Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Roasted Beet Salad with Baby Arugula

It has been 70 degrees the last two days. 70 degrees!! I think we have had about 5 cloudy days in the last 5 months, and heat, heat, dry hot heat. I am very excited, happy and giddy fall is finally here. I am not cut out of the fabric for heat. I say this having grown up in Florida. For ten years, I never got used to the heat. I complained for ten years about the humid, hot, seasonless weather. In case you don't know me very well, I take ANY opportunity to make fun of Florida. I never ever miss a chance to. It is just how I am. In fact, those close to me know I have a nickname for Florida..The Armpit State. And, because I put in my time, my tender growing years there, I have full rights to make fun of the state as I wish. In fact one of the only good things to come out of that state was the show Miami Vice. Enough said.
So, as I relish in the cooler temperatures, a wonderful thing happens in my kitchen. The oven gets turned on. Our local organic farm stand (that I love beyond measure and hope stays there year round) had beets today. Beets roasted in the oven are a most wonderful thing. In fact, if your children hate beets (and maybe you too?) if you roast them, they may change their mind. Mine did. The sugars burst out and they become tender. I roast beets, let them cool, then slice them up for salads. Extra goes in the fridge.

Here is how you oven roast beets
1. wash any dirt off and trim off green tops if possible
2. put in an oven safe dish like a pie pan or brownie pan
3. couple of glugs of olive oil
4. use your fingers to make sure they are all coated with olive oil
5. cover with tin foil
6. bake for one hour at 375 degrees
Take out of oven pierce with knife for doneness. Like you would a baked potato. Let cool. Then, rub the outside skins off with your fingers and trim the tops and bottoms. Sprinkle with salt and you are ready to use them!

Tonight's Salad

1 roasted beet thinly sliced
1 handful baby arugula tossed in a bit of olive oil and a small sprinkle of lemon juice
1 tbls. white corn sauteed for 2 minutes in a bit of butter and salt
sprinkle of Purple Haze Chevre (lavender scented)
fresh pepper

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The "Fort" made of tape and wrapping paper = a fun Saturday morning

Just big enough for one

She even made a window

Bedtime with Daddy is always a barrel of laughs

My daughter loves making faces

These two are the best of pals and get into lots of trouble together

No big news. Just a few of cute family photos.

Monday, September 28, 2009


The latest is that swine flu is at our school.
The good part of that is I was able to get a bargain shopping day in yesterday, so if I fall ill I will have nice new comfy clothes to wear.
Some girlfriends and I went out for the whole entire day without children. We were able to have lots and lots of conversations without interruptions. We were all able to focus. To spend a leisurely amount of time in the dressing room. To sit and eat salads for dinner and chew our food.
And, because we are such country folk, it is still somewhat of a novelty to actually go and shop for a day. I missed Anthropologie, but that is ok, because Gap and Old Navy had an extra 40% off clearance items and I had all the time in the world to look through as many sales racks as I wanted. Yesterday was all about the little things.
I am going to cook something this week. Tonight I made sauteed chard with shallots and mustard. I threw in a little rosemary and thyme too, but it was not post worthy. Last week was taken up with the hours and hours that apple butter takes up, so I did not have any extra energy.

Bedtime last night with M, her daddy was reading Basho and the Fox. Afterward, she had a go at writing haiku. D was very encouraging, but insisted she make it up completely by herself. When I got home from shopping last night he was one very proud papa.

Here are her two haiku poems:

The moonrise
the cherries fall
The fairies flutter
the eagle flies

The sunset comes
the owls hoot
the bells ring

Thursday, September 24, 2009


The remedy I picked for Dr. Gupta was Nux Vomica. Nausea, chilly, stuffed up nose and racking cough that hurts.

On another note, Tartlette one of the blogs I follow has a recipe I am going to make. Bavarian cream, chocolate mousse and salted caramel. Together. All at once. In the same vessel. Just thinking about it sounds like a dessert from heaven. But I have to say I am sad because this weekend is the BlogHer conference (in San Francisco no less!) which is (of course!), sold out. I would be asking my friend and fellow blogger Becky (Tiny Tyrant) to go with me if we were neighbors, had lots of money to buy those tickets, stay in a hotel and take her to some of my favorite SF restaurants. Oh yeah, and attend the hottest blogger convention in the US. Maybe next year......

