Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread JB Style (White Chocolate, Cranberry, Grand Marnier Amish Friendship Bread)

I had a friend at work give me an Amish Friendship Bread starter a little while ago. I was so excited, I'd never received a starter before. I fed it and mushed it and made it my own. Here is what I did.

But, first, before I get to the recipe, I have a question. Why do some men put all of their baseball caps in the back window of their cars? I can't tell you how many times I have driven down the street behind a car with a back window completely bedazzled with baseball caps, at least ten or so...all lined up...getting completely subleached in the back of the car. What is the thought process behind this? When I buy a hat, I buy it so I can wear it, not throw it in the back of my car? Does anyone have a father, brother, uncle who does this? Please explain.

Day 1: Receive starter
Day 2-5: Mush the bag
Day 6: Add 1 cup each, four, sugar, milk. (I added 1/3 cup of each because I didn't want four starters from this bag - I only wanted one to keep going)
Day 7-9: Mush the bag
Day 10: MAKE BREAD! Add 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar and 1 cup milk. Stir. Take out 3 cups and place 1 cup each into three separate plastic containers. Give one cup and a copy of this recipe to three friends. (I didn't want to make 3 starters, I only wanted 1, so I added 1/3 cup of everything which yielded 1 cup starter and 1 cup of batter for bread making.) To the balance (a little over one cup) of the batter, add the following ingredients and mix well.

1 cup oil
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In a separate bowl combine the following dry ingredients and mix well:

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 - (5.1 oz) box instant vanilla pudding
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup nuts

(I wanted to give you the original recipe in case you wanted it, but this is how I made it.)

3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup Grand Marnier
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In a separate bowl combine the following dry ingredients and mix well:

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt
1 cup frozen whole cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
grated zest of one orange.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix and pour into two well greased and sugared bread pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Rating = So Damn Good

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wild Mushroom Risotto | Martha Stewart

Ok. You know what I didn't need to hear first thing when I came into the office this morning. I didn't need to hear that your 4 month old has learned to make "big boy" poops in his diaper. Nor did I need to know that you won't let your mother-in-law take your 4 month old to the mall because once she lost her keys at the mall, and you think she'll lose your living breathing offspring if she takes him to the mall.

Listen, we all know I don't want to have kids, but that doesn't stop me from being able to appreciate the little things that happen with my friends and their children, but this girl is crazy. Do I really need to know about the change in texture, color and smell of your kids shits...really?

Onto more pleasant and better smelling things, I had recently bought some dried porcini mushrooms. I have never worked with dried mushrooms before, so I was very curious and excited to try them. I made a Martha Stewart risotto recipe calling for fresh and dried mushrooms. The recipe was good, but honestly I thought it lacked a little somethin', which my friend and I decided could have been rosemary or another strong herb...possibly thyme. So, I post this recipe with hesitation, only because alone it wasn't Damn Good, it was only Good...with the addition of herbs it may have been better.

Wild Mushroom Risotto | Martha

6 cups vegetable stock (she used chicken, i substituted vegetable)
1/4 oz dried porcini mushrooms
9 oz assorted fresh mushrooms
7 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped shallots
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4-6 tbs butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat stock in pan over medium heat. Add dried mushrooms; cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon; chop finely. Keep stock at a simmer over medium heat.

2.Remove stems from fresh mushrooms; chop finely. Slice caps 1/4 inch thick. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add mushroom caps; cook, stirring occasionally, until golden and soft, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl. To pan, add remaining 6 tablespoons oil, mushroom stems, and shallots. Cook, stirring, until translucent. Add rice; cook, stirring, until rice begins to sound like glass beads, 3 to 4 minutes.

3. Add wine. Cook, stirring, until wine is absorbed by rice. Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup hot stock to rice. Using a wooden spoon, stir rice constantly, at a moderate speed. When rice has absorbed most but not all of liquid and mixture is just thick enough to leave a clear wake behind the spoon when stirring, add another 3/4 cup stock. 

4. Continue adding stock in this manner, stirring constantly, until rice is mostly translucent but still opaque in center. Continue cooking until rice is al dente, but not crunchy. As rice nears doneness, watch carefully; add smaller amounts of liquid. The mixture should be thick enough that grains are suspended in liquid the consistency of heavy cream. The risotto will thicken slightly when removed from heat. 

5. Add dried mushrooms and mushroom caps; warm over low heat. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Divide among four bowls; grate Parmesan over risotto. Serve immediately.

