Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Lovely Lunch for One - Spaghetti Squash

I love spaghetti squash.

Sadly, no one else in my family does. 

If the rest of the people who live here DID like it, I would grow it by the bushel - that is how much I like it. 

"What's not to like?" I ask them. They always give me some vague, non-answer that can't even begin to explain their obvious lack of good taste. Humph. 

I've made it a hundred different ways for them - with sauce, just like spaghetti. 

With butter and salt and pepper - just like pasta.

With butter and parmesan cheese.

With meatballs.

With creamy cheese sauce.

Nothing - nada - zip. They won't eat it. 

Today, just for me, I made spaghetti squash with fresh herbs, tomatoes and feta cheese. 

When the aroma hits the air I'll have my revenge... as each and everyone one of my finicky eaters follow their noses to the kitchen I'll reveal the source of the smell and savor each and every mouthful... Let them eat cake. 
Sometimes a cook just has to please one person - themselves. 

Steamed Spaghetti Squash with herbs, tomatoes and feta cheese (serves 1)

1 small spaghetti squash, cut in half. Seeds removed.
One plum or a handful of grape tomatoes, sliced and diced. 
2 tablespoons fat free feta
2 tablespoons fresh herbs of choice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Place spaghetti squash in microwavable casserole with 1 inch water. Wave for 10 to 15 minutes, covered. OR bake, cut side down on a greased cookie sheet in 375  degree oven for 45 minutes. (who has patience for that??)

With a fork, pull all of the fruit out of the shells of the squash. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil 

Combine sliced tomatoes, herbs, feta and vinegar. Stir to combine.

Top squash with tomato / cheese mixture. Enjoy. 

Monday, June 29, 2009

Practicing Locavore (ism?) and Blueberry Pie

It is officially blueberry season in New Jersey! 

The first beautiful, plump, purple berries are beginning to show up in markets and they are sweet, plump and delicious. 

I am laying in my first supplies for the winter. This morning I found these for only $1.29 a pint (last week's berries from Florida were $3.50 each)....

It's easy to be a locavore when the produce is this gorgeous and inexpensive. 

I bought 12 pints this morning. Six of them I already froze to use this winter in pies, muffins and smoothies. Two pints we will eat "out of hand" and the remaining four have been turned into one each of these:

I think six more pints to freeze and six more pints to use now should do it for our blueberry needs 2009. But you never know... I love blueberries! 

Blueberry Pie: (makes 1 pie)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water
3 cups blueberries, washed and checked for stems
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
zest of half lemon

Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and water in a saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened. Set aside to cool as you prepare the pie dough. Once cool add the berries, lemon juice and zest. 

Crust: (or you can purchase refrigerated pie crust)

2 cups four
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup  unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
1 egg
2 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour, sugar and salt in food processor. Pulse one or two times to lighten. Add butter and process until coarse meal is formed. Add ice water and process until dough forms. 

Turn out on floured board. Divide into two and roll out one round. Refrigerate other round. 

Pour filling into dough lined pie plate. Grate other dough round on top of filling OR roll out and top the pie. Cut vents in top crust if using. 

Place pie on cookie sheet to protect oven bottom and back for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes. 

Cool completely before eating. 

For an incredible flavor contrast, serve with a scoop of chocolate (yes, chocolate) ice cream. MMM... summer on a plate. 

PS. To freeze blueberries, simply rinse under cool running water. Drain well, spread on towels to completely absorb any water. When dry, place in ziplock bags and freeze in quantities desired. 

Friday, June 26, 2009

Going Camping and Summer Pizza

We are getting ready to meet my son, daughter-in-law and the littles for a weekend of camping. 

Tent camping to be specific. 

According to my oldest KidAdult I have been whimping out over the years as our camping escapades involved some 25ft. of metal that housed pretty much the contents of my entire house plus air conditioning. 

He said when he was small we roughed it. In a tent. That statement makes me laugh. He sounds like an old man. Like, When I was boy we didn't have no RV... we did it the hard way, in a tent, barefoot. And we had to walk 100 miles in a thunderstorm to get to pitch it. And we had to hunt our food... LOL.

Anyway. The Best Husband In The World reluctantly agreed with me and we agreed with KidAdult #1 to meet him and the girls and camp. The old way. 

So we're off to the great outdoors. I am in charge of Saturday night dinner. 

Actually I love to cook outdoors. Food always tastes so good cooked over charcoal or an open camp fire, especially after a day spent swimming and sailing on the lake. 

So all this planning and talking and prepping and packing reminded me of something my dad used to make on a summer's evening. He always made this for a snack, not a meal and it was always a delicious surprise when my mom would call us in from catching fireflies or playing flashlight tag with a gaggle of neighborhood kids. 

We'd come roaring up the stoop all barefoot and dirty, just as the streetlights came on and the smell of Summer Pizza would hit us full in our happy faces. 

I've updated this a little bit - but the taste still takes me back to the warm summer nights of my youth. 

