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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Amazing zucchini muffins (with a little bit of lemon)

There is a story that says that if you live where people are the salt of the earth, in the middle of summer, you better keep your doors locked. Not because these salt-of-the-earth neighbors are going to rob you, but because they are likely to drop off a big bunch of zucchini on the seat of your car or in your entryway, making eating it all it your problem.

I would like to think that my neighbors are the salt of the earth, but as of yet I haven't had any wayward zucchini harvests appearing in or on any of my property. (I also haven't been abandoning zucchini on anyone else's doorstep, either, though. The one time I tried to grow it bugs ate the teeny little seedlings down to nothing overnight.). However, it seems that even the farmers need to offload zucchini in great quantities.

My Abundant Harvest box has been... shall we say... generous in its helpings of zucchini and summer squash for quite a few weeks now. It is,,, shall we say... a challenge to keep up with it all.

My kids, who aren't the greatest veggie eaters, won't eat zucchini in any form except zucchini bread and zucchini muffins. (I'm not exaggerating. They even turned their noses up at chocolate chips cookies. Okay, Zucchini Chocolate Chip cookies, but those things are really really good and still they won't eat them).

So, zucchini muffins it is.  Except how many time can I make them without losing my mind?

So I put a little twist on the muffins this week... lemon. Lemon and zucchini go great together, and that is especially true in muffins. The lemon zest in these gives them a whole new life, and really sets them apart from ordinary zucchini muffins. This is most likely going to be the only way I make them from now on! I really like the lemon addition, so in my opinion, more is better. I used the zest from 1 lemon the first time I made these, and doubled it the send time. It was doubly delicious!

Zucchini muffins 

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup butter, melted
1 1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla 
zest from 2 lemons
3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium-large zucchini)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. Using a mixer, beat the eggs and sugar together. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, and butter. Add the zucchini and then slowly add the dry ingredients until combined.

Grease your muffin cups with a little bit of butter. Fill the muffin cups pretty much all the way (these muffins grow tall nicely, and don't really spill over the pan... so it's okay to fill the cups all the way). 

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until nice and tall and golden brown. A toothpick should come out clean. Let them sit in the muffin pans for a few minutes and then take them out to cool completely.

The original recipe (from Stephanie's Kitchen) said that it makes 12 muffins, but I got 15 out of it, and they were still nice and tall and full.


Friday, July 6, 2012

Dilly Beans

What happens when you take a man who loves pickles and introduce him to a woman who loves pickles?

They get married and have three (adorable) children, and not a single one of those (amazing) children will touch a pickle.

Which means, of course, more for the man and the woman.

I like to make dilly beans for lots of reasons.

1.  I get TONS of green beans in my Abundant Harvest box during the summer. Almost too many to eat. And since green beans aren't acidic, preserving them is a little tricky...

2.  Unless you add lots of acidic vinegar.

3.  Dilly beans are delicious pickles that taste great all year long. And that's lucky, cause they last in jars all year long!

4. If you want to make something that really looks like you are a fabulous homemaker who shirks no duty and leaves no chore undone, these fit the bill. They just look the way canned food should look.

I'm personally not much of a Bloody Mary gal, but I hear that they are a fabulous addition to a bloody Mary. I believe it.

They are also a fabulous addition to a salad, or just on their own.  I love to eat them nice and cold straight out of the fridge. 

Here is the easy peasy way to make dilly beans and keep your green beans all year long. (I got this recipe form the cookbook "Put 'em Up" by Sherri Brooks Vinton)

Dilly Beans

4 pounds of green beans
5 cloves garlic
5 sprigs dill (about a cup altogether)
2 tablespoons dill seed
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
4 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons salt

First, trim the beans. You want to take off the tip and the tail, and you want to make them about an inch shorter than your jar. (There needs to be room for the liquid to cover them by a half inch, and leave a half inch of headspace in the jar).

Put a clove of garlic and a sprig of dill in each jar. Divide the dill seed and peppercorns evenly between all the jars. Pack the trimmed beans tightly into the jars, so they are standing up nice and neat.

Combine the water, vinegar, sugar and salt in a non-reactive pan and bring to a boil. Pour over the the beans to cover them by a half-inch. 

To can the jars, make sure to release any trapped air bubbles. Wipe the rims clean, place the lids, and screw on the bands. Boil for 15 minutes. Let the jars sit int he hot water for 5 minutes, and then let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours. 

These will keep for a year.

Monday, July 2, 2012

chocolate peanut butter bars

There are times when I wish I lived in America's heartland. I would love to have a huge yard and plenty of space around my home. I would have a long driveway and a big swath of lawn in front of my house. The house would be up on a little hill so the view from my big front porch would be beautiful. Maybe I would be overlooking some sort of river or lake.

My backyard would have lots of trees. In fact, I would like to have a little bit of woods back there. Somewhere the kids could wander and built forts and make tree houses and have adventures. I would also like some space for entertaining. Maybe a little patio surrounded by flowers, and containing a huge ding table and some comfy chairs for lounging and reading.

Of course, in my dreams, in America's heartland I can have all this for... oh say, the exact same price of the little parcel I have in Southern California. And since there would be actual precipitation (I'll order some summer thunderstorms, please), everything would be lush and green and beautiful.


I can't have all that and have the ocean, too, can I?

So for now, I'll stay right here in sunny (though dry) southern California. I will spend the summer taking my kids to the beach. They wander and build sandcastles and make moats and dig pits and go boogie boarding. They find sea shells and sea glass and dig for sand crabs. They find clams and then watch as the clam sticks that thing (stomach? tongue? Tiny little clam arm?) out and eats the sand crabs they feed it. They poke at sea anemones and squeal over sea slugs. They throw frisbees and footballs and whip each other with towels. They swim out way too far in the cold ocean and then come and lay on the hot sand.

And then, finally, when they are sun-kissed and worn out; when they are exhausted from running and jumping and swimming and floating; when they have raced against each other in the ocean, and raced together against the ocean that tries to destroy their sand castle faster than they can build; only then can I convince them to come close and sit and take a break.

I have to make sure, then, that I have a little treat for them.

These bars taste just like eating a Reese's peanut butter cup. They are rich and to die for. I am warning you now, make sure you have plenty of people to share these with, or you may end up eating the whole pan by yourself!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 1/4 cup peanut butter, divided
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Mix together the graham cracker crumbs, 1 cup peanut butter, melted butter, and powdered sugar. Press it into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Put this in the fridge for at least half an hour. 

Melt the chocolate chips on a double boiler (or in the microwave). Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup peanut butter. Spread the chocolate mixture evenly over the peanut layer and allow to cool.

Cut into bars and enjoy!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quick Pickles

If you were to ask my grandmother (or my mother -- or myself, for that matter) if she was "making chicken for dinner," she would grin and then reply, "Only chickens can make chickens. I am cooking chicken for dinner, though." The same would go for "making eggs" or "making bacon."

And so I think it is rather funny and odd that this same grandmother had a recipe for "cucumbers." It would seem to me that a recipe is for something you make, not something you grow. The cucumbers are sliced thinly and pickled ever so slightly in vinegar and sugar. And therefore, as far as I am concerned, by the time you are done, you have taken a cucumber and made something else altogether. 

The other day a friend mentioned that she makes "quick pickles" with her cucumbers, and although I am not sure her process is the same as my grandmother's, I think it is a perfect name and I am stealing it.

They aren't exactly pickles. But they aren't just cucumbers either. They are just sort of pickly cucumbers. In this recipe, the vinegar is diluted with water, and I think that stops them from pickling all the way. Instead, they get a little limp and a little sweet, and although they are still very recognizable cucumbers, they need a new name.

When I was young, and my mother would check my forehead to see if I had a fever, I got one of two reports back from her. If I was indeed running a fever, she would say "Oh, you're burning up." Otherwise, she assured me I was "Cool as a cucumber." (Which is either good news or bad, depending on if I was recovering from the flu, or trying to get out of going to school).

These cucumbers are just like the idiom. Cool. They are refreshing and tasty, especially on a hot summer day, and are great alone as a snack or used as a relish or in a salad. I like to eat them with a sandwich, or a hunk of cheese and some nuts at lunch time.

Quick Pickles

1 large cucumber, sliced very thin
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

Bring the water, vinegar, and sugar to a boil. Pour over the cucumber slices and refrigerate for at least a day before eating.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Happy birthday (and a coffee cake)

My daughter turned 11 during the middle of the craziness that is the last week of school. I feel bad for her, having her birthday on June 10. Having my own birthday on June 9, I fully understand how it can get overlooked because the schedule on June 10 is more likely than not to include some sort of end-of-year performance, banquet, awards ceremony, or good-bye party. We happened to add in a family reunion with 40 of my husband's relatives on her birthday.

That meant that her party was delayed a bit. And so, today, she is having a couple of friends over to spend the night. We are going out to dinner at a Japanese teppan-style restaurant, and to Hollywood to see Brave at the El Capitan theater. She keeps worrying that I am spending too much money and making things too fancy for her birthday. But that's the kind of kid she is. She is thoughtful and modest and just plain old nice.

She is starting to grow up a lot. I'll admit it scares me a bit. She is gaining independence, staying home alone and starting to go places by herself. I know the purpose of raising kids is to give the tools to be great adults, but it just seems like it goes so fast.

She is extremely intelligent and creative. She loves to write stories... 10-15 pages at a time. She is gifted with descriptions and dialog. Her stories read very smoothly and make you feel like you are right there with the characters.