Rating = Good  

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Guinness Chocolate Cake with Irish Cream Cheese Frosting

Here is this years alcohol dessert. Guinness Chocolate Cake with Irish Cream Cheese Frosting. It didn't stand a chance at the Irish Cousins party on Friday. It was the first thing to go, before the dip, before the quiche, before the salad, before the cookies, before everything. It was the main attraction. I've been asked to make it again for parties this weekend for Christmas. One thing I will change, although the idea of the two cake pans and the frosting is to make it look like a Guinness Stout in a glass, dark on the bottom with a creamy frothy just works better if you use one pan that is big enough to cook the whole batter in. I will either use a Bundt pan, or a larger round cake pan that can hold all the batter. But either way, I will be making this cake again, and again. I don't think I'm not allowed to make it now. It was originally a Nigella Lawson recipe, but her's just called for Cream Cheese frosting, I found a recipe on line that adapted hers and added the Bailey's Irish Cream to the frosting. This is the recipe that I used from a blog called Closet Cooking, which is a really fun blog.

Chocolate Stout Cake

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup stout (such as Guinness)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sour cream

1. Melt the butter in a sauce pan, remove from heat and let cool a bit.
2. Mix in the stout and cocoa powder.
3. Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
4. Mix the eggs and sour cream in another large bowl.
5. Mix the stout mixture into the egg mixture.
6. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet.
7. Pour the batter into one or two greased and parchment lined circular cake pan(s).
8. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean. If you bake it in a single pan then it should take about 40-50 minutes. If you bake it in two cake pans then it should take about 20-30 minutes.

Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting

4 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons of Bailey’s Irish cream

1. Mix everything.

On another note, I saw a person driving a Vespa to work this morning. It's twenty fucking one degrees outside you crazy bastard.

Rating = So God Damn Good

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Mediterranean Apricot and Date Chutney

I love dates and I love dried apricots, but dried apricots give me gas so I try to limit my intake to one a day, chopped up to top my yogurt and granola. But, when I saw this recipe I knew I had to throw caution to the wind...ha, get it wind...

The recipe says to serve this chutney with tangines (Moroccan stews), but I've just been putting it on crusty bread with a little bit of melted brie. Yum.

Mediterranean Apricot and Date Chutney
makes about twelve 8-oz jars.

2 lbs dried apricots
3 cups lightly packed brown sugar
2 1/2 cups chopped pitted dates
2 1/2 cups raisins
2 cups white wine vinegar
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground coriander

1. In a large bowl, combine apricots with water to cover. Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain, chop and place in a large stainless steel saucepan. Add 2 cups water, brown sugar, dates, raisins, vinegar, mustard seeds, salt, ginger and coriander. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until thick enough to mound on a spoon, about 20 minutes.

2. Prepare canner jars and lids while ingredients are boiling.

3.  Ladle chutney into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot chutney. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to finger tip tight.

4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove the jars, cool and store.

Rating = So Damn Good

Monday, December 07, 2009

Rosemary No Knead Crust Bread

Remember this post Here? Well. When you add about 1/8 cup of chopped fresh rosemary to the flour before you add the yeast, salt and water it makes the bread even better. So awesome, and while it is baking it will fill your house with the delicious aroma of fresh bread and rosemary together. Take this bread, cut it into little slices, then top it with a creamy brie and a sundried tomato packed in oil and you've got yourself a crowd pleasing freaking good.

On a side note Hallie and I went to see the 3D Imax showing of A Christmas Carol. So good, the effects were amazing, the story true to the original (enough) and just a fantastic way to spend an hour and a half. And, if you go to the IMAX in Reading, all the seats in the theatre are Temperpedic seats, and oh so very comfortable. The only thing I didn't like about this version of the story was the Ghost of Christmas Past, honestly the voice freaked me out a little, like a person who might hang around a school or a bus stop a little too much, get my drift.

