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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!