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Homeopathic Remedies

So here goes.
Homeopathic Remedies for Flu. This includes Swine Flu.
I have a kit at home, so after I am clear on symptoms, I give the remedy. But to be clear, these are home remedy ideas, and I am not a homeopathic or regular doctor. These are by no means meant to replace anything your doctor may do for you, like antibiotics. This is purely home remedy care that you may find useful like chicken soup. Nothing more, nothing less. Please don't try to treat yourself at home instead of going to the doctor.
Ok, disclaimer done.

1. Aconite
Symptoms may come on after exposure to weather (cold wind, rain etc).
Dry painful cough (like clutching throat after you cough)
Sudden Onset
Sudden Fever
Strong Thirst
Anxiety with onset. Not wanting to be alone
Better from open air
Better from sitting still
Chilled by cold dry wind, worse from noise, light
Nasal discharge clear and watery or seemingly dry with little discharge
This is the remedy for surprise Flu. All of a sudden you are sick, feverish, afraid.

2. Aresnicum album
Flu with digestive symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea
Dry wheezy cough with tickling in throat that won't go away
Sitting up b/c you are afraid of suffocating.
Acid snot; red nose from it.
Thirsty but only wants small sips
Hot head but cold body
Lots of sneezing at onset
Very dry throat and mouth
Better from heat
Offensive odor coming off of body
Shortness of breath, anxious

3. Belladonna
Sudden and intense
Very red, very sore throat. Raw sore throat
Pounding Headaches
Touch and uncovering aggravate chill
Dry spasmodic cough aggravated by talking
Skin is hot to touch
Snot may be bloody
Worse from motion especially the head moving or brushing hair.
Feels better standing, being wrapped up in warm room
Red Face

4. Bryonia
Grumpy and crabby
Wants to be left alone
Slightest motion aggravates
Great thirst want COLD drinks
Dry mouth, parched
Dry, painful hacking cough
Slow onset of symptoms
Headache, muscle aches,
Really just wants to be left alone, and does not want to move. Any movement makes everything worse
Better from cool open air, worse from hot room, too many covers
Chilly. very chilly
Feeling weak in legs.

5. Gelsemium
Slow onset
4 D's Dull, Drowsy, Dizzy, Droopy
Low fever
Any slight movement makes more dizzy and weaker
Stuffy nose
Better closing eyes
Cannot tolerate any kind of surprises, change
Headache at back of neck, skull
Moderate Fever

6. Nux Vomica
High fever
Violent chills, wants to pile on clothing because they are so cold
Sensitive to smells, noises, odors, cold air
Feels like a hangover
Cough worse at night
Better from warm drinks, warm compresses, baths
"If only I could vomit I would feel better"
Must have heat. Pile on clothing
Aggravated from movement, like clothing, covers
Worse in early morning
Burning all over, yet if uncovered is very chilly
Dry teasing cough with great soreness in chest
Head pain worse from moving eyes
Stuffy nose at night, but water, thin discharge during day

7. Phosphorus
Fever and flushed
Weak and Dizzy
Wants cold drinks
Tickling cough with tightness
Hard, tight racking cough. Worse from talking, laughing and cold
Sharp stitches in chest
Raw, dry throat
Symptoms worse before sleep, better after
Stomach pain and nausea may occur along with vomiting
This remedy is great for recovering from flu, post-flu exhaustion

8. Rhus Tox
Fever with bone and muscle and joint aches
Sore throat, teasing cough
Nausea and Bloating
Green nasal discharge
Relieved by warmth and movement
Cough is tearing, dry, teasing spasms and worse at night
May have bloody snot
Dizzy on risign from bed
Feels better moving, then exhausted and must rest. Then wants to move again and then exhausted. This cycle repeats itself

Of course I have shortened all the information so that it is easier for you. You might notice that some remedies seem to have some similar symptoms. You may also know that when dealing with sick kids, they may not be very articulate. I did not say this would be easy. But, all remedies have characteristics that will help you. Slow onset...look at Gelsemium. Digestive complaints look at Arsenicum or Nux vomica. Wants to be left alone and is grumpy...think Bryonia. Belladonna is sudden, hot and high fever. Very raw sore throat.
You may give more than one remedy during the course of the flu also.
I take 3 pellets every 30 minutes for acute situations, or every couple of hours. All of these remedies should be available at your health food store.
And don't forget your Elderberry Extract!
I just read on CNN Dr. Gupta went to Afghanistan and got H1N1. He has some symptoms listed. What remedy would you give him if you had to pick from above? I will give my answer tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dirty Clothes Pile

