Monthly Archives: April 2015

Spring Chickens, and Lots of Eggs

Spring is trying to poke through. At least the chickens are feeling it.

Spring is trying to poke through. At least the chickens are feeling it.

If you have neighbors with chickens you might be getting a lot of eggs right now. And really, it makes sense. If I were a northeastern chicken I would not be giving up the goods until just about now. We had quite a winter. And now that it’s relaxing its grip, we’ve got eggs.

This is a good thing, because as it turns out, the aforementioned salad week is actually going to have to be salad month. The past week has reminded me of all the great salads out there, like edamame avocado citrus, shaved asparagus, massaged kale, as well as all the delicious ways to create a deconstructed lunch. It leads me to think, why wasn’t I doing this all along? But that would take away the springtime angst I depend on for balance.

Today, we’re talking about salad toppers. One staple in our house is coconut “bacon.” I did a little blind taste test with my peeps (who are admittedly a bit gun-shy of my experiments after discovering black beans in their brownies and shredded cauliflower in their mac and cheese. Poor dears.) Anyway, like real New Englanders they again gave two thumbs most enthusiastically up to the maple syrup versions that I tried, so I’m sticking to those.

I tend to go a bit overboard on food combining, especially when it comes to toppers. But nothing gives mealtime heft to a salad like the ordinary and incredible egg. Furthermore, fully self contained eggs are the ultimate portable food so they are a natural for Bring It!

Hard boiling eggs ought to be easy, but still every time I do it I have to refer to a grimy index card tucked behind my stove that tells me exactly how many minutes to boil them, let them sit covered and then rinse in cold water. Here are two awesome methods—baking and steaming—both of which will set you free from the grimy index card. The first lets you cook a heap load of eggs—as many as you can fit on your over rack. The second takes slightly less time and the resulting eggs are slightly easier to peel. At any rate, if egg peeling challenges you watch this video (spoiler alert: run them under cold water while peeling.)

So here you go, you future queens and kings of deviled egg overabundance. Chickens, get on your marks!

Method 1, from Alton Brown.

Position an oven rack in the middle of your oven. Thoroughly dampen a kitchen towel and lay it over the rack. Load that rack up with as many eggs as you like, as long as they don’t touch. Turn your oven on to 320° F and let your eggs bake for 30 minutes. Then, pull the rack out and grab the four corners of the towel to create a little cradle for the eggs. Carry the towel with the eggs out of the oven and transfer the eggs to an ice bath. Let them chill out until you can handle them. Dry them off if you’re making Easter eggs, or peel them if you plan to eat them.

  • Pros: Volume volume volume! Yes of course you need two dozen!
  • Cons: Takes more total time (but it’s brainless time)
High and dry--the perfectly easy way to cook your eggs.

High and dry–the perfectly easy way to cook your eggs.

And Method 2, from Ali Slagle

In a big pot with a metal steamer inside, bring 1 inch of water to a boil. Add your eggs directly from the fridge to the steamer—6 fit without overcrowding. Cover the pot and let the eggs cook for 12 minutes (6 minutes for soft boiled). If you plan to eat them cold, transfer the eggs to an ice bath and let them chill out until you can handle them, then peel them.

  • Pros: Quick—you’re boiling an inch of water, not an entire pot; you can easily make them soft boiled too.
  • Cons: You can’t go for mass production as with the oven method.

 

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!:

Sun-baked Banana Bread

A small rappel into a beautiful canyon

A small rappel into a beautiful canyon

For those of you living in the northeast, I don’t have to tell you, it’s been COLD here since last October!   Although we are a gritty type and can normally take whatever weather comes our way, I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say, we are ready for some warmth and sunny skies. Unfortunately, the cold weather is persisting, but the warm weather will eventually come our way. It always does.

In the meantime, many of us high-tailed it out of here for Spring break hoping to find weather to warm our hearts and souls. My family, and some fine friends, headed to the southern Utah for a week of canyoneering in the desert slots. We were looking forward to that blast of hot air that hits as you walk off the plane.  As it turned out, this was not the case. The weather was okay…..until it snowed. And then, as if the snow as not enough, we were greeted with mixed precip….hale, sleet, snow, rain, and wind….. which was a real treat!  We muddled through, as we always do; and fortunately, most days, the weather was fine and did not curtail our outdoor canyoneering activities. We had a lot of fun making our way through the canyons (see photo above) and the trip was amazing despite the slight chill (see photo below).

With that introduction, I move onto the topic at hand….. how to make the sun-baked banana bread….. that’s what you came here for after all…

My friend Tom, who is good at everything he does (his main strengths being all outdoor activities, Scrabble, and baking banana bread) made this amazing banana bread. When he pulled this out one chilly morning and we toasted it on the grill with a dab of butter, it was heart and soul warming (if the sun can’t warm us, the food can, right?). But, even better than this delicious bread was the way he baked it. He used a sun oven. This sun oven is mobile. He can place it in his back yard in the direction of the sun whenever he wants to bake on a sunny day (which is most days in southern Utah). There is a photo of the sun oven below and a link to get more information. This oven gets up to almost 300 degrees Fahrenheit and can cook a regular size banana bread in just about an hour.

Thanks Tom for the banana bread and the fun time in the slots. I’ll give you a Plus One for the effort!

Ingredients

1 stick of butter or 1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 overripe bananas
1.5 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts (filberts, if you¹re from Oregon)
 1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional) 

Method

Mix butter and sugar until smooth. Add eggs and bananas one at a time into butter/sugar mixture. Then add vanilla and mix until blended.

Mix dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt). Then add to wet ingredients slowly, being careful not to over mix. Add nuts and chocolate chips if using.

Fold into bread pan and bake at 325 for 50 minutes (or 1 hour at 275 in sun oven – if you are lucky enough to live where you can use one of these puppies).

 

Brrrr.....cold morning at camp

Brrrr…..cold morning at camp

Tom rounding the top

Tom rounding the top

For more information on sun ovens, check out this quick video

No need to turn on the oven on a hot day with the sun oven!

No need to turn on the oven on a hot day with the sun oven!

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!:

Minty Snap Pea Salad and Spring Training.

Spring training with Minty Snap Pea Salad

Spring Training. Oh baby. Inspiring? Depressing? Hopeful? Daunting? All of the above? At least it can be tasty.

I have a friend who, at the end of ski season, assessing the toll of too many fries and cheeseburgers and not enough training, used to wish for a week on an island with a bag of oranges. I’m feeling her pain. But as much as I need it, I’m not getting that island.

I am, however, going to Mexico in a mere three weeks. As if that hard deadline wasn’t daunting enough, the Title Nine catalog arrived. For me that catalog is usually about 30 percent inspiring and 70 percent depressing. Given my circumstances, however, I’m trying to embrace the inspirational aspect of seeing the hard-bodied microbiologist/organic baker/pro surfer/mother-of-four riding her skateboard to the beach in a cute clingy dress.

This is the long way of saying that it’s salad week here. I had this salad last week at my sister’s house in CA, where Meyer lemons are free for the taking off neighborhood trees. Pure fantasy. It comes from an old issue of Cook’s Country, an off-shoot of the notoriously meticulous Cook’s Illustrated. I included the link but forget about getting any free content from these cats.

Cook’s Country tests the hell out of every recipe, which means two things: a. Every recipe is the most perfect version of what it can be; and b. you have to follow the recipe exactly. This is not a problem for my sister, who gives her recipes the respect they deserve, but it is an issue for a serial slacker like myself. Not surprisingly her version turned out way better than mine, so I’ve added some cautionary notes (in italics) based on my freelancing. My version was still darned good, but hers was better. And if you’re going to be eating salads for three weeks they might as well be as good as they can be.

Speaking of salads, now is a great time to try the kale and brussels sprouts salad if you haven’t already. It’s more of a fall thing, but it’s green and fibrous and delicious, all of which work for spring.