Summer Pizza: 

1 pizza shell (store bought, pizzeria bought or home made*)
2-3 fresh tomatoes, sliced
10-12 slices fresh mozzarella
2 tablespoons fresh ricotta cheese (optional)
10-12 fresh bay leaves
drizzle of olive oil

Optional: mushrooms and artichoke hearts (quartered) tuck these under the cheese (hey, my tastes have matured!)

Preheat grill to medium low.

Drizzle one side of pizza dough with olive oil and using your hand, smear it all around. Place this side down on the grill. Close cover and grill 3-5 minutes until JUST done on one side. 

Place dough ungrilled side down on floured board. On grilled side place sliced fresh tomatoes, top with bay leaves, then mozzarella, drop fresh ricotta randomly by teaspoon full on top. 

Carefully slide dough back onto grill. Grill until dough is puffed and cheese is melted. 

Serve with Kool-Aid and we're back in the 60's. 

*Your neighborhood pizzeria is usually happy to sell you a pizza dough. It will cost you about $2.00 to $3.00 and will always be expertly made. But if you're ambitious, try this:

Pizza Dough:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F) this is important - use your meat thermometer to test temp. Too hot - kills the yeast, too cold - won't grow.
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine the flour and salt and set aside. Dissolve yeast in the warm water, let sit for 5 minutes. Add the oil. Stir in the flour / salt mixture. Turn out on lightly floured baord and knead until smooth and elastic. 
Lightly grease a medium bowl and place the dough in the bowl. cover and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk (about an hour)
When the dough has doubled, punch down and turn out on floured surface. Let rest for 10 minutes, then "toss" if you're good or roll out to a round.

If you make this right after dinner it will be raised enough just when the fireflies come out and the street lights come on. 

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cooking with Shane for Cancer - no recipe included

I got the best phone call of my life the other day. 

Wasn't The Food Network calling offering me that cooking show (shame on them)

Wasn't the lottery commission calling to tell me I won the big one. 

Wasn't Weight Watchers calling to tell me their scales are off by 20 pounds and I'm actually underweight and don't come back. 

Wasn't the college boards calling to tell me my brilliant children should not have to spend a cent on higher education and they should choose any college of their choice and just go - all expenses paid.

No, as lovely as any of those calls would have been, the best phone call came from our 10 year old nephew in Michigan. 

Shane was calling from the 5th. floor of Beaumont Hospital where he was getting his second round of chemotherapy. 

Shane has cancer. 

Shane told me that he was trying to think of ways to help other kids with cancer. What?? Help other kids... but you have cancer. 

Yeah, yeah.. whatever. The purpose of the call was to ask me to help him help other kids with cancer who have to be on a neutropenic diet

Sometimes, if their blood counts get too low, doctors advise a neutropenic diet to ward off any exposure to bacteria. In a nutshell, fresh fruits and vegetables have to be avoided, as well as any fast food, food from a deli, food that is dispensed (think ice cream, soda, etc). 

If you really start thinking about it, even that syrup dispenser at your local waffle house could be deadly for these kids.... no fresh herbs, no yogurt, no soup at a restaurant, no ice tea with lemon... really, think about it - it gets huge! 

Shane's idea is for me to teach him how to cook healthy, easy, TASTY (he stressed tasty) meals following the restrictions set forth by the diet. We also have to take into consideration queasy stomachs and sore mouths. 

Once we have all of our TASTY, easy, healthy meals we will put all the recipes into a cookbook for kids. I'm not sure what his distribution plans are, but who am I to question his idea?

Cool huh? 

We are leaving next week for Michigan where Shane and I will begin our "test-kitchen" cooking. I hope I can do it without adding too much salt to the recipes from my tears. 

Once again, I got schooled by a 5th. grader. 

This is Shane last year on a camping trip to Acadia, Maine. We had a blast! 

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sunshine [finally] and Roasted Vegetables

It has happened!
It has happened!
Going on about 3 1/2 minutes now...


Holly Bear and I were out jogging in deep cloud cover and oppressive humidity this morning. Just before we left TBHITW said, "Looks like rain".. and I said, "What else is new?"

45 minutes (yes! 45 minutes!!!) later towards the end of our run, I looked up and OMG: Blue Sky - Sunshine! 

I turned the corner of the lane to our home, raced into the backyard and look what else happened:

The lillies in my pond are finally blooming and the fish are out of their fish cave.
Isn't it amazing how a little sunshine can brighten everything??

Roasted Vegetables with Tomatoes and Balsamic Dressing:

1 Eggplant
1 Zucchini
1 Yellow Squash
Or just one type or a combination of whatever you like, in the quantity you need.
Fresh herbs of choice, chopped fine (I use thyme, rosemary, parsley, basil) but use whatever you like and whatever you have - if you use basil, sprinkle on when finished roasting, not in the oven.
2 garlic cloves, slivered
1 ripe plum tomato, seeded and diced
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel and slice, the long way, the squashes (about 1/2 inch thick)

Drizzle a rimmed cookie sheet with olive oil. Place the squash slices in single layer on sheet. Use two sheets if necessary. Drizzle with more olive oil (don't drown them, just a drizzle over the tops)
Sprinkle with salt and pepper, garlic slices and fresh herbs, reserving 1 tablespoon herbs. 
Place in hot oven for 10 minutes. 
After 10 minutes turn with spatula and drizzle with more oil if needed. Roast for 10 more minutes. 
While the veggies are roasting, dice the tomato. Toss in the rest of the herbs and stir in balsamic vinegar.

