Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cold Udon Noodle Salad

Ever since I read about this Cold Udon Noodle Salad on Jess's blog, My Own Bell Jar, I have been absolutely dying to try it.  It looked so refreshing and light.  Plus it will satisfy my Thai taste-buds in a big way.  I am such a sucker for Thai Peanut Sauce and noodles.  She tells about a basic recipe she made up, so I used it as my inspiration and flew with it.  It turned out so amazing, I can not stop eating it!!!  I think I quite possibly have a new addiction!  It is hands down one of my new favorite foods.  Thank you so much Jess for this wonderful recipe!  I am in love :)

Today I did a lot of shortcuts.  I wanted a fast dish that I didn't need to think about too much.  I let my grocery store be my friend today.  This version of my recipe will show you this route.  Next time I will adapt it to be completely from scratch.

Click {here} for the Thai Peanut Sauce from scratch.

Print this Recipe

Cold Udon Noodle Salad
1 Package Thick Udon Noodles, cooked according to package directions, then chilled
1/2 jar Thai Peanut Sauce or follow the directions {here} for a homemade version
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Fish Sauce
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1/2 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
Red Chili Flakes, to taste
The meat from one prepared rotisserie chicken, sliced thin
2 cups carrots sticks, julienned (I bought the bag in the produce aisle all prepped for me already)
2 cups cucumber, julienned
2 cups cabbage, shredded (again, I used the coleslaw bag in the produce department)
4 green onions sliced
2 cups Sugar Snap Peas (these didn't look good at the store, so I didn't add them this time)
2 cups bean sprouts (can you believe my grocery store was out of both fresh and canned?!  So I had to omit this item, but it will totally be added next time)
2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds, toasted

In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, cook the udon noodles for about 5-7 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse the noodles under cold running water and let cool.

Using a DRY large frying pan, heat the sesame seeds on Medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally.  Remove from pan when they darken and turn fragrant (about 3-5 minutes).  Do not allow to burn!

Whisk to combine the Peanut Sauce, Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Sesame Oil, Rice Wine Vinegar, garlic and red chili flakes until well mixed. Combine the cooked noodles, chicken, cucumber, sprouts, carrot, green onions, sugar snap peas and toasted sesame seeds, reserving some of the veggies and sesame seeds for garnish. Pour the Peanut Dressing over the salad. Stir until well coated.

Serve chilled, garnished with the reserved veggies and sesame seeds.

When I first made the recipe, I had added only 1 cup of each of the veggies.  But after eating it, I decide I would like to have more of them mixed in.  So yesterday I added an additional cup of each vegetable.  This totally did the trick and I will make it like this from now on.  The recipe above reflects the additional cup.

This dish is just as great the next day, so don't be afraid of making "too much".  It is awesome as leftovers!  Jess said that her husband Curtis even heated up his second serving and really enjoyed it this way too.  He said it was different, but just as good.  I will have to give it a try warm when I eat another bowl of it today!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Teradon Collins

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Teradon Collins
TD and his beautiful wife, Caryn while in Greece

For todays segment of Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am excited to tell you more about my good buddy Teradon, or TD as he is commonly known.  You all met him last month when he shared that incredible Captain Morgan BBQ Sauce with us.  TD was my first friend when I moved to Cambridge, MA.  My parents had come up with me to help with the move.  They had just left so I could get myself settled in on my own;  I was lonely and unsure about living in a place so far away from the home I knew.  I went to sit outside in my courtyard and who did I run into but TD.  I told him I had just moved in and he asked if I wanted to hang out with him and some friends to play Trivia Pursuit.  (How fun is that?!)  This moment was a perfect example of the type of person he is.  Being a transplant himself he understood what it is like to start over in a new place.  TD and his wife, Caryn are such lovely people.  They are incredibly warm and inviting, right away making you feel as though you've known them for ages.  I miss them dearly, and look so forward to our next vacation in New England so we can catch up and I can finally meet their handsome son Cassidy!  

TD is a big time outdoorsman.  I will never forget the time he asked if I wanted to go along on a camping trip with their group of friends.  I said sure, thinking it was an invite for the future.  Turns out it was for the following weekend. It was the middle of winter.  There was snow on the ground.  Lots of snow.  OK, I love being outside.  Camping is a blast.  But I have to admit the thought of sleeping in a tent with a few feet of snow on the ground sounded crazy to me!  I thought he must be joking, but no, not a joke.  I told him I was thrilled to be included BUT to just please ask me again when the weather was a touch warmer (OK, a lot warmer)  I admit it, I'm a baby.  He told me no problem, but it is really no big deal.  See, they had extra boot and hand warmers and we would be sleeping under a lean-to, so there would be some shelter... Yeah, still sounding not so enticing.  Sorry TD, I like to hike and camp but this was just a little too much for me!  

But over the two years I lived there I did do a bunch of other really fun, new things with him.  He taught (alright, tried to teach) me how to rock climb, which is another big passion of TD's.  I gave it a really good try, and if I had lived there long enough I would hope that one day I would actually be good at it.  Bouldering was also a ton of fun- much more my speed (climbing rocks without the use of ropes and harnesses) and I took to this really well.  At most cookouts, TD would always pull out the slackline, which is I guess pretty similar to tightrope.  You balance on a 1" rope that is just a foot or so off the ground.  This pastime is common with many rock climbers and helps to improve strength and agility.  TD was awesome at this (me, not so much).  But goodness it was fun to try!  I got halfway a few times, but never all the way across.  One day, maybe!  TD is adventurous and brave, but also a very patient teacher.  These traits are going to make him an excellent father to his son. Goodness are they going to have fun as he grows up!  Cassidy is one lucky little man.  So for today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I an thrilled to bring you my friend TD.  

What is your favorite thing to cook?
That’s a very seasonal thing. I guess being summer right now it would have to be BBQ. Pulled pork, ribs, homemade sausage and brisket, oh and all the sauces that you’d like to go with it. In the spring I do a summers worth of about 5-6 different varieties. Pulled pork freezes well in vacuum bags, so you can always have it later. I buy ribs in 3 packs from BJs and vacuum seal them with the rub on. They smoke up very nice in my grill. I finally came to about 90% satisfied with my brisket. Took 2 days and 18 hours, but my friend who is a certified KC BBQ judge gave me 8’s and 9’s.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
I try not to cook things I don’t like. So I guess that would be veggie burgers on the grill. You bring them, you cook them after the meat is done.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
My wife and I have never really eaten out much. We’re homebodies who like to cook. So I guess it would be a pub, not really a restaurant. The Thirsty Scholar on the Cambridge Somerville line. Best eggs Benedict and best fish and chips I’ve found and those are my two judging points for pubs.

