not get a treat. But that did not stop her from looking around to my back pocket to see if I had a treat. That just made me giggle so.

Anyone that knows horses knows that this is normal. But for me, it was magical. So magical that it made me smile, all-the-way-deep-inside, happy to be alive, magical. Why? Because really it had been my dream while I was growing up. Posters plastered in my bedroom of horses, lessons, dreams, interviews... the whole shabang.

I wish I could have brought her back to NY with me but I was an undergraduate at the time and getting ready to go back for my Master's when I returned to NY. I couldn't find the kind of job I wanted in TN mainly because I did not have my Master's.

I am so grateful for having that opportunity in my life. I learned quite a bit from it. I actually learned that I would never want a horse farm. Ha. Oh my God- too much work and lots of money!

So what does all of this have to do with Chevre, Rosemary and Roasted Onion Pizza? Absolutely nothing. But hey, it's my blog- I just felt like sharing with y'awl.
Pizza Dough (my old stand by)

My old stand by pizza dough recipe

3 1/2 cups ap flour or bread flour
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (or 2 packages)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

I find that I do not need to proof the yeast. I make it in a stand mixer. First add flour and salt. I start the mixer at this point at about 3 then add the yeast and then the water and olive oil. Depending on humidity you add more water or more flour. You want the dough to clean the sides of the mixer bowl and kind of climb up the dough mixing attachment. Slide dough off attachment and make sure it is uniformally mixed by just kneading it by hand a few times. Place in a bowl with a little olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot or if it is cool in your house I would use a "makeshift" proofer. Easy to do. Place a cup of water in your microwave and heat for about a minute and half. Move the cup over and place your dough bowl in the microwave. The remaining heat and moisture from the water lends a helping hand to the yeast. Let rise until double in size. Deflate by folding. Cut in half to make two pizzas. Work dough onto cooking sheet. You can use just about anything. The most crispy crusts come from baking stones. Heat the stone in the oven place dough on cornmeal on peel or baking sheet. Bake in a 425 degree oven.

I topped this little pretty with a little olive oil, freshly pressed garlic then onions that I had roasted in my iron skillet, fresh Chevre (about two ounces for a small personal size pizza) and rosemary leaves.

Drool, drool, drool. This was one of the best pizzas of my life. Really.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Daring Bakers: Milano Cookies

I was not going to do this challenge. Too hot. I haven't missed one yet. I got up early this morning and made the Milano cookies. I just couldn't pass up the challenge.

These cookies are delicious. I changed mine up a bit. I only put a tablespoon each of vanila and lemon extract. They still had a lot of flavor. These are quick cookies that are really delicious. (Much better homemade, shhhh).

I am sure you will be seeing tons of beautiful Daring Baker cookies all over the place. Enjoy. If you are wondering where to find the amazing Daring Bakers, click here.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Singapore Noodles

I have been seeing Singapore noodles all over blogville. First, I saw them at One Perfect Bite, then on Tastespotting, then on Chow and Chatter. This and the cold Japanese noodles have been speaking to me. I did some recipe searches for the Singapore Noodles and there are as many ways to make them as there are noodles. As far as authenticity I don't know how close mine comes to the real thing but we did enjoy it anyway- authentic or not.

Singapore Noodles

3 celery ribs, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1-2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
2-4 cups noodles, I used longevity noodles

Cook noodles and drain.

Combine spices and set aside. In a large fry pan, saute celery, carrot and pepper in olive oil until soft. Add minced garic, cook one minute more. Add spices and oyster sauce. Finally add shrimp and cook until pink. Then add noodles.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Great Expectations

So I picked some raspberries the other day. Due to all the rain a lot of them had fungus or mold on them. Ew, gross. So, I carefully picked the nice ones, six quarts worth. I amde cherry raspberry jam from the "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving". Man, was I stoked. The flavor was amazing but it didn't set. Really I should have went with my gut and cooked it for a longer period of time. And I should have had my trusty dish in the freezer to test the set.

So, here's what I did with my unset jam... so far, as I have about 4 more 1/2 pints to use.

I made Raspberry Cherry Fool. A light version of it. (Stir in about a tablespoon of the unset jam to the yogurt and add some fresh fruit.)

Then I made Raspberry Fudge Brownies. I know I probably got your attention there.

Melt in your mouth, delicious. I mixed some of my unset jam with fresh raspberries to make a quick "jam".

The jam. Take my advice and cook it down a little longer and make sure you test the gel.

Cherry Berry Jam
adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

3 cups (750ml) raspberry pulp (raspberries put through a sieve or a food mill)
4 cups ( 1 liter) sugar
3 cups (750ml) pitted sweet cherries, including juice

Prepare canner, jars and lids.