Remove veggies from oven. Place on platter, spoon tomato mixture over and serve hot or at room temperature. 

Lovely with simple grilled chicken or fish. 

Monday, June 22, 2009

Clouds and Cucumber Yogurt Soup with Shrimp

Me, along with the rest of the population of the eastern seaboard have just about had it with the weather. 

If it's not raining, it's thinking about raining. If it's raining, it is pretty much pouring. 

We just can't get a break in the clouds... literally. 

To remind me that as of yesterday it really is officially summer, I'm going to make this cool, summery soup. Low Cal, No Fat, and high in satisfaction. I'll serve it with some cold boiled shrimp on the side. 

Cucumber Yogurt Soup: 4 appetizer size portions

4 small-medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped
1/2 cups plain yogurt (I like 0% fat, FACE Greek style yogurt)
1 tablespoon dill
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 of sweet onion (such as vidalia)
a few sprigs water cress (optional)
salt and pepper
Water (as needed)

Place cucumbers, yogurt, dill, onion and lemon juice in blender or food processor. Process until smooth. Add water until desired consistency (soup should be slightly thick). Add salt and pepper to taste. 
Chill well. 
Ladle into shallow bowls, garnish with a sprig of water cress. 

Boiled Shrimp (perfect everytime)

1/2 pound large or extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cups Water
1 bay leaf
1 generous dash Old Bay
1 tablespoon vinegar

In a medium saucepan add water, bay leaf, Old Bay and vinegar. Bring to boil. 
Add shrimp, bring back to boil (this should take about 2-3 minutes).
At this point, shrimp should be pink and curled. 
Immediately pour shrimp and water into colander. Rinse with Cold Water to stop cooking. 

Serve soup with 2 or 3 shrimp "hanging" off side of bowl. 


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Just for Fun - Only In America

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Happy Father's Day and Quinoa

Have you heard of Quinoa? You can find it at all health food stores and some grocery stores. Look for it where you find rice and dried beans. 

It is being billed as a Super Food.

It is amazingly high in protein and packs 9 essential amino acids. If you are a vegetarian or are trying to limit your meat intake, I highly recommend you try Quinoa. 

I make this refreshing salad with toasted Quinoa. It's simple, tasty and oh so good for you.

Healthy eating is my special Father's Day gift to The Best Husband In The World, even though he's not my dad, he is a great dad to our children. 

Toasted Quinoa Salad:

1 cup Quinoa, toasted (directions below)
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
3 scallions, chopped with some green tops
1 small bunch cilantro
1/4 cup fat free feta cheese crumbles
1 lemon, juiced
optional, dried cranberries

Toasting the Quinoa is not necessary, but will give it a slightly more nutty taste. 

Toast the Quinoa by placing in bottom of a dry skillet over low heat. Stir and toast for 3-5 minutes until Quinoa is golden.

Cook Quinoa according to package directions. Typically, like you would cook rice. 1 cup Quinoa to 2 cups water. Bring water to boil, add Quinoa, cover and simmer until water is absorbed. About 15 minutes. Uncover, fluff with fork and cool. 

Mix cooled Quinoa with chopped vegetables and cilantro. 
Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice. Pour over Quinoa mixture and toss.
Stir in Feta and optional dried cranberries. 

Serve chilled. 

Cheers to you (and your's) health! Happy Father's Day honey. 

Friday, June 19, 2009

Diets and Peaches

I started a real fitness program today. No, really I did and that's a good thing. 

Now the bad thing - you knew it was coming, right?

I've posted before about trying to be a locavore - and being more responsible about where my food is coming from.

(I'm sorry, I don't know how to paste just the link... anyone? help?)

Anyway, today at the market, there they were... beautiful, slightly soft to the touch with just enough give, fuzzy and glowing... Georgia Peaches... definitely not within the 100 mile radius of my home to get Local Grown Status... 

Definitely does not meet the criteria for a Locavore Dinner of the week... but gosh they are gorgeous and fruit is sooo good for a diet and I love peaches and I could make a really good, low cal dessert with those peaches...

So I bought them. Just a few. Just to tide me over until August when Jersey peaches will be ripe for the picking.. 

Hey, I'm a convert, not a preacher. 

