Category Archives: Favorites

Two keepers for the Thanksgiving season

By now you know I took a holiday in the kitchen last week. But I did stumble upon two amazing recipes that will forever be stashed in my Thanksgiving file, along with all my various November issues of Bon Appetit, Food&Wine and Gourmet dating back to 1994.

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Mediterranean salad with pomegranate and prosciutto

The first: Mediterranean salad with pomegranate and prosciutto.  The recipe jumped out from Bon Appetit circa 2008 when I realized I had most of the ingredients on hand: arugula, mint (not yet frozen in the garden), a pomegranate (I buy them just because they’re pretty and remind me of my grandmother; she had a tree in her yard when I was little); and prosciutto.  The only questionable ingredient was fennel.  Time to dig through the snow and see if my fennel plant had been fertile enough to yield a bulb.  It wasn’t.

Luckily we stopped by Pike Place Market the next day during an outing to see the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. I picked up the remaining ingredients for our day-after-Thanksgiving dinner of  “Scampi fra diavolo” – a clever way of making shrimp both garlicky and spicy. The recipe was just a few pages away from the pomegranate salad recipe in the old Bon Appetit. Together, the two made a welcome departure from the previous day’s turkey feast.

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The chowder is amazing (this photo, not so much)

The second Thanksgiving keeper was another extracted from an old issue of Bon Appetit – 2007: Turkey Chowder with Wild Rice, Crimini and Pancetta. It actually took me a couple of days to get my act together on this one.  First, I had to strip the turkey carcass and precook the wild rice.  Then I made turkey stock in the pressure cooker (first time making stock in the PC – 30 minutes under pressure, done. Excellent!) And then finally assembled the chowder which was sinfully rich and chunky with carrots, celery, rice, mushrooms, turkey, corn.  Thumbs up all around.  Which is a good thing since I’ll be out tomorrow night and the guys will be enjoying round two!

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Filed under Favorites, Seafood

What’s on your cookbook shelf?

Many years ago in my newspapering days I interviewed a woman who researched cookbooks throughout history.  She had hundreds … and as many stories to share from Medieval Times to the current century.  A look at someone’s cookbook shelf does give you some inkling of how they eat, don’t you think?

I’m running out of room for cookbooks.  I wean a few every year or so but like most people, I have a handful of faithfuls that I turn to.  Here’s a look at those standbys – The Basics. Nothing very fancy but always rewarding. And that black binder at the bottom? It’s used more than all the rest — hundreds of clippings collected over the years.

How about you?  What are your favorites?

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Favorite Cookbooks I - The Basics

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Recycling menus on the meal plan

Now that we’ve passed the 12-week mark on my commitment to maintain a weekly meal-plan for a year, it’s inevitable that some meals would begin to reappear.

For Tuesday’s dinner I was eager to recycle one recipe in particular from Week One: Sausage and White Bean Casserole. The combination of cannellini beans and swiss chard, baked with Italian sausages to flavor the pot, is fabulous.  A time-saving stand-out from Real Simple’s easy recipe collection.

The guys “enjoyed” leftovers Wednesday while I headed to my monthly business dinner (creme brulee for dessert – my little secret now revealed).  I ignored the meal plan on Thursday and dove into the freezer instead for a Costco lasagna. I was ready to hit the kitchen again by Friday.

Salsa Couscous Chicken

For an easy end-of week meal I retrieved the recipe often known as “Million-Dollar Chicken” because a Seattle woman won just that amount for her grand-prize winner in the 1998 Pillsbury Bake-off. (I’m still puzzled why a couscous recipe qualifies for a contest sponsored by a company known for baking products.)  In any case Salsa Couscous Chicken is easy and kid-friendly.  Not a drop left on the boys’ plates.  It’s about time – I struck out with a few meals earlier this week :-/

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Relaxing weekend faves

Last weekend was nice and easy – hanging close to home after a busy vacation to regroup and yes, cook.  I retrieved two favorite recipes for a relaxed time in the kitchen.

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Corn muffins in the making

Greek Scampi with Orzo – I LOVE this recipe and it’s so easy. It’s my go-to recipe when I find wild domestic shrimp on sale at the market. Another great pick from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home. Fortunately a kind soul at Recipezaar has posted the recipe here.  Double the quantity, add orzo and steamed asparagus, and dinner for four is ready.  Yum!

Vegetarian chili with tofu* –  Fresh, healthy and again, a zip to prepare (especially if you have a mate gracious enough to help with the chopping.) My sons aren’t too thrilled about this one (“where’s the meat?”), but that comment cued my husband to launch into one of his favorite mini-lectures: “Beans, they’re the food of the future. Better get used to it.”  You can imagine the reaction of two growing boys who view hamburgers and pizza as diet staples. We start chatting about the value of eating lower on the food chain. Complex topic, and deep enough to stop the complaints about the “toad food” in the chili.

Ironically, we were watching the amazing Life series on Discovery during our chat. TV during dinner is a taboo in our house but on Sunday nights we sometimes make exceptions. Good timing on this one!

*The recipe is by Deborah Madison, a chef I’ve followed for years for anything vegetarian. This recipe originally appeared in Cooking Light magazine. With muffins made from Arrowhead Mills cornbread mix, a chili dinner was a nice way to ease into the new week.

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Shortcuts save dinner plans

Work demands kept me out of the kitchen this week — not such a bad thing, actually 😉 It was time to rely on shortcuts — fast recipes and favorite quasi-convenience foods.

Spinach salad with Kale-potato-sausage soup

Monday started out with a traditional long-cooking pot roast made quick in the pressure cooker. Next came one of my faves, a kale, potato and sausage soup starring Aidells sausage with roasted garlic and gruyere cheese.  The soup teamed up with a tasty and simple spinach salad recipe from PCC Natural Markets — a keeper for future meal plans.  Wednesday I left the guys with leftovers as I headed out to my monthly business dinner.  On Thursday Trader Joe’s save the day.  Here’s how it all played out:

Monday: Yankee pot roast; roast potatoes and turnips; steamed broccoli

Tuesday: Kale and potato soup with turkey sausage ; strawberry and spinach salad.

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Trader Joe’s carnitas and homemade flour tortillas; fresh guacamole; strawberry and spinach salad.

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Peppers Nicoise – old recipe, young fan

“Mom, I need this recipe!” Son #1 was snacking on the remains of a topping for Friday night’s dinner. Earlier he turned up his nose at the Swordfish Nicoise but admitted the fragrant topping of red peppers, onions, olives and citrus zest was tasty. Now he couldn’t get enough of the peppers, separated from the fish.

He agreed Peppers Nicoise should go on his Ten Recipes to Know list.”I’ll eat that on anything.” I agreed to put the recipe on the blog* because I couldn’t find it on the web — it appeared in Parade magazine in 1991. “Wow, you’re going to put something on your blog that isn’t on the internet?” my son asked.  Well, it is sometimes hard to imagine how we thrived before the Internet. And it’s hard to believe I forgot about Swordfish Nicoise, stuck in the pages of a grilling cookbook rarely used.

Finding this delicious and hard-to-find recipe from nearly 20 years ago was a nice surprise at the end of a tough week of work. Friday night’s dinner earns its place among my favorites:

Swordfish Nicoise*

Polenta with Parmesan cheese (the easy way in the microwave, thanks to a recipe from my friend Judi)

Spinach salad with mustard vinaigrette

*See Recipes page

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Celebrating with ribs and lemon

French-style yogurt cake with lemon

I was all ready to throw together an “instant” cake for son #1’s 14th birthday.  But then A Homemade Life is still sitting by my stove.  Molly loves to bake so I knew she’d offer a preferable alternative to a box mix.  Sure enough – French-style yogurt cake with lemon. I debated if I had enough time to make it or if several pieces of cut-up lemons in the fridge would provide sufficient juice. Son #1 overheard my out-loud thinking and jumped right in.  “Yeah, it will work,” holding up a quarter cup measure and eyeing the lemon segments.

Jon loves lemon anything.  Just like his mom. While zesting the lemons for the cake batter, I remembered that my son has me bested in this category. Suddenly I had a clear recollection of pushing Jon around in a stroller at an arts fair when he was 4 years old. After drinking the fresh lemonade, he sucked on the lemon rinds.  And then he wanted more rinds, not lemonade.

Molly’s cake did the trick. “This is really lemony,” he noted. No one missed the traditional frosting. I drizzled lemon syrup over the warm cake and then topped it with a lemon icing that’s more like a glaze.  Topped each slice with freshly whipped cream and added a few sliced strawberries. Divine. And even more dangerous than the evil banana bread.  I’m going cold turkey on white flour for the next week.

Oh, the ribs. The trusty pressure cooker came though again for BBQ country pork ribs with sweet and spicy sauce.  My husband declared, “This is it. This is the only way we should ever eat ribs again.” The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender after 25 minutes under pressure, then crisped by a quick run under the broiler. With coleslaw and a sliced baguette, dinner was done. A happy high calorie birthday dinner – just what a growing boy needs, right?