In a leap of faith and a show of hope, I sent back the swim dress/muu-muu and ordered board shorts and a suit. We’ll see how it goes.

Minty Snap Pea Salad

  • 1 ½ pounds sugar snap peas, stems snapped and strings removed (Not all of them require snapping and stringing, but do take out the guess work and weigh them at the store)
  • salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh mint
  • 1 small shallot minced
  • 1 tsp grated zest plus juice from 1 lemon (Meyer, Meyer, Meyer if possible. you know my deal by now)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard (regular, not the last of the honey dijon)
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup crumbled goat cheese

Peas: Combine 4 cups water and 4 cups ice in a large bowl; set aside. Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add peas and 1 Tbsp salt (regular, not kosher) and cook until crisp tender, about 2 minutes (I overdid mine by about a minute. Not ideal). Drain peas then transfer to ice bath and cool completely (yeah, they mean completely. If they are the tiniest bit warm the goat cheese shmoozes over everything instead of keeping its crumbly integrity.) Remove peas from water, pat dry with kitchen towel (drying is also key to cheese/pea interface) and cut in half crosswise. At this point the peas can be refrigerated in a Ziploc bag for up to two days.

Dress salad: Whisk mint, shallot lemon zest and juice, mustard, honey and oil in a large bowl. Add peas and cheese to bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper (remember the seasoning step). Serve chilled or at room temperature. The salad can be refrigerated in an airtight container for 1 day.

Bringing it:

Make it all ahead and bring it. Or, if you need to prep it ahead, bring peas, dressing and cheese in separate containers and combine before serving.

 

 

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!:

Love, and a Side of Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

 a few of the best friends in the world. Way better looking than meatballs in the sun.

A few of the best friends in the world. Way better looking than meatballs.

This is about meatballs, but it’s not really about meatballs. It’s about friends and family and communities and about the times that remind you how much you love all of the above. Those times are called parties.

I’m on spring break, which is why we’ve sort of lost touch (It’s not you, it’s me.) The anchor of the trip was the party (see happy purple people above) to honor my awesome mama. The whole process of throwing a party in your hometown—especially when you have no definitive vision or time or really any business thinking you can pull it off—is confirmation that Dorothy and her sparkly red shoes really had it right. There’s no place like home.

Friends appeared at just the right time to help me shop, delivered fondue pots, brought drinks and favorite dishes, ship-shaped the house, helped prep, cook, clean and tend each other throughout, took pictures and showed up with their rally caps on. They asked “how can I help?” and when I hesitated they just jumped in and did. The timeliness of the help was downright freaky, as when I was lamenting that I’d failed to order a cake and the phone rang: “Could I prepare a signature dessert to honor your mom?” I’m talking crazy good.

Like I said, this isn’t much about meatballs. BUT for this occasion I needed something easy I could make ahead and then pop in the oven, something that would not require any utensil beyond a toothpick, and something that was worthy of the best friends and family a girl could ever have. These mighty meatballs (poached from Epicurious) delivered in all areas. As a bonus, the leftovers were good the next day, cold and reheated.

Make these and have a party to remind yourself of all the good stuff and good people in your life.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce or any other favorite hot sauce
  • 1 pound ground chicken, preferably thigh meat (turkey works too)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 celery stalk, minced
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Some kind of Blue cheese dip or dressing

Method:

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drizzle the vegetable oil into a 9×13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.

Combine the butter and hot sauce in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat, whisking until the butter is melted and fully incorporated. Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Combine the hot sauce mixture, ground chicken, egg, celery, bread crumbs, and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated.

Roll the mixture into round, 3/4 -inch balls, making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, being careful to line them up snugly and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. The meatballs should be touching one another.

Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. A meat thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball should read 165°F.

Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.

Serve with blue cheese dip for the real buffalo experience

 See? I told you. But don’t judge. Just make them. Trust me on this.

See? I told you meatballs aren’t as pretty as friends. But as with friends, don’t judge. Just make them, love them  and be happy.

Follow? Like? Share? Yes please!: