Monday, July 31, 2006

Refrigerator Pickles

Yesterday the kids and I went on a quest to see if we could find some pickling cucumbers. We didn't check all of our local farm stands, but we did check two of them. They did not have what I was looking for. I want small kirby cucumbers, and everyone had larger kirbys. I figure they didn't expect them to be ready for pickling yet, and went to the vines and found a whole mess of them- but bigger than normal. While not good for making my homemade kosher pickles, they are perfect for refrigerator pickles. A few dollars later we were on our return trip home with a plunder of fresh sweet corn, cucumbers, cantaloupe, garlic, new potatoes, and green peppers. Tomorrow I may check another farmer to see if they have the smaller picklers. But for today, the refrigerator version is perfect.

I first tried this recipe last summer, and it is wonderful! You can find my original post about them here. This time I still thought a teaspoon of red pepper flakes sounded like too much, so I used half that amount-which is more than last year. I also managed to remember to buy some dill seeds, so I used the seeds, as well as 1/4 teaspoon of dill weed for color. Here is a picture of the brine to my right. It is really a pretty brine. The reds from the pepper flakes, green from the dill weed. I just had to take a picture. I made three jars total- lining them up and filling them assembly line style. I like that the recipe is per jar- and super simple. Add ingredients and shake. Nothing is easier than that! For the third jar I also added a clove of garlic that I cut in half- I will be anxious to see if that imparts much to the finished pickle. After all three were complete I took the jars over to my trusty Foodsaver and vacuum sealed them. I am positive that by doing so, I just created a more intense and wonderful pickle. (Not to mention it was kind of fun watching the bubbles make their way out of the jar.)

And the end result? Fantastic homemade refrigerator pickles. And the onions are just as good as the pickles themselves. Delicious!They keep for at least a month- but I doubt they will last more than a week here. I do have the recipe in the Recipe Trove, so check it out and make some of your own. One of the best things about this recipe is that it is open to interpretation. Like mustard seeds? Add some. Want some heat? Add a chili to the brine. I'm thinking a Thai version with some cilantro, ginger, and a Thai chili would be awesome! Or add some fresh herbs like basil or mint for a different variations. If you do make some, let me know- I'd love to know what you think of them.

And let me just add a little...I'm so grateful to have air conditioning! Yesterday with the heat index it was up to 111º yesterday! Today is supposed to be more of the same until a cold front comes through this evening with some storms. I'm looking forward to that! But I'm not much of an air conditioning person. I appreciate it, very much. But we don't have it on very often. Only once it gets unbearable and sticky during the day do I turn it on. And poor Zander keeps asking to go out to play. Yesterday I kept him iniside, but I think today I'll get out the pool and let him play for a little while.

Four more days until my baby sister gets married! I'm not sure how much I'll get posted over the next few days, but I'll try and get to the computer if I can. We're going to be a little busy...

I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours # 3

For this month's take on the event, Cate has asked us bloggers to share our tried and true recipe files. How DO we all keep track of the recipes we try that we like- that we have every intention of repeating in the future. How do we separate the good from the bad? And oh how I wish there were a tiny bit of easy and quick organization that I could share with you. But the true guts of it are that I am not anywhere near as organized as I would like to be. Not even close. Basically, my tried and true recipes end up in one of three places. Let's take a mini tour!

First up we have my nod to technology- my computer, and the program Mastercook. I love Mastercook. In my personal tried and true cookbook I have 112 bona fide recipes. I also have a cookbook that I made for my sister in law, and that has about 70 recipes in it. I also have different cookbooks for baking and candy-making, and one for soups. All told, I have about 250 tried and true recipes on my computer right now. And that doesn't even come close to touching the "to try" cookbooks.
Secondly we have my binder system. And it's really not much of a system. This is where I keep the recipes that I have printed out from the internet or taken out of magazines- or someone has given to me. Eventually, I hope to have all of these recipes in my Mastercook as well, but there is also a section for some of my more used Mastercook recipes- so I don't have to print out a new one every time I need it.
And thirdly, my tried and true recipe files really wouldn't be complete without this photo- my ever growing cookbook collection. This is the bulk of my cookbooks. What I have started doing to try to be a little more organized is putting a notecard in the front of each cookbook listing the recipes that I have really liked from the cookbook. It's not a perfect system, and the only thorough ones I've done have been the Cooking Light Annuals, but it's a start. For the most part, I just have a really good memory- and I remember which cookbook holds my blueberry muffin recipe, and which cookbook really has the best perfect roast chicken. So far it works for me.

