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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.