Posted by: scootrah | July 23, 2014

Citrus Lovers’ Orange Rice Salad

I love summer. It brings back memories of childhood spent at my grandparents’ house on the beach and pool parties, scavenger hunts, miniature golf, croquet tournaments and big family parties filled with delicious food. I celebrate summer today with BBQs at my own house, marshmallow roasts on our patio, attending my nephew’s baseball tournaments, time spent with friends and the abundance of fresh produce available at the farmer’s market and the grocery store. But I also love summer because of YARD SALES! We can hardly be in the car for five minutes on a weekend outing without me yelling to Rolland “Pull over! There’s a SALE!” Beyond the crazy stuff I’m always looking for – vintage linens, mid century furniture, old paintings of people and/or dogs, vintage Barbie dolls – I love finding old church and hospital guild cookbooks or boxes and notebooks stuffed with handwritten recipes, or items ripped from magazines and newspapers and glued onto index cards. They’re entertaining – who would EAT this stuff?! – and every so often, I find something I want to try out.

If I had to choose a comfort food, it would be rice – yes I like brown rice, wild rice, pilaf and risotto, but give me a steaming bowl of white rice with some butter, salt and pepper, and I’m a very happy guy. So I’m constantly looking for new ways to eat my favorite food, and right now I’m on a salad kick. I’m also wanting to find something that require minimal cooking because it’s been unusually hot for a Seattle summer and the last thing I want to do is heat up my tiny, un-air conditioned house any more than it already is. When it gets this hot, I find I want to cool down with something citrus, so to combine rice with citrus is a home run for me.

This recipe was inspired by one of those recent yard sale cookbook finds – I streamlined it a bit and made a couple changes (a few too may canned vegetables in the original for my taste), and I love the result. The colors are so fresh and vibrant! Now I have to admit this is similar to a salad I made before with mint, oranges and rice, but it used a vinaigrette to dress that and the flavor profile is pretty different. I like the vintage taste of this with the mayo dressing. They’re both delicious and you should try the other one too and you can get that recipe HERE. But back to this rice salad…

You start with 2 cups of uncooked white rice – I use the juice and zest of a lime in this dish, so start with the juice of your lime in your measuring cup, then add water to make 4 cups, add a teaspoon of vegetable oil and cook for 15-20 minutes. You want to cool the rice after it’s done – if you’re using a metal pan to cook your rice in, remember that metal is a heat conductor, so it won’t cool quickly in the pan. Just spread it out on a plate – it shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to cool enough to use in the salad.

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There aren’t a lot of complicated steps to this dish – HOORAY! – so while the rice is cooling, get out two stalks of celery, three green onions and a large can of Mandarin oranges. I like to use no sugar added because Rolland is diabetic and the sugar in the oranges along with the carbs of the rice is plenty for him, but if you prefer to use oranges in syrup, that’s fine. Drain the oranges really well….

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…chop the celery and onions – I like to split the stalk of extra-wide celery and then cut it. When you’re done cutting it up, toss the vegetables into a large bowl with the oranges…

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…next you’ll add the cooled rice to the bowl and stir gently to combine. Don’t worry, the oranges are going to start breaking apart as you mix it up. That means you’re going to get that delicious orangey taste throughout the salad rather than in just big bites of orange segments…

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…now add 1/2 cup mayonnaise, the lime zest, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and stir everything to combine. You should let this chill at least an hour, but if you’re like me, you’ll already be sampling it before it gets to the fridge…

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…just before serving, put the rice in a favorite serving dish and garnish with a little of the green part from the onion – beautiful and DELICIOUS!

ORANGE RICE SALAD

  • 2 cups uncooked white rice
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • zest and juice of one lime
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 15 oz. can Mandarin oranges
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Put the two cups rice into a saucepan – put the juice of the lime into a large measuring cup then add water to make 4 cups. Cook 15-20 minutes until tender. Pour onto a plate to cool for about 30 minutes.
  2. Drain the Mandarin oranges well while you chop the celery and green onions, then them all into a large bowl.
  3. Add the cooled rice and mix it all together gently.
  4. Add the mayonnaise, lime zest, salt and pepper and mix them gently into the salad ingredients.
  5. Chill for at least an hour.
  6. Before serving, adjust seasoning, transfer to a serving dish and garnish with green onion of desired.

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Posted by: scootrah | July 4, 2014

Strawberry Cupcake Cones

Yesterday I had a phone call from my niece Nicole, about a cupcake idea for the 4th of July. “What do you think about Red Velvet cupcakes, uncle? Are they too heavy for summer?” I don’t think you can go wrong with cupcakes at a picnic or summer party, and told her Red Velvet was a great choice for the patriotic decorating ideas we’d discussed. And as for me, I told her I already had a plan in mind too, fresh strawberry cupcakes!