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Soup in a flash and evil banana bread

The pressure cooker earned its stripes tonight.

Three minutes of sauteing and five minutes under pressure rolled up to a rewarding soup.  It doesn’t sound too exciting, but the peasant cabbage and bean soup with kielbasa was delicious.  And healthy. Low fat turkey kielbasa, cabbage, cannellini beans teamed with diced tomatoes, thyme, onion, celery, garlic and chicken broth. It all came together in a flash.

The time-savings was especially appreciated tonight:  Son #1 headed out to a scout event and I was hosting a PTSA board meeting. This morning I decided to get a jump on the day and make a treat for the meeting while eating breakfast. I indulged in a  recipe I’ve been craving ever since listening to A Homemade LifeBanana bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger.

Banana bread with chocolate and crystallized ginger

The good news is the banana bread is absolutely as wonderful as it sounds.  The bad news is I work from a home office and that loaf was calling my name all morning. By lunchtime two slices were missing. Not a good trend. I wrapped up the rest of the bread but still managed to eat another half a slice during the evening meeting. This is why I rarely bake. I eat what I bake.

(If you decide to succumb to this evil treat, note the recipe on Molly’s blog has slightly different ingredients from the book version. At a glance I think the book version is probably better – more banana and butter and ginger, no walnuts.)

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Shrimp quesadillas, a kid favorite

On night two of the “while dad’s away” meal plan, I got a thumbs-up from Erik. “I love these things,” he explained as he asked for his third helping of shrimp quesadillas. I do too. They’re easy, tasty and one of the best ways to use those tiny pink shrimp we often see in the seafood cases here in the Pacific Northwest.

Oregon shrimpmeat looks like  cocktail shrimp. Elsewhere in the country I’ve tasted tiny pink shrimp scattered on top of a salad or blended into a stuffing for fish with no cause for celebration. But here in the Northwest, our tiny shrimp seem sweeter. Perhaps it’s because they’re fresh, harvested wild just off the coast. In any case, they deserve more attention.  My favorite fixings are to feature the shrimp in a delectable tomato-based topping for a favorite snapper recipe (I see this appearing on a meal plan soon), scramble them into eggs or fold them into fried rice.  And then there’s quesadillas.

Tonight’s dinner was super simple: flour tortillas stuffed with shredded cheddar cheese, shrimpmeat and sliced red bell pepper.  Served with salsa, avocado slices, sliced black olives and a dish of steamed corn. Ahhhhh.

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“D’eclairation” of love

Valentine’s Day brings up interesting memories of love and … chocolate!

Maybe it was my recent foray into Sheila Lukins’ cookbook that stirred up memories of France. Or it could have been the movie Julie & Julia. Whatever the cause, I had a clear recollection of me at age 13. The school language fair was coming up. As a French student, I had a part — dancing the can-can and making something French for a bake sale.  My best friend Laurie and I dreamed of cream puffs – les profiteroles. The delicate pastry, the custard filling, all drenched in chocolate.  I had a recipe, thanks to my latest issue of Seventeen magazine. We could hardly wait to get started.

Pastry puffs, drying

We labored for hours in the kitchen. First, the puffs. Beautiful tawny clouds.  I had never made such a thing. Then the custard (licking the spoon all along). and finally the chocolate sauce (we used every drop). My parents were away on a trip so my grandparents were staying with my brother and me. My grandfather kept an eye on all the activity in the kitchen.  He would stroll through occasionally. “Can I have one?” No . A quarter a piece.  “I’ll buy em.” No, they’re for the school fund-raiser.

We boxed them up, and headed off to the fair. Sometime after the can-can, I was manning the booth and the puffs started flying. One of our first customers? My grandfather.  There he was, grinning, buying a plateful to tote back home.

Custard helper extraordinaire

The Seventeen magazine article is long lost but this weekend I turned to Julia Child’s The Way to Cook to save the day.

This time my nearly 14 y.o. son showed up in the kitchen — to help.  I made the puffs, he handled the custard filling. For the chocolate sauce, we turned to Sheila Lukins and her All Around the World Cookbook for a simple blend of butter, chocolate and cream.

I think my grandfather would have liked these puffs. I wince now to think of it. Poor grandaddy. Made him trot up to the junior high because his granddaughter was too selfish to share. But years later I realize it was his sweet way of supporting me. He noticed, he showed up. It’s no wonder that man has always had a little bit of my heart, even now, 30 years since he passed away.

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