Sunday, June 22, 2008

For Kaely

Today is the lovely Kaely's birthday. But she's far away in Boston, and I can't bake a cake to share with her! So here is your virtual birthday cake*, Kaely, from an imaginary world where I can make things that pretty.

And it is good for one yummy (if ugly) birthday cake, whenever the heck we are in the same city. I've had my eye on [this recipe] for ages, and I know you're just the person to share it with. I hope we can try it soon!

*I found the photo on Flickr, taken by the talented"dee m."

Thursday, June 19, 2008


So, I am trying to eat healthier snacks. After recently learning a great popcorn technique from Simply Recipe [Read it here! Learn!], I decided to have some of these yummy whole grains after my walk. However, I thought a few pats of butter might be a bit counterproductive. So I tried my new purchase, really going into Hippie territory: nutritional yeast, or "nooch," as the "in" Vegans call it. So I'm munching on it as I blog. And you know what? It's not bad! For those of you who haven't heard of it, this is not yeast yeast. From Wikipedia: "It is a deactivated yeast, usually Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It is produced by culturing the yeast with a mixture of sugarcane and beet molasses, then harvesting, washing, drying and packaging the yeast. It is commercially available in the form of flakes,photo or as a yellow powder similar in texture to cornmeal, and can be found in the bulk aisle of most natural food stores."

And you thought it was gross! So, I had read in about a billion places how good it is on popcorn. Fine, agreed. Any other uses you have enjoyed?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Live and (hopefully) learn

I took a walk for another trip to Sue's Produce, and I got all kinds of things I'm sure you'll be seeing in the coming days. One of my purchases about which I was excited was a plastic container full of "shelled" fava beans. Great! I'd never cooked them, and I'm pretty sure I've never eaten them. But they're another spring treat, and another darling of my food bloggers. We do love our seasonal veggies. I found a recipe on NPR's website for a salad using these green jewels [Recipe]. I made some changes, which I will outline below, but there was one change I'm pretty sure was not a good move. See, I know that there are two steps to shelling fava beans. First, you take them out of their fuzzy pod. Then, you pop them out of their individual waxy shells. But, I bought them shelled! So, I just blanched them and tossed them as a salad. They tasted okay--a bit chewy, but you know, seasonal!
As Matt dug in, he said, "Hmm, you said the shell is waxy?"
"Because, this is waxy, and then there's this bean-y thing inside."

I thought this was a great picture of how it should look!

Yep, we chomped on a few of those waxy shells. They weren't shelled, just removed from the pods. I've got a few lessons left, clearly. Nonetheless, I can recommend this salad recipe with fully prepared fava beans, which did eventually reveal a great texture and nice, mild taste.

Fava Bean and Feta Salad

2 cups fava beans, removed from pod but still in waxy shell.

2-3 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled

1 T lemon juice

4 t olive oil

1/8 tsp. Red pepper flakes

2 T parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Blanch fava beans—boil about three minutes and rinse with cold water. Then, you can pop them out of those darn waxy shells.

Combine the shelled beans with the rest of ingredients.

Hopefully, yours won't require more work at the table.

Super Salad

Just sharing another salad from the heat wave last week. I had seen a couple people talking about reduced balsamic vinegar, and I went down to make lunch with the thought that I was going to reduce some! I just wasn't sure what to do with it. As I looked around the kitchen, I came up with a delicious salad.

To reduce the vinegar, I put a 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar (Use four times what you want to end up with; I used 1/4 cup to get a tablespoon of reduction.) in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat. Once it boiled, I lowered the heat a bit. You'll start to smell the vinegar burning off, and the reduction will thicken. When it stuck to my spoon, I took it off the heat.

Then, I tossed a small handful of walnut halves in a frying pan over medium heat, tossing and paying attention so they'd toast but not burn (It takes three or four minutes).

Meanwhile, I filled a plate with spring mix. I sliced an apricot (a plum, nectarine, or even blackberries would work nicely too) and arranged it on the plate.

I drizzled about 2 tsp. walnut oil over the salad. Then I drizzled the reduction over it all, and enjoyed a light salad that was really rich in flavor.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Heat wave

So yesterday, we did eat dinner, though the only cooking was some fat-free refried beans from a can in the microwave Even with the central air on, turning on the stove or oven for anything seemed ridiculous. So, we had one of our favorite easy meals, a taco salad with fresh guacamole (avacado, minced red onion, a BIT of minced jalapeno, salt, and lime juice), Trader Joe's Double Roasted Salsa (yum!), lowfat cheddar, lowfat sour cream, and those refried beans, which are a tasty, healthy way to add protien to the meal. It waas quite satisfying, but not filling. So we were able to go out for ice cream! Unfortunately, the rain storm began on our way out, so we ducked into a convenience store for some Ben & Jerry's. Still yummy, but we were looking forward to finally trying Philly Flavors down the block. Soon enough.

Tonight, with the weather more bearable an dhaving seen Boursin cheese on sale, I created another simple, spring pasta meal.

Pasta with Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Boursin Cheese:

Put a medium pot of water on to boil. Once it's boiling, add six ounces of short whole wheat pasta (I used w.w. bowties).

Ater you put the water on, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan. Add eight ounces sliced button or crimini mushrooms and a pinch of salt.

Four minutes before the pasta is done, add one bunch of asparagus, well washed, trimmed, and cut in one inch pieces to the pot. Once the pasta is done, drain it all and add it to the mushrooms.

Crumble about 2 oz. Boursin cheese (I used shallot and chive, but any of the flavors would be nice) into the mix. Stir it all until the cheese is melted, and serve.

Oh, Mark Bittman

He has a very practical column today on the New York Times about reducing (not eliminating) meat in one's diet.


Friday, June 6, 2008

Quick summer pasta toss

It's so hot that I wanted to do a quick supper, so forgive me for not having the energy to take a picture! I adapted a Food Network recipe a couple of years ago, and hadn't made it again for too long. And broccolini was only $2/bunch at Sue's Produce (which I wish was next door to me instead of in Rittenhouse) yesterday, so I knew it was time! I just simplified it a bit, which is saying a lot, since it was already a one-pot, one-bowl dish.

Put a large pot of water on to boil.

Cut one bunch of broccolini into one-inch pieces, and slice about six radishes.

Slice a shallot or dice a small amount (a couple tablespoons) of red onion and toss in a large bowl.

Once the water's boiling, add 8-12 ounces of whole-wheat pasta (I used small shells) and a tablespoon of salt. Three minutes before the pasta is done, add the broccolini to the pot. 2 minutes later, add the radishes. One more minute, and you can drain it all together.

Mix a couple tablespoons of sherry vinegar, a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste with the onion or shallot in that large bowl. Add six ounces of crumbled feta, the pasta, and vegetables, and toss. Dinner's ready in about twenty minutes!

I know, i know, who cooks radishes? But they get sweet and stay crunchy, and it works.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Almost Vegan

How could I resist a book called Voluptuous Vegan? I bought it long ago, actually as a gift for Matt, and have never (!) cooked from it. This is not for lack of delicious-sounding recipes, but because they've seemed so complicated that they intimidated. It was time. As I looked through, there was one recipe for which I had almost all of the ingredients on hand. I made one dish out of a menu of four recipes. This book is divided into full menus, which would be a nice way to cook for a dinner party, but it was a little fussy for just me and Matt. I made the Millet-Sunflower Croquettes with Smoky Black Bean sauce. I added a salad and replaced the vegan “sour cream” with, well, sour cream, and the meal was very satisfying. So, yes, almost vegan. Now, as we enjoyed the meal (and we certainly did), it occurred to me that avocado could have nicely taken the place of the sour cream, leaving the meal vegan and avoiding the complexity of making a fake cream.

Here is the slightly adjusted recipe with notes as to where I think I could improve it next time:

Finely dice 2 onions (2 cups).

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot.
Add ½ tsp of salt and 2 Tbsp canola or olive oil.
Add ¾ cup millet and ¼ cup corn meal.

Meanwhile, place ½ cup of sunflower seeds in a pan over med-high heat and cook over medium-high heat, shaking the pan occasionally, until toasted.

Heat 1 Tbsp canola or olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook half of the onion until browned.

Preheat oven to 350F.

Stir the onions into the millet mixture. Cook until water is mostly absorbed. Turn off heat and allow to sit. Then stir in the sunflower seeds and 1 tsp dried thyme.
Using a scoop or 1/4-cup measuring cup, form the croquettes and place them on parchment-lined cookie sheet. I used the ¼ cup and it made nice patties. Just make sure to wet the cup or spray it with Pam once in a while so the mixture will release easily.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

Drain and rinse two 15-oz cans of black beans. Add to saucepan with ½ to 1 tsp of chipotle powder or chili powder (Go by taste) and 1 ½ cups water. Place lid on pot, slightly askew to allow some steam to escape. Cook for twenty minutes over medium heat.

Meanwhile, warm 1 Tbsp canola or olive oil over medium. Add 1 cup of the diced onion and 2 diced cloves garlic. Cook about ten minutes.

Stir onions into beans once they are cooked, then puree about half. I do this with an immersion blender, but you could also just remove half and puree in a blender or mash with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the juice of half a lime.

I served this with a salad of diced avocado, quartered cherry tomatoes, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper. It was delicious!

The plating you see below was also taken from the author's suggestion, which was great because the book does not have photos. Those few tortilla chips were great for picking up the bean sauce that got away.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Cream Scones

Over a year ago, my mother gave me her bread machine and several books of recipes to go with it. I quickly got over the bread machine (Sorry, Mom!) because I find that the texture of the breads is not great, and they tend to taste very similar. However, in one small move toward saving money on groceries, I do want to bake more. That's right, I'm baking bread! I haven't posted about the few loaves I've baked because they're experiments taken right from other blogs, but I will keep you updated.

I think a lot of the recipes I try will be from one book my mom included among the bread machine-specific books. A World of Breads by Dolores Casella was originally published in 1965, but this late edition was printed only 34 years ago! I like how it's laid out as well as the variety of recipes.

The first recipe I took from here was one for Cream Scones. They were rich and delicious, especially served with raspberry preserves and fresh whipped cream. I mixed a bit of sour cream into the cream to give it tang (a recommendation from Mark Bittman), and boy was this a breakfast! The recipe is below.

Preheat oven to 450F.

Grease baking sheet.

Sift together:

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons sugar

2 cups flour

Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut in:

½ cup butter

Blend in:

2 large eggs

½ cup cream (or evaporated milk)

At this point, I added ½ cup dried cranberries, and you could mix in any dried fruit, extract, or even candied ginger!

On lightly floured surface (the dough is sticky), knead the dough lightly and divide into two parts. Roll each half into a circle about ½ inch thick. Cut each of these circles into quarters. Place on baking sheet.

Bake about 15 to twenty minutes. They will become golden; it is pretty clear when they are done.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Those nagging vegetarians

I'm not one to preach (much) about meat vs. no meat, but last week was World Vegetarian Week, and I missed my chance! So I'm just going to share this. Take what you will. I just have to say that it's been almost a year and a half since I've eaten meat (ok, with a few bites here and there). And it's so easy! I have enjoyed cooking AND eating more in that time than I ever had before. And this sense of moral superiority is so much fun. Oh I slay me.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Picnic Time

Ryan and Christina visited this weekend, and we had a picnic in the Azalea Garden behind the Art Museum on Sunday. The weather was absolutely perfect. We put our blanket under a big tree and enjoyed an afternoon together in this spot that really makes me feel so lucky to live where we do. I think Matt has some pics of the park somewhere, so I will try to post them.

Anyway, the food. We had some veggies and dip, some watermelon and these tiny, early strawberries that Christina picked up at Headhouse Square:

The fruit was almost a tease--it tasted reminiscent of what watermelon and strawberries should taste like, but really just got us excited for real summer fruit!

Our main course was a pasta salad, and we shared some great Garlic-Chive Cheddar, also from the Farmer's Market. We also had a pitcher of sangria, which was delicious, but which I don't recommend as most of your fluids on a hot day. Matt and I, at least, were pretty wiped!

I took inspiration for the pasta salad from this Ellie Krieger recipe, but changed it up a bit. I had a nice white Rigatoni leftover from vodka sauce we made the night before (coming soon), and at the market I picked up an inexpensive bunch of pea shoots, which I hadn't had before. They were great! A leaf that felt and cooked like baby spinach, but tasted like snap peas. So, with that ultimate spring ingredient, I adjusted the recipe a bit.

Light Spring Pasta Salad

8 ounces rigatoni or other short pasta (whole wheat would be okay, but these flavors are delicate, and the chewy white pasta worked great)
1/2 cup walnut pieces or halves
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2-3 scallions, sliced, white parts onnly
1 1/2 cups chopped baby spinach leaves, or if you're lucky enough to find them, pea shoots and leaves!
1 tablespoon walnut oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
to taste

Boil Pasta. Place spinach or pea shoots on bottom of strainer, and strain the cooked pasta over the leaves to wilt them. Run under cold water to stop it all cooking and cool it down.

Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Toss well, and toss again before serving.

Simple and delicious! I think this would also improve in the fridge over several hours, or be good for a couple days' lunches.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Eat it!

I emailed this to a few of you already, but decided, why have a blog if not to post fun things like this? Thanks to Shapely Prose for finding [this video].

Monday, May 19, 2008


For a big dinner at my sister's house Saturday night, I simmered a bunch of chopped rhubarb with a little water (enough to get the cooking started) and a lot of sugar (coating the rhubarb). Once it was broken down, I poured it over vanilla ice cream and sprinkled a honey-sesame granola over it. I love this simple use of a seasonal fruit. The sourness was just enough to be tasty (except for Mollie, who found it too sour), and it was a hit. One friend pointed out that the taste was reminiscent of a sour applesauce, and it's a great description. A few of us tried it raw, because Mike used to nibble on it as a kid. Trust me, it's better cooked!

Anyway, I had one large stalk left, a half pound--just enough for this rhubarb coffeecake. This recipe is a great introduction to one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen. Deb writes beautifully about great recipes, and takes amazing photographs of them. I'm sure I'll be mentioning her blog plenty.

This cake was delicious. All the fruit, which went in raw and cooked down in the cake, kept it super-moist, and the sourness is perfect with a sweet batter and savory crumb. And all those crumbs thrilled the hubby, who has an affection for Entenmann's-style cakes. This was so easy to make, there's really no reason to buy the packaged one. I had all the ingredients on hand, and Deb suggests trying other fruits as well.

I have another coffeecake recipe I tried last summer with blueberries; I'll have to try it again soon for comparison's sake.

Is there anybody out there?

So, I no longer am working in the food industry. Since my last post in November, after a true false start, I got and quit a job at a cafe/caterer. Food is back to being a fun hobby instead of a stressful job, and I'm very excited. So, in order to occupy my potentially idle mind and get back to cooking and baking yummy things, I am going to try again with this blog. My plans are to post about one baking and one cooking attempt per week, with other things sprinkled in as well. Maybe I'll get to a point of original recipes, but mostly it will be trying things out from other blogs and recipe sites. Keep an eye out for rhubarb coffeecake.

Meanwhile, another spring dish. I cooked Fiddleheads for the first time last spring, and I was desperate to catch them in their short, early spring growing season this year. And thanks to the Fair Food Farmstand at the Reading Terminal Market, I did! So, a couple of weeks ago, I used them in a Maggie original recipe. I cooked scallions in a combination of (a lot of) butter and olive oil, then added the fiddleheads and cooked for seven or eight minutes, then added shiitake mushrooms. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and thyme, and served it all over fresh egg fettucine, also from RTM. It was a great combination of flavors and textures, and I highly recommend trying out these yummy, unusual vegetables next year. Here are some pictures: