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″!

Posted by: scootrah | February 17, 2014

And in my spare time…

This post has absolutely nothing to do with cooking, but with my project to launch a vintage fashion doll magazine – because I’m not busy enough…

The Skipper collecting book I co-authored - this is the cover of the 2nd edition

Yes, I’m a guy and I like dolls. That being said, I really like vintage Barbie and family dolls and am considered to be an expert on the subject – really! Almost more than the dolls themselves, I’m drawn to the fashions. And there are loads of fashion dolls other than Barbie, with weird, wild and wonderful wardrobes that are at times both fascinating and god-awful. But there’s just something about those mini fashion mannequins and their tiny shoes, gloves, purses and hats that I just can’t get enough of.

Several years ago, the Barbie doll collecting market had a bit of a melt down and the collecting magazines started going away. Hard-core vintage collectors (like me) have always missed them. There’s a crazy thrill or rush of excitement at seeing a gorgeous, mint condition doll in a pristine outfit that’s been beautifully photographed, especially when the subjects are hard-to-find examples. Call it doll crack or call it crazy, but when you’re into it, it’s awesome! So the fact that the publications I loved and wrote for were no longer around was always bugging me.

Premiere Issue!

Enter my friend Barry Sturgill. Barry is a Seattle area photographer who just happens to be one of the top toy photographers in the world, and he’s nuts about vintage Barbie dolls too. Well our little doll-lovin’ minds got together for lunch about a year and a half ago and decided we needed to bring back a magazine devoted to vintage fashion dolls in general, not just Barbie, but the whole enchilada. As we figured it, with all the technological progress in the last ten years, doing an online publication would be a snap, right? HA!

Figuring we’d “just have to learn a little HTML” and be on our way, we dove into the project. And about three months later we realized we were way over our heads. Too much stuff that sounded sic-fi and well, technical, made our pretty artsy heads hurt, and we hired a tech-savvy design firm to help us make it a reality. We started tracking down obscure dolls, fashions and accessories. We found some knowledgable collectors who knew loads of stuff about dolls we were just vaguely familiar with, and our project started moving forward much faster.

Issue #2 - DAWN!

January 2013: our premiere, online issue is published! 68 pages chock full of Barry’s gorgeous photos and loads of vintage doll info to make a collector’s head spin: Ideal’s Tammy doll, vintage Barbie’s first evening ensembles, information on clone dolls (knock-offs made of the more expensive, brand-name toys, sometimes using pirated molds), obscure dolls like Bonnie Breck – this issue wasn’t just good, it was GREAT!

Our 2nd issue came out at the end of May featuring Dawn. A lot of people think my project – and me – are a bit weird, but I don’t really care about that. I’ve got a completed product that I’m really proud of and it does what I wanted it to do – entertain, educate, and get readers excited about toys we loved as kids. And even if we don’t get to hold them in our hands, we can still feel that same thrill we had walking through the toy department or ripping into a beautifully wrapped birthday or holiday gift bearing a tag with our name on it…FUN!

And now we’ve got our 3rd issue out – we’ve “embraced” online marketing and social media (to the best of our abilities) and have a Twitter account, a Facebook page and even use MailChimp for our marketing and email updates – how’s that for creative-type-meets-the-interweb? Screen Shot 2014-02-10 at 11.54.48 AM

Hey – even if you’re not into dolls, you might love seeing some gorgeous pictures and reading some humorous stuff about toys. It’s a mid-century vinyl love fest – check out or website and buy a copy – it’s just $5.99! Oh yeah – and it’s an online publication – we hope it will be in print soon, but right now you view it on your computer.

Check out my magazine! click here to get to thatdollmagazine.com

 

Posted by: scootrah | January 20, 2014

Weeknight Chicken Curry

I’ve been craving coconut lately, and while trying to find my favorite coconut cake recipe (the coconut bug was biting hard), I stumbled across a page of a magazine I’d ripped out with a chicken coconut curry recipe and put into my “this might be OK but will probably need some tweaking and I should try it sometime” pile. This pile has grown rather large, but the actual trying out of things from it doesn’t happen as much as I’d like it to, but this seemed to be divine intervention saying “Just do it!” I yanked the page from the stack as the entire pile was sliding off the counter onto the floor, which required 5 minutes of getting it all stuffed back into the copy paper-sized box it came from.

The basic recipe was a good one – a red curry using curry powder, chicken, coconut milk  and tomatoes – something I’d call a “week night curry” because I’m not creating my own curry spice blend, but just using the generic bottle of curry powder from the grocery store. Nothing wrong with that because it’s fast and not too hot, but the flavor was a little flat for me. I’m not a purist and wasn’t worried whether I should be making a true Indian or Thai curry, I just wanted it to taste good and satisfy my craving, so I started by adding ginger and cilantro to the recipe. And because we need to add more vegetables into our diet as often as possible at our house, I added some frozen peas at the very last minute. A couple more tweaks to the recipe when I tried it a second time and it was exactly where I wanted it. Mushrooms would be great in this (I know, not authentic) as an addition or replacing the peas. I’ve served this with white or brown rice, and to go along with that adding more vegetables thing, came up with some honey lime glazed carrots that were a huge hit.

This comes together pretty quickly and would be easy to adapt to your slow cooker. The only thing to change for the slow cooker would probably be a couple more teaspoons of cornstarch for the slurry at the end to thicken the sauce (make sure it comes back up to a good simmer in your slow cooker after adding the slurry). Give this a try and let me know what you think. And by the way, your house is going to smell like curry for a day, but there are worse things in life, right?

Weeknight Chicken Curry

1 1/2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2 inch chunks – seasoned with salt and pepper

2 Tbsp vegetable oil

2 Tbsp curry powder

1/2 onion, thinly sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

14 oz can coconut milk (unsweetened)

14 oz can stewed, diced tomatoes

8 oz can tomato sauce

1 heaping tsp. of finely minced ginger (or grated on a zester)

6 or 8 stems cilantro

3 Tbsp sugar (or other sweetener to equal 3 Tbsp sugar)

4 or 5 drops of Sriracha* (a small amount like this doesn’t really make it hot, but does a great job of “rounding out” the flavor)

2 tsp cornstarch

1 1/2 cups frozen peas

2 Tbsp chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil over medium heat – add the curry and stir for about 2 minutes, then add the onion and garlic and stir for another 3 minutes.

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Add the chicken to the curry and onion mix and saute for 7 – 10 minutes until no longer pink

Add the ginger and stir, then add the coconut milk, tomatoes, tomato sauce, sugar and Sriracha – stir well to combine.IMG_5428

Tie a clean piece of kitchen twine around the cilantro to make it easy to remove from the pan, then submerge into the broth.

Bring to a steady simmer, then partially cover – you want a good amount of steam to escape so the broth can thicken.IMG_5429

Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until chicken is tender and sauce has reduced and is starting to thicken.

Mix the cornstarch with 2 tsps water to make a slurry – stir into the sauce and let simmer a couple more minutes.IMG_5430

Stir in the peas and adjust the seasoning – I add about a 1/2 tsp of salt, but you may need/want a little more.IMG_5431

Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro if desired.

*My opinion on Sriracha and making food “hot” - if you’re making this for yourself and like it HOT, by all means, add more Sriracha – but if you’re making it for guests, I think it’s best to go with less heat and let everyone add more hot sauce if they like. For those who don’t like the heat, it’s unappetizing to have your taste buds shut down after the 2nd or 3rd bite because your tongue is on fire.

Posted by: scootrah | January 6, 2014

Honey Lime Glazed Carrots

Like you, I’ve just finished a month of holiday dinners, snacking, treats, travel and a crazy work schedule. Now that we’re all settling back into more of our normal “routines”, are you looking at the stove and thinking, “What should I cook?” Me too! And this time of year I want to make warm comfort food but I also want less of the heavy holiday food I’ve been consuming. So what better place to start than vegetables!

This idea started because I needed lime zest for another recipe (an amazing coconut cream pie, and yes I said less heavy food was in order, but pie is different…), and figured I’d just juice the limes after zesting, but then what to do with juice? I was making chicken curry for dinner and the idea for a side dish of carrots with lime came into my head and stuck. I figured I’ve done carrots with an orange juice-based glaze dozens of times, why not a different citrus? But I also wanted the carrots to handle all that yummy extra curry sauce –  and then I had it, oblique cut carrots with lime and honey!

The oblique cut is a utility cut used in professional kitchens when the vegetable is being used to make a stock or sauce and not being served as a “finished product” – there’s more surface area than a “coin” (which gives you more flavor), but it’s considered unattractive. I actually like the look of it and gives something standard an unexpected visual twist. So here’s how you do it:

IMG_5364Hold your knife at a 45˚ angle on your cutting board – cut off the end of the carrot…

IMG_5365…keeping your knife at the same angle, rotate the carrot half a turn or 180˚ and cut again…

IMG_5369…continue cutting the carrot until done!

You’ll get the best result with carrots that aren’t huge and are a fairly uniform width the length of the carrot – about the diameter of a roll of nickels.

Now that the carrots are cut, here’s the recipe. I served it as a side dish to my curry, but I think it would also make a great substitute for rice if you’re wanting to cut down on carbs. All those “mountains and valleys” a pile of oblique-cut carrots makes is perfect for trapping and holding sauce in place. While having an Asian or Indian-style flavor, this would also be terrific for Mexican-inspired dishes and would be delicious with grilled chicken or flank steak.

Honey Lime Glazed Carrots

  • 1 lb carrots, washed, peeled and oblique cut (or cut into coins if you prefer)
  • 1.5 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
  1. In a saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp of butter over medium high heat. Add the carrots and toss to coat with butter.
  2. Add 1/4 cup water, cover tightly, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  3. Simmer until carrots are almost fork tender – probably 10-14 minutes depending on the thickness of your carrots.
  4. Remove the lid and add the honey, lime juice and remaining .5 Tbsp of butter, stirring or tossing to coat the carrots.
  5. Continue to simmer until the remaining water has evaporated and the carrots are tender and coated with the honey lime glaze.
  6. Season to taste with salt and garnish with chopped cilantro if desired and serve.

Quick AND easy! IMG_5371

Depending on your taste preference, you may want it sweeter or more tart, so adjust honey and/or lime accordingly. The next time I make this I’m going to add a little grated, fresh ginger for another spin on it – YUM!

Posted by: scootrah | December 27, 2013

Easy Appetizer – Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Mushrooms

A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, my friend Aileen usually calls  me and asks, “So what do you have for me to take to my holiday parties this year?” A self-professed “HORRIBLE cook”, her request usually ends with the reminder/plea “and you know it can’t be HARD to do because I can’t cook!” What’s always surprising to me about that statement is that over the years I’ve given her what I think are simple, foolproof recipes that she’s reported were a “disaster” and “nobody could eat it”, as well as a couple things that were a little more challenging that I figured she might struggle with, only to hear that it was “fantastic” and “I make it all the time now!” What to do, what to do…

I decided to give her a variation on a baked, stuffed date that she thought was easy to do a few years back – a stuffed mushroom cap wrapped with bacon. I started making these several years ago at the request of my partner, Rolland, as it was a thing that his mom did when he was a kid. I made it the way she said to the first time and I was unimpressed – I thought they were greasy and not very flavorful, but the idea was good so I made a couple of changes to come up with my own version, and fortunately, Rolland thinks they’re now better than the ones he grew up with, so I count that as a success!

This recipe is one of those things I don’t really call a recipe because you don’t need exact measurements of the ingredients, but since the flexibility of the way to make something usually terrifies Aileen, I’ve quantified it. The original version called for an entire strip of bacon per mushroom, which led to the excessive greasiness, so I now cut one strip of bacon lengthwise – it’s easier to work with and the result isn’t nearly as rich/fatty tasting. The prep can get a little messy, so I suggest using a cookie sheet with a piece of waxed paper on it, then transferring the mushrooms to the broiler pan. This is a good recipe for a team of preppers to work on if you’ve got help in the kitchen – and if you’re looking for something for your New Year’s party, this will be a hit!

Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 12-18 medium/medium large white mushrooms
  • 6-9 slice bacon cut lengthwise (you need one full strip to make 2 mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tblsp bread crumbs
  • 3 Tblsp finely minced onion (more if you like more onion)
  • 1 1/2 Tblsp ranch dressing
  • toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Spray a broiler pan or wire rack with cooking spray. If using the wire rack, set on top of a cookie sheet.

Wipe off the mushrooms and remove the stems – set stems aside for another use.

Mix the cheese, bread crumbs, onions and ranch dressing together.

Now press some of the mixture into the hollow of the mushroom cap – depending on the size of the caps you have, this will be 1 or 2 tsps…

…place a stuffed mushroom cap toward the end of a bacon slice. You want to have a little bit wrap over the top to the center of the mushroom…

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…wrap the bacon around the cap making an “X”…

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…end with the tail of the bacon strip on top of the cap – you can stretch the bacon a bit if you need a little more length…

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…secure it with a toothpick…

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…and place on a broiler pan – now in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until the bacon is nice and crispy (add a cup of water to the broiler pan before putting in the oven to make the pan easier to clean)…

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…allow the caps to cool for five minutes before serving because they’re really hot – now EAT!