In a glass, stainless steele or plastic bowl combine raspberry pulp and sugar, set aside.

Bring cherries and their juice to a boil in a stainless steel deep pot. Cook about five minutes, until they are tender. Stir in raspberries and cook seven minutes more. Test gel. Cook longer if you need to.

Ladles mixture into hot jars and process in canner for ten minutes. Remove lid, wait five minutes. Remove jars.

Raspberry Fudge Brownie Bars
This recipe from Recipezaar

6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk chocolate chips
2 cups fresh raspberries combined with cherry berry jam or (3/4 cup raspberry preserves)
1/4 cup fresh raspberry (for garnish)

In a double boiler, melt together butter and chocolate. In a seperate bowl with a wire whisk, beat sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Let cool slightly; Gradually stir in flour and baking powder just to combine; Fold in almonds and chocolate chips.

Spread about 3/4 of the batter evenly in a 13" x 9" x 2" pan that has been coated with a non stick spray; Carefully spread raspberry preserves on top of the batter; Drizzle remaining batter evenly over preserves swirling top lightly with a spoon; Gently smooth top.

Bake for about 20 - 25 minutes at 350° or until the top is slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely if you can stand it.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Maple Glazed Salmon

Last night I was laying in bed thinking. Between sick children and the rain I was up a lot. I can never go right back to sleep so I usually am up for another hour or so. I remembered something that happened during my childhood and wanted to share it.

When I was about seven or eight I was walking home from my friends house that lived two houses around the corner from us. The road that seperated our houses was a well traveled road. It was about 4:30pm or so and I was on my way home. Pulled to the side of the road was this powder blue colored car with the passenger side open to where I was walking. There was an older woman (or at least I think so) sitting in the driver seat. She asked me to come over to the car. I did. She asked me where such and such a road was. I told her I didn't know but I thought it might have been down that way. (Okay is your suspicion aroused? Why would an adult ask a young child where a street was.) Anyway she asked me if I would like to get in the car and help her find the road she was looking for. Me, being the foodie I am said I had to get home because it was almost dinner time. I knew my Mom would be upset if I didn't get my tush right home.

Imagine how my life would have changed if I got in that car. In an instant things can happen. Sometimes we can control things. So my kids do not play in the front yard without me. Isn't that sad?

My friend "K" from our little group made it some time ago. I have made it several times since and I played with the recipe a little. I just reduced the amount of sodium. This is total "whip together" meal.

Maple Glazed Salmon

6 ounces maple syrup
4 ounces lite soy sauce
juice of one lime

Marinate the salmon for at least an hour prior to cooking. Bake at 350 F oven or broil until flaky.

Now, you can do what I do and reduce the leftover marinade to pour over the salmon. Just take the remaining liquid in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer the mixture until it reduces to half its original volume.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vietnamese Pancake, Take One

When my friends were over the other day we were talking about the politics of food. It's all very confusing. One day you hear you should eat this and then the next day you hear your not suppose to because of this reason or that reason. Like fish for example. We use to eat fish quite often. At least once a week or so. Now you hear the oceans are over fished and you shouldn't eat certain kinds, you have to check often. Then on American Frontiers you hear that the scientists underestimated the amout of yellow fin tuna in our ocean. It seems the scientists didn't realize there was many more of them at greater depths. Then last night I am watching on PBS that the tuna, eaten by bigger fish (blue marlins, sail fish) is depleting and that the large fish are dying off because there is not enough to eat. Same channel, different message. Oh, I am not sure who put what documentary out first. But that's just the thing who has time to delve into every nuance of a particular food they are buying. When your hungry and your shopping you just don't care. No offense. Maybe sometimes you do, but really isn't it all a bit confusing? Maybe there could be little labels. "You know, if you buy this fish you are killing off the marlins." Or "If you dont buy this fish, how will all those fishermen in third world countries support their families." Good golly Miss Molly! And you know, you never really know, all the meaning behind everything.

The latest trend, I guess, is eating less meat. We have been kind of on that kind of diet for a while now. We eat more beans and more cheese and sometimes it's just vegetables. I am tempted more often that not lately to go vegetarian but folks quite frankly I can not do it. I love meat too much. But I will be eating less of it as I have been for quite some time...

Anyway, if you follow my blog, you know I went to Toronto a little while back and had some amazing food there. Of course, I can not remember a time when I did not have amazing food there. I wanted to give this recipe a whirl to see if I could recreate the dish. When I had it there I was sure there was eggs in it so when I made the recipe I added eggs- nope. It didn't turn out quite right. So, next time I will be leaving out the eggs. It still was good and even better toasted the next day.

Banh Xeo aka Vietnamese Amazing Pancake

1 3/4 cups of rice flour
1/4 tsp tumeric
1 scallion thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs of veg. oil
1 pound of lean beef, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
1 pound of medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 small onion thinly sliced
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 1/2 cups of mung bean sprouts
In a medium bowl, whisk the rice flour together with 2 cups of water. Add tumeric and scallion and mix well. Set batter aside. (Can be kept in frig. for up to three days.)

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 1/2 tsp of oil over high heat. Add 3 slices of pork, shrimp, few slices of onion, and 1 slice of mushroom. Seasoned with salt and pepper. Cook until onion starts to brown slightly, about 1 min. Stir the rice flour batter and ladle 1/3 cup of it into the pan. Tilt the pan to distribute the batter evenly. Keep the heat high, cover, and cook until the sides of the pancake turns deep brown and curled up, about 3-4 minutes. Scatter 1/4 cup of sprouts onto the pancake. Fold it in half and slide it onto a warm plate. Serve the pancakes with dipping sauce on the side. You can eat it wrapped in lettuce and herbs or plain. Suggested herbs are mint and basil. I also used marinated daikon and radish with it as well.

Nuoc Cham

1 to 2 small red chiles, minced or 1 to 2 tsp dried chili flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon white vinegar, (heated)
1/2 cup bottled fish sauce (nuoc mam)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 carrot, finely shredded, rinsed and squeezed dry
2 cloves of garlic minced
1/2 cup of sugar
If using dried chile flakes soaked them in the vinegar in a medium bowl for about 2 minutes.

In the bowl with the chile, add fish sauce, lime juice, carrot, garlic, and sugar. Stir in 1 1/2 cup of warm water until sugar is dissolved. Serve at room temp or store in frig. for up to 3 days.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mexican Chocolate Ice Cream

My monthly group, Four Corners came over my house the other day. I love getting together with these ladies. They are the best. They are my source of support and strength. I remember when I was pregnant with my first child, I told them I was scared. I was really close to my due date and filled with trepidation and excitement over the upcoming delivery. They gathered around me and each put a hand on my big belly and they said a prayer for me and the baby. Talk about love and support. I am truly blessed to have these amazing ladies in my life.

So, of course, you know I go all out for them because I love to cook and I love them. I made a taco salad with my beans that I made last week and ground turkey with a little chorizo. A fairly light meal because the star, this ice cream, was to follow.

I am using capitals for emphasis. YOU HAVE NOT HAD CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM UNTIL YOU HAVE HAD THIS ICE CREAM! OMG. A little scoop of chocolate, decadent heaven. We did sprinkle a little cinnamon on top in our individula servings. This is why when I made it the second time for my parents, I added the cinnamon right to the mixture.


adapted from this recipe from Cooking Light
* I did not use the vanilla pod for one of the two times I made this. I didn't think it made any difference in taste. Next time I will try it with 3 cups whole milk and 1 cup cream. It is VERY rich.

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
9 ounces Mexican chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan combine the cream, milk, Mexican chocolate, unsweetened chocolate, and cinnamon sticks. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.

Remove cream mixture from heat and let steep 20 to 30 minutes. Meanwhile, put egg yolks, sugar, and salt in the bowl whisk until egg mixture is thick and pale yellow, 2 to 3 minutes. (I used my hand whisk for a little extra exercise. It didn't take long.)

Return cream mixture to medium heat and bring just to a simmer. Remove from heat and fish out the sticks. Whisk egg mixture and add a cup of chocolate mixture very slowly, whisking all the while. Slowly drizzle in remaining chocolate mixture, continuing to mix as you go.

Pour this custard into saucepan. Return to stove and cook over low to medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until custard thickens a bit.

Pour custard into a couple of quart jars, cover and let cool. Place in frigerator overnight.

Freeze custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Transfer to an airtight plastic container and freeze until hardened.

Yield: MAKES 1 1/2 qts.; 12 servings (serving size: 1/2 cup)

CALORIES 346 (62% from fat); FAT 24g (sat 13g); CHOLESTEROL 149mg; CARBOHYDRATE 30g; SODIUM 86mg; PROTEIN 3.8g; FIBER 0.7g

As if that is not enough. You can put a dollop of this chocolate sauce over top with some Spanish peanuts.

Chocolate Sauce

3 (1-ounce) semisweet chocolate squares
1 cup sugar
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Put chocolate in heavy bottomed sauce pan and melt the chocolate over low heat. Add the sugar and whisk in. Gradually add evaporated milk and turn up the heat a little, stirring constantly as you go. Once mixture has melted and sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.

If you want a glossier and thinner sauce add 1/4 cup corn syrup to the mixture.

You see that monkey? He has his mouth covered- I am not sure if he is saying "oh my" or he is saying "wow I ate too much of this amazing ice cream."