She loves to read. As a matter of fact, we have had to severely limit her reading time, since she won't quit on her own. She tends to get melancholy after spending too much time with her nose in a book. Often I think she prefers the fantasy worlds she enters more than this one.

Above all, she is unique. Almost everything she does is outside the box (for Halloween she made her own costume... a carrot). Her birthday cakes are no exception. Last year instead of a cake she wanted layered jello. This year, a coffee cake. I had to make it somehow birthday-ish, and so I baked it in a cake pan instead of a bundt pan, which allowed me to frost and decorate it.

This recipe is really good as a bundt cake... the layers of crumble at the bottom and middle give it a little bit of fancy good looks, as well as a delicious twist to each bite. I just put all the crumble in the middle this time, and it turned out great that way as well.

We are celebrating the beginning of summer vacation.... so even though my little girl really wanted a coffee cake, I couldn't resist the urge to "birthday" it up a bit.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tandoori Turkey Burgers

Last week, we did Cub Scout camp. For five days, I spent the hours between 8:30 and 5:30 at a campsite, helping boys do crafts, shoot arrows, use slingshots, cook in a cardboard box oven, play football and badminton, and generally just be dirty, busy, loud, active, competitive boys. My two sons participated in camp, and my daughter worked her tail off as a junior volunteer.

Each night, we came trudging into the house, peeling filthy socks off our feet, dropping the camp t-shirts into a pile, and flopping onto the couch. 

Dinner needed to be something simple, and something quick for these kids who had run, climbed, swam, and hiked all day long in the hot sun. They were hungry and tired... not a great combination.  

These turkey burgers did the trick! They are pretty simple to throw together, they can be grilled in just a couple of minutes (while the kids hose the first layer of grime off each other), and they are TASTY. Topped with cilantro, onion, and cucumber, and a delicious yogurt sauce, they are nice and light and flavorful, just perfect for a hot night.

The recipe came from Bake Bree, and I only made a few tweaks. 

Tandoori Turkey Burgers

1 pounds ground turkey
4 green onions
3 Tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
salt and pepper to taste
Pita bread
persian cucumber
red onion sliced thinly

yogurt sauce:
1 small container plain Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Using your hands, combine the turkey, green onions, ginger, lemon juice, and spices. Form into 4-5 patties. Grill over medium-high heat until cooked through. Grill the pita bread for the last couple of minutes.

Meanwhile, stir together all of the ingredients for the yogurt sauce.

Place a burger patty onto each piece of pita bread. Top with the cucumber, cilantro, and onion. 

Drizzle on some sauce, and enjoy!

Monday, June 4, 2012

White Citrus Sangria

I have decided that this is going to be the summer of the sangria. Why, you ask?

I can't think of a single reason why not, so there you have it.

I have been reading and reading plenty of mouth-watering recipes for Sangrias lately. In order to give some structure to this obsession, I have made an important decision in the name of science. I feel I need to try them all out, and then decide which one is best. But then, I will have to make it several times, in order to be sure that it remains consistently the best. Right?

Come along as I check out some Sangria options.

This first one is a white wine, citrus Sangria. It's very light and the addition of fresh squeezed orange juice gives it a great flavor. However, if you are one (like me) who likes to dig in and eat the boozy fruit at the end of the glass, you may be disappointed. The orange slices are to die for, but the lemon slices aren't great snacking material.

Citrus Sangria
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

2 large oranges
1 large lemon
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Cointreau
l bottle Chardonnay

Slice one of the oranges and the lemon into 1/4 inch thick slices. Add them and the sugar to a pitcher. Muddle the fruit and sugar together until the sugar is mostly dissolved, but stop before the fruit is completely mutilated.

Juice the other orange, and stir in the orange juice, Cointreau, and wine.

Chill for at least 2 hours, while you think of a great toast for a perfect summer evening.

This can be poured over ice, if you wish.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Roasted Smashed Potatoes

Oh yes. Summer is here. It was 100 degrees today, and the kids only have 2 weeks left of school. I am officially giving over to summer brain. They've been staying up well past bedtime, we have been swimming at least three times a week, and I am letting my kids (completely against my usual policies) madly scramble to use up all the free homework passes their teachers gave them, before it's too late.

This is the crazy time of year, when there is a performance or banquet or party or ceremony several nights a week. Every group we belong to wants to celebrate the closing of the season. I have signed up to provide refreshments, snacks, equipment, pot luck dishes, and my service in three different classes, for the baseball teams, the cub scouts and the girl scouts, the orchestra and at work.  However, I have also tried my darndest to make sure that we are getting a decent dinner, even on nights when we rush from one place to another.  That having been said, though, it has been over a week since we sat at the dining table. (And I know this because the mountain of schoolwork that came home from Open House night at school is still sitting there. Nine days later). Instead, we have been eating on the back patio. And eating outside goes best with cooking outside, no?

