29 September 2008

Quick and comforting

I almost feel like I need to apologize for this post.  We have been inundated with recipes that are "quick and easy".  So much so that some of us, myself included, take pride in cooking "slow and difficult".  However, sometimes, you just need the quick and easy.  You take your kid to soccer, you clean the bathrooms, you run a load of laundry, you've already had pizza twice this week and you have an hour before you need to be out the door again and have something on the table before you do.  My personal excuse this week was I was nursing a cold and had no energy after keeping the house in somewhat of a workable order.  What is a busy foodie mom to do?  Well, ya gotta do what ya gotta do...quick and easy.  This is for you sis.

Classic Tuna Noodle Casserole adapted from Campbell's Best Ever Recipes 125th Anniversary Edition

1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed Cream of Celery or Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
2 cups hot cooked noodles (I had macaroni on
 hand, they recommend egg noodles) - about 2 cups dry.
1 cup cooked peas (I actually substituted about 1/2 cup pico de gallo - it zinged it up and plus, I didn't have peas!)
2 Tbs. chopped pimento, optional
2 cans (about 6 oz. each) tuna, drained and flaked
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 Tbs. butter, melted

1.  In a 1 1/2 quart casserole, combine the soup and milk.  Stir in noodles, peas, pimento and tuna.
2.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes or until hot; stir
3.  In a small bowl, combine cheese, bread crumbs and butter.  Top tuna mixture with bread crumb mixture.  Bake 5 minutes more.

Southwestern Veggie Chili adapted from Taste of Home winning Recipes

The bread sticks on this dish were very pretty, but they ended up getting gummy, I would recommend just making the bread sticks by themselves and serving them on the side instead of baking them on top like I did.

I also had bunches of fresh veggies from our CSA basket, so the only canned things I used were the beans.

3 medium carrots, sliced
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 to 3 teaspoons of chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbls. butter
3 Tbls. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 1/4 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (14 1/2 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies
1 tube (11 1/2 oz) refrigerated corn bread twists

In a large skillet, saute the carrots, celery, onion and seasonings in butter until vegetables are crisp-tender.  Stir in flour until blended; gradually add the milk.  Bring to a boil;  cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly.  Add the beans, corn, tomatoes and chilies and simmer for 20 minutes  uncovered while corn bread twists are baking.

21 September 2008

You couscous, don't you?

Last night was literally a fly by the seat of my pants night (one of my father's favorite phrases).  I am still on my cleaning kick and had decided to go through all of my CD's, alphabetize them and take them out of their jewel cases and put them into CD sleeves in a binder.  (It was raining and I needed an indoor activity.  Still sounds a little lame huh?)  Anyway, I finished my project (it is beautiful and so much neater if you still think me lame) just in time for my husband's arrival from work and my children's stomach grumblings.  I had left myself no time to cook.  I knew had a ham steak in the refrigerator that I could fry up quickly, but what to do for a starch?  Hooray!  Fast and friendly couscous to the rescue!
Couscous is often thought of as a grain, but it is actually a very tiny pasta that is basically flavorless but will serve as a base for all sorts of Middle Eastern and fantastical creations.  Another bonus?  It is done in 5 minutes.  Here in Eastern Washington, you can buy it pretty cheap at the health food store but in more progressive areas it is starting to appear in the grocery stores by the rice and grains.  For my couscous, in order to pander to kiddy palates, I put the known entity of raisins in to soften the blow of a new dish.  It ended up being quite good and the leftovers are good cold.  Enjoy!

Lemon Raisin Couscous with Peppers and Scallions by Joie de vivre

1 lemon, zested and juiced.
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 cup couscous
1/4 chopped red bell pepper
1 whole scallion, chopped 
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
1 1/2 cup water

Place the water in a saucepan with raisins, sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  When water is boiling, add the couscous, stir, cover and remove from heat.  Leave for 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, uncover, fluff with a fork, add the chopped red pepper and scallion and stir.

Side note:  Shame to the French me.  You can see from my plate above that I started out with a reasonable portion of ham, but the steak was sitting in front of me and I kept picking at it until I probably doubled my portion of ham!  Note to self:  remove the serving dishes from the table and place on counter!

20 September 2008

Pasta Puttanesca

Thursday, I was exhausted.  I've been watching the BBC show How clean is your house and have gotten a bee in my bonnet to clean the house.  Not that my house is anywhere, ANYWHERE close to the hovels that those people live in, but vigilance is key in the war on dirt so I've been cleaning.  Normal things like bathrooms, dusting, etc. but also above the top things like dusting my walls, scrubbing my baseboards and organizing my CD collection.  By Thursday, the decision of what to make for dinner was almost more than I could bear and I started fantasizing about The Olive Garden.  But what I really wanted wasn't necessarily Olive Garden, but some homey pasta.  I remembered I had a tin of anchovies in my pantry and also remembered eating a yummy dish called Pasta Puttanesca in Italy (which uses anchovies), which lead to thinking about foccacia and voila...now you know how my thought process works.
Pasta Puttanesca is translated from Italian into "whore's pasta".  No one really knows for sure how it got it's name, but the common belief is that brothels would offer a cheap dinner of pasta puttanesca to lure customers in.  Sounds good to me.  My favorite explanation from wikipedia is pasta puttanesca is basically pasta with tomato sauce which has been "tarted up".  However it got its name, it is a tasty, tasty dish that smells divine and is also easy.  I served it with an easy foccacia made in my bread machine to sop up all of the yummy sauce.  I was so enthusiastic about this dish and how it smelled and tasted, that when I was describing it to my pregnant sister, it sent her into craving mode and she made it the next day.  Enjoy!

Pasta Puttanesca by Joie de vivre

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tin of anchovies (2 oz)
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
3 Tbs. capers
1 14.5 oz. can chopped tomatoes
2-14.5 oz. can tomato sauce
4 Tbs. olive tapenade or about 20 oil-cured black olives, chopped
1 pound spaghetti, cooked to al dente

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and contents of anchovy tin (oil and all).  Stir anchovies over heat until they dissolve into oil.  Add olive tapenade, red pepper flakes, capers, tomatoes and tomato sauce with a little bit of black pepper.  Bring sauce to a gentle boil and simmer for 8 - 10 minutes.

Thyme Focaccia adapted from Betty Crocker's Bread Machine Cookbook

Layer in order listed in your bread machine pan:

3/4 cup water
2 Tbs. olive or vegetable oil
2 cups bread or all purpose flour
1 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. yeast

Set machine to dough setting (Should take about 1 1/2 hours).  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease a cookie sheet or pizza pan and pat dough into a 12 inch circle on pizza pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.  Make deep depressions in dough at 1 inch intervals all over dough with finger or the handle of a wooden spoon.  Drizzle with 3 Tbs. olive oil.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme (or rosemary as original recipe suggests) and some coarsely ground black pepper.  Bake 15 - 18 minutes or until edge is golden.  Cut into wedges and serve warm.

15 September 2008

Chocolate, chocolate chip cake in the Dutch oven!

 This past weekend was our last camping hurrah of the season.  It was also my son's 5th birthday party.  Since we were camping only 20 minutes outside of town, he decided to have his party at our campsite and swim, play games, eat, run around, roast marshmallows, and of course, eat birthday cake.  Despising stale cake, I opted instead to try out my father-in-law's dutch oven, and bake the birthday cake at the campsite.  It was a completely risky move that risked disappointing a party boy and guests, but with cooking bravado (and marshmallows in case of failure) I forged ahead.  I am so glad I tried this because it wasn't at all difficult and now it opens up for me a whole new avenue for camp cooking!  I hope this inspires you to try it out yourself.  If anyone else has some good dutch oven recipes, or has a good link to one, please share it, I'm excited to try it again!

14 inch dutch oven
Long tongs
Oven mitts
Lighter fluid
Chocolate cake mix
1 Package of chocolate chips
Vegetable oil
Baking powder
Cocoa powder
Sprinkles, etc.

1.  Light your coals on fire.  It will take them 30 minutes to get good and hot. (Pictured above)

2.  Line your dutch oven with heavy duty foil.  This will help the cake slip out and make it very easy to clean your dutch oven.  Do not go over the lip as the lid needs to have good connection to keep the heat in.  Spray the foil with cooking spray.