Grilled Peaches: (serves 4)

4 peaches
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
4 teaspoons honey, warmed in microwave for a few seconds
Freshly whipped sweet cream (optional)

Preheat Grill to Medium
Wash peaches. Cut in half and remove pit. 
Place cut side down (skin side up) on hot grill and grill for 4-5 minutes to carmelize. 
Turn and grill 1 or 2 more minutes to warm through. 
While grilling skin side, sprinkle some cinnamon on peaches. 
Remove to plate, drizzle with warm honey.
Serve with a dollop of whipped cream. (I'm skipping the whipped cream)

Also great with vanilla ice cream but I'm not even going there. 

According to my handy dandy food scale the nutritional value is:
peaches: 1 (5 oz) peach (about the size of a tennis ball) = 61 calories
honey: 1 teaspoon = 15 calories
cinnamon: sprinkle = 0
whipped cream sweetened with splenda: 1 tablespoon = 50 calories (for those of you with absolutely no will power) :0)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Out of my Funk and into My Kitchen - Applesauce with Pork Tenderloin

It's funny how something out of the blue can inspire you. 

I was in a funk all day because of the ceaseless rain. I tried reading, couldn't get into it. 

Read the news. same old same old.

Started doing some research or a dream vacation The Best Husband In The World and I are just beginning to dream about. In September, 2010 (economy and life please cooperate!) we are thinking, dreaming, hoping of going to Italy. 

First Rome for a few days of pure food and tourism. Then on to Naples and the Almafi coast to (wait for it) COOKING SCHOOL!! Anyway... more on that later... 

That is not what inspired me out of my funk (okay, it did a little)... but my real inspiration was a comment by Lover of Life over at Life in the Second Half. Actually, it was an after thought "By The Way" comment by LOL... some advice from her daughter over at http://jenacide.blogspot.com/ regarding the health benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar and...

Holy Seven Degrees of Separation!! Dinner is practically served. 

Home Made Applesauce with Apple Cider Vinegar brined Pork Roast

Four Apples (washed, cored and quartered, NOT PEELED)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon honey
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 Tablespoon horseradish (optional - if serving with pork)
Pinch of salt 

Place apples in medium saucepan and add to water to cover half way. Add 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Bring water to boil, reduce heat and simmer until apples are tender. 

Transfer apples withe a slotted spoon to a blender. Blend until desired consistency (I like mine a little chunky)
Transfer processed apples back to saucepan. Add honey, lemon juice and horseradish (if desired) cook gently over low heat to meld the flavors (about 3 minutes). 
Taste. Add a pinch of salt if too bland or apple flavor doesn't pop! 
Serve warm or cooled to room temperature. 

Delicious with a little "bite" if served with the following pork (a great flavor combo of sweet and savory with a little kick from the horseradish)

Pork Tenderloin: (serves 4-5)

One 2 lb. (or less) pork tenderloin
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup water
salt and pepper

Combine salt, vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar and water in saucepan. Heat and cook until sugar and salt dissolve. cool.

When cool, pour over pork tenderloin in plastic bag. Let brine for 1 to 4 hours. When done brining, take out, rinse and pat dry. Discard brine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Salt and pepper pork. Pat remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar on top of tenderloin. Place on rimmed cookie sheet and quick roast for 20 minutes per pound or until meat thermometer registers 150. Take out and tent and rest for 10 minutes. Residual cooking will bring the temp up to 160. Perfect. 

Slice and serve with applesauce on side. 

A great accompaniment is little potato pancakes with greek yogurt - but that's another blog! 

Gotta go. Gotta cook. Thanks Lover of Life and Jen - you both inspired me today! 

Rain, Rain, Go Away and Pork Loin

It's raining today. AGAIN.
It has been raining for weeks now. 
Everyday, rain.
Oh, the sun comes out for a little while. Just to tease everyone into thinking the rain is over but within a few minutes or an hour... rain.

Today it's just solid rain though. Not even a tease of sunshine. 

Just so you know how bad the rain is making me feel, I have no idea what I'm going to cook today. Really - not a clue. 

I have some lovely cage-free, free range chicken in the freezer. ho-hum
I have a beautiful pasture fed pork loin already defrosted. sigh...

I'm just not feeling the love. 

Usually a rainy day sets me to baking bread, simmering some stock to make soap, braising or roasting something wonderful, but this constant barrage of rain is just making me want to, well, it's making me want to do nothing. 

No inspiration. Nothing. 

Anyone else feel this way about the weather? 

Anyone out there have any suggestions for a beautiful, already defrosted, 2 pound, pasture fed, pork loin? 

Blah. And to top off the rain, I have to go to the dentist today.
Maybe I'll just go back to bed for awhile. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

Birthdays and The Perfect Number of Cupcakes

I remember when I was so young (maybe I should say younger?) that I would be out of my mind with excitement for the coming of my birthday. Remember that? 

Or maybe you still do get all excited? 

I remember turning two numbers (10!) and then officially becoming a teenager (13). Getting my driver's license (16) and of course being able to vote (18) and then legally drink (21). 

Then there was turning 30. hmmm... not too bad.
Then 40. umm.. okay. 
Then 50. What?? How on earth did that happen - although the alternative isn't exactly what I want either. 

