Monthly Archives: August 2014

It’s Labor Day. So g’wan, Beet It!

 

End of summer yum-fest.

End of summer yum-fest.

I don’t want to be the one to say it, but Labor Day is coming. Too soon too soon! I know. I feel your pain. School has started, signaling the best weather of the summer. That is just so wrong. And that linen you barely got a chance to wear? It’s days away from being banished to plastic bins (if you pay attention to the fashion police that is.)

But here’s the bright side, and the bright side always wins. We’ve got a whole long weekend to pretend it’s still summer, and that homework doesn’t really matter and that we really don’t have to respond right away to every work email. Instead, we will play. And then we will eat, and drink, and we will not worry about what to bring to any gathering because we have so many fabulous dishes to choose from (scroll all the way down for a list of no-fail ideas).

At the top of the list, I propose beets. My friends Ron and Lisa have the Vermont garden everyone dreams about, minus the weeds and deer. On a recent evening they served these beets along with homegrown bounty like purple and blood red tomatoes, and even home grown pork.

The original recipe serves this salad deconstructed into its various elements: greens, beets, cheese, nuts. I took Lisa’s cue and put it all together for ease and deliciousness. Feel free to sub feta for goat cheese. I’ve had both and they are both fantastic. Now, go find a good friend with a garden and beet it!

Ingredients

4 medium beets – scrubbed, trimmed and cut in half
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 (10 ounce) package mixed baby salad greens
1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 ounces goat cheese

Method

Place beets into a saucepan, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. (Or, as I prefer, wrap in foil, spatter with olive oil ans salt and roast in hot oven until tender). Drain and cool, then cut in to cubes.

While the beets are cooking, place the walnuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. Heat until warm and starting to toast, then stir in the maple syrup. Cook and stir until evenly coated, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice concentrate, balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make the dressing.

Place a large helping of baby greens onto each of four salad plates, divide candied walnuts equally and sprinkle over the greens. Place equal amounts of beets over the greens, and top with dabs of goat cheese. Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing. (Or, throw it all together, toss and enjoy!)

 

A serious summer spread, complete with fresh caught Nantucket tuna (cooked by blow torch on a Vermont stone wall). Some things just end up working out.

An All Star Summer Revue and Review:

Beets not your bag, baby? Here are some other fabulous brings. Of course, there is THE SLAW, aka Hero Slaw, which is welcome any season at any gathering but is especially excellent as a barbecue co-star…and the lovely Funitella Bruschetta, so brilliant in its simplicity, ease of preparation and universally appreciated tastiness. Never underestimate the power of Bruschetta Deconstructed when you make your toasts from Easiest French Bread Ever. (It’s not even fair how many points you get for making your own toasts with homemade bread, and it’s soooo easy. Top them with fresh tomatoes and burrata and your point total quadruples.)

Keeping it simple you can never go wrong with an armful of fresh farmers market corn, or really anything from the holy trinity of late summer produce (corn, tomatoes and zucchini). It doesn’t get much fresher or easier than zucchini, corn summer swansong salad. Oh, and don’t forget the drinks. A pitcher of Freezer daquiris or watermelon sangria will help you and your friends achieve Hakuna Matata Nirvana one more time.

 

 

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!:

Best Ever Brownies

Best Ever BrowniesI recently went to a cookout and the host served these brownies. When the dessert dish got passed around, I was thinking, “meh”, brownies, not really my thing but I have such a sweet tooth that I took a small piece. OH. MY. GOD. They were unbelievably good. I couldn’t figure out how to quickly get the dish back to me so I could grab another one before they were all gone. I started to rave about them to everyone who touched the dessert dish so they didn’t stand a chance of making their way back to me (if only I had kept my mouth shut…darn it). In the end, one brownie was probably enough anyway and my mind had quickly turned to making sure I got the recipe. Surprisingly, the guy who made them was playing tough to get with his secret squirrel recipe. Finally, with patience and persistence, I was able to get it out of him but not without some cajoling and bribing.

I highly recommend these brownies. My friend said to add a can of tuna fish – and that was his big secret. I left the can of tuna out, and I’m sure you’ll do the same, but I think the real key is the brown sugar. Make some extra so that when you bring them to your next party, you can keep at stash at home to enjoy the next day.

Ingredients

1 cup butter, softened
4 1-oz blocks unsweetened chocolate squares
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)

Method

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt butter and chocolate squares in small pan. Make sure this mixture is not too hot later when you add the chocolate chips or the chips will melt (bad).

Mix flour, sugar, baking powder in a bowl. Add melted chocolate/butter mixture and vanilla. Mix well.  Add eggs, mix again.