My current keeping-me-busy project is getting all of M's fall/winter clothes. Lucky for me M had a super-aunt who loves to outfit her with all the latest from San Francisco. Even so, M is one tough customer. If anything she wears feels even a bit off, she refuses to wear it and that is that. Forever. She tries things on in the dressing room, loves it, takes it home and then decides it does not feel right. It pretty much drives me crazy. Every morning she likes me to be sitting in her room helping her get dressed which pretty much means I just watch her have 2 or 3 meltdowns over her outfits and do nothing. She had scored some really ugly, questionable items from our local consignment store that I have tried to discretely hide, but she hunts those items out like a cadaver dog. If she had her druthers, she would wear all Hannah Montana clothes from Kmart along with flip flops. Thank goodness her school has a pretty strict rule about no characters on clothing or backpacks. It makes it easier on me when I can blame someone for the strict clothing rules. "Don't get mad at me honey, your school says you have to." This tends to quiet things down pretty quick. This morning on the way to carpool pick-up she asked me if Santa will bring her Hannah Montana presents even though I forbid them in the house. Like Santa is going to go behind my back or something... But this week I have been searching for non-flame-retardant nightgowns. Not such an easy task. I did find one pair that might fit the bill on Garnet Hill today, but lordy, it is hard to spend $44 on a pair of pajamas. Now that my little girl is 5, she wants nightgowns. Cute ones. Preferably ones that have pugs or horses or fairies on them. It is an exhaustive search. I think I am just going to have to shovel out the money and be done with it. Meanwhile I have to figure out a way to stop M from wearing clothes out of her dirty clothes basket. I pulled out 7 or 8 pairs of clean pants from her drawer this morning for her to choose from. She choose a dress instead and secretly put on a pair of undies from her dirty clothes pile. It reminds me of myself when I was her age. My sister had a closet of neat, organized clothes. I had a pile of clothes on my closet floor. My sister got up early to get ready for school and always had perfect hair. I mostly did not brush my teeth or my hair. We were like the Odd Couple.
Anyway, here is an article that might blow you mind. It really changed my life when I read it. National Geographic article about chemicals in our bodies from the environment. Brillant. If you read it tell me what you think.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Olive Oil

I know we always think our kids are funnier than other people think they are, but I have been cracking up for weeks now hearing my daughter say "olive oil". In this video she is saying "goat cheese and olive oil." She was not into making my little video as you will see, but I got her to say it at least 3 times. I hope she says olive oil like this forever.

Tomato Sauce

The overflow of tomatoes from last week landed in my kitchen. The nights have been a bit cooler, so I decided to turn the oven on and pry out as much flavor from the tomatoes as possible. Oven roasting is a cooking method I rely on heavily for this reason. It does not require much work on my part and really, the flavors are intensified. So, I made tomato sauce!
I oven roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic. Coated with a good dose of olive oil, it really required very little effort from me. Except scrubbing the cookie sheets everything was cooked on. That was a big hassle!
After the coming out of the oven, I poured my freshly caramelized vegetables into a food mill. The results were very satisfying. I kept some sauce hot on the stove, added some oregano and we had pasta and sauce for dinner that night. It was a thick, rich, roasted tomato sauce that seemed like it had been on the stove the whole day. The possibilities for sauce like that are endless.

Today, I am making apple butter. Apple trees are going crazy here in northern california. Even the ancient apple trees on our big meadow are producing. I have not seen that in years! I am very tired of our long, hot summer. The weather forecast says 90 degrees for the next week. All sunshine. I will try to maintain a positive outlook on that.....

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Canning Tomatoes

Yesterday I spent some hours with some girlfriends canning tomatoes. Women getting together and doing almost anything is wonderful time spent. I think I counted 10 kids, 2 dogs, 2 random dads popping in, and 5 women. There were snacks and a dinner thrown into that mix as well. Now, I really did not do any of the hard work. I just sort of invited myself to this preplanned event. I am really inexperienced at canning. You know, me and my fear of food borne illnesses....but these ladies had just taken a canning class, had a great plan and let me be included.
This big event was sandwiched in between me volunteering the day at M's kindergarten class and my evening women's group. I did not have a lot of time for the herculean effort happening, but I helped out as much as I could. They canned until 12:30am. Then most of the day today. I would guess over 60 quarts of sauce, but never got the final count.
Holy Tomato Sauce Batman!
But reflecting on how well the canning event went, how good and juicy conversations were, and how utterly chaotic the whole scene was I have one thing to say. Women can do anything. Really. A roomful of capable women can do anything. It is a spectacular thing to witness.

