Monday, December 7, 2009

Cardamom Bread

I might christen this carda-yum bread! It's easy and delicious and it makes the kitchen both warm and wonderful-smelling! (All of these things are pluses.)

This recipe comes from the Razor Family Farms blog-- and has only slight alterations, but I'll repost it anyways...

4 c. AP flour
1/2 T. cardamom
1 1/2 T. yeast
1 1/4 c. warm milk (soy or dairy) or water or some combination-- I usually use 3/4 c. soymilk and 1/2 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. oil
1 shy t. salt
1 egg, lightly beaten

Mix flour and cardamom in a large bowl (of your mixer, if you'd like). Dissolve sugar and then yeast in warm liquid. Pour into dry stuff and mix until doughy. Add oil and mix until doughy again (and oily--it won't all absorb yet). Cover with a plate and let rest for 20 minutes.

Thoroughly knead in the salt (I use my hands, but you could use the dough hook), and extra flour as needed to achieve the right consistency. (Like most dough, it should feel like an earlobe-- warm and elastic and soft.) Oil a baking sheet. Divide dough into thirds and place far apart on the baking sheet. Cover with a damp tea towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes, or until almost doubled in bulk. (This will take many hours if your house is chilly-- try preheating the oven for just 30 seconds and letting it rise there, with the oven light on-- ideal rising temperature is around 90 degrees F.)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Roll each dough lump into a long snake and braid together. Pinch the ends together firmly and fold them under.

Brush the braid with beaten egg and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Sometimes I make two smaller braided loaves and they only take about 20 minutes. Let it rest for at least 15 minutes before you cut into it (it's torturous) for best texture later on. Enjoy!

The picture doesn't really do it justice...

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Lemon Gruyere Grits and Chili Baked Fish

I just want to say that I LOVE GRITS. Ok now that that's out of the way, I can't believe that our southern roots haven't been more exposed. Well that's going to change. Tonight I was in the mood of something creamy, savory, and all together scrumptious! Also, I had some fish that needed to be eaten. What's the best way to combine those two needs you say? Well I still don't know but I did a pretty damn good job with the following recipe. It may sound a little fishy at first but I urge you to try it. Have we ever disappointed you?

First: The Fish

Alaskan Pollok Fish is a nice, white fish with a firm texture and a flavor similar to cod. It lends itself well to just about any flavor combination and it just happen to be on sale the other day!

To prepare Fish
-Coat in butter milk
-Mix bread crumbs with some chili powder, garlic powder, and salt
-Roll fish in bread crumbs
-Bake at 350 for 20 min (maybe less if the fish is a bit thin)

Next: The Grits

-1 Cup White Corn Grits (not the instant kind, shame on you)
-4 Cups Water
-1 Cup Shredded Gruyere
-The zest of 1/2 a lemon

-In a pan combine grits and water. Simmer over medium low heat stirring occasionally. These have a tendency to stick to the bottom so be careful. The grits will slowly absorb water slowly and after about 20mins or so have a 'soupy' look to them. Take them off the heat at this point and add your cheese and lemon zest. If you've timed it right your fish is done too and all that is left is to put it all in a bowl and enjoy!

Sorry of the lack of pictures. My camera is still being held hostage by my parents. It shall return after thanksgiving.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Vegan Mexican Chocolate Pudding

Sounds a bit unappetizing, right? Well it's not. It's amazing. Zero taste of tofu, excellent texture (though admittedly more like mousse than pudding, perhaps), and amazingly rich and chocolatey. Also, super quick and easy.

Mexican Chocolate Tofu Pudding (from NY Times adapted slightly)

3/4 cup sugar

1 package silken tofu

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted (I used 1 generous cup semisweet chips and 1 oz unsweetened chocolate)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon

1/4 t. cayenne

1/2 t. orange extract

1/4 t. allspice

Heat sugar and water until dissolved. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Chill for 30 minutes or more. Eat.

Note: You need to sign up for a (free) online account with NY Times to view the original recipe.