Tonight we had sliders for dinner. I am not sure exactly why, but my kids would prefer to eat a few sliders rather than one larger burger any day of the week. So, fine then. Little burgers and yummy sides. And the sides were indeed soooo yummy. I made the zucchini carpaccio that I tried last summer (heaven!!) and I also made these potatoes.

I found this recipe on the website for America's Test Kitchen, and I have to say that I almost decided to pass on a burger of any size, and just eat potatoes for dinner instead. They were so very much the exact way that I like to eat potatoes. Salty and seasoned, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. Potato heaven.

Take some small red potatoes (any number will do... make as many as you can, in my opinion!) and scrub them well. Then, boil them in some salty water just until they can be easily pierced with a fork. You don't want them fall-y apart-y, you just want them crushable.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Then drizzle a pretty decent amount of olive oil on a baking sheet. Think of this: The more oil, the more crispiness, and the less sticking. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet, and with the bottom of a glass, crush each one until it is about 1/2 inch thick.

Next, drizzle more olive oil all over all of the smashed potatoes. Again, remember that the oil will contribute to the crispiness. You will be glad you did. Sprinkle some dried thyme over all of the potatoes, and some salt and pepper. I went heavy on both, and boy was I glad I did!

Now, place the sheet of potatoes in the oven (even if your husband came home from work and stole one and told you that you can stop there, he loves them the way they are... it's going to be okay. Just roast the rest of them). Let them brown and crisp for about 25-30 minutes, and then pull them out and enjoy! They are good before you roast them. But after? They are excellent.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Strawberry Coffee Cake

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I took the kids to Downtown LA, and while we were there, we went to eat lunch at Langer's Deli, which is a bit of a local landmark. It's an old-fashioned deli/restaurant that is about to celebrate its 65th anniversary. The adults at the table followed the advice "When in Rome, act like a Roman", and we each ordered the restaurant's specialty: Pastrami, cole slaw, and Swiss cheese on Rye.

And now I need to pause and wonder. Does one capitalize Swiss and Cheese? Or just Swiss? Or is it so very far removed from Switzerland that it doesn't need to be capitalized at all? I don't want the entire nation of Switzerland, kind as they are, to go the way of Kleenex Brand Tissues (Reserved).

Anyway. My kids, in their infinite ability to astonish me, each ordered a meatloaf sandwich. What?! Don't they know that meatloaf is gross? I couldn't believe that any child of mine would voluntarily put meatloaf in his or her mouth.

They gobbled up the sandwiches and assured me that they love meatloaf. Ummm. Okay.

I am not really sure how they knew what meatloaf is, or where they had heard of it, or much less tasted it, but there you have it. They knew it, ordered it, and loved it.

They have been asking me to make meatloaf for dinner. And today, I humored them (despite my better judgement). However, since I am going to have to reward myself for eating meatloaf, I also made a yummy dessert. 

This recipe was presented as a "buckle." I have always understood a buckle to be more like a Brown Betty, Cobbler, or Crisp. This came out much more like a coffee cake. The bottom layer is very light and fluffy, with a layer of strawberries and a crunchy topping. So I am going to consider it to be a coffee cake. The good news, that it is so very delicious, means it won't stick around for long. It will be eaten long before anyone can have an issue with its name.

Strawberry Coffee Cake
(adapted from Martha Stewart's Rhubarb Buckle)

Vegetable-oil cooking spray, for cake pans
1 pint strawberries, sliced 
1 cup sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and divided
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center position. Coat two 9-inch square cake pans with cooking spray, and line with parchment, leaving an overhang on 2 sides. Slice strawberries and set aside.

Whisk together 2 cups of the flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat together 1 1/2 sticks of butter, sugar, and the lemon zest until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then beat in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture in 2 additions, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Make the crumb topping: Stir together remaining flour, brown sugar, and salt. Melt the remaining butter, and stir into the flour mixture to combine.

Divide batter between pans. Top with sliced strawberries, and sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake until golden on top and cooked through, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Let cool completely in pans on wire racks, then lift cakes from pans using parchment. Remove parchment. Before serving, cut into 2-inch squares.

This post is linked to the Improv Challenge hosted by Kristen at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker. Check out what everyone else did with strawberries and cream!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Broccoli Salad with golden raisins and sunflower seeds

Although there were a few years where I would have never admitted it, my mom is pretty dang hip.

I mean, for a woman is in her 40s  in her 50s   old enough to be my mother, she is athletic and active, perpetually busy, and extremely social. She would probably consider herself to be relatively conservative, but I happen to know that she is very open-minded, willing to live and let live, always interested in learning more, and ever-willing to change her opinion as she gathers more facts.

And, despite the fact that just the other day, an email from her read "I am trying to use John's iPad...."
(Trying? To use an iPad? They are, by design, easy enough for a toddler to use.)... She is actually pretty modern, forward thinking, and up-to-date.

Want proof?

This salad.

My mom has been making this salad for quite a while now. It is a totally awesome salad.

Coming along in her wake, this salad has become suddenly popular. Coincidence? Perhaps. But all of a sudden I see that Costco has a kit to make this salad. And Souplantation now considers it one of their signature salads. And try searching "broccoli salad" on Pinterest. Mmm hmm. There it is, all over the place. If Pinterest doesn't convince you that we are standing on the very brink of trendiness, what will?

However, until all these places and people start renaming their salad "Katy's Broccoli Salad", you are going to have to just believe me. My mom is awesome.

(And... she is also not big on attention. Which means that I have to figure out somewhere to hide as soon as I publish this.)

Broccoli Salad
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-2 heads of broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 red onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup golden raisins

In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, and salt. Add the remaining ingredients, and toss to coat. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Radish Dip from Martha Stewart

Don't you hate those awkward conversations you have to have once in a while when you are stuck for what feels like an eternity? Say, for example, you are waiting for your son to be released from school, and your good friend sends her husband to school. You've met the guy a few times but you don't really know him, and now you're stuck for 6 minutes staring at a closed classroom door struggling for things to say.

How 'bout them Dodgers? And the weather's nice, eh?

Don't think I'm being awkward, but how about that weather? I don't know what it's like for you right now, but lately my little corner of Southern California is not acting at all like Southern California. We are supposed to get 4 inches of rain over the winter, and then a couple months of glorious days in the 70s and 80s and then a hot summer. In precisely that order. We don't flip flop between seasons. We don't go back to rainy days after they are done and spring has come.

But these days the weather is acting like... like... like the midwest. I love the midwest, I do. Despite growing up in Sunny paradise here, most of my childhood memories (and certainly my best memories) are from my summers in Green Bay. It's just that since small neighborhood houses here sell for close to a million dollars, you ought to get sunshine with your mortgage payment. Every day.

The past month had been kooky. One day it's raining, the next it's sunny and hot. Then back to overcast and cold. We even had... ugh... humidity. One Friday I was running, with my hood up, through the pouring rain to my daughter's classroom. The next Friday, at the exact same time, I was walking there in a sundress, trying to find ways to distract myself and stay in the sunshine for just a few seconds longer.

So, we are making the best of it and trying to stay outside every second we can to soak up the sun on the days it is here.  Which means that my kindergartner has gotten to go swimming with some of his buddies during the precious hours between kindergarten dismissal at noon and the big kids coming home at 2:30 or more than a couple of occasions. It's good to be the baby of the family, isn't it? And hey, we have to make hay while the sun shines. (Clearly that is an expression written somewhere other than here.)

Lazy days at the pool mean snacks and drinks and more snacks. Those kids parents can work up an appetite while they swim watch people swim!

I found this recipe for radish dip in Martha Stewart Magazine this month. It's yummy and easy to throw together. It tastes even better the day after you make it (when the ingredients have had time to meld). Stir together a batch of dip, and then bring it along with some pita chips or baguette slices to your picnic. Or pool day. Or happy hour party (It's fancy enough for that if you want it to be!). Or, skip the carbs and serve it with fresh snap peas and carrot sticks. After all, you want to look good poolside!

Radish Dip
Martha's recipe makes enough to serve quite a crowd. I cut everything in half and still had plenty.

1 pound radishes (about 25), julienned
1 1/4 cups sour cream
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 3 cups)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from two lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill

crackers or toast or raw veggies for serving

Combine all the ingredients and chill until ready to serve.

This post is linked to A Little Nosh

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mini German Pancake cups

I might just turn into a breakfast junkie. On weekdays I usually feed the kids some scrambled eggs or cereal and I whip together a protein shake in the blender for myself, and drink it while I ride my bike to work. On weekends, I usually feed the kids some scrambled eggs or cereal and I whip together a protein shake in the blender for myself, and drink it while I do household chores or cheer on little league games. 

But then I made these the other day:

Wow. These little German Pancakes are really simple to make (throw all of the ingredients in the blender and pour into muffin tins). They aren't actually too horrible for you (okay... flour and sugar are hardly health foods, but there is really not too much sugar and there are lots of eggs). They bake quickly (by the time the blender is dismantled and loaded into the dishwasher and the lunches are packed, the breakfast is done). And they are really delicious! I gave them to the kids as an after-school snack the other day and they begged for more.

I served them with a choice of lemon curd, apple butter, or orange marmalade. They would go well with any kind of jam, or sauce, I think. I got the recipe from Laura at Real Mom Kitchen, who served them with a berry sauce. If you wanted to go healthier, I would top them with some fresh berries and a tiny little sprinkling of powdered sugar. Any way you do it, you won't be disappointed. These little guys are fabulous.

They bake up really tall (Laura made 18 out of her batter, she says the recipe she used made 24, and I only got 12. I think that maybe I made mine a little too tall?). But the middle stays a bit low, and as they cool they sink in the middle, which makes them perfect little cups for holding whatever topping you choose. 

Cute and yummy. What more could you ask for?

Mini German Pancakes
1 cup milk
6 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup butter, melted
Preheat oven to 400 and melt the butter first, so it can cool while you work on the rest of the batter. Grease the muffin tins. Blend the milk, eggs, flour salt and vanilla in a blender thoroughly. (Make sure you aren't left with any little clumps of flour). Blend in the melted butter a little at a time. Fill the muffin tins about 3/4 full. (I did them more full, but I think I will make them a bit smaller next time). Bake for 15 minutes, or until puffy and golden on top. Serve them with your preferred topping and enjoy!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lemon Cake

I had a friend over for breakfast the other day. It was such a nice break! She came and we chatted for a couple of hours. My kids were all at school, her preschooler took advantage of a kids' house with no kids in it (meaning she had full control and never had to wait her turn. Bliss).  It was such a wonderful escape from the constant running around that I have done for the past few weeks.

A little while ago this  same friend had served me an amazing breakfast of fresh-baked scones and delicious juice, made in her really, really cool juicer. I mean the juice was amazing. Fresh pears and oranges and I'm not sure what-all went in one side and came out the other side in a delicious concoction that made me feel like I did my body more good in that one glass than I did the rest of the month combined. (Honey? Are you reading this? I'm hinting!!)

Anyway, I did what I consider to be typical for myself, and I waited way too long to reciprocate the favor. So long that I started to feel so much pressure. Waiting that long could only mean two things. Either I am too lazy and distracted to invite her for breakfast (and I don't really want to admit that), or I am planning something really really special. So that means I totally had to come up with something good, right? But she already set the bar so high! I mean, fresh chocolate scones? How do I top that? And I don't even own a juicer! (hint, hint).

Plus, her house was spotless. How do I compete with perfection?

Okay, I'm exaggerating. This is the coolest, most laid-back friend. She totally would never expect that she should be invited back, or that anything should be special in any way. I could invite her over for a bowl of Cheerios and she would probably be just fine with that.

Still, though, I did want to make a yummy breakfast. I never eat a good breakfast. Most days I get the kids fed and ready for school and then whip up a quick protein shake to down on my way to work. Not exactly leisurely or inspired. Having a friend over forced me to actually think about what I was eating for a change.

Lo and behold, this week's Abundant Harvest newsletter included a recipe for Lemon Cake. Either the food gods are looking out for me, by continually setting perfect recipes in my lap at just the moment I need them, ... or I'm getting lazy and cooking the first recipe I see. Let's go with I am in the gods' favor. It makes me feel special.

One of the great things about this cake recipe is that it makes two loaf-sized cakes. That means that we had one with our breakfast (and the kids had the leftovers for an after-school snack) and I sent the other in to my son's teachers as a little recess-time snack, to thank them for their hard work at the school fundraiser the day before. Win-win-win! Everyone's happy!

The cake is really nice. It is lemony without being overwhelming. It's almost like a pound cake with some lemon added to it. The recipe called to make a syrup that would soak into the cake, (and I'm sure up the lemon-factor). Instead, I thought it would look nicer and taste just as good to make it into a glaze that stayed on top of the cake. By slightly decreasing the amount of lemon juice and using powdered sugar instead of granulated, I thought it made a nice difference.

This one travels well and goes great with a cup of coffee. Take some to work to share in the staff kitchen!

Lemon Cake
(From Abundant Harvest Organics)

2 sticks butter at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup grated lemon zest
4 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Grease two loaf pans.

In a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. With mixer on medium speed, add eggs and lemon zest. Add dry ingredients. In a small bowl, combine l/4 cup lemon juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the lemon mixture to the mixer and mix thoroughly. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until is is turning golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

When the cakes are cool, remove from their pans. Combine the powdered sugar and the remaining lemon juice (a tiny bit of juice at a time, until the glaze is a good consistency). Pour the glaze over the cakes and serve.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Grilled Chicken Salad from Martha Stewart

Oh my oh my. Martha Stewart. Just when I was ready and set to give up on you. Just when I felt like every recipe in your magazine required the purchase of either (a.) a new specialized baking dish or kitchen utensil or (b.) a farm in New Hampshire, you came through for me.

In the May issue of the magazine is the feature "Lunch in the Garden," in which Dana Gallagher rewarded several of her friends for helping rescue her weedy garden by serving them a delicious lunch that she made largely with the fruits of their own labor.

It was another one of those serendipitous moments for me. I was leisurely leafing through the magazine, just about to quit my Martha habit cold turkey, when I spied the recipe for the Grilled Chicken Salad. It listed several ingredients that happened to come in my box again this week (thanks be to seasonal cooking once again! Dana Gallagher's garden and the Abundant Harvest Farms both seem to have produce that understands it should be ripening right now. Those smart little veggies.).

Lettuce, peas, mint, lemon? I've got that!

This recipe is really easy to put together, especially considering lots of it can be done ahead of time. If you've been around here for very long at all, you know I love something that can be done ahead. There just isn't time between school and karate class and baseball practice and piano lessons and scout meetings to really dedicate any length of afternoon/evening to the kitchen. This salad let me marinate the chicken in the morning, grill it while I cleaned the veggies and whisked up the dressing at lunch time, and throw the salad together just in time to intercept the starving family as they zipped though my dining room. The chicken can actually be cooked at any time during the day and kept refrigerated until showtime.

I sat at dinner and ate and ate and ate until I was uncomfortable (which has been pointed out to me, isn't easy to do with a salad). It was just so delicious that I couldn't stop! I didn't know how I was going to feel about mint in my salad, but it was amazing! I am hoping to get more peas right quick so I can make this one again!

Here is the recipe just how Martha presents it. The only substitution I made was to use Romaine instead of butter lettuce. I think the butter lettuce would have been even better, but Romaine was what I got this week, and so Romaine is what I ate. I also cooked a little less chicken (feeding only five, rather than the 20 or so that seemed to be at the featured garden party). I loved that it called for both legs and breasts. The kids love eating chicken drumsticks!

Grilled Chicken Salad
from Martha Stewart Living May 2012

  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 or 4 lemons), divided
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon minced garlic (4 cloves), divided
  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken-breast halves (10 to 11 ounces each)
  • 12 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 cups shelled fresh peas (from 2 pounds in pods)
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, plus 1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves (from 2 bunches)
  • 1 to 2 heads butterhead lettuce such as Bibb or Boston, trimmed and separated into leaves


  1. Whisk together 1/4 cup oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon garlic. Pour over chicken, and refrigerate 2 hours.
  2. Cook peas in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, and submerge in ice water to stop the cooking and retain color.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat or set up grill for indirect heat. Remove chicken from marinade, and grill chicken, turning often, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes for drumsticks and 20 to 25 minutes for breasts. Let cool, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Just before serving, cut chicken breasts into thick slices.
  4. Whisk together remaining 1/2 cup oil, 1/3 cup lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon garlic, the shallot, mustard, salt, and chopped mint in a medium bowl. Arrange lettuce, whole mint leaves, and peas on a large serving platter. Toss chicken in dressing, and arrange on salad. Pour remaining dressing over salad.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Parsnip Muffins (adapted from Alton Brown's recipe)

A little over a year ago, I tried a parsnip for the very first time. And then,  (new to the whole veggie box, and unsure of how to best get the vegetables out of the kitchen and into my gullet) I attacked the parsnips with gusto.

And very very quickly overdosed on parsnip.

I was fairly certain that no parsnip should ever pass my lips again. My little brother got married during this past year, and at his wedding the guests were served course after course of absolutely amazing food. Everything was locally sourced and fresh and seasonal and amazing. At the table where I was sitting, everyone raved about the vegetarian pot pie. I dove right in, and came up gasping for air... all I could taste was the parsnip.

However, the world continues to turn and the seasons to change, and the root vegetables to mature. And lo and behold, again came the parsnip. Out of the earth and into my kitchen.

I tentatively put one in a batch of vegetables I was roasting. I ate it nervously, and while I could taste it, it didn't leave me gagging.

This led me to try to give the parsnip another real chance. One relative success I had with them last year was muffins. I couldn't get the kids to eat them at that time, and I was already parsnip-weary, so many of them ended up going to waste. However, as I recalled, they were really pretty nice muffins.

Wow! Give me a year break from parsnips, and a fabulous muffin recipe, and I am a whole new woman!

These things are great! They really are nice and light and fluffy. They are sweet and the nutmeg gives them just enough interest. The kids aren't so afraid of my vegetable antics any more, and they gobbled these muffins all up right away. As a matter of fact, I am going to make more this week.

Parsnip muffins
This is basically Alton Brown's recipe, but I had to convert his measurements from weights into cups, so I thought I would just give it to you the easy way.

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups grated parsnip

Preheat the oven to 375.
Combine the flour, soda, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl and set aside. In a mixer, combine the eggs, yogurt, oil and sugar until well blended. Add the parsnip and then the dry ingredients.
Mix until just combined.
Pour into greased (or paper-lined) muffin tins.

