Friday, June 29, 2007

Tummy Treasure on Vacation!

I tried really hard to come up with a last minute "wow" recipe to leave you with. I really did try. Unfortunately, when you plan at almost the last minute to go camping for a week, real cooking tends to take an aside from planning and packing. We're in the home stretch of packing fever, but we still have so much to do, and dinner will be compliments of the frozen pizza section.

We're going to be spending the next week camping in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, and we're really looking forward to the time to relax and play. Unfortunately for all of you, that means no new updates for an entire week! We'll be back late on Friday the 6th, and I'll try to have a little bit of something that night for you. :-)

In the meantime though, a small sample of how we dine when camping. It really isn't that much different from home, the biggest difference being that we cook over a fire. And since we're going camping with my brothers, parents, and a sister (and relative spouses, children, etc.) we all take a turn cooking. One night we'll be having kebabs, one night BBQ ribs, one night fajitas, and one night foil dinners. You may be asking, what's a foil dinner? It's exactly what it sounds like. Ground beef, potatoes, veggies, and seasonings all wrapped up in foil and cooked over the fire. Simple and tasty camping fare- except that our kids wouldn't touch that for all the tea in China. So we have to get creative with our dinners every year. This year, with the discovery of the fish lovers, we're going to try fish in foil. In particular, a recipe from Tyler Florence for foil-wrapped swordfish. We'll be swapping in some Sole, as the swordfish was MIA when I went shopping, but here is Tyler's recipe. And if you click on the link, you'll see a photo on FoodTV- looks really good!

Swordfish Baked In Foil With Mediterranean Flavors

4 fresh baby artichokes, trimmed and quartered (we'll be using canned)
2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 lemon, sliced thin
1/2 cup black olives
1/2 bunch fresh basil
8 sprigs fresh thyme
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 fish fillets, about 6 ounces each
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl combine the artichokes, tomatoes, lemon, olives, and herbs. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss together. Take an 18-inch piece of aluminum foil and fold it in half crosswise. Fold a 1-inch strip on each side over twice, once to close and once to seal; you should now have a pouch. Repeat for 3 more pouches. Season the fillets with salt and pepper and place 1 into each pouch. Add 1/4 of the artichoke mixture to each pouch. Fold over a 1-inch strip of the top twice to seal. Place the packets onto a sheet pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Carefully open the pouches and place the fish and vegetables onto warm plates. Spoon any juices that have accumulated over the fish. Serve immediately.

Well, that's about it! Happy 4th of July for all you locals, and I hope you all have a great week! See you back here in a week or so!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Simple Saute

I had planned on posting about last night's chicken dinner. It was an herbed lemon chicken cooked in the crock pot. And I should have known better. When I put it all in the pot, it smelled fantastic, and it smelled fantastic while cooking- bright and lemony and herby. I was even going to contribute to WHB this week with it. Upon tasting it though... Seriously, this was one of those rare moments (and I mean very rare) where dinner went into the garbage. Thankfully, I had made a side dish that turned into dinner. Not only was it incredibly simple, but incredibly tasty.

I started with a zucchini fresh out of the garden. (Woo-hoo!) I sliced it into thin slices to quickly saute and turned around to see if I had any parmesan cheese. Ah, I did, and next to it I discovered a pint of mushrooms that needed to be used before heading out camping on Saturday. So I sliced the mushrooms and put them in the saute pan first with a tiny drizzle of olive oil. I stirred them occasionally, and when they got to the point where they were obviously well-cooked, I added the zucchini slices, a pinch of salt, black pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. I tossed this together for about 5 minutes, or until the zucchini was lightly cooked. Then at the last moment, I tossed about 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese with the vegetables. The saute was light and bright and awesome with a side of rice. Unless you are my husband. :-)

Andy arrived home a few minutes after the kids and I had sat down to dinner. I told him to ignore the chicken, but to help himself to the vegetables and rice, and I proceeded to tell him that the veggies were lightly cooked with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flake. Don't ask me what he was thinking, but he took that to mean that he needed to season his own veggies. So he had double the amount of crushed red pepper flakes, and it was a bit warm for his tastes. Nevertheless, the saute was a hit and will most likely be repeated many times this summer.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Remembering Some Older Recipes

One of the hazards of blogging is that a recipe that you've tried and enjoyed often gets shelved and forgotten in favor of something new. Since I'm always looking for something new to blog about, a recipe that I've talked about before obviously isn't new. But I thought that today I'd bring a couple of recipes to mind that are excellent for grilling season, which is fully upon us.

The first recipe is one that I made this past Saturday, and realized that I haven't made it since last August, which is crazy because it's very simple and the flavor is excellent. And had I known I didn't have a photo of it, I would have paused long enough to snap a quick one. Regardless, Caribbean Chicken is a great way to grill your chicken breasts. The marinade comes together in a snap, and you can toss the chicken in it first thing in the morning as you head out the door, and when you come home it's ready to throw on the grill. Another reason I love this chicken is that it can also be frozen. Make the marinade in a freezer bag, drop in your chicken breasts, and place in the freezer. A quick dinner is on hand whenever you want it! I served the chicken up this weekend with some fresh pineapple and a lettuce salad.

The second recipe is another marinade, this one for pork tenderloin. Back in February I made this Herb-Roasted Pork Tenderloin and thought it would be fantastic on the grill. We pulled the recipe out of the archives for this past Monday and it truly was meant to be grilled. The changes this time were that I used fresh thyme and fresh marjoram instead of dried in the marinade- and it really was spectacular! I also happen to think that this would be a freezable marinade meal as well, and since it's good grilled or oven-roasted is very versatile.

And finally, the third recipe I want to re-share today is one for barbecued beans. This past winter we discovered we really enjoyed them under the name of Barbecued Kielbasa. On Sunday Andy slow-smoked a sirloin roast, so we ran with the barbecue theme and wanted some beans to accompany. I immediately thought of these beans, and pulled up the recipe. The only change I made was to use half the sausage, and I also cooked it differently. It was going to be a crock-pot creation, so I dumped everything in and turned it on. About an hour before dinner I gave them a stir and realized my error. These always baked in an oven and thickened up, in the crock pot, all the liquid was trapped and I was essentially making a barbecue soup...not what I wanted. So we dumped the beans into a foil pan and Andy grilled them uncovered for the remaining time, and the results were spectacular! Thick and soft and full of smoky flavor, Barbecued Kielbasa is proving versatile indeed.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A fantastic use for beets

And no, B will not be for beets. One of the few veggies that I cannot get my kids to taste- regardless how it's prepared or whether or not we've grown it. Oddly enough, it used to be one of Abigail's favorites when she was an infant. I would make her a beet puree and she would gobble it down, and now she wholeheartedly doesn't care for it. I'm okay with that, I can't expect my kids to like everything we grow. :-) More for me as it's one of my favorites.

My beets are ready to be plucked from the ground. I have these lovely round brown domes poking out from the garden soil, promising the luscious beets below. Having company this weekend, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try a pesto my dear friend Alanna shared the other day at A Veggie Venture. I loved the pesto. It was deep and earthy and made some excellent crostini appetizers. I chose to add some creamy Gorgonzola to the top of my beet pesto, and the pairing was splendid. I did use a drizzle of the optional olive oil called for, and for my toasted nut I opted for the sunflower seeds. The pesto is an excellent way to showcase garden fresh beets, and well worth the time to roast the beets to sweet perfection. Be sure to check out Alanna's recipe for Beet Pesto.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Weekend Extra...Butter!

Trust me on this... get the ingredients you need to make this fantastic cilantro-lime butter and smear it on freshly roasted corn on the cob. A big thank you to applecrisp on the CLBB for sharing. Yum! We roasted our corn on the grill, and I left the cayenne out of the butter. It was so good, Andy and I were practically fighting over the last ear of corn.

Roasted Corn on the Cob with Cilantro Lime Butter

6 ears corn, shucked
Cilantro Lime Butter, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Coat each ear of corn in 2 tablespoons of the cilantro lime butter and wrap individually in foil. Roast until hot and steaming, about 25 minutes. Serve with extra butter on the side.

Cilantro Lime Butter:
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Put the butter in a mixing bowl and, using a rubber spatula, mix in the cilantro, lime zest, lime juice, salt and cayenne. Use immediately or refrigerate.
Yield: 3/4 cup

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Perfect Salad

Thank you everyone for the well wishes yesterday. I was a bit nervous to say the least. Yesterday went okay, essentially we did a Q&A session to introduce me to the newspaper readers and to just let them know that from time to time I'll be popping in with a recipe. I think I did okay, the only thing I didn't get to talk about and wish I had is how wonderful the food blogging community is! I spent a bit of time yesterday afternoon catching up on my blog reading and "visiting" my friends, and I swear that everyday that circle gets bigger. Hopefully I'll have other opportunities to talk about blogging. The article will be out in the paper soon, when it comes out I'll see what I can do about linking to it for my bloggers to check out...

In the meantime though, it's time to cook! Part of yesterday's Q&A was taking a photo, and I wasn't sure if he was going to want a picture of my doing actual cooking or chopping, so I wanted something for dinner last night that I could do some chopping in the early afternoon if I needed. I wanted a Mexican inspired salad and went on a search. I looked everywhere, and didn't find what I was looking for, so I came up with my own Yucatan Summer Salad. And I don't totally mean to toot my own horn, but this salad is really good! It's bright and fresh and completely satisfying. Bell peppers, cucumbers, radishes, red onions, jalapeno, tomatoes, and avocado are tossed with a chili and lime vinaigrette and topped with queso fresco and cilantro. Yum! I added some shredded turkey for a protein, but it really didn't need it. I think next time I will use a can of black beans instead.
What was new to me for this salad was the queso fresco- oh my is that a delightful cheese! For anyone else not familiar with it, it's essentially a Mexican farmer's cheese. It's light in flavor, mildly salty, and just the perfect accompaniment to a summer salad. It's crumbly like feta, and the kids inhaled it- they loved that cheese! I'll be looking for something else to do with the other half of the wheel soon. My original Yucatan Summer Salad is in the Recipe Trove- trust me when I say you need to make this salad, and you need to make it soon. At 363 calories a serving, it's also very waist friendly. I think I may go assemble the leftovers for breakfast...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Letting The Cat Out...

Just a little bit. :-) I have to apologize because my posts over the last week or so have been pretty lame. Sorry, I've been a bit distracted this week. But there is a reason for my distractedness, and before I get to that reason, I have a sincere promise to do better over the next week before I go MIA for a week camping. Anyway... A few weeks back my husband had an encounter with the editor of the local paper, and in the discussion the subject of food came up. My loving husband had to brag about his foodie/blogger wife, and the result of that convo was a business card with instructions to e-mail my blog url. A fellow foodie was interested in a local take on food.

Well, the short version of this is that some of my cooking is going to be featured in the local paper. We still don't know all the details or how everything is going to work out, but today is the first step, as he is coming to my kitchen to take some pictures and do some chatting. Who knows where this may lead, but I am a little nervous. The idea is to do an occasional food story with a recipe that I come up with, and that I am excited about. But I'm nervous about being more out there- if that makes any sense. So you'll forgive me if I don't have a recipe for you today, and I'll try and be back later with a re-cap of the afternoon for you. In the meantime, I have a stunning summer salad to compose and kids to get ready for tumbling class, so Happy Thursday everyone! Wish me luck today!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In Search of Cudighi

This has been a bit of a quest! A few months back we were given some cudighi. I tucked it in the freezer and didn't really think about it again until recently. I just didn't know what to do with it, and to add to not knowing what cudighi tastes like, ours was made from wild boar. Now we know and love wild boar, so every scrap of the stuff that we can get our hands on we treat as best as possible. Then the other night, the kids asked for spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner, and not having any ground meat for the sauce, I thawed the cudighi. As I was browning it, it smelled remarkably like pepperoni, and I was looking forward to tasting it.

The flavor is unlike any other sausage I've ever tried. It did taste a little like pepperoni, but I also tasted all-spice and fennel seeds. And as it turns out, I'm not that far off the mark.

Cudighi is a sausage found only in two parts of the world- one small part of Italy, and one small part of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. And finding a recipe is just as difficult as finding the sausage. I found two recipes that are very different, but I think by using both recipes as a guide, I could recreate the cudighi we had. Here is the first one, which looks close, but doesn't have the fennel seeds or crushed red pepper flakes that our sausage had. It also has more cinnamon than ours did- as the cinnamon was not noticeable at all.


1 (6 pound) pork butt
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 to 1 cup dry red wine
6 garlic cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 clove

Have the pork coarse ground and DO NOT have fat trimmed (you want about 25% fat). Put through the meat grinder TWICE.

Mix the following ingredients together: salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Work into ground pork with your hands.

Combine wine, cinnamon sticks, garlic and cloves. Boil this mixture for 5 minutes and let completely cool.

Strain this mixture, reserving the liquid and work the liquid into the meat.

Let meat season in refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Then there is this recipe, which looks more like the one we had, but is very different, and might not have the depth of flavor the sausage we were given had. If anyone has any insight into this treasures sausage, I would love to hear it. The sausage is delicious, and worked really well in a pasta sauce, and equally well on last nights oyster mushroom and cudighi pizza.


6 lb coarsely ground pork(pork butt recommended)
1 clove garlic chopped fine
1 T. Crushed red pepper
6 T. Salt
1-2 T. fennel seed

Mix well and keep in the fridge for 24 hours.

Form into thin, to about 1/2 thick patties into oblong shape or depending on the type of Roll you will serve it in.. can be squared shape if desired. Brown in oil , cover and simmer fry, but not crispy brown, use just a little water(optional) to simmer to help with the dryness, for 25-30 minutes or until no red shows and pork is fully cooked.

Serve on fancy Deli roll type bun, such as hard roll, Kaiser roll etc.

Things to compliment this is combinations of grilled green pepper rings and grilled sliced onion, mustard, catsup, pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, whatever combination you desire and to your liking. My favorite is with a little mustard, the grilled green pepper and onion.

this recipe makes a lot of patties so cut recipe by half
or make-up patties and partially cook,cool, then freeze patties for quick sandwich's later.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Do You Have What It Takes?

To Build A Better Burger
? I keep thinking I do... with so many variations on a hamburger, how do you decide what makes the best burger? Here is my entry from last year... not good enough to be a winner, but obviously good enough to put up on their site. My problem is too many ideas, not enough time. I wonder if my fascination with Indian Cuisine would translate well to a burger?

W is NOT for Watermelon Radish

The other day as we were looking at the garden, Andy pointed to a flowering stalk and asked what it was. Hmm. That looks like one of my watermelon radishes underneath, but at last check, they weren't radishes yet. So we pulled the flowering one up, and sure enough, no radish yet. Frustrated with the garden space devoted to the radish that wasn't, I pulled them all up, and out of about 20 plants, I had 3 radishes. I learned a thing or two, I think. First up, here is a picture of the Watermelon Radish from the outside.It looks like a smallish turnip- unassuming really. For taking twice as long as the French Breakfast radishes, I really expected something grand and glorious. Not so much, apparently. I suspect that I actually planted them too late, that they need the cool weather to germinate and grow, and should probably be sown just past the frost danger. I'm going to save my seeds and try again this late September/October, and see if they fare better in cooler weather. But this next picture, this is where the watermelon radish gets their name.Sliced open, they are impressive. The have a stunning rosy color on the interior that contrasts beautifully with the creamy white shell. One taste though told me that we were not going to be exploring the virtues of the watermelon radish. Wow- these guys pack some heat! These are a very spicy radish, with quite the cumulative effect as well. Andy couldn't even eat a whole radish-and that says a lot. Again though, I wonder about the timing. Regular radishes are sweeter when grown in the cooler weather- they get that heat from hot weather, and it has been a bit warm the last few weeks, so that may have something to do with the heat.

So Sadly, the watermelon radish is a bit of a dud, but up next on the horizon, my zucchini plants have babies and blossoms. In fact, after all the rain last night, I could pluck two zucchini today, but I think I'm going to let them go a little longer. I'm hoping to have them for veggie kebabs this coming weekend. My tomato plants are also all loaded with little green tomatoes, I have a jalapeno on my pepper plant, and both the cucumbers and the melons are in full blossom. I'm a little concerned about leaving my garden in two weeks when we go camping... the veggies may just take over then.

Monday, June 18, 2007

S is for Sugar Snap Peas-Eating Locally

I meant to post about this yesterday, but the day got away from me very quickly. Saturday we had a long day, and is it crept closer to dinner time, Andy suggested that we go out for dinner. And while I was tempted for a brief minute, the fact was that I had fresh farmer's market produce, and I wanted to use it freshly plucked from the ground. So I pulled a flank steak from our local butcher, Maplewood Meats, and got to work. The steak received a simple rub of Penzey's Old World seasoning. I happen to consider Penzey's local as well, as its home is here in Wisconsin in Milwaukee, and since that's less than 200 miles away, I consider it local. The steak went on the grill along with the new potatoes. The potatoes and a few of the spring onions were tossed in a foil packet with some fresh rosemary from my garden, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

I also wanted to do something with half of the sugar snap peas. At first I had been thinking a stir fry with my oyster mushrooms, but I decided that since the kids were gobbling up the peas, a salad was more in order. I wanted to sweeten up the peas a little bit more, as I thought in their completely raw state they were slightly starchy. So I got out my steamer and steamed the peas for about 4 minutes, and then ran cold water over them to shock them. This worked perfectly, it brought out the sweetness and eliminated the starch, while still retaining the crunch of the raw snap peas. I tossed the barely cooked peas with a chopped yellow tomato, and the large cherry tomatoes. I drizzled these with a raspberry-walnut vinaigrette that the kids have been fond of lately, and everyone enjoyed it. The salad was perfect, the snap peas and the tomatoes played off each other perfectly with the vinaigrette. Both kids enjoyed the Sugar Snap Peas, and since I still have half of them, tonight I am going to get to that stir-fry and see how they like them cooked. Next year I guess I'll have to plant some peas as well.
It felt really good to eat locally, and to know that everything on the table was fresh and at its peak. There will be much more to come from the local farmer's markets, and I'm contemplating a drive out to our favorite produce stand to see if they have anything out there yet. We may get to that later today yet, if not... it will be later this week.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My Farmer's Market Finds

We have 1 bunch of small beets, 1 bunch of spring onions, 2 pounds of sugar snap peas, one potted sunflower, 2 yellow tomatoes, a handful of large cherry tomatoes, 1 pound new red potatoes, and 1/2 pound of oyster mushrooms. Not pictured are the Amish Cinnamon Rolls and the Blue Moon Gelato Abigail inhaled at the market. Today we learned to go early- it got busy very quickly, and produce was gone very quickly. Tonight's dinner will be completely local as we add a flank steak from our local butcher. And while I'm excited about the oyster mushrooms- this is the first time I've seen mushrooms at the market- I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them. Suggestions anyone?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Strawberry Day!

We started with six generous pails of freshly picked strawberries.And ended with about 45 pints of homemade strawberry jam goodness.Whew. And only someone who is insane would spend the day with a helper and make 8 batches of jam, only to forge ahead and do 3 more batches on her own. I turned almost all of the strawberries we picked into jam, so we'll have to make another trip to the patch for strawberries for the freezer. I think I'm okay with that. :-) If you happen to be reading this and you live near me, head on out to Bodart's to pick strawberries. The berries are wonderful, and there's never anyone else out there picking! Go to the back of the patch for the big ones- but the small ones are just as sweet and delicious.