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Currant Jam

Just this past year I ventured into the land of non commercial pectin, jellies, jams and preserves. So far I have been pleasantly surprised. I used to think that the only way to get my fruits to gel was to use Sure Jel or Certo. They do work great but I learned that a lot of fruit has its own pectin and adding apples (tart ones) can make your fruit set as well. It is sometimes a softer set but sometimes that is better. Did you ever have a jam that was too hard to spread? This particular currant jam and the apricot one were a firmer set all by themselves. Though as Ferber points out in her book, each fruit, each year, has its own unique character and no two batches are ever the same.

Currants are a pain in the patoot to work with but you will reap tasty rewards with this one. It doesn't make a lot so start off with a huge amount of berries. Take the time to take off all the branches and stems because they can give off a bitter taste. So I can not wait to make some scones or biscuits to spread this all over.

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between jelly, jam and preserves. I found this quick summary from How It Works.

"Jelly, jam and preserves are all made from fruit mixed with sugar and pectin. The difference between them comes in the form that the fruit takes.

  • In jelly, the fruit comes in the form of fruit juice.
  • In jam, the fruit comes in the form of fruit pulp or crushed fruit (and is less stiff than jelly as a result).
  • In preserves, the fruit comes in the form of chunks in a syrup or a jam.
Pectin is an indigestible carbohydrate (fiber). It is found in the cell walls of most fruit. When heated with sugar in water, it gels, giving jam, jelly and preserves their thickness."

Currant Jam
recipe adapted from Mes Confitures by Christine Ferber
published by Michigan State University Press

2 3/4 pounds red currants
3 3/4 cups sugar
juice of one lemon (about a 1/4 of a cup)

Clean currants in cold water, drain and stem. In a non reactive pot combine berries, lemon and sugar and bring to a simmer. Remove mixture from the heat and pour into a glass or ceramic bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, puree the currants in a blender. Pour through a fine sieve and with a rubber spatula mash the currants on the sides to push liquid through. Discard stems and seeds. Yield: 5 or 6 - 1/2 pints.

Place mixture back in a pan and bring to a boil, stirring gently. Continue the simmer for about five minutes. Check the set with a cold dish. Put jam into jars and seal. *Turn the jars upside down for ten minutes. Turn right side up and check to see if they have sealed in an hour or so.

*Just a reminder that not all people prefer to can jam with this method. The FDA does not recommend it. I am okay with taking the risk. This is how I was taught to can from my Mother and I continue to use this method.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

Did you ever listen to the silence? Well it's not really the silence because you would have to be pretty far from civilization and crickets. I love to listen to the silence. That is, when I take a minute to actually listen to the silence. Sometimes I don't slow down long enough to know that it has been a while since I listened to the silence. When was the last time I did this? Too long ago. I know that meditation not medication (that c makes all the difference) really works. It quiets the mind. Why is that I just can't make myself sit for five minutes? Okay, maybe the answer comes after therapy and maybe it doesn't. Maybe it's a matter of just doing it. Just doing it. Quieting the mind. Mindful eating.

Have you ever done mindful eating? In a way it may sound lame but really it isn't. The other day I bit into a banana and I was chomping away and I told myself to slow down and enjoy the banana. Think about its texture, the way it feels in my mouth, the smell... you know, the flavor exploded. I was amazed what a difference it made.

What a difference just noticing what is around us by taking the time to notice it. Maybe it makes life beam the way that banana did in my mouth.

Pull up a chair, get a cup of coffee or tea and sit down. Relax. Bite into this biscotti. Close your eyes and think about how delightful it is. Then listen to the quiet, if you can.

This days message brought to you by an extremely tired and thoughtful girl.

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti
Recipe from Epicurious

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter and flour a large baking sheet.

In a bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until combined well. Stir in flour mixture to form a stiff dough. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.

On prepared baking sheet with floured hands form dough into two slightly flattened logs, each 12 inches long and 2 inches wide. Bake logs 35 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch. Cool biscotti on baking sheet 5 minutes.

On a cutting board cut biscotti diagonally into 3/4-inch slices. Arrange biscotti, cut sides down, on baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Cool biscotti on a rack. Biscotti keep in airtight containers 1 week and frozen, 1 month.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Squash Blossom Quesadillas

Going to the market for me is like opening presents on Christmas day. You look and look to see what each vendor has and then you are surprised and pleased to find something unique and desirable. I hit the jackpot last Thursday- squash blossoms, lookin' all fresh and perky.

Now, the next question is why did I get them? I hate when I make these spontaneous, impulsive purchases, like at garage sales. The reason why I second guessed my decision is because usually you fry them and that's not what I wanted to do. Going with my Mexican mood- I decided to make quesadillas. Now, this was a good decision.

