Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lunch: Ham Sandwich

I just finished reading the authorized biography of Alice Waters ("Alice Waters and Chez Panisse" by Thomas McNamee). It was a great read and the ideas behind Waters' food revolution are nutty and inspiring. In between the stories that comprise Waters' life are narrative recipes. One in particular has beckoned me back into the kitchen. Waters explains that whenever she makes a ham sandwich she goes into her garden and picks "whatever herbs" she has. She then chops "them up fine and mix them...with a little garlic...a little vinegar and oil, into a sort of savory herb paste." She then toasts day old french bread and spreads on the "herb paste." She serves the sandwich open topped with a bit of sweet onion marmalade.

Need I write more? Tonight at my friend's New Year's Eve party, I am going to make bit size ham and herb sandwiches. Here is what I am going to do:
1. Fire up my portable grill pan.
2. Place buttered, thinly sliced good bread on the grill.
3. While the bread is on the grill, I'll shmear it with the savory herb paste, then add a thin slice of fancy pants ham, carmelized onions, and a bit of gruyere cheese.
4. I'll put the sandwiches together and cut them into small squares.
5. I'll serve them and everyone will tell me how amazing I am. But I'll give all the credit to Alice. Promise.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Side: Sage Stuffing

Thanksgiving was long ago and Christmas looms ahead. Somehow Christmas magically appeared this year. It did not come in its usual saunter. It is here and I did not see it coming. But, no matter. I found a stuffing recipe that will be my forever stuffing recipe. It is not fancy and does not involve various dried fruits and nuts. It is simple, straightforward, and too yummy. If you do another turkey for Christmas, here you go.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Drink: Caramel Apple Cider

It's a shame how long I've gone without posting anything. Life has taken over. Last summer, as we drifted about enjoying our free time, I looked at my growing girls and suspected that Fall would be crazy nutty. And although I usually don't write much about my family online, I must say that this Fall has been spectacular. E and G are turning into amazing people. They enjoy their music and it's starting to pay off. A is thinking about starting to read. P has discovered the joy of multi tools. I accomplished the one thing I knew I had to do after I finished bearing children--I ran a marathon. It was exhilarating, difficult, dissapointing, and emboldening all at the same time. I'll do another some day. Having written all of that, here is a recipe you must have for the Fall. Fix this for the Trick or Treaters and you will be the talk of the town.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dessert: A Keeper Cupcake

Long story short--I was looking for a keeper cupcake recipe and I found it here. Print this one out, it's a keeper. Just one note on the frosting--when I made it, it was not chocolatey enough for me. So, I dabbed the middle of each cupcake with pure melted milk chocolate. Sorry there are no pictures. I was too lazy and by the time I wanted to snap away, the cupcakes were all gone. Too yummy for words, or pictures I guess.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bread: Honey Oatmeal Bread

Oh boy. I've been absent for too long. And instead of boring you with explanations that really don't matter--I'll post my dear friend K's bread recipe. To be fair--I have not made this bread yet. I'm waiting for the Boston Fall Air to roll in, then I'll warm up the house with baked bread. But not just yet. But I know I can post this because I totally trust KK. Here is her much anticipated bread recipe. I'll change this post as soon as I make the bread myself, but I didn't want to deprive all of you in the meantime. If you do make it, promise us you'll let you know how it goes. And KK--thanks a bunch. You never let me down.

2 loaves (1.5 lb)

4 loaves (1.5 lb)

2 cups

4 cups


6 T

12 T


2 1/2 t

5 t


4 t

8 t


3 T

6 T


2 cups

4 cups


4 cups

8 cups

Bread flour

Put first four ingredients in a bowl and let yeast work.

Add softened butter. Then add oatmeal and bread flour. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Let rise until double. Form into loaves and let rise for about 45 minutes to one hour. Bake in 350° oven for 30 minutes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Cooking: Back from the Break

Hello again! I'm back! Not back with a vengeance, just back. And do you want to know what I was doing this summer? I'll show you.