Monday, September 21, 2009

No cHard Feelings

No pictures today because I'm tired of arguing with my (5 year-old) camera about its flash settings and what to focus on. I was potentially going to buy a super-spiffy and cheap Canon s3is from a friend of mine, but someone else got it first....drat! Meanwhile, I made a super-delicious pasta primvera-esque dinner tonight, complete with rainbow chard from the farm my sister works on! (It's not too hot to grow greens in the summer in NY state!) But it's not actually springtime, so I dub this:

Pasta Verano (Italian/Spanish meld-phrase!)

1/2 lb. pasta (I used fettuccine)
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste

2 T. mixture of canola and olive oils
1/2 onion, sliced
1 summer squash/zucchini, sliced
1 small bunch chard (rainbow or otherwise), ribbed and chopped (reserve greens separately from ribs)
1 handful fresh basil leaves, snipped
1 gorgeous tomato, chopped
2 large gloves garlic, minced
red chili flakes to taste

Saute onions, squash and chard ribs over medium-low heat until almost tender, 5-8 minutes. Add chard greens, basil, tomato, garlic and chili flakes and cover. Cook for 2-4 minutes or until greens are wilted.

Make pasta. When it's cooked drain but DO NOT RINSE. Return to pot and crack an egg over it. Stir vigorously for about 75 seconds. The egg will get frothy and then creamy-- it should not turn into little scrambled egg bits. Salt and pepper generously.

Combine veg and pasta and serve hot.

The egg-in-pasta idea came from two sources, one: Make do and make it good and the other: What Geeks Eat.

Rainbow chard in its farm life:

(photo copyright Christina Schubert, 2009)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Vanilla Custard with Cantaloupe and Basil

Over the summer I had lunch at Cafe Gutenberg in Richmond, VA. After an excellent lunch (I had some sort of sandwich as I recall) they happened to have a muskmelon-basil custard for dessert, which had won them some sort of award in a cooking competition the day before. Intrigued, we ordered it. It was amazing! As I recall, the custard itself was muskmelon-flavored, with chopped basil on it (maybe also through it, I don't quite remember). The sweetness of the custard base went well with the sunny melon flavor, and the basil added a nice twist. I recently found myself with an heirloom cantaloupe-of-some-variety and an excess of milk, so I took a stab at a version of this excellent summer dessert.

I remain fairly convinced that you cannot put the melon in with the custard while it's hot-- cooked melon doesn't sound appetizing and would do interesting things to the texture I think. So I made a simple vanilla custard, ala Southern Living, reproduced below. I should have gone a bit light on the sugar, as it turned out almost cloyingly sweet. (Luckily the basil helped cut it a bit.) It didn't set up as much as perhaps it should have, maybe because I halved the recipe and my pot may have been a bit large-- letting it boil too quickly, etc, etc.

It was 10:30PM when I decided to put the melon/basil bits together with the custard, so I simply cut a wedge of melon, spooned on some custard, and snipped some fresh basil for a generous garnish. When I have more time I will consider pureeing the melon and basil together and straining off some of the liquid (to drink, yum!) before mixing that into the custard base. Of course, that would work better if the custard were more firm to start out with-- I may just end up with chilled melon-basil-custard soup! (Of course, that sounds fabulous too...) I'll let you know what I get up to tomorrow in the way of making the three ingredients meld more. As it was, the basil chunks flavored the custard somewhat, and alternating bites of custard with bites of melon did the trick.

Half Vanilla Custard Recipe (reproduced from

1/4 cup sugar--USE LESS!
1.5 T. cornstarch
1/4 t. salt
2 egg yolks
1.5 cups milk
1 T. butter or margarine
1 t. vanilla extract

Bring first 5 ingredients to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat (about 20 minutes), whisking constantly; boil, whisking constantly, 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla. Chill two hours.

