Category Archives: cooking

friday find: strawberry greyhound poptails

Oh, wow. Did you know that I love greyhounds? The drink, not the dog. Well, I love the dogs, too, just for right now I’m talking about the drink. If you’re not familiar with the tasty beverage, your basic greyhound consists of vodka and grapefruit juice, usually with a slice of lime. They are delicious and refreshing and not sickeningly sweet like most summery cocktails. So, take this delightful beverage, add some pureed strawberries (mmm) and freeze ’em to make – wait for it – POPtails. I KNOW.

 

Who’s in?

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kitchen fun: rustic tart

Last night, I got home right at 5:30pm and decided I was going to spend some time in the kitchen (since I had time to spend – Brian doesn’t usually get home until at least 7pm). What to make, what to make…

I got my weekly CSA box on Tuesday and it came with some beautiful mushrooms. I love mushrooms.

So, I set out to make a dish that had mushrooms as the star. And because my husband doesn’t think it counts as a meal if it doesn’t have meat, I decided to saute up a chicken breast, too.

The basic ingredients included chicken (as a stand-alone), mushrooms, spinach, onion, marsala wine, and goat cheese (added it semi-last-minute, so it’s not included in the above pic).

Oh and I also use these bad boys:

I used them to make a single pie crust. That I used to make a tart. And it was yuuuummy.

The tart had mushrooms, browned in marsala wine,

Caramelized onions,

and spinach (which I added spinach to the mushrooms so they could wilt a little).

Then I piled all those tasty goodies on my whole wheat pie crust and popped it in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

{see those butter pieces… yea, I use an all-butter crust recipe and it is delicious}

After 20 minutes at 350, I upped the temp to 400 and left the tart in for another 20 minutes until the cheese was starting to brown.

And I served that alongside simple chicken breast filets. It was delicious.

You can put whatever you want on top of pie crust to make a tart like this. Seriously, whatever. You are IN CHARGE. Do whatever you want. Just make sure whatever you add is in bite-sized pieces. Makes it easier to eat…

I hope you enjoy this little recipe – it’s nice to make something that feels a little special on a totally non-special night. Try it out!

Mushroom, Onion, Spinach and Goat Cheese Rustic Tart

Ingredients:

Crust
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick butter (unsalted), very, very cold and cut into cubes
ice water

Tart
2 cups mushrooms
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup marsala wine
1 onion, halved and sliced thinly
2 cups spinach
1 T butter
1/4 to 1/2 cup goat cheese (up to you!)

To make the crust, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl (larger than you think). Add the very, very cold butter cubes and blend in with a pastry cutter or forks until the butter is the size of small peas (yes, stop here, I promise it’s worth it!). Add in ice water slowly, a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes together. You’ll probably need 3/4 cup or so, but it’s better to add it in slowly. Once you can create a cohesive ball, put the ball in some plastic wrap and put it in the fridge while you prepare the tart ingredients.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add the olive oil to one pan and heat the pan to medium high. Add the mushroom and saute for about 5 minutes (until the mushrooms have softened a bit). Add in the marsala and simmer for about 15 minutes until mushrooms are very soft. Meanwhile, melt the butter in another pan and add the onions. Saute the onions until they are golden brown, about 15 minutes. I like to do both the mushrooms and onions at the same time because they take around the same time to finish up. Once the mushrooms are done, fold in the spinach. Cover mushrooms and spinach for 5 minutes so the spinach can wilt a bit.

Roll out the dough into a round-ish shape (it doesn’t have to be perfect, hence the “rustic” nature of this dish). Roll it to about 1/4 inch in thickness. Add the mushroom spinach mixture, then top with the onions and goat cheese. Fold over the edges. Put in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, rotate the pan and increase the temp to 400 degrees. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the crust is crispy and the cheese is starting to brown.

Cut into 6 pieces and enjoy!

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Christmas Baking

We are going to be spending Christmas with my parents this year and as has been the case since I was a little one (well old enough to wield a mixing spoon), I will be in charge of desserts. I thought I would share with you what I’m planning to make in case you are looking for some last-minute recipes!

My plan is to make cookies for the week and then a fancy dessert for Christmas dinner.

Cookies in my family are tough because Brian doesn’t really like chocolatey cookies, my mom doesn’t like super sweet confections and my dad always wants the cookies his mom made growing up. So I’ve decide to make three kids of cookies, so everyone can be happy (gosh, I’m so nice, aren’t I?).

Despite his lukewarm feelings towards chocolate, Brian loves these chocolate chip cookies.

 

They’re the ones whose dough I mention in my ‘about me’ list – I keep it in the fridge so I can make a few at a time (and occasionally eat for dinner). I follow the recipe to-the-tee. They are amazing. For real. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

For my mom, I’m making peanut butter cookies, with a little twist. I take a basic PB cookie recipe and right when I take them out of the oven, I stick a mini Reese’s cup in the middle. It’s like those peanut blossom things, but waaaay better. ‘Cause the Reese’s stays soft and sorta just melts in your mouth… mmm…

Source: joythebaker.com via Natalie on Pinterest

I use Joy the Baker’s Flourless PB Cookie recipe as a base, but I add some things to it to make it extra chewy. To her recipe, I add:

1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp flour (you can omit if you want to go gluten-free, but I think it makes the cookies super chewy)

I use a teaspoon to drop the cookies on a cookie sheet (they grow a lot, so I think it’s better to keep ’em small). Bake them for 8-10 minutes. While they’re baking, unwrap lots and lots of mini Reese’s cups (some will be for nibbling while you work). When the cookies done  baking, pull them out and smush a Reese’s cup in the middle of each one.

You can also do this in a mini muffin tin a la Iowa Girl Eats. I like the look of the drop cookies, myself, but they would be tasty either way!

My last cookie will be my grandmother’s Toffee Whites, which have nothing to do with toffee or anything white and I can’t tell you anything about them because the recipe is closely guarded. {For real, my aunt was only given it after she had been married to my uncle, my grandmother’s son, for 15 years.} Maybe I’ll share a pic with you once they’re made… maybe…

And for Christmas dinner, Nikki’s Bread Pudding. She doesn’t have the recipe up on her blog, but maybe if we bribe her she’ll share it with us. It is soooo good and includes a delish homemade caramel sauce… mmm…

I hope to share pictures of all my Christmas baking adventures next week, but in the meantime, what are you making for the holidays? Anything secret family recipes up your sleeve?

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rogue basil

This has happened to me two years in a row and I’m trying not to take it personally. I plant a cute little basil plant from Lowe’s in the early spring (remember when Brian built me this amazing raised bed?). It grows and gives me some beautiful basil leaves for a month or two. Then somewhere around mid-to-late-summer, despite adequate watering on my part (well at least this year), its leaves become small and yellowy. And crazy little white flowers sprout up all over it.

But! Then, a rogue basil plant sprouts up in this totally random spot (it’s been the same spot both years…) and flourishes.

It got even bigger by the end of the summer with absolutely no attention (I shunned it).

But as the weather turned colder and I realized I should take advantage of the random fertile patch by the air conditioning unit. What to do, what to do… Should I make pesto? I don’t really want or need that much  pesto… Was there a way to preserve this bounty without making pesto? What if I just pureed the basil with a little olive oil. Would that work? I decided it was worth a try. If I ended up with usable basil, great! If not, I was no worse off than I was at this point last year. So, I cut off all the branches from my rogue basil plant and brought them inside.

I picked off all the leaves and washed them.

Then I loaded them all into my trusty food processor and chopped them up.

Once I added a little bit of olive oil, I spooned it into a mini muffin tin (you could use a regular muffin tin, you’ll just end up with larger servings). Then I stuck it in the freezer and let it harden.

Once it was all frozen, I popped them out and put them in a freezer bag.  Now I use them just like I would fresh basil – did you see my most recent pasta sauce? I just pull my basil bag out of the freezer whenever a recipe calls for fresh basil. You can either let the little pod thaw, or pop it frozen right into a sauce.

I know this is a little late for immediate use, but something to keep in the back of your mind for future use. I’ve used several of my pods with much success.

Do you have any other suggestions about how to preserve summer’s harvest?

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I can garden, yes I can

Earlier this spring, my handy husband built me a big wooden box so I could try my hand at growing things. Well, I had tried to grow things before, but with only limited success (remember my sad, sad basil plant?). So, while he was busy building things in the garage, I went down to Lowe’s and talked to the smart people there about starting a small garden. Boy are they helpful. The Lowe’s man piled me up with a few bags of regular dirt, a bag of manure, a bag of lime, and a few bags of miracle grow garden soil. Oh, and some plants. I got home and got planting and only a few short weeks later I had this:

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What is growing here? Well, from left to right on the front row, we have parsley, lots of yellow onions (those are the tall skinny green things that are all over the garden box), strawberries, and basil. In the back row, left to right, we have rosemary, leeks, cilantro, mint, and lettuce. I planted four lettuce plants, but only one survived. Fortunately it is thriving! Brian is super excited about the mint (he actually was sad I only bought one mint plant) because he is eager to make homemade mojitos – yum!

I am super excited about the strawberries (Chambers is too – he checks them out whenever he happens to walk by).

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See his nose there? And do you see what he’s checking out?? Yes, it is our very own strawberry.

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And yes, I picked it soon after taking this picture and it was perfect.

I may actually have a greenish thumb after all (or at least I know how to take instruction well).

Have you planted anything recently? If so, how’s it going?

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Kitchen Fun: Clementine Quinoa

This recipe was inspire by one I found in the Sunset Magazine cookbook my mom got me for Christmas.  I say “inspired” because I didn’t have the exact ingredients it called for, but I think I like my version better than the one I would have made if I had what I was “supposed to” have.

The ingredients I used are: quinoa, chicken broth, clementines, dried berries, chives, and pine nuts. The actual recipe called for OJ and currants, I think… And in retrospect, you could really use just about any citrus fruit’s juice and any dried fruit and it’d probably be pretty tasty…

Anyway… first you chop up your chives and your dried fruit.

I think you could add a lot more chive to this recipe, it really adds a little something special and I didn’t think there was enough of it in the end. I used about 1/4 cup.

I had a mixture of dried berries lying around – I think this has cranberries, blueberries and cherries maybe? Use about 1/2 cup.

Next up, toast your pine nuts. Watch them like a hawk while you do this – they can burn in an instant (and that is not a fun smell at all).

Toasty perfection… I think the recipe called for 1/2 cup, but I only used 1/4 cup and thought it was a good amount.

Zest and juice your clementines – the zest has a really nice, but strong, flavor, so keep that in mind when deciding how much zest to add. I used about 1 cup of fluffy zest (does that make any sense?) and my final dish was very citrusy flavored, which was what I was hoping for.

Once you zest your clementines, juice them (make sure to do it in this order – way easier to zest a whole fruit then flimsy shell, I promise). You’ll need about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of juice (again depending on how citrusy you want your final dish to be).

Next, rinse and cook up your quinoa. You need to be sure to rinse the quinoa because when it comes out of the earth, it has this bitter coating on it that may linger around, even if it comes out of a box (like mine did). You don’t want bitter quinoa, yuck.

To cook the quinoa, you need a 3:1 liquid to grain ratio. So, you use 1 cup of quinoa to 3 cups of liquid (1 cup clementine juice, 2 cups chicken stock or water – I like stock because it gives the final dish more flavor). This will give you 3 cups of final product (A LOT!). Also, I added in my dried fruit when it was almost done so that they could soften up a bit.

You cook it covered and the quinoa absorbs all the liquid, so when it’s done it should look like this! Fluff it with a fork (so you don’t smush the little quinoas) and add it all the other ingredients.

Stir and serve! Yum!

I will definitely make this again – very tasty and a great change up to my normal dinner menu.

Do you like to add citrus flavor to dishes?

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Kitchen Fun: Thanksgiving Success = Staying Organized

Even though I am an organizational nut (remember how Staples is my favorite store?), I really do think that the easiest way to host a successful Thanksgiving meal is to have a well thought out plan in place. So, I thought I would share the super neato spreadsheets I created to make sure I knew what was next in the t-day game plan. If spreadsheets don’t do it for you, you might want to just wait for my next post… this one is for the nerds.

First, my checklist, which is really a time line of sorts:

I spent some time first deciding what I was going to make and then determining which of those things could be made or perhaps prepared ahead of time. This was nice because I was able to spread out the work over several days, which meant I could actually see my family while they were in town!

The other two spreadsheets I made had to do with shopping for the big day. First I made a comprehensive list of everything I was making and the ingredients each dish required.

Then I took all the information there and made one big shopping list that included everything I would need for the big day. I added a column for “store” so that I could note if I had items at home or wanted to get them from a particular place (for example, the only place I could find Challah was at the Fresh Market).

The final organizational idea I had was to make sure I had enough dishes to hold everything I was making. So, I pulled out all my serving dishes and labeled them with little post-its.

This ended up being super useful, because I found out I didn’t have anything for my stuffing! Thank goodness my mother-in-law could bring one down with her since they were driving… Not sure if you noticed in the above picture, but there are a few odd post-it notes (like on the candle) because my dad decided it would be really funny to relabel everything.

I, in my “I have way too many things going on right now” state, thought this was hilarious, obviously.

He also tried to rearrange my Welcome Pears to spell something… less welcoming… thankfully he couldn’t come up with anything.

So, that’s it! All my holiday organizing tips. Do you have any suggestions for ways to maintain your sanity (besides drinking heavily)? Would love to hear what you’ve done to make things run more smoothly…

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