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Friday, July 31, 2009

Arroz al Horno in The FoodieView Weekly Meal Plan!

My recipe for Arroz al Horno has been featured in The FoodieView Weekly Meal Plan! Thanks to Paula at Bell'Alimento for including me!

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Smashed Veggies: Potatoes and Peas

A couple of weeks ago, we got the cutest little baby red potatoes with our CSA box. I wasn't sure what I'd do with them, but I was sure that I wanted to keep their shape (so no mashed potatoes). I decided to roast them in olive oil, salt and pepper, but when I took them out of the oven, I decided that they weren't crisp enough on the outside for my taste. What to do to make sure to get all sides nice and crispy? Smash them down and fry them up in a little butter! This was so delicious that my daughter (who loves veggies, but has a middling relationship with potatoes) begged for more. These potatoes were perfectly crispy on the outside and velvety on the inside.

We also had some frozen peas and some lovely fresh basil from the CSA box on hand, so I decided to create a plate of smashed veggies. :-) We actually had had something similar when we were in Stockholm in March, and all of us loved it, so I tried to recreate it at home. It was a smashing success! (Terrible pun intended...) This dish was so easy to make and really brightened up the plate. Just boil the frozen (or fresh) peas in some salted water for a few minutes. Drain them, add a tiny bit of milk or cream, some salt and pepper, and some chopped basil (maybe a teaspoon or two, depending on how much you like basil). Then smash away until they're as smooth as you'd like them. And voilà! An easy, healthy weeknight side.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When Life Gives You Crumbled Cookies...

...make parfait! This month's Daring Bakers challenge was truly a challenge. After moving back to the United States, finding out that our oven didn't work, cleaning up the house and the aftermath of a winter ice storm, and having to attend a memorial service in Baltimore, we've been busy, busy, busy!

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. Since we had the option to only make one, I chose the Milanos, a family favorite. Unfortunately, though, when I went to bake them, I thought I didn't have any parchment paper, so I just baked the cookies directly on the cookie sheet. If you ever make these, parchment paper is not optional. They stuck to the sheet, and since I baked two sheets at once, I had a lot of cookie crumbs to deal with.

Not to be daunted, I used the leftover cream and chocolate and made parfaits for dessert that night. The funny thing is that the parfaits were more popular than the cookies themselves (which I finally baked correctly when I found a hidden roll of parchment paper)! The cookie recipe can be found at the Food Network site, although I don't highly recommend these cookies (unless you'll be making parfaits). I substituted creme de menthe for the orange zest in the chocolate, which was yummy, but I felt that the cookie itself was a little too lemony and tasted too much like powdered sugar.

They sure do make a pretty cookie, though:

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Cherry and White Chocolate "Perfect Pound Cake"

Right as we left Strasbourg, cherries were coming into season. I bought a huge amount of them, and since I knew we wouldn't be able to make our way through all of them, I decided to try a quick bread with cherries. I also needed to use up some white chocolate we received as a gift, so I thought I'd throw that in there too. The result? An easy and adaptable pound cake with lots of flavor. Thanks to Food is Luv for the foundation of the "Perfect Pound Cake!"

A friend of mine requested the recipe after having some, and she then passed the recipe on to others, who used dark chocolate. They loved it that way too...feel free to substitute whatever fruits and chocolate works for you! I also tried this as a muffin, and it worked great. Just adjust the time in the oven until they are baked through.

Cherry and White Chocolate "Perfect Pound Cake"
adapted from Food is Luv

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups cake flour, measured and sifted**
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4-1/2 cup pitted and chopped fresh cherries (depending on how much you like cherries...)
1/4 cup chopped white chocolate

Butter and flour a 9" loaf pan. Make sure to tap out any excess flour.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salt and set aside. combine the cream and vanilla in a cup and set aside. Put the cherries and chocolate in a bowl, sprinkle with a little bit of flour (to help the cherries not sink to the bottom of the cake) and mix until everything is covered in a light coating of flour. Set aside

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or with a handheld mixer), cream together the butter and sugar until the mixture becomes pale, light and fluffy. Add the eggs and yolk, one at time, making sure each one is well incorporated before adding the next. Add the flour in three batches, alternating with the cream, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until everything is well incorporated but do not over mix. Add the cherries and chocolate (holding a handful out to sprinkle on top) and stir just enough so that it's mixed in completely.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan and smooth out the top with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle with the leftover cherries and chocolate. Put the loaf pan in a COLD oven. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 60 - 70 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Cool in the pan, on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes. Invert and cool completely on wire rack before serving.