I’ve been dying to try Oleana in Cambridge. The chef focuses on an Arabic Mediterranean cuisine and tries to serve as many in season foods as possible. She sources a lot from her husband’s farm. I’ve heard nothing but great things about this place and the difficulties in getting a table attest to that.

Music and food go together so beautifully.  You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
Well we played nothing but the Grateful Dead for our wedding cocktail hour, but my go to for a dinner party is Buena Vista Social Club. It’s just so good and becomes part of a nice sit down meal so easily.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
Dry aged rib eye, rare, twice baked potatoes, extra crispy French fries, bowls of au jus, smokes ribs, NYC pizza, fresh fish tacos….I could go on. If I was going out, it wouldn’t be pretty.

What are you currently reading?
Just started I, Alex Cross, by Patterson last night. Not a huge Paterson fan, but it’s the only book I have left that I hadn’t read yet. I think I read about 3-4 books a month, mostly mystery/spy novels, aka don’t make me think books.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
Oh, so many! Depends on the meal really. But the number one is my knives. We put together a great set after we got some at our wedding. Best thing is, Caryn had them sharpened for my birthday this year!

This could be a column in itself with me. Recommended is Alton Brown’s double chicken wing steamer. So easy to make, such a great outcome for your wings.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Not really. I guess in the summer if friends are coming over I’d do some ribs up. Since they take about 3 hours on the grill, it leaves plenty of time to hang out without having to worry about the cooking process.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
Mom’s fried perch was definitely one of my favorites. Alas, I don’t make it at all.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
So hard to do. First three I think of watching anytime are, Dazed and Confused, Saving Private Ryan and Half Baked.

What was your happiest moment in life?
Cliché and all, but Feb. 14, 1996, the day my wife and I started going out. That day has led to a great life, a wonderful son and dog and too many adventures to count.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Stop and Shop mostly. BJs for a lot of my meats and Whole Foods if I can’t find what I need anywhere else. They are the only place I can find Juniper berries and dry aged steaks.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Tiramisu from Whole Foods. Overly expensive, so bad for you, only buying the super large portion, hiding it and knowing that this is going to make you want to eat it forever. So yeah, Tiramisu.

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
My desire to learn how to do everything myself. From carpentry, wiring, sewing camping gear, brewing beer to cooking. Most of the money you pay in life is for someone else’s labor. I want to set a good example for my son like my dad did for me and I think I’m on the right track.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
To keep working on my knife skills, learn to make eggs Benedict from scratch (even the muffins), perfect my brisket and eat more biscuits and sausage gravy.

One word that best describes you is:  Tall

Two for the price of one, since I always make these us as I go and have never measured anything, so adjustments may be warranted.

Grilled Tuna Steak with Asian Apricot Sauce
Serves 2

2 Tuna Steaks
1 Can apricots
2 T honey
3 T Rice wine vinegar
2 T Cider vinegar
2 T Fresh grated ginger
1 t Wasabi powder
½ t salt
Sesame seeds

Rinse the heavy syrup off the apricots, crush them up well. Add them to a pot and simmer for about 20 min. with the rest of the ingredients up to the sesame seeds. Cool sauce. Marinate tuna in sauce, setting aside some to top off the steaks. Coat steaks in sesame seeds and grill to rare. That’s rare, nothing else, its tuna not chicken. Spoon remaining sauce on top of steaks.

Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos
Serves 2

Corn or flour tortillas
4 Mahi Mahi filets (at least)
½ C fresh chopped cilantro
2 limes
4 T Vegetable oil
2 1/2 T ground cumin
1 T Chili powder
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
Iceberg lettuce
Havarti cheese

Add the fish, cilantro, juice of 1 ½ limes, oil, cumin, chili powder, onion and garlic powder to a bag. Toss and marinate for 1 hour. Slice havarti thin, chop lettuce. Wrap tortillas in tin foil. Use two tortillas per taco when using corn. Grill fish, using marinade to coat as they grill. Warm tortillas on grill. Break fish apart and make tacos. Slice remaining half of lime and squirt on tacos.

This can be done in a pan as well. Shrimp works well and we’ll often do a mix of tilapia and chopped shrimp in the winter as tilapia doesn’t hold up on the grill. You can also toss in some OJ and tequila for a different flavor.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

To Die For Blueberry Muffins

So if the Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffin is the "Good Girl" in school, this one is definitely the "Naughty One".  It has absolutely the very best "Muffin Top" you will ever have; extra crunchy, sweet, and full of blueberry flavor.  As you can tell I am still on my muffin kick, and today I wanted to try one with a streusel topping but again using up more of the homegrown blueberries I had in my fridge.  I did the healthy thing, now it was time for something a little more naughty.  

The batter on these muffins is wonderfully thick, helping the blueberries hold in place while baking (instead of dropping to the bottom like some recipes).  Now, this recipe only makes 6-9 large sized muffins, but makes enough streusel topping for double that.  So after mixing my first batch, I decided to double the recipe and make enough muffins for all that wonderful streusel- I couldn't possibly waste it!  Filling my tins all the way to the top, I got exactly 18 muffins.  
After baking, please allow the muffins to cool for at least 10 minutes inside the tins before attempting to remove.  Using a butter knife, gently separate the muffins from the tins (especially where the blueberries oozed), lightly tip the tins to their side and using the knife ease the muffins out of the tins.  

Check out all those blueberries!

The streusel topping is very heavy once it bakes, and of course I wayyyyy overloaded each muffin with the topping thinking more is better.  Flavor-wise- amazing.  But I do realize that next time I will use slightly less, making it easier to remove from the pans and helping to ensure that the topping doesn't fall off after baking.  A "Muffin Top" completely fell off of one of my muffins while removing from the pan- OH NO!  I will just have to taste this one to make sure it is delicious enough.  

It was.  Every. Last. Bite.  

To Die For Blueberry Muffins
Recipe courtesy
Makes 6-9 Large Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin cups or line with muffin liners.
Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.

To Make Crumb Topping: Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.  I only had to bake mine for 17 minutes, so keep an eye on them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ground Meat Stuffed Zucchini Boats

I absolutely live for the overabundance of zucchini and yellow squash that come with the summer months. It may seem daunting at first, what to do with so many of these guys, many who are as long as your arm.   But for me, that is part of the fun; discovering new and exciting dishes to use them in.  Playing around in the kitchen tonight I put together this one, and we all loved it!

Ground Meat Stuffed Zucchini Boats
2 zucchini's or yellow squash, about 12 inches long (or 4 6-inch)
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup banana pepper or green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. ground beef or turkey
3 tomatoes, seeded and diced (I used my mom's wonderful canned tomatoes, but fresh would also be great here)
3 Tbsp chopped fresh Basil
1 tsp minced fresh Thyme
1 tsp minced fresh Sweet Marjoram (you can also use Oregano if you are unable to find Sweet Marjoram)
¾ cup Sun-dried Tomato Feta Cheese, crumbled (you could also use Parmesan or Mozzarella)
½ tsp Kosher Salt
½ tsp. fresh ground black pepper
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, to taste
20 wheat crackers, chopped (or a ½ cup bread crumbs)

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Scoop out insides, leaving a shell about ¼-inch thick. I liked using a mellon baller to do the scooping and then a spoon to scrape it smooth.  Reserve about half of the insides.

In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the onion and garlic until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Add the reserved zucchini insides to the skillet and sauté another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble in the ground meat and cook until lightly browned on all sides, stirring occasionally. Drain of any excess fat.  Stir in the cooked onion and squash mixture. Add the tomatoes, basil thyme and sweet marjoram. Simmer for a few minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in the cracker crumb and set aside to cool a bit.

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Once the meat mixture has cooled a bit, mix in the feta, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes. Fill the zucchini shells with the mixture.  Place the filled zucchini shells in the pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the zucchini from the pan and serve immediately.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Simple Joys of Summer- Blueberry's in Milk

One of the best things about the summer is how full of flavor fresh fruits and vegetable's are. They taste best when kept in their most simple, freshest form.  Vine ripened tomatoes still warm from the sun, eaten as an apple; their juices dripping down your chin. Plump blackberries staining your fingertips with you sneaking half as many as your pail can hold. You can't beat nature in most beautiful form.

My childhood memories from summer always include my parents countertop lined with more tomatoes then one knows what to do with, zucchini's larger then my forearm and enormous bowls full of fresh picked blueberries from our neighbor Emma's patch. Snacking involved popping cherry tomatoes one after another, handfuls of blueberries with each pass through the kitchen and crunching on green beans right off the vine while playing in the backyard.

Even as an adult, I feel the very best way to eat blueberries is as I did as a child: a nice handful placed in a bowl, top with ice cold milk and sprinkle lightly with sugar.  It honestly can't be beat!   Lately I have been adding sprigs of fresh mint as well.  It makes a pretty garnish, but please don't throw it away!  Tear it up and enjoy the lovely flavor it brings to the blueberries.  A match made in heaven.

What are your simple joys of summer?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Megan Weimer

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Megan Weimer

Today I would like to introduce you to a former Lutheran West classmate of mine, Megan Weimer.  She is a girl I am excited to be reconnecting with now as an adult- one thing though, I just wish she lived closer!  Since graduation she has been one busy traveler!  She has lived in both Indiana and Iowa for college before moving onto Wisconsin for graduate school in nursing.  Madison, WI ended up stealing her heart (or at least giving her a wonderful job!) because she hasn't moved home yet!  Megan works in an environment that I admire so much- she is a Registered Nurse taking care of children with cancer. Wow. I know.  It takes a very special person to be able to have the heart and the self control to remain in a place like that.   And this just proves the kind of women she is. Megan is not only caring and incredibly kind but also quite silly.  Just what those little children (and their parents) need the most during their difficult times.   

Megan is an avid biker, and the lucky girl is getting ready for a wonderful trip aboard hers super soon!  You know what, to be honest, I haven't ridden my bike since college- yikes.  A part of me is a little afraid I have forgotten how to do it!  Just kidding (kind of).  But there is something so freeing about riding a bike.  Megan has this wonderful quote that I  want to share with you.  I read it the other day and just loved it:
"I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammeled womanhood." -Susan B. Anthony, 1896

Cool, huh?  Makes me want to get mine down off of the ceiling of my garage, dust it off and give it a go.  So for today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I would love for you to meet my adventurous friend, Megan.  

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Soups or Mexican

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
I'm scared of fish, and I really don't enjoy baking. Yeast and I do not get along.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
I grew up in West Park, and I always want to go to Gene's Place when I'm in town. They have good comfort food, and the atmosphere never changes. I also try to get in some good corned beef when I'm in Cleveland. Sometime when I'm in town, I'd love to go to one of Michael Symon's restaurants.

In Madison, I love all of the local ethnic restaurants. Think of any cuisine you want, and you can find it here. I have never been to L'Etoile, but I certainly want to try it sometime.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
This is really dependent on the group, but probably jazz, classical, or classic rock.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
Thanksgiving dinner. I absolutely live for Thanksgiving!

What are you currently reading?
Lots of stuff for school, which is nothing but dull. For fun, the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris and Little Bee by Christ Cleave. I have to have multiple books going at once.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
Garlic press or the finger protector for chopping (I've tried to amputate my fingers too many times!!!)

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
The most requested things are spinach dip, white chicken chili, frosted sugar cookies, guacamole, and enchiladas.

What do you miss most about the Cleveland area? And what do you love most about where you live now?
I miss my family the most, but I also miss the lake and the Metroparks.
I love Madison. There is always something to do, I have a great job, and I have the most amazing group of friends. My favorite thing about this town is that you can drive 20 minutes and be out in the country, away from everything. The thing I like least is all of the UW Badger and Green Bay Packer fans.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
Crock pot pepper steak, and, yes, I still cook it.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
Pretty Woman, Goonies, Indiana Jones

What was your happiest moment in life?
My life is pretty much great, so it's hard for me to peg down just one. Anytime I'm with the ones I love is my new happiest moment.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
Trader Joe's, Woodman's, Copps, farmer's markets

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
I cannot say no to chips and dip.

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
Since leaving Cleveland 13 years ago, my life has been guided by serendipitous chance. I'm proud of myself for taking on the unknown, which has made my life so much richer.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I'd like to roast a chicken and bake bread from scratch.

One word that best describes you is: content

I rarely follow recipes, so my dishes are never the same twice, but this dip is easy, fantastic, and always a hit.

Spinach Dip
1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry
1 cup mayo
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 can water chestnuts, finely chopped
Garlic powder, onion powder to taste

Combine all ingredients and chill. Serve in a pumpernickel bread bowl with bread pieces on the side for dipping. Also great with veggies, crackers, beer bread, etc. Sometimes I throw in some crushed red pepper or a few shakes of Tabasco for a little kick.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Candy's Chicken Tortilla Soup

After a little bit of begging (or asking really, really nice), I finally got my hands on my friend Candy's Tortilla Soup recipe.  Ever since she posted this picture on facebook I have been dying to try it.  I mean seriously, doesn't this look absolutely sublime?!  I want it right now.  I think I know what I am making for dinner tomorrow night!  