So, what's your favorite Christmas movie or show?
And, he slackers, where are my alcohol laced dessert recipes?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Cranberry Rosemary Goat Cheese Log

Look, I'm just going to say it. I cannot poop if someone is in the stall next to me. I can't do it. I'm not embarrassed that I poop, I even tell people how much I poop (two times today if you must know) but when it comes to pooping at work I just can't do it if someone is in the bathroom with me. I can't tell you how many times I've gone into the women's bathroom, looked under all the stall doors, given myself the "all clear" gotten settled in the stall and then had someone come into the bathroom. And, it's never someone who is quick in the bathroom, its someone who sits on the toilet, literally drips dry before they wipe, has an ensemble that needs five minutes to get tucked back in, sings the happy birthday song while washing their hands (have to kill all those germs especially during flu season) then proceeds to pick their teeth or do all manners of personal sprucing, meanwhile I'm pushing back a freaking turtle head. Why is it that it always happens like this. When I go to the bathroom and the person in the stall next to me is obviously having a moment and waiting for my exit, I speedy the hell up and get out of dodge so they can finish their business. Why is this not a known courtesy?

Speaking of logs, Trader Joe's is selling these great goat cheese logs rolled in dried cranberries. The log is fine the way it is, but we've had such a mild fall that my rosemary plant is still going gangbusters so when I was asked to bring an appetizer to my friends house I bought the log and then took the fresh rosemary and chopped it up then rolled the log in the fresh cut rosemary. This was a huge hit. It looks so great at this time of year with the green and white. Just a quick appetizer if you need one for an upcoming event. I served it with Melba toasts, and there was not one morsel left at the end of the night.

Rating = Damn Good

Monday, November 30, 2009

Skillet Thai Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Tofu | ATK

Sometimes the best dishes just do not translate into images, or at least not into my images, this is one of those dishes, absolutely delicious, the picture just does not do it justice. I even screwed up the recipe a little and it still came out great.
So, tis the season for RUM CAKES. Last year I asked for your recipes and you didn't dissapoint, (remember this tasty gem, and this thanks to Brenna and AM) this year I ask again, "Give me your alcohol laden cake recipes", it doesn't have to be rum, it can be any alcohol...bring em on and I'll pick one and make it for my upcoming parties and blog all about it.

Skillet Thai Curry with Sweet Potatoes and Tofu
serves 4 to 6
14 ounces extra firm tofu
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp red curry paste
1 (14oz) can coconut milk 
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 tsp light brown sugar
1/4 cup water
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1.5 pounds), peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 medium red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch strips
1/2 pound snow peas, strings removed
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
1 tbsp lime juice

1. Slice the tofu into 1/4-inch planks. Lay the planks on a clean kitchen towel. Lightly press the tofu until its surface is dry. Unwrap and cut it into 3/4 inch cubes.

2. Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium high heat until simmering. Add the tofu in a single layer and cook until golden brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Gently stir the tofu and cook until a second side is olden brown, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

3. Add the remaining tbsp oil to the skillet and return to medium heat until simmering. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring constantly until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Whisk in the coconut milk fish sauce, light brown sugar, and water. Add the sweet potatoes and tofu; bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low, cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Add the red bell pepper and snow peas, increase the heat to medium-low, and continue to cook, covered until the peas are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the basil and lime juice. Serve with salt to taste. I served over white rice.

Rating = So Damn Good

Friday, November 27, 2009

Autumn Cranberry Pear Jam

The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade has really gone down hill. That's all I'm saying about that.

I slept in this morning, until 8:15, which was very late considering I'm usually up at 5. I came downstairs and exclaimed to Chris that I was ready to "bust some doors". However off this statement may sound, it's not wrong considering that the door buster hours at Kohls were from 4-1 and then from 3-close, so the only hours that were not technically "door busters" were from 1-3. I think they should have come up with a better name than door buster.

I really do hope that this years black friday proves to be busier than last year...I hope that there is glimmers that this holiday will be easier and merrier for more families than it was last year. I plan on a little cyber Monday action too, I hope that proves more fruitful for the economy, I'm so sick and tired of the doom and gloom of the economy and think we "need a little Christmas, right this very minute." We're getting our tree on Sunday, I can't wait.

The big work craft fair is this Thursday and I'm just about ready. This is one of the jams that I will be selling, delicious Autumn Cranberry Pear Jam. This one is one of Chris' favorites of all the stuff that I have made. 

Autumn Cranberry Pear Jam
makes about six 8 oz jars

3 cups crushed cored peeled pears
2/3 cup coarsely chopped dried cranberries
1/4 cup unsweetened apple juice
1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
5 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pouch (3 oz) liquid pectin

1. Prepare canner jars and lids

2.  In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan combine pears, cranberries, apple juice, lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. Over high heat, stirring constantly, bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Stir in pectin. Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam. 

3. Ladle hot jam into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot jam. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip tight.

4. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

Rating = So Damn Good

Monday, November 23, 2009

Can You Can Can?