Another serving suggestion (Day Two edit):
Tonight I finely diced the cantaloupe (if you cut a wedge of melon and cross-hatch the flesh with a paring knife you can scoop the meat off the rind in neat cubes!) and the basil, and mixed those in with the custard. After all that stirring the custard had the consistency of yogurt, which was fine. The flavors blended a lot better-- in fact I'd consider doing this with the whole batch of custard and letting it sit in the fridge for a day to marry the flavors. Of course, it's not as pretty of a presentation as custard-with-orange-and-green-lumps. Suit yourself.
Also, I now want to try yogurt with basil in it, and raspberries perhaps...

Monday, September 7, 2009


It was chilly (only 75!) and overcast today, which made it perfect for stew. Goulash is Hungarian I think, and is essentially oniony, paprikay beef stew. Yum! It also happens to be very very easy to make, as all good stew should be. This is my parents' recipe (if you can even call it that), and they always make it in the pressure cooker, allowing one to go from raw to stew in about 30 minutes. I have no pressure cooker and didn't think far enough ahead to put this in the CrockPot (though you easily could), so I just made it in a pot on the stove, the old-fashioned way. The amount of this recipe is enough for 2 decently-sized portions-- two dinners or a dinner and leftovers-for-lunch!

Start with 1/2 lb stew beef (or lamb I suppose). I cut mine into smaller chunks to encourage it to cook more quickly. In two batches, brown it in a combination of canola and olive oils. You only want the meat to brown, don't worry if it's still raw in the middle. Remove from the pan and add two large handfuls of sliced onions. Brown those also, adding more oil as necessary. Deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine, then add the meat back in, along with a beef boullion cube, 3-4 T. of [mild Hungarian] paprika, 1/2 t. cayenne or hot paprika and enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until the meat is tender-- about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker, 90 minutes on the stovetop, or 4+ hours in a CrockPot. Keep an eye on it and add more water as needed. When the meat was almost tender I added about an extra half cup of water and when that reached a rolling boil, three handfuls of uncooked egg noodles. 9 minutes later I had a one-pot goulash+noodles dinner! Serve with plenty of freshly cracked black pepper. On a whim I added some fresh basil for garnish and discovered that it complements the paprika and beef flavors excellently! I plan on throwing a few more leaves in with my leftovers.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Golden Key Lime Butter Cookies for Mom's Golden Birthday

09/09/09 is the date of my mother's birthday this year. As my Aunt Debbie recently pointed out, this is her 'golden' birthday. To celebrate I thought I might make some golden butter cookies with key lime icing and send them to her. Butter cookies are some of the easiest cookies to make~they only take 5 ingredients. The following is a set by step picture guide just because I can!

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups AP flour
1 cup corn starch
1 tsp salt

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl.

Sift flour, cornstarch, and salt in and use a fork to combine.
*note: using beaters here will over work your flour and make for really tough cookies.

When things are looking well and truly combined start pulling everything together with your hands. You should end up with a crumbly but well formed ball.

Refrigerate your dough for about 20 minutes so it's nice and firm and easy to roll. Then preheat your oven to 325. Roll out your dough on a lightly floured surface and cut cookies till your hearts content.

I didn't have cookie cutters (something I have since remedied) so I used a champagne glass to get nice round cookies.

While the cookies were baking I whipped together some simple lime icing.

Icing recipe:
1/2 cup powered sugar
1 tsp key lime juice
Enough water to get whatever consistency you want

I wanted my icing to be drizzlable so I made it pretty thin

Then I put a thin layer on my cookies once they were cool.

Then I mailed the cookies to my mommy! She loved them! So go do something nice for your mommy, you'll be glad you did.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cuminy Tofu Stirfry

Tonight's meal is brought to you by both Epicurious and What Geeks Eat. I was wandering around on the internet last night and found What Geeks Eat for the first time, and really enjoyed both the recipes and the quite excellent photos. As soon as I buy more yeast I intend to make her cinnamon rolls and maybe the snickerdoodles too. Yum... Anyways, what inspired me was her marinated, pan-fried tofu recipe. I didn't reference her recipe at all as I was going, but I did remember one very important thing she said, which is to leave the tofu alone. Yes, it's in a pan on medium heat and anything else that size would be burnt to a crisp after 8-10 minutes per side, but just leave it. Don't push it around, and don't peek until at least 8 minutes have gone by. The cumin part of the stir fry is a hold over from when I made "cumin-scented stir-fried beef with celery" a few months ago. I had never considered putting cumin in a stir fry, but it is simply fabulous. Especially if there are mushrooms involved, because they soak up the flavor like nothing else and mmmmmm. I just love the way cumin smells, and tragically the whole house now smells like it! As with all stirfries, use whatever veggies you've got-- I happenned to have green beans, onions, and portabellas. Mushrooms are highly recommended. Anyways, on to my approximate recipe:

1 large splash vinegar (apple cider or white are fine)
1 large splash soy sauce
1/2" ginger knob, microplaned or otherwise liquefied
1/2" t. cumin

Combine ingredients in a shallow dish or ziploc bag. Lay in 1/2 block extra-firm tofu, sliced into 1/2" slabs and patted dry with paper towels. Allow to marinate for about an hour, turning a few times. When you take the tofu out to cook it, reserve the marinade that didn't absorb.

Start water for noodles (I had soba on hand so I had to boil them, not just soak) or rice.

Heat a few generous tablespoons of canola oil in a skillet to medium, then lay in the tofu slabs and leave them be for 8 minutes. Really. They are browning very, very slowly. When they reach a nice deep golden brown, flip them and be patient with the other side too.

Then remove to a plate (perhaps in a warm oven) and cook up:

1 small onion, sliced
1 large handful green beans, snapped
1 large handful sliced portabella mushrooms (about 2 caps)

In the same skillet and remaining oil, cook onions on medium for 2-3 minutes. Add beans and mushrooms and saute for 2-3 minutes longer. Then add:

1-2 t. ground cumin
1/2 T. vinegar
1 T. soy sauce
1/2" ginger knob, microplaned
1-2 cloves garlic, microplaned
1 t. hot pepper flakes
2 T. water
plus the leftover marinade

Allow veggies to simmer in the sauce for 5 minutes or so, or until they are tender. At this point you can thicken any remaining sauce (mix one forkful cornstarch into about 1/4 c. water until smooth, then pour into sauce will stirring) or leave it be. Plate over rice or noodles, with a tofu slab on top.

I have now officially returned from my "I'm too lazy and it's too hot to cook" hiatus!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

"Julie and Julia" mini-review

I saw "Julie and Julia" on Sunday and really enjoyed it. Briefly, it follows Julia Child's stint in Paris at Le Cordon Bleu and her writing of "The Art of French Cooking" as well as blogger Julie Powell in present-day NYC as she cooks every recipe from Child's cookbook. Although I had not seen any actual footage of Julia Child previously, I found Meryl Streep to be an excellent Julia-- a bit eccentric and very sweet. And Julie reminded me a bit of myself (yeah, I know, she's supposed to). She comes through as a real person complete with the boring and upsetting parts of her life. Let's just say that I too have had a breakdown over a ruined creation-- most recently a batch of molasses ginger cookies that I mis-read the measures for. The food in the movie looks good enough to eat, as it should, and I simply loved the outfits and hats of the 1950s in Julia's scenes. Aside from the poking of a microphone in the corner of two scenes (tacky, but oh well), it was very well-done and believable on both ends of the story. So, if you haven't seen it yet-- try to do so before it leaves theatres everywhere. But do make sure you go grocery shopping before you go; you'll want a stocked pantry at your creative disposal when you come home!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Extended Hiatus...Ending Soon!

Sorry about the lack of posts recently, all you millions and millions of readers. (Ha.) I've just moved cities and it's been ridiculously hot recently, so I've been eating eggs for dinner and smoothies for lunch. I'll post again soon, I promise! Megan's been having computer issues ALL SUMMER, so that's her excuse. But she does have a gorgeous new camera, so hopefully she will grace us with its pictures soon!

Also, I saw the movie "Julie and Julia" yesterday, and aside from some technical difficulties at the theatre it was a wonderful movie. Mini film-review to follow in a few days...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Party Prep Day 2!

Okay, so this is a few weeks late. I was packing, sorry. Without further ado, the Stout Cake with mocha frosting! Frosting recipe will be posted soon.