So, today eating my lunch of heirloom tomato on toasted sourdough with shiso leaf and olive oil, I giggled thinking of the group of ladies I had spent my previous afternoon with, and wondered if:
1. they probably don't want to look at a tomato for a while
2. perhaps don't want to eat a tomato for a while either.
In honor of your wonderful efforts, and the joke of too much of a good thing, I posted a tomato lunch for you. Thank you for all your hard work!

Monday, September 14, 2009

One little last thing

I really thought I was getting the flu today. Really. In a meeting at school this morning I was having to mentally talk my self down. I was going over the remedies I have at home figuring out which one to take. I was picturing having to call my husband home from his business trip early. I was trying not to be upset at the poor sick woman in my class I was blaming it all on.

Then, I was ok.
I think it was my hormones playing tricks on me.
And the universe.
Or my basic self.
Which ever is fine. I was able to make a gluten free apple cornbread for M's class tomorrow. I roasted beets. If I can cook, I am most definitely not sick. See posted new recipe below...

Flageolet Beans with Kale and Roasted Tomato

Flageolet beans are are common in France. They are the bean in cassoulets, and popular due to their mellow flavor and ability to not fall apart while cooking. I like them because they are creamy and easy to cook. These beans tend to be light green to cream in color and are the size of a small navy bean. In fact, recipes that call for flageolet can be substituted with navy beans.
Like all dried beans, these are to be soaked over night. Of course I forget to soak beans overnight almost always, so I cheat and bring beans covered in water to a boil, rinse them, then cook them according to the directions.
Last night I made roasted chicken stuffed with lemon peel, and Flageolets. I also had a glass of Pinot Noir because husband I were celebraing our belated wedding anniversary (I missed because I was in France) and the season finale of True Blood. Dorky I know, but true.
Pinot noir is a fantastic cross-over wine. Great with vegetables, meats and fowl. If you want to pair wine and food and are wondering what one of the most versatile wines in the world is, Pinot Noir may be your ticket. I prefer Pinots from Oregon (Williamette Valley to be exact), but lets not get crazy here with too many details. Pinot Noir can be jammy (california) or they can be tight, grassy and peppery (oregon). Of course I am generalizing here to keep things from getting complicated, and there are Oregon Pinots that are jammy too. Ok, someone's eyes must be glazing over, so moving on...

Flageolet beans, although very popular in France, are hard to find in my small town. I get them in San Franciso when I am visiting and stock up. I have asked our local fine food store and my local hippie store to carry this variety though. I really am starting to dive into heirloom beans (my other favorite is Barlotti or Cranberry beans) to support the sustainability of beans species which are becoming more rare. Rancho Gordo is a new distributor of beans that support small farmers and heirloom varieties. This is the brand I have had good luck finding in the city.

You don't need a pressure cooker for this recipe. Cook the beans for 2 hrs. without a pressure cooker, or 1 hour with a pressure cooker. This is wonderful winter and fall food. My child eats this dish, but I am coming to find out that may not matter in normal kid world. She has started asking for olive oil and chevre on her whole wheat toast instead of butter and jam. So, I cannot say if you kids will eat it or not. Sorry about that!

1 1/2 cups flageolet beans
Enough water or stock just to cover beans (about 4 cups)
1 twig fresh rosemary
5 twigs fresh thyme
zest 1 lemon
glug of olive oil
2 med. carrots diced finely
1/2 large onion diced finely
1/2 cup dry white wine
bay leaf

After soaking or fast soaking (see above), sautee onions, carrots and olive oil in pot with drained beans. Sautee for 10 minutes, then add white wine and lemon zest.
Tie rosemary and thyme together with butcher twine. Add to pot along with bay leaf
Cook covered for two hours, stirring occasionally. Add more stock if it dries out. If it seems like it is too soupy, you will be able to reduce the liquid with lid off at the end of cooking.

Roasted Tomatoes
3 very ripe tomatoes
1 clove garlic
sea salt
olive oil

on a cookie sheet, set tomato slices (one inch thick) about 3 inches apart
slice garlic clove very thin and put a slice of the clove on top of each tomato.
Sprinkle with olive oil and salt.
Roast for 3o minutes at 400 degrees.
Take out of oven, let cool.
Use spatula to remove tomato slices. Coarsely chop and add to top of bean servings.