Time is the great gift and the great thief. It gives us our life and then while we are busy living and celebrating it, it robs us of our youth. 

Although I don't consider 50 old - it is a surprise; it seems like just yesterday I was that excited little girl turning two numbers. 

Yesterday I had the privilege of helping another excited little girl turn 7 with a cooking birthday party. She proudly showed me her missing two front teeth, but wouldn't let me take her picture like that. Instead, we took this picture. The hat says "Le Chef Extraordinaire" which she is. 

Abby and six of her BFF's (yes, they really do use that term) made (and ate):
Ranch Dip for Vegetables
Personal Size Pizzas
Ice Cream Tacos
and Cupcakes which they iced and decorated themselves. 

They all did a great job with a little help from The Good Cook and mommy assistants. Thanks ladies for a fun day.

This cupcake recipe makes only 12 cupcakes and everything you need you probably already have in your cupboard. Twelve is the perfect amount for making and enjoying at home. I mean really, do you honestly need 24 cupcakes?? 

Golden Cupcakes (makes 12 regular size cupcakes)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs at room temperature

1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract

4 tablespoons butter, melted

¼ cup canola or vegetable oil

½ cup milk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper.

In medium bowl whisk flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt. Set aside

In a mixer beat sugar, eggs and vanilla on medium high speed until smooth and slightly thickened about 2 minutes. Add butter and oil and beat well. Add dry ingredients and milk alternating batches beginning with dry and ending with dry. Carefully scoop batter into lined muffin tins filling them about 2/3 full.

Bake in center of oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on rack before frosting.


Buttercream Frosting

6 tablespoons butter, softened

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

In mixer, beat butter until softened. Add sugar, vanilla extract and salt and beat until just combined. Turn up mixer and beat until smooth. Add milk or cream and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 

Friday, June 12, 2009

Strawberry Fields Forever... Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese and Strawberry Vinaigrette

Sometimes life just hands you one of those days. 
A great day. 
Full of sunshine. 
Fresh Air. 
A strawberry field. 
A good friend to share the ride.
A nice dog. 
And two of the cutest littles around. 

I had one of those days this week. 

The strawberries are coming in fast and furious here in the Northeast. "They are ripe for the picking" as the saying goes; so when my daughter-in-law called and asked if I'd like to meet her and the grand littles for a morning of strawberry picking, I was out the door with my basket faster than you can sing "Strawberry Fields Forever"

Meet Hannah, 3 years old: she liked the sweet red ones and NOT the sour green ones.

And Jillian, 1 1/2: she liked ALL of them.

And a very nice yellow dog, he liked the girls. Seems happy, doesn't he?

Strawberry Vinaigrette:

10 strawberries, washed and hulled
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 cup white or red wine vinegar
1/2 to 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.

Put the strawberries, sugar, and dijon mustard in a blender. Puree. Add vinegar and pulse again. With motor running on low, slowly drizzle in olive oil to emulsify (mix and thicken) Season with salt and pepper. Check seasoning with a piece of green. Adjust if necessary.

Serve over a bed of mixed baby greens, sliced strawberries and goat cheese crumbles. Yum.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Lovely Lunch - Rosemary Muffins

My friend Anne is coming over this morning to learn how to make mozzarella cheese. We are also going to make some Ricotta. 

I'll use the mozzarella for paninis tonight for dinner and I'll use the Ricotta for white pizza over the weekend. 

But first, I want to make some savory muffins for our lunch - that's the reward for the not so hard work of making fresh cheese. While the Ricotta "hangs" we'll munch and chat. 

These muffins make a lovely appetizer or a light lunch and are my "go-to" recipe when I want something quick and easy, yet sophisticated. 

Rosemary Muffins with Smoked Turkey and Honey Mustard (makes 18 cupcake size or 36 mini size,  or a dozen of each [pictured]

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup toasted pistachios (you can also use walnuts)
1 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 pound sliced smoked turkey
1/3 cup honey mustard (I use Honey Cup brand)

Lightly grease 3 mini-muffin pans (36) (for appetizer size) or 1 cupcake tin (12) and 1 mini or 2 cupcake tins (18)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Sift together the flour, soda and salt, set aside

In mixer, cream together the sugar, butter and orange zest. Add eggs and mix well. Add flour and buttermilk alternatively starting with flour and ending with flour. (This is a basic muffin batter minus the orange zest. From here, you can go anywhere - sweet, savory, fruity, whatever your taste buds desire.)

Fold in the pistachios, raisins and rosemary. Scoop into prepared tins and bake. 
Mini Muffins - 18 to 20 minutes
Cupcake Size - 22 to 25 minutes.

Cool on a rack. You can just eat them now, with butter OR

When cool, slice in half horizontally (tops off). Spread honey mustard on bottom and inside top. Place a stacked piece of smoked turkey (1/2 piece if mini muffins) on bottom half and place top on. 