So..I've been doing a little canning. Something you may or may not know about me is that when I get stressed, I sometimes get a little obsessive with things in order to take my mind off of whatever is stressing me out. So, through my fathers hospice stay and passing, I canned. To date, this is what I have made

Autumn Glory Compote (Sugar Pumpkin, Pineapple, Golden Raisins)

Jalepeno Gold Jelly (Jalapeno, Red Onion, Red Pepper, Green Pepper)

Kiwi Jam (Kiwi, Lime Juice)

White Wine and Rosemary 

Carrot Cake Jam (Carrot, Pear, Pineapple, Clove, Nutmeg, Cinnamon) OH MY! 

Zucchini Relish

Apricot and Jalapeno Jam (So Damn Good)

Pear and Cranberry (seems to be the crowd favorite)

Apricot and Date Chutney (very very very very good)

Wednesday morning I will also be making Cranberry Chutney for Thanksgiving.

The good thing about all this is my company is having a craft fair next Thursday and I can sell all this stuff. Hopefully people like it and buy it and I can get the seven hundred jars of jelly off of my kitchen counter top.

I'll post the pear and cranberry jelly recipe tomorrow. Its a great fall Jelly, CB had it with peanut butter for his lunch today.

If you are interested in buying any of these as hostess gifts before they go on sale at my company craft fair next week let me know. I assume that I will probably sell out that day.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Walnut Pesto

I know...I take my sweet ass time getting back to you and all you get is condiment for crying out loud. I'm working on it people. And, I won't lie, this pesto is pretty damn good. Just before the first frost my basil plant finally decided to show up in the garden. I got enough basil leaves to make 16 ounces of pesto, 8 ounces of regular pesto and then 8 oz of this more hearty earthy walnut pesto. I got this recipe from another blogger, that I hadn't read before and I absolutely love the name of her blog...Kiss My Spatula. Here is a link to the recipe on her website.

I've got a confession. I've been listening to Christmas music on Pandora all week. Yes, I'm one of those people who will go into a department store in October and cry foul over all the Christmas trees, decorations, etc., and then get in the car and blast my Swinging Christmas cd all the way home. I'm even going to make gingerbread biscotti this weekend, so take that.

Tis the season...

Monday, November 02, 2009

I'm Back Bitches!

There is nothing the body suffers that the soul may not profit by.
--- George Meredith.

These past two weeks have been confusing and heart breaking and amazingly beautiful all at the same time. I don't know why life takes the turns that it does and how invisible hands lead you down paths that you never knew existed. But what I do know is that there is a lesson in all of this...there has to be, and I know that it will not reveal itself all at once, it will unfold little by little over time. But what I do know is this; tomorrow is not promised to you, do not take for granted that you will have the chance to tell people you are sorry or that you love them or that more bluntly put, that you fucked up.

I watched as a disease that my father fully brought upon himself robbed him of his ability to speak, his ability to move, his ability to verbalize his final thoughts, his eyes had to speak for him...I'll never know if I read them correctly. He thought he had more time, but the disease moved so rapidly through his body, systematically shutting down his faculties, rendering him mute and unable to move, trapped with all his unsaid final thoughts. This is the heart breaking part, the part that will forever cause an ache at the bottom of my heart. He had more to say...yes, it shouldn't have taken him 33 years to say it, but he had more to say damn it.

Do yourself a favor...

Tomorrow set your alarm for a few minutes earlier than normal, take two minutes to wrap your arms around your husband or wife, put your head on their chest, listen to their heart, be grateful for what you have, tell them you love them.

Be a good friend. I can't thank my friends enough for all their kinds words, for sending me letters, for checking in on me, for coming to my fathers wake, for sending me wine. Thank You.

Realize that you can't change the past, but damn it you have a hand in the future. Make a better future for yourself.

Help someone who needs it. A lot of people just need a little help.

Be Good.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Until further notice...

I hate to write this just sucks...where I'm at right now.

I have spent the better part of two days at a hospice center - trying to say goodbye to a father I never knew.

Never in a million years would I have pictured myself at the deathbed of a father who was absent my entire life.
Never would I have thought that when this day came I would be filled with so many emotions, least of all sadness.

But I am sad, and frustrated and angry at how life can switch gears on you so quickly that you feel your legs will give out from under you if you move just the slightest inch. I'm walking a fine line between all my emotions right now.

I will be back...when I am back to being myself...I'm trying to find her right now.