Layer one, ready to go.

Frosting, ready to go.

Ready, set, frost!

My great-grandmother's famous brownie recipe is essentially brownies with fudge-frosting. Three sticks of butter were harmed in the making of this dish. I'm not sure if I'm at liberty to disclose the recipe...

And, the best part: DISHES! I think we did nothing but bake (i.e. dirty dishes) and wash dishes for two whole days. But it was worth it. I'll post the picture of the whole dessert spread once I get it from my uncle.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Chocolate Dessert Party Prep, Day 1

My parents are having a chocolate party for their 50th birthdays, and the menu is: chocolate linzer torte, sacher torte, my great-grandmother's brownies, stout cake with mocha frosting, sugar-free chocolate mousse, angel food cake with ganache, and chocolate cheesecake. We made the two tortes and the angel food cake and the cheesecake today because all of those things will improve over the two days between now and the party. The linzer torte and cheesecake are family classics and the angel food cake was a mix (give us a break here, it's seven desserts!) but the sacher torte is a new recipe, courtesy of Epicurious: Tomorrow we're making the rest; I'll post pictures and recipes from those as well.

I'm not going to type up the recipes right now because they're all long and detailed (but not terribly difficult, actually), but I will try to scan them to post later, or just type them when I'm not so tired. (Remind me.)

To entertain you in the meantime, pictures of the linzer torte's construction:
(about to fold the chocolate into the meringue to make, you guessed it, chocolate meringue)

And, completed:

The sacher torte was kindof a pain in the butt to assemble because it bakes in one layer which then has to be split into two layers. Then it gets apricot glaze, which has to soak in for a while, and then chocolate glaze, which is essentially a thin layer of very dark fudge. (But stickier.) And then you have to move it, before the chocolate sets.

Step 1: Split.

Step 2: Apricot glaze between layers and on top.

Step 3: (An hour later) Chocolate glaze.

Step 4: Move to clean doily (it takes four hands). I have a pretty picture of the completed torte, but Blogger keeps rotating it for no obvious reason. I'll mess with that and post it later.

On to the cheesecake! I only took one picture of the in-process because it's pretty much just "Throw everything in the kitchen-aid":

I'll take a picture of the cooked cake tomorrow; I forgot to do that today. It's cracked like the Grand Canyon, but it smells wonderful. (Besides, that's how you know it's homemade, right?)

In other news, my diploma finally arrived!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sweet Potato Cupcakes!

Something had to be done with the sweet potatoes trying to grow out of a paper bag. There were probably 4 or 5 pounds of them, but by the time I cut off the dried-out and growing bits, I had just a bit over a pound, perfect for sweet potato cupcakes! I'd never made this recipe before, but it turned out to be delicious! Imagine a cross between zucchini bread and carrot cake-- not too sweet, but very moist and tender. The pictures I took turned out better than usual, so I'm posting a bunch. The recipe for both the cake and the frosting comes from the Whitegrass Cookbook, from the kitchen/cafe of a fabulous cross-country skiing place in West Virginia. (website here: ) My family doesn't like super sweet frosting, so I always halve the sugar in this recipe. They're good without frosting too! So, here goes:

Whitegrass Sweet Potato Cake
1 c. vegetable oil
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. AP flour
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. allspice
1 lb (4 cups) sweet potatoes, peeled and grated

Blend oil and sugar. Add eggs,
one at a time, beating after each addition.

Combine dry ingredients and
mix with egg mixture.

Add grated sweet potatoes and mix well.

Pour batter into two 9" round or one 13x9x2" pans. (Or 18 muffin tins.) Bake at 350F for 40-50 minutes for cake, 15-20 for cupcakes. Cool for 10 minutes in pan(s), then fully on racks. Sample. Frost. Sample again. Share.