That's how I keep track of my tried and true recipes. Not perfect, and not nearly as organized as many people I'm sure. I'm looking forward to seeing the other entries. Check out the full round-up over at Sweetnicks blog.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

What kind of donut are you?

Gabriella at My Life As A Reluctant Housewife shared this fun little blogthing. It definitely hit the nail on the head. A good Boston Creme donut is indeed my favorite morning pastry. Dunkin Donuts makes the best one...Unfortunately for me, but fortunate for my waistline, there are no Dunkin Donuts in my part of the country.

The only part of the "donut assessment" that I don't agree with is the resistance to change. I don't mind change. Change brings new things and excitement into life. I may be a traditionalist in the kitchen though. I prefer baked goods from scratch, homemade jams, jellies, and homemade pickles. I love to bake bread, but I hate using my stand mixer to mix the dough- it must be done by hand to achieve the perfect texture.

The tough exterior/easy pushover must be addressed as well. I do think I appear tough on the outside. Even though I am always smiling, I tend to be a little more quiet/reserved in public. I hate people who walk into a room and dominate a party or a conversation, so I try not to be that person. But I can certainly work a room or a party and make sure that every person there feels welcome and wanted. However. I am not easily pushed-over by anyone- except for my kids (sucker Mom). I do have a soft spot and am in general a kindhearted person. But I am very firm in my opinions and am not afraid to share those. And woe to the person who decides to cross me or thinks they can better me in one way or another. I always win. So I would say that at the very core of my soft squishy donut filling interior I am hard as a rock. But not just any rock- a gem. A diamond. I dare anyone to try and break that. :-)

You Are a Boston Creme Donut

You have a tough exterior. No one wants to mess with you.
But on the inside, you're a total pushover and completely soft.
You're a traditionalist, and you don't change easily.
You're likely to eat the same doughnut every morning, and pout if it's sold out.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Bits & Pieces

First of all this morning, you may notice a change or two going on here at Tummy Treasure. I am trying to enter the realm of technology as far as my blog world goes, and so far it seems to be working okay. The important thing I want to mention this morning is that I have added a subscription service to Tummy Treasure- you can see the subscribe box over there in the sidebar. By subscribing to Tummy Treasure, you will receive my new posts daily as I post them in your e-mail- essentially saving you a bit of time from checking in every day if you wish. I've been told that Feedburner is a reliable service, so if anyone subscribes, please let me know if you have problems and I will see what I can do to fix the problem.

Secondly, I have been trying my darndest to keep all of my blogs updated as much as possible. This morning you will find new posts on both Cheese, Glorious Cheese and The Savvy Bookworm. It's a lot of work maintaining one blog let alone four of them, but I am trying. I know that readership is pretty low for my other blogs, but if you would be interested in subscribing for any of them- please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail and I will see about adding a feed for the interested parties. I would also consider adding a feed to the Recipe Trove if anyone were interested.

And thirdly this morning, I want to give a brief mention to a new cookbook for me. I received it a few weeks ago, and just haven't had a chance to even look at it until yesterday. Perfect Recipes For Having People Over by Pam Anderson is a keeper. While I can't attest to any of the recipes per se, I can say that it is all inclusive. Everything you cold possibly need for throwing a successful dinner party is in this book. And the variety is great. She doesn't just list stew as a recipe, rather, she has One Stew, many variations- with 7 variations! Fully loaded, this book will definitely be an asset for me. She gives details on how to make shortcuts with meal planning as well as execution. I really like the straightforwardness of the dialogue in this book, and none of the recipes seem overly complicated- so you can enjoy the time with your guests, versus slaving away in the kitchen and missing the party. I can't wait to have another dinner party and put this book to work.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Candy anyone?

