Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chicken pot pie-in the crock pot

SO delicious is Real Simple's Creamy Chicken pot Pie (Feb 2012, pg142)! The house smells terrific, it's was quick to put together and the nutrition is well-balanced.

My modifications- more carrots, some finely chopped celery, sautéed mushrooms added at the end instead of raw at the beginning, used a mix of peas & corn instead of only peas, used less salt.

What I would do different? Use fresh green beans added at the start, or omit them and next time I'll try half and half instead of heavy cream.

Lastly, I was out of puff pastry from Trader Joe and Whole Foods wanted $10.99 for a small package (I'm sure it would have been delicious...), so I used pie crust ($3.99) and cut out large rounds.

Please try this!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Boozy Olives

For hostess gifts this year I made Boozy Olives from Bon Appetit December 2011 -

They were a hit!  I have received many requests for the link to this recipe.  Most recently a friend emailed to let me know that the Cerignola olives were nowhere to be found locally.  I usually adapt recipes to my taste, budget and need for convenience - I never did look for the Cerignola olives (nor did I include the vermouth).  I just bought the yummiest looking olives that I would like to see sitting at the bottom of a well-filled martini glass.  What I purchased, and what got the rave reviews, was Lindsay brand Spanish queen olives pimiento stuffed.

Yesterday I made a trip to Costco for 2 big jars of Lindsay olives and today I will deliver a jar to my friend who can't wait to make these yummy olives that sit well alongside most any hors d'oeuvre.   I will keep the second jar and make boozy olives to have on-hand.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Stocking Up Using The Oven-croutons, nuts, pita chips

Cool weather immediately prompts me to cook.  Well, it really gets me baking.  Baking is not my strong suit.  I have to take a deep breath and think about proportions and measurements.  Leveling flour is the last thing I want to do.  I prefer a looser approach to all things culinary...that is if I'm cooking.

What I want today is a warm kitchen filling the house with amazing smells.  I opted for the loose approach (but the bananas in my freezer will be banana bread soon...) and made croutons with day old (read many days old and some of it frozen), roasted nuts and pita chips.  The croutons we will eat on a salad or I will pulse in the food processor to make bread crumbs for the topping of homemade mac and cheese. Roasted nuts are cooled and stored in the freezer to be eaten as a snack, on a salad, baked in cookies, bread, etc, or used to chop and sprinkle on most anything.  The pita chips I am making today are mini pitas.  When they are split in half they make a lovely bowl shape that is useful to hold dips, salsas, salads, etc.

Croutons a la Linda
-all measurements are approximate, sutract or add according to your taste
6-8 cups cubes day old bread (I like a mixture of Italian, sourdough, whole grain, etc)
1 stick salted butter
1 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp dried Italian herbs
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
sprinkle of poppy seeds

Put cubed bread in a large bowl.
Melt butter over low heat.  Stir in herbs.  Pour over cubed bread while tossing to coat evenly.
Spread buttery cubed bread on a sheet pan large enough to accommodate bread cubes in a single layer.
Toast in a 350 degree oven until golden brown, 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and seeds, cool and store in an airtight container or resealable bag.

Roasted Nuts
1 lb raw almonds, pecans, cashews, walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread nuts evenly in a single layer on a sheet pan.  Roast nuts until you can smell their aroma, 10-20 minutes depending on the nut.  All ovens cook differently, so check your nuts after about 7 minutes and give them a shake or stir. Then return them to the oven to complete the roasting.
Cool nuts completely.  Place in a resealable bag and store in the freezer to retain freshness.

Pita Chips
One bag of mini whole wheat pitas, split in half with bread knife. Spread in single layer on cookie sheet. Sprinkle enough olive oil so that each pita half has been hit.  Sprinkle with sea or Kosher salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.  Toast in a 350 degree oven until golden brown, approximately 10-12 minutes.

Breakfast - Crepes

Crepes - savory or sweet, they are super versatile no matter the meal.

I'm back to trying to find "new" ideas for breakast.  My daughter isn't inclined to wake and bound to the table starving for her first bite of food.  Some days she can barely bring herself  to eat one bite.  Since her lunch time is some ridiculously early time like 10:30am, I don't get too worked up about it, usually.

The challenge is to find foods that are relatively high in protein, provide whole grain, taste great and aren't too heavy...crepes work well!

Crepes are French in origin, of course, so I pulled out my favorites to compare recipes: Julia Child, Dori Greenspan and Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Raumbauer.  All the recipes differ slightly but basically you use equal parts flour to liquid, add sugar for sweet crepes and salt for savory. Most recipes recommend blending the batter in a blender, but I find that a whisk does the job.

With inspiration from the current Eating Well magazine February 2012, page 80-81, Crepe-a-licious! I used the following recipe this morning.  My daughter asked for seconds...

Basic Crepes
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour +
1/2 cup unbleached white
(OR any combination of flours you prefer)
1-2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 large eggs (can omit 1-2 yolks if cholesterol is a concern, replace each yolk with an egg white)
1/2 cup low-fat or skim milk
2 teaspoons canola oil or melted butter (currently I have no microwave, so I used canola oil.  Typically I would use butter for the flavor, but I used butter in the filling, which worked well to preserve the buttery flavor that I like)
1/2 cup liquid of choice (milk, water or club soda)

Whisk all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk all wet ingredients in another bowl.  Add wet to dry and whisk like all get-out until batter is smooth (or put it all in the blender at once, sorry JC, no time in the morning for your method).  This batter can be covered and placed in the fridge overnight, or let it rest for 20-30 minutes before preparing the crepes (I dried my hair and put makeup on, straight-ironed my daughter's hair, made coffee and a sandwich for lunch during the rest).

Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high, pour scant 1/2 cup batter into pan and swirl pan around to get a uniform circle, lower heat to medium and cook for about 1 minute or until the crepe lifts easily from the pan.  Flip the crepe over and cook for about 30 seconds.  Repeat until all batter is gone.  We filled them and ate them as they came out of the pan, but you can overlap them on a plate until all are made, just be careful to overlap only part of crepes on one another to avoid them sticking together.

01/04/2012 Filling - Banana-Caramel Crepes adapted from Eating Well Magazine, February 2012
Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a non-stick skillet , add 1/4 cup or less brown sugar.  Stir until combined.  Slice 4 bananas into pan and stir to coat. Divide among crepes and serve immediately.

01/05/2012 Filling - Caramel Apple
Follow the banana-caramel filling instructions, replacing bananas with 2 Honey Crisp apples peeled and sliced thin.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cool Weather Banana Bread

Banana Bread | Real Simple Recipes

The first cool day of Autumn makes me want to fire up the oven.  Today it's banana bread.  Those summer bananas that got too ripe too quickly and found a temporary space in my freezer are begging to be baked.

There aren't too many banana bread recipes I don't like, but my favorites include some kind of whole grain flour - 100% whole wheat pastry flour is nice - some butter (a unsalted butter/monounsat. oil blend), whole eggs, some brown sugar (depth of flavor!) and the needed vanilla, baking soda, powder and salt.

One of my favortie food web sites is, where I found today's banana bread recipe at Real Simple, another favorite web site and magazine.

Hopefully tomorrow will be cool again...I have a zucchini that wants to be bread with some chocolate chips!


I love sleeping in late, waking and discussing with Chris what we should have for breakfast.  As we talk it awakens our bellies and soon we have no choice but to put words into action.  This morning we knew that it would be a big breakfast, one that would satisfy our son's appetite and hold him through his football game.

Bacon, pancakes, scrambled eggs and coffee.  For the pancakes, my go to recipe is Basic Pancakes in the Joy of Cooking (substituting 1/2 whole wheat pastry flour), bacon (uncured from Trader Joe's), eggs from Ron Adkin's farm and Star$ coffee in the french press.  The table is set with Ohio maple syrup, salted butter, Nutella, powdered sugar and pancake syrup.  When everything is to the table I realize I have a pound of strawberries that would make a delicious fruit syrup - oh well, there's always tomorrow.

We all get our fill.  Edward and Chris just left to warm-up before the game, Katie is relaxing in the living room and I am upstairs enjoying the sweet smell of pancakes, and maple syrup laced with bacon that lingers in the air.

Basic Pancakes - adapted from the Joy of Cooking 1997 edition
Whisk together in a large bowl
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I use whole wheat pastry flour)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Whisk in another bowl:
1 1/2 cups milk (or low fat buttermilk)
3 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil
2 large eggs (or 1 whole egg, 2 egg whites)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and gently whisk them together until just combined.  On a griddle at 350 degrees F, drop 1/3 cup batter on griddle.  Cook until bubbles form on the surface on the pancake, flip and cook until steam subsides and pancake has "puffed up." Serve immediately or keep pancakes in a 200 degree F oven until ready to serve.  I keep uneaten pancakes in a resealable bag and heat in the toaster on the "warm" setting or quick mid-week breakfasts.  Serve with fresh fruit syrup , maple syrup, Nutella and powdered sugar.