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These local berries at the farmer’s market were begging to go home with me!

I’d been planning on trying out a couple of different recipes earlier in the week, but we had what we consider a “heat wave” here in Seattle with a high of 94° , which I know to some of you sounds like summer, but around here we don’t usually get it and nobody has air conditioning, so there’s a lot of uncomfortable people around. And my little 1940s house seems to hold heat in during the summer (but NOT during the winter!) like an oven, so with the inside temp of the house about 85°, the last thing I wanted to do was turn the oven on and BAKE! Fortunately it had cooled down enough by yesterday to get my project underway.

All along I knew I wanted to put these into ice cream cones. My mom, who was never that interested in baking, used to do this when we were kids for our birthdays and parties at school. It’s fun and you don’t have to worry about what you’re going to do with the wrapper, you just get to concentrate on the cake! This makes them a no-brainer to include for picnics or outdoor parties, and everyone gets excited at the fun way to eat them. The easiest way to do them is to set the batter-filled cones into a muffin tin that you set on a cookie sheet. There seems to be less jostling around with the potential that the cones will tip over while you’re getting them in the oven. You also want to test the cakes for doneness as they take just a bit longer than a usual cupcake takes to bake.

Cones are filled with batter and oven ready!

Cones are filled with batter and oven ready!

As for using strawberries, that decision was twofold – I’d found a beautiful basket of super plump, super ripe local berries at the farmer’s market that were screaming “take me home and eat me!”, and I stumbled on a recipe using fresh berries that was very simple. A lot of recipes I’d looked at online for inspiration used strawberry jam, which just wasn’t the idea I had in mind. The recipe I used for this was on Sally’s Baking Addiction, which you should totally check out because she has some great stuff. The only thing I did different was to sift my dry ingredients together and I used a whisk on the wet ingredients to make sure the yogurt was well incorporated. But I don’t recommend a whisk for incorporating the dry ingredients into the wet – if you’re overzealous with the whisk, you can incorporate too much air into the batter which could result in a drier, “holey” baked product.

I love the way the batter is marbled and the plump chunks of strawberry show through - YUM

I love the way the batter is marbled and the plump chunks of strawberry show through – YUM

Keep it simple and use your favorite vanilla or white frosting recipe to top them off with. Sally includes a topping of fresh strawberry whipped cream that I’ll try another time, but wouldn’t hold to the heat of a summer day.

Happy 4th of July!

Let's celebrate and EAT!

Let’s celebrate and EAT!

Strawberry Cupcake Cones

  • 12 flat-bottomed ice cream cones
  • 4-5 large strawberries, or enough to make 1/3 cup puree
  • 1 and 2/3 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup strawberry yogurt (Greek or regular yogurt)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place the cones in a muffin tin on a cookie sheet and set aside.
  2. Slice strawberries and place in a food processor or blender. Pulse until strawberries are a chunky puree. If your strawberries are very ripe like mine were, you can simply mash them with a fork.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in the microwave. Stir in sugar – mixture will be gritty.
  5. Whisk in egg, yogurt, milk, and vanilla extract until combined.
  6. Slowly mix dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no lumps remain. Fold in the strawberry puree. Batter will be thick.
  7. Divide batter among the 12 cones and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Look at these gorgeous Red Velvet cupcakes my talented niece Nicole created for her 4th of July party!

Look at these gorgeous Red Velvet cupcakes my talented niece Nicole created for her 4th of July party!

 

Posted by: scootrah | June 30, 2014

Red, White and BLEU Salad

I love making different salads for potlucks and parties because they can feed a lot of people and it’s a great way to use up smaller bits of stuff in the pantry and refrigerator. The ones that turn out best I always post on my blog and include a citrusy rice salad, a roasted corn and tomatillo salad, a diabetic-friendly “faux-tato” salad, a super fast cole slaw, my favorite pea and almond salad with curry dressing and a parsley pesto pasta salad. So with the 4th of July a few days ahead and the chance that we were going to have some glorious BBQ weather (remember – I’m in Seattle and our summer doesn’t start until August!), it was time to come up with something new.IMG_6876

It seems that everyone jumps onto the “red, white and blue” theme for holiday food, and I had every intention of joining in. The thing was, I didn’t want to just fall back on the standard blueberries, raspberries and strawberries thing. But it’s a challenge because how many BLUE foods are really out there? I was thinking blue corn tortilla chips, blue potatoes and then I kind of hit the wall until I realized I didn’t need to be so literal with the color, but go with the name! And the first thing to hit my brain was bleu cheese – as a creamy dressing I could get the “blue” and the “white” covered – the ball was rolling! Add some red leaf lettuce, tomatoes and red onion and all the “red” was covered too.