I love candy. I don't eat as much as I would like because a) I am aware that sugar equals calories. And b) too much sugar hurts my sensitive teeth- sad but true. I am one of the suckers who will snag up the latest edition of a candy bar- or the new novelty with the shiny wrapper. That's me. I am the person candy marketers are trying to grab.

So imagine my delight when the other day I stumbled upon this fantastic candy-coated blog. A blog entirely to the world of confection. A true blog for the connoisseur of all things candy related. I hereby direct you to go visit
Candy Blog.

And I would tell you about my latest candy craze favorite- but then you'd rush out and buy them all and I would be left with...well...nothing. So you'll just have to wonder at that.

A Great Repeat Dinner

Last night was a repeat of recipes that I had made before- but I never got to post a picture. The last time I made last night's dinner was for a quick meal when Andy's parents had come to visit. It was just as good then as it was last night. Rachael ray's Potato, Spinach, and Tomato soup is quick and delicious. And her accompanying Panini with Prosciutto, Roasted Pepper and Mozarella is equally good, and they match each other well. However. Rachael Ray what are you thinking! There is no way this soup recipe only serves 4. Not even 4 ravenous grown men. Now I give you that I added a package of refrigerated tortellini- and that adds some bulk. But this makes a lot of soup! I easily have lunch for myself for the next week, and I served up 6 bowls of it last night. Other changes I made were to use Italian diced tomatoes instead of plain- definitly do that again. I also reduced the potatoes to 1 and 1/2 pounds instead of 3- and then I added a small can of navy beans to make up for less potatoes. Again, a very good change, and one I will make in the future. You can see that it's quite thick in the picture- apparantly the tortellini sucked up a lot of the broth- you could always add more if that is yoru preference.

If you would like to see the original post about these recipes- you can check that out over here. You can find the recipes there or in the Recipe Trove.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Yes, It Is Wednesday...

And I don't dare step on my scale. You know how you just know you have added a few pounds simply by the way your clothes fit? That's me this morning. I'm not feeling particularly perky or optimistic this morning with the way I look and feel, so I thought instead I'd share a little perspective.

Yesterday on one of the bulletin boards I frequent, someone posted a website to go check out. Blindly I clicked to see what it was, and I found myself entranced. The Shape Of A Mother is a blogspot website devoted to women's bodies. And not movie stars and supermodels. Rather, real women. Women who have carried a child or two, women who have been overweight and lost it, women who are riddled with stretchmarks and whose bodies hold the ultimate badge of motherhood- the pooch. You know, that soft extra poof of "stuff" that hangs between the belly button and the "nether regions". It's a rather remarkable website. And the stories to go with are riveting. And some are sad and tragic. With a warning attached that these are real photos of real women, and if you read on, kleenex may be a necessity, here is a link to Shape Of A Mother.

All in all it's a beautiful site, and is a fascinating tribute to Mother's. Yet in it's own way, it makes me a little more determined this morning. With women all over lamenting their motherly bodies- surely there is more to be done than what can be done with a laser. One would think that through enough of the right exercise and diet, that Mommy figure can be reduced to a fraction of it's former glory. I am telling myself that I can do more. Unlike Bridget Jones who quips "and yes, I'm always going to be just a little bit fat." I can change myself. I don't always have to resort to painful corsetry to make an evening gown look the way it's supposed to. And as I'm typing this I'm feeling a little more determined. I'm contemplating pulling the Abworks out of the basement and I've got the other computer fired up to check on FitTV's line-up today.