That's right. Taking a break. No cooking. I succumbed to all sorts of sugar cereals, prepackaged bread (that lasts on the shelf for well over a week), fast food, Hostess bakery products, and last but not least: canned whipped cream--my personal favorite. But, my suitcases are exploded on my bed--now ready to unpack, and the girls have received their class assignments and are ready to buy school supplies. Now I am on the hunt for recipes that will make our Fall transition as tasty as can be. Which brings me to you. Do you have a favorite sandwich bread recipe? I don't care if it's white or wheat--I'm just looking for a tasty homemade sandwich bread that will make my girls smile. Please help. And happy end of summer to you all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lunch: What to do, What to do

Ladies (I'm not ashamed to admit that all or most of you reading this are in fact Ladies)--

It is time. Summer has arrived (well, sort posse doesn't get out until June 23rd. Yes you read that right--June 23rd). At our house, the first few days of summer are magical--new flip flops, swimming parties, loud music throughout the house while we clean out our backpacks. But within a week, reality sets in. What do I make for lunch? I remember having this problem last summer. I can think of a few fun sandwiches*, but that only lasts for so long. What kinds of lunches do you make in the summer? I really need help here. Last summer my oldest daughter said she was "quesadillad out"--whatever that means. Don't be shy. Share your ideas for a fun and easy summer lunch so we can all benefit.

*Turkey wrap:
large pita bread or wraps
sliced deli turkey
lettuce, sliced tomatoes
a bit of salt

Spread a bit of mayo and mustard over pita bread. Place sliced turkey lettuce and tomatoes over bread. Salt tomatoes just a bit. Roll wrap tightly. Slice. If the wrap starts to unroll, stick it with a toothpick--the kiddies get a kick out of toothpicks.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Menu: Summertime Summertime Sum Sum...

Tonight we are having friends over for Minestrone Salad with Grilled Sausage and Arugula Pesto. This is one of my favorite summertime menus. I make the salad and pesto in the morning, clean my house like a madwoman in the afternoon, then grill the sausage on the deck in the evening. People rave about this meal. Do yourself a favor and try it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Catering: 400 Crepes and Counting...

Oh man. What a weekend. But, with the help of some amazingly capable people, we pulled it off. What the heck am I talking about? Last weekend, I engineered and pulled off my very first catering event. Well, I can't say I. I should say we. My friends who volunteered to help are more capable than I am and made this project shine(K, you are an unbelievable cook. Can I move into your kitchen?). When a good friend's daughter became engaged, I begged her to let me cater the wedding. She agreed, and away we went.

The bride requested a crepe bar. After testing six different crepe recipes (mastering the art, joy of cooking, martha stewart, alton brown, epicurious, & a French book), I went for the epicurious crepe. Why? Because it was the sturdiest crepe I could find. A friend and I made over 400 crepes, froze them, and reheated them at the reception on crepe griddles. The menu included:
Sweet Crepe-filled with tossed berries, topped with berry sauce and whipped cream.
and a Savory Crepe-thinly sliced ham, jarlsburg cheese, and fresh spinach (vegetarian version-just the cheese and spinach) topped with a bechamel.

I can not tell you how much I enjoyed this project. I loved every minute of it. I loved getting up at 5:30 in the morning to fire up the crepe griddle. I loved creating a berry sauce with just the right amount of vanilla and preserves. I loved inviting friends over as test groups to find the best way to fold and serve crepes. I loved learning about stainless steel cream whippers (my my, they are fancy-pants). I loved designing the crepe stations at the wedding reception.
I loved watching people eat the crepes. And the best part? I loved fixing "crepe kits" for the bride's family and friends so their crepe-venture could continue. I loved it all.
And a special thanks to H, who took the time to document the whole thing. You are a dear.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dinner: It's Gettin Hot in Here

It's that time of the year, folks. It's hot. A few years ago I stumbled across this article. I love Mark Bittman. I love his simple approach to food. I love that he is not a food snob. And I love that he is not afraid to recommend a hot dog and beans for dinner (idea #101). So, if turning on the oven this summer gives you the heebee geebees (is that how we spell that?), fix a large glass of lemonade and look through this marvelous list of ideas.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Breakfast: Cheating at 7am

The picture really says it all. You know of my love affair with Nutella. But did you also know that it is insanely healthy? Ok, maybe not for those of us who have stopped growing. But for little ones, a few tablespoons of Nutella packs a nutritional punch. That is good news because Pops (as in child #4) is nowhere near the weight chart. We take him in for routine weight checks (his doctor is worried) and whenever we succeed, we chalk it up to Pops' daily allowance of Nutella. For breakfast in a hurry, I shmear nutella on an eggo waffle, then add fresh strawberries. The kiddies love it, and I love watching them eat it.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Dinner: Slow Cooker Extravaganza

