Friday, November 6, 2009

Macaroni and Cheese Please

On Wednesday while I was typing away on my PC the television drew my attention. The show was Ellen and her guest was writer Jonathan Safran Foer. They were discussing his new book "Eating Animals."

It was a grim interview that described to everybody exactly what we meat eaters do not want to hear. Jonathan told the tale of the hidden factory farming of animals that provides all of that cheap meat at the supermarket. Beyond the cruelty to the animals themselves he said the external costs to our environment and our own health is incalculable.

He also revealed some rather ominous information regarding the secrecy that surrounds factory farming. He was unable, despite unremitting attempts, to get a tour of a single farm where this kind of animal raising occurred. Were you aware that swine flu originated in North Carolina on one of these factory farms? This is common knowledge among people in the know so you have to wonder why and how the press never seemed to think this was information Americans might be interested in. This is a highly secret and protected industry.

He also talked about, God help us, Thanksgiving. He gave the audience a nice visual of the pathetic and disgusting way your average supermarket turkey is raised and then asked us "if this was anything to be thankful for?" Thanks, buddy.

The fortunate part for me was I already ordered a Heritage turkey from Crown S Ranch in the Methow Valley. At $6.95 a pound it's priced like illegal drugs but I can get through the big day without feeling like a rat. The unfortunate part is that for the rest of her audience it will be almost impossible at this late date to get a truly organic and farm raised turkey...they should have aired earlier.

Another great thing about that day was I already had a meatless meal planned for the evening. It is never a sacrifice to eat macaroni and cheese and this batch was as tasty as I've ever made. I'd recommend this recipe to anyone.

Jenifer's Macaroni and Cheese

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
10 oz small elbow macaroni
1 cup asiago cheese
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup bread crumbs
healthy drizzle of olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook macaroni until done, drain and set aside.

Melt butter in medium sized saucepan, add flour, salt and pepper to create roux. Slowly add milk while stirring constantly to avoid lumps. When mixture is thickened and just before it boils remove from heat and add 3/4 cup of asiago and 3/4 cup of cheddar to mixture. Stir until cheese melts.

Put drained macaroni in medium sized casserole dish. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and gently mix together. In separate bowl put remaining cheese and breadcrumbs. Drizzle with olive oil and stir. Sprinkle mixture on casserole. Place in oven for 20 minutes. Finish casserole under broiler until top is crunchy brown.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Seattle's First American Lamb Jam

Last nights first ever American Lamb Jam in Seattle looked like a big success. The event was sold out well in advance and brought participants from across the state. If yesterday afternoons festivities were any indication then the sponsors will probably go for a repeat performance next year.

Chef Thierry Rautureau of Rover's in Seattle emceed and he added ebullience, class, and knowledge to the affair. His well-known hat drifted among the booths while sampling the wares and chatting up the locals. He caught my sister and I early before we'd tried everything but I stand by our selections of Barolo Ristorante and Andaluca as our two favorite lamb bites of the evening.

The People's Choice went to the Steelhead Diner at Pike Place market with their Braised Lamb Shanks with Balsamic-Mission Fig Conserva and Truffled Hominy Polenta. It was the second thing that we tried after we came in so we knew we were in for a special evening of food. It was so good that I ate it before I could take its picture. Sorry readers.

Let me also add that even though I wasn't sure about the pairing with the Steelhead's lamb the McCrea Cellars, 2004 Syrah, Cuvee Orleans from Yakima Valley was fantastic. The description provided by the winery expressed the unique flavor palate very well. "It's deep and angular on the palate, the black fig accented by a savory earthiness, and a texture that's full but not heavy."

The judges choice of the evening for best lamb loin dish went to the Barking Frog in Woodinville for their delicious Sous Vide Superior Farms Lamb Loin, Coffee and Cocoa Nib Farro Rissoto (my sister adored this), Fall squash Crepinette, and Balsamic Glazed onions. A very impressive plate that received plenty of oohs and ahs from the crowds as well as the judges. Its tasty loveliness is pictured above.

My choice, as told to Chef Rautureau, of Barolo Ristorante was not far off as the judges chose them as runner up in the lamb shank division. I thought their bite was the most melt in your mouth taste of the whole evening. Their lamb was pull apart tender and they served it with a perfectly cooked butternut squash gnocchi served hot from the pan. Really a feat considering the number of people they were serving...400!

The judges didn't choose to make Andaluca a winner for the evening but I thought they had a very tasty offering. Their division was leg of lamb and they created the dish in a "osso bucco style." The perfectly flavored lamb was served on a crostini and paired nicely with its wine, a 2007 Tempranillo from Yakima Valley.

The event benefited the charity FareStart and was sponsored by the following: American Lamb, DINE around Seattle, Seattle Magazine, KWJZ 98.9, QFC, Bell Harbor International Conference Center and Viking Range Corporation.

Pictured Below:
08 Seafood Grill had Miso-Marinated Lamb Loin with Edamame Hummus, and Mint Gooseberry Coulis. The coulis was a taste sensation and I thought it was the best thing on the plate. Below that we have an offering from Chef Jay Bartelson at the Bell Harbor Conference Center. They are George O'Malley's Guinness & Jameson Braised Lamb Shank Cabbage Rolls. Not bad.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Heavenly Corn Fritters

I love corn fritters. It is an appreciation that I developed later in life because my Mother never cooked them. I believe the first time I had corn fritters was in my Home Economics class in High School. They were easy and delicious. The only other thing that I recall about them was that we made them with creamed corn.

My next experience with the golden fritter was at the Western Washington State Fair in Puyallup, Washington. As with any great State Fair the food is plentiful, delicious, and not very good for you in general. As we wandered among the delightfully aromatic booths we ran into a line that put all the others to shame. It was a booth for deep fried Twinkies and Snickers Bars. Next door was a much quieter stall advertising fried vegetables including corn fritters served with strawberry butter.

For my husband and I the choice was a no brainer....we went for the corn fritters. The service was fast and friendly, the fritters were hot, and the match with the strawberry butter was inspired. We made a note to return the next time the yearly fair came along. We missed the year after so it was 2 years later before we were able to return. It's true that sometimes you can't go back. The service was extraordinarily slow and rude, the fritters were greasy dough balls, and the strawberry butter couldn't save them.

Since that time I've tried a couple of recipes and they always turned out doughy and not terrific. It occurred to me that what was really needed in a corn fritter was lightness and crispness. Since many of the recipes that I looked at called for pancake or baking mix I thought of the experiment the other half and I had with pancake mix a couple of years ago at our cabin in Twisp.

We've always been life long Bisquick users and I've had a bias against pancake mix that only uses water after one bad experience. Guests had left us the remains of a box of Western Family Buttermilk Pancake mix they had brought and used. Since our Bisquick was almost gone I prepared half the pancakes with Bisquick and the other half with the Western Family. Without telling my husband which was which I asked him what pancake he preferred. To my amazement he pointed to the Western Family product. A couple of bites later, I heartily agreed with him. The Western Family was so much lighter and active. After mixing it with the water and then barely incorporating the two ingredients you can just watch it grow and puff up with air.

This, I realized, was just the type of pancake mix a good fritter should be made of. Light and airy. So today I put it to the test and it was a smashing success. I added some of my own flavor embellishments but left it as simple as possible. I will offer one warning though; you will be in danger of eating the whole batch yourself.