If serving for lunch. Plate one muffin on small luncheon plate with a small mixed green salad and a light vinaigrette. A lovely white wine (think sauvignon blanc) or iced tea rounds the luncheon out. 

Anyway, that's what I'm doing today. 

A Cook's Notes:
If you are making these for an appetizer, or to take along to someone's house. Stack in a basket, cover with a dishtowel. Mist the towel lightly, then cover with plastic wrap. They will stay moist and fresh for hours this way. 

The mini muffins freeze beautifully and defrost in about 15 minutes. That's what I'm going to do with the mini's. They will be my emergency muffins! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Good News Regarding Health

My sister, S is a nurse and she frequently sends me the latest thinking on health matters. I thought I'd share this one with you: ;-) 

Q: Doctor,  I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life.  Is this true? 

A: Your heart is only good for so many  beats, and that's it...  don't waste them on exercise. Everything wears out  eventually.  Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that's like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster.  Want to live longer?  Take a nap.    

Q: Should  I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables? 

A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies.  What does a cow eat?   Hay and corn.   And what are these? Vegetables.  So a steak  is nothing more  than an efficient mechanism of  delivering vegetables to your system.   Need grain?   Eat  chicken.   Beef is also a good source  of field grass  (green leafy vegetable).   And a pork chop can  give you  100 % of your recommended daily allowance of  vegetable  products. 

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?  

A:  No, not at all.  Wine is made from fruit.  Brandy is distilled wine,  that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you  get even more of the goodness that way.   Beer is also made out  of grain.  Bottoms   up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio? 

A: Well,  if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one.  If you have two bodies, your  ratio is two to  one, etc. 

Q: What  are some of  the advantages of participating in a regular  exercise  program? 

A: Can't  think of a single one, sorry.  My  philosophy is: No  Pain...Good! 

Q:  Aren't  fried  foods bad for you?  

A:  YOU'RE  NOT  LISTENING!!! .....  Foods are fried these days in  vegetable oil.  In fact,  they're permeated in it.  How could  getting more  vegetables be bad for  you?  

Q:  Will sit-ups  help prevent me from getting a little soft around  the middle? 

A: Definitely  not! When  you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You  should only be  doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.  

Q:  Is chocolate bad for me?  

A:  Are you crazy? HELLO   Cocoa  beans ! Another vegetable!!! It's the best feel-good food around!

Q:  Is   swimming good for your figure?  

A:  If   swimming is good for your figure,  explain whales to  me. 

Q:  Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?  

A:  Hey!  'Round' is  a shape!  

Well,   I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets. 

For  those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional  studies.    

1 . The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than  Americans.

2 . The Mexicans eat a lot of  fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than  Americans. 

3 . The Chinese drink very little  red wine and  suffer fewer heart attacks than  Americans.

4 . The  Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.  

5 . The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans. 


Eat and drink what you like.

Speaking English is apparently what kills  you. 








Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thank You and Please Pick Up Your Award!

I was honored last week with not one, but two blog awards.

Thank You. I know I have been slow to acknowledge them, for that, I'm sorry. I've been trying to get my head around the recognition and how to successfully word my appreciation.

As I sit at my kitchen table and type away about our current dinner plans or what I need at the grocery store, or a current rant about the food industry, I am always surprised (and pleased) at how many people are tuned in to these very same things.

Seems we are not so far removed from all humans. That's nice.

And thank you for allowing me access to your blogs. When I read your postings it feels like sitting down and catching up with a friend.

Kim at

was kind enough to pass on The Lovely Blog Award with some very lovely comments. Thank You. Kim's blog is funny and fresh and a wonderful reminder (for me, not thirtysomething anymore) of the very real rantings and goings on in a thirty something house! Bravo!

Michael at:

was generous enough to pass on The Lemonade Award.

Meeko Fabulous (his blog identity) is funny, funny, funny and reminds me of all the workings of corporate life. Everything you wanted to say but were afraid to say it. Do stop in and read his daily "disgruntled" postings.

So - now it is my duty as a fellow blogger to pass on the recognition. Forgive me if I don't name all the blogs I'm supposed to as the rules state. I'm a rule breaker. Always have been. No need to change now.

Here are some of my favorite readings over my morning cup of coffee. Thanks all for making my day. Choose which blog award you want - one or both - you all deserve it!

You are funny, fresh and irreverant. I like that combination.

I like your writing style and life style. I sooo want to visit your farm!

You always make me think and question. That's a good thing!

I think we are at the same place in life. I like your short posts that speak to women our age. I wish you lived nearby. I think I would visit you often and bring you plates of food gifts from my kitchen.

Seems we share a passion for food. Your postings also remind me of when my kidadults and middles were littles. Makes me smile. You have a lovely heart.

Here's a little, easy, 15 minute summer salad just for you wonderful bloggers.

What shall we call it?

No Name as of yet orzo salad.