3.  I have a 14 inch Dutch oven.  Most standard cake mixes will make a cake in a 12 inch dutch oven.  If you have a 14 incher, add to your dry mix, 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, and 2 Tbs. cocoa powder.  Follow the directions on the back of the package adding eggs or oil (or both) as necessary and add an extra 1/2 cup water to the wet ingredients.  This will extend the cake mix to fit into a 14 inch dutch oven.  I brought the extra dry ingredients along in a ziplock baggie.
4.  Mix the wet and dry ingredients and then mix in 1 package of chocolate chips.
5.  Pour the cake batter into the dutch oven and cover.
6.  When the coals are white, use long tongs to arrange 9 of them under the dutch oven.  Place the covered dutch oven on top and arrange 16 coals on top of the dutch oven.  This will keep the temperature around 325 degrees.
7.  Every 10 minutes, using your oven mitt, turn the dutch oven 90 degrees.  Then pick up the lid and rotate that 90 degrees in the other direction.  This will prevent hot spots and promote more even cooking.  Cake will be done somewhere between 30 and 50 minutes.  When you are turning, take a peek at the cake, when it starts looking done, do a toothpick test.  Remove dutch oven from coals when toothpick comes out clean.
8.  When the dutch oven is somewhat cool to handle, place a large plate (or in my case a cutting board) over the top and flip.  The cake should slide right out.  Remove the foil and let cool.  Frost when cool.  Voila!

The flat section of my cake was a little side piece that was not quite done and therefore fell off the cake while it was cooling, but it added to the whole baseball theme.  My son thought it was the greatest to have a baseball cake while camping, it tasted great, I tried something new, and it was easy to boot!

11 September 2008

Roasted Pepper Soup with Pork Meatballs

Our CSA basket currently overflows with peppers.  There is a bitter quality to peppers that is really not my favorite so I have been squirreling them away in the refrigerator behind things like cottage cheese and egg cartons trying to forget they are there.  However when we received yet more peppers in our basket this week, I knew I needed something that used them all up lest I feel guilty for not taking advantage of this bounty.  The following soup is what I came up with as a way to use all the peppers at once.  My husband fears that I'm going to soup myself out now and not want to make any during the cold months since I've recently been on a soup kick, but I doubt that.  Soup is so nurturing that I'll naturally want some come cold weather, plus, it gets my kids to eat their veggies especially when I puree it (and bribe them with dessert).  My husband really liked this soup.  The meatballs were light and the soup itself tasted like gravy.  Hearty and yummy.  Enjoy!

Roasted Pepper Soup with Pork Meatballs by Joie de vivre

3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
5-6 sweet peppers of all colors (keep green peppers to no more than 2) roasted, and cut into thin strips  (see *note below if you don't know how to roast peppers)
1 Tbs. fresh oregano
4 3/4 cups Chicken Broth (divided)
8 oz. ground pork
4 egg whites (or 2 whole eggs)
bread crumbs

1.  Over medium-low heat, add olive oil to heavy bottomed soup pot.  Add the sliced, roasted peppers, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
2.  Add half the chicken broth to the soup pot with the peppers and bring to a simmer.  Add salt to taste and simmer for about 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, puree with an immersion blender or in small batches in the blender.  Return to the pot.
3.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, add the pork, the egg whites and enough bread crumbs so mixture will stick together.  Roll small meatballs out of entire mixture.  Add meatballs to another pot with the other half of the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook meatballs for 10 minutes.
4.  Add meatballs and broth to the pureed pepper soup and simmer another 10 minutes.  

*To roast peppers:  Put the peppers directly over the flame on stove burner.  Turn with tongs occasionally, but the idea is to char the skin all over.  After the skin is charred, wrap the peppers up in a kitchen towel to "sweat" a few minutes.  Rub the peppers with the towel to remove most of the blackened skin.  Doing this really sweetens the peppers up and brings out their flavors while mellowing that bitter taste that green peppers have.

09 September 2008

Basil ice cream

I am under the sadly false impression that if something sounds strange, and it's in a cookbook, it must be worth trying.  I mean, why would they go to the trouble of printing it if it's not good?  This serves me well most of the time, hence my foray into cabbage galette (delicious), but not so well if I'm reading cookbooks for 50's housewives (turkey-souffle salad - contains lime or lemon jello, mayo, cooked turkey, pimento, onion and pepper.  Anyone?)
However, my instinct proved right this weekend when I was flipping through Rick Stein's French Odyssey for ideas on what to do with some of the 50 lbs. of peaches my sons and I had just picked.  He had a recipe for grilled peaches with lemon verbena ice cream and raspberries.  This sounded perfectly lovely so I started reading the recipe.  In his notes, he says that he got the idea for his recipe from a restaurant called Eugenie-les-Bains in southeast France and the only difference was they poached their peaches and served it with fresh basil ice cream.  "What!?" my curious mind exploded, "Rick Stein!  No recipe for basil ice cream?  How can you say that to me and not include the recipe?!"  It sounded just weird enough that I had to try it.  
While searching for recipes, it turns out this is not weird at all and several of my fellow food bloggers had blogged on basil ice cream.  Now I had to try it.  I happened upon a recipe from Southern Living that I adapted to fit me.  I was not disappointed with this one.  The basil ice cream was beautiful and delicious.  The creaminess and herbiness of the basil contrasted perfectly with the sweet, juiciness of the peach.    It was so good and a perfect dessert to celebrate end of summer peaches.  You must try it and let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

Basil ice cream with Grilled peaches by Joie de vivre

2 cups 1% milk, divided
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup sugar, divided
7 egg yolks
Peaches (1/2 peach per person)

1.  Cook 1 cup milk in a heavy saucepan over low heat until bubbly.  Stir in 2 cups basil leaves and remove from heat.  Cover and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, pour basil mixture into a blender and blend until smooth.  Strain mixture (otherwise it will be gritty) through a wire-mesh strainer into a bowl discarding solids.  Set mixture aside.
2.  Cook remaining 1 cup milk, whipping cream, and 1/2 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, just until mixture is bubbly.  Remove from heat.  Beat egg yolks and remaining 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale.  Gradually stir about 1/4 of hot milk mixture into yolks;  add to remaining hot mixture, stirring constantly.  Stir in basil mixture.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 6 minutes or until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Cover and chill 4 hours.
3.  Pour chilled mixture into freezer container of a 1-gallon electric ice cream freezer, and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.
4.  For peaches:  Cut in half and remove the pit.  Place on a pre-heated grill over high heat (cut side down to start) for 4 minutes each side.  Let peaches cool a little before topping with basil ice cream so ice cream doesn't melt.  Garnish with a basil sprig and serve immediately.

06 September 2008

Tomato wanderings

My feelings on food could probably be summed up with the idea that food picked at the height of ripeness in the right season does not need a lot of "messing around" with it to make it taste amazing.  Hence, my current preoccupation with tomatoes.  Here in eastern Washington, we have such a short tomato season, and must endure pasty, flavorless, shelf stable tomatoes for so long in the year, that I just want to gorge on them when they are at their best.  This week, along with the tomato soup from the previous entry, I made two simple tomato salads of note.  Make sure you use the most flavorful tomatoes you can find.  Enjoy!

Tomato and Basil Salad with Lavender Salt by Joie de vivre (pictured above)

(earlier in the season when lavender was in bloom, I dehydrated some and added the blossoms one to one with course salt.)

1-2 Tomatoes
10-12 Basil leaves
Olive Oil
Lavender salt.

Cut your tomatoes into slices and arrange nicely.  Top with basil leaves, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with lavender salt.  Voila!  Instant summer goodness.

Tomato, Melon, Cucumber Salad by Joie de vivre

2 Tomatoes
1 Cucumber
4 oz. Soft goat cheese
3 Tbs. Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tbs. Olive oil
Pinch of sugar

Peel cucumber, cut in half, remove the seeds and slice.  Slice tomatoes and watermelon (remove rind).   Toss together in a bowl.  Make a dressing by whisking together 3 Tbs. red wine vinegar, 1 Tbs. olive oil, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper to taste.  Pour dressing over salad and toss.  Sprinkle with goat cheese and eat immediately.