But then I remember that we're having my sister Lizzie and her soon to be hubby over for dinner, and I planned to make a cake...So maybe my resolve will wait. Or maybe, just maybe, I can joyfully sample a piece of this cake and send the rest of it on it's merry way with our company. Baby steps my friends, baby steps.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A Fun Weekend

We had a lot of fun this past weekend. We packed up and took the kids 3 hours North-West to a little camping spot where we were to meet up with my family. It was kind of a last hurrah before tending to the wedding festivities- which is less than 2 weeks away!! Hooray! Needless to say, the kids had a blast. There was always something to do, and for once the fishing was great! We picked up a couple of poles for the kids- including one for my niece, Kara, and they all spent hours fishing (or pretending to fish, as the case may be). Here's a picture of the three of them on the dock:

And here's a picture of the victorious Abigail. She caught 3 fish this weekend. She was so excited, and so patient! She would hold onto that pole and wait and wait...I am so glad her patience was rewarded.
Here's a picture of myself fishing with my two beauties. It was just awesome to spend time with the two of them doing something silly and enjoyable.
Then there was the countless hours of fun with their cousin Kara. Here the camp was being attacked by some very scary snakes. =)

There was also plenty of time for rest and relaxation. This quickly became Abigail's favorite spot for the weekend. Here she is looking at a bird book with Grandpa.

And what would camping be without a bit of rain. We found out that our tent still leaks and is in serious need of some seam sealer. But at least it was just a little rain, we had one good rain shower, but there was no hazardous weather or wind, and the rain never lasted long.

And finally, here are the kids enjoying one last snack of cookies together before heading home.

Overall, it was a very fun weekend. We found out that Andy does enjoy fishing, so we'll have to get him a fishing pole before our next adventure. I also was able to learn how to fillet fish, and after about 5 of them, I think I could handle it again if needed. Mom and Dad had been up at the camping spot most of the week, so all told we were able to catch enough fish for everyone to have a fillet or two with Saturday night's dinner. A little oil and a corn meal coating made some tasty fresh fish fillets.

We would have enjoyed slightly warmer weather. It never really got hot enough to spend time at the beach, and it also would have been nice for the rowdy campers to go away. It's pretty sad when we return home and enjoy the quiet at home vs. the noise of the woods. Of course, the same could be said for fresh air. Last night there was a great breeze blowing in our bedroom, and we reflected how it was nice to not have the smell of pit toilets wafting our way. And now we have a mountain of laundry to tend to, as everything smells like smoke- even the clothes we didn't wear. And we need to set the tent back up and let it air out before washing, re-sealing, and putting it away. So I best head off to the laundry.

Muggy and hot weather is ahead for the next several days, so I'm unsure how much cooking will be going on. I guess it depends on whether or not I turn the air on. After being chilly this past weekend, it feels good to be hot. And with Lizzie's wedding less than two weeks away, I might get a bit busy until that is said and done with. But I will do what I can... it is summer after all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A very good article to read

This article from The Washington Post reflects a lot of what I feel lately when I go grocery shopping. Grocery Store Angst. If I were to shop by everything I read lately, I think we would be eating our lawn.

Thoughts anyone?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I found this meme on Kayaksoup's blog, and I thought I'd give it a go. I did modify it a wee bit to remove a couple of the questions I thought would be questionable to some of my readers. But it looked like fun. I thought I should leave a little something for the long weekend. I'll be back on Sunday or Monday. Have a great weekend everyone!

What is your salad dressing of choice? Good Seasons Italian Dressing homemade with red wine vinegar.

What is your favorite fast food restaurant? A&W ~ Their bacon cheeseburgers are to die for

What is your favorite sit down restaurant? Depends on the mood...Grazies, Trim-bys, Titletown Brewing

On average, what size tip do you leave at a restaurant? 20-25 % (hey we have kids, more mess)
What food could you eat every day for two weeks and not get sick of? Cake

Name three foods you detest above all others. Corned Beef, New England Boiled Dinner, Rye Bread

What is your favorite dish to order in a Chinese restaurant? Pot Stickers

What are your pizza toppings of choice? prosciutto, basil, and pineapple

What do you like to put on your toast? Currently Strawberry Lemon Preserves

What is your favorite type of gum? Eclipse WinterFresh


What do you consider to be your best physical attribute? "Cleveland"

Are you right handed or left handed? Right

Do you like your smile? I do now...