1 cup tricolor orzo, cooked to package directions. Rinsed, drained and cooled. (will yield about 2 cups cooked)
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped fine
Salt and Pepper
Lemon Vinaigrette (previous post)

Mix first four ingredients in a large bowl. Salt and pepper lightly. Add enough viaigrette to coat the orzo. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

This goes great with a simple grilled chicken and fresh strawberrries on the side.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Making Mozzarella and Rotisserie Turkey

Today's science project is making mozzarella. 

That's right kids, home made mozzarella in only 30 minutes. This morning I made one, 8 ounce Ball, two five-ounce braids and 10 little bocconcini (little mouthfuls) balls for an antipasto. All from one store bought gallon of milk! 

What you say? 

Yes, you can make that expensive (overpriced?) fresh mozzarella at home in under 30 minutes with milk you buy at the grocery store. Honest. You can. 

The only ingredients you need are a gallon of milk, salt, citric acid and rennet (an enzyme available from a cheesemaking supply house. I use www.cheesemaking.com)

You probably already have all the equipment needed. A pot, a ladle, a thermometer, a bowl. 

Tonight's menu is homemade antipasto and rotisserie roasted turkey breast. The turkey breast is the all natural one I bought at The Farmer's Market - I didn't have the heart to freeze it! 

This is a BIG meal - invite someone over. If you make the mozzarella yourself you may never forgive yourself for sharing. People will not leave you alone until you make (and give them) more! 

For the antipasto:

10 - 15 Fresh Mozzarella Bocconcini (little mouthfuls) - those are the little balls of fresh mozzarella. If you can't find them (or make them), buy a round and cut into 1 inch cubes. 

Fresh Herbs, minced. I use parsley, thyme and rosemary - about 3 tablespoons
1 garlic clove, sliced.
Pinch red pepper flakes
5 or 6 sun dried tomato halves, sliced in two.
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1 head romaine lettuce or mixed greens, torn into bite sized pieces
Kosher Salt

Place your herbs, garlic, red pepper flakes, tomatoes and cheese into a sealable bowl. Pour enough olive oil over to cover. Let steep for at least 4 hours. Keeps for 2 weeks in fridge. 

Serve over torn romaine leaves.. A nice loaf of bread on the side. YUM.

Rotisserie Turkey Breast (you can also use a whole chicken)

Fresh herbs of choice, chopped - about 2 tablespoons. I'm using thyme, parsley and rosemary to mirror the antipasto.
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

Mix the herbs and salt into the butter. Gently smear the herb butter mixture inside the skin of the turkey breast. Use the back of a spoon to help you separate the skin from the meat, being careful not to tear the skin.  

Place on rotisserie skewer and roast for 15-20 minutes per pound. Tent and let rest 30 minutes before removing from rotisserie skewer. 

Slice and serve with antipasto. Heaven on a plate. 

ps. This is our second locally sourced meal this weekend. The only nonlocal products are the olive oil and salt. But hey, wars have been fought and men have travelled far for these two ingredients so we're not doing so bad!  

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity, Jig - Veal Chops

Oh, that's my new friend Aaron (and a coworker) from Clover Farm.

I had so much fun yesterday at The Farmer's Market. 

That statement will get The Best Husband in The World's eyes rolling - but it's the truth. 

Side Note: TBHITW reminded me that when we were dating I took him to The Farmer's Market one Saturday afternoon, then cooked him dinner from our purchases. LOL. I had him the first time I turned on the stove. 

Anyway, what a day! My friend Anne had to cancel because her daughter was home sick from school so I ended up going myself. No biggie - but Anne I missed you! I promise in a couple of weeks I'll go again.

As I was saying; what a day. I wasn't inside the market more than 30 seconds when I overheard a merchant say to a customer, "okay then, thank you. And don't forget to tell your folks hello". Ohhh.. can you imagine? When was the last time you heard that in the produce aisle of your local store?  I must have started grinning right then and there and am still smiling for all the polite and kind people in that market. 

The following is an actual, factual account of my day:

At a vegetable stand I bought some pale yellow, thin skinned Yukon Gold potatoes. When I handed over the basket to be weighed the man doing the weighing told me that they were his favorite kind. He went on to tell me that his wife boils them up (skin and all), then mashes them with butter, sweet cream and salt and pepper. He told me that's all he needs for dinner when she makes a pot of those Yukon Golds. I almost fainted for want of some of those mashed potatoes right then and there. 

At the same stand I bought some spring peas (still in their pods), a head of Bibb lettuce, and some mushrooms - all grown at the same nearby farm. 

I then wandered over to Alderfer's Farm stand and bought some organic, free range eggs and some "meat" sticks (they are like Slim Jim's, only handmade) when I told the man they were for my 15 year old son, who just loves them, he threw in 2 extra for free (with a wink) and told me those 2 were for the "growing boy." 

At Weaver's Meats  I spotted some smoked bacon and asked for a pound. The bacon guy kept sorting the bacon around, telling me he wanted to find me the leanest, best pound. Ah-huh. That has happened never at my local Pathmark chain store. 