Most of you know how much I love my dear slow cooker. My good friend, LD, has a fancy-pants crock pot from All Clad that I covet. Someday. Anyway, I've enjoyed looking at these slow cooker recipes and think I'll try a few. I'll start with the Slow Cooker Chocolate Chip Cookies. Can't wait for those babies.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dinner: St. Patrick's Day Meal

Several of you have asked me to post this. We do make this every March17th, although my sister informed me that Corned Beef and Cabbage is not really eaten in Ireland. Oh well, I tried. My absolute favorite part of the meal is the soda bread. I usually use this recipe. But after talking with a few foodies, I am really tempted to try this one. I'll let you know which one I use and how it turns out. Either way, this meal really is not complete without fresh butter on soda bread. And you may be scared of the caraway seeds, but they really make the bread. Happy St. Patrick's Day. Even if my beloved Irish technically don't eat Corned Beef and Cabbage, it is and always will be one of my very favorite things to eat.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dessert: Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Have old bananas lying around? Make these. You will die. We can't keep the dough around long enough to have many cookies. And if you're worried about the butter and sugar, all of the good stuff (whole wheat flour, rolled oats, bananas, walnuts) makes the guilt melt away. Yummers.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Breakfast: Whole Wheat Waffles

Last week I found an extra gallon of milk that had to be used, and fast. So, I made a double batch of whole wheat waffles. I cooked them, cooled them, piled them into ziplock freezer bags (each one separated by little squares of parchment paper so they wouldn't stick together). Wha-La-our very own homemade, whole wheat eggos. In the morning, I grab a few, toast them for a few minutes, and the school girls are very happy.

Whole Wheat Waffles (Large Batch)

2 1/2 cups sifted whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
6 teaspoons baking powder
6 tablespoons sugar, brown or granulated (I use brown)
2 1/2 cups milk
6 eggs, well beaten
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir together dry ingredients. Combine eggs, milk, oil, cinnamon, and extracts. Stir in flour mixture. Bake in waffle iron.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Cooking Website: Yummy Food Blog

This is my favorite food blog. I just love that girl and I hope she and I can laugh over a cup of hot cocoa someday.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Cookbook: Wooden Spoon Kitchen--Meat and Potatoes

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Lately I have been thinking about my roots; about the farm I grew up on until I was twelve. I think about that farm all of the time, but lately I wonder why my connection to that land is so strong. Occasionally I ask other people what places they feel connected to, and why. D, for example, feels a strong connection to his grandparents' home, not the place where he was raised. A few weeks ago I dined with a lovely women who still calls Tooele, Utah her home, even though she left over fifty years ago and raised her family on the East Coast. What connects us to different places? What places mean something to you, and why?

I truly loved my childhood. For the past few summers, I have taken my children to this land--to let them walk around it, and offer them a sense of what my childhood was like. Last summer, while visiting this place, old friends offered to take us to my elementary school. I showed my girls all of my classrooms, the cafeteria, the gym. D had just gifted himself a camera and was busy documenting the experience. I lost track of him. Weeks later, he and I were reviewing the trip's photos, and one picture in particular made me gasp. D had taken a picture of the landscape as seen from my elementary schoolyard. His picture captured the view I saw as I rode the school bus home everyday. For Christmas, D presented me with the framed photo. Everyone in the room (my parents included) gasped when they saw it. The random visitor may not think much about the photo now hung in my dining room. But every time I pass it I am reminded of who I am and where I come from.