For other delicious ways to use strawberries, head to the Recipe Trove and check out Banana Split Salad, or Strawberry Ice Cream, or Strawberry Bread. Classic Buttermilk Waffles are on the menu for tonight, and while I'm certain I also posted about Strawberry Pancakes, I'll have to send you to Recipezaar for that one, cause I can't find it.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sweet Simplicity

Sometimes all you need is a plate of grilled New Zealand Greenshell Mussels, some butter, olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, and a scattering of parsley.
Pure decadence. I doubt Andy enjoyed them as much as I did, but it was exactly what I have been craving, and now I know we can make mussels at home. Pre-cooked mussels on the half shell have to be one of the greatest inventions ever.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Returning To The Pantry

I've spent the last day with my nose in a book. (Much to the dismay of my dirty home.) After seeing several blogs this past week discuss a photo-essay published by Time Magazine, I decided I needed to read the book. Hungry Planet:What The World Eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio is nothing short of amazing. I will likely be devoting a post or two to it over the next few weeks, because it really has been thought provoking to me. Most notably so far is all the families who are conscious of waste. The Peruvian family who sells two sheep at the market and receives $35 which has to buy groceries for their large family for two weeks. They buy little to no meat, focusing on the staples like potatoes, beans, and rice, then they buy fruits and veggies, with nothing special or extra. The Darfur refugees who eat the same thing three meals a day, and worry about the cost of one tiny handful of dried vegetables to flavor their soup.

After a successful winter of stretching my food dollar and utilizing as much as possible out of a scrap of food, it hasn't taken long to return to some of my more wasteful methods. Truly not as bad as it once was, but I do have several containers of leftovers in my fridge that are going to need to be tossed. And I find myself at my local grocery store looking for something for dinner at the last minute all-too-often. So last night I decided to raid the pantry for dinner. I began in the freezer where I discovered a package of frozen cheese ravioli and a partial package of bacon. In the pantry I found several cans of beans, selecting the Great Northern variety, as well as a small onion and some cloves of garlic. A trip through the fridge found a small handful of cherry tomatoes that I wasn't likely going to use. After a second thought, I also grabbed a cucumber well past its prime, some blueberries, and a balsamic salad dressing that I keep wanting to like.

I made one final trip through the garden, snipping off a few beet greens and a few leaves of romaine, as well as a few tiny sprigs of my newly potted basil. Dinner was on it's way. I set some water to boiling for the ravioli, and cut off a tiny portion of the bacon, returning the rest to the freezer for another time. The bacon went into the saute pan, followed by the onion, tomatoes, and garlic, and then later on the white beans, some seasoning, and the basil. A little pasta cooking water loosened up my white bean sauce a bit, and while that simmered away I cobbled together a quick salad. My greens were washed and tossed with thinly sliced cucumber, a handful of blueberries, and that balsamic dressing- whisked with a tablespoon of honey to enrich it a bit.

30 Minute Meals indeed! The whole dinner, including the walk through the garden, pantry, and fridge took less than 30 minutes. And the pasta was fantastic! The sauce worked really well to lightly coat the ravioli, and topped with a scattering of Parmesan, it compares to pasta I've had out. The smoky sauce was balanced out nicely by the sweet/sour green salad, and the only thing I would potentially change about this dinner is the bacon. I would use it, but I would render it down and remove the bacon, crisped, from the saute pan and add it to the salad, leaving the bacon fat to flavor the sauce. Nevertheless, dinner was fantastic, and I felt really good about the pantry meal. I wrote down the recipe for White Bean Sauce with Bacon and popped that into the recipe trove. An excellent dinner on the fly, and packed with vegetables as well. No doubt, the white bean sauce would be equally good in a vegetarian version, subbing in some earthy mushrooms for the bacon, and using a little more olive oil to saute the onions and garlic.

I'm not sure I'll have much of a chance to post tomorrow. The strawberry patch is open, and that means it's time for some jam-making, so I will try if I get the chance.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Carrot-Pineapple Bread

Loyal readers already know how much I adore a good quick bread. Whether it be a muffin, scone, or loaf of a lightly sweetened bread. My Recipe Trove has quite a few recipes for quick breads, but I'm always looking for more. A few weeks ago I wanted a quick bread, but lacked many of the basic ingredient. Read: something fruity as my bread base. Whether it be banana bread, blueberry bread, or zucchini bread. Enter the carrot. I realized I didn't have a tried and true carrot bread, so I set out to find one. I ended up tweaking one up a bit that I found on Recipezaar, and the end result is exactly what I was looking for.

A sweet quick bread full of flavor, carrot-pineapple bread is a perfect start to a new day. You could easily make this into muffins by using a muffin pan, just make sure you check the cooking time. After I'd made it, I was also thinking that some sunflower seeds would be an excellent addition, so feel free to throw in a handful of those as well. I will confess, it's not that far off from a carrot cake, and as such, a smear of cream cheese may just be the icing on the cake, so to speak. But for myself, give me a slice straight up, and I'll be in quick bread heaven. Carrot-Pineapple Bread, it's worth getting up early in the morning for.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ah...Summer Vacation

I feel decadent this morning. The kids slept in, I slept in, and now I'm sitting at the computer while they munch on cereal, play video games, and plan their day together. I have laundry in the washer to hang up, but otherwise, our time is our own. I have something important to do on Friday, but other than that, our week is available to us, and we haven't had that in a long while. I love summer vacation!!!!