Squash Blossom Quesadillas

1 small onion, chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
8 to 10 squash blossoms
1 tomato chopped
2 to 3 oz Monterey or Empire Jack Cheese
1 serrano chile, minced
4 flour tortillas

Saute onion and chiles in olive oil until soft. Add squash blossoms and cook until wilted. Add chopped tomatoes and cook for one minute more. Remove from heat. Divide mixture evenly over two tortillas. Sprinkle with cheese. Place other tortilla on top. Toast in and oven or in the frying pan. Flip and toast other side.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Apricot Jam and livin' on the edge

A few days ago I saw Tartelettes post about cherry pits, I was intrigued. I checked out Egg beaters post about stone fruits and their pits. I read that almond extract is made from apricot pits. I think I knew this at one time but I had forgot. I was totally stoked about buying some apricots and making some jam but now was I going to include the kernels or not? Supposedly the heating process denatures the toxicity of the kernel. I read many pros and cons on the internet and some jam books I have about including the kernels. Some people include the kernel but then take it out right before they jar it. I decided I would go for the kernel in the jam. Luckily, I found some fresh, local apricots at the market.

If nothing else my house smelled so good while making this jam. It is delicious. I ate a kernel. I am still alive.

When I was 19 I decided I wanted to take some English riding lessons. I paid for them myself and took a class. They told us we could feed the horses apples but we would have to core them before we did so. What? Well, their explanation was that the pits have cyanide and it was cumalitive in the horses body. So while the pits may not kill them from one apple, after 100 apples it may just be the bit that did. I have no idea if this is true or if this is even true for humans. I wonder, does anyone know if it is stored in the fat cells of our body? As you can see I am still intrigued and will investigate this further.

*Certainly leave the kernels out if you do not want to live on the edge. And just in case you are wondering I won't let the kids eat the kernels.  You know, just in case I am wrong.

Apricot Jam with the Kernel
Yield: a little over 5 half pints.

1 kg (roughly five or six cups) apricots, chopped into small pieces
1 kg sugar*
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1. Sterilize jars in boiling water. Let them dry.

2. Wash and clean the apricots, reserving the pits.

3. Crack the pits with a nut cracker, discard shell. Blanch the kernels and place in cold water. Remove the skins.

4. In a non reactive pot, combine apricots, sugar and lemon juice. Cook until it begins to boil. It will foam up pretty high. Keep the mixture at a simmer until the liquid reaches gel stage. Test for gel stage (use a small dish that you have placed in the freezer prior to starting this process).

5. Place two kernels in each jar before ladling in the jam.

6. Once you have filled the jars (leaving a 1/4 inch head space, clean rim of jar, place lids on and screw the bands on. Turn them upside down for ten minutes and then right side up. Making sure that the tops have depressed into the jar. Wait a while if one or two have not depressed you can turn the jars upside down and try again for ten minutes. This should do the trick.

*If you do not have a scale you can measure the apricots out and use equal sugar amount. 

Monday, July 13, 2009

This smashed bean has style!

This bean-party-girl is all dressed up and wanting to go to a party to show off. And you know, she is pretty low maintenance. She is ready to go to the party in no time flat. Slap the beans on a tortilla, followed by some swanky pico de gallo, creamy avocado, crunchy radishes, crumbled labneh (okay, it's not Mexican but it's a lot like queso fresco) and my personal green leafed favorite, cilantro. Whammo, flavor perfection! Party pretty.

So after this dish, I threw the rest of my smashed beans into the freezer. Beans freeze very well. They have plans for Saturday so I thought I would put them in the freezer to keep them. (That bean is a serious party girl. She has to get her rest for Saturday.)

What exactly is the difference between pico de gallo and salsa anyway? Well, in Mexico, pico de gallo is a fresh tomato salad with the usual ingredients but sometimes with radishes and other veggies. Salsa is sauce, and of course it can mean any type of sauce.

Pico de Gallo

2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
juice of half of a lemon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 jalapeno, minced
two tablespoons minced red onion
couple sprigs of cilantro

Mix all ingredients together. Let sit at least 30 minutes before the meal for better flavor.

Perfect for a day when it is hot and the last thing you feel like doing is cooking. Isn't it great to know you have a pot of beans that you can really on for flavor and really fast meals?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Huevos Rancheros

While this dish may not be the prettiest, it sure is the tastiest! It's quick, it's yummy and it's breakfast food that will stay with you a while. All that fiber from the beans will help you feel fuller longer.

I didn't have any corn tortillas so I just had the beans, salsa and egg. Add a toasted corn tortilla as the bottom layer if you want a little more.

I did the components seperate because I was making plain eggs for everyone else. The following "recipe" is the quickest way to do it.