Have you ever had anything removed from your body? Do teeth count? Otherwise no.

Would you like to? No way

Which of your five senses do you think is keenest? Hearing- I'm super Mom, I hear it all

When was the last time you had a cavity? Well, I suspect about 4 right now...

What is the heaviest item you lift regularly? Zander

Have you ever been knocked unconscious? No.


If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die? No.

If you could change your first name, what would you change it to? I always wanted a long name that I could shorten to a boys nickname- Like Charlotte would be Charlie. But I'll stick with Erika

How do you express your artistic side? I cook, sew, do crafts with the kiddies, and interior decorating

What color do you think you look best in? Blue

How long do you think you could last in a medium security prison? Just a few hours.

Have you ever swallowed a non-food item by mistake? Hmm... I'm sure I have, a quarter comes to mind.

If we weren't bound by society's conventions, do you have a relative you would make a pass at?Ewww!

How often do you go to church? Twice weekly. Once to clean, once to worship.

Have you ever saved someone's life? Not that I know of.

Has someone ever saved yours? Yes, my Dad saved me from choking on a plastic pig.


For this last section, if you would do it for less or more money, indicate how much.

Would you walk naked for a half mile down a public street for $100,000? It would have to be more...

Would you allow one of your little fingers to be cut off for $200,000? No way!

Would you never blog again for $50,000? Not a chance. Maybe for a million...

Would you pose naked in a magazine for $250,000? No way!

Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000? No- big yuck!

Would you, without fear of punishment, take a human life for $1,000,000? No.

Would you shave your head and get your entire body waxed for $5,000? Nope. I love my hair.

Would you give up watching television for a year for $25,000? might have to double that.

Supper Simple Side

Tonight's salad is from the latest issue of Everyday Food magazine. Today Zander asked to have orange potatoes for dinner, Abigail asked to have sweet corn, so I thought I'd make tonight a vegetarian meal- as we need to eat vegetarian more often. White Bean Salad with Zucchini and Parmesan was fantastic. Light, lemony, and completly satisfying. It was extremely simple to toss together- taking no more than 5 minutes, and you just can't beat that for simplicity. This salad would accompany anything- from fish and chicken to a main entree for a vegetarian meal, it's perfect. Look for the recipe in the Recipe Trove. My only major change was to omit the green beans- as they are not quite available fresh yet here. I swapped in flat leaf parsley for the basil as the basil looked terrible worked fine as a sub, but I see where the basil would really shine here. I also think you could leave out the olive oil entirely- it didn't really add much, so leave it out if you'd like.

Quick post for tonight. I'm making my list and checking it twice for camping this weekend. We leave on Thursday, so it'll be a long weekend without anything new here. I will try and leave something fun to do on the most recent post- so come back and check that out. I'm also not sure I'll have a chance to post tomorrow. The cable company is going to be out in our yard tomorrow digging up the cable lines and installing new ones, so I assume I could be without service for awhile. The extreme heat was gone today- it was very nice to be only in the 80's, although I did turn on the air for a little while this afternoon while the sun poured in through the windows. Now if only it would rain for a bit tonight and water my garden, I'd have one less thing to do tomorrow...

Monday, July 17, 2006

I just have to share!

I don't post for several days, and then wham! Two in one day! I just had to put in a quick post to share the best blueberry muffins I have ever had come out of my oven. They are wonderfully sweet and cakey- and full of blueberry flavor. Just the way I like my blueberry muffins. I already have the recipe in my Recipe Trove, so you can find them right here. You will not regret making them.

Heat Wave!