Add chocolate chips and walnuts if desired. Don’t add tuna fish!

Grease baking pan (I used 9×13 inches rectangular baking pan).  Pour brownie mixture into pan and spread evenly.  Bake in 350 degree oven, approximate 30-35 minutes (depending on they type and size of the pan, you may need slightly more or less baking time, so check them at 25 or 30 mins and go from there).

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!:

Dutch Bunny

Dutch Bunny

    A bunny for breakfast—isn’t that veird? Nah!

Happy Sunday! The second half of your weekend is going to be great, especially with your new weekend pal, the Dutch Bunny. Elsewhere known as a Swedish pancake or a Dutch Baby, this somehow became the Dutch Bunny in our household, and it is an all-time favorite. There are many versions of this breakfast treat, but this recipe—slightly adapted from Sunset magazine longish ago—is about as easy as it gets. Quietly whip it up and slip it in the oven while everyone is having their coffee, grab it in all its puffy greatness out of the oven, and you’ll be a welcome guest or favorite mom forever.

It is great as is or fancied up with fresh berries (like the blueberries that are still going off around here) and whipped cream. If you want to add some seasonal shmance in the fall, lay some thinly sliced apples in the pan with the melted butter, sprinkle them with sugar and brown them before pouring the batter on top. Bad a bing! A fall classic.

Yield: Serves 4, or one hungry teenager.

Ingredients

3  Tbsp butter
3  large eggs
3/4  cup  milk
1/2  tsp vanilla
1/2  cup  all-purpose flour
2  Tbsp sugar
1/8  tsp salt
Powdered sugar and fresh lemon wedge for topping
Raspberry sauce (optional, recipe follows)

Method

1. Melt butter in a 10-inch ovenproof frying pan over low heat. Remove from heat.

2. In a large bowl or blender, beat or whirl eggs until light and pale. Beat or blend in milk, vanilla, flour, sugar, and salt.

3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake in a 425° oven until pancake is puffed and lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and squeeze fresh lemon on top. Slice into wedges and serve immediately. Top with fresh berries or raspberry sauce if desired.

Raspberry sauce

In a food processor or blender, whirl 4 cups rinsed fresh or thawed frozen raspberries until smooth. Rub purée through a fine strainer into a bowl; discard seeds. Stir 1/4 cup sugar into raspberry purée; taste, and add more sugar if desired. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!:

Grilled Proscuitto Quesadillas

Grilled quesadillas couldn't be easier

Grilled quesadillas couldn’t be easier

My son came home one day recently and asked, “can you buy prosciutto”?  I guess he had a prosciutto sandwich somewhere in his travels and he really liked it.  He knows I’m a sucker for anything he or my husband ask for in the kitchen.  Next thing I knew, I was standing at the deli counter ordering prosciutto with this little Italian lady standing next to me saying “ next time get the boiled ham – it’s much cheaper and nobody will know the difference”. I looked at her, smiled and thought she’s probably right.

I went with my original plan and purchased the precious prosciutto (try saying that 3 times fast), then I made my way home to concoct what I thought would be a crowd pleaser…. grilled prosciutto quesadillas. I got the recipe from one of my favorite recipe resources, Fine Cooking Magazine. I whipped up a double batch of these quesadillas and wow, were they ever a hit. I got a mighty big thank you from my son and even a hug (he’s not much of a hugger so I knew he was really happy!).

These quesadillas are super easy to put together and they would be great as an appetizer at your next party.

Ingredients

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 medium cloves garlic, smashed
5 oz. baby spinach (approx. 5 lightly packed cups)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cup grated fontina
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
6 oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
3 7-8 inch pitas split into two rounds (or 2 wraps stacked one on top of another)
6 thin slices prosciutto

Method

Heat oil and garlic in 10 inch skillet over medium high heat until the garlic starts to sizzle steadily and browns in places (about 2 mins but watch it carefully because it can quickly go from sizzling to burnt). Add the spinach, sprinkle with approximately ¼ tsp each salt and pepper, and cook, tossing until just wilted which will take about 2 minutes. Transfer the spinach to a colander.  Let cool for a few minutes, discard the garlic, and gently squeeze out the excess liquid from the spinach.

In a medium bowl, toss the spinach with the fontina, Parmigiano-Reggiano, sun-dried tomatoes, and ¼ tsp pepper. Set 3 of the pita halves on a workspace and top each with 2 slices of prosciutto. Top each evenly with the spinach mixture and set the remaining 3 pita halves on top (or if using wraps set the remaining wraps on top).

Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel and heat the pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, coat the bottom with canola oil and place one of the pita sandwiches in the hot pan. Set another medium skillet on top. Put 2 lbs of weight in the empty skillet on top and cook the sandwich until the bottom starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until it browns and the cheese melts. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven. Cook remaining sandwiches the same way. Cut into wedges and serve.

PS The last step of cooking the sandwiches can be made super easy with a Panini maker. My Panini maker was one of the best kitchen gadget investments I’ve made and I hate to buy unnecessary kitchen gadgets.

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!:

Hit the Trail Scones

Not just for tea time. These trail mix-y scones can go the distance.

Not just for tea time. These trail mix-y scones can go the distance.

Scones. They sound so proper, so fancy, so….much of a pain to make. I used to think scones were too labor intensive to consider for every day food. That was until early one morning I was confronted with the task of making something get-out-of-bed worthy and take-on-the-road worthy within an hour. Scones saved my butt.

Here’s why: They call for cold butter vs softened; they involve no eggs and therefore no separate mixing vessels; they require only one baking sheet vs muffin tins that must be greased or lined with the ever-elusive muffin liners. Scones vs muffins? No contest! And that’s before the short cuts.

I know the sermon—baking is a science, weigh vs measure, be exact, blah blah, blah. But in the real world short cuts are important. Sometimes knowing they are there, whether or not you use them, gives you the mojo you need to embark on creating something delicious. That is why I am including my own short cut version along with the legit directions.  

There’s nothing really trail-like about these scones, other than the fact that I made them as I was leaving on a long hike and wanted to bring something that was sturdy enough to travel but more enticing than trail mix. I needed a way to use up some cream and incorporate the chocolate chips and nuts that were just begging for the proper vehicle. Knowing that I could use a food processor, dump the whole shebang on a baking sheet and form the scones right on that same sheet made them a possibility. Out of this scenario, the Hit the Trail Scone, and it’s slightly healthier cousin, the Almond Joy scone, were born.

“Are they ok?” I asked my son who shies away from my more adventurous creations, particularly those involving nuts. “They’re ridiculous!” he said. “Don’t put them on the blog—keep them secret!” But you know how I feel about secret recipes, so here they are.

Please customize them to make them all yours!

Ingredients

2 cups (10 oz) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 oz) granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick butter (4 oz) (cold, cut into pieces)
1 cup (8 oz) heavy cream (cold)
*1/2 – 3/4 c miniature chocolate chips (depending on preference)
*½ cup roasted almonds, coarsely chopped

* any combo of dried fruits, nuts and/or chips will work, so use what you love or what you have on hand. Think dried cranberries and walnuts, dried figs and almonds, white chocolate and macadamia nuts, butterscotch chips and walnuts for Ron Burgundy fans, peanut butter chips and crumbled bacon for Elvis fans, etc.

Topping
1 egg, lightly beaten (or more of that cream you need to use up)
2 Tbsp sanding sugar, granulated sugar or coconut sugar.

Official Method

Preheat over to 425 degrees

Mix together dry ingredients. Cut in butter with pastry blender, two knives or your  fingers.

Add chopped nuts, chocolate and cream to ingredients in the bowl and blend together quickly with a spatula. Do not overmix.

Turn dough on floured board and pat into a big square or round, 1-inch or so thick. Cut dough into shapes of roughly equal size. Move pieces to parchment or Silpat lined baking sheet.

Bake as directed below.

Short Cut Method

The short-cut method begs for artistic license.

The short-cut method begs for artistic license.

Mix together dry ingredients in bowl of food processor. Add butter to processor and pulse until the butter is in smallish bits. Do not over process!  (Butter bits give scones their flakiness. Without the bits, scones become not very excellent muffins.) Pour contents of food processor into a large bowl. Add nuts and chocolate chips to food processor and pulse several times until they are broken into bite-friendly bits.

Pour chocolate chips and almonds into bowl with other ingredients and stir until just mixed. Add cream and blend together quickly. Do not overmix.

Roughly divide dough into two equal mounds. Plop each mound onto it’s own side of one baking sheet and shape each into a round or square. Do not over handle the dough (body heat and scones do not mix! See above butter bits intel).

Score each circle deeply into 8 wedges (or cut all the way through and move pieces slightly apart to allow them to cook more quickly. If you go with the square, score or cut it into similarly sized shapes of your choice.

Baking for both methods

Brush with egg wash or with cream. Sprinkle with sugar, or coconut sugar if you want to take this tropical theme seriously.

Bake for 14-16 minutes (or more depending on size) until golden brown.

