Thursday, August 6, 2009

Mascarpone, Yo

My fondest memory of mascarpone is going to an only-in-New-York restaurant called Rice to Riches that served nothing but rice pudding, in a plethora of inspired flavors. That was the first time I ever tasted mascarpone, and it has held an exotic allure ever since.

I've been on a major Barefoot Contessa bender lately, watching her shows every day and trying out her recipes whenever possible. I was seduced by her Spring Green Risotto, especially because it called for mascarpone!

But that's not why I'm writing this awesome blog post, folks. (Although for the record, the risotto was lovely, and I coated the leftovers in bread crumbs and fried up some nifty little risotto cakes.)

The reason I'm writing this awesome blog post is because I had to find something to do with my leftover mascarpone! Thanks to the search box on Food Network's site I found Rachael Ray's recipe for Fried Polenta Discs with Mascarpone Cheese. BINGO! I love polenta and have never made it for my hubs.

This dish consists mainly of sliced polenta "discs" fried in olive oil and butter, with a mascarpone/half & half/caper/lemon zest mixture on top, with parsley, olives, and roasted red peppers on top of that. Hubs can't stand olives, so I just did without them. I must say, we really enjoyed this dish, and it was super easy and straightforward, as "Rach's" recipes tend to be. We also appreciated that this dish contains all the colors of the Italian flag, so it's real purty.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sylvie's Bird Bread (banana cranberry super-oaty oatmeal bread)

Well, after several months of experimentation and taste-testing, my family's favorite snack food is good to go! I started with a basic recipe from Good Housekeeping, combined some tips from Fannie Farmer & internet research, added ingredients that my family likes, and ended up with a well rounded and pretty healthy Quick Bread. Husband loves it, baby loves it, and dog simply can't get enough of it. One of the biggest differences with my recipe is that I more than double the amount of oats in a typical oatmeal bread which of course means I also need to offset the liquid ingredients. I've tried a lot of liquid combinations (more butter, less butter/more applesauce, the addition of oil or shortening), but this seems to get it just right. I use as many organic ingredients as I can for this recipe. Sylvie's Bird Bread is open to interpretation, so if you come up with a good variation, post it here please!

1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole-wheat white flour (like King Arthur's)
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 stick unsalted butter (I use "European Style"), room temp
3 large extra ripe bananas (sometimes I do 4)
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup-ish of cranberries, dried or fresh (if you use Craisins, know you are sweetening the recipe)
3 tablespoons applesauce (if I'm out of applesauce I've been known to use pear babyfood)

3 tablespoons each of:
Brown sugar
Whole-wheat white flour
Unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9" by 5" loaf pan.

In a medium bowl mash bananas and butter together with a potato masher until they are a marble-y mix. These two ingredients prepare each other for deliciousness on a chemical level. Set aside. In large bowl, mix baking powder, baking soda, salt, flour, oats, and brown sugar until blended. Stir in milk, vanilla extract, eggs, applesauce, butter/banana mixture and cranberries (in the photo you may see that I also added a handful of fresh blueberries last time - it is bird bread, so scavenge away!) Beat with a mixer just until you think the eggs are blended, maybe 30 seconds. Spoon batter into pan.

In the same bowl you mixed your bananas in (save on dishes, right?) mix 3 tablespoons flour, 3 tablespoons oats, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, and 3 tablespoons margarine or butter until blended. it's easiest to mix by hand to get the ingredients all hunky-dory with each other. Sprinkle the crumb topping evenly over batter. Oh yeah!

4. Bake bread 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 10 minutes; remove from pan and finish cooling on wire rack.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

i cooked you some delicious soup.

tonight i was not hungry, not hungry, not hungry and then all of a sudden i was ready for dinner. i had no idea what i wanted, so i was perusing the freezer and found a bag of "mini chicken cilantro wontons" from trader joe's and decided to have some wonton soup. i put about 2 1/2 cups of water on to boil and added 3 packets of (also trader joe's) savory chicken broth - good stuff - it is kind of like boullion but not as salty and much tastier. i left it to come to a boil and then after it did, added 10 mini wontons and a generous shake of dried chives. i think bean sprouts would have been good too, or scallions, but i did not have any.
this soup is really good!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The new Wonderbread

Like a lot of families, our household has primarily switched to whole grain bread made without High Fructose Corn Syrup. Living in Austin makes it hard not to splurge on french bread from Central Market or the Whole Foods World Headquarters, but for the most part we have lately stuck to something non-white; gone are the days of Wonderbread topped with butter and Smuckers Jam.  If sometimes you still long for those tasty sandwich bread days, please, follow me now as I enter the new world of classic bread indulgence for healthy-minded people:

Whole Foods Mighty Multigrain Organic Small Batch Bread!

It's not going to save the world, but it may make you don a cape and run around your livingroom dripping peanut butter on the good rug.

This bread is NOT whole wheat. On the whole wheat scale it's is probably only one step above ordering a wheat hoagie at subway (does anyone still go to subway?), but it has some little wheaty grains inside and therefore makes you feel pretty ok. 

This bread IS organic. No chemicals = always better!

This bread is TASTY OUT THE YIN YANG.  Seriously, so so so delicious. Perfect untoasted, perfect toasted, perfect grilled cheese in the cast-iron skillet - DELICIOUS classic bread taste.

Go buy some now and splurge a little. You MAY want to get two bags the first time... even non-bread-eating households tend to make this sucker disappear in a matter of oh, 1.5 days, and you wouldn't want to leave anyone feeling shafted.

I would also like to include a shout out to Best Maid Kosher Spears Pickles for the most awesome packaging. The little Mary Blair inspired illustration is adorable and gets a special award from the OCD visual design side of my brain - the lid is configured so you can twist it back on exactly so the little maid on the lid matches up vertically with the little maid on the front label.  Best Maid is apparently a Texas brand that is now made in INDIA?! and Ryan, our resident pickle expert (I'm really only along for the packaging) gives the taste and crunch a 5 out of 5 for basic sandwich pickle. his only complaint is the unreliable pickle cut, industry sized pickle knives must be different on that side of the world. 

So there you go, delicious grilled cheese and Indian pickle. yum.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Split Pea Stupor

What better way to usher in the long-awaited Spring season than a bottomless pot of bubbling green liquid? For my first Easter as a wife I decided to tackle the spiral-cut ham. And a big old ham bone calls for a batch of homemade split pea soup. Unfortunately, I had made a batch of soup the week before Easter and we had just finished it. But I didn't know what else to do with the aforementioned bone of ham, hence the soup. Contrary to popular belief, you can actually have too much of a good thing.

But enough about overdosing on the green stuff. The real fun was the Easter dinner. We had a motley crew of Easter decorations which consisted of a chocolate chick, a lindt dark chocolate bunny, two eggs decorated by our nieces and nephews, and my beloved stuffed bunny Theodore, who Tom allowed at the dinner table since it was his 22nd birthday.

Dinner was (duh) ham, along with sauteed cauliflower and roasted sweet potatoes. I cooked the ham way too long, so it was more like salty leather than anything resembling ham. Good thing the veggies were delish. Roasted sweet potatoes are our new favorite thing. Tom meticulously sliced the sweet potatoes into french fry size, and I threw them on a baking sheet with thinly-sliced red onions, drizzled with olive oil and house seasoning, and roasted until the onions were brown and almost burnt. The result was truly pleasant and hearty yet healthy.

For dessert we ate the ears off the bunny (the chocolate one, not the stuffed one.) And for the next two weeks we had split pea soup for every meal. Happy Spring!

Friday, April 10, 2009

i hope this will be as good as it looks (and smells)!

here is my version of a "french twist" from roly poly (which i used to go to in savannah, and it would make me happy if there was one around here too)
we have a tortilla, with one slice of swiss cheese, a big pile of baby spinach, 10 grape tomatoes cut in half, one scallion cut in small rings, another pile of spinach and three slices of brie. then we grill the tortilla and put some honey mustard on the side to dip it in (brianna's naturals).
and now i must go and eat my dinner.