Whitegrass Cream Cheese Frosting, half-sweet version
2 T. butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. confectioners sugar (about 1.5 cups)
1 t. vanilla
1 t. grated orange peel (or a few drops of orange extract)

Beat butter and cream cheese. Add all other ingredients and beat until smooth.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Summer Soups (for Riley), or How to Not Neglect Your Blender

Riley has a lot of tomatoes. To solve such a delicious predicament, I recommend immediate application of gazpacho. And just for kicks (and because it's peach/cantaloupe season), I recommend further application of Peach-Cantaloupe soup for dessert (though perhaps not in the same day; that's a lot of pureed fruit). I've made each of these a few times, but not yet this season-- I'll post pictures when I do. The gazpacho recipe gets its basics from a recipe my Mom has (of unclear origins), but it's been altered over time and generally proceeds in an "Eh, that looks like enough X" fashion. I've tried to be a bit more useful than that here, but it's a really forgiving recipe so don't stress if you don't have exactly enough of any ingredient. The Peach-Cantaloupe soup comes directly from "The Enchanted Broccoli Forest," which is a wonderful cookbook by Mollie Katzen (of Moosewood). She has delicious ways to prepare all sorts of fresh veggies and fruits, as well as a chapter on bread which is both inspiring and easy-to-follow. Onwards and soupwards...

Gazpacho for Riley
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 medium onion or a handful of green onions, diced
3 c. tomato juice*
2 large tomatoes, peeled** and chopped
1 bell pepper or 2 poblanos, chopped
1 jalapeno, diced (or a dash of hot sauce)
3 cloves garlic, crushed
two splashes vinegar (apple cider is good, or whatever you've got)
two heavy drizzles of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

*If you're feeling particularly inundated with tomatoes, make juice out of them yourself instead of buying canned. Peel (see below), halve or quarter, scoop seeds out, and blend.

**To peel tomatoes (easily): bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add tomatoes and simmer for 60 seconds. Dunk in ice water. The skins should slip right off; if not then boil them for a few more seconds. (This also works for peaches/plums!)

Blend half of cucumber, half of onion, half of bell pepper, jalapeno, garlic, tomato juice, and oil/vinegar (in batches as necessary). Add to remaining ingredients. Chill at least 2 hours. Slurp up. Really good with rosemary sourdough bread and fresh mozzarella or more olive oil. It looks pinkish when you first make it (see photo) because the tomatoes get frothy, but regains a rich red color after chilling.

Peach Cantaloupe Soup (credit: Mollie Katzen, with minimal alterations)
6 medium ripe peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced (see above for peeling tip)
1/4 c. dry white wine
6 T. lemon juice (from one juicy lemon)
1 T. honey
1/4 t. cinnamon (MORE!)
dash of nutmeg (make it two)
1 medium-sized ripe cantaloupe (5" diameter or so), seeded and diced
1 c. OJ

Place all but cantaloupe and OJ in a heavy saucepan. Heat to a boil and then simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Puree peach mixture with 3/4 of the cantaloupe and OJ until smooth. Pour into serving bowl. Add remaining cantaloupe chunks and chill for 2 hours. Garnish with fresh blueberries and mint. And whipped cream if you're feeling adventurous.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coconut-Anything Ice Cream

(photo credit: Christina)

This is actually from a few weeks ago, but that's okay. It is the easiest ice cream I've ever EVER made-- three ingredients only! I have the ice cream attachment for my stand mixer, which makes it even more ridiculously easy if the bowl is pre-frozen. For best (and quickest) results, either chill the ingredients separately before mixing or chill the mix itself before churning. Any fruit could be substituted for the peaches; it takes about a cup of mashed/pureed fruit to get decent flavor. The peach-coconut combination is dynamite, but pineapple would be good too, or papaya or maybe even pear. Now, without further ado...

Chill and mix (or vice-versa) 2 cans coconut milk (NOT lite), 2 pitted and mashed peaches, and 1/2 c. sugar. Pour into ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's directions. Garnish with fresh fruit (more blackberries, anyone?) and mint. EAT!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Laura's jambalaya!

My friend Laura is amazing, and lives in Atlanta, and I think she's a bit bored recently. She emailed me her jambalaya recipe and, well, it looks delicious! Here it is...