Huevos Ranchero

1 egg
1/2 cup salsa, fire roasted has the most flavor
1/2 cup mashed beans

Place mashed beans in frying pan and heat through. Make a well in the center and add salsa, heat until salsa is warmed. Break egg right into the center. Cover with a lid to help the egg cook through.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Frijoles: Three Days, Three Ways

Maybe you do not want to eat beans because of the after effects it gives you.
Maybe you do not want to eat beans because they are flavorless.
Maybe you do not want to eat beans, especially dried beans, because you think it will take too much time.

I am here to tell you that these things that some of the things that people think are just not true. I know I sing the praises of the virtuous bean a lot. But there is a reason, well, many reasons for that: they are economical, healthy, versatile and tastey.

The Mexicans use an herb, or rather a weed in their beans to minimize the gasous effects of beans. It's called epazote and no it is not just a belief, it really works. (I will tell you a secret I heard about epazote, it's not only a weed but it's name in English, among many, is Stinkweed. How ironic is that?) Plus, if you eat beans a lot, your digestive system does adjust a little and doesn't get quite as gassy.

The flavor of beans is really up to you. They will take on whatever flavor you want them to. This is true especially if you have the patience to wait another day. That extra day allows them to really pick up the flavors of what you mixed with them.

The slowcooker is your best friend when it comes to dried beans. The night before you want to eat the beans, place them in water so that the cooking process goes quicker the next day. Add your beans to whatever ingredients you want with them in a slow cooker. While you are at work or whatever, your beans will be happily cooking away. When you get home, voila.

"Frijoles charros
(charro beans) is a traditional Mexican dish. This recipe comes from Guadalajara and expands all over Mexico. The “charro beans” are made like normal beans, but with additional ingredients depending on the region. Some ingredients are bacon, serrano chili, red tomato, onion, cilantro, garlic, ham, chunks of pork and chorizo." Wikipedia.

Frijoles A La Charra

4 large cloves garlic
1 onion, quartered
1 1/2 teaspoons epazote
2 bay leaves
3 cups dried pinto beans
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped
water or brot to cook

Soak 3 cups of dry pinto beans. (yes, you have to use dry because first of all it will save you a ton more money but it tastes better, oh and you control the salt). Place in a large pot and cover with water by three inches. Soak overnight. (you have just saved a bunch more money there too because now you do not have to cook the beans as long.)

The next day, place on stove top and cook with the rest of the ingredients. Let it cook until the beans become tender. Alternately you could add everything to a crock pot and let it bubble away all day. You just want to make sure you have enough liquid. Three inches about the beans should be sufficient.

Once the beans have become tender they are ready, just add to rice or whatever and enjoy. Put the remainder in the fridge and you will have a delicious base or side to quite a few meals. If you want more beans, come back tomorrow for the next bean dish idea.

Friday, July 10, 2009


One of the greatest gifts of being a parent is seeing the world through the eyes of a child. Their sense of wonderment is simply lovely. It puts a smile in you, deep in your soul. You rediscover, through them, just what it is that is beautiful in the world. Taking a step back for a moment just to see something small and honoring it by admiring it, is truly a gift. It's a gift that we all can receive if we can only stop for a moment to notice. Isn't it true what they say that God is in the details.

So all is going well so far. We keep busy and we relax too. I have them help with chores which actually helps out quite a bit. They feel all proud when they help with laundry. I still go crazy. Thank goodness for friends like "K" and "D". Just to know I am not the only one who literally pulls my hair out sometimes is truly comforting. Oh, and I am not the only one who calls myself "psycho Mom". Don't get me wrong, I cuddle with them, I tell them I love them and I try my best to give them my best. But sometimes, I can't help it, but my head just spins around.

The kids are painting an old sheet that I tore into thirds so we could make a mural. It's kind of summery with flowers, butterflies and birds. I am sure we will do one again when it gets close to Fall. I sure the loved the activity and I think they did too.
Hope you all are enjoying your summer, at least in this hemisphere. And on the other side of the world, I hope you are enjoying your winter. The best of life to you these days! PEACE, GRACE and LOVE.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Roasted Vegetable and Rice Timbale

A real conundrum exists for me in the summer. I love roasted vegetables, especially fresh ones but in the summer it's too dang hot to crank up the heat with the oven. I know I could use our gas grill. But remember the birds nested in our grill? Well, we let them because the gas grill was beat and broken anyhow. So it is gone- to the trash. We do have a charcoal grill but sometimes I just don't feel like firing it up with my 3 year old around. She is way too curious and it just spells danger, yah know. Leave for one second and uh oh.

For example. I have this large cast iron shelf- medium weight but it is pretty heavy since it is so big. I moved it near the window the other day and put my plants on it. I want to plant some indoor herbs this winter so I am trying my plants out in the window. Some African violets. Well, she decided that she didn't want them there and moved them and the shelf over to the other side of the room. Two African Violets ended up on the floor. Oh man. Just turn your head for one second...

