Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Foodie's Farewell

As a few of you may have noticed, I haven't been posting a lot lately. Ok, I haven't posted anything since May. No great reason except I've been busy. I think I'm blogged out for now. I am still cooking up a storm and have had some fun summer food experiences. I just haven't taken the time to take photos and write.

I can't thank you enough for reading and responding to posts over the almost three years I've been writing. It has been such a fun outlet for me to share all of these food related experiences as I continue to learn.

I got a Vitamix for my birthday which has opened up a whole new world of smoothies and sauces. It's so much fun.

I missed berry season for canning but have made up for it with peaches. I've canned rosemary peach jam and peach rum sauce. Then I canned some chipotle salsa.

My latest obsession is padron peppers. We had them at a tapas restaurant, then I found them at the farmers market. I sauteed them in a little olive oil, until they blistered, then sprinkled them with smoked sea salt (from Trader Joes). Amazing.

Thanks again and if you want to e-mail me one of your favorite recipes, I would love it!

My food journey will always continue!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Men Who Cook

My Mark doesn't cook a lot, but our good friend Marc does. Their wives were spending 12 hours on a field trip to Jamestown with fifth graders so the husbands got together to make us dinner. I have a weakness for men who can cook. Someone coined the phrase gastrosexuals for men (or women) who learn to cook to impress or entice the opposite sex.
The gastrosexuals Marc and Mark did a wonderful job. Mark made us grapefruit martinis and there was liver pate to start.
The first course was snails in puff pastry.
Marc made a wonderful flavorful broth with butter and garlic and then served them on the puff pastry.
Our girls had never tried snails before and 2 out of 3 approved.
The main course was pan fried turkey cutlets
with braised collard greens.
For dessert, daughter Madison used the leftover puff pastry and sprinkled it with cinnamon sugar and they served vanilla ice cream over them.
It felt so nice to be served such a lovely dinner in my own home!
A big thank you to the Marc(k)s.
You have an open invitation to cook dinner at my house anytime.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


How much do you think about the amount of meat you eat? (If you eat meat) I'm still ok with eating meat, but am trying to make better choices with how the meat I buy is farmed. I also think even those of us who eat meat could eat a lot less of it and add more fresh produce to our diets. I'm still trying to follow the meatless mondays movement and continue to see lots of references to it in the media. Check out their website which even gives recipes.
I teach yoga on Monday nights, so to honor that I usually end up making an Indian vegetarian dish. With Indian food, I don't even miss the meat.
Some people make a difference by eating vegetarian during the day, and then having meat with dinner. Any way you can find to cut back on your meat consumption will benefit your health and the environment.

What do you make when you have nothing planned for dinner? Do you have some fall back standards?
Like when you get home from vacation and not much is in the house. We've been known to have pancakes.
Some other favorites are omelets, quiches, grilled cheese and soup, spaghetti with olive oil and garlic and a wonderful stand by, spaghetti carbonara. I made some tonight!
It is so easy, and authentic Italian carbonara has no cream.

Just saute some cut up bacon in a pan. After awhile, add two whole garlic cloves, then a T. of butter.
In serving bowl, whisk two eggs and cracked pepper.
Boil a lb. of spaghetti , toss into eggs, then mix in bacon (taking out the garlic cloves)
Add lots of parmesan cheese.
You can't go wrong with this!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sandwich Inspiration

My good friend Ellen made me this amazing grilled portabello and goat cheese sandwich recently. The recipe was in Fine Cooking magazine. You can sign up here to get daily recipe ideas from them via their e-letter. I recreated it at home and had to make it a couple of days in a row (because it's so yummy).
First I make the pesto ahead of time then,  grill the portabellos on a grill or pan.
 Assemble the sandwich with the pesto, goat cheese and portabellos.
Brush the bread with olive oil and grill on the stove top or panini grill. The goat cheese melts down on to the mushrooms!
There's another grilled sandwich I make occasionally that this reminds me of. It's a Barefoot Contessa recipe with pesto, mozzerella and tomato. Pesto is good on most sandwiches. My girls love a little smear on grilled cheese or turkey.
I used some leftover pesto for a St. Patrick's Day appetizer, crackers with goat cheese and pesto. It was the only green food item I served this year. I tried to keep my green influences to the decor. After last year's (green martinis!)
I bought a nitrate free corned beef this year from Whole Foods. Not as strong a flavor, but I  liked it and it was a lot less salty. Almost more like a plain brisket.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mixed Berry Oatmeal Crisp