Almond Joy Scones

Make as above but substitute well-mixed, full-fat coconut milk for cream, and if you’re a real coconut freak like me mix in ½ cup toasted, unsweetened coconut flakes with the chocolate chips and almonds. These take a few minutes longer to bake.

Bring it

These grab and go babies travel well in the car, in a pack, in a picnic basket, on a boat or to any gathering anywhere.

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!:

Sweet Blueberry Smoothie

Pick-Your-Own! They practically fall into your bucket.

Pick-Your-Own! They practically fall into your bucket.

It’s blueberry season! I would normally say the season is waning by the time we hit August, but not this year due to the extra frigid winter. Hence the reason blueberries are the Ingredient of the Month for August.

I go to Super Acres Blueberry farm, which is just down the road from me. Door-to-door, I can easily pick 3 pounds of blueberries in 30 minutes.  I go so often that people think I work there. I’m always giving help to anyone who doesn’t know the ropes. I tell them which rows I like, how to weigh and pay, and provide driving directions to wherever they are going next.  I highly recommend Super Acres. The people who own the farm are so nice and the blueberries are plump, sweet, and gorgeous.  There are so many blueberries hanging from the blueberry bushes that you can practically walk down the aisle and your bucket fills up on it’s own!

Open Season!

Open Season!

As with other food in my house, the freshly picked blueberries get eaten with at break-neck speed. But hey, what better way to enjoy them and I’d rather have everyone eating blueberries than anything else. When I can do something extra with them, I make jam or smoothies or freeze them for winter months. I will leave the blueberry pie making to others, lest we forget, I can’t make a pie to save myself.

This blueberry smoothie recipe is super simple, just the way I like it. I always see smoothie recipes with long lists of ingredients or a variety of vegetables added such as kale or spinach. I have to say, I love vegetables, but not in my smoothie. Less is more in this instance ! I’m not trying to create a complete meal.  I just want a nice, refreshing drink that is healthy and tasty.  You will love it and wish you made more.  Obviously any berry will work and frozen vs fresh will yield a different consistency.  But either way you shake it up, it will be delicious.

Ingredients

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if you use fresh, add 1/2 cup ice)
1 cup soy unsweetened soy milk (or milk of your choice)
2 Tbsp raw honey
2 Tbsp wheat germ
6 whole unsalted almonds

Method

Put everything in a blender and mix until desired consistency. Pour into your favorite glass. Get a straw and a spoon so you can sip and scoop all at the same time. Enjoy!

Bring It!

Make a batch and throw it in your thermal mug while you gather up your Tupperware to go blueberry picking! 

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!:

Watermelon Gazpacho

Swimsuit season calls for your inner cool. Hello watermelon gazpacho!

Swimsuit season calls for your inner cool. Hello watermelon gazpacho!

When summer really heats up there comes a day when we ask ourselves, “Can we just eat watermelon all day long?” Well of course we can! Watermelon can feature in everything from smoothies to salsa to salad to soup. Yes, soup. Gazpacho is typically a tomato affair, but it has many delicious riffs.

The official definition of Gazpacho calls it “a liquid salad from the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, made of ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, garlic, and bread moistened with water that is blended with olive oil, vinegar, and ice water and served cold.” Blah, blah, blah. In my mind the main criteria of good gazpacho are that it is cold, fresh and refreshing. And it cannot involve heating you or your kitchen up in any way.

This gazpacho in particular, from a long ago Cooking Light recipe, is a favorite of mine. As far as gazpachos go it is pretty easy prep, with minimal chopping thanks to the food processor involvement. I am not the only one who thinks it might be really good with a shot of vodka swirled in. Sort of a sweet and crunchy Bloody Mary, yes? Alas, I haven’t tried that yet, but let me know if you do. If you’re really taking this watermelon thing seriously though, enjoy this just before dinner alfresco, after a good siesta and some lunchtime Watermelon Sangria.

Watermelon Gazpacho à la Cooking Light

Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 3/4 cup)

Ingredients

6 cups cubed seeded watermelon
1 cup coarsely chopped peeled English cucumber
1/2 cup coarsely chopped yellow bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped green onions
3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp hot sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup cranberry-raspberry juice

Method

Combine first 10 ingredients. Place half of watermelon mixture in a food processor, and pulse 3 or 4 times or until finely chopped. Spoon into a large bowl. Repeat procedure with remaining watermelon mixture. Stir in cranberry-raspberry juice. Chill thoroughly.

Bring It!

Pour this into a Tupperware pitcher, put it in a cooler with some paper cups and you’re picnic ready!

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!: