Monday, October 22, 2012

Turning Over a New Leaf

HUGE thanks to those of you who have read, followed, commented on, and pinned my posts.  

It's time for a redesign...

Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Autumn on a Plate

This recipe does not come with a witty anecdote,  it's just straight up delicious.  The classic autumnal flavors of apple, sweet potato, and kale come together perfectly in these delicious little cakes. Pan fried and served with warm bacon-maple dressing... does it get any better?  I highly doubt it.

1 sweet potato - peeled and grated
1 honey crisp apple - peeled and grated
3 kale leaves - chopped
3 scallions - chopped
1 egg
3 TBSP flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Start by placing grated apple and sweet potato in a dry towel. Squeeze out excess water. Place mixture into a bowl, add the rest of the above listed ingredients and stir to combine.  Drop spoonfuls of mixture into a buttered skillet on medium heat and brown on each side.  Serve with bacon-maple dressing.

Bacon-Maple Dressing:
4-5 slices of thick cut bacon
3 TBSP red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp pure maple syrup
chopped scallion for garnish

Fry bacon slices in a skillet then set them aside on a paper towel to drain off excess grease, reserving about 3 TBSP of rendered bacon fat in the skillet.  Add the rest of the above listed ingredients to the skillet.  Whisk together over low heat. Once thoroughly incorporated, remove from heat, add chopped bacon and garnish with chopped scallions.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Fresh Perspective

I am sure you have heard the phrase, "farm to table"... but have you ever actually gone to a farm, picked out your food, and taken it to your own table?  Last Sunday that is exactly what I did.  Tucked away in the heart of southwest Michigan, my two amazing friends have a beautiful plot of land that stretches as far as the eye can see. They allowed me the opportunity to wander around with my camera, gather some eggs, and enjoy a few glasses of wine.  20+ chickens call this place home.  Corn, buckwheat, and amaranth abound.  Large garden beds house everything from tomatoes to melons to root vegetables galore.  (Lucky for me, the tomato garden happened to be overflowing which afforded me a to-go box large enough to feed an army!) I watched the chickens wander around the yard, I saw where they sleep at night, I learned their names.  I saw how much they were loved and cared for.  There is something to be said for going to the source for your food.  It nourishes your soul as well as your body.  The labor of love that is owning your own farm is astonishing and demands respect.  Many thanks to Chuck and Lis, you gave me way more than tomatoes and eggs that day.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Just Drink It...

It's that time of year again... when the air catches a little nip, the distinct smell of grilling starts to be replaced by the smokey aroma of chimneys and fire pits, and you can hear the echos of a football game on a Friday night.  Fall.  It's the season of apples, hayrides, and comfort food.  Unfortunately, it is also the season of the common cold.  Despite my best efforts to deny it, I am officially under the weather.  Today, after mustering enough energy to get down to the kitchen, I managed to gather a few key ingredients from the fridge and concoct what I like to believe was a mean, green, cold-busting machine.  A lovely mixture of leeks, apples, chard, and parsley, this soup was chock-full of vitamin C as well as antioxidants. Smooth and herby with a back note of heat, it was perfect for sipping away the sniffles. No spoon required.

Apple Leek Soup

4C water
1 1/2 tsp salt 
2 leeks - cleaned and rough chopped
1 large honey crisp apple - peeled and rough chopped
1/4 tsp red pepper flake
1/2 C almond milk
2 small chard leaves 
handful of fresh parsley, plus some for garnish
pepper to taste

Add salt to water and bring to boil.  Turn heat to medium, add leeks and apples and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add chard leaves and handful of fresh parsley. Simmer 2 minutes.  Using immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add almond milk and red pepper flake. Stir. Pepper to taste.  Garnish soup with chopped fresh parsley.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Giving thanks... in September

An impromptu potluck dinner occurred here this evening. So impromptu, in fact, that I barely had time to document my own dish before it was devoured. The meal included curried cauliflower with cherry tomatoes, quinoa cakes, and pasta with spicy pumpkin sauce. After stuffing our faces at the table, we adjourned to the fire pit where we cranked out s'mores like it was our job. There was just the right amount of nip in the air to truly appreciate the warmth from the flames. We sat and chatted and made the ground breaking discovery that peanut butter is the perfect add-on to a s'more. Good friends and good food... what more could a girl ask for? Although it was not the official day for giving thanks, tonight made me realize exactly how grateful I am.