04 September 2008

The tomato and the beast

The moment I've waited for every day since winter has arrived.  The arrival of sweet, end of summer tomatoes.  We've had 7 lumpy, wonderous tomatoes on our counter for the past two days.  My husband was lobbying for pico de gallo, I was thinking more along the lines of tomato tart, when tonight I was flipping through Gastronomy of Italy by Anna Del Conte and came across a recipe for Minestra de Pomodori alla Calabrese (Tomato Soup).  This was exactly what I was looking for as I wasn't in the mood to make homemade pastry.  The soup was a little too warm (in temperature) for a warm day, but if I had waited for the weather to change, the tomatoes would surely have changed with it too.  I'm looking forward to trying the leftovers chilled tomorrow.  The soup is simple and delicious but must be made with really flavorful tomatoes.

Minestra di Pomodori alla Calabrese (Tomato Soup) adapted from Gastronomy of Italy by Anna Del Conte.

6 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
5 ripe fresh tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbls. chopped fresh basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup small tubular pasta
freshly grated romano cheese, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a pot.  Add the garlic, tomatoes and onion.  Saute for about 10 minutes over medium heat stirring frequently.  Add 1 2/3 quarts water, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and cook, uncovered, over very low heat for about 20 minutes.  Raise the heat and drop in the pasta.  Cook the pasta until al dente.  Serve the soup, sprinkle on chopped basil and romano cheese.

02 September 2008

Camping food Part III

As summer is winding down, we are enjoying these last few warm weekends for all they are worth by filling our souls with the joys of camping, and filling our bellies with camping food!  Last week, we took our longest camping adventure yet (3 nights!).  My menu was not as fancy as it had been in the past because frankly I didn't know if I could fit 3 days worth of food in our cooler if I cooked fancy, but I thought you might enjoy the menu and some recipes for ideas for your next camp-out.  

Sunday dinner:  Flank Steak burritos with salsa, sour cream, guacamole and cheese.  Marshmallows.
Monday breakfast:  Cranberry Flax Muffins (we ended up pulling the leftovers out the next two mornings as well), coffee and juice.
Monday lunch:  Hot dogs and chips
Monday dinner:  Salmon cakes, melon, black beans.
Tuesday breakfast:  cereal with rice milk, leftover cranberry flax muffins, coffee and juice.
Tuesday Lunch:  Tuna salad with crackers
Tuesday dinner:  Hamburgers
Wednesday breakfast:  I cheated and bought Jimmy Dean frozen ham hash that you add eggs to and fry it all up.
Wednesday lunch:  Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, chips.

As you see, the fare was more traditional, but we did feel quite fancy with our salmon cakes for Monday's dinner and our flank steak burritos for Sunday's dinner.  Also, the muffins were a homey touch and very quick to prepare when all the boys wanted to go fishing early Monday morning.

Cranberry Flax Muffins  adapted from Taste of Home Muffins and Quick Breads

Yeild 1 1/2 dozen muffins

1 1/2 cups bran flakes cereal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 Tbls. whole flaxseed

In a large bowl, combine the first nine ingredients.  Whisk the eggs, buttermilk, honey and oil; stir into dry ingredients until just moistened.  Stir in cranberries.  Coat muffin cups with cooking spray or use paper liners; fill two-thirds full.  Sprinkle with whole flaxseed.  Bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing to wire racks.  These do not necessarily "look" finished, use a toothpick if unsure.

Beef Flank Burritos by Joie de vivre

1 1/2 lb. beef flank steak
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 Tbls. molasses
2 tsp. stone ground mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Place soy sauce, water, molasses, mustard and garlic powder in a ziplock bag.  Squeeze to combine, then add steak, remove the air and seal well.  Place in your cooler.  When you are at camp, light your coals and wait until they are ready.  Cook the flank steak approx 5-6 minutes per side.  Cut flank steak into strips.  Layer tortilla with guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cheese and flank steak and roll up.

Salmon cakes  (pictured above)

Ha!  One of our fancier meals and I got it off of the back of the can of salmon!  The can was super cheap (between 1-2 dollars for a 15 oz. can of salmon).  Add bread crumbs, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and onion and fry.  

We still have one last camping hurrah planned for this year so I'll post Camping Part IV before we settle into fall.  Enjoy!