I will be back as soon as I can.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Five Years...Amazing

What do you say? What do you say when it just gets better and better....every year, every day. I love you more than I could ever put into words. I love you in my bones, in my breathe in the beat of my heart. I had no idea that a persons capacity for love could grow so much beyond the bliss of "I Do". I didn't know it was possible, but I love you more today than I did then, and I'll love you more tomorrow. I know that whatever happens you are there, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad. You are my foundation, the base upon which all the good things in my life flourish. You make me so unbelievably happy. Thank you Chris, for sharing this life with me.

Happy 5th Anniversary!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Week in Napa...

I just spent a week in Napa, I'm taking a nap, and then I'm off again for a business trip for the week. I'll be blogging my experience this weekend. See you then.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Salsa Fresca

Did I mention I have a shit ton of tomatoes?

I did right. I have so many of them that they are falling off the vines to the ground and I'm just leaving them there. This is so sad. CB has been averaging about a tomato a day, either in his sandwich or in a salad at night. Don't even get me started on the cucumbers. I've got ones in the house that are as long as my arm, and I saw one this morning laying on the ground that was literally as thick as my calf.

So, I took Hallie's advice on peeling tomatoes [Pick tomatoes that are fully colored and tender (but not mushy or soft) and clean them well. Dip 2 to 3 tomatoes at a time into boiling water, removing after 30 seconds with a slotted spoon. Slide off the skins and remove the core.] I did this to about six of them, peeled them, seeded them and then chopped them fine. I combined this with chopped fresh cilantro, chopped sweet onion, lime juice, lime zest, and a little salt and pepper. It was delicious. We ate it with big crunchy corn chips.

Rating = Good

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Heirloom Caprese Salad - Home Grown

Sitting in traffic this afternoon while running some errands on my lunch hour. I saw a man throw a cigarette but out his window. If you have read this blog for any amount of time you probably know that I find littering one of the most deplorable acts. It's lazy, its uncalled for and it exemplifies just a basic self absorbtion and disregard for the earth and other people who have to share her with your sorry ass.

I was transfixed on this person, and then, with the index finger of the same hand that he nonchallantaly threw the cigarette out the window with, he shoved his index finger so far up his left nostril that his face became all distorted, his right eye squinting shut under the pressure of the finger in his sinus cavity. A few seconds later, satisfied with his archeological dig, he pulled his finger out - looked at it, rolled his finding around between his thumb and index finger, and then threw that out the window too. He repeated this two more times, each time as vigorous as the one before.

This is what I hate about driving to work. If I were on the train, that man would have been treated to an earful of littering and hygeine lessons, but, trapped in my car, he was oblivious to my rage and disgust, I had no closure, I was mute. I now understand road rage.

So - I picked 18 tomatoes yesterday. half heirloom, half beefsteak. Chris assures me they are great. I don't eat raw tomatoes. I'll eat the shit out of sundried, stewed, roasted, blistered, but not raw. Here's what I made with just one of the heirlooms and one beefsteak. Also, that pretty basil, that's from my garden too.

Heirloom Caprese Salad

Basil/Buffalo Mozzarella/Tomato/olive oil/salt/pepper.

I think you can figure it out.

Rating = (CB says) Damn Good

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


Not sure where the time is going. I've got recipes and pictures, but no time to post.
I'm working on it. Promise.

Life - So Damn Busy

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Jellin' and Relishin' - My first Canning Experience


We be jammin' or jellin' or relishin', whatever you want to call it, my inaugural foray into canning was a huge success; thanks in large part to my father, who brought the biggest ass kettle I have ever seen in my life and his knowledge of canning. He showed me step by step how to sterilize the bottles, tops, tongs, funnel, etc. He watched over everything with the careful eye of the engineer he is. He told me exactly how much jelly and relish to put into each jar, how to put the full jars in the boiling water, how to cool them, and then how to test them to make sure they were sealed.

I am so glad to have this garden. All the mornings of going out to the backyard, shaking my first at the plants begging them to "give me something" have paid off. I'm all friggin' Martha Stewart and shit with my fruitful vines and fruit heavy tomato plants. I love love love the idea that in the grips of the cold, long New England winter I will be able to go down into the cellar and pull out a jar of something that I grew when the summer sun was hot and the days were long. I'll be able to open a jar and remember the heat and the smell of the summer, this more than anything brings a smile to my face, and you can bet your ass I'll say the following phrase every time I open a new jar, "I Made This Shit!"