Pasta with Butternut Squash

1 small butternut squash - peeled, deseeded, cubed
1 clove garlic - minced
1/2 red onion - chopped
1/2 C chickpeas
3 chard stems - chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
fresh sage leaves

Warm 2 TBSP olive oil in a skillet and saute squash, onions, chickpeas and chard. Once squash is fork tender, add garlic and spices and saute 2-3 more minutes. Add veggies to cooked whole wheat pasta and top with pumpkin sauce. Toss everything together to coat, then bake (covered) for 15 minutes at 325. Garnish with fresh sage.

Spicy Pumpkin Sauce

3 TBSP butter
3 TBSP flour
1/2 red onion - chopped
2 C almond milk
3 TBSP pumpkin butter
1 tsp sriracha
1 tsp red pepper flake
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in sauce pan over medium heat. Add onions and saute until tender. Add flour and stir to form paste. Add almond milk, pumpkin butter, sriracha and spices. Simmer on low for 2-3 minutes. Pour over cooked pasta with butternut squash.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Summer Memories

Growing up near the Chesapeake Bay, summer always included huge crab feasts. We would purchase a bushel of Maryland blue crabs, steam them with no small amount of Old Bay seasoning, and dump them onto a picnic table with plenty of piping hot sweet corn. It's my favorite summer memory, hands down. Now that I live in Michigan, cracking crabs is a thing of the past and I am stuck with the packaged crab meat at the grocery store. It is certainly not the best representation but it's better than nothing at all. Today I whipped up a quick snack that combined crab meat and corn into one tasty bite... a nostalgic farewell to summer. I started with a standard cornbread mix and added jalapenos, scallions, crab meat and fresh corn. Old Bay and red pepper flake were thrown in for good measure. Using a cake pop pan, I created tiny spheres of goodness that looked like hush puppies, but without all the deep frying action. Somehow, that made it feel much less gluttonous as I sat and ate each and every one.... dipping them in curry mustard and washing them down with spiked lemonade. Tasty as they were, they didn't begin to compare to the experience of a real crab feast. Next year I'm making the pilgrimage back east, heading down to the bay, and buying myself a bushel of blues. Who's in?....

Monday, September 3, 2012

Wisdom of a Tomato

I used to think I had it all figured out... then life happened. The carefree days of being a child gave way to the unpredictable world of adulthood. With age comes wisdom, and what I have learned at the ripe old age of thirty six is that I don't know half as much as I thought I did. Currently perched on the precipice of a rather large change, I am re-evaluating my life. My brain is crowded with thoughts. I find solace in the kitchen, it's where I clear my mind, become calm, and remember who I am. Something as simple as a sliced homegrown tomato with a little drizzle of pesto can transcend the plate and become a reminder to stop complicating things and get back to the basics. Sometimes you have to deconstruct in order to rebuild.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Donut" Deluxe