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed chicken broth
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup whole corn kernels, cooked
1 cup white hominy
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and cut into bite-sized pieces
one small can of enchilada sauce
a bit of cayanne pepper, to taste
crushed tortilla chips
sliced avocado
shredded Monterey Jack cheese
chopped green onions

In a medium stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic in oil until soft. Stir in chili powder, oregano, tomatoes, broth, and water. Bring to a boil, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in corn, hominy, chiles, beans, cilantro, and chicken. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Ladle soup into individual serving bowls, and top with crushed tortilla chips, avocado slices, cheese, and chopped green onion.

I made it in the crock pot, even though it says to use a stock pot. 3 hrs on high and then about 3 more on low.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Banana Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Print this Recipe

Makes 10-12 muffins

Preheat oven to 400 and prepare pan; either using paper cups, or grease and flour them (I used my floured nonstick spray, Baker's Joy this time).

In a large bowl add and combine well
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup oil
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla

In a smaller bowl combine well
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup chocolate chips, reserving extra for sprinkling on top (I used mini chocolate chips)

Combine wet and dry ingredients and fold together gently until just mixed, fold in chocolate chips.  Spoon into prepared pan.  Sprinkle extra chocolate chips on top. 

Jackson was in charge of sprinkling the chocolate chips on top.  
I think he ate as much as he sprinkled!

 Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  Remove from pan and cool on rack. Store in an air-tight container.

They puffed up really nice!

When I decided to bake these this morning I found that I only had Bread Flour, not All Purpose Flour.  I was a bit concerned over the texture that these muffins would turn out like.  So I thought I would combine the Bread Flour (3/4 cup) with my Whole Wheat Flour (3/4 cup) to ensure they would bake properly.

In hindsight after tasting them I think I will make them with just All Purpose Flour next time. They turned out very moist, just like I was hoping for.  But the wheat flavor seemed to over power the banana flavor.  They also browned more then I would have liked, even with baking them for only 17 minutes.   They are still yummy, but not as exciting as I was hoping for.  Oh well, looks like I will just have to bake another batch soon...

***OK, so we have since made these with All Purpose Flour instead of the mixture of wheat and bread flours and they were just as exciting as I was hoping for the first time!  Be sure you use All Purpose Flour for this recipe!

*Recipe adapted from Wild About Muffins by Angela Clubb

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffins

I can hardly believe I am saying this, but I am already done with summer.   Being pregnant the heat is really getting to me, I'm sick of the swollen feet, and I just am ready for the fall. I am ready for crunchy leaves.  Sleeping in bed, windows open to the chilly nights.  And my oven warming the house with wonderful smelling treats.

It was a sleepy day for me today.   My body and mind is finally slowing down after a busy week full of VBS, wedding showers and spending lots of time with lots of people.  I had a hard time waking up and an even harder time getting moving.  It was like my body was screaming "STOP and just let me relax already!"  So take it easy I did.  After a nice long shower, Jackson and I pilled into the car and popped over my mom's house for a little R&R.  Jackson got to play, I got to relax and enjoy my mom's company and conversation. It was a nice way to unwind, and I got to leave with my new market basket (Thanks Kathleen!) full of homegrown veggies, fresh fruit salsa, rolled oats, and lots and lots of blueberries!  My parents neighbor Emma, grows the most delicious blueberries in her backyard and we are always so lucky to get bushels of them each summer.  My most favorite way to eat them is just in a bowl of ice-cold milk and a light sprinkling of sugar- yum!  But with my head fixed on autumn, baking is on the brain these days.

How about some blueberry muffins?  They are so easy to bake, and make for a nice quick breakfast in the morning- which I know Scott appreciates before work.  One of my favorite baking blogs is Joy the Baker.  She is witty, always adding wonderful humor in with each recipe post.  Plus, the things she makes are divine!  While searching her recipes for muffins with blueberries I came across this one that uses applesauce in place of any fattening butters, it has whole wheat flour and rolled oats- and yet she claims them to be moist, delicious and help you to feel good about yourself after eating them.  Sounds good to me!  Especially considering my ongoing cravings for carbohydrates this pregnancy.

I sprinkled the tops with coarse sugar before baking, which added a nice crunch and also worked great with the tartness of the blueberries.  Just as Joy said I would, I loved these muffins!  This is a recipe I will definitely hold onto for future use!

Print this Recipe

Oatmeal Blueberry Applesauce Muffins
courtesy of Joy the Baker
Makes 12-15 muffins

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk (I used the Powdered Buttermilk I had on hand.  For this recipe, it converts to 2 1/8 Tbsp Powdered Buttermilk and 1/2 cup water.  Add the Powdered Buttermilk with the dry ingredients and the water with the wet.)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper cups or spray with nonstick cooking spray. I had enough paper liners for 12 muffins, but had enough muffin mix for 18.  So I sprayed my other tin with floured nonstick cooking spray (Bakers Joy) and it worked great!  I will probably use this method from now on, at least with these muffins.  You don't need to worry about them sticking to the paper this way and you can enjoy every last morsel.

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In a medium bowl combine applesauce, buttermilk, sugar, oil and egg. Make a well in dry ingredients and add applesauce mixture. Stir until just moist. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full.

Bake for 16-18 minutes.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tuna Niçoise Salad

This weekend was full of beautiful ladies, gifts and delicious food for the celebration of my friend Lane's wedding shower.  I wanted to bring a nice salad for lunch and thought that a Tuna Niçoise would be the perfect elegant choice for such a party. The Niçoise is very similar to the American Cobb Salad, where each ingredient is placed separately on the platter.  The only main difference is that it uses tuna, potatoes and green beans where the chicken, avocado and bacon would be. Traditionally in Nice, France (where the salad originated from), the Niçoise Salad is served with canned tuna that has been packed in oil and then drained.  More and more recently it is common to see grilled tuna as well.  For my own ease of preparation, I went the traditional route and used high quality canned tuna.  Once all presented on the platter, the salad looks incredibly impressive, but it is actually quite simple to prepare.  It is colorful, full of flavor and the perfect dish to serve for any summer party.