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Delicious holiday wishes to you for the last few days of 2013!

Posted by: scootrah | November 19, 2013

Cheesy Corn – a great Thanksgiving side dish

While Thanksgiving feasts are often about tradition and serving the family favorites, it’s also fun to add a new dish into the mix. I  like to have something that’s great for my vegetarian guests and makes a terrific leftover for the long weekend. And finally, what better thing to add to my menu than a delicious recipe shared by a friend?

“Cheesy Corn” definitely fits the bill and is a good substitute for traditional succotash on your holiday table. The recipe comes from Barbara Pritchard, Assistant Wardrobe Head at Pacific Northwest Ballet. Whenever Barbara brought this for lunch it smelled so good and she had such a look of pure satisfaction on her face while eating it, I finally asked her what it was. “It’s something my mom made when I was a kid,” she told me. “I like to make it because it’s quick, easy, and you can change it to get it exactly the way you want it.” What she didn’t mention is you can carry the ingredient list and the prep instructions around in your head, which makes it perfect for the  “I don’t know what to cook tonight” list because you won’t have to hunt through your recipe file for inspiration and you probably have the ingredients in the pantry already.

I’ve made it a number of times now and we almost never get to the “leftover” part of it, but maybe you’ll have better luck than I do!

Barbara’s Mom’s Cheesy Corn

  • 1 can of creamed corn
  • 8 oz. grated sharp  cheddar
  • 6 eggs
  • small can of diced, roasted green chiles
  • 1 Tbsp cornmeal
  • 3 or 4 drops of Tapatio* or your favorite hot sauce (optional)

Lightly beat the eggs, add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine. Pour into a small greased 9″ x 9″ pan (or loaf pan or pie dish) and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

That’s it! So creamy, delicious and flavorful, and did I mention EASY? If somebody tells me they can’t cook this and make it turn out amazing, they are wrong!

Right from the oven - a beautiful dish for the holiday table!

Right from the oven – a beautiful dish for the holiday table!

Here are a couple of hints from Barbara and my own trials with Cheesy Corn:

  1. Use a good name brand can of cream corn for this, not a store brand – I didn’t believe Barbara when she told me this, but it’s true. The store brand is way too watery and the extra $.30 or $.40 you pay for the name brand is worth it.
  2. You can use pepper jack cheese for this if you want it spicier, or half cheddar and half pepper jack. Just don’t use something bland like a mild cheddar or American cheese because it doesn’t accent the flavor of the corn well.
  3. Try using 1/3 cup salsa instead of the canned chiles for a different taste or if you don’t have the chiles on hand.

I put a little bread crumb topping on this for a “crunch” when you bite in. Just mix a tablespoon of melted butter with 1/3 cup of bread crumbs and sprinkle on top before baking. You can also use crushed corn chips (the nacho cheese kind are great) or panko for extra crunch.

*Tapatio is my go-to flavoring. I think it adds a lot of depth to food without adding much heat, unless you use a lot. This is my own addition to the recipe and it’s really a seasoning/taste preference if you decide to add it or not.

Dig in! Maybe you'll have more luck getting leftovers from this than I do...

Dig in! Maybe you’ll have more luck getting leftovers from this than I do…

If you’re not trying this for Thanksgiving, it makes a great side dish with baked or fried chicken, or pork chops, and it’s just right for a light lunch as the main course served alongside a hearty mixed green salad with a tangy vinaigrette – you’ll love it!

Need some help planning and organizing your Thanksgiving feast? Check out my step-by-step plans  for a stress-free meal!

Posted by: scootrah | November 7, 2013

Roasted Shrimp and Lemon Pasta with Artichokes

I think my “inspirational cooking” comes in waves – sometimes I’m coming up with great idea after great idea and experimenting away madly, and then I’ll go through these dry spells where the most creative I can be is adding jam to a peanut butter sandwich. When I get to feeling that I’ll never have another interesting food idea again, I remember that lots of other people have great ideas, and I can always use what they’ve done as a jumping off point to create my own thing.