I spend a good amount of time at the hair salon each month, with my head wrapped in foil, sitting under the dryer as I cook away my gray.  Usually, I am mindlessly flipping through pages about who made the latest fashion faux pas or what the hemlines are doing this season.  Occasionally, I will stumble onto something of interest. That was the case last week when I found a picture of an "apple donut".  It was a thick round slice of apple, core removed, slathered with peanut butter and dipped in granola to imitate the look of a sprinkled donut.  It was a quirky idea that caught my eye.  As a food stylist, I am constantly storing little nuggets like that in my memory for later use. While I enjoyed the playful approach to the snack, I kept imagining the rough assault on the roof of my mouth.  As I was making my breakfast this morning, a light bulb came on - I could create the same look with my french toast... a similar concept but with a much softer texture.  So, I cut my bread into donut shapes, sliced and cored an apple and got to work.  I sauteed the apple rounds in butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon until just barely tender. I dipped and flipped my french toast and slid each one right on top of an apple ring.  I spread a generous amount of peanut butter on the warm french toast and sprinkled it with sunflower seeds, pepitas, and raisins.  Absolutely scrumptious!  Topped with maple syrup, it was certainly better than any donut I had ever had.  Who knew that inspiration would be lurking under the warm air of a hairdryer?  I wonder where the next idea will come from....

*Tasty Trick: I used a splash of caramel coffee creamer in my french toast batter.  mmm. mmm. mmm.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cucumber Basil Cocktail

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade... then spike that lemonade and forget all about the lemons you were handed in the first place.  Ok, maybe not the healthiest approach, but an effective one nonetheless.  Feeling a little beat down lately, I decided it was time for a delicious cocktail recipe... something summery that would take the edge off.  I started with 2 shots of white tequila down in the shaker.  (I'll be honest, I bought Espolon because of the cool black and white illustration on the label... I mean, c'mon, it's a skeleton riding a rooster. How could I resist?)  Next, I muddled cucumber slices and fresh basil, then added a splash of lemonade.  After a few good shakes,  I strained out the muddled shrapnel and poured the delicious nectar into a chilled glass with ice.  A sprig of basil and two or three cucumber rounds were added for aesthetic appeal and there was only one thing left to say - wow! Refreshing, delicious, and beautiful.  So take that, life... keep on throwing those lemons, I'll just keep making them awesome.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2 Peas in a Pod

Shelling peas is usually a chore, but when you're spending quality time with your mom, drinking coffee and discussing life while you work, the task is much more enjoyable.  That is exactly how I spent my Sunday afternoon... just me and my mom, plucking peas from their pods, basking in the beautiful weather. Time was passing without so much as a hint. After we finally reached the bottom of the bowl, it was time for some instant gratification for our efforts. I had a container of leftover quinoa, a bag of radishes from a friend's garden, and a few lonely lemons leftover from work.  I tossed the fresh peas and sliced radishes in a bowl with a drizzle of balsamic, a squeeze of lemon, and a healthy dose of zest.  A tiny kiss of sea salt and a few chopped almonds completed the dish and it was gone as quickly as it came together. Simple yet delicious. We spent the rest of the day enjoying each other's company, relaxing in the sun, and talking up a storm... just two peas in a pod.  Love you, Momma.  This one's for you.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cherry Tea Granita

Today was hot. Sweaty hot. Running errands, working in the garden, and schlepping boxes out of my basement didn't help matters. Drained of my energy but still craving a treat, I decided to make a quick granita. Sounds fancy, but it's super easy to create. If you can boil water and stir, you can make granitas. Start by boiling 1 C of water and stirring in 1/2 C of granulated sugar. Once sugar is dissolved, remove from heat. Let the sugar solution come to room temperature, mix in 3 C of juice, or coffee, or any sweet nectar you desire. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish and place in the freezer. Every 15 - 20 minutes, agitate the mixture with a fork, scraping the frozen bits towards the center. After about an hour, you will have a soft, slushy delight. Today, I chose sweet tea (brewed with spearmint and lemon balm) and cherry puree. I used 1 C of the cherry puree and 2 C of the sweet tea. The flavor was deliciously sweet with a minty undertone. So light and refreshing, it was the perfect end to a hard worked day.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Flight of the Pancake