Monday, March 30, 2009

mexican-french fusion

i have been craving a buritto from chipotle, full of pico de gallo, guacamole & cheese.... but i have not been anywhere near chipolte for a while. so i decided to make myself a faux-chipotle-buritto, since i did have pico de gallo, avocados & cheese. i diced up two avocados and added a few grinds of pepper and a pinch of sea salt and proceeded to smash them up. next, i added a heaping spoonfull of the pico de gallo. then i realized that i have no tortillas. no problem though! i did have a bit of a mini-baguette leftover. so i cut a piece off and ripped out the insides then filled one side with the salsa, one side with the guacamole, and put a few bits of cheddar on.
not bad if i do say so myself!
tomorrow i will make a salad with some lettuce, the rest of the salsa & some guacamole.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Magical Pork

I have TWO good excuses for not posting in awhile. Excuse #1 is that a dastardly stomach bug derailed all cooking over the weekend and I am just now getting back on my culinary feet. Excuse #2 is that I have no camera and so I can't use any real photos like my Spoon with a Purpose Colleagues. However, a camera is in the mail, so expect real photos soon.

So, in the midst of Stomach Bug Gate 2009, I made Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Tacos from Real Simple. (I think Real Simple is a great resource for easy, healthy, fast meals and other ideas. I could spend DAYS on that website.) I slow-cooked the pork on Friday, got sick on Saturday, and avoided all things pork until Sunday night when I felt like I could handle it. But that's beside the point. The point is: Holy Good Tacos, Batman! (As Hubs would say.) For as little expense and effort as they demanded, they turned out super, duper delicious. All the ingredients combined to coat the pork shoulder in a mole-like flavor that was superb.

I'm sure the recipe is great if you follow it exactly, but I had some extra cole slaw mix I wanted to use, so I chopped up the cilantro, mixed it into the cole slaw mix, drizzled lime juice on it and put it on the tacos.

Pinche sabroso.

Monday, March 9, 2009

enjoying a brief moment of spring weather

this weekend we had some beautiful weather! well, depending on what you are used to.... anyway it was about 50* and kind of sunny. after a nice walk on the breakwater, we decided it was a perfect day for some outdoors cooking and dining. today there is a lot of snow again. :(
jake is a big fan of burgers, so that is what was on the menu.
my dad has a great burger recipe, but he was out of town so i had to ask my brother how to get started. i mixed just over 1 lb. of ground angus beef with the bottom 1/2 of a hamburger roll that i made into bread crumbs. to that i added one egg, a splash (maybe about 1/4 cup?) of milk, and a tablespoon or so of worcestershire sauce. (the recipe called for some italian-salad-dressing-mix, that stuff that comes in a packet and you mix with oil and vinegar, but i didn't have any)

i gently mixed up all the stuff and made it into 3 patties, compressing just enough to make it stick together. at that point, we realized that the outdoor grill was not going to work, so we used a grill pan. (which i unfortunately neglected to spray and we had some stickage!)

we also had some grilled zucchini and yellow squash, which must have come from somewhere else, because there is not anything growing 
here yet. but they were really good, wherever they came from.

in addition to the grilled food, we also had a 1/2 sour pickle from the 
deli, some chips and some magic hat #9 (which is one of the only beers 
that i like). we also had some unexpected guests - a couple of the neighborhood turkeys. at least the mean one was nowhere to be seen or we would have had to go inside, cause he chases people (and cars) and fights them off!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Fried Custard Squares and Patient Spouse.

As a working-from-home mother of a 5 month old, I have found that my cooking or baking opportunities come when one would least expect. For instance, my husband gets home around 6pm, and do I have dinner waiting on the table for him? no. Do I hand him the baby and get to work in the kitchen? nope. Normally the two of us will hem and haw about dinner options for an hour until he makes dinner while I prop my feet up... or I'll quickly dash out of the house (escape!!!) to pick up salads from Chipotle. This is the case at least 3 days out of the work-week. Sounds like I take it pretty easy, huh? Much to my husband's admonishment, that is not always the case. 

Somewhere around 9pm, when the baby is FINALLY asleep and we should have already completed our kitchen time, I get an urge to say, make the Chocolate Honey Torte I saw in a magazine while resting my feet earlier. And the GREATEST THING ABOUT THAT URGE... the thing that I have just recently come to realize, is that just by keeping a few staples about my kitchen, I can just about bake any recipe I want WHENEVER I want. It's amazing! Baking powder? Check! Chocolate chips? Check! almond extract? Check! Eggs, brown sugar and orange zest? Yessiree bob. 