I start poring over cookbooks, magazine pages I’ve torn out with recipes I’ve “gotta try” and watching a cooking show or two. And if I’m watching a cooking show, it’s probably going to be Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I love that her ideas and recipes aren’t overly complicated to create or use obscure ingredients, and I think her approach to classy and elegant cooking/entertaining isn’t as rigid or time-consuming as some other celebrity chefs. So I wasn’t surprised that as I watched her make a Lemon Pasta and Roasted Shrimp dish, I was figuring out a few Scott touches to pump it up and make it even better. Of course heading to the store and finding shrimp on sale for $4.99/lb. really helped me decide I needed to try it!

IMG_4657

All the good stuff in the saute pan – ready to mix with the pasta

The basic premise of the dish was great – lemon, butter, shrimp and pasta. Ina’s roasting of the shrimp is easy and delicious, and Isaw no reason to change that, but at my house we need to add more vegetables to our meals, and in this case I decided on artichokes. I also wanted a broader range of flavor so I added shallot, garlic and capers. After making the dish I was frustrated with the shrimp not really “mixing” into the fettucine, so I have since made it using farfalle – the bow-tie shaped pasta that I find really easy to “toss” with other ingredients. I’ve also used rice, which is more of a base with the shrimp poured over it, but is equally delicious.

So here you go – it’s a pretty easy thing to do. I used jumbo (21/25 count) shrimp and found that in the roasting you want them slightly UNDERdone – the heat of the hot pasta will finish cooking that last little bit and you run the risk of them being tough and/or rubbery if you cook them all the way through in the oven. And if you choose to go with a smaller size of shrimp, reduce the cooking time in the oven.

Roasted Shrimp and Lemon Pasta with Artichokes

  • 2 pounds jumbo (21/25 count) or extra large (26/30 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound farfalle
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 small shallot, peeled and minced
  • 1 can (14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup capers, drained
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees . Place the shrimp on a sheet pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss well, spread them in one layer and roast for 5 to 6 minutes, just until they’re pink.

While the oven is heating and the shrimp are roasting, cook the farfalle in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the directions.

Heat a saute pan to medium, and saute the shallots 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook one minute longer – don’t let it burn. Add the lemon juice and zest, artichoke hearts and capers, and heat through. If the shrimp are still in the oven, turn the pan to medium low.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Add the contents of the saute pan to the pasta and combine. Remove the shrimp from the oven and add it to the pot, including all the juice that may be on the roasting pan. Toss lightly to combine and serve. Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.

Serves 6-8

The shrimp, artichokes and capers with fettucine - I prefer to use farfalle with this because it's easier to toss together

The shrimp, artichokes and capers with fettucine – I prefer to use farfalle with this because it’s easier to toss together

Posted by: scootrah | October 2, 2013

Tasty little Mouse Melons

There’s not a lot of food that I think the word “adorable” describes, but Mouse Melons definitely fit the bill. These tiny light-green fruits with darker mottling look like watermelons for Barbie doll. About 1″ x 1/2 ” or the size of a grape, the flesh is white, crisp, crunchy with a slight lemony tartness. The flavor is closer to a cucumber than a melon, and they’re delicious. Native to Central and south America, the tiny fruit is often referred to as Mexican gherkins. A great low-calorie snack, they give you the crunch of pretzels or chips, but you can keep popping them in your mouth without the guilt!

Whether you refer to them by their botanical name Melothria scabra, Mouse Melons, or Mexican gherkins, they're delicious!

Whether you refer to them by their botanical name Melothria scabra, Mouse Melons, or Mexican gherkins, they’re delicious!

My friend Mark recently handed me a container full from his garden and said “I bet you can come up with something to do with these.” Well, they were so good I’d eaten half of them before I started thinking about how to use them. I have to admit these really stumped me – I wanted to see if I could do something other than just add them to a salad or salsa, but all I kept coming back to was making them into pickles.

I used my “Quick and Easy Pickled Carrots and Green Beans” brine for them. The carrots and beans are tough enough to handle the hot brine poured straight from the sauce pan without becoming mushy, but I thought the little melons might not stand up to the heat, so I allowed it to cool for a couple minutes first. I let them stand for a few hours before I tried them, and while I’d like to tell you this was a hit, I really preferred the taste of the melons fresh. Not that I think pickling them is a bad idea, it just didn’t do anything to enhance the flavor, and after a few days they weren’t as crisp as I’d expect a pickle to be.

You should still be able to find these at farmer’s markets and produce stands and you really should try them. But my vote would be to keep them as they are. I’m still thinking about what I might add them to, maybe a stir fry or in place of regular cucumbers in a Greek vegetable or cold orzo salad. Let me know what you come up with, and happy munching!

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