Sometimes, it's not about documenting a recipe, it's about sharing an experience.  That is the case with today's post.  It was one of those beautiful mornings when I had the luxury of getting lost in the zen of cooking.  Pancakes were my blank canvas. No ingredient was off limits. I cranked the ipod and got to work, it was experimental bliss.  Just me, my imagination, and big bowl of pancake batter.  First up, bacon and sweet cherries.  Quite delicious, although I believe they would have benefited from something herby... rosemary perhaps.  Next in the queue, granola crunch cakes. With chunky granola thrown in the batter and garnished on top for good measure, they were a nice change from the ordinary pancake texture.  My final (and favorite) concoction of the flight was a layering of plain pancakes with peanut butter and jelly in between. Topped with maple syrup and chopped peanuts, they were gooey, fruity, nutty perfection.  The next time you want to treat yourself, try a flight of pancakes. I believe I'm headed for frequent flier status...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Me vs. The Ravioliera

For Christmas, my dear friend Julie sent me a ravioliera (fancy word for ravioli maker).  The minute I opened the package, my mind went crazy with ideas to fill the pretty little pasta pillows.  As I was jotting down recipes, I remembered there was one crucial kitchen gadget that I didn't own - a pasta roller.  My ravioli conquest would have to wait.  Utterly disappointed, I placed the ravioliera on the shelf, and there it sat, staring at me, mocking me... until today. My lack of gadgetry was no longer going to hold me back!  I had flour, I had eggs, and I had a rolling pin.  It was pasta making time.  Mixing, kneading, and rolling ensued.  After the dust cloud of flour settled in the kitchen, I was left standing with 2 beautiful sheets of pasta, ready for the ravioli maker.  I quickly whipped up a filling of sauteed chard, onion, and garlic that I mixed with ricotta.  After carefully sealing each individual pocket, I dropped them one by one into a pot of gently boiling water and waited for them to float to the surface. They were rustic in appearance but sublime in taste.  One word: Victory.

Lessons Learned in Ravioli Making:
1) Don't be a baby - you don't need a machine to roll pasta 
2) Don't try to contain the floury mess, embrace it.  You can sweep later.
3) Don't overfill the pocket
4) Don't drop them all in the water at once - big clumpy mess

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tale of the Lonesome Red Stripe

I had been staring at that last lonely beer in the bottom right corner of my fridge for two weeks.  I didn't put it there, I didn't drink the others, and yet it taunted me. The crinkled cardboard six pack held only the memory of it's previous occupants.  Number six was alone, pathetic, and sad.  Nestled next to a bag of limp carrots and two onions, he yearned to be put out of his misery and I was the only one capable of accommodating.  So that's exactly what I did.  Unfortunately, drinking beer does not agree with me but with the addition of salt, flour, baking powder, and sugar the lonesome Red Stripe was transformed.  Like the ugly duckling that became a beautiful swan, that sorry little straggler from the six pack finally got his day in the sun.... and by sun, I mean oven.   

Homemade Beer  Bread
3 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1 Red Stripe (11.2 oz)
2 Tbsp water (omit if you use a 12 oz beer)
2 Tbsp melted butter to brush on top

Using a fork or whisk, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add beer and water to dry ingredients and fold together gently to combine.  Pour batter into a greased dutch oven and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.  Brush with butter and place back in the oven for 4-5 minutes. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Chicken-less Salad

This recipe is crazy good.  Period.  The flavors are intense, there's a balance between sweet and tangy, and the texture has a hint of crunch. Imagine it - the pop of juicy red grapes, the power of raw scallions and curry powder, and the crunch of almonds and celery all coated in a tangy yogurt dressing.  Sounds like a delicious chicken salad, right?  Guess again.  This is chick pea salad.  Peppered with hints of curry, lemon, and mustard, it rivals any chicken salad I've ever had. Layered with fresh spinach leaves and snuggled in a sweet Hawaiian roll, it makes quite a substantial sandwich that doesn't require any additional condiments (in my humble opinion).  This is a great way to shake up your normal routine and try something new.  No, it doesn't mean that you're giving up meat. You're simply broadening your horizons. Try it... unless you're just too chicken.