It must be summer. :-) I feel as if I've been slacking in my posting. And I do apologize if you come here often for an update, and aren't finding them. I've really just been busy enjoying summer and enjoying time with my kids. It's wonderful. Yesterday was the conclusion of our county fair- and both kids really enjoyed themselves. They especially love walking through the barns and seeing the animals. Abigail enjoys riding some of the rides- Zander not so much. Although he did enjoy the motorcycle ride.

In addition to the fair it's been hovering around 100º around here- so it's been pretty darn hot. We are so grateful that we have A/C. I remember sweltering last year- making trips to the mall just to sit in the air conditioning. It's so nice to be able to stay in the comfort of our own home. Although, the heat can move on now. Zander would spend all day outside if I let him, and it's just too hot to do so. I will let him go out and play with the sprinkler or the pool, but he really doesn't last that long. With any luck though, today should be the last day of extreme heat, so we'll be cooling down a bit over the next few days. Here's a picture of the kids in the sprinkler, having a blast.

Another benefit to having air conditioning is that I can still be in the kitchen if I want to. And though I really haven't, I did have some bananas that were going brown, so I made a couple of loaves of banana nut bread to take with us on our upcoming camping weekend. I'm thinking about making some blueberry muffins this morning... we'll see. One of my things to do today is to finish making my lists for camping this coming weekend. We're looking forward to it. We actually bought fishing licenses and gear, so we're going to try and do some fishing too. But we have a lot of stuff to remember to take with us, so hopefully I can get it all down on paper today so I cna check things off as I go.

This past weekend I became the proud owner of a new computer. I love it. We've always settled for secondhand and used computers- having a brand new computer makes us feel like royalty. It's not quite top of the line, but it is sooooo nice, soooo fast, and there is so much more that it is capable of doing, that I'm looking forward to using it more and learning how to do everything. Even more exciting is the fact that we now have two computers. It did take me a little while to figure out how to network them and get them both online at the same time, but they are both working now. It's kind of fun to be able to sit next to Abigail and look up a recipe while she is playing games. It's also fun to be able to pull up a chair next to Andy while he's reading the news online, and I want to check the goings on on the bulletin boards I frequent.

And finally this morning was an exciting morning when I went out to check my tiny little vegetable garden. Here to the right is one of my tomato plants. See the little green globes? I'm so excited! Fresh tomatoes are right around the corner. I've also been reading up on seed saving and gardening on Gardenweb and I'm really hoping my tomatoes are wonderful- because I would love to be able to save some seeds and start my plants from seed next spring. That would be so exciting! There are also tons of blossoms on all three of my tomato plants, so I'm hoping I will have enough to do a little canning this year. There is nothing like opening a jar of home-canned tomatoes in January for a tomato-basil soup. And if anyone has any tips for seed-saving, I'd love to hear them! I'm also hoping to pick up some heirloom varieties at the farmer's market- and I'll save some seeds from those as well.

Over here on the left now you will see one of my bean plants, loaded with blossoms. I should have plenty of beans. I planted both green beans and wax beans- and all three rows of plants are looking great. I do have three plants that are ahead of the rest, as they were the lone survivors of my first planting. And you can't see it very well in this picture, but one of those blossoms has already made way for the beginnings of a bean- which means in a week or so, I could have my first few beans. I can't wait. My pea plants are also looking okay. They've finally taken to the trellis and the blossoms are beginning to fade and turn into tiny pea pods. And that is my garden. The radishes we've plucked and enjoyed every last one. And my lettuce fizzled out on me. I have one teeny tiny bunch of three leaves and that's it. I'm contemplating planting some beets in my bare patch and seeing if I can produce a crop yet before the first frosts. I think if I can still find some seeds, I may just do that.