The dressing I came up with is kind of a ranch style with bleu cheese in it. You can add the bacon to the dressing if you like, but of course you can leave it out for your vegetarian eaters and serve the bacon as a condiment to crumble on individual salad portions.

When it comes to tomatoes in salad, I prefer putting in cherry or grape tomatoes – it’s a visual thing because it seems to me there is more intense color spread through the salad. But one thing that’s not fun is standing and cutting all those tiny tomatoes one-at-a-time. So to save you the time and hassle and hopefully influence you to start adding them into your salads as well, I’ve got a super easy way to cut a bunch of them at once. And it’s a trick that works for grapes, olives and pitted cherries too – click HERE to see it and become a believer!

One of the things I love about bleu cheese is how well it goes with grilled meats, especially hamburgers, which tend to be the standout at a summer BBQ, and you could even top your burger with this salad if you like. Bleu cheese is great with pork as well, and would be great to accompany grilled pork chops or tenderloin, and I’m already thinking I’m going to make it to go with my next batch of “Picnic Chicken” – oops – I haven’t gotten you that recipe yet, but trust me it’s delicious and you’re going to love it, so stay tuned!

Have a fun, safe and delicious 4th of July!

Red, White and Bleu Salad

  • One head red leaf lettuce – washed, dried and torn into bite size pieces
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced into thin rings and separated
  • 2 or 3 slices bacon, cooked crips and crumbled (use in the dressing if you prefer)

Dressing

  • 1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (Greek yogurt will give it lots of tang if you like that)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup bleu cheese crumbles
  • 1 small clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tblsp fresh chives, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • scant 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Combine the dressing ingredients, mix well and refrigerate at least an hour – if you can make it a day ahead the flavors will blend together really well and you’ll love it even more!

Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine.

Just before serving, add the dressing and toss well – one more hint: when you add dressing to a salad, pour it around the outside edge of the salad in the bowl, NOT in the center. The ingredients will get more contact with the dressing and be more evenly distributed when you do this – trust me! (And don’t look at the way I did it in the picture!)

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Posted by: scootrah | June 23, 2014

Grilled Chorizo and Lentil Soup

My friend LeAnn recently dropped by with a basket full of organic and sustainably raised meats, cheeses and snacks – items I’d not normally buy myself, but was thrilled to get the chance to try out. One of my favorites was a package of heritage pork chorizo sausages. If you’re not familiar with the term “heritage” as it’s associated with meat, it refers to traditional livestock breeds that were raised by farmers in the past, before the drastic reduction of breed variety caused by the rise of industrial agriculture.  Did you know that 190 breeds of farm animals have gone extinct worldwide in the past 15 years,and there are currently 1,500 others at risk of becoming extinct? In the past five years alone, 60 breeds of cattle, goats, pigs, horses and poultry have become extinct! So along with helping save livestock breeds, heritage meats are generally raised in more humane conditions that include terms like farm-raised or free-range, which results in a better life for the animals, and ultimately a better food supply. Anyway…

So it also happens that I’m crazy about chorizo – I love it scrambled with eggs and I think it makes a great filling in burritos. These sausages were screaming at me that they wanted to be grilled. Now I could have just grilled them and eaten them with a little salsa, but I thought they needed to be paired with something else. Not just as the protein part of a meal, but combined with something to create a delicious Mexican-inspired synergy. And for some reason the thing that popped into my head was soup. And it had to be lentil soup.IMG_6414

We’re really at the chilled rather than hot soup season, but I wanted a hearty hot soup that I could “cool down” with some toppings or garnishes – and of course as I write this from Seattle, it’s 53° and raining in the middle of June, so hot soup works just fine! Unlike a bean soup that requires lots of pre-planning to soak the beans, dried lentils cook up in 20-30 minutes, which means dinner can be ready in a flash even if you have no idea what you’re going to cook when you walk in the door from work. I grilled the sausages after I got the soup simmering and they were perfectly done and ready to add when the soup was finished.

I also wanted to make this soup easy by using ingredients you and I would probably have on hand in the pantry – no extra trip to the store! As you know my “secret ingredient” in a lot of my cooking is Tapatio – just a few drops add a wonderful base to so many things – it seems to “round out” the flavor and give it a nice base without adding spicy heat like Tabasco or Louisiana-style hot sauces do. A bottle is about $1.50 (but I usually get mine for a buck at the Dollar Store) and it’s an inexpensive investment for you to experiment in the kitchen with.