So what did I make you ask. I took all the ready jalapenos from my garden and combined them with sweet dried apricots and and made a beautiful red/orange hued apricot jalapeno jelly, a jelly that upon first taste my dad exclaimed "that's damn good" - ahh the true test of a dish's merit in my kitchen, the official Damn Good rating.

The second thing we made used up about 6 of my zucchinis - we turned the zucchinis into a wonderfully sweet zucchini relish that I first had at the aforementioned "Maine Cookout". It is the most amazingly sweet and savory relish and we have already eaten a whole jar of it in the week since I made it. I've actually eaten it like peanut butter, just sticking my spoon in the jar and eating it.

Bottom line, I cannot wait to try new canning recipes. I have a date with my dad to make more jelly and pickles next month.

I'll post the recipes for these two canning items in separate posts with their own titles so that people searching for recipes can easily find them.

Recipes coming soon.

Dad showing me how to funnel the jelly into the jar.

This is what the jelly looked like in the pot as we were putting it into the jars.

Rating - Damn Good Time

Monday, August 31, 2009

Wild Maine Blueberry Honey Coffee Cake

Saturday was one of those blissful mornings, I awoke to the sound of rain plunking off the air conditioner unit in the bedroom window, which for the first time in weeks was thankfully not needed. It was perfect sleeping weather, the sound of rain blocking out all of the other ambient sounds of our street waking up. I, for the first time in what felt like months, rolled out of bed, started a pot of coffee, and then went blissfully back to bed - the smell of fresh coffee wafting up the stairs. I did not worry about getting my running sneakers on, setting the GPS satellites, packing my lunch, I just relaxed. When I did get up - I found the weather and the blissfully cool kitchen the perfect excuses to bake. I had frozen wild Maine blueberries in the freezer from our trip to visit my aunt at the beginning of the month, and I had all ingredients on hand to make whatever I felt like. I turned to my standby for healthy and distinct recipes, 101 Cookbooks, I wasn't on the site long before I spied this recipe for Maple Huckleberry Coffee Cake - I made minor changes, just to make it my own, and because I wanted to use the blueberries I had on hand. Here is her recipe with side notes for what I did differently.

Wild Maine Blueberry Honey Coffee Cake

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or spelt flour)
3 tablespoons rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup maple syrup, room temperature (I used honey)
1 large egg, room temperature
zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk (I used soy milk with 1 tsp lemon juice)
1 1/3 cups fresh wild huckleberries (or other berries), well picked over (I used wild blueberries

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut 1/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup maple sugar (or brown sugar) (I used brown sugar)
1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I used walnuts)

special equipment: a 1-pound loaf pan

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees, rack in the middle. Butter a 1-pound loaf pan, and line with parchment paper. Alternately, you could just butter and flour the pan, but I've found that lining the pan with parchment makes removing the cake from the pan after baking no problem.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt, thyme, and rosemary. Set aside. In a separate large bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer or by hand - until light and fluffy. Drizzle in the maple syrup and beat until well incorporated, scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple times along the way. Beat in the egg, lemon zest, and vanilla extract, scraping the sides again. Add half of the flour, stir just a bit, now add a splash of the buttermilk, stir again, but not too much. Add the rest of the flour and stir a bit, and now the rest of the buttermilk. Stir until everything barely comes together and then very gently fold in one cup of the huckleberries. Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pan and set aside.

To make the streusel topping, place the flour, butter, maple sugar, thyme and pecans in a food processor and pulse 20-30 times or until the topping is a bit beyond sandy/crumbly. It should be moist-looking - on its way to being slightly doughy. Crumble 2/3 of it over the cake batter, sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup huckleberries on top of that, and then add the last of the crumble. Barely pat in place with your fingertips.

Place the coffee cake in the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool for five minutes and then remove it from the pan to cool on a rack (this way the cake won't steam in the pan as it's cooling.

Serves 12 - 16 modest slices.

This bread is not sweet, it's more savory - and the fresh thyme and rosemary really comes through. Its such a great alternative to the super sweet breakfast breads and coffee cakes that we are so used to.

Rating - Damn Good

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ratataouille_WW 1pt

I've been struggling with writing a post, not because I hadn't cooked anything that merited posting, but because I didn't feel like I had anything particularly interesting to say. I don't think you come here to be bored, sure, of course you come for the recipes, but humor me and tell me you come for the commentary and stories too. Lately, I just feel like I've been trying to catch my bearings with the new job and the new commute, a commute which gets me home about an hour later than I used to, and which makes me feel all rushed at the end of the day.

However, the other day I was listening to The Splendid Table on American Public Media and the host was interviewing a couple who had recently written a book titled "What We Eat When We Eat Alone: Stories and 100 Recipes" this got me thinking. There are certain things that I will not eat in front of people, even CB. Not because they are gross, but because they are weird. For example, when I am home alone, I will not only eat a spoonful of peanut butter, I will make a well in the peanut butter and squirt maple syrup into the well, and then I will top that with cool whip. Yes, this is what I eat when no one is looking, and I eat it at the refrigerator with all the ingredients on a shelf, and I just pull the ingredients out over and over until I have had enough. I eat this with the refrigerator door open in the off chance that CB comes home and I don't know, and he walks into the kitchen; the door is my buffer - it gives me a few seconds to shove the spoon in my mouth and then rearrange the peanut butter, syrup and cool whip so it doesn't look like they are lined up. I have other things that I eat when no one is home, but the PBSCW spoonful is pretty much my go to.

So, I ask, what do you eat when no one is home. The more gross the better. Also, if you have this book, or know anyone who has it, I'd love to borrow it.

Okay, on to the recipe. If I'm being honest with you, I have wanted to make this recipe for years. Ever since I saw the movie Ratatouille on DVD; like two years ago. I don't know what the hell I've been doing for two years that I was too busy to throw this recipe together, but I digress. I made it this weekend because the farmers market was just ripe with all of the ingredients. It is a Weight Watchers recipe, and I thought it was delicious, but I think CB thought it lacked a little um, flavor. Maybe if I had sauteed the onions and leeks in butter instead of pan spray he would have thought differently, but then it wouldn't have been a weight watchers recipe, now would it have been. I was very happy with it.

Here goes
Ratatouille | WW 1.5 pts

Makes 4 servings

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • fresh or dried herbs: basil, oregano, thyme, parsley
  • fresh grounded black pepper

Chop the onion.Cut bell peppers in thumb sized slices.Peel and dice eggplant.Dice zucchini.Peel, seed and chop tomatoes.

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring constantly until golden.

Add 1 cup water and the sliced bell peppers; cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup water, the eggplant and zucchini; cook, stirring frequently, until liquid has evaporated, 7 minutes.

Add tomatoes, tomato juice, garlic, basil, oregano, thyme and black pepper. Cover the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally; add additional water if necessary.

Uncover, reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking until vegetables are tender but still retain their shape and liquid has evaporated, 10 minutes.

Divide evenly among 4 plates, garnish with parsley and serve.

The Ratatouille may be served hot, cold or at room temperature.

Nutritional Information
per serving:
1.5 WW-Points
105 Calories
3 g Total Fat, 0 mg Cholesterol

Rating = Damn Good

Friday, August 21, 2009

Randon Thought b/c it's too damn hot to cook

This week the only thing I have had for lunch is cottage cheese, salsa, crusty bread, and vegetables.
All cold, all requiring absolutely no heat at all because it has been HOT AS BALLS here in the northeast.

Man, I wanted to cook, I wanted to bake and use all the carrot recipes that you sent me, but I would rather chew glass than turn that oven on. So. I leave you with this random thought that was sent to me this morning.

Have you ever been walking down the street and realized that you're going in the complete opposite direction of where you are supposed to be going? But instead of just turning a 180 and walking back in the direction from which you came, you have to first do something like check your watch or phone or make a grand arm gesture and mutter to yourself to ensure that no one in the surrounding area thinks you're crazy by randomly switching directions on the sidewalk.

This made me laugh out loud. Because I've done it. Not a lot, but it's happened on occasion.

I swear people, as soon as it's not so hot that you get boob sweat just sitting around. I'll be baking and cooking again. Also, my dad is going to come up and help me attempt to can for the first time. I'm going to try and make relish and jelly. Wish me luck and all that crap.

Have a great weekend, see you on the flip side.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

As Paul Says....Hippie Bread

The same man who ate a burger off a grill that had been placed over a fire, lit with a flare and possibly fueled by wood, beach trash, latex etc. (see here) referred to this as Hippie Bread. I suppose it is, but it didn't stop him from eating it, I don't think. Although, maybe he just said he tried it. I'm not sure. Next time I visit, I'm going to bring Guinness bread, that he can't possibly have a problem with, unless of course, I add to many nuts or something and, (as he puts it) totally shit-ify the whole thing.