Tuna Niçoise Salad

4 cans high quality Tuna packed in oil, drained
1 lb baby red skinned or fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and halved (or quartered if too large)
3/4 lb green beans, ends trimmed
8 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered in wedges
2 heads Romaine or Bibb lettuce, washed, well dried, and chopped into 1" pieces
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp capers
1/4 cup niçoise olives (I used an assortment of marinated olives)
several anchovies (optional)

1/2 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot, minced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine lemon juice, shallot, thyme, basil, oregano, and mustard in medium bowl. Slowly whisk while pouring the olive oil in a steady stream to emulsify.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

Bring potatoes and 4 quarts cold water to boil in a large pot. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cook until potatoes are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer potatoes to a medium bowl with a slotted spoon (do not discard boiling water). Lightly coat warm potatoes with vinaigrette; set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, toss lettuce with 1/4 cup vinaigrette in large bowl until coated. Arrange bed of lettuce on a serving platter (I used two serving platters, so everything would fit nicely on each). Mound tuna in center of lettuce. Arrange reserved potatoes in a mound on the lettuce.

Return water to boil and add green beans. Cook until tender but crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain beans, transfer to reserved ice water, and let stand until just cool, about 30 seconds; dry beans well. Toss beans in 3 tablespoons vinaigrette and salt and pepper to taste; arrange in a mound on the lettuce. Next arrange the cherry tomatoes in another mound on your lettuce. Place the hard boiled eggs around the outside of the salad and lightly drizzle them with the vinaigrette.  Sprinkle entire salad with the red onion, olives and capers. Place the anchovies (if using) on the top of the salad. I bought anchovies that were rolled around capers. They looked very pretty on the plate and I felt they were much less intimidating served this way.

Serve Immediately.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Candy Freed

One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating.  And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Candy Freed
Is she cute or what?!

My friend Candy is one fun lady!  She is silly (easily one of the best senses on humor out there!), a wonderful mom and wife and has an incredible taste in music.  The two of us went to high school together, but ran in two different circles of friends.  In a small school there was of course over lap, but it wasn't until we were all grown up we realized how much in common we actually had and why on earth weren't we closer growing up.  Thank goodness for Facebook (it definitely has its perks, huh!) because through that we have had an opportunity to reconnect.  During one of our chats I found out that her husband is Brandt Fundak, who if you don't know him, be sure to tune in on Sunday mornings from 10:00am-12:00pm to WRUW 91.1 for the Cream of Broccoli Radio Hour.  He hosts our most favorite radioshow EVER and listen every single Sunday on our way home from church!  It is probably the only time we actually listen to the radio in the house!  He plays a collection of Indie Rock and Pop, old and new and even some great classics mixed in.  WRUW archives past shows, so check him out and see what great music really is!  When Candy told me about Brandt, I got so excited- she is married to a celebrity, lol!

Candy has this fantastic way with words and an art of telling stories.  I just love to hear about all of the silly things her children say and do- they seriously crack me up.  Her sons know how to have fun, and I know a lot is due to how well they were raised.  She is a very "hands-on" mother, and it shows.  Those boys are incredibly lucky to have her!   So for today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends I'd like to introduce you to Candy Freed.

What is your favorite thing to cook?
Breakfast on Saturdays. Waffles, eggs, sausage, fruit, coffee. We all sit in our jammies and relax.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
Microwave popcorn! I ALWAYS burn or undercook it. We even have a "popcorn" button on the microwave, but I mess it up all the time.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
I love Lola for an upscale dinner. Melt is my favorite for a cheaper one. I can't wait to go to Momocho and The B Spot.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
I'd ask my husband to make one. Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Los Campesinos, Wire, Morrissey, Mozart, TMBG, Beatles. A mix of classics and new stuff.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
My mom's Christmas brunch. She makes a tomato and spinach pie, monkey bread, sausage-apple loaf, fresh fruit, and cheesy potatoes "holiday style" with diced red and green peppers in it. YUM!

What are you currently reading?
"Expecting Adam" By Martha Beck, "Global Woman" by Barbara Ehrenreich and the Thomas The Tank Engine complete collection with my boys.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
An old-fashioned egg beater. I have my grandmother's. Nothing makes fluffy meringue like it!

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
People love my apple crumb pie. I won 2nd place with it in the Cuyahoga County Junior Fair when I was 10. I'm thinking of entering again this the adult competition!

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
Diversity. You can find people and foods of all ethnicities without leaving the county. Grit. People here are the real deal. Get-your-hands-dirty kind of people.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
My mom is a fabulous cook, so really almost everything. I remember having her lasagna or shepherd's pie a lot and I make both of those. And her (originally my grandma's) Thanksgiving stuffing with sausage and currents.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
It's a Wonderful Life. Easter Parade. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

What was your happiest moment in life?
Tough one. Probably getting married. I would say the birth of my two sons, but if I hadn't met my husband, then that wouldn't have happened. Maybe my happiest moment to come will be when my boys finally learn how to clean up after themselves and do chores!

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
If I have time, the West Side Market or Heinen's. I love the Miles Market also. When I'm in a hurry, Giant Eagle and Marc's.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food?
Cheese! Lots of it.

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of?
I am very proud that (with LOTS of support and love from family and friends) I was able to complete my Master's Degree in Sociology this year, while being a wife and mom. But really, I'm most proud of my husband and family for their unending support and advice. I could never have done it without them.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I want to finally use the pasta roller that my husband gave me years ago. I want to make fried green tomatoes. I want to try and make beef bourguignon. I want to get my kids to eat more veggies. Oh! And I want to win that pie contest at the fair!

One word that best describes you is: 

My favorite (or one of them) recipe is this Lemon Chicken With Thyme recipe. I got it from a friend's mom when I was in high school. I went over to her house for dinner and we had this. It is so good and also healthy! It came from Cooking Light Magazine.

Lemon Chicken With Thyme
3 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 lb. total) (I cut them into strips, so I need a little extra flour to coat them.)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 med. onion
1 tbsp. butter
1 c. chicken broth
3 tbsp. lemon juice (I double the lemon juice, since I like it very 'lemony')
1/2 tsp. thyme
Lemon wedges, optional
2 tbsp. chopped parsley, optional

In a plastic or paper bag, combine the flour, salt and pepper and shake to mix. Add the chicken and shake to coat lightly. Remove the chicken and reserve the excess seasoned flour. In a large skillet, warm 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the chicken and brown on one side, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, turn the chicken and brown well on the second side, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Coarsely chop the onion. Add the butter to the skillet. When the butter melts, add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the reserved seasoned flour and cook, stirring until the flour is completely incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the broth, 2 tablespoon of the lemon juice and the thyme and bring the mixture to a bowl, stirring constantly. Return the chicken to the skillet, reduce the heat to medium low and cover the skillet. Cook until the chicken is tender and opaque throughout, about 15 minutes. Divide the chicken among 4 plates. Stir the remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice into the sauce in the skillet and pour over the chicken. Serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkling of parsley, if desired.