And as for serving a hot soup on a hot day, just before serving cool it down by stirring in or garnishing the souplots of chopped fresh cilantro, chopped green onion, fresh avocado, sour cream or creme fraiche and a squeeze of lime – they are all great to beat the heat and they’ll add another dimension to the soup. You’ll probably end up wanting a 2nd bowl!

Grilled Chorizo and Lentil Soup

  • 1 lb. chorizo sausage links
  • 1 lb. dried lentils
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 5 or 6 drops of Tapatio hot sauce, or to your taste

For garnish:

  • Chopped cilantro
  • Chopped green onion
  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges
  1. Heat a grill to medium.
  2. Combine lentils and all ingredients but chroizo in a stock pot or Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Stir and reduce to a simmer.
  3. Grill the chorizo sausages 15 -20 minutes until cooked through and remove to a plate to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. When the lentils are tender, slice the chorizo into coins and add to the lentils. Adjust seasoning.
  5. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime – add remaining garnishes of your choice.

 

 

Posted by: scootrah | June 17, 2014

PB and Bacon Sandwich “a la Josh”

Although I can say I’ve been a fan of bacon for as long as I can remember, I’m still kind of new to the “bacon with everything else” food trend of the last few years. I’ve had a number of delicious maple and bacon things recently like caramels, donuts and waffles, as well as a couple of flops – most notably a maple/bacon bundt cake I tried to create earlier this year as part of “Bundt Fest”. But even with less-than-great bacon, it’s still BACON, so it wasn’t all bad – you know what I mean?

Life's better with BACON!

Life’s better with BACON!

In spite of my bacon experimenting, I hadn’t yet jumped onto the peanut butter and bacon concept until I read a post on Facebook from my friend Josh. His post went something like this: Over the years sandwiches have been a favorite food of mine and I have dabbled in things which I dare not discuss in public forums. Some were epic masterpieces of cheesy deliciousness and some were horrific failures beyond anything I could have imagined. Today I brought back an old favorite – bacon and peanut butter on un-toasted sourdough – don’t judge. Instead of just leaving delicious things as they lay, my fat kid brain kicked in and said to me, “Fry that bitch in some bacon grease!” And so Josh got me wondering, “Am I finally ready to embrace this new and mysterious world of bacon and PB?” And the answer was, YES!

So first I got some great, thick cut bacon and fried it crispy. This is an important step because limp, greasy bacon with the slight greasiness of peanut butter would be gross (do you like the way I’m building up a case in favor of this concoction?). Then I poured out the bacon grease and wiped the pan clean of any dark crumblets. I used a pastry brush to lightly coat two slices of sourdough bread with the bacon grease and returned them to the pan to toast. I added creamy peanut butter and the bacon slices, then tasted my sample. There was something lacking.

Remembering a sandwich staple from my own childhood – PB & lettuce – I thought that might be the perfect addition I needed. AND it made me feel a little less guilty about all that bacon since I was adding vegetables to the sandwich. I didn’t have any lettuce on hand, but I did have arugula, and eureka – it was a taste sensation! The arugula added crunchiness, a nice peppery bite (which you could probably get with pepper bacon), and with my good-for-you wellness slant on this, the healthy vegetable part of the meal. I have to agree with Josh that sourdough is the right bread for this – sturdy enough to hold up to toasting but not enough distinct flavor to compete with the PB and bacon.

I’ve decided this sandwich will be getting a revival very soon, and the second try will have me using regular lettuce, probably romaine, in place of the arugula. And now that I’ve dipped my toe into the waters of PB & bacon, I think the addition of bananas won’t be far behind. Yes, the spirit of Elvis is alive and well in my kitchen.

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Start with some good, thick bacon and fry it up nice and crisp…

...wipe out the pan, then brush your bread with a little bacon grease and return to the pan to toast...

…wipe out the pan, then brush your bread with a little bacon grease and return to the pan to toast…

...spread peanut butter on each slice of bread in the pan...

…spread peanut butter on each slice of bread in the pan…

...add your bacon...

…add your bacon…

...then some fresh arugula (or lettuce or maybe bananas?)...

…then some fresh arugula (or lettuce or maybe bananas?)…

...and you're ready to enjoy a PB & Bacon "a la Josh" sandwich!

…and you’re ready to enjoy a PB & Bacon “a la Josh” sandwich!

 

 

 

 

Posted by: scootrah | June 9, 2014

Exactly what IS Sawdust Pie?

Texas wildflowers were in bloom everywhere we went

Texas wildflowers were in bloom everywhere we went

My friend EJ and I were recently in southeast Texas for “Texas Antiques Week”, which is the largest antiques and collectible event in the US. The weather was beautiful, the hills were green and loaded with bluebells, and in between shopping for cool junk I didn’t need, I found lots of reasons to look for and sample some great Texas food!

While at a shopping stop in Brenham, TX, we wandered into the Must Be Heaven Sandwich Shoppe, which I found out later is kinda famous in the area. There was an od-fashioned soda fountain serving Brenham-made Blue Bell ice cream, and counters and display cases brimming with pastries, donuts, sandwiches and PIES. Pies like you can only imagine exist in the pie shop of your dreams! And there in the middle of them all, was SAWDUST PIE. Well with a name like that…

Who knew "sawdust" was so delicious?

Who knew “sawdust” was so delicious?

So why is it called that and what’s in it? First off, it’s not actually made of sawdust, it’s just supposed to look like sawdust (although way back in the 1800s Mrs. Beeton had a recipe for making sugar from sawdust°). As for the ingredients, it’s got sugar, coconut, pecans, graham cracker crumbs and egg whites, then once it’s baked you top it with bananas and whipped cream. And it’s GOOD. But like certain pecan pie recipes or sweet tea, it’s definitely got that ultra-sweet southern thing going on and without restraint can easily put you in a sugar coma. But then again if you want to be in a sugar coma, it’s probably just right.

So when I got home I wanted to make this pie to take to a family lunch, and thanks to the internet, there the recipe was from the EXACT restaurant. I took it to our event and it was a hit, but it was way too sweet. With the exception of my niece Amanda (who ate three whole pieces and declared it “the best pie she’d ever eaten”), most of us had half of a regular slice and were sweet tooth-satisfied. I decided this recipe was going to need a bit of adjusting.

Just a few ingredients, and you probably have them on hand!

Just a few ingredients, and you probably have them on hand!

Figuring the sugar overload was a result of using sweetened coconut and the additional sugar in the recipe, I used unsweetened coconut and got a much lighter result. But I kinda thought it wasn’t sweet enough now, so one more version using 1 cup sweetened coconut and 1/2 cup unsweetened was more to the sweetness level I wanted. And not being able to let it go until it was “perfect” (does anyone else have this problem?), a final version with 1 1/4 cups sweetened coconut and 1/4 cup unsweetened seemed just right (and yes, obsessive). I also added a bit of salt and cinnamon to round out the sweet, and the recipe was ready for the blog!

Of course, you may want to adjust the sweetness according to your own taste. But one of the simple ways to do that is whether you top it with sweetened or unsweetened whipping cream. I prefer barely sweet, but if you use a frozen whipped topping product – you know what I mean and yes, it’s OK – you’re going to get a lot more sweet. Must Be Heaven displays and serves the pie covered with sliced banana and smothered in whipped cream, but I think it’s easier to add those after you slice it – the toppings aren’t falling off and the slices look prettier too. Give it a shot and see what you think. It really is an easy pie even if you aren’t a pie baker, and it’s OK to use a store-bought crust if you don’t think you can make your own! And you’ll probably want a cup of coffee to go along with it – black coffee with no sugar added…

Fresh from the oven and ready to be topped with bananas and whipped cream

Fresh from the oven and ready to be topped with bananas and whipped cream

SAWDUST PIE

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup sweetened coconut
  • 7 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch or two of cinnamon
  • sliced bananas
  • whipped cream
  • caramel sauce (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to combine.
  3. Pour ingredients into an unbaked pie shell and smooth the top.
  4. Bake on the top oven rack for 30-40 minutes. The edge should be barely brown and filling may still be a little “wet” – the pie will set up as it cools.
  5. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes, and serve slightly warm or at room temperature topped with sliced bananas a mountain of whipped cream and a drizzle of caramel sauce.
My niece, Amanda, working on her 3rd slice of pie and a MAJOR sugar buzz

My niece, Amanda, working on her 3rd slice of pie and a MAJOR sugar buzz

*Mrs. Beeton is amazing! An English Victorian woman who is truly the first domestic doyenne of cooking and household management, she is the UK equivalent of Martha Stewart, except she’s way cooler. I’m reading an interesting biography about her right now so I had to mention her, AND I’ll be writing some more about her soon – look her up!

Posted by: scootrah | May 19, 2014

Roasted asparagus and mushrooms with rosemary

Asparagus is one of those vegetables I didn’t like until I was an adult. Growing up in eastern Washington there was always a lot of fresh, local asparagus in the spring, but the general idea of cooking it at the time was that it was boiled for 20 minutes until it was a greeny-gray, mushy, stringy thing with not much life left to it and a horrible flavor. Maybe that’s why there were always ladles of gloppy hollandaise sauce being poured over it to disguise the unappetizing taste. Fortunately somebody figured out it looked AND tasted better with less cooking that kept flavor, nutrients and bright green color alive.

Fresh, fast and delicious!

Fresh, fast and delicious!

This is the season for asparagus and it’s plentiful at farmer’s markets and in the grocery store, and this quick side dish for lunch or dinner will please a lot of palettes. A wonderful side dish for a lot of different meats, my current favorites to serve it with are pan-seared pork chops or pan-roasted chicken. The fact that it’s vegetarian/vegan friendly makes it great for a gathering with different dietary restrictions to accommodate, and the recipe can be easily increased. Actually, this is one of those things I don’t really even consider to be a recipe because the amounts of the ingredients are so easily adjusted to your tastes. But here’s the basic way to create it and you can play around with it until you get the version down that you like.

Roasted asparagus and mushrooms with rosemary

  • 1.5 lbs asparagus – washed, dried and ends trimmed
  • .5 lbs white or Crimini mushrooms – cleaned and quartered
  • 2 Tblsp olive oil
  • 2 Tblsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • 2-3 Tblsp shredded parmesan cheese (omit for vegan option)
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the asparagus, mushrooms, olive oil, and rosemary together. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring once, until asparagus is done and mushrooms have softened and browned slightly.
  4. Stir again and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and garnish with a little additional rosemary if desired before serving.

Serves 4-6

Posted by: scootrah | April 15, 2014

Farmer’s Market Spring Produce Creation

I usually don’t have the opportunity to visit our neighborhood farmer’s market on Sundays because I’m working, but this past weekend was a welcome exception. Not only did I have a free day, but it was one of those beautiful Seattle spring days that get us outside for a dose of Vitamin D before the rain comes again, and tricks unsuspecting visitors into thinking it’s always gorgeous here and why do people talk about it raining so much? Pulling Rolland off the couch with the promise of coffee and a pastry or two, we grabbed our shopping bags and headed out.IMG_6330

The market was full of fresh flower vendors, vegetable starts,locally-grown meats, eggs, produce, and a number of local cheese-mongers. I was immediately drawn to several tables full of fresh, first-cut asparagus. It’s so sweet and delicious, it hooked me in right away and I grabbed two bunches(did you know asparagus spears can grow as much as 10 inches a day this time of year?!). But I wanted to “do something” with it other than just steaming it, and suddenly I’d bought a couple pounds of German Butterball potatoes. The gorgeous yellow-skinned tubers have equally beautiful yellow flesh and I thought they’d look lovely with the asparagus. They’re more waxy than mealy and are great roasted. One more stop for some fresh goat cheese and I was set – the creaminess of the cheese with its tart flavor was the perfect addition to my produce.

This dish is so simple and would be perfect for your Passover or Easter table as a side dish with brisket, lamb or ham. It’s vegetarian-friendly, and would make a nice lunch dish alongside a salad of new spring lettuces, pea shoots and radishes dressed with a light vinaigrette. I think I’m going to need to hit the market again next week!

aspar

Spring Asparagus and Potatoes with Goat Cheese

  • 1/2 – 3/4 pounds fresh asparagus
  • 1.5 punds German Butterball potatoes (or other potatoes suitable for roasting)
  • 3 oz. fresh goat cheese
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • 2 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°

Wash the potatoes and cut into chunks. Toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and spread on a sheet pan, then place in oven for about 30 minutes. Stir them a couple times while roasting to help even browning.

Trim the ends from the asparagus and cut into 1.5″ pieces. Blanche them in a pot of boiling, salted water for about 2 minutes, then drop in an ice bath or run under cold water to stop them from cooking – you want to keep that gorgeous, bright green color and they get way too soft if you don’t cool them down.

When the potatoes are done, toss them with the asparagus and lemon zest, then season with salt and pepper if needed. Spoon the vegetables into a serving dish or on a serving plate, then dot with goat cheese. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of lemon juice over all and garnish with the chopped parsley.

Posted by: scootrah | March 31, 2014

The Bacon Bowl – Money well spent?

Have you seen the commercial for the “Perfect Bacon Bowl”? The one that promises to turn already-delicious bacon into an even more mouth-watering treat as an edible serving dish? I had chuckled over the ad several times when my brother mentioned how awesome he thought it looked and was thinking about getting one. Eureka! With his grand 50th birthday just a couple weeks away, I picked up the phone and had not one, but TWO sets of the incredible device on its way to my house for just $10!

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The correct “wrap” of the bacon according to the handy instructions and recipe guide

I have to admit that the birthday gift was an excuse to try it for myself, and with that 2nd set I got for “FREE”, I did just that the moment the box arrived. The ad told me I’d “Never have a boring meal again!” and I could hardly wait the 30 minutes it took for that oven-baked goodness to save me from the lack-luster meals I thought I’d been enjoying up until now. I had to wait an additional 10 minutes or so for the bacon to cool enough to pull off the form – my mouth watering so much now I could hardly stand it – and then….yuck. A disappointing, undercooked wad of bacon so stuck to the bowl form that by the time I wrenched it free it was only suitable for bacon bits, not to hold the serving of mac and cheese I’d planned to enjoy from it.

Undaunted, I decided to try again. I thought maybe it stuck to the form because it was new and needed to be greased first (although logically, bacon should have enough grease in it), so I gave it a good non-stick spray and tried it again. Dud number 2. And now I was finding it difficult to clean its “easy-to-clean” surface. The design of the thing has these grooves to drain the grease that the bacon just seemed to cook into, and required a nylon bristle brush to clean out. Maybe its dishwasher-safe material is really intended to be cleaned in the dishwasher for best results, but since I don’t have one, I was stuck getting it clean with elbow grease.

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Another failure – a stuck-on mess that created bacon bits by the time it was removed rather than a bowl you could put stuff in

Third try – maybe the way I laid the bacon on (according to the instructions) in criss-cross strips then wrapping strips around the bowl, didn’t really work. So I tried my own pattern by wrapping the bowl and placing the strips in a cross over the top. Failure – still not crisp and hard to remove. Maybe the problem I was having was using thick cut bacon and I needed to use the cheap, thin stuff to get it crisp? Fourth try and fourth fail.

I hadn’t really planned on spending AN ENTIRE AFTERNOON COOKING BACON for one lousy bowl, but that was how it was shaping up. I headed to the store for the cheapo bacon and another round. Of course, I couldn’t let all the failed attempts go to waste, and was rapidly approaching bacon overload, but I’m not a quitter! So I scrubbed down the bowl and started my 5th attempt.

Visions of a crispy, bacon serving dish were starting to disappear....

Visions of a crispy, delicious-tasting bacon serving dish were starting to disappear….

The super annoying thing about this was that even with the thin bacon, the bacon bowl still wasn’t crisp enough to hold its shape after it cooled down. So as a last resort, I decided to zap it. The instructions do say a variety of stunning dishes can be created in the oven OR microwave, but I’m not a fan of radiated bacon – I just think it’s too messy in the microwave and it hardens rather than crisps. But I was determined to enjoy a new era of culinary delights with my bacon bowls, and started zapping in 15 second increments. After about a minute, it seemed crisp enough and was bowl-shaped enough to hold a delicious filling – but what? I’d already eaten the mac and cheese hours ago!

Opening the fridge door, the light shown directly on the huge bowl of my mom’s killer potato salad she’d delivered the day before (I LOVE my mom!), and I knew the marriage of it with bacon was just moments away – and what a union it was! The bowl worked a bit like a nacho hat as I broke off crispy pieces of porky goodness to mix in with the creamy potato salad – genius if I say so myself.

Finally - SUCCESS! My mom's KILLER potato salad tucked into a scrumptious bacon bowl - heaven!

Finally – SUCCESS! My mom’s KILLER potato salad tucked into a scrumptious bacon bowl – heaven!

But back to the Perfect Bacon Bowl itself – I don’t think I really needed the bowl to enjoy the bacon and potato salad together, or bacon and mac and cheese, or bacon and chili, or bacon and…..and the amount of time and effort it takes to make the darn thing combined with the lousy cleaning just don’t add up for me. And really, how long would it take me to make enough bacon bowls for my guests and me to enjoy? They hold a cup of something at the very most, and if I have a party of six over with each person eating two bacon bowls and me eating several bacon bowls as I make the bacon bowls, how economic is it financially and time-wise? I can just make LOTS of bacon – the good, thick-cut bacon – for everyone to enjoy in a fraction of the time with less clean up!