1 15 oz can creamed corn
1/2 cup Western Family Buttermilk Pancake Mix
1/4 cup water - (add gradually, check for consistency, it should be pourable like pancake batter)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)

1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (use based on your taste for heat)

Heat vegetable oil to about 365 degrees in cast iron skillet about 2 inches deep. Pour creamed corn into medium size bowl, add pancake mix and then water. Mix until incorporated but not over mixed. Batter should be the consistency of pancake batter that can be poured from a ladle into the hot oil. Add salt and cayenne pepper. Drop enough batter in oil to create a fritter about the size of a cookie. Cook only 4 to 5 at a time so oil doesn't cool down significantly. Cook fritters until dark golden brown turning once in the process. Cool on paper towels and then serve with spicy syrup. Yummmmmm.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Curried Shrimp Sandwich with Mango Chutney

This recipe was an inspiration derived from a combination of need to have interest and flavor in my food, and what was actually available in my cupboards.

I love Naan bread and I get a very nice selection at Trader Joes. It has wonderful texture and makes a wonderful bread for sandwiches or burgers. Later this week I've got a lamb burger recipe on Naan that will knock your socks off.

In this case I had leftover Naan, a few shrimp, some hot mango chutney, and a full spice rack. The resulting sandwich is pretty, delicious, international, easy, and fast to make.


2 slices of Garlic Naan Bread cut diagonally for sandwich
12 medium uncooked shrimp
2 T vegetable oil
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 T curry powder
1 tsp of coriander
1 tsp of salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 to 4 T Hot Mango Chutney
2 T mayonnaise

Mix flour, bread crumbs, curry, coriander, salt and pepper in small bowl. Take peeled and deveined shrimp and toss in mixture to coat. Put vegetable oil in skillet, heat and then add shrimp to hot oil. Cook for about 2 minutes before turning and cooking another minute until shrimp are pink and done. Remove shrimp and put them on paper towel to drain.

Cover one side of Naan bread with mayonnaise and the other side with hot mango chutney. Place mixed greens on one side and top with six hot shrimp. Cover with other half of Naan and Wa La!

This recipe makes 2 sandwiches.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Empanadas with a bit of Tango

A few years ago my husband and I ventured into downtown Seattle to have dinner. It was a Friday night during the holiday season and we hadn't made reservations anywhere. Our first try was at Wild Ginger but we were told the wait was going to be over an hour. We decided to move on.

Our next attempt was a small but attractive looking restaurant near the Moore Theater. It was called the Buenos Aires Grill. When we entered the restaurant was busier than it appeared from the outside and we were concerned that another long wait was inevitable.

We were greeted by the most wonderful woman who informed us that they had no available tables and that the rest were reserved for the night. When she saw our disappointed faces though she said that a reservation she was expecting was 10 minutes late and if we would wait another 10 minutes and they didn't show up she would give us their table. We quickly agreed and she escorted us to a small table in the bar area. Ten minutes later she took us to a lovely two person table.

Their menu is very Argentinian. They have traditional grilled meats so you can expect some smoke and fire from the kitchen that is visible to most of the diners. I had a delicious pan fried steak with an egg on top. I know it sounds strange but it tastes delicious. We also had some very tasty empanadas before our meal. Some diners order what is basically a mixed grill of the restaurants favorite cuts. You can order a plate of grilled vegetables to accompany the meat.

The best part of the experience though came when a pair of tango dancers appeared and proceeded to dance through the restaurant. Wheeling deftly between the tables the couple are flawless and mesmerizing. What was a nice meal with excellent service was immediately elevated to a unique dining experience that I wouldn't have missed for the world.

Since then we have taken friends and family to the Buenos Aires Grill. The first time we took my Mom and Dad, my Sister asked the handsome tango dancer if he would dance with our Mother, Melody. He agreed and soon approached us in the bar and asked her to dance. He handled her perfectly and she loved it. Later in the evening as we departed we saw the dancer near the door and thanked him. He turned to my Mother and said in the most exquisite Latin accent "Thank you for the dance Melody." It was a perfect moment and not one to be forgotten by her.

I cannot recreate the experience of the Grill at home but I did run across a fantastic looking beef empanada recipe I had to try. My husband and I rarely buy beef anymore but a beautiful day inspired a purchase of organic, grass-fed rib eyes for the grill. They were delicious but way too large and we both left 1/2 or 1/4 of our steak on the plate. I didn't want to waste such tasty steak so I pulled out the empanada recipe. It actually calls for ground beef but chopped steak worked pretty darn well.


2 hard boiled eggs
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3/4 lb ground chuck
2 T raisins
1 1 /2 T chopped pimento stuff olives (I used chopped black and they were fine).
1 14 oz can whole tomatoes in juice
2 frozen pie crusts
Vegetable oil for frying

Cut each egg crosswise into 12 thin slices. Cook onion in olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened. Add garlic, cumin and oregano and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in beef and cook , breaking up lumps with a fork, about 4 minutes.

Add raisins, olives, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and tomatoes with juice, cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced but mixture is still moist. Cool.

Take out pie crusts and place on floured board. Use bowl with six inch diameter to cut discs from pie crust. You can usually get 4 discs per pie crust, collect left over pastry, roll out again, and you can get 2 more. Repeat with second pie crust.

Place about 3 T meat on each disc, place sliced egg on top of meat, moisten edges with water and fold over to form semicircle, then crimp with a fork.

Heat oil in skillet until about 360 degrees. Fry empanada, about 3 at a time at 4 to 6 minutes per batch. (You can also bake these for a less greasy result. I preheated the oven to 425 degrees, brushed the tops of the empanadas with beaten egg and water, placed them on a cookie sheet, and then baked them for 15 to 20 minutes until golden).

In my opinion these wouldn't be nearly as delicious without the chimichurri sauce. I followed this recipe exactly and it adds such a burst of flavor that you could quickly become addicted.


1 cup fresh parsley leaves, packed
1/4 cup fresh oregano (packed) or fresh cilantro leaves ( used cilantro).
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (dried)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
salt to taste
1 T shallot, minced

Just before serving, combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Sauce is served at room temperature. If sauce separates prior to serving just give it a good whisk.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Enchiladas Del Mar for a Special Dinner

I found this recipe a while back in Bon Appetite and I've been dying to try it. Last night I finally did and it was well worth the wait. The recipe was requested from a restaurant in Phoenix called the Barrio Cafe. I can no longer find the recipe on the magazines website for unknown reasons so I can't provide you with a link. When I type 'enchiladas del mar" in their recipe search box they provide two recipes, one for French Toast and one for Cornish Game Hens, now make sense of that.

Typically for me, I made the recipe a little simpler to put together. The original recipe from the Barrio Cafe has you purchasing, husking, charring under a broiler, and then pureeing a 1/2 a pound of tomatillos. I decided to skip that whole experience and purchased a lovely jar of Tomatillo Salsa - Medium. It was yummy and it worked fine. The original recipe also called for some goat cheese that I didn't have handy but I think it sounds tasty so I will use it when I make it again.


1/2 a jar of Frontera Tomatillo Salsa - Medium
1 T olive oil
12 uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup minced shallot
1 garlic clove, minced
6 ounces bay scallops, side muscle removed
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 pound fresh lump crabmeat

12 corn tortillas
3 1/2 cups grated Oaxacan cheese or Mozzarella cheese (about 14 ounces), divided
6 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Add shrimp and shallot; saute until shrimp begin to turn pink, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add garlic; stir 30 seconds. Add scallops and wine; cook until wine is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Transfer shrimp mixture to medium bowl Add cream and salsa; simmer until mixture thickens and measure about 1 2/3 cups, about 10 minutes. Add crabmeat and shrimp mixture to sauce in skillet. Season to taste.

While cream and salsa are simmering, preheat oven to 425 degrees, and place new heavy skillet or griddle on medium-high heat. Heat tortillas about 30 seconds per side until softened, place 1/4 cup cheese in softened tortilla, roll up and then place seam down in 13x9x2 - inch glass baking dish. Repeat until you have 12 rolled and in pan. Pour creamy seafood mixture over tortillas and sprinkle with more cheese. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Serve with sliced avocado, tomatillo salsa, and fresh cilantro. Really, really good!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Delicious Jambalaya and Sweet and Sour Shrimp

I used to be the kind of person who went to the grocery store every night. I didn't like using the microwave to defrost and I never remembered to get anything out of the freezer before I left in the morning. These are weak excuses since even minimal planning would have alleviated the problem but that's the way it was.

I was also a person who wasn't a leftover fan. I tended to serve up fairly large meals that my husband and I scarfed down unmercifully and what little was left went with him for lunch the next day. Well, times change.

Now I create a week long menu plan at the beginning of the week. I shop only once a week. I try and cook things in smaller portions and with a follow up plan for any leftover ingredients. When I'm cooking something like roast chicken where leftovers are inevitable I know even as it's in the oven what I'm going to do with what is left after our dinner. Interestingly enough, I've found that this has increased my creativity in the kitchen rather than diminished it.

A great example was last weeks double whammy of delicious meals from different cultures. Tweaked by me, of course. I had purchased from Trader Joe's a bag of their large, uncooked shrimp. There were too many shrimp for 1 meal of just the two of us so I planned for two; Jambalaya and Sweet and Sour Shrimp.

This made great sense because I have a plethora of Chinese sauces and flavors leftover from a recent meal so I'm always looking for something to use them in. I also had two unused chicken chorizo sausage from a recent pizza that were crying out for something to add spice to. These two meals also share a number of ingredients. Besides the shrimp there is green pepper, garlic, and rice. I found this recipe for Jambalaya on It is a low calorie version with a lot of good fiber and warm heat.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green pepper cored, seeded and chopped (I only used 1/2 a pepper)
2 celery stalks, diced
3 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, (I used about T of dried parsley)
4 oz extra lean smoked ham, cut in 1/2 inch cubes, (I used 2 chicken chorizo)
5 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced, (I used 1 can of kidney beans)
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
3/4 cup brown rice, uncooked
1 1/2 lb medium shrimp, peeled and chopped,(I used about 8 large shrimp not chopped).

Add oil to a large nonstick saucepan. Over medium heat, saute onion, garlic, bell pepper and celery until onion is translucent. Add parsley, ham/sausage, chicken/beans, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring often, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes (with juice), tomato sauce, and 1 3/4 cups cold water. Gently simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Pour rice into the pan and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered 45 minutes or until rice is cooked and absorbs most of the liquid. Stir in shrimp and cook 5 minutes more. Remove bay leaf. Season to taste.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Flavors Break the Gloom of a Rainy Easter

I'm not sure about the rest of the planet but our Easter Sunday in the lovely and verdant Pacific Northwest was a real wet one. Not even the threat of a sun beam marred the perfectly gray and soggy landscape. As a result I've been rebelling against this rather Novemberish weather using some of the oldest tricks in the books.

First and foremost an enormous bouquet of daffodils is gracing my kitchen. Their humble perfume permeating the area with the very smell of spring. Secondly a new pair of spring pumps with a small blue flower print and a darling bow above the open toe. Of course, I can't wear them out of the house yet but they are soooo cute! And, last but not least, a strawberry dessert that makes everyone who eats it want to hug a bunny.

As usual the recipe came from my Mother and, as usual, I've made some minor alterations to the presentation. The recipe is called Strawberry 1, 2, 3 Pie and it couldn't be simpler. When I've made this in the past I've always just made a single baked pie shell. It has just been revealed to me that the original recipe made the pie shell creation even easier. You mix it directly in the pie pan!

Strawberry 1,2,3 Pie Crust

8 inch pie plate
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 T cold milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sift dry ingredients into pie plate. Mix wet ingredients in small bowl and then pour into flour mixture. Mix with hands until combined and then press firmly into pie plate. Create sides and rim for fluting. Bake 12 to 15 minutes.

I haven't tried the pie crust yet but my Mum used it on Easter Sunday and said it worked perfectly. I wanted to try something a little different this time around. I rolled out and then cut 9 squares out of a single puff pastry sheet. I sprayed a muffin pan with Pam and then placed the squares of puff pastry in the muffin holes. I left the trim overlapping. Poke the pastry many times with fork and then place in 425 degree oven for 7 minutes. When 7 minutes have passed pull them out of oven and poke once again with fork to bring down puffiness especially on the insides of the shell. Place back in oven for another 7 minutes or until shells are golden brown. They should fall right out of the muffin tin. (You can always buy the puff pastry shells instead!)

Strawberry 1,2,3 Pie

1/2 cup sugar
1 envelope unflavored Knox gelatin
1/2 cup water
10 oz package frozen sliced strawberries
1 T lemon juice
1/8 tsp almond extract
1 Cup whipped cream

In saucepan mix sugar and gelatin. Stir in water slowly. Cook over low heat until sugar and gelatin dissolve and the liquid is just below boiling point. Remove from heat and add frozen strawberries, almond extract, and lemon juice. Stir until strawberries have melted and mixture has thickened. Fold in the whipped cream. Pour mixture into baked pie shell and chill for 3 to 5 hours.

If using puff pastry leave mixture in original container and refrigerate for 3 to 5 hours until set. Scoop servings into puff pastry shells, top with fresh strawberry, and serve. Do not put strawberry cream mixture into shells until serving or they will get soggy. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Making Leftovers that Taste New

Yesterday I told you about the leftover Cornish game hen meat from Sunday dinner and how I planned to turn it into spring rolls. Well, mission accomplished, and they were terrific! We had them for dinner with some Asian vegetable broth. Simple, not heavy, and not something you get at home very often.

In these hard times leftovers are a more important part of a families overall weekly meal plan. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver a Sunday chicken always resulted in another meal during the week. Before this recession kicked in I wasn't very big on leftovers and since my husband enjoyed taking them to work for lunch it wasn't difficult getting rid of them. But now I have a different perspective and more time to think about it.

It isn't always necessary to get fancy with your meal as long as it looks fresh and delicious. Our Saint Patricks Day Corned beef was extended for two later meals. The first was a simple Corned
beef sandwich on rye with mustard, served with a crispy coleslaw, and dill pickles. The second was a Corned Beef Hash that I created using leftover cubed beef, a large mostly baked potato chopped into squares, chopped onion, and green pepper. To get the potatoes real brown and crispy I placed my cast iron skillet right on top of the hash in the pan. The whole thing was served with a poached egg on top. It was brilliant.

The recipe for the spring rolls is so simple I made it up. The frying is my biggest concern but I used as little as possible of lightly flavored olive oil in my cast iron pan. I also wouldn't hesitate to try an oven method with spring rolls. Once they've been wrapped up just spray them with a little cooking spray and bake until golden and crispy looking. You'd be surprised by how tasty and authentic you can make these at home.


12 Spring roll wrappers (I use Bahn Trang Spring Roll Skins from PCC Market)
1 cup leftover chicken chopped into little pieces
1/2 cup of sliced cabbage (like for coleslaw)
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 green onions chopped
1 T dried lemongrass
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Oil for Cooking (I use about a 1/4 inch in bottom of 9 inch skillet).

Mix together everything in a small bowl except wrappers and oil. Taste to make sure it is seasoned appropriately. Take 2 spring roll wrappers, soak in water to create flexibility, place on flat surface, put about a 1/2 cup of mixture on wrapper, and then roll. Be sure to tuck in the ends at the start of the roll to make it nice and neat. Repeat until mixture is used up. (The wrappers freeze very well).

Heat oil in skillet to medium hot. Place no more than 3 rolls at a time in oil and cook until golden and crispy. Place on napkin to remove oil. Heat up oil again and add remaining rolls.

Serve with Sweet Thai Chile Sauce. Makes about 6 spring rolls.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Twist on an Old Favorite

You can usually tell when my husband is out of town because all I eat is peanut butter sandwiches and that doesn't make for a very interesting blog. Fortunately he is back and I did some fun things for Sunday dinner last night. Basic dishes made with a bit of a twist.

I had defrosted two Cornish game hens and with the leftover brown rice in the refrigerator the meal was basically covered. Stuff the rice inside the birds and roast for an hour at 425 degrees. It couldn't be simpler or more boring. I picked up one of Mario Batalli's cookbooks and he imparted the brilliant suggestion of brining small poultry. I have been brining my turkeys for Thanksgiving for the last 7 or 8 years and it has made all the difference in the moistness of the meat so I felt perfectly comfortable doing it my hens.

Using a big soup pot filled with cold water I added a cup of Kosher salt, 4 crushed garlic cloves and 4 circles of fresh ginger slightly smashed, a 1/2 cup sugar, a couple of teaspoons of pepper, and two Cornish game hens. After covering with a lid I put them in the refrigerator to float around for 6 hours. When they were done swimming in brine I pulled them out, dried them with paper towels, stuffed them with brown rice, basted them with olive oil, and placed them in a 425 degree oven for an hour. In the last 10 minutes of cook time I basted them with some Sweet Thai Chili Sauce and then basted them one last time as I removed them from the oven.

They were a huge success. The meat was moist, salty but not too salty, and delicious. You could taste the garlic and ginger flavors in the meat as well. It was a real treat. My husband ate his entire hen but I only managed half. Tonight I'm going to be using the remaining hen, some cabbage, onion, and lemongrass to make Spring Rolls for dinner. More on that later.

Now for dessert. Being a child of the sixties I was around when Pineapple Upside Down Cake was all the rage in desserts. It has gone out of style since then but it still remains one of my favorite yummies. One of the things I love about this dessert is that it is rustic yet sophisticated. I adore using my few pieces of cast iron cookware and this recipe is perfect for it because it goes from stove top to oven and that is something cast iron does very well.

The only fresh fruit I had available to me yesterday though was apples. I'm good with that because I like to eat as seasonally as I can and apples are something that are available all the time. Also because I live in Washington State they didn't have to travel very far! The recipe I found for Apple Upside Down Cake is delicious but if you use cast iron like I did then you need to increase you oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Apple Upside Down Cake

4 or 5 tart cooking apples
lemon juice
2 T butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
Confectioners Sugar

Peel apples and remove cores. Slice apples very thinly; sprinkle lightly with lemon juice to keep from turning brown. Place butter in 9 inch round shallow baking dish or medium cast iron skillet. Melt butter in 325 degree oven if cooking in a baking dish or on the stove top if using a skillet. Sprinkle brown sugar over butter. Overlap apple slices in dish; work from the center to the outside until bottom is covered with apples. (I had many more apple slices then needed for a single layer so I just layered them on until they were all used was fine!)

Place egg in medium size mixing bowl; beat well with electric mixer. Add sugar gradually and beat until mixed. Mix cream and vanilla together. Sift flour and baking power together. Add cream and vanilla and flour and baking powder alternatively into the egg mixture until all mixed in. Finishing with the flour for some reason makes a better cake. Pour batter over apples in pan and place in oven.

Cook for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out of center clean. Let cool ten minutes and then turn out onto cake plate. The top of your cake should be caramelized apples. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar for presentation. This cake can be served warm or cold.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Arrowleaf Bistro, Winthrop, Washington

Dining out in the Methow Valley has been an up and down battle. My favorite restaurant closed after a couple of years and since then it has been hit and miss. But if we want to do something kind of fancy without hitting the wallet too hard we go to the Arrowleaf Bistro in Winthrop.

Last weekend was Winthrop's Balloon Roundup. It ends on Saturday night in downtown Winthrop when they close off main street and light up a hot air balloon. It is really cool to see one up close and in the dark. After we watched them bring down and deflate the giant balloon we wandered down the street to Arrowleaf.

We were seated immediately at a window table in front of the restaurant. They started by serving a lovely white bread from the Rocking Horse Bakery with a sweet, herb butter. We ordered their Corn and Wild Rice Fritters with Cherry Mole to start. They were a bit dry but I enjoyed them with the sauce. (I'm still looking for the perfect Corn Fritter!)

For my entree I enjoyed their locally raised beef steak with a roasted shallot vinaigrette and served with hand cut frites. Very tasty. The beef is not completely organic but it has been grass fed and then finished with corn. The steak and frites are always a winner at Arrowleaf. My partner ordered the Vegetable Pot Pie and when it appeared out of the kitchen it looked impressive enough to get the notice of another patron. However, it was less impressive to the palate. A simple vegetable stew in a creamy sauce, poured into a large pottery serving bowl, covered with a large piece of puff pastry, brushed with egg for a golden finish, and then baked until done. Nice to look at but only average in flavor.

I haven't tried anything on their dessert menu yet but I did notice that they were offering a Creme Brulee, a Stout Cake with toffee crumbs and chocolate fudge, and a local Pear Strudel. Everything sounds pretty good to me but I'd probably go with the Pear Strudel. They grow wonderful pears in the Methow Valley.

If you'd like to try a glass of wine with dinner the Edna Valley Syrah was fantastic!

So when in Winthrop please give the Arrowleaf Bistro a try.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Recipe from the 70's is Worth Re-Visiting

If we are fortunate we grow up with a Mother or a Father who appreciates treating you well on your birthday. As in, "you can have whatever you want for dinner." Parents might be a bit more challenged in that area these days because thanks to television children are exposed to many, many things, including Lobster and Filet Mignon.

It's not as if we didn't have a television but in those days it wasn't such a central part of life that it is now. I believe we were allowed a single hour of TV viewing a day. And, of course, TV itself was different in the 1960's and early 70's. There wasn't nearly as much programming. So not much chance of we children broadening our horizons too much. I believe they served big, bright colored squares of replicated food on Star Trek.

No, my Mother could safely expect us to choose our favorite meal from her catalog of well-tried recipes. I ran the gamut of choices. There was one year I was having a Bisquick pancake obsession and that is what we had for my birthday dinner. I had a long love affair with my Mother's spaghetti (you aren't noticing an affection for carbs are you?), and it was my choice for birthday dinner on many occasion.

But in my teen years I settled on a single favorite that I requested every year and that was my Mother's lasagna. It was saucy, delicious and it smelled wonderful cooking in the oven. Over the years I've made lasagna many times but never with my Mother's recipe. I used a McCall's recipe that was detailed and full of original Italian herbs. I actually haven't made lasagna in a long time for a couple of reasons; 1. It takes forever to make from scratch and 2. It makes a lot of pretty fattening food. But as I was talking to my Mom the other day she mentioned that she made her lasagna for visiting family and it was a big hit. I then did what I should have done 25 years ago and asked her to send me the recipe. I made it last night and it was as good as I remembered it. The ingredients are simple but they match wonderfully well together.


1 lb ground beef
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. leaf oregano, 1 tsp. parsley flakes, 1/4 tsp pepper.
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce w/cheese (they no longer make this, just add a healthy sprinkle of Parmesan).
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 5 3/4 oz can mushroom steak sauce
1 2 1/2 jar sliced mushrooms
1 small package of lasagna - cooked and drained
1 pint of cottage cheese
1 egg beaten
1 Tbs. milk
2 4 oz. packages shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown meat, onion and garlic in large skillet; mix in seasonings. Add tomato sauce, paste, mushroom steak sauce and sliced mushrooms; cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Let cool. Cook lasagna noodles according to pckg. instructions, drain. Mix cottage cheese, egg and milk. Layer row of noodles, cottage cheese, meat sauce and mozzarella, then repeat with second layer in 12 x 8 baking pan. (I actually managed 3 full layers and a last layer of noodles, sauce with the remaining mozzarella and some freshly grated Parmesan). Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before cutting into serving pieces.

You can play with this recipe with fresh herbs and mushrooms. You can also use no boil noodles but I don't like the results as well. The key ingredient might be the mushroom steak sauce so don't leave that out. You can get it at your grocers. It's Dawn Fresh by Giorgio. I added just a little sugar and balsamic vinegar to the completed lasagna sauce just to taste at the end.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Stories of Bouillabaise

In 1973 my family took the biggest vacation that we had ever had. We were pretty middle class and in those days flying was still considered to be a luxury and was priced accordingly so we hit the road to California in a long 4 door sedan. Driving from Seattle with my sister and I in the enormous backseat, my father carrying with him tickets for Disneyland, one of our first stops was in San Francisco.

Somehow my Dad had specifically been told that we had to eat at the elderly but renowned Aliotos restaurant on the San Francisco waterfront. Open since 1925 you can still find the place alive and well where it has always been. For our family this was a very big treat and it was also the first time I've was introduced to bouillabaise.

Now since I was only 11 years old at the time my memory might be a bit hazy. Reading up on Aliotos today there is no bouillabaise on the menu but apparently cioppino is a long lived specialty of the restaurant. I might have to conclude that it was cioppino that I ate but since the two soups are so similar I can live with that. I remember seeing squid for the first time in someplace other than an aquarium and the rubbery feeling it had in my mouth. Most children would shy away from that, and I could be a very picky eater, but the experience of eating at the fancy restaurant with the gracious waiters and cloth napkins made everything taste delicious.

My other bouillabaise story occurred in the Canadian Rockies if you can believe it. When my husband and I were pretty newly married, and very young, I worked as a travel agent. My husband was a big skier and we were always looking for new travel adventures to have with my travel agent discount. I wrote to VIA rail and requested a discount on travel between Vancouver and Banff and they were kind enough to offer me half off. Since it was an overnight trip we reserved a cabin for 2 on the train.

We are so grateful for that experience now because you can no longer do it without selling some of your assets. The train still runs but it is a tourist train and is priced like the Queen Mary. Our double cabin consisted of 2 leather benches facing each other with an enormous picture window. While we were being served our lovely dinner in the dining car the porter turned our benches into wide beds, one top and one bottom, with heavy curtains that snapped shut to give you privacy. It felt like being in a Western movie! The experience of waking up to stare at the incredible view of the Rockies out my window as we click clocked along is probably not something I'll have again.

Now for the bouillabaise. Whenever my husband and I have a hankering for staying at a castle we find an old Canadian Pacific Hotel to stay in. The Empress in Victoria with it's super fantastic Bengal Room and the Chateau Lake Louise with it's spectacular view of the lake. But our favorite is the Banff Springs Hotel. On this trip as we toured it's giant halls our noses tripped over something delicious. We followed our noses to a small wine bar on the premises that normally did not serve much in the way of food. Apparently on the day we were there they had received a fresh load of seafood and so they were in the process of cooking a large batch of bouillabaise. Unfortunately for us it wasn't ready yet so we were never able to taste their concoction but I will never forget it's wonderful aroma.

So for me bouillabaise has always meant fancy and special. It also meant that I never considered making it myself. Something on the order of garlicky escargot - you only get it at a restaurant where they know what they're doing. But I ran into a recipe a year or so ago and I thought of a way that it might be done at home easily and inexpensively. I do the exact recipe except I cut it in half and the only seafood I add is Trader Joe's seafood mix ($5.99). It is frozen and includes shrimp, bay scallops, and calamari rings. I then purchase about 6 clams and 6 mussels from the fishmonger ($2.50) and throw them all in to finish the soup. It couldn't be simpler or tastier. Here is the recipe as I originally found it.


1 LB Fin Fish (red snapper, flounder,trout)
1/2 to 1 LB Shrimp, lobster, scallops, crab meat, any or all
18 small Clams, mussels, or lobster claws, any or all
1/4 cup olive oil
1 lg onion finely chopped
2 shallots minced
4 cloves garlic finely chopped
28 oz can tomatoes (coarsely chopped) with liquid
2 Cups fish stock, claim juice, or chicken stock
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each thyme, basil, saffron
Pepper to taste
Fresh topped parsley for garnish

Cut boneless pieces of fish into bite size pieces. Remove shells from shrimp, lobster, crab. Scrub clams and mussels. Saute onion, garlic and shallots in oil on low heat until lightly golden. In a large pot, put in all liquids and seasonings except parsely. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 15 minutes. Add all seafood, mix and simmer 10 minutes. Serve hot in large bowls with crusty bread and a tossed salad.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Soup for Dinner

I can think of few things that stretch a budget longer than a big pot of soup. In the days when cooking was done with food from your own garden and barn it was even more important. In the old large fireplaces a cooking pot hanging over the fire might remain there the entire week while the cook of the house continually replenished it with additional ingredients as they became available. I imagine that they obtained some deep flavor profiles with that method!

I have a copy of the original "Housekeeping in Old Virginia" written in 1877 by Marion Cabell Tyree. It is frightening in many ways because it constantly refers to how to get your servants to do the things that she describes in the book. We know, of course, that these servants are really slaves and it isn't pleasant to think about. There is also the inherent sexism of the time. A message of how to best be a good house wife so your husband will be happy with you. But then again you can find that message stated just as clearly in "Good Housekeeping" magazine as late as the 60's and 70's, long after slavery had been abolished. But if you can overlook that stuff the book really gives you a window into the kitchens of the past and soup was a big part of it.

There are recipes for every type of soup you can imagine in this ancient cookbook and some that you can't - i.e. Brown Calf's Head Soup. There is oyster soup and economical oyster soup, vegetable soup, okra soup, chicken soup, pea soup, four recipes for turtle soup, and six recipes for calf's head including the brown one already mentioned. You are covered on your calf's head recipes. Fortunately we have other options now and it is still a great value to make a big pot of soup. The first recipe that I'm going to give you lasted us over a week. The good thing about this soup is that it actually improves with time! I found this recipe in Bon Appetite and it was copied from a restaurant in Cape Cod called Siena.


2 T Olive oil
1 LB fresh chorizo sausage
2 cups chopped and peeled carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
2 bay leaves
6 garlic cloves
2 T chopped fresh thyme
5 cups of low-salt chicken broth
3 15 ounce cans of black beans, drained, rinsed
1 LB skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add chorizo and next 4 ingredients. Saute until sausage is cooked through, breaking up sausage with back of spoon, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and thyme; saute 2 minutes. Add 5 cups broth; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 20 minutes. Add beans and chicken; simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 10 minutes, adding more broth if desired. Discard bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper.
(If you want to make this a day ahead it will only taste better. The chorizo adds the spice in this soup.)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Recipes worth Checking out from Bon Appetite and Gourmet March Issues

My association with Conde Naste magazines has left me with a number of treasured subscriptions. Two of them are Bon Appetite and Gourmet magazines. My mother in-law introduced me to Bon Appetite many years ago and I've been a fan ever since. Between the two of them I prefer Bon Appetite while my sister prefers Gourmet.

Clearly they have the same publisher and their formats are quite similar but they stress different things. Gourmet really loves to travel and explore flavors that are sometimes a bit too far fetched for my taste buds while Bon Appetite offers perhaps more familiar flavors and experiences. But they are both great and I always find things in them that I want to try. Whether I ever get around to actually doing so is another story all together.

So for those of you that aren't fortunate enough to get these magazines delivered to your door once a month I will provide a list of some of their more interesting looking recipes. The March issue of Bon Appetite came with comfort food on the cover. Always a good strategy. It is a Lamb and Eggplant Shepherds pie. I'm not a big eggplant fan though.

One of my favorite sections in the magazine is the part where readers write to BA about a meal they had at a restaurant and then BA tries to get the recipe and then prints it for them. This week a recipe from Tracht's in Long Beach, CA. caught my eye - Short Rib Sandwiches with Creamy Horseradish Sauce. BA makes a point of saying that the Sherry Braised Short Ribs are fantastic on their own and I'm definitely willing to test that.

Also since I'm always looking for delicious vegetarian recipes these two recipes caught my eye - Baked Brie with Mushrooms and Thyme and Mashed-Potato Casserole with Smoked Gouda and Bacon(take out the bacon for veggie). I think either of these appetizer and side dish could work as a main course for two people. We have a tiny place in the Methow Valley and I'm thinking I'll try the Baked Brie recipe when the morels are here. There is also a dessert in BA's March issue that I believe I'll be re-visiting in the fall - Caramel - Apple Crisp.

Gourmet's March issue cover displays a fantastic looking - Monte Cubano! I'm currently on a kind of Cuban sandwich kick so they grabbed me with this one. They make it easy by using sliced deli meets and then an easy egg dip. The sandwiches are then pan friend until golden brown and melty. Okay, that sounds good! Doesn't look particularly low-cal though so it will have to be a special occasion sandwich.

Gourmet also spent some time with the perfect roasting of a chicken. I took an interest in this because just two weeks ago my incredibly talented sister prepared for us the best roast chicken any of us had ever had. Her technique and Gourmet's are basically identical. Cook at high heat for about an hour and baste. I've got an organic, whole chicken in the freezer that I'm trying to keep my hands off of until Sunday where I'll give this technique a try.

The other recipe that I can't wait to try is one of their easiest and simplest - Panfried Smashed Potatoes. I'm always looking for a new way to present a potato and this one looks terrific. Using red potatoes cooked until tender they are placed on a baking sheet and lightly crushed with a potato masher. Leaving the potatoes relatively in one piece they are then cooked in a skillet of hot oil until they're golden brown. They're served with a sprinkle of Parmigiano - Reggiano and lots of pepper. What a great way to serve up a simple side dish.

Any of these recipes can be found at their website at I suggest you check it out or go to your nearest magazine stand and buy a copy. After all the pictures are half the fun and you'll be doing our economy a favor.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Special Breakfasts for Cold Mornings

I was recently watching an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives where they mentioned but did not prepare a breakfast of Bananas Foster French Toast. I've always had a fondness for Bananas Foster, the dessert, so this sounded pretty good to me. I didn't look up a recipe but just whipped up something that fit the description last weekend and it turned out deliciously.

Now I will offer a caveat on this recipe and that is that I rarely use bananas in anything anymore. If you've read anything about the banana industry you will feel the same - unless, of course, you have no conscience. Slave wages and terrible working conditions are just a part of the problem. The amount of fuel engaged in bringing these modern bananas from Central America to a grocery store near you is astronomical. There is also the fact that we've created a sterile banana (the Cavendish), and halted it's evolutionary growth allowing it to become less and less resistant to disease. Already it is being attacked by a soil fungus that makes the banana the most pesticide sprayed fruit on the market. Women working in the packing houses in Central American have double the average rate of leukemia and birth defects, while the men in fields suffer from sterility because of the pesticide. These problems may correct themselves if the modern banana goes extinct which is a very real possibility.

Okay, so now we can talk about this recipe. I found small, green, organic, and Mexican bananas at Trader Joes thus allowing myself to feel better about the whole banana thing. I tried to keep the calories down by reducing the amount of butter, etc. The recipe is for a breakfast for two.


6 slices stale french bread or very crusty firm bread
1 egg
1/2 cup 2% milk
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 bananas, peeled and sliced
2 T butter, plus a T for cooking french toast
1 T brown sugar
1/2 cup real maple syrup
2 tsps lemon juice (or to taste)
2 T rum (if desired)

Preheat oven to 250. Mix egg, milk, and nutmeg in pie plate. Place bread slices in mixture until thoroughly soaked. Cook bread in butter in frying pan until golden brown on both sides. Place french toast in oven to stay warm.

Add 2 T butter to same frying pan until melted, add brown sugar, bananas, maple syrup, lemon juice, and rum. Cook until sauce is slightly thickened and bananas are soft. Pull french toast out of oven. Place 3 slices on plate and then pour 1/2 of banana mixture over toast. Repeat for 2nd plate. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Clementine Paddleford a Pioneer of Food Writing

I just finished reading "Hometown Appetites: The Story of Clementine Paddleford, the Forgotten Food Writer Who Chronicled How America Ate" by Kelly Alexander and Cynthia Harris. The story started as an article for Saveur magazine with the same title and won a James Beard award for journalism. This along with the encouragement of friends and colleagues are what motivated Alexander and Harris to turn the article into a book.

Alexander had been a food writer for many years and was a highly placed Editor at Saveur. Harris on the other hand was a Kansas State archivist who had spent many thankless months going through Clementine Paddleford's extensive papers that had been rotting at the Dept. of Special Collections at Kansas State University. Between the two of them they manage to bring back to life this amazing, and trailblazing food writer.

Paddleford wrote for the New York Herald as food editor from 1936 to 1966. She was best known though for her weekly column in This Week magazine which was a Sunday supplement that was distributed all over the country. Her national exposure gained her fame and allowed her to travel the country as a well-respected food writer. Clementine was a bold traveller and that included visiting a nuclear submarine where she reported on what the sailors ate on the USS Shipjack. I'd like to see Rachel Ray do that!

I enjoyed the early chapters of the book where Alexander and Harris write about her childhood with her Mother Jennie. If you are like me then you will find a lot to admire in Jennie Paddleford's world. A great anecdote in the book recalls how her father insisted on building the hog run within eye shot of their big front porch. Unable to dissuade him Jennie proceeds to dig up sod, turn soil, and plant an enormous hedge of lilacs between her porch and the hogs. She then says to Clementine; "Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be." Now those are some words to live by. In memory of Clementine and her Mother Jennie here is one of Jennie's favorite recipes.


3 cups all purpose flour
5 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar, plus more to taste
1/2 cup plus 2 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
3 quarts fresh strawberries from the fields
1 pint whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder, nutmeg, salt, and 1/2 cup of the sugar into a large bowl. Combine with the 1/2 cup butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with lumps the size of small peas. Transfer dough to bowl. Make a well and add to it the egg and milk. Word dough very gently with fingertips or pastry spatula; knead until it just holds together, about 10 seconds. Dots of butter should be visible; do not overwork dough. Generously flour work surface, then roll dough out to form two circles that are 1/2 inch thick and 8 to 10 inches in diameter. Wrap the disks tightly and chill.

Set aside 16 of the best looking berries. Hull the rest, then halve and place in a bowl with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar or more, depending on the sweetness and ripeness of the fruit. Let strawberries macerate for at least 15 minutes but no more than 45 minutes.

Remove dough disks from refrigerator. On 2 ungreased sheet pans, bake dough rounds 12 to 15 minutes, until golden on the outside and just cooked through in the center. Remove from oven and cool 10 to 15 minutes.

Slather the remaining 2 T of butter evenly on each disk. Transfer large disk to a plate that will accommodate it and the juicy berries running off it. Pile macerated berries on top and then cover with the other disk. Garnish with reserved whole berries and serve with whipped cream if desired. Yield: 8 servings.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thai Yellow Curry Sauce from Trader Joes

My husband and I don't have a lot of options when it comes to dining out near our cabin in Twisp, WA. In the past few years the place to be has been the Twisp River Pub. They always have live entertainment on the weekends and they are very involved in the community. Their food, on the other hand, has always been average at best.

The past couple of times we have eaten there my better half has ordered the vegetable curry. He thinks it's the tastiest item on their menu. I can't agree with him about that because it is full of zucchini and I can't stand that particular squash. But as I was perusing the shelves at my Issaquah Trader Joes the other day I spotted their Thai Yellow Curry Sauce and grabbed a bottle.

I cooked it for dinner last night and I can report that it is delicious. I used what I had available in my pantry and refrigerator and the resulting curry couldn't have been tastier. I used some pretty interesting food in my curry. I love raisins in curry but all I had was dried cranberries. I chucked them in their anyway. They worked perfectly. I'll put my recipe down but feel free to improvise with your own ingredients.

Thai Yellow Curry with Chicken

4 skinned and boned chicken thighs cut into bite appropriate chunks
1 T Cumin
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
2 T Olive Oil
1 Bottle Trader Joes Thai Yellow Curry Sauce
1/4 cup golden raisins or dried cranberries
1 Medium Tomato cut into chunks
1 Cup Frozen Petite Peas
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

Mix first four ingredients until chicken is covered with spices. Heat olive oil in skillet on medium to high heat. Add chicken in batches for a quick sear that adds good color but leaves them tender. When chicken is done reduce heat to medium low and add entire bottle of sauce to chicken along with the raisins. Cook until chicken is heated through, about 5 to 7 minutes, and then add tomato and peas and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes until done. Serve curry over jasmine rice and adorn with cilantro leaves. Serve to appreciative audience.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tasty Salmon Recipe

Last week I had my hubby swing by Pike Place Market on his way home from work. I wanted him to pick up a Wild Alaska King Salmon. I had him do this last spring and we had the most beautiful tasting fish for three weeks. (I always cut up my filleted salmon into two person serving packets and then freeze.) Since that time I’ve sent him back twice more, including last week, and we’ve been disappointed in the fish. The salmon he purchased last week was a beautiful color and size but it smelled way too fishy. So the third time was not a charm and two bad fishes in a row means that I’ll be doing some local blogging to find the best place to buy salmon around here. I think Pike is just too touristy and pricey.

I’ve purchased salmon twice from Fred Meyers because they make it look so beautiful and fresh in the display. I always buy wild salmon and Freds claim it’s wild but I don’t believe it. The flavor is not there at all. I’m not sure what they do to doctor their fish but after what they were doing to their beef I wouldn’t put anything past them. So no fish from Freds!

Since I could hardly blame my husband for not wanting to take the smelly fish back with him to work and the Market the next day, I cut up and froze the fish anyway. We ate some that first night and it still tasted real good so it’s not like the end of the world. Sometimes you have to work with what you have.

So yesterday I got out a couple of salmon fillets to defrost and started looking for a good recipe. A couple of years ago I purchased a book from a local author named Diane Morgan titled simply “Salmon.” I’ve tried a couple of recipes in the book already and at least two of them have become family favorites. But I wanted to try a new one last night and “Austin’s Soy-Lacquered Salmon with Green Onions” caught my greedy eye. It had a number of excellent qualities the first of which is that it sounds really damn good. It also had minimal ingredients, and it called for green onions that I currently have a plethora of.

Of course, I couldn’t just leave an excellent recipe alone; I had to mess with it. The recipe, which originates from China, calls for the salmon to be poached first in water and then in the soy sauce mixture until done. Since I’m not as familiar with poaching as I should be I was concerned that I would cook it too long and I hate overcooked salmon. So I made a few changes, (in preparation but not in ingredients), and the result was delicious. My husband gave a little ooh and aaah after his first bite and that is always a good sign.

Jenifer’s Soy-Lacquered Salmon with Green Onions

½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup distilled white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
6 green onion, including green tops
10 quarter-sized slices peeled fresh ginger
4 salmon fillets (about 6 ounces each)

Mix soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar in bowl large enough to marinate your salmon fillets. Cut 6 green onions in to 1-inch lengths and add 5 of them to soy sauce. Julienne fresh ginger and also add to soy mixture. Place the four fillets skin up in marinade for at least 1 hour. Refrigerate.

Spray outdoor grill well with non-stick cooking spray. Place marinated salmon flesh down on grill for 5 minutes, turn salmon to skin side and cook for 3 more minutes. (I have Teflon grill skillet that I used and it worked great sprayed with the cooking spray.) While salmon is cooking quickly put marinade in pan and cook until reduced and slightly thickened. If sauce doesn’t thicken in time for the fish go ahead and stir in some cornstarch and water – it gives the sauce a nice gloss.

Serve salmon over brown rice with sauce. Sprinkle plate with left over green onions. Enjoy!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Vegetarian Spaghetti

Last night was one of my veggie nights. So far my resolution to eat less meat has gone amazingly well. I haven't even begun to feel deprived of anything. In fact, I feel better about myself each time I do it. Double bonus.

Veggie Spaghetti is nothing new and I made a typical sauce with garlic, onion, carrot, celery, tomato paste and Italian stewed tomatoes. Threw in some oregano and basil. I also add red wine and balsamic vinegar which gives it a rich color and some extra flavor character. And a sprinkle of red pepper flakes.

Last nights spaghetti dish was taken to another level by a trick I learned watching Rachel Ray. After cooking her pasta she tossed it into a frying pan with garlic, olive oil and butter. Give it a good quick fry while tossing it in the oil and butter. Sprinkle with some more red pepper flakes or whatever flavoring you'd like and serve with sauce. It really adds an great dimension to the flavor of the whole dish. It works particularly well with whole wheat pasta which can really stand up to the process.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Eating Smarter

If you follow my book blog at you will know that I'm currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - A Year in the Life of Food" by Barbara Kingsolver. It is fascinating and depressing all at the same time. The facts introduced in the book regarding where our food comes from and what it costs us environmentally is stunningly grim. But what I've learned about asparagus is more than I ever could have believed. I mean "who knew?!"

The book is about eating only local foods along with vegetables and fruit out of their garden for a full year. Easier said than done as it turns out. Some products are nearly impossible to attain anymore without having access to specialized equipment. Flour and oats for instance. The family also gave themselves an item that each felt that they could not do without - coffee for her husband, dried fruit for her oldest daughter and baking spices for her. (I'm not sure I could make an apple pie without cinnamon either!)

The book was written in 2007 and as I head into the third chapter it has already occurred to me that this countries finances were a lot different then than they are now. Of course, although it was known by only the Alan Greenspans of the world and they kept it a secret, the economy was already on it's way to collapse. My point is that organic foods are almost always more expensive.

Even as Ms. Kingsolver talks about the American people becoming more conscious of their food choices I know that this trend is already beginning to reverse. It is not because we no longer care but because we can no longer afford it. One of the more annoying car commercials on the planet is the one where they ask the rhetorical question "Do you have to be rich to be safe?" Well, hell yes you do, at least in the good old US of A! You have to be rich to eat fish, to eat organic food, to have your own doctor, and to have at least 2 - four wheel drive vehicles that allows you to not see the ancient small Subaru you've just run over -(sorry, I digress).

Poor people have to eat Top Ramen and Kraft Mac and Cheese. They have to eat the most highly processed foods because these are the foods we produce cheaply in bulk. These are the corporate food producers that taxpayers help subsidize and who grow endless acres of corn and soybeans in order to create high fructose corn syrup and added fats. I guess organic farmers who raise animals on the food they were born to eat, like grass, and who grow vegetables in season, don't have any lobbyists.