Thank you so much Candy for taking the time to do this interview for me!  It was great fun to read and your recipe sounds so easy (which I am very into these days!) and delicious!  Oh, and I have two words for you Whirley Pop!  It is a stovetop popcorn popper that pops the most perfect, most delicious popcorn in seriously 30 seconds!  My mother in law turned me onto it and I have been hooked ever since (like you, I always burn it in the microwave!)  Plus this way is so much cheaper and wayyyyyy healthier!  Let's get the kids together soon, OK?!  

Monday, July 12, 2010

Open for the season!

Driving home from my parents on Thursday I was so excited to see my favorite roadside stand had opened for the season!  They are located on Sprague Road, between Pearl Road and York Road.  Of course I had to stop and see their goods!  It was their first day open for business so they had a smaller assortment, but they promised that their peaches, cantaloupes and berries would be by the weekend along with more veggies.  On Thursday they were selling zucchini and yellow squash, enormous sweet onions, 2 lb baskets of big, beautiful tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, green beans, and ears of corn.

This cost me only $2!  Gotta love local farmers!

I only had a couple of bucks on me, so I just picked up a few things for dinner that night.  I was immediately drawn to those huge onions!  They looked amazing, the size of two of my fists put together!  So I got one of those, I grabbed a zucchini and two yellow squash, thinking I would make a stir-fry with these along with some chicken.....

The lovely couple that owns the stand asked if I ever tried their corn on the cob.  I wasn't sure if I had so he threw two ears in for me to give a try. He assures me that we will come back there for now on.  They even have this cute sign hanging on the stand saying "Try our corn, it will have you smiling from Ear to Ear!"  I made the corn another night, and he was right- super sweet and juicy!

Dinner was indeed delicious. I sauteed up the onion sliced into wedges along with the rounds of zucchini and yellow squash in some butter and olive oil (a tablespoon of each), a bit of salt and pepper and fresh garlic.  When it was beginning to caramelize I took them off the heat and poured them into a casserole dish.  In the same pan, I did a quick browning of sliced chicken and then added that to the casserole with an entire  bunch of watercress, fresh thyme and chopped chives.  Carefully stir together.  On top I sprinkled some Panko bread crumbs and parmesan cheese for a little crunch and then baked it under the broiler until golden brown (about 2-3 minutes).

I served this along with some simple buttered, garlic noodles.  The juices from the zucchini and squash after going in the oven made a delicious sauce for the pasta.  This was a definite do-again!  Sorry for no pictures.  We gobbled this meal up so fast, and by the time I thought to even take any, there was nothing left on my plate.  But trust me, this was so good!   

I love this little roadside stand and encourage you to check this one out yourself, along with all the other great ones popping up out there!  As I come across more, I will be sure to tell you where to find them.  Please feel free to tell me about your favorites as well!  I will compile a list soon!  This is a wonderful way to support your community and decrease your carbon footprint.  Every little bit helps- and trust me, food tastes SO much better when it is coming right from your neighborhood verses across the ocean!  

Friday, July 9, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Dave Whittaker

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating.  And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Dave Whittaker

I am so excited to present today's Fridays, Feasting with Friends!  This is Dave Whittaker, he is a fellow Cleveland native, and also a fellow Foodie Blogger!  I stumbled across his blog one day while looking for a Michael Symon recipe and have been hooked ever since.  It is entitled Live to Cook.... at Home, where he is slowly cooking his way through Michael Symon's cookbook Live to Cook and in-turn learning some new recipes, techniques and having fun along the way.  And I am have such fun following along on his journey!  This lucky guy has had his blog featured on Channel 3, The Avon Ledger, Yahoo News and also Ohio Authority, Ohio's Premier Online Magazine {click here} to read these interviews.  The blogging world is such an awesome place!  I love that you can stumble across someone with the same interests as you do and in the process learn fun things, make new friends, and just have some great daily reading material!  My blogroll is getting larger and larger all the time- I just love it!  So do yourself a favor and add Dave's to yours today!  

What is your favorite thing to cook?
I like to experiment and try lots of new things, that's why I'm cooking my way through Michael Symon's cookbook. If forced to pick just one thing I guess it would be BBQ. I love to smoke pork butts and ribs and experiment with other dishes on the grill. I make all my own rubs, slathers, and sauces from scratch using the highest quality chilies, herbs and spices from SpiceHound at the Coit Road and Tremont Farmers Market.

How about your least favorite thing to cook?
I wouldn't say it's my least favorite thing but my biggest challenge is cooking fish. Cooking through Michael Symon's book has helped me come along way, but I still worry about over or undercooking fish whenever I make it.

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out?
We eat at Bar Symon more than any other restaurant because we love the food, it's close to home, and our 14 month old is welcomed with open arms (literally, the waitresses love her!) but Dante is probably my favorite restaurant right now. Dante is putting out some amazing food. Menu 6 tops the list of restaurants I'd like to try (I loved Boulevard Blue in that space) and I'd really like to make a return trip to L'Albatros.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist?
I am usually too busy cooking to worry about music (and most of our guests don't have the same musical taste I do) so I let my wife pick. My personal play list would include music from The White Stripes, MGMT, Kings of Leon, O.A.R., Bloc Party, Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, and The Raconteurs.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth?
More important than the food would be that it would be shared with my family and friends. For the food, I'd invite my favorite chefs and ask them each to prepare their favorite dish, paired with my favorite craft beers and wine.

What are you currently reading?
My blogroll! It's tough enough for me to keep up with all the great food and sports blogs I follow. I don't have time for books unless I'm on vacation.

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget?
My VitaMix. I got one last fall and use it almost everyday when I am home. It's great for making smoothies, fruit/veggie juices, soups, sauces, peanut butter, milk shakes and so much more.

Do you have a signature go-to dish?
Pulled pork is my go-to dish for a large crowd. Locally raised pork butt slowly smoked over applewood for 12 hours served with Carolina style BBQ sauce, my spicy coleslaw, and some jalapeno cheddar cornbread.

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area?
I am a complete Cleveland homer. I've had opportunities to leave for great opportunities in great cities multiple times but my family and friends keep me here. Cleveland is an under appreciated city with world class restaurants, museums, theater, parks, a Great Lake, and 3 major sports teams. It also has a low cost of living and minimal traffic, two things that keep me from moving to Chicago. It is extremely frustrating that the leaders in the area cannot put their selfish agendas aside and develop and grow this city into what it really could be.

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today?
My favorite meal was my Mom's lasagna. I rarely make lasagna but thanks for the reminder because I love it and should make it more often.