I guess that's it for this morning. The kids are busy playing nicely, so I think I may take this pleasant opportunity to make those blueberry muffins and then hop in the shower. I hope everyone is staying cool.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Pardon the Interruption

It is fair week here. That means we spend the week at the fairgrounds indulging in everything oh-so bad for you. Unfortunately, for those looking for foodie posts, this is not the weekend for that. While the deep-fried Milky Way I sampled the other night was truly something spectacular, it is hardly blog-worthy, as I have no recipe, just a willing mouth and stomach.

And so I ask that you pardon the foodie break here at Tummy Treasure while we spend the next several days at Templeton's Veritable Smorgasboard.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Check this out! I could buy a car...

My blog is worth $13,548.96.
How much is your blog worth?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

My Favorite Cookbooks

A few weeks ago, Alanna from A Veggie Venture sent out a request for favorite cookbooks. That was a tough one! What she was really looking for was beginner cookbooks- what inspires you in the kitchen, what would you recommend to a new cook. That's a hard question to ask a foodie who loves cookbooks. While my collection may rival some, I have just over 70 cookbooks- there are very few that I don't use at some point. I love the basic all purpose cookbooks- like Joy of Cooking and Better Homes and Gardens, with a little bit of how to cook everything. I also like the specialty books that approach a particular topic. An example here would be baking- I adore my Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, as well as the King Arthur Flour Baking Companion. I use them both at different times. I also enjoy the cookbooks that embrace a specific cuisine or culture- like Vegetarian Express by Nava Atlas, or From Tapas to Meze by Joanne Weir.

But at this specific moment in time, there are 2 cookbooks that get my blood pumping. Two cookbooks that I can always count on to employ me with inspiration for breakfast, lunch or dinner. If someone told me I could only choose two of my cookbooks to keep, and the rest were leaving me. These are the two I would choose without a moment's hesitation. My first choice is Everyday Italian, by Giada De Laurentiis. And my second choice would be Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster.

Everyday Italian is just what it says it is. Italian cooking that you can do everyday.
Easy, simple dishes that are full of flavor, and will undoubtably impress when called upon. By far my two favorites out of this book are the Chicken Parmesan and the Lemon Spaghetti, but we've enjoyed so many, that it is fair to say I like the entire cookbook. This is one that I've personally challenged myself to make every single recipe, and so far, I have yet to try one that we don't like. I really like Giada's approach to cooking. She encourages the home cook to make changes as necessary, and shares her tips for extracting the best flavor possible. Thanks to Giada, I have discovered a love for lemon zest and red pepper flakes. Two ingredients I never would have thought to add to dishes with reckless abandon, and I have grown to love them both. I almost always have a lemon or two on hand now, and I am so close to putting some red pepper flakes on my stove top in a little pinch pot- I use them that frequently now. And Giada's recipes are easy to follow. Really, anyone who can read can successfully make a recipe from Everyday Italian. If you don't have it, you're really missing out.

And my second choice for a favorite cookbook is by Sara Foster- of Foster's Market fame. Fresh Every Day is a year round cooking compendium that encourages you to cook with fresh seasonal ingredients. How could you not love that right away? So many of the recipes provide seasonal variations, and with almost every single recipe, she says, use what you like best. But most importantly, the recipes from Fresh Every Day are delicious. Showstopping delicious. And they should be. Sara talks about this recipe and how it's a favorite among restaurant patrons, or that recipe, that was developed by her Mom, and is a family favorite. The personal touches scattered throughout the book are priceless. I almost feel like I've been transported to Sara's kitchen at times and we are cooking side by side. My two favorite recipes from this book are the Fall off The Bone Baby Back ribs and the Roasted Peas with Mushrooms and Tomatoes. It is thanks to this book that I have developed a deep-seeded love for roasted vegetables. I could eat a bowl of roasted vegetables every day. Which really embraces the point of this cookbook- Fresh Every Day. Every day. Again, easy to read and follow along, and the directions are simple and straightforward. I promise that if you don't have this cookbook and give it a try, you will find it to be one of your favorites as well.