Why am I writing this? Because I think we are defined by what matters to us. When I think about food, I love it all. But at the end of the day, I am always inextricably drawn to food that is more comfortable than fancy, more meat and potatoes than foie gras and dark chocolate. As much as I love to cook, I want to eat simple things; many of which are in Marilyn M. Moore's book "Wooden Spoon Kitchen: Meat and Potatoes and other Comfort Foods". Moore is most famous for her book about bread, but in this book she reveals her family's basic dishes. You know how I always say I love to curl up with good cookbooks? Well, this is the one I always imagine when I say that. There is nothing fancy about Moore's book, just a lot of straightforward recipes that are yummy and comforting. I love this book. I suggest you find yourself a copy. The only place I could find it was here (mine was given to me several years ago by a very dear Aunt). And if it doesn't speak to you, I hope you find a book that does. If you do find that one special book, tell us what it is and why it is dear.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Dinner: Cold Winter Chile Con Carne

Prepare yourself. I am going to brag. I won a contest today. Friends invited us over for a New Year's Day Chili Cook-Off. I entered and I won. But this entry will not be about the contest. It will be about the recipe. A few months ago, I researched and read a lot about chili. I was looking for a recipe to fulfill a lot of requirements: taste, ease, convenient ingredients, kid friendly. I finally settled on a recipe published in Cook's Illustrated book Cover & Bake (a book I like but can not fully recommend). I woke up early one morning to sear the meat and put all ingredients in the pot. D, whose sense of smell is akin to a bloodhound, came into the kitchen and asked about the spice content in the chili. I assured him the stew was not too spicy and that the other families coming over for dinner would have no problem feeding the dish to their little ones. D convinced me to make double sure. I consented. We each got a spoon and sampled the chili. Five minutes later we had finished our glasses of milk (a sure bet to clam down burning tongues) and were finding a way to rescue the meat from the wretchedly hot concoction. I was sad. I was mad that the recipe mentioned nothing about heat. I should have been warned. So, I threw out the recipe and decided to start from scratch, building a chili con carne recipe that I would look forward to eating on a cold winter day. This recipe is a bit labor intensive, but I am convinced that the thirty minutes you spend creating the dish will produce a kid friendly chili with depth as well as yumminess.

Cold Winter Chile Con Carne
(Several elements of this recipe are adapted from the Cook's Illustrated recipe "Chile Con Carne", published in Cover & Bake.)

6 bacon slices, chopped
3 pounds chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
salt and pepper
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
6 (6-inch) fresh corn tortillas, torn into 2-inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth
3 cans (15.5 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoon lime juice
fancy bbq sauce*

Optional toppings:
fresh cilantro leaves
sour cream
tortilla chips
corn bread
shredded cheddar cheese
minced white onion
diced avocado

Once you've trimmed and cut the roast, dry it off with a paper towel, then season with salt and pepper. Set aside. Cook the bacon in a large skillet. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked bacon to the crock pot in waiting. Reserve the skillet with the bacon grease. If you don't own a crock pot (and I know a lot of you pride yourselves on not owning one--but I can assure you--you're missing out), put the bacon in the large pot that will eventually hold all of your chili. Put the skillet with the bacon grease on medium high. Sear the diced meat in the bacon grease. When pieces are browned on all sides, transfer to crock pot. Once all the meat is seared and transfered, use same skillet to sautee onions, garlic, chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon (sautee on medium high heat for about ten minutes, or until onions are golden. Transfer this tasty smelling mixture to crock pot. Add crushed tomatoes and two cups of the chicken broth (reserve last two cups of broth).

In a separate bowl, combine corn tortillas pieces and broth. Microwave on high for three minutes. Once heated, blend tortillas and broth either in your blender or using a stick blender (quite possibly my favorite kitchen tool).** Add corn tortilla mush to the pot and mix well. Stew chile in crock pot on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours. If using the stove, simmer on low for a good part of the day (6-7 hours). Just before eating, shred the meat a bit so that no one's bowl is overwhelmed with large pieces of beef. Add lime juice and vinegar. Serve with optional toppings.

* Only add a few tablespoons of BBQ sauce if you have the right kind. My sister lives in the South and gifted me some dang good bbq sauce. We're talkin' bbq sauce that is so good that I use it as an ingredient, not as a condiment. The particular kind I use in this chili is from the Whole Hog Cafe and is bbq sauce #6--Rich Mustard and Vinegar. If you don't have a bbq sauce that really speaks to you, do not add any.

**This corn tortilla mush serves as a thickener. It seems a little weird as you are doing it, but the paste adds great texture as well as taste.

One final note about the ingredients--they are not exact. You should adjust the cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, brown sugar, and vinegar to your own tastes. That's the problem with recipes, unless we're talking about leavening products, most things can not and should not be exact. So, play with the recipe and adjust to your liking.