Now I was in search of turkey. At Mr. Bill's Poultry I found all natural turkey. I asked what they meant by "all natural" and a very nice young man explained that it was free range, never frozen, no antibiotics and no steroids are used, but the farm wasn't certified organic because the supplemental feed they give the turkeys is not certified organic. He did assure me that if I hadn't had a "Kohl's" turkey before I was in for a treat. I bought a 5 pound turkey breast and a 2 1/2 pound rabbit on his recommendation. He was kind enough to cut the rabbit to order (tastes like chicken).

Speaking of chicken. At the Fairgrounds Poultry Market I found organic chicken breasts and bought 4 lovely full breasts (with tenderloins attached - have you noticed lately that mass produced aka Perdue, etc chicken breasts have the tenderloin removed?) At this stand they also sold grass fed lamb, but they didn't have any lamb racks today. The gentleman behind the meat case gave me his phone number and told me next time I come I should call him the day before and he would be sure to have a rack of lamb (or two) for me. Okay.... 

I was beginning to get the picture here. Nice people. Proud of their food. Going out of their way to be of service. Hmmm.. what a concept. Stay with me because I'm saving the best for last. 

At the Amish Bakery I bought a gorgeous cheesecake from a lovely young Amish woman. She was wearing the traditional dark blue dress with pristine white apron of the Amish. Her long hair was woven into a bun and tucked up into a net bonnet. I was more than happy to hand over $17.00 for a huge creamy cheesecake to celebrate Jacob's 19th. birthday. Happy Birthday Jake! 

Just past the Amish Bakery I was able to score just made salted potato chips. And just beyond that I bought 2 bottles of wine from Clover Hill Vineyards (Breinigsville, PA - just a few miles from the fairgrounds). The lady in the winery store insisted I taste one of their newest lines, a delicious steel barrel aged Chardonnay. I chatted with her over a few sips of wine for a few minutes before moving on. 

By now I was getting hungry so I stopped by a little stand where a lovely dark haired woman was making empanadas. I ordered a chicken empanada happy that the newest immigrants to Allentown were nestling in with the oldest. Viva la difference! 

My final stop was at Clover Farms, the oldest meat vendor at the market. As I was perusing the meat cases filled with delicious looking sausages and burgers and meats, the most charming man I met all day asked if he could be of service. He told me his name was Aaron.

I spied some gorgeous veal chops and asked for two. Aaron sighed and told me he hated to even sell them because it's less for him to take home. We chatted for a bit and I asked him about the fresh sausages (about 10 different varieties!) laying all coiled up like soft pink ropes. He told me his family makes them and told me which were the best sellers. On his advice I bought 2 pounds of "American Pie" - apple and cheddar cheese and 2 pounds of "The Italian Job" - basil and garlic. Aaron also made me a gift of a marinated steak that he said I just have to try as it's his own special concoction. Okay Toto - we are definitely not in Kansas anymore. 

I took his picture in front of the blackboard picture that he said his mom drew. See it at the top of the blog post? I asked him for a card, but they don't have one. Instead he took the time to write down the name of the farm, Clover Farm, their phone number (610) 751-4211 and the owner's (his dad) name, David Solove. I don't think the Solove's would be upset that I published this information. This is their business, their livelihood, their family tradition. Aaron also asked me what my name was. I bet he remembers it too. 

I am not making this up people - you can actually buy food from people with names. Not corporate entity's but real names that they give you along with their phone numbers. 

Can you imagine? Merchants who are so proud of their stuff that they take the time to explain to you everything you want to know about it? Sellers giving you stuff "so you can try it". Vendors who come back to the same stand year after year, decade after decade, who know their customers by name? 

What is this world coming to? 

If you find any of this hard to believe, I bet you haven't visited a local farmer's market lately. Take the time to find one. Go there. Buy stuff. Sample. Report back here with your experiences. Really, I want to know! 

I haven't even begun talking about the cheeses, breads, seafood and other fresh meats and oh - my - wait until actual harvest time! I will be back Aaron and all you other perfectly lovely people I met on my shopping excursion. 

Thank you for a perfect day. 

PS. Please share your farm market or you pick it stories! I'd love to hear from you.

This is my locavore dinner this evening for me and TBHITW this week (no kids, date night at home). The only thing not locally produced are the lemons and capers and a little olive oil. 

Veal Chops with Lemon and Capers: (serves 2 perfectly happy adults)

2 fresh veal chops
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed 
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

In a flat glass dish, place lemon juice, thyme and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Salt and pepper both sides of veal chops. Place in glass dish, turning to coat. Let rest for 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

After 30 minutes, remove chops from marinade. Pat dry. Reserve marinade. 

Heat remaining olive oil in oven proof skillet over medium high heat. When almost smoking, add chops. Sear about 4 minutes. Turn, pour reserved marinade over top of chops and place in hot oven for 6-8 more minutes for medium. 

Serve with fresh peas, some awesome Yukon Gold mashed potatoes I've been lusting for and a nice steel barrel fermented Chardonnay. 
Related Posts with Thumbnails