I absolutely loved this bread. I based it on this recipe. I didn't add the curry powder, but I did add about 1/3 cup sunflower seeds which I think was a great addition. I also added about 1/8 cup candied lemon rind which also added a nice zing to the bread.

I think that if you like zucchini bread, and you have a few dozen lying around like I do at the moment, this is a fabulous way to use some up. They are also good as door stoppers, paper weights, whiffle-ball bats.

I did get a recipe for zucchini relish today that a friend of my aunt made and brought to the aforementioned Maine Grilling Party, which was absolutely to die for and I can't wait to make it.

Now, I ask you. Does anyone have any good recipes for carrots? I bought one of those ridiculously large bags of baby carrots at BJ's the other day - and I don't think I will be able to eat them all before the use by date. Does anyone have any really good carrot muffin or carrot scone or carrot whatever recipes that would use up some of the shit ton of carrots that are in my refrigerator?

Rating = So Damn Good

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Maine Campsite Cooking Techniques

So, what do you do when you're on an island only accessible via boat, with 11 of your friends and family and mid way through cooking the burgers on your portable gas grill you run out of propane, and then you realize you have absolutely no matches. Well, you wade out to your boat and grab your emergency kit, gather all the sticks and wood from the island you can find, and then light the fire with your emergency flares. Mmm I'm sure there are no carcinogenic chemicals in that there flare Bill. This is how we roll in Maine.

So glad that I don't eat meat and it didn't matter if my veggie burger was cooked or not.

Just getting back from vacation, and starting my new job. The commute sucks, but I'm getting used to it. More posts coming. Talk soon.


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Black Bean, Corn and Zucchini Enchilada | Cooking Light

This is not my picture, I copied it from the Cooking Light website. We ate the enchiladas too fast for me to even think about taking a picture.

We first had this dish at my friend Hallie's house, and we have been dying to make it ever since. It takes some time because you have to make the enchilada sauce and the vegetables separate, but it's really no different than having to make a marina sauce for pasta or for a casserole in advance of assembling and baking the dish. Its a good meal to feed a crowd as it makes 8 huge, fat, stuffed enchiladas. You can easily double this recipe for a party or a pot luck. In addition to the zucchini, corn and black beans, I pan fried some extra firm tofu and added that to the zucchini mixture for extra protein in the dish. This is a great recipe, and at 342 calories and 4.2 grams of fat per serving (one enchilada) it won't undo your diet at the end of the day. Serve with a nice cold Dos Equis and call it a day.

Here is a link to the recipe on the Cooking Light website. LINK!

Rating = So Damn Good

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Oven Roasted Broccoli

This is by far the best broccoli recipe I have. I mean sure, you can make a cheese laden casserole with a ritz cracker topping, and that will be tasty, but with that recipe, you negate all of the wonderful nutritional value of the broccoli and then you might as well just take the cheese and crackers and rub it all over your inner thighs, because that is exactly where that shit is going to go. This tastes awesome, the garlic and broccoli together with the roasted flavor is fabulous. And get this, its good for you too.

The garden is coming along. My jalapeno plant is still coming along, the cucumbers are tiny little spiky oblongs that look like they will never mature to full cucumbers but I have faith. I finally got my fist summer squash, I'm not sure how both plants that I have continue to flower like they are and not produce fruit. Something is eating my basil, like crazy - I went out and bought three more plants hoping that one of it will make it. My tomatoes, although green are very prolific, I'm assuming in a few more weeks we'll be up to our elbows in tomatoes. Thyme - does anyone have any recipes that use a lot of fresh thyme? I've got thyme coming out the ying yang and need someway to use it. Any ideas welcome, seriously.

Also, I'll be heading to Napa and Sonoma soon. If you could let me know your favorite wineries to visit out there I would greatly appreciate it. I've been there before and I'm familiar with some of the wineries, but there are just so many of them that I'd love to have your information with me when I plan my winery tours. Thanks.

Oven Roasted Broccoli with Garlic
2 Heads broccoli broken into florets
1 clove garlic minced
2 tsp canola oil
sea salt and pepper to taste

Combine oil, garlic salt in pepper. In a large bowl pour oil mixture over the broccoli and toss to coat.
Place in 400 degree oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. If you feel like it, squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the broccoli before serving.

I ate this warm right out of the oven, and cold the next day, it was great both ways.

Rating = So Damn Good