Bake for 20 minutes or until they're golden brown and they spring back to the touch.

Makes 16-18 muffins

Monday, April 23, 2012

Really simple broccoli side dish

We are at a bit of a crossroads in my house. My kids like their vegetables to stay plain. They'll eat only a few different veggies, and no sauces or dips or really anything else. They like them just simply steamed. Steamed broccoli, steamed asparagus, steamed peas. They don't want any cheese, cream, garlic, or anything else coming near them.

On the other hand, I want food to be much more complex than that. I want each bite to offer me a few different layers of flavor. Broccoli is good, but it begs to be combined with cream and garlic and thyme. Asparagus is lovely, but asparagus with lemon or cheese is amazing. Carrots are fine. But carrots with ginger or baked into a pot pie or simmering in a thick stew are a whole new vegetable.

I decided to attack this little "problem" of the warring taste preferences in my house by getting the kids over to my side little by little. I am going to treat their veggies with just the slightest, lightest, mildest sauces, and increase over time until my kids become full-fledged humans, who were born to be omnivores and actually like a variety of foods.

I know there must be some sort of amazing metaphor for my job as a parent and raising my kids to be independent contributing members of society in there, but right now it's Monday morning and I am just getting into my first cup of coffee. I'll be ready to wax eloquent much later today.

For now, I'll tell you about the broccoli that the kids ate, somewhat willingly, even with three actual ingredients in the dish.

It is a nice, light, easy side dish. I made it in the morning and kept it refrigerated all day. I pulled it out of the fridge about an hour before we ate, so it could come back to room temperature. The flavors are mild, but sweet and salty enough to give it some interest. This one will probably grace our table a few more times during the current broccoli season.

Sweet Asian-ish Broccoli

1 or 2 big heads of broccoli
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
3 teaspoons sesame seeds

Steam the broccoli on the stove or in the microwave.
In a large bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add the cooked broccoli and toss. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top just before serving.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Asparagus and Radish Salad

Well hello there!

It has been a while, hasn't it?

When I first started getting the box, and I first started reading more and more about the importance of eating locally and seasonally, all the literature assured me that my tastes and my body would grow to love it. That the zucchini would run out just when I was tired of it, and come back when I was missing it again. I would be thrilled to see the return of the oranges just as the stone fruits went to sleep for the winter, and that the coming of asparagus would be one of the highlights of my spring.

I have to admit that I wasn't so sure I believed it all. I thought that a year in which avocados were available every day and that beets didn't have a season sounded more like paradise. I'd rather have basil grow all winter long and skip the turnips, thankyouverymuch.

But once again, as it turns out, the experts know a tad more than I do. This winter I realized that a stew just hits the spot on a rainy day (and that turnips actually are a perfect part of a good stew!). And while I was eating hot bowls of creamy cauliflower soup or slow-roasted squash, I never longed for an avocado. (I'm still not sure I will ever last as long as zucchini season does, though).

But when the days got warmer and longer, it was so nice to see basil come back, along with it's perfect partner, tomatoes. It is paradise to spend a warm afternoon on the patio eating a no-cook appetizer of basil, cheese and tomatoes stacked together, and some avocado on the burgers we are grilling.

So, because I have spent the spring so happy to see my old friends come around again after months without them, I haven't done much new with them. As I unpack the box every week, I find myself saying things like "Awesome! Asparagus! I am going to make those appetizers I tried last year!" ...or... "Oooh! Lemons! Time for some more lemon curd! And lemon cookies! And lemon bars! And lemon COCKTAILS!" When the snow peas came last week, they didn't stand a chance. I was so excited to see them that I stood and ate them plain and raw as I unpacked the rest of the box.

But then I ran across a recipe for an asparagus salad that sounded just right. It happened to include no less than six ingredients that were all in my box this week! (See why cooking seasonally is so much fun!?)  The salad just basically steamed asparagus and sliced radishes, but it is tossed in the most delicious dressing. I made enough dressing that I had enough for the asparagus salad, and plenty more to store in the fridge. I have used the leftovers for a regular garden salad as well as a dip for raw veggies. Maybe this week's snow peas will at least get dipped before I make quick history of them!

Anyway, on to the salad:

Asparagus and Radish Salad with Spring-Herb Dressing
This one came from Food 52, a site I am looking forward to exploring more!

one bunch of asparagus, tough ends trimmed and cut into one-inch pieces
one bunch radishes, thinly sliced
one cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of one small lemon
splash of white wine vinegar
1/4 cup fresh dill, chopped
4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Steam the asparagus on the stovetop or in the microwave. Slice the radishes thinly.
Place all of the remaining ingredients in a blender and whir until they are well combined.
Toss the vegetables with the dressing, and keep refrigerated until ready to eat!