Top 3 Movies of all time?
I'm not all that into movies and I haven't been to the theater in over a year. When I do watch movies, I am a sucker for stupid comedies like The Hangover, Zoolander, and Old School.

What was your happiest moment in life?
God has blessed me with a wonderful life full of happy moments. The couple that come to the top are the day my daughter Isabel was born and the day I married my wife, Beth. If the Indians, Browns or Cavs ever bring home a championship, that would probably round out the top 3.

Where do you do your grocery shopping?
I buy as much as I can from local farmers and farmers markets. My favorites are Bluebird Meadows (pasture raised pork & beef, also eggs) and Plum Creek (humanely raised veal, chicken, duck, turkey, and plenty more). This is the third year we've belonged to a CSA. We receive bags full of delicious produce, fruit, eggs, meat and more from Plum Creek every week. I also like to go to the Homerville Food Auction to buy in bulk for freezing and canning. I get most everything else I need from the Westside Market and Heinen's.

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year?
I am cooking my way through Michael Symon's cookbook Live to Cook and blogging about it - I started off well but have stalled a bit as of late.

One word that best describes you is: Passionate

One of my favorite recipes is one I tweaked from Food & Wine - Braised Pork Shoulder Steak with Fried Egg, Scallions, Pickled Ramps & Hot Peppers, and a Bacon Scallion Horseradish Mustard. The dish, as described by the author, is a combination of two of his favorite Japanese dishes,  donburi (meat and an egg with rice) and kakuni (slow-braised pork served with hot mustard). I followed the recipe for the most part, tweaking slightly with what I had on hand. Bluebird Meadows pork shoulder steak slowly braised in onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, & mirin, topped with a fried egg from Plum Creek Farm, leeks from Chef's Garden, homemade bacon scallion horseradish mustard, and homemade pickled ramps  and hot peppers, all served over rice with some of the braising liquid.

I did a short blog about it here:

Here's a link to the original recipe in Food & Wine:

Bacon Scallion Horseradish Mustard
1 cup dry mustard
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped cooked bacon
1/2 cup finely chopped scallion
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons dried tarragon
1 teaspoon creamed horseradish

Mix the mustard and the vinegar in a non-aluminum saucepan; let sit 30 minutes for the mustard to dissolve. Whisk in the sugar, eggs, and tarragon. Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and is very hot to the touch. Do not boil. Stir in the bacon and the scallions. Immediately remove to a bowl or decorative glass jar and cool to room temperature. The mustard may be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for several months.

Dave, thank you so much for doing this interview for me!  It has been great to read and I am so thrilled to learn of two new local farmers that I wasn't aware of!  I am excited to check them out.  See you around the blog-world and maybe one day we can get the families together for dinner Michael Symon style :)  

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Grilled Corn, Black Bean and Tomato Salad

Grilled Corn, Black Bean and Tomato Salad
4 ears of grilled corn, kernels cut off (you can use frozen or canned, but the grilled tastes best!)
1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups edamame
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
3/4 cup chopped red onion
2-4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (or Italian Parsley if you are not a cilantro fan)
1/2 cup Ranch Dressing (homemade or store-bought. I like the flavor of Buttermilk Ranch for this salad)
a few shakes of hot sauce, to taste
Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground pepper, to taste

Combine all ingredients. Serve chilled or at room temperature. 

This is salad is perfect for all that grilled corn you just made!  Two or three chopped avocado's can be a very nice substitution for the edamame as well.  They both taste great in this salad.  I used the edamame this time since we will be outside and they hold up just a bit better for outdoor picnics.  This salad is so versatile. It is great as a topping for chicken, wrapped into a flour tortilla, mixed with a green salad, or even to dip tortilla chips in as a salsa. Yum!  When I made it today, I also added a bit of Southwest Seasoning Salt for a bit more of a punch.  So play around to adjust the salad to suit your taste- or your pantry!

Have a FUN (and safe!) 4th of July!  Happy Birthday America!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fridays, Feasting With Friends- Featuring Jess Penick

"One of the delights of life is eating with friends, second to that is talking about eating.  And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends."
~Laurie Colwin 'Home Cooking'

Jess Penick
Jess and her husband Curtis

It is almost like Jess and I were just meant to meet and become friends.  A few years back (pre Jackson!) Jess and I both worked at Anthropologie together.  I wasn't there very long, it was just a little part time job for me, more for the great discount at my favorite store then anything else.  I left before I really had an opportunity to get to know anyone all that well.  Fast forward a few years, now married and a mother to a little boy and who do I come into contact with yet once again, and also slightly randomly- Jess!  Scott and her husband Curtis both work together and became pretty good friends.  It came up that both of their wives worked at Anthropologie, and did we happen to know each other.  Small world, huh?!  The friendship didn't happen the first time around knowing each other, so maybe God gave us a second chance...  We started hanging out as couples and I am so glad that we did!  She is a friend I feel blessed to have be a part of my life!

Jess and Curtis are just beginning on an incredible journey of adopting a little boy from Ethiopia!  What an exciting time in their life!  I am so thrilled I can witness this amazing blessing from God.

Jess is a kindred spirit.  She is a beautiful writer, and fellow blogger.  Her blogs, My Own Bell Jar, Worth Repeating, and A Single Sentence are such a joy to read.  They are full of heart, soul and everything else that matters.  She opens herself up in a way that I admire so much.  This girl has a love for books and the written word, always reading, learning and gaining new insight in the world around her.  She is a stunner, but also incredibly modest.  I love the quiet calm about her that can so quickly turn into complete silliness.  So do you want to meet her yet?!  You should- she is worth every minute of your time.  So for todays Fridays, Feasting with Friends I am happy to introduce you to my lovely friend, Jess.

What is your favorite thing to cook? I love cooking Mexican – anything Mexican. Beef tacos, chicken or shrimp fajitas, enchiladas – I even started making huevos con chorizo (eggs & spiced Mexican sausage that you fill into tortillas) because my husband loves it so much.

How about your least favorite thing to cook? I honestly don’t have a least favorite thing to cook. If I don’t want to make it, I won’t – but I’ll give you this – I hate cake (I know, I know – weird) but since I don’t like to eat it, I don’t make it – I made my first cake last year…not sure how it turned out because I didn’t taste it!

What is your favorite local restaurant and what is one you are dying to try out? Along with my Mexican theme, I LOVE Lopez on Lee, in the Heights (East side). It’s kind of on the pricey side but for great margaritas and trendy Mexican food with a modern twist nothing beats it. And they have a great patio – all lit up with twinkling white lights and cute mosaic tabletops. We love it so much we even had our wedding rehearsal dinner there! The one restaurant I’m dying to try out is The Greenhouse Tavern. We have heard excellent reviews about it and are just waiting for a special occasion to splurge.