Sometimes I just get lucky and we have a cool morning. Yesterday worked. I roasted eggplant, zucchini, purple onion, and garlic. I could have inhaled the whole tray of veggies myself. Where is that balsamic reduction? But I was making dinner and needed to make a sidedish.

Roasted Vegetable and Rice Timbale

3 medium sized zucchini about 4 cups diced
1 large eggplant about 4 cups diced
1 large red onion, diced
4 large cloves of garlic, whole then minced up after roasting
3 cups rice, or any grain, this is just what I had on hand- barley would be good
2 balls (about a 1/2 cup)of labneh or feta, crumbled
pine nuts for garnish
1 sprig fresh oregano, minced
1/2 cup fresh chives, minced
1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
s and p

Roast chopped vegetables in oven at 425F until bottom becomes golden. Turn off the oven and turn on the broiler. Roast until top is golden.

Make rice or whatever grain you are using. If you are using leftover rice, make sure you bring it to room temperature first. If it is kind of dry you may need to add more liquid ( lemon juice or olive oil).

Combine all ingredients and season to taste.

I have some small cans from some store bought food that I reuse for making the rounds. You can use a small bowl or ramekin as well. Stuff the food into the round or ramekin so it is fairly tight. Gently lift the round/ramekin. Garnish as desired.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Chocolate Shortcakes covered in strawberries

While this may not be a prize winning photo, it is a prize winning recipe. Okay well it didnt really win any prizes. It is a twist on shortcake- chocolate. An yah know strawberries and chocolate are good friends. They go together real well so you can just imagine the shortcake with fresh strawberries. Need I say more?

And speaking of prizes. Shelby of Grumpy's Honey Bunch had a contest going. I enterd and I won. Yippee! I never used to win things but since I have joined the blogging world this is the second time. Whawhoooooo. My children love this little guy. He was immediately absconded from the box by my kids. I didn't get to push his belly until much later. You know you just have to press his belly. My Mother does a great imitation of him. They really should have taped her. Thanks Shelby, we are enjoying our prizes.

Chocolate Shortcakes

This makes two big ones or four little ones. The recipe can be doubled and even tripled, which I recently did.

2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablepsoons unsalted butter, cold and cut
4 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

Mix dry ingredients. Mix in butter with a pastry blender or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add milk a little at a time and stir, untilt he dough comes together. Divide into two. Bake at 425F for 12 minutes.

* I ran across some sour strawberries at the market so I had macerated them in a little Grand Marnier and sugar.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Scolapasta Soup

I don't know if I ever talked about scolapasta soup before. Scolapasta in Italian means strainer, pasta strainer. Growing up, my Mom would gather leftovers from the fridge and make a soup. Dad called it scolapasta soup. Whatever was there or had to be used up was thrown in. There was some semblance to the soup. Like crazy ingredients would not be thrown together but stuff that would work well together sure was.

So here is one of my scolapasta recipes. I really am giving a recipe to show you the kinds of things you can throw together to be economical, savvy and not let things go to waste.

I did add in radish tops. Many people do not realize, or do not care about these greens but they are really good and full of vitamins. This time of year when the radishes are super fresh at the market you can get some beautfiul looking greens. If you eat it alone, you really will not have enough because of the shrinkage factor. I use the greens for soups. Or sometimes I do cook them up and then throw them in a pan with olive oil and garlic. Enough for myself for lunch or something. Oh, and save the broth, there is no bitterness and you can add it to any soup. You can freeze it and use it later when you need vegetable broth. I throw it in the kids chicken soup so they get some vitamins from the radish tops. You can read a bit more about radish greens here.

A Scolapasta Soup

1 cup cooked radish tops
2 cooked hamburgers, left over from the fourth of July, chopped
1 onion, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
2 cups spaghetti, chopped into small pieces
5 carrot sticks that the kids didn't finish, chopped
2 cups of au jois from when I bought some beef
2 cups of radish leaf broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon of a pasta seasoning mix I have
1/4 of a sausage that my daughter didn't finish
s and p

Now is this the funniest recipe you ever saw or what. Call me crazy or call me frugal. Or both.

Saute onion and carrot in the butter and oil, cook until softened. Add garlic, cook one minute more. Add broths, bay leaf, seasoning, salt and pepper, meats. Cook for about twenty minutes. Add in pasta and cook just until heated.

I added some chili paste to mine.

Monday, July 6, 2009

You say buns, I say yum!