One positive thing about reading this right now is that it fits in where me and my husband would like to go with our diet. We may not have made it to the promised land yet but we're going to have a heck of a time trying to get there. I was happy to see in the first of Camille Kingsolver's contributions she includes in her weekly menu a Sunday dinner of Organic Roast Chicken that is exactly what we had for our dinner last Sunday. Her weekly menu includes the leftovers served on Tuesday - chicken soup. Tonight I'll be using our leftovers for chicken and dumplings. I'll report on how it went tomorrow. Until then, eat well and eat smart.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Stormy Nights

Last night around Seattle many of us, including my husband and I, spent the evening watching the local news to find out which of our community neighbors were being flooded out. It has been one hell of a winter so far. Talk about non-stop excitement since Friday, December 20 when we received our first heavy snow. The last of that just melted yesterday in a deluge of rain on our mountaintop to the great misfortune of our lower land neighbors.

We in Western Washington are used to rain but the unlimited snowfall we experienced in the latter part of December was completely out of our realm of experience. Even as the rains began this week the community was still grilling our local and state officials on their handling of the snow. The officials are between a rock and a hard place however. Do you budget huge sums of money (that nobody but the filthy rich have anymore) for a big snow event that normally never happens? That is when the same community will point fingers at wasteful spending. Catch 22 really.

I'm glad the snow is gone. Now that I work from home I don't get the advantage of a snow day anyway. I was also feeding the poor little birds 2 to 3 times a day. When the snow falls they really encounter some hardships in getting food. Considering the cost of birdseed these days you can see why I'm happy to see the snow melt.

Last night was a vegan evening but it also required a comforting quality to offset the howling winds and drumming rain outside our windows. Last time I stocked up at Trader Joes I picked up a couple of their whole wheat pizza crusts, some fresh mozzarella and basil. The pizza crusts freeze very well so you can keep them for a while. So while the tempest whipped the forest outside Tim and I enjoyed a deliciously simple pizza in front of the fire. Not a bad way to spend the evening.

Cheese Pizza

1 Trader Joes whole wheat pizza crust
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
6 Large Basil leaves shredded by hand
1 small can Tomato Sauce or Pizza Sauce

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out room temperature pizza dough to size and shape of your pizza pan and place on cooking sprayed pan.

Swirl tomato sauce or pizza sauce to the amount you enjoy over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle with shredded fresh basil leaves. Cut fresh mozzarella into slices and place strategically over sauce and basil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper if desired. Bake on lower rack of oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Truly Homemade Tuna Casserole in Two Pans

It seems like these days I want to be frugal in everything I do. From shopping, to energy, to waste management, to cooking, I look for ways to save. Even if it does nothing more than save my husband some extra dishes to put in the dishwasher I go ahead and do it. In these hard times it appears that is has become a part of my DNA.

A few years ago I ran into a recipe for Tuna Noodle Casserole in Bon Appetite. Interestingly enough it had been adapted by food editor Kemp Miles Minifie from her mother's recipe. Her mother, Betty Blood Miles, used cream of mushroom soup in the 1950's as everyone else did to make her 4 kids a tasty dish they all loved within their budget. But Kemp figured out how to make it minus the processed food products.

The first time I made it I was confronted with the recipes multiple steps and time consuming production. I was also met with one of the most delicious tuna casserole's that has ever crossed my rosy lips. It was good enough that I've made it a couple of times since but the amount of work required kept it from being a regular on our table. Now that I'm jobless in Seattle I have the time and with a severely reduced income tuna has become a popular option again.

I adapted the tuna noodle casserole again on Monday night in order to cut the recipe in half, reduce the caloric content, and limit the number of pans and steps required. The result was delicious and impossible to tell apart from Kemp's first adaptation. I recommend that you use line caught white albacore canned tuna for your recipe because it is more sustainable than other tuna.

Tuna Noodle Casserole (adapted recipe from Kemp Miles Minifie and Jenifer Reinhardt)

1/2 medium onion chopped
1 small can sliced mushrooms
2 1/2 T butter
1 tsp soy sauce
1/8 cup sherry
1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup 2% milk
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp salt
1 can tuna, drained
3 oz dried curly egg noodles (I used the pasta I had in my cupboard - leftover penne)
3/4 cup coarse whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 a cup of coarsely grated cheddar cheese
1/2 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook onion in a Tablespoon of butter in medium cast iron skillet until softened. Add mushrooms and saute until heated through. Add soy sauce and sherry and cook to mostly evaporated. Remove from heat. In another large pot cook your pasta. When pasta is done drain and add to cast iron with mushrooms and onion.

Melt remaining butter in pasta pan over moderately low heat and whisk in flour. When cooked add broth in a stream while continuously whisking and bring to a boil. Whisk in milk and continue simmering until white sauce is of a creamy consistency. Flake tuna into cast iron skillet and then pour sauce over whole mixture and stir together.

In small bowl toss together bread crumbs and cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and toss again. Sprinkle evenly over casserole and then place in oven. Bake for 20 t0 30 minutes until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling. Yummmm!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Stretching the Benefits

This is the time for New Years resolutions. I've never been very into the whole ritual since I am somewhat of a cynical character. Since I never actually witnessed anybody accomplish their goals in this manner, I always felt that it put a lot of undue pressure on the start of a new year. But about six years ago I became an exception to my own rule by quitting smoking at the start of the year.

This was not a "fun" experience. I was a true addict of the cigarette not one of those mamby pamby smokers who have 1 or 2 a day. I used the patch and I did a lot of puzzles and other work with my hands and after a few weeks I became patch and smoke free. So I'm hear to tell you that resolutions can work if you really want it bad enough.

So that brings us to this year. I need to lose weight. I've needed to lose weight for years and all I've ever managed is a few pounds up and a few pounds down but never anything dramatic. I seem to be on some kind of horrible maintenance program which would be great if I was starting at an ideal weight which I clearly am not.

I also want to reduce my carbon footprint. As the country heads in a whole new direction (hopefully) I also want to change my bad habits. My family has already dropped a car from it's repertoire. Thankfully it is just the two of us so when I need the car I just drive my husband to the park and ride in the morning and pick him up at night. It's pretty much exactly like my parents did in the sixties when they only had 1 car (yes, people actually used to live with just one).

Another great way to reduce your carbon footprint is to eat less meat. Did you know that eating a pound of meat is the equivalent of driving 40 miles in a SUV?! And a cow's farts are notorious for dumping methane into our atmosphere. One fifth of the world's green house gas emissions are from the production of meat. The University of Chicago says that eating less meat is 50% more effective then switching your car to a hybrid in regard to cleaning up emissions. Check out this site for more information: warming.asp.

So let's add this up. The resolutions are to lose weight and reduce carbon emissions. Eating vegetarian is a proven diet that works for many people trying to lose weight. Introducing less saturated fat in the form of animal fat into my system will have great benefits for my heart and overall health. Fewer animals will have to die. By eating 1 less chicken a week I will have contributed to reducing global warming to the same extent as if I had taken 500,000 cars off the road for a year. By eating less meat I will be able to shop for more locally grown food thus reducing transportation emissions. My grocery bill will go down. This is a win, win situation folks!

Now for those of you who think that most vegetarian foods are dull and tasteless then you haven't really thought it through. Recipes online for vegetarian meals are readily available and you don't even have to go that far. Think of all the veggie recipes you already know and love like Cheese Pizza, Baked Potatoes, Macaroni and Cheese and Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce. And let's not forget our fish. Shop responsibly for them and you'll do the environment a world of good. The last time I checked the farts from fish were not a contributing factor to global warming!