Music and food go together so beautifully. You are hosting a dinner party, what would be on your playlist? I’m so bad about remembering to put on music at parties – I’m one of those people that often prefers driving my car in silence instead of turning on the radio. For music selections, I usually leave it to my husband. He’s far superior to me in terms of music choices, hooking up the speakers and stuff.

What would you choose to be your last meal on earth? Wow – that’s a hard one! I guess it depends on the season. If I’m dying in the summer I think I’d want chips, salsa and a big peach margarita, if I’m dying in the winter I think I’d want my mom’s homemade matzo ball soup!

What are you currently reading? Oh man, what am I not reading! I used to have a rule – one book at a time (not including the Bible) but that went by the wayside when we decided to adopt. Right now I’m reading a book called There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene – a true story about a woman in Ethiopia that goes on a mission to save all the orphans of Africa. I also just started a novel called Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. It came highly recommended - so far so good. I’m also in the middle of a marriage book called Love and War by John and Stasi Eldredge – a friend and I are reading it together – but only because we got copies free because we promised to blog a book review when we finished – it’s not that good, but I feel like I owe it to them to read it since they gave it to me free. I could go on and on and list off all the books on my nightstand that I’ve started and not finished yet, but I’ll spare you. I love books – way more than I love food actually – maybe I should just eat a book for my last meal on earth!

What is your favorite Kitchen Gadget? Ugh. I’m not a huge fan of kitchen gadgets in general. I have a lot of them – a great blender/food processor, a kitchen aide mixer…blah blah blah – but I’d choose my big butcher knife over all of them without a doubt.

Do you have a signature go-to dish? I really don’t have one – just depends what I’m in the mood for. Lately I’m all about funky homemade salsas – my two faves right now are a fresh cucumber and peach one, or a fresh cut corn and black bean one. They’re good with chips, on salads, fish, tacos – I told you I love anything that even resembles Mexican.

What is your favorite thing about the Cleveland area? My family definitely beats out all the great restaurants, theatres, and all the other good stuff that this city has. I’m from the East side and love that most of my immediate and extended family all live in the area. Nothing’s better than deciding I don’t want to cook one night and inviting myself over to my mom’s house for dinner. I don’t think she’s ever turned me away!

Do you have a favorite meal from your childhood and do you cook it today? Hmmm, that’s a hard one. I credit all of my cooking skills to my mom. She’s a great cook and always had dinner on the table growing up at 6 o’clock on the dot. And now, even just the two of us, if we’re home together at night, we always try to eat dinner together – at the table if we can. It’s a great tradition I especially hope to carry on as our family grows. But, as I mentioned before, I LOVE my mom’s matzo ball soup – and she’s not even Jewish. She learned how to make it from my dad’s mom and a couple years ago taught me how to make it. I must say – homemade stock is the secret. Oh man – it’s 75 degrees outside and now I want matzo ball soup!

Top 3 Movies of all time? Wow. I’ll give you two – Life is Beautiful and Once. Everything else comes after these two.

What was your happiest moment in life? Sounds trite but my wedding day was amazing! I wasn’t stressed, nervous or anxious. I seriously had the most fun I’ve ever had in my life. But, I think we’ll be coming up on moment number two in the next year or so – when we go pick up our son from Ethiopia. I can only imagine how the moment we get to meet him will change our lives forever.
The beautiful couple on their wedding day

Where do you do your grocery shopping? Well, I’d like to say I head down to the west side market every week for fresh produce and stuff but the truth is my husband’s never even been there. I’m all about convenience at this stage in my life, as “career woman” (I use that term VERY loosely) I’m often at work or commuting to and from work from 7:30am to 6pm, so I stop at Giant Eagle on my way home. On the weekends I go to my local Zagarra’s marketplace (nice local chain) or stock up on frozen stuff and canned goods at Target (their generic brand is actually pretty tasty!)

What is your favorite guilty pleasure when it comes to food? Hmmm, well, for the most part I’m a salty girl (if I had to choose between salty and sweet) but since it’s gotten hot all I’ve wanted is ICE CREAM! Keep it away!

Can you tell me about what you are most proud of? This is a hard one – seriously is. Proud is a funny word, because it implies I’m prideful about something good in my life, and I really try not to be. Right now I’m extremely happy with the fact that we’ve just begun this adoption journey but I can’t take the credit. We both really feel like we didn’t actually decide to do it on our own, but more so that we’ve been sent on a mission by God to take this giant leap. So, I can’t say I’m proud of it – but I’m so thankful and proud of my husband who has been remarkably awesome through the process so far! So I’m proud of my husband -- how ‘bout that?!

Do you have Culinary Resolutions that you would like to accomplish this year? Yeah, kind of – I’ve never made a loaf of bread (except for banana bread and that kind of thing, but that doesn’t really count) I don’t think this will be a summer task though – maybe fall or winter. I’m sure there are many more, but I’ve conquered a lot of my cooking fears over the last few years – roasting a chicken for example.

One word that best describes you is: maybe this is a question better put to my husband…(I asked him) he said it would be: Complicated. And I think he’s probably right.

As for a recipe – I don’t really cook using a lot of recipes. I think that’s why I don’t enjoy baking – I hate measuring. Whenever a friend asks for a recipe for something or other I’ve made I just have to sit down and think through what I did and what I used to try to replicate it.

Because I’ve already mentioned that I love making different kinds of salsas – here are my "recipes” for the two I mentioned earlier:

Cucumber Peach Salsa
Diced English/seedless cucumber (keep peel on – adds crunch)
Diced fresh peaches (I also kept the skin on – more because I was lazy)
Diced red onion
Zest and juice of one lime
Salt to taste

Corn & Black Bean Salsa
Fresh (or frozen) corn cut off the cob (great use of leftover corn on the cob)
Can of drained black beans
Can of diced jalapeño
Diced red onion
Diced colored peppers (it looks super pretty with a little of each color)
Zest & juice of one lime
Chopped fresh cilantro
Hot sauce to taste (I like it spicy!)
Salt & pepper to taste

Jess, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview!  I loved reading it and now I have a whole slew of new stuff to get myself into; restaurants, books, and incredible sounding salsa!  Yay!  I absolutely can't wait to try the cucumber and peach salsa.  It is so different then anything else I have had before.  I am SO making it for this weekend!

(Be sure you come back next Friday for my interview with Dave from Live to Cook... At Home!)


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