Chick Salad:
2 C chick peas - quickly pulsed in food processor
1 C red grapes - halved
2 scallions - minced
1 stalk celery - minced
1/4 C blanched almonds - chopped

1 C plain greek yogurt
3 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp bavarian mustard
1/4 tsp curry power
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Mix salad ingredients together in a bowl.  In separate bowl, whisk dressing ingredients together.  Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for half an hour to marry all flavors.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Try Something New

If you've never made your own summer rolls, go get rice papers and try it immediately... you'll feel like a culinary rock star. They are easy to make and can be customized to suit any taste buds, a great thing to remember if you have carnivores and vegetarians living under the same roof (or perhaps just a picky eater). My first attempt was a mixture of carrot, cucumber, green apple, and radicchio. I doused the apples in lime juice, giving them a crisp acidic brightness that balanced perfectly with the bitter radicchio. A roasted pepper dipping sauce laced with soy sauce, ginger and lime completed the dish. Since summer rolls are not fried like spring rolls, once they're wrapped - they're ready! While I initially thought the rice papers would be delicate and hard to work with, I quickly realized their resilience. They offered the perfect opportunity to stretch my culinary wings, experiment with different flavor combinations and really let my inner chef out to play. My challenge to you - try something new. Who knows, you may just create something amazing!

"Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all." - Harriet van Horne

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Accidentally Eggless

I literally woke up thinking about peanut butter french toast this morning. It's as if it came to me in a dream, and I knew as soon as my eyes popped open that I was making a beeline to the kitchen. I could taste what I was about to create... that crunchy outer layer filled with gooey, delicious peanut butter, dunked in a blueberry sauce. I started the water for my coffee and began gathering the necessary ingredients. I grabbed the bread, the peanut butter, some cinnamon, and a bottle of vanilla. All I needed now was an egg, one little egg... that I didn't have! Oh no, now what?! I pushed the plunger on my french press and poured myself a cup of coffee. I took stock of the items on my counter and began to formulate a plan. I certainly wasn't going to give up just because we were out of eggs. What I managed to come up with was quite scrumptious, if I do say so myself. I started by layering peanut butter between two pieces of whole grain bread. Then I coated each side of the sandwich in a batter made of almond milk, coconut oil, whole wheat flour, chickpea flour, and a little sugar and spice to round it out. I toasted both sides in a skillet and cut the sandwich into sticks. For the sauce, I whipped together a few spoonfuls of blueberry syrup and vanilla yogurt and got to dunking! Mmmm, mmmm. Who needs eggs, anyway?!

Batter for french toast:
1/2 C almond milk
2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp chickpea flour
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp ground almonds
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg

Mix all ingredients together to form batter, thoroughly coat each piece of bread and cook on medium heat until golden brown on each side

Blueberry Yogurt Sauce:
equal parts blueberry syrup and vanilla yogurt

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Salty Sunday

My latest culinary obsession is flavored salts. Simple to make and fun to use, they really pack a tasty punch. The recipe is as easy as pulsing coarse salt in a food processor with anything from szechuan pepper to dried rosemary. Over the past week, I have made several delicious varieties but the flavor du jour was lime salt. After all, it was St. Paddy's Day weekend so something green was in order. Equal parts lime zest and Celtic grey sea salt created the perfect companion to crispy sweet potato chips. Using a peeler, I sliced the potato paper thin. A quick flash in hot canola oil was all they needed to crisp up. Laid out on a paper towel, they received their sparse sprinkling of lime salt (a little bit goes a long way). The crunchy texture and powerful flavor was just enough to drown out my inner voice whispering "time to do your taxes... time to do your taxes".

Monday, March 12, 2012

Love, Love, Love....