One large bunch Dino Kale
glug olive oil
pinch salt

Remove stems from kale. I do this by just running my hand down the stalk while ripping the leaves away. Use a knife to chop kale into 2 inch pieces.
In a nonstick or castiron skillet, heat olive oil and add kale. Turn to coat olive oil and add pinch of salt. Cook until very wilted, about 10 minutes. Set aside in bowl.

When beans are cooked and the sauce in the beans looks thick like gravy, add the kale and any extra salt to taste.
Spoon into bowls and top with roasted tomatoes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A supremely difficult assignment

Ok, I am feeling horrible today about being perhaps too harsh to the sick lady's friend. My germ-phobia issues may have gotten in the way of tactfulness.
Just want to put that out there.
Being human is sometimes a supremely difficult assignment.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Sometimes planning the weekend can be complicated. The social part of me loves city life, and I am always trying to make my country life filled with more city life things. My husband on the other hand craves all things country due to his city life kinda job. A bonfire with friends may be his favorite thing to do with his free time. Me, not so much. Give me culture, fine food and a good glass of wine with a reason to dress up and I am a happy camper. This is why I long for financial windfalls that would allow us to have an apartment in the city, a free babysitter, and a grocery store that sells ramps, oxtail, sheep's milk ricotta and frisee (and that is a modified list!).
That said, last night I made polenta topped with spicy tomato and pepper sauce topped sauteed wild shrimp. Take that you country life!
Today I am attending a free lecture at the co-op about homeopathy and swine flu. I will be sure to fill you in on the details. I will be the smiling person with a pen, notepad and lots of enthusiam in attendance. God I love being a geek at the right moments.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Not Just Choclate Cake

This chocolate cake has a history. Besides being one of the most used recipes I have, it was also the recipe my very close girlfriend made the day she went into labor. She gave birth to her son three weeks before me, and like me, she had a home birth. We also had the same midwives. Our birth experiences were very similar, and in an effort to not completely freak me out, she omitted all the horrid details of her birth experience during her birth story debriefing. The day after I gave birth I called her up and basically said "Why didn't you tell me it was going to be that hard!". We had a good laugh about it. And, from time to time we talk about the chocolate cake incident, which I still think about each time I make this cake. She had made this cake to enjoy after her birth. Having chocolate cake to eat after giving birth is a very important. It is like the cool drink of water after running a marathon. Do not get in the way of a nursing mother and her chocolate cake.
Turns out the cake had been eaten while she was in labor by the midwives and husband. And they told her she should not have eaten it anyway because of the caffeine from the chocolate.
A whole cake eaten over 24 hours.
That is how good this cake is.
This cake is easy to make, and has a very rich chocolate taste. It is not overly sweet and it very moist. It is foolproof. No beaters required or complicated ingredients. Well, you do have to hand whisk the eggs, but if you have a fork, your in luck. So, here is one of the stars in my personal recipe box. I have been making it for 8 years. I think it was from a Cooks Illustrated Magazine, but I cannot say for sure. So, I will give them credit just in case.

Makes two 8" rounds or 11x7" rectangle pan

Sift together:
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (I use unbleached organic)
1/4 tsp salt

Melt together:
80z. semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 tlbs butter (1 1/2 sticks)

Whisk by hand:
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Add the melted chocolate slowly to the egg mixture. Whisk by hand while doing this. When mixed, slowly add the sifted ingredients to this.

Last step..mix together
1 cup buttermilk (I use plain yogurt if I don't have this)
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Add the buttermilk/soda to the wet cake mixture.

Pour into a buttered pan and bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Test for doneness with a toothpick.
*****NOTE******If you are using cake rounds, line the bottoms with parchment. This will prevent your cakes from breaking apart when you are trying to remove them.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bulk Liquid Soap Stories

Husband and I talked last night about being on a food budget. I generally think it is a great idea. And, I agreed to it. Two hundred dollars a week. Our vegetable CSA box continues for a month or more, so that is an added bonus.
I am looking at this as a creative challenge. If anyone can find the deals on gourmet foods and items, it is surely me. But, I do have a weakness and love for spending money on expensive food items like Niman Ranch Nitrate-free Bacon and truffle honey. A healthy balance is surely in order here. I have already made changes to how I shop by buying in bulk. Instead of buying individual bottles of liquid soap, I buy gallons of it. I asked the manager of my local natural foods store if it was possible. He said yes and placed a special order for me. I got an added discount because I bought more than $50. There are over 10 refills for a 12 ounce bottle in a gallon of soap. My gallons of soap are around $30, which is a MAJOR saving if you are spending 6 or 7$ for individual bottles. The best part however, is less waste and less plastic bottles to recycle.
I discovered Dr. Bronner's Sal Suds dish soap by accident. The 7th Generation soap was out of stock at the grocery store, and I decided to give Dr. Bronners a try. I mostly love Dr. Bronners because they contain no Sodium Lauryl Sulfates or similar surfactants. I have grown to love the fresh pine scent that is real pine oil, not synthetic oil. Now I can't go back.
If you estimate conservatively I am saving over 50% on the retail price of a 12 oz. bottle of soap. I think that is significant. I did a quick internet search and found offers Kiss My Face soap less than I bought mine for, and they only charge $4.99 shipping!
You can imagine how often a person like me washes their hands. I carry around a mini-bottle of kiss my face soap in my purse. It has come in handy in the grossest of places.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Parmesan Meatballs

I thought the photos of the meatballs did not look super appetizing. But, meatballs are really big in my house and always have been. They are really easy to make, re-heat well and are very versatile. And, you can make them from beef, turkey, chicken, buffalo or pork. A good meatball recipe can be a secret weapon in many dishes. Today, I am sharing one of mine with you.

We have been eating significantly less meat in the house. But, today I thawed a pound of grass fed free-range beef from our local rancher. The leftovers are already in the fridge waiting to inspire lunch tomorrow. When I re-heat them, I put them in a vegetable steamer basket and steam them. When kids are here running around, I heat them up for a high protein snack. I add them (out of the freezer) when I am making soup in the winter. Meatballs are also an easy food for a babysitter to heat up that does not require much effort. For the right people, meat can be very grounding.

These meatballs took 15 minutes to prepare, and 15 minutes to cook. We also had green beans tossed in olive oil, corn on the cob (thank you CSA) and baked potatoes. To make things really quick, I blanched the green beans in boiling water, then used the same hot water to cook the corn. For dessert we had the very best all purpose chocolate cake ever. A recipe I have been using for 6 years. My absolute go-to recipe for chocolate cake. Tomorrow, I will post that recipe.

Parmesan Meatballs

1 pound grass fed beef
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove very finely chopped
zest of one lemon
pinch salt
1 egg
1 heaping tsp. fresh thyme (no need to chop this)
2 tbls canola oil

Mix everything together. Try not to over mix. Form into balls. (these can be made ahead of time and stored on a cookie sheet in the fridge if needed)

Heat canola oil in a skillet. I use a cast iron skillet because it is so seasoned it acts like a nonstick skillet. If you have a non-stick skillet, use only 1 tbls of the oil.
Cook for 15 minutes. I usually cover the pan for the first 5 minutes then take off the lid to reduce the juices. Serve immediately.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Porcini & Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Peppers

It was a good dinner. Husband asked when I could make it again. I think the secret was the cream on top. It was actually sour cream with lemon juice, zest, salt and milk. M thinks she hates sour cream. I told her it was cream on top omitting the "sour" part and she thought it was awesome. My new ingredient of the month is smoked paprika, so I worked the dish around that spice. Smoked paprika is different than regular paprika. I think it has the most wonderful smoky taste. When I smell it, I am reminded of BBQ potato chips! You may have to look a bit harder for this spice. I was not able to find it in regular grocery stores. The porcini powder is simply dried porcini mushrooms that I ground in a coffee grinder. Most grocery stores do sell these wonderfully distinct mushroom variety.
This dish was really very easy. The peppers came from our local farm stand which I am absolutely in love with.
Since husband has been laying off the meat, I used firm tofu and it really worked well. This recipe will make two very large peppers, or 3-4 quite small peppers.

Stuffed Peppers
1 cup crumbled extra firm tofu
1 med. onion finely chopped
1 cup quinoa
1 heaping tbls. dried porcini mushroom powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic chopped
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
1 tbls apple cider or champagne vinegar
2 cups water

Cream Sauce
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
2 tsp milk

In pot add quinoa, porcini powder, garlic and water. Bring to boil, then cover and turn down to simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes or until quinoa is cooked. Let stand 10 minutes then fluff with a fork.