The reason we've been so busy these past few weeks is because of a culmination of a couple of things. First it was the end of school, so we had the usual end-of-school festivities and events. Secondly, I've ramped up my involvement in a couple of things at church, and of course ended up being busy with that a lot the last few weeks- now I've settled in, so no more super busy there. And thirdly, we had Abigail's dance recital, which turned out to be quite the event. This last week there was a lot of running around as we had pictures and dress rehearsal and then the recital itself. Plus, in the middle of all that, we had a severe weather event, and events at the school where the recital was being held was cancelled and pushed back a night. Andy had volunteered to help with the set-up for the recital, and because of the change of schedule ended up pulling an all-nighter to get the stage ready for the dancers. Andy had an insane amount of fun getting back to his theater roots to help out his daughter.

The recital itself went really well. We were so impressed with the professionalism, and we completely enjoyed the whole recital- not just watching our daughter dance, but all the other classes as well. The staffs concern for the safety of their dancers was amazing, and I suspect that sometime next week, the dance school may just find a large platter of cookies and brownies as a thank you. Here's a picture of Abigail after her dance was over.She had a blast-we all had a good time, actually. It definitely was worth all the build-up, but then Sunday we all kind of crashed a bit. After church we didn't do a whole lot, the kids played outside, but for the most part it was a quiet day as we all recuperated from a few weeks of business. This was the scene in our backyard late in the afternoon. Does that look familiar Mom?
Anyway, we've been busy, and tomorrow I'll be back with something food related to share, and later this week, I'm pondering a blogging event, but need to figure out some details, so stay tuned.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Weekend Extra...The Talk of the Neighborhood

Apparently I have the neighbors talking. My backyard is overflowing with growing garden goodness, and they're all amazed. Last year my garden did very poorly- mostly I believe because of poorly amended soil, and just a poor growing season overall. But this year! This year some generous compost from friends has made all the difference. And while we've only been harvesting lettuce and radishes so far, I am optimistic, and I am proving that a garden can be bountiful in a small space.

First up, I have a picture of one of my tomato plants. I have four in containers- three are Patio Celebrity and one Yellow Pear plant. One of these days I'm going to get back to Home Depot to pick up more pots because I can't believe how well these plants are doing. I can't wait to see them produce fruit.Next, I have a photo of my main garden bed. Initially I had planted yellow beets, carrots, red beets, three rows of green beans, romaine, broccoli, radishes, and a zucchini. The yellow beets just did not take off like everything else, and rather than devote the garden space to hopeful thinking, I plucked them out this week and put in brussels sprouts. As you can see, the whole garden has taken off. The only thing I'm iffy on is the Watermelon radish. A white exterior and purple interior is what the photo promised, but so far there is no fruit under the big bushy leaves. I'll give it a few more weeks before I pluck them and add them to my newly made compost bin.
Here is a close-up of the beets. My children have determined they really like beet greens in salad- as we ate the tender thinnings. Now I'm wishing I'd planted more beets.

Finally, here is my back garden. The whole series of gardens surrounds the shed in our yard. I wanted vegetable garden space without taking up precious play space, so we decided to utilize the space around the shed. It's working great. This is the first year for the back garden. You'll notice the trellis, and planted below that is cucumbers- I'm hoping to train them up the trellis to maximize the growing space. In front of the cucumbers is the melon patch. As the melon plants grow, we'll remove the chicken wire from the front and let them vine out into the yard. Also in this patch I have another zucchini- right at the front there, and a small dill patch for turning those cucumbers into pickles. We've already picked all the French Breakfast radishes from back here, and again, there is another small row of the watermelon radish. I just wonder if this is the wrong climate for some of the more unusual vegetables. Guess I'll find out at the farmer's market next Saturday.

So there's my garden so far. How does your garden grow?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Fantastic Cookies!

Since it's the last week of school this week, all the summer birthdays are being celebrated in Abigail's class. They have about 10 summer birthdays, so there's been a lot of snacking going on in her class. She decided that she wanted me to make a cookie that had M&M's in it, and that got me thinking. The cookie I usually make with M&M's is a monster cookie, but that calls for an insane amount of ingredients, and peanut butter. I've just not been in the mood for peanut butter lately. A few months ago I created the Mutant Munchies, which are very good, but not something that I thought a bunch of sugar-crazy first graders would be thrilled about. I decided on oatmeal. That was a flavor I could get behind and get excited about, but a search brought up very little and I needed to come up with my own cookie.