Well, having shared all that, I feel that I really ought to spend some time curled up on the couch with these books in hand,and try to come up with some menu ideas. I've really sucked at menu planning pretty much since summer started, so maybe I should turn to my favorite foodies for inspiration. Plus it's threatening to rain out, I'm feeling a bit under the weather, a perfect day for a cookbook read-a-thon.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

My blog-dom has been a little quiet the past few days. I've been pretty busy this week. Today was Lizzie's Bridal Shower, plus we hosted our usual Sunday night company dinner- with a twist. :-) We were lucky enough to get to spend time with our dear friend Dan tonight. Dan is home from the Middle East for his period of R&R, and we are beyond honored that he chose to spend some of his precious time in our home with us. It was truly wonderful to see him and spend time with him. We miss his laughter. So may the next five months pass quickly Dan, we miss you again already.

My goal for today was to plan a do-ahead menu that required minimal work for today. I also had a huge bowl of chicken salad to make for the shower, as well as the shower cake. And I am beyond sorry that I did not get a picture of the cake I made for the shower. It was soooo good. Yum. And I do say "was good". We made a good dent in it at the shower, and then our friends helped polish it off tonight. So thank God for friends, otherwise I would be adding a few pounds this week. In addition, for tonights dinner of mixed grill, I made a Chocolate Ricotta Icebox Cake which couldn't have been easier. Ricotta cheese is blended smooth, mixed with melted chocolate and whipped cream, and then layered with chocolate wafer cookies. The mixture chills in the fridge and voila. A fantastic chocolate dessert. It was quite good, although I felt something was missing. It could very well have been a splash of vanilla or some Grand Marnier or maybe some Framboise, but it definitely needed a little something. Chocolate Ricotta Icebox Cake was from the latest issue of Everyday Food, and you can find the recipe there or on their website here.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

Paper Chef #19

I finally remembered to participate in a Paper Chef event. The three ingredients chosen were corn, pine nuts, and ground coriander. The fourth ingredient being something that represented Independance Day. So many ideas started whirling in my brain. I could work with these ingredients. I started with the corn and the Independance Day "ingredient". As I thought about corn itself, and how we began eating corn, it seemed to me that the most fitting way to present this delicious grain was in the form of Popcorn. The ingredient that threw me the most was ground coriander- especially since as I set out to make my concoction, I found I was out of ground coriander. But no worries here. I did posess whole coriander, and a few steps later I had a fresh tablepoon of the ground variety.

I can't recommend whole coriander enough. Lightly toasted in a skillet, and then ground, it contains so much more essence and flavor than the purchased ground variety.

I proceeded to melt some butter, and added the requisite coriander, along with a myriad of other spices, tossed the popcorn with it, and was pleasantly surprised. A few toasted pine nuts, a handful of dried berries for sweetness, and I have a fantastic Chile-Spiced Popcorn. This was definitely out of my comfort zone, and I am thrilled with it. I wasn't sure about adding the dried berries, but I thought they contributed nicely to the patriotic theme here, being indigineous to the United States. You could leave them out, but I think they break up the spiciness quite well. So without further ado, here is my recipe for Chile-Spiced Popcorn Mix.

Chile Spiced Popcorn Mix

1/2 Cup popcorn kernels, popped in a hot air popper
1 stick of butter, melted
1 tsp. freshly ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. Ancho Chile Powder
1/2 tsp. Paprika
1/8 tsp. Spanish Smoked Paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 Cup pine nuts (or pignoli) lightly toasted
1/2 Cup dried blueberries
1/2 Cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350º. Place the popped popcorn in a large mixing bowl. Add the ground coriander, cumin, Ancho chile powder, paprika, smoked paprika, sea salt, and black pepper to the melted butter. Whisk well to incorporate. Pour the melted butter over the poprocn, and stir well with a wooden spoon. Pour the popcorn onto an ungreased baking sheet (I used a half-sheet pan). Place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes. Allow to cool, and pour into a large bowl. Add the toasted pine nuts, blueberries, and cranberries. Toss well. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, July 4, 2006