So there you have it. While the mouth-watering TV ad promises to create “a whole new way to munch,” I would say “You don’t need this!” You’ll use it a couple of times, hate cleaning it, then toss it into your next thrift store donation bag. Say “YES” to bacon all day long, and “NO” to the Perfect Bacon Bowl – oh yeah, and it makes mini bread bowls too. I’m not even going there…

The Perfect Bacon Bowl – Grade: D+ (that’s D for DUD)

 

 

Posted by: scootrah | March 20, 2014

Life’s Better with Bundt! “Bundt-Fest” 2014

What is it about a Bundt cake that makes people happy? You just say the word “Bundt” and people start smiling or laughing. Part of Bundt’s beauty is that it isn’t a particular recipe, but the characteristic shape – a fluted pan with a chimney in the middle. Originally developed by Nordic Ware around 1950 at the request of members of the Minneapolis Jewish-American Hadassah Society, sales of the novelty pan limped along until 1966, when the classic “Tunnel of Fudge” Bundt won 2nd place at the Pillsbury Bake-Off Contest. Pillsbury had hundreds of thousands of requests for the pan, and sales of it soon eclipsed the tin Jello mold as the most popular pan sold in the United States.

A Bevy of Bodacious Bundts

A Bevy of Bodacious Bundts – the winning Golden Lemon Almond Bundt is the pretty petal-shaped cake in the lower right corner of the photo.

So anyway…fast forward to the recent production of “Monty Python’s Spamalot” I was working backstage on at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre and “BUNDT-FEST 2014!”  The first Fest was organized four years ago by Wardrobe Department Heads Marlys McDonald and Randy Werdal during a Broadway tour of “South Pacific”, but there hadn’t been another since then. If there was ever a show meant to be linked to Bundt cakes, it’s definitely Spamalot, so I set the wheels in motion for a remount.

As cast and crew began arriving for work, our table was soon laden with a spectacular bounty of Bundt baking to fuel the evening’s performance. Flavors included, chocolate, lemon, poppyseed, carrot-pineapple, a savory ham/gruyere/asparagus, monkey bread Bundt with Li’l Smokies, and an apple walnut, just to name a few. I went a little crazy myself, contributing a sour cream/rum with raspberries, a Bundt version of pineapple upside-down cake and a disappointing maple/bacon that I have to admit was a complete dud. 15 Bundts in all kept us on a high-octane sugar buzz throughout the night as people kept returning for another taste to cast votes for the “People’s Choice Award”.

My Sour Cream/Rum with Raspberries Bundt

My Sour Cream/Rum with Raspberries Bundt – voted “Prettiest Bundt”

When the crumbs were swept away and the votes counted, Mary Jones, the Director of the Hair and Make-Up Department, was awarded the highly-coveted “Best in Bundt” ribbon for her delicious Golden Lemon Almond Bundt – a dense and moist creation with a sweet almond perfectly contrasting the tart lemon throughout. She revealed that she’d never made a Bundt before, and now that she’d won top honors in the contest, her family was demanding an instant reprise of her creation.

As for my own entries, the sour cream/rum did win the most votes for “prettiest cake”, and the pineapple-upside down looked so great and was devoured so quickly that I’ve made it a couple more times with equally successful results. Everyone agreed “Bundt Fest” needs to be on the calendar more frequently than every four years, and to sum it up best, I’ll give you my favorite quote from one of the comment cards: “I vote they ALL WIN!” Ditto.

Here’s Mary’s delicious, winning Bundt recipe:

Golden Lemon Almond Bundt Cake

  • 2/3 cup blanched, slivered almonds
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3/8 teaspoon lemon oil
  • 2 cups plus 3 Tblsp sifted, all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tblsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter

Lemon Syrup

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Set the oven to 350°F. Grease or spray the sides of the cake pan.

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake for about 7 minutes until golden, stirring once or twice to avoid burning. Cool completely then grind in a food processor until fine. Add 1/4 cup sugar and grind until very fine.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, 1/4 cup of sour cream, vanilla and lemon oil just until combined.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a flat beater, mix the ground almonds, remaining sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest about 30 seconds. Add the butter and remaining sour cream and mix on low until ingredients are moistened – another 30 seconds. Raise speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl.

With mixer on medium low, add egg mixture in two parts, beating about 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the surface.

Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Just before the cake is done, make the lemon syrup by heating the sugar and lemon juice, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Do not boil it. Cover if not using right away.

Place the pan on a wire rack to cool, poke the cake all over with a thin skewer and brush it with 1/3 of the lemon syrup.

Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Brush the top and sides with the remaining syrup.

Mary J

Mary Jones – Winner of the Best Bundt at the 5th Avenue Theatre’s “Bundt-Fest 2014″!

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