I started with the recipe for monster cookies as inspiration combined with my mutant munchie recipe. As I looked at all the oatmeal in a monster cookie recipe, I really concentrated my thoughts on how I could hide the oatmeal. How could I get its flavor in the cookie without screaming "look at me! I'm a more healthy oatmeal cookie!". So I ground the oats in the blender. Essentially, I replaced the oats in the cookie with oat flour. I finished adding ingredients, and thought my dough was just a tad on the dry side, but once everything was in, I figured it was too late to add more butter or another egg. I used a generous cookie scoop to scoop out portions of dough (an 1/8 cup) and then flattened the balls slightly with my hand, I wasn't sure how they'd spread.

The end cookie was perfect. Truly perfection, the type of cookie I would expect to pay for when buying a cookie from a bakery. The oatmeal flavor really came through and the chocolate chips and M&M's really played off each other well. Every once in a while you'd get a bite of cookie with a little extra caramel flavor from the toffee bits. They were the perfect size- one cookie was plenty to satisfy without being too much, but a second cookie didn't overwhelm either. The cookies got packaged up two to a person for school, and according to Abigail, everyone loved them. I know we did, since there is only one or two left. M&M Oatmeal Cookies are pretty darn close to perfection and a new favorite of my soon-to-be second grader.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging-Tarragon, my new friend

I don't think I've ever participated in the famous Weekend Herb Blogging event. I wonder why that is? I love herbs and can never get enough of them. Today I want to share an herb which, believe it or not, is new to my palate.

I've only ever had tarragon in its dried form. It is a pantry staple for me, and I've always used it when called for, but it's never called out to me. In fact the one time I used a lot of tarragon in something (I suspect it was chicken) I really didn't care for it, and put tarragon on the infrequent use list in my kitchen. Then in the latest issue of Cooking Light magazine I found a recipe for Lemon-Tarragon Grilled Pork Chops that looked really simple and like a perfect weeknight meal for us. I debated using basil instead, but decided to be true to the recipe and go with the tarragon.

Then, while I was sitting on the tarragon and waiting for an opportunity to run to the butcher, I spotted this post over at Michael Ruhlman's blog. It stirred up some feelings for tarragon before I even had a chance to try the herb fresh. How could this well-known author declare tarragon the "best of all herbs" and I've never had it. Something was seriously wrong. Reading through the comments, I also learned that true tarragon cannot be grown from seed, but is grown by planting seedlings. Do check out his post with the comments when you have a chance. Herb discussions seem to bring out the beast in everyone.

Back to the tarragon. In short, I am hooked. It has a bit of an anise flavor- similar to that of fennel, and not all that different from basil. If I were to compare it to basil, I would say it's much milder and lacks the bite that accompanies basil. Tarragon also has a sweetness that basil lacks. Really, it's vibrant, and adding a touch really makes a dish pop and stand out. The pork chops were really good, with only two complaints from me. The first being that they were on the salty side. To be expected, of course, since they are brined, but I used sea salt instead of kosher, and I think the excessive salt was my fault- I should have gone with my gut and used a little less. My second complaint...there was not enough tarragon! The flavor was delightful, but I wanted more of it. Next time (and there will be a next time) I will likely double the tarragon.

Tarragon. I am hooked, and now I'm on the prowl for you at the greenhouse. My kitchen will never be the same. To check out all the other herb action around the globe, head on over to Kuchenlatein, where Ulrike is hosting the 86th edition of Weekend Herb Blogging this weekend.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

B Is For Broccoli

And you can read all about the new way to eat broccoli today over at Kids Cuisine, rather than repeat myself here. :-)

In other veggie news this morning, my garden is doing great! Last year my garden really limped along, but this year we added some compost from some very generous friends and it's really taken off. So far we've been enjoying radishes, and the romaine is just starting to be pickable, so there will be many lettuce salads in the near future. Last night we had tostadas for dinner, and Abigail was so excited to top hers with "delicious lettuce from the garden." Gotta love that. The cucumbers, melons, and zucchini plants all look amazing as well! I just hope we have enough critters in the area to do the pollinating. I'm also thrilled that it's June 6th- just 10 days away from the opening of the Farmer's Market!

When I cut the first tops off my radishes, I looked at those useless tops and thought it was a shame to put them in the garbage. So I grabbed a small bucket and a plastic bag and tucked them under my kitchen sink for produce scraps. I've been talking and talking about composting, and thought I should at least give it a try. I wanted to know how long I could put scraps in this bucket before it started really stinking up the kitchen. Well, it's been about 10 days now, and my bucket is full, and there is still no odor. I was told this would be the case, but didn't really believe it. This weekend Andy will be building a small bin for the backyard as I've started working on my second compost bucket and the stuff needs a place to go. What I've put in the compost has strictly been veggie and fruit scraps and coffee grounds. It's rather exciting to watch the compost bucket fill up rather than dump the scraps down the disposal or into the garbage.