This is the kind of recipe I love to have up my sleeve! No special ingredients to run out and buy. Stock your freezer with a bag of frozen mixed berries and you'll always have a wonderful dessert to prepare for unexpected guests or if your cake falls on the floor (yes, I've had that happen).  You can adapt the topping to whatever nuts you have on hand.
Mixed Berry Oatmeal Crisp was printed in the March issue of Bon Appetite.
Here the frozen berries are mixed with cornstarch and the crisp topping is thrown together.
Put the frozen fruit in the individual dishes and pile up the topping. They bake for about 40 minutes.
I'm just happy to have another use for these cute creme brulee dishes.
Excellent served hot with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on top.
 Now that's showing some love.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Short Ribs

I've only made short ribs a couple of times but this recipe is a keeper. I read an interview with Mark Bittman when he was leaving his regular column in The New York Times. They asked him to list his top ten recipes from all of his years of cooking and writing. This was one of them and it's so easy. Check it out: Short Ribs with Coffee and Chilis. After browning them I cooked them in the oven for almost three hours.
I served them over cheesy polenta and it was a fabulous combination.
And on a local note, we finally made it to the new Peter Changs. It was really good, but I can't wait to go back and try more dishes. They do have their wine/beer license and the service was good on a busy Friday night. Word on the street is that Mr. Chang may be there only temporarily and is just lending his name to the restaurant. Maybe he has another place in Atlanta? Not sure what to believe...... but I'll keep eating his creations if they're this good.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rainbow Cupcakes

I'm always up for getting my kids in the kitchen with or with out me. Madison, my fifteen year old saw this recipe for rainbow cupcakes in a magazine and was dying to try it.  It involved cake mix and lots of food coloring.
She made the cake mix and then divided the batter into 5 bowls to tint the batter.
She made a whipped cream icing. They were very popular with the younger crowd!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My work horse

Did you buy a bread machine back in the bread machine craze of the 90's? I think ours was a Christmas gift and came from Sam's club. I would buy those bread machine mixes at Sam's Club. It sure was easy to throw some water and the mix in the pan and a few hours later, you had fresh bread. The house smelled wonderful but, oh those soft tasteless crusts. Next I got a recipe book on whole grain breads in your bread machine. I made a variety of dense brick loaves full of grains that were hardly edible.
So then the bread machine was banished to the basement for awhile and only used occasionally. In the past few years it has become my work horse! I use it for kneading and rising bread all of the time, just not baking.

It's very easy and comes out perfect every time. I just put my bread ingredients in, and put it on the 'first rise' cycle. It takes about an hour and a half, but if I'm away longer it's fine to just sit in there.

Then I take it out and put in my a bread pan and bake it in the oven so it has a nice crust.
I use it to rise my pizza dough too.
This crazy machine is also a rice cooker. The rice and water goes in the same container and there's a top for the rice cycle.
It steams rice perfectly, brown rice too.
It's only draw back is that it's quite large. I've  pulled my back out hauling this thing up and down the basement stairs! But I use it a couple of times of week for dough and rice.
I bet you could fine a great deal on one of these at thrift shops or yard sales. I'm going to start looking for one exactly like the one I have because I don't know what I'm going to do if it ever stops working.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


As you can probably tell I have quite a collection of cookbooks. I really love reading them. If I'm not in the middle of a novel, I tend to grab a couple at night and read through them before bed.
I was in the market for a mexican cookbook. I checked out some from the library by the very respected Diane Kennedy, but she'll have you growing the corn to grind your own masa if you follow her too closely. I decided I needed to own one of Rick Bayless's cookbooks on Mexican cooking. I researched them all and decided on Mexican Everyday.
He has lots of wonderful information between the recipes, so it makes for good late night reading. I haven't made anything from it yet but it inspired me to make tostados. We make a lot of quesadillas around here at lunch time. It's a great way to use up any leftover meat, vegetables or rice and I always have refried beans and cheese around. Then everyone makes them to their liking with or without hot sauce, salsa, sour cream, or avocados etc. You get the picture. I just never thought to do that with tostados, but they're great! Everyone loved them and you can't beat that crunch. My regular grocery store carries them, and the hispanic markets of course. They keep for awhile in the bread box too.
I'm still riding on my high of visiting India and love love love the food.
I heard about this book The Indian Slow Cooker  from a couple of different places, so I finally ordered it.
The recipes are so easy because you simple put all of the ingredients into your slow cooker. It uses a lot of Indian spices, but once you have those on hand it's so simple. Everything I've made so far has been fantastic.
I will work my way through the whole book. I did have to cut down on the amount of salt and chili's in most of the recipes.
I highly recommend it if you love Indian food.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Real or Rumor?

Could it be that the famous, yet elusive chef, Peter Chang is back in Charlottesville and opening a restaurant! Some friends told me they saw a sign up, so I went by to see for myself.
Sure enough there was lots of building activity and a sign in the window.
They had a sign up for hiring too, so it must be getting close. It's in the Barracks Road Shopping Center where Wild Greens used to be. I bet it'll do really well because good chinese food is really lacking in Charlottesville. We have excellent Indian and Thai but a great chinese restaurant will be very welcome. Can't wait!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Homemade Marshmallows

For a fun project and a special treat for Valentines Day try a batch of homemade marshmallows. I've made them for the holidays too, to give with hot cocoa. One of my daughters wanted to take them to her class for Valentines Day.
You start by soaking the gelatin in water in the mixing bowl. Then boil the corn syrup and sugar mixture and when it reaches the soft ball stage, you pour it slowly into the gelatin.
Then whip it for about 15 minutes. We added some red food coloring for a pale pink effect.
Then spread it in a pan sprinkled with powdered sugar to dry overnight.
Then have a cute little girl cut out heart shaped marshmallows with a cookie cutter. Nice squares work too.
Roll the sticky edges in more powdered sugar.
Then pack in red box.
Happy Valentines Day!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Baking for stress release

"When the going gets crazy, the crazy bake cookies."
That's me, the busier and more stressed I am, the more I want to hide in my kitchen and bake a big chocolate cake or loaves of bread. There's something so grounding and nurturing about it. I had a crazy day friday, with a big event that night but somehow I squeezed in time for a batch of peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies. It helped me deal with the stress of the day.

Love this bumper sticker I got in the bag from my Penzey's Spices shopping spree this weekend.
 To get through an occasional crazy day I reach for my espresso maker. I made some for a cousin recently and when he saw my stovetop model he said, "Cool, espresso old school"! Made me laugh.
I'm sure those super expensive machines out there make some amazing coffee but for the occasional cup of espresso, I love my little Bialetti.
I serve it in little espresso cups with sugar hearts and sometimes a splash of cream.
A perfect pick me up for another overcast winter day.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I love to make a waffle breakfast on the weekend. For a long time I've been meaning to try one of the recipes for overnight or raised waffles with yeast. I finally got around to it and I think it's the best waffle ever to come off of my waffle iron. There are a couple of recipes out there, the Marion Cunningham's raised waffles and Mark Bittman's overnight waffles. I followed Mark Bittmans and it was so easy to put it together, leave it on the counter overnight and then add the egg yolks and whipped whites in the morning.
It smells like bread baking when they are cooking.
This is definitely the new waffle of the house.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Masala Chai

I've loved chai tea for years. I used to get the cartons of concentrate and make it at home or order it at a coffee shop. Our first morning in Mumbai at breakfast I asked for coffee and Mark asked for tea. My coffee wasn't very good so I took a sip of his tea and proclaimed "oh it's chai!" and I was hooked. He loved it too and every morning we drank at least three cups. It was very creamy, probably made with whole milk.
A typical breakfast in Mumbai: a boiled egg, spiced potatoes, bread, fruit and the fabulous tea.
I went to the grocery store in India to try and figure out how to make it like they do. I have a recipe from my yoga teacher here but it was quite complicated.
I bought a couple of beautiful boxes of tea in Mumbai. One says masala chai on it and the other one is darjeeling.
I started experimenting right when I got home. The box marked masala chai said to add a teaspoon to boiling water. OK, but no creaminess. Then I used 1/2 milk, 1/2 water and it got closer but not spicy enough. I decided to check in one of our local Indian grocery stores A Taste of India and see what they had available. He told me, to make it you use the regular orange pekoe tea and then add the spices which you can do individually but they had a spice mix all ready to add.
So I think I have it down now. I use 1/2 water and 1/2 milk adding a teaspoon of tea per cup and then a teaspoon of the kamal tea masala per cup and simmer it for about five minutes.
Definitely a taste of India!
(And definitely has caffeine, I had to cut back on my tea consumption to get a good night sleep)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mumbai, India

I'm still digesting all that Mumbai is.... what you see, hear, smell, taste and the trials of communication.  I think it needs to be processed in a different way than I might normally judge a country and it's people. Overall it was an amazing experience and has altered me in that wonderful way that travel opens your head and heart .

One of the most interesting things to me was the dabba or tiffin( the container) wallahs. I'd seen the metal containers before at World Market. And now I know their story.
 Mumbai's 5000 dabba-wallahs work tirelessly to deliver hot lunches to office workers throughout the city.

Lunch boxes are picked up each day from homes and restaurants and carried on heads, bicycles and trains, and taken to a centralized sorting station. A sophisticated system of numbers and colors is then used to determine where every lunch must end up. More than 200,000 meals are delivered in Mumbai in this way- always on time come monsoon or searing heat.
The same intricate supply-chain system has been used for centuries and dabba-wallahs are known to take immense pride in their work. On average only one mistake is made every six million deliveries. Impressive!
We brought home a three stack dabba for packing lunch sometimes.

footnote-dabba-wallah info from Lonely Planet guide book on India