I was perusing the blogs and I saw Smitten Kitchen found a recipe for some fabulous buns. She prompted me (and all of you), to make these amazing buns. I so happily agreed. Matter of fact, I jumped out of bed, ok, I rolled out of bed because of all that weeding yesterday and made these buns. Can you smell them? Oh, I wish you could. You see, I too, have been looking for an amazing bun recipe. Either the crust has been too hard or the bun too dense. I wanted light. I wanted melt in your mouth. I wanted people to say oh, it is oh so worth it to make these at home. I wanted the Grand Dame of Buns. I got it. Yes, these buns are yum!
Light Brioche Buns
New York Times recipe from Hidefumi Kubota, Comme Ça, Los Angeles

3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1. In a glass measuring cup, combine 1 cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, beat 1 egg.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into flour between your fingers, making crumbs. Using a dough scraper, stir in yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms. Scrape dough onto clean, unfloured counter and knead, scooping dough up, slapping it on counter and turning it, until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.

3. Shape dough into a ball and return it to bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using dough scraper, divide dough into 8 equal parts. Gently roll each into a ball and arrange 2 to 3 inches apart on baking sheet. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let buns rise in a warm place for 1 to 2 hours.

5. Set a large shallow pan of water on oven floor. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with rack in center. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water and brush some on top of buns. Bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Yield: 8 buns.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Lovely, Lavender, Lulls Lori

Yes, I am silly. I think I am punch drunk from being busy having fun and weeding the jungle, er, I mean garden. My DH is outside at this moment finishing up. It was so bad, it's downright embarassing.

I planted lavender in my garden last year. (Yes, that garden needs weeding too so don't look too closely). I love lavender. The scent is so lovely. I recently found out that lavender, in a study, was shown to reduce anxiety. The study says that it has a calming effect on the nervous system. Of course it has been known for a while that it helped people to sleep but now they have confirmed that it reduces anxiety. Check out the article here. Now that I have a ton of it in my garden, I can dry it, and put sachets all over the house!

A couple years ago I had lavender in some lemonade. I tasted it at the County Fair. I really liked it. I was kind of hesitant about it because in an instant it can go from a lovely taste to an overpowering, perfumey taste.
I have been drying some out, so I added it to these tarts. I added some lemon curd and I think they were a nice little treat. I took most of them over to a friends house. (I hope she liked them.)
Lemon Lavender Tarts

the tarts:
adapted from Tartelette's recipe

8 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons corn starch
pinch of salt
lavender buds ( a smidge)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, takes about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg and mix until incorporated. In a measuring cup mix together flour, salt and cornstarch. Lay a piece of plastic wrap on a flat surface. empty contents of mixer onto the wrap. Gather it up into a disc and refrigerate for an hour or more.

Once the dough has been chilled, it's ready for rolling. Use plastic wrap to roll it out.

* I used pie weights on a large tart I made. With the remaining dough I made five mini tarts.

Press lavender buds into tarts before baking. Bake at 350F. Bake until lightly golden on edges.

Lemon Curd

5 yolks
1 cup sugar
juice and zest of 4 lemons
1 stick of butter (4 oz.) cut in eight pieces

Combine yolks, sugar, juice and zest of lemons in a stainless steel bowl. Whisk until combined. Place bowl over boiling water. (You could also use a double boiler). Stir with whisk constantly. You want to heat it until it sticks to the back of a spoon. When you run your finger through it, it makes a trail. This usually takes anywhere from eight to ten minutes.

Take off the heat and whisk in pieces of butter one at a time until melted. Place in a glass or ceramic container and refrigerate. You can store this for about a week. It freezes well and defrosts rapidly.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

End of School Celebrating

Cool, huh? Psychedelic cupcakes are always a hit with kids. Spread them with frosting and pour sprinkles over top and you are the cats pajamas, so to speak. Maybe I should say the dogs pajamas. Some of the cupcakes I did with sprinkles, some I froze and two of them became dogs for my daughter's end of the school year celebration. I never had such celebrations when I was a kid. You got out of school. Running and playing and going wild WAS the celebration. But with all the Mom guilt I have over the fact that other Mom's seem to do so much, I feel this is one thing I can do for my kids to put a little smile on their face. (Mom guilt is an inherent part of child rearing, I think).

Not to mention, any excuse to celebrate is a good excuse to me. Life is too darn short. For me, a few days ago I was 23 and then a day passed and I was 36 and now I just turned around and 43 hit me in the face. How exactly did that happen?

So I won't tell you because you can see for yourself that I NEED a class in cake decorating. This is suppose to be one of the dogs that is on the cover of Hello Cupcake. Yup, say hello to "goodbye cupcake".

The recipe on the other hand is tres magnifique!

Vanilla Cupcakes
recipe adapted from Magnolia Bakery

2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line two 12-cup muffin tins with mini cupcake papers and 12- cup cupcake tin with papers.

Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together. Set aside.

In a mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. Do not overmix the batter.

Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 10 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.