In a sautee pan add 1 tbls olive oil, onion and tofu. Cook for about 10 minutes on med. high heat. Onions should be wilting and becoming translucent. Add a bit of water if it seems to be getting to dry. Add vinegar and smoked paprika. Stir occasionally for another 5 minutes, then turn off heat.
In a bowl add quinoa and tofu mixture. Add 1/2 of the remaining tbls. of olive oil to the mixture. Taste for salt.
Cut tops off peppers and remove seeds as best you can. Stuff peppers and use a spoon to push mixture into peppers if you need to.
Use remaining olive oil to coat outside of peppers and put in a baking dish.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 50-60 minutes. Test doneness of peppers by using a sharp knife to gently pierce skin. It should be very soft.

In a bowl add sour cream, lemon juice, zest and milk. Stir and taste for salt. Spoon on top of peppers before serving.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Gazpacho with Shiso leaves

Purple shiso known as Perilla. In Japan it is known as Japanese Basil and the purple variety is used to color umeboshi plums.

My love of shiso leaves are somewhat of a joke in my family. I regularly embarrass my husband in sushi restaurants by asking if I can order a stack of shiso leaves to eat with my raw fish. Normally a Japanese cuisine garnish, the shiso is very underrated. It has a crisp minty, lemony, anise taste. When I can get it, I tear it up and toss in salads, or like tonight; make gazpacho.
I am very anal about my gazapacho. I have found that there are many different opinions about making this dish and in the end it boils down to what you like. My gazpacho is simple, easy and structured. I have touted the wonders of good quality olive oil before, and this recipe is no exception. It is the difference between amazing and mediocre. So, go for it! Buy a great bottle of olive oil and drizzle it on everything! Oh the bounty of summer!


4 med. sized very ripe tomatoes
2 lemon cucumbers or 1/2 green cucumber.
1/2 cup red onion finely diced
2 tbls. champagne or red wine vinegar (add one tbls at a time and taste for what you like)
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
1 shiso leaf thinly sliced

Cut tops off tomatoes, and grate. Press your hand on the bottom of the tomato while grating. You are grating all the pulp and seeds off the tomato with the skin left behind to discard.

Peel skins off cucumbers, cut in half and scoop seeds out with a spoon. Chop into very fine pieces

Add shiso, salt, vinegar and olive oil to tomatoes, onions and cucumber. Adjust vinegar if needed.

Let flavors mingle for at least one hour before serving. This dish is to be served room temperature. If you put it in the fridge, make sure you take it out in enough time to warm it up. Gazapacho has no flavor if it is cold.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rosemary Poached Leeks with Tomato Water and Olives

Even when I am feeling down in the dumps, I dream of cooking and food. Yesterday I made scallops with tomato water and beurre blanc. Our farm share tomatoes are incredibly sweet this week from the lovely summer sun, and that made me want to experience them in their natural state. Only once a year do tomatoes sing such a song as to make me want to do very little to them. No coaxing necessary.
So tonight driving home from a school meeting, my mind wandered to the ingredients in my kitchen. I would be getting home around 6:20 and have very little time to throw something together.
Leeks and tomatoes; my willing volunteers.
A purist may say tomato water has the seeds removed. I choose not to because I am lazy.

Poached Leeks
2 leeks
2 tbls fresh rosemary
2 pinches salt

Tomato Water
3 small or 2 medium tomatoes (should be very ripe and soft)
1 tbls extra virgin olive oil
6 olives pitted and chopped
salt to taste
1 tbls shredded pecorino romano cheese

trim leeks and remove 2-3 layers of outer most skin. Tie butcher string around ends to keep leeks from falling apart in poaching water.
Heat stock pot or large pot with water. Bring to boil, add two good pinches of salt and rosemary. Add leeks turn heat to medium and poach until tender (15-20 min) Test doneness with sharp knife. Remove from water using tongs and gently squeeze excess water over stock pot before setting on a plate. Remove string with scissors and when cool enough to touch, slice into 2 inch slices. You may need to remove a few more layers of skin. Taste for tenderness. The whitest part of the leek will be the most tender and get tougher as you go down the stalk.

Cut tomatoes in half and grate tomatoes on hand grater. The purpose of this is to remove the pulp and seeds from the skin of the tomato. Do this over a bowl. Discard tomato skins and salt the tomato water to taste. Pour tomato water into two bowls you will be using to serve dish.
Add leeks to tomato water, top with chopped olives and top with olive oil and then pecorino cheese.


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