**I used all-purpose flour and went with Baking Bites suggestion of taking 2 tablespoons of flour out per cup of all-purpose flour as the substitution. It seemed to work for me!

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

An Easy Weeknight Side: Asian Green Beans

I have a new go-to method to cooking fresh green beans. When I was in France, one of our students (who refused to eat vegetables) had a roommate who could cook green beans in a way that she loved. I was intrigued, so asked the roommate for her recipe. It turned out not to be so much a recipe with measurements, but more of a method, and my version of the recipe has become a regular in our household. It's an excellent side for almost any meal, not just those with Asian flavors, and may just convert the vegetable-challenged in your household!

Asian Green Beans

1 lb. fresh green beans, washed and trimmed
1 Tbl. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 inch fresh ginger, minced (optional)
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Soy Sauce, to taste
Water or white wine
Pepper, to taste

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and cook until softened, but not browned. Add the green beans and stir to coat with the oil. Add some soy sauce (start with just a little bit, maybe a tablespoon, and add more as needed for taste). Cook while stirring periodically, adding a little water or white wine if the soy sauce starts to evaporate. (You want to end up with a little bit of "sauce" at the end.) Cover the pan and stir occasionally until the green beans are cooked, but still have a crunch to them, about 5-10 minutes. Serve hot.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Zucchini for Zucchini Haters: a Tutorial

I am not a fan of "hiding" ingredients I don't like in recipes. I typically just won't eat it, and I think that we're doing out kids a disservice when we hide vegetables so that they'll eat them. I understand that there are just some picky kids out there, and that we need to do what we can to keep them healthy, but with my daughter, we just make her try foods she's picky about periodically in different styles. (Full disclosure here: my daughter will eat just about anything, so perhaps I'm just lucky.) Kids' tastes change, and I feel that I'm teaching my daughter to be adventurous with her food when I tell her what she's eating...

That being said, I have never liked cooked zucchini. So when I received three zucchini two weeks ago in my CSA box, I was a little put out. I really wanted to try to use everything (including the parts we don't normally eat) in my box, and part of the fun, I thought, was to try new fruits and vegetables in new preparations. So, I took my challenge again to the Twitterverse. The suggestions varied, but my favorites were FoodBat's Zukey Muffins and Jen from My Kitchen Addiction's suggestion of Zucchini Parmesan Hummus. Both recipes "hid" the zucchini, but I've come to terms with doing that every once in a while...especially if the results are this good!

The zucchini muffins were great--and my daughter became addicted to them! The hummus was good, but I think that the parmesan hid the lovely flavor of the roasted zucchini, so perhaps next time I'd leave the cheese out. And there will definitely be a next time for both of these recipes...

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Friday, July 17, 2009

CSA: Week Two and Turnip Mash

I am so behind on my posts! And I was concerned that I wouldn't have much to post about when I returned to the States...haha.

Although I have more posts in the works from our trip to Germany and Austria, I'm going to try to alternate those pictures with posts about my adventures with my CSA. Above you'll see what we got this week: 2 pounds each of tomatoes and potatoes, 1/2 pound of salad greens, a bunch of basil, a cucumber, a green pepper, 3/4 pound of peas, and 1 pound of green beans.

So far I have made or plan to make the following: (I'll link them as I post about them.)

Pasta alla Puttanesca (Tomatoes and basil)
Arroz al Horno (Tomatoes and Potatoes)
Roasted Baby Potatoes
Fried Rice (Green Pepper and Peas)
Asian Green Beans

As you know, I received turnips last week. Up until this point, I had never bought or cooked a turnip, so this was a challenge. After sending a request out to the Twitterverse, I decided on mashed turnips. Since we didn't have quite enough turnips to make a side dish for three people, I added some potatoes to the mix. The turnips gave the mash an earthy, rooty, and at the same time, sweet flavor that I really enjoyed. I love mashed potatoes, but the turnips added just enough flavor to make the mash unique. I also saved the greens and made some old fashioned southern turnip greens--and although they were a little too salty, they were definitely worth saving and cooking down.

The mash was easy enough. I peeled and cut equal amounts of potatoes and turnips, boiled them in salted water until soft, and mashed them with a little cream, milk, butter, and salt and pepper. They turned out beautifully:

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

100 Post Blogiversary and an Interview with Kathy of Panini Happy and Cooking on the Side

A few months ago, I was paired with a blog mentor through Dine and Dish's Adopt-a-Blogger #3. I was so lucky to be paired with Kathy from Panini Happy and Cooking on the Side. She was so great in helping me work on an identity for this blog, getting my technical stuff together, and in overall support for this whole adventure. If you follow either of Kathy's blogs, you'll have noticed that she's been off the grid for a while, but you'll be happy to know that she's back to her wonderfully scrumptious blogs now that she's past her first trimester. (Yes, that's right, she's pregnant! Congratulations, Kathy!)

Since we're about to wind up this Adopt-a-Blogger event and since I'm celebrating my 100th post here, I thought I'd share a little interview I did with Kathy about her blogs, cooking in general and a little advice for us newbie bloggers. Enjoy!

What are the names of your blogs and how did you come up with those names?

With my first blog the idea was that I was going to be making lots and lots of panini - going "panini happy" - so that's where Panini Happy came from. I guess it could have just as easily been called Panini Crazy or Panini Overboard. I do like seeing the word "happy" in the title, though.

Cooking On the Side actually has a few different meanings. It's my second blog, which I created so I could share the cooking that I do outside of panini-making. The more literal interpretation is that the recipes actually come from the side of food packages.

When did you start blogging? What compelled you to start blogging?

I started Panini Happy in January 2008, when my daughter was about 2 months old. I had decided to step out of the workforce for a while to stay home with her, but I still had a desire to keep a toe in the online world, where I'd been working for many years. Blogging appealed to me because I could get up and running relatively quickly on my own and I could work at it as much or as little as I had time for, while balancing baby duty. I'm asked "Why panini?" quite often. The simple answer to that is that I received the panini maker as a gift and needed motivation to make sure I put it to good use. Suffice it to say, the blog has definitely provided plenty of that motivation!

How do you keep up with both blogs?

It's a bit of a challenge. I usually do most of my cooking and photography over the weekend and work on writing up the posts during the week. It often means I don't post quite as frequently as some food bloggers but it's what works best for me. My readers don't seem to mind!

Has blogging changed your life at all?

I don't know if blogging has changed my life per se, but the opportunity to get to know so many other bloggers and food folks in the process has certainly enhanced it.

Which post (on either or both blogs) has been your favorite? Why?

My favorite post on Panini Happy was this year's Grilled Cheese Pageant roundup. I wasn't entirely sure how many folks would get on board for a pageant featuring grilled cheese sandwiches but I decided to just go big with it and have fun. The response was really positive. On Cooking On the Side I'd say the Matzo Ball Soup post was my favorite because 1) it gave me the opportunity to try out a decades old recipe that my mother-in-law has always used and 2) my first-ever matzo balls came out light and fluffy!

If you were stranded on a desert island (with a fabulous kitchen and regular drops of your favorite foods, of course) and could only have one cookbook with you, which would it be?

The Joy of Cooking - it's got everything I could ever think of wanting to cook. It might be a little heavy for me to lug around the island, but at least I'd have a comprehensive resource!

What is your favorite kitchen tool/appliance?

It probably ought to be my panini maker, but actually it's the toaster oven. Aside from using it every morning for toasting bread and bagels it's my favorite appliance for baking, broiling or reheating small quantities.

What is your favorite food to eat?

Fries. I can never resist.

What is your favorite food to cook?

I'll always love the whole process of baking chocolate chip cookies - from "sampling" the dough, to smelling the cookies while they bake, to enjoying the final results fresh out of the oven, to packaging up little gifts to share with friends.

Tell us a little bit about the food from your part of the world.

San Diego is probably best known for its Mexican food - no surprise, as we're right on the border. Fish tacos are a local favorite - I'm not sure if they're as big in other parts of the country. One of my other favorite local specialties is Julian apple pie, made from apples grown in the Julian area of San Diego County. They sell them in grocery stores but it's a real treat to drive out to the mountains in the fall and enjoy a warm slice there.

What advice do you have for newbie bloggers like me?

I've got some general pieces of advice, but if anyone is looking for detailed specifics on food blogging issues I highly recommend visiting (and bookmarking) the Food Blog S'cool and the Food Blog Alliance websites.

Keep focused on your content. Get clear in your own mind what your blog is truly about. If you can find a unique point of view that no one else has tapped into yet, all the better. Read lots of other blogs. Images speak louder than words - and good-quality images speak louder than lackluster ones. Get to know other bloggers, through local meetups, Twitter and Facebook. Be open to trying out new ideas and changing course if you need to. Enjoy blogging - if it ever starts to become a chore, take a step back and reevaluate things.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Festival in Regensburg, Germany = Music, Sausages and Beer!

Ahhh....summer in Europe, and in Germany in particular, is rife with outdoor festivals full of food, music and, of course, beer! Before moving back to the United States, we took a two-week vacation (for me) and work (for my husband) trip around Germany and Austria. Luckily we rented a car, so we were able to stay in a few larger cities and make several day trips. One such trip was to Regensburg, a beautiful little city on the Danube. At first, we couldn't figure out why the parking lots were jam packed, but once we drove past one of the main streets in the old town, we realized that they were holding a summer festival that day! (My husband, who spent a summer in Regensburg a few years back, says that there are many, many festivals that are held throughout the summer months there...)

The festival had food, drink and wares booths as well as several music venues set up all over the old town. One of my favorites was this juice/wine booth, where you could get several flavors of non-alcoholic juice or wine mixed with juice. The punch bowls were just beautiful!

There were also several outdoor ovens where they would make your pizza for you right then and there:

And of course, there were oompa bands--which my daughter thoroughly enjoyed!

We went for the traditional sausages and beer...all freshly grilled and tapped.

And if that wasn't enough, my daughter begged for one of these gigantic donuts! I just couldn't resist... (She never finished this monstrosity, thank goodness!)

I'll be posting more of our German fare in the next week or so, along with some of the recipes for my CSA veggies, so come back for more!

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Friday, July 10, 2009

My First CSA Box and Sauteed Kale

While I was in France, I became accustomed to buying very fresh produce (even from the supermarket!). The philosophy there seems to be to only sell fruits and vegetables that are in season. I learned to love this, and although I did pine away for a peach or two in the middle of winter, waiting until they were in season was totally worth it.

Early in the fall, I read an article about a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) called Rolling Fork Farm near my small town in Kentucky, and decided to go for it. I picked up my first box on Wednesday, just two short days after I arrived home...and I already can't wait for the next one next week! This week we received a bunch of carrots, a bunch of turnips, a bunch of spring onions, a bunch of kale, a quart of green beans, a cucumber, and two pounds each of tomatoes and zucchini. (To find a CSA near you, go to LocalHarvest.)

In the next few weeks, I'm going to try to do a cost analysis, but my feeling so far is that even if it costs a little more than the grocery store, it's totally worth it. Can you imagine those colors (and flavors, I might add) in grocery store veggies?! And not to mention the fact that I have to come up with ways to cook veggies that I might not otherwise buy in the grocery store. I don't really like cooked zucchini, so have never bought any. I have also never bought turnips. And my one attempt at cooking kale was disastrous.

So far I have made or plan to make the following with this week's veggies (I'll link them as I blog about each recipe):

Sautéed Kale
Potato and Turnip Mash
Asian Green Beans
Turnip Greens
Zucchini Muffins
Zucchini Parmesan Hummus
Roasted Carrots (if my oven ever gets fixed!)

I decided to start with the kale and did a simple sauté based on a recipe I found at Epicurious. For some strange reason, I completely forgot to buy garlic at the grocery store, so I left that out and it was fine, but I will definitely put it in next time. And there will be a next time...kale is one of those veggies that I discovered after moving to the South, and am very glad I did...

Sautéed Kale
from Epicurious
makes two small servings

1 pound kale, tough stems and center ribs cut out and leaves cut into 1-inch-wide strips
2 Tbl olive oil
1 small red onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of dried red pepper flakes
1 Tbl red-wine vinegar, or to taste (I put in a little less than this)
1/4 tsp salt

Cook kale in a pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 10 minutes, and then drain in a colander.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat and sautée onion until softened. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute more. Reduce the heat and add kale. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is heated through. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar and salt.
And instead of throwing away those stems and little leafy bits that were left over, I cleaned them, dried them, and put them into a freezer bag to use in my next chicken or veggie stock!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Back in the United States!

So, after two weeks of traveling around Germany and Austria and then a 28-hour trip back home, my family and I have made it back safe and sound to our house in Kentucky! I am now back at work, and we're trying to settle back into our home. So far, we've found out that our oven is not working and our car's catalytic converter fell out during our first drive, but we're working our way through getting everything back into shape.

I have some pictures of some food we ate throughout our trip and a couple of things I made before we left, but first I have to find that external hard drive that's holding all of our pictures at the moment...

I'll be back soon with some posts, and I promise that I'm trying to catch up on your blogs!

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