Warning: this post is all about meat, and no small amount of it. Vegetarians, avert your eyes. While my normal diet is about 80 percent vegetarian, I spent the last 5 days on location in Texas where meat is king. During this shoot, I had the pleasure of working with Chef Tim Love, and if you don't know who he is... look him up and go to his restaurants. Bring your sense of adventure because you won't find baked chicken on his menus, but you will find rattlesnake, goat, rabbit, and elk. He has several options for your dining pleasure, but his oldest restaurant is The Lonesome Dove. It's here that you'll find the tastiest 30 ounce ribeye you've ever eaten. The presentation is quite a spectacle. On the other end of the spectrum is his famous burger joint, Love Shack. Burger topped with a quail egg, anyone? His newest restaurant, The Woodshed, offers casual dining with live music, cozy firepits and a morning coffee bar that serves up a damn good cup of joe, with a taco sidecar. Tacos with your coffee?.... only in Texas! Each day brings a new animal to the fire. You can tell what's cooking by the flag that flies on the front of the building. Is it pig? Is it goat? Is it lamb? Whatever it is, try it. Never in a million years would I expect to crave goat, but I am here to tell you it's delicious and I can't stop thinking about it. With another great shoot in the bag, it's now time to catch up on some sleep and remember that I really do love my job.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cornbread Junkie

I'm pretty sure I have an addiction to cornbread. Sweet versions, savory versions, scratch recipes, boxed mixes... they're all good in my book. With my taste buds teased by my recent Florida vacation, today I was in the mood for a citrus twist. I made a fresh cup of coffee and started my hunt around the kitchen. A pint of blueberries, 2 limes, and a donut pan caught my eye. I added 1/4 cup of sugar, the zest and juice of 1/2 a lime, and about 1/4 cup of fresh blueberries to my standard boxed cornbread mix. I carefully spooned the batter into a greased donut pan and placed it in a 400 degree oven for about 12 minutes. While the donuts were baking to perfection and creating an intoxicating aroma, I whipped up a quick blueberry syrup. The zest and juice of 1 lime, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and a handful of blueberries simmered down in a nonstick skillet until the berries were warm and the sugar was dissolved. Pressed through a sieve, this mixture created a sweet nectar that I added to real maple syrup to yield one delectable dipping sauce for my cornbread donuts. Perhaps one day I'll seek help for this addiction.... on second thought, I'll just wait for the intervention.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Case of the Incorrect Order

I looked across the table as the waitress gently slid the plate in front of my friend, and I knew immediately that I had ordered incorrectly. While my falafel was quite tasty and beautifully plated, it paled in comparison to the angular authority that was the fried polenta cake, staring at me from across the table. So simple, so elegant, and so not mine. Thanks to the generous nature of my friend, I was able to enjoy a taste of the fluffy fried wonder and bask in it's goat cheese splendor. Lighter than you would imagine, this dish was edible perfection. For a minute, I actually considered stealing her plate by using some sort of Three Stooges-esque diversion tactic. Instead, I ate my falafel, begrudgingly. When we finally had the chance to return to this restaurant, I was ready to order before we sat down. Make no mistake, I was there for the polenta. It was everything I remembered and more, this time it was all mine! Who knew polenta could be so memorable? In a hopeless effort to capture that tasty magic at home, I tried to recreate the meal. Needless to say, it was like taking a picture of a sunset... beautiful, but not quite the same.

Check out the real deal: The Cafe - 509 Southard Street - Key West, FL

My Attempt (as seen above):
4 oz goat cheese
1 C fine corn meal
3 1/2 C water
salt to taste
2 C Italian breadcrumbs

Bring salted water to a boil. Slowly add in the polenta and whisk until fully incorporated. Go slow, you don't want chunks. Once all the polenta is uniform in texture, stir in the goat cheese. Remove from heat and continue stirring until all the cheese has incorporated into the polenta. Pour warm polenta into an 8x8 baking dish, lined with plastic wrap. Top with another sheet of plastic wrap and chill until polenta sets up. (about 1 1/2 hours in fridge) Cut into triangles and toss in Italian breadcrumbs. Pan fry in olive oil until golden brown on each side. Serve with wilted spinach and cold marinara... a few pine nuts don't hurt either!