Even better than being able to bake most recipes at any time, I've found that most recipes I want to bake don't even take that long... or at least they aren't supposed to. My husband Ryan and I are currently balancing two television series through our Netflix que - West Wing and the Wire. Most of my baking urges come when we've paused the DVD to say, check on the baby or run to the bathroom. In the back of my mind the urge for something sweet and fun has been building for the first 20 minutes of the show... and as soon as we hit that pause button and Ryan is otherwise occupied, I quietly toddle into the kitchen and quickly pull out and measure oats or chocolate or what have you. After about 5 minutes he'll call into the kitchen - "What are you doing?" and I'll say "Getting dessert!" Five or so more minutes will pass and he yells "What's taking so long? Get your butt back out here!" And I'll say "OK, I'm almost done!" At which time I'm normally starting up the electric mixer and he KNOWS he's in for the world's longest commercial break. 10-15 minutes later (after my moderately patient husband has resorted to expletives) and I'm pouring or scooping whatever it is in to it's prepared baking dish and popping it into the oven. At this point I saunter back into the livingroom, proud as can be and spend the next 5 minutes trying to get Ryan to stop playing "Fishing" or "Jelly Car" on his Iphone. Fifteen or so minutes later we have a homemade treat and finally get back to our DVD!

A couple of weeks ago one such nighttime recipe I whipped up was Tessa Kiros' Fried Custard Squares. Grace has previously cited Mrs. Kiros' book Apples for Jam, and all I can say is to expect much more AFJ experiments from this blog. Its a visually inviting book that seems so simplistic with ingredients you can't help but try it's recipes! I followed this recipe closely which is unusual for me. My only ingredient change was organic orange rind instead of lemon and everything came out delicious! I did not wait quite long enough for the custard to set so it was more like "Fried Custard Misshapes" but they sure were tasty. Once all the little suckers were fried up I decided they needed a fruity boost and made a quick berry sauce (frozen organic berries, a little water and a shake of sugar on the stove) to pour overtop of 2 or three of the squares and voila! It turned from a grab-em-while-they're-hot dessert to a bona fide serve-it-on-a-pretty-little-plate fork dessert. Its also easy to see how fun these in their original form would be as a traditional holiday snack for little kiddos - Tessa knows whats up.

Friday, March 6, 2009

not so healthy but pretty tasty dinner made with stuff we already had in the house!

jake REALLY likes to have things like quesadillas and nachos for dinner. so i indulged him and made some steak nachos for us, which were inspired by the steak nachos at our favorite restaurant, jalapenos

i made some very easy cheese sauce, similar to what i would make for welch rarebit or mac & cheese. (roux + your favorite shredded cheese) and then we spread it over chips and topped with crushed red pepper, some diced tomatoes (with the wet part taken out), and some sliced up little omaha steaks that my grandmother had given us. (jake said that he feels that having "good meat" was important, as he did not want to "bite down on gristle or fat"). i had planned to put some cilantro on top too, but it was not looking so good when i got it out of the fridge! next time i will probably make some pico de gallo rather than just use tomatoes, but it still came out tasty.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Capers and Parsley and Lemons, oh my!

Last night I made Chicken Cutlets with Parsley and Capers, from Apples for Jam by Tessa Kiros. It's a nifty cookbook given to me for Christmas by Jennifer. It is described by its publisher as "a keepsake cookbook filled with savory recipes woven together by a rainbow of colors, memories, and lavish full-color photography." That is absolutely accurate!

This is a perfect mid-week recipe because it takes ten minutes and uses stuff you probably already have in your fridge. The tangy lemon juice mixes perfectly with the vinegar-y capers and the parsley smoothes everything out. I paired it with the most perfect roast potatoes I've ever made (according to Hubs), frozen spinach (which I have determined tastes better than fresh spinach and doesn't leave that film on the teeth) and leftover sauteed cauliflower (my other favorite recipe from Apples for Jam!)

Just in case you're wondering, here is how I made my perfect roasted potatoes. Cut medium-sized red taters into about sixths. Dump them in a big tupperware, drizzle with olive oil and house seasoning, put a top on the tupperware and shake like a polaroid picture. Then lay everything on a cookie sheet that's been sprayed with cooking spray. Cook at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes or until brown all over. They will be crispy and salty on the outside, totally soft and delicious on the inside. So easy a chimpanzee could do it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


Does your spoon have a purpose? Why not add direction to its little wooden life and publish your cooking and baking results on the internet for all the world to see? Watch as Sarah, Grace and I do just that by sharing recipes and resources as they are tested during our busy lives. Bon Appetit!