Laura's Jambalaya (word-for-word from her email)


  • 1 large pepper (any kind, green makes it look prettier)
  • 1 small onion
  • Okra (optional/seasonal)
  • 14 oz. can tomatoes (don’t drain) or equivalent amount of fresh
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups rice
  • 2 cups water
  • Meat (see discussion below)
  • 2 - 3 T oil
  • Garlic (at least 2 cloves)
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Tabasco sauce (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Basil, oregano, rosemary as the spirit moves you
  • Salt and pepper to taste (if using canned broth, no salt is necessary)


In large pot, sauté pepper, onion and garlic until cooked a bit in oil (whatever kind you want).

Add rice, stirring until it is coated in oil (this will prevent sticking – more oil may be necessary but if you use a greasy meat it isn’t).

Add tomatoes, broth, water, PRE-cooked meat and spices.

Raise to a boil then simmer (covered) for about 30 minutes or until the rice is cooked. Be sure not to eat the bay leaf!


I usually use ½ a ring of Polish kielbasa and a chicken breast or two. You can use Italian sausage or shrimp as well. Kielbasa is pre-cooked and therefore easy to add. For shrimp, it would be advisable to add it towards the end though you may want to look up proper instructions. Shrimp is too classy for me. (My note: Add shrimp when the water is all-but absorbed; they need to steam/cook for about 4 minutes. And yes, I had to look it up too.)

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

We be jammin'

Blackberries and strawberries and peaches, oh my! We made strawberry jam about six weeks ago (after picking 27 lbs that morning we needed to do something with them!) and with the recent influx of blackberries it was time to bring out the jars and make blackberry jam too! At the same time Mom and I made more strawberry jam-- we'd measured out and frozen 4 cups of mashed berries exactly for that purpose. Making jam (and canning in general) is really not as scary as you may have been led to believe and it only requires a few things you might not already have.

  • canning jars (use jars made specifically for canning, such as Ball or Mason jars) and two-part lids (consisting of one-time use flat lids and reusable rings)
  • a pot large enough for your jars to stand up in with an inch of water covering them
Optional but very useful:
  • a canning funnel (or other wide-mouth funnel)
  • jar-grabber tongs
  • an assistant
The jars, lids and canning funnel and pectin (more on that later) can be found at a grocery or healthfood store or your neighborhood hardware store.

A great resource for home canning is here:

Now, onto jam specifically:
Before you start, put on Bob Marley. Then sterilize your jars (boil for 10 minutes or as manufacturer indicates) and prepare the lids according to the manufacturer's directions. The actual jamming process depends on your recipe, which depends on your sugar preferences. If you want to make old-fashioned strawberry jam, here's a classic recipe:

4 c. mashed berries
4 c. sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice
  1. Mix all ingredients together and cook and cook and cook(stirring constantly all the while) until it reaches 220 F.
  2. Fill jars (4-5 half-pint jars or 2 pint jars), leaving 1/4 inch headspace.
  3. Place lids on and screw down bands to finger-tight.
  4. Process (boil) jars in large pot for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove jars and let cool. Lids will suck down (you'll hear them pop) as they cool. Any jars that don't seal should be used immediately. (Try it on ice cream!)
That makes excellent jam, but it's super sweet. For a less-sweet version, you'll need to buy some pectin, at which point you scrap the above recipe and follow the package instructions. Steps 2 through 5 are standard for most recipes, but do check.

For the blackberry and strawberry jams we made today we used "Pomona's Universal Pectin," which worked wonderfully. The two great things about this pectin are that you only have to cook the fruit for about 5 minutes total and you can use as little as 3/4 c. of sugar. For something like strawberries, that was just perfect-- the jam is plenty sweet and very fruity. For the blackberries we used more sugar, about 1 and 1/2 cups.

To illustrate the steps:
Step 1: Boil berries with sweetener as per recipe.

Steps 2-3: Fill jars and screw lids on. (The canning funnel makes this a lot easier.)

Step 4: Boil.

Step 5: Let cool. (Strawberry jam is in the front jars, blackberry in the back.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Watermelon Agua Fresca

Once again the internet had a very timely idea-- Tuesday's NY Times Dining Section had a recipe for Watermelon or Canteloupe Agua Fresca and there was most of a watermelon simply languishing in the fridge. In my usual fashion I proceeded to throw the recommended proportions out the proverbial window, and this is what resulted:

Mom gave it a "Lovely!" on presentation and a "Delicious!" on taste.

(Oh, by the way, I'm not in Carrboro-- I'm recovering from wisdom teeth removal. Hence the yellow-house backdrop here.)

In a large blender (or multiple batches), combine:
7 cups of diced watermelon
2 cups water
1 T. granulated fructose (or about 1.5 T. sugar)
2 T. lime juice

Blend until smooth. Strain into a large pitcher to remove seeds. (I think the NY Times people used a finer strainer than I did, but I like the pulp-- suit yourself.) Sample and adjust lime and sugar. Refrigerate. Stir before pouring, as the pulp rises to the top. Garnish glasses with a sprig of mint.

Optionally, experiment with adding rum, and let me know how it goes!

Enjoy a glass on a lazy summer afternoon for a break from those tiresome mint juleps. :-)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ooie-Gooie Vegan Chocolate Stout Cake?!?

Yes you read the title right. This cake is not only chocolaty but also just happens to be vegan and contain beer. The beer is the secret to the oh so wonderful ooie-gooie factor. This has very quickly become my favorite chocolate cake recipe. It's easy, fun, involves some interesting chemistry (my favorite part) and it's unlike any cake I've ever tasted. It's incredibly moist and rich and the beer really only serves to enhance the chocolate flavor. There is a certain element of experimentation with this recipe, I think the flavor could be greatly changed depending on the kind of beer you used. I would love to make one with a Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout but honestly it'd be a waist of a really good stout, I think you are better off just drinking that one ;) Enough chit chat, lets get down to business shall we?

Recipe(makes two 9'' round cakes, three 8'' round cakes, one 9x13 pan or more cupcakes than I care to count)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose or pastry flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used dutch process but regular is fine too)
1 tsp. salt
One 12-oz. of any stout of your choosing

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, combine oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
3. In a separate, larger bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt.
4. With a spoon, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour oil mixture into the well. Fold together with spatula until just combined. Pour the beer and water over the mixture. Beat well with an electric mixer on low speed. The batter will be very runny, don't worry, it's supposed to be.
5. Fill desired cake pan almost completely to the top. These cakes don't rise hardly at all so you can fill the cake pans quite full. Two round cake pans take about 45mins to bake but the rule of cake applies as always, stick a toothpick in it and take the cake out when it comes out clean.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Preciously Perfect Pound Cake!

As we all know it's strawberry season and in my humble opinion, good strawberries require good pound cake. And really, on the last day of exams, what could be better?

Now as far as cakes go, pound cake is one of the easiest, it doesn't even have to be frosted, just topped with fresh whipped cream. The following is the recipe I used, sorry there aren't more pictures, it was just too tasty not to break into right out of the oven!

One cake requires:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups All Purpose flour (cake flour works too)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

1.Do not preheat oven! This cake goes into a cold oven because it needs to come to temperature gradually or it doesn't cook evenly.

2.Oil and flour a 9 inch bread pan.

3. Mix flour and salt in a small bowl and set aside.

4.Mix cream, vanilla and almond extract together and set aside.

5.In a larger bowl, using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.

6.Add eggs and yolk one at a time, fully incorporating one before adding the next.

7.Add flour mix in three parts alternating with cream mix, start and end with flour. (progression should be 1/3flour mix->1/2 cream mix->1/3 flour mix->1/2 cream mix->1/3 flour mix) Be careful not to over beat but make sure everything is well mixed

8.Pour mixture into baking pan smoothing out the top with a spatula.

9.Put pan in oven and turn on to 350F

10.Bake for 1 hour, take out and let cool 5 mins in pan before transferring it to a cooling wrack.

11.Enjoy with strawberries and fresh whipped cream!!!