Today begins the madness that is Abigail's dance recital week. It's a pretty big deal for us as it's her first, and we have pictures and dress rehearsals and my crazy husband has volunteered to do quite a bit of set up, so we'll see how the rest of the week goes. The last day of school is Friday, and I'm hoping to celebrate with a really good whole grain M&M cookie here, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Swimming Upstream

A few weeks ago I promised fish recipes, and today's recipe is exactly that. Since discovering that my kids like fish, I've determined that we're going to try and eat fish once a week. That's a big step up from the occasional fish we'd been having. Today's recipe is from the June issue of Cooking Light, Grilled Salmon with Apricot-Mustard Glaze. Overall the fish was well received. And when I say the fish was well-received I mean that Abigail literally went to town on the fish. She couldn't inhale it fast enough! Zander enjoyed it too, as did the grown-ups at the table. Andy cooked it perfectly, and the glaze was quite good.

My only concern with the recipe was that it was on the sweet side, but now as I'm looking at the recipe, I realize that I forgot to add the garlic to the salmon. No doubt that would have added some of the spiciness I was missing, and reigned in the sweet from the glaze. So don't forget the garlic. Grilled Salmon with Apricot-Mustard Glaze is an instant repeater here, we'll definitely be making it again soon.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Busy, Busy

Wow! I feel like I have just run a marathon! It's been a busy weekend for me, and I'm looking forward to a day of rest...maybe in another week or so I'll find one!

One of the reasons I was busy this weekend was that I was getting ready for my sister Rachel's baby shower. She's due to have her first baby in just over a month so it was time to shower her with gifts. I cannot wait to meet my new little nephew...

Anyway, for my part I wanted to make my little sis her shower cake. It started with an idea for a layer cake of sorts, but then during the planning, my sister found out she needs to watch her sugar and carbs, so I thought cupcakes would be easier to portion, and the cake became cake-lets. I had planned on making devil's food, but decided to give it a twist this time and turn to a new cookbook- King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking. Sure enough, there was a recipe for a Devil's Food Cake that used whole wheat pastry flour and yogurt in the batter. Sounded great to me so I made a few batches of cupcakes with that recipe. I tried one straight up, and I have to say, the whole grain cupcakes are excellent! They are rich and full of a deep chocolate flavor that comes from using a good quality cocoa. (I used Ghirardelli, my personal favorite.)

I cannot wait to try other cake recipes from this book! I love cake! And adding some whole grains is a great way to feel a little less guilty about eating cake. The Devil's Food Cupcakes were a hit all around and looked really cute stacked onto a cupcake tower.

To frost these little gems, I wanted a slight mocha flavor, and I wanted the frosting to be light in texture. I initially had been thinking of a whipped cream frosting, but didn't want it that light, and I did want it to be more stable. So I adapted a buttercream frosting to incorporate some whipped cream and added some coffee flavor via a Kona reduction. The frosting was spectacular, although it was so humid that it lost its fluffy texture very quickly. Regardless, the flavor still held and the cupcakes were great. (Oh, and by the way boys who took cupcakes home with them, they should probably be refrigerated for the best staying power.)

Friday, June 1, 2007

On a Roll with Vegetarian Times

Of course it would work out that the point in time that I am insanely busy is also the time that I am in the mood to cook. Lucky for me, the current issue of Vegetarian Times is keeping me busy and the recipes I've chosen have been quick ones. Last night's was another quickie, and as it so happens, was another vegan recipe.

Spaghetti with Spinach and Mushrooms caught me with the picture in the magazine. A full page photo of beautiful orange-yellow spaghetti is entwined with spinach leaves, mushrooms, and chickpeas. It just screams "Eat Me!" Reading through the recipe I was intrigued, the spaghetti was prepared like Fideos and Risotto- meaning the pasta is toasted before being cooked and then it is cooked in broth like risotto. With an ingredient list only 9 ingredients long, I was suspicious as to whether or not it would work out, but I wanted to give it a whirl anyway.

I had to make a few changes. The first being for the heat called for. It called for Harissa or red pepper flakes. I have yet to try harissa (an African spice blend) so I had to use the red pepper flakes, and that I had to use far less of since I was making it for kids. I also had to eliminate the saffron called for, since I don't have any on hand. Instead I used some turmeric to add the yellow color I knew the saffron would contribute. Everything else I used as is and it turned out very well.

The combination of toasted pasta and earthy mushrooms really gave this spaghetti dish some depth- and that umami that I want with a hearty pasta dish. The spinach and chickpeas were perfect as well, although Andy and I both agreed to add more mushrooms next time, something like baby bellas or portabellas for added earthiness. He commented that it tasted like it was missing something. I have to think it's the harissa, so I am going to have to get my hands on a good recipe for it so I can have it around. More heat would have been excellent too for the adult palates, but Abigail ate it as is, so I can't change the heat too much. I'm sure the saffron adds something subtle as well, but I confess that the one time I cooked with it I really didn't care too much for the floral essence it contributed to the dish, so I likely wouldn't add that anyway.

Overall, a surprise keeper. The pasta did take a little longer to absorb the liquid than the recipe said it would, but for the most part it was extremely quick to put together and very satisfying. Spaghetti with Spinach and Mushrooms is in the Recipe Trove for anyone interested. I should probably mention that we did use whole wheat pasta even though the recipe didn't call for it. It was perfect for this dish- and if you're looking for a place to try and squeeze in whole wheat pasta, this would be the perfect disguise for it.