Monday, August 30, 2010

Creamy Caramel Fruit Dip

One of the party staples lately is the cut-up fruit tray with the sweet creamy dip. I didn't want to buy one of those, so I bought some fruit and then made this super-quick dip. It is VERY yummy, but it is VERY hard to make stick to the fruit! Either add a little extra milk to make it liquidy, or make sure to keep a spoon next to it so that people can slather on the dip. It's very good. I would make this again.


Creamy Caramel Fruit Dip
CLBB (Linda in MO)

8 ounces cream cheese -- softened
1/2 cup brown sugar -- packed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Splash of milk, if needed
Green and red apple slices, banana chunks, and red grapes

Blend 1st four ingredients in a bowl with a mixer until smooth. Add a splash of milk if you need to thin it. Chill until serving or serve immediately.

Serve with apple slices, banana chunks, and red grapes.

Peach-Raspberry Slab Pie

I've had this recipe earmarked forever because it's unique and not your typical fruit pie. That's because it's a slab pie! What that means is that I roll out the pate brisee (recipe follows) and put that in the bottom of a baking sheet. Then I pile on the toppings, and then I put another big rectangle of dough on top, creating a big rectangular pie. When you slice it up, it's like a bar cookie meets pie.

Mine did start overflowing so I had to put a pan under it in the oven to catch the drips. I subbed whole wheat pastry flour for about half of the flour, which is definitely noticeable and I probably wouldn't do it again. Everyone said they liked it, and they loved the crust, but I honestly wasn't the hugest fan! Maybe it's because I saw all the fruit that went into it and then I was disappointed how flat it was once it baked down. I don't know. I probably wouldn't make it again but it was fun to try!


Peach-Raspberry Slab Pie
Martha Stewart Living

2 1/4 pounds peaches -- (about 9) peeled, pitted, and cut into thin wedges
1 cup raspberries -- (about 6 ounces)
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 recipes Slab Pie Pate Brisee (see below)
All-purpose flour -- for dusting
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Fine sanding sugar -- for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. with rack in lower third. Toss peaches, raspberries, granulated sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.

2. Transfer half the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Roll out dough into a 12-by-16-inch rectangle that is 1/8 inch thick. Coat a 15 1/4-by-10 1/2-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line sheet with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on long sides. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet. Trim edges of dough to hang over sides of baking sheet by 1/2 inch.

3. Roll out the remaining dough into another 12-by-16-inch rectangle that is 1/8 inch thick. Pour fruit mixture into the dough-lined baking sheet. Cover with remaining layer of dough. Trim edges of dough to hang over sides by 1/2 inch. Fold edges of top layer over edges of bottom layer, and pinch to seal.

4. Cut about 60 holes out of the top crust using a 1/2-inch round pastry tip (such as Ateco #807), spacing evenly. Whisk together egg yolk and heavy cream in a small bowl. Brush crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with sanding sugar.

5. Bake until crust turns golden and filling is bubbling, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. (If crust is browning too quickly, tent pie with foil, and continue baking.) Let cool completely on a wire rack, about 3 hours. Pull up on parchment to remove.

Yield: 16 servings

Slab Pie Pate Brisee
(Double this for the slab pie)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces cold unsalted butter -- (8 ounces) cut into small pieces
6 tablespoons ice water -- (6 to 8)

1. Process flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor until combined. Add butter. Process until mixture resembles coarse meal, about 10 seconds. With machine running, add ice water in a slow, steady stream just until dough comes together. (Do not process more than 30 seconds.)

2. Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten dough, and shape into a rectangle. Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or overnight), or freeze up to 1 month.

Yield: 12 -by-16-inch rectangle

My First Barbecue!

Other than our parents, we've never really had a barbecue or dinner party. This weekend, we had a bunch of my coworkers over for a barbecue and it was fun. We had food and fire and wine and babies and puppies and it was a good time. I made a Peach-Raspberry Slab Pie, some Creamy Caramel Fruit Dip, and Honey-Chipotle Baked Beans. We bought three tasty wines from Franklin Vineyards in Bangor, PA. And then everyone brought food! It was fun.



Thursday, August 26, 2010

Black Bean Quesadillas with Corn Salsa

This is so totally boring. I mean, it was quick and it was a nice way to cook quesadillas without having to flip them. But the meal itself is just boring. I wouldn't make this again.


Black Bean Quesadillas with Corn Salsa
Cooking Light, March 2004

Heating all of the quesadillas at the same time in the oven is faster than cooking them one at a time in a skillet.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
2 cups chopped plum tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
15 ounces black beans -- drained and rinsed
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
Cooking spray
3/4 cup preshredded Mexican blend cheese -- (3 ounces)

1 cup frozen whole-kernel corn
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1 red bell pepper -- chopped

1. To prepare the quesadillas, preheat the broiler.

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add tomatoes, 1/2 cup cilantro, and beans; cook 5 minutes or until liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Place tortillas on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Top each tortilla with 1/2 cup bean mixture and 3 tablespoons cheese; fold in half. Lightly coat tops with cooking spray. Broil 3 minutes or until cheese melts and tortillas begin to brown. Cut each tortilla into 3 wedges.

3. To prepare salsa, combine corn and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve with quesadillas.

Servings: 4

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

BBQ Tofu Sandwich

Remember those Pecan & Mushroom Burgers I made a couple months ago and froze? I popped them in the refrigerator this morning to thaw and cooked them up for dinner, along with the blue cheese sauce. Delicious! Just as awesome as it was the first time around.

I had a coupon for tofu and all the other ingredients at home so I decided this tofu sandwich would be a good weeknight meal. And it is! It comes together so quickly. Next time I would cook the tofu longer because we like it when it's super-firm. It was yummy though.


Bbq Tofu Sandwich
Eating Well

Though vegetarian BBQ may be an oxymoron, once you take a bite of this delicious tofu sandwich topped with coleslaw and dill pickles you won’t mind the contradiction. Serve with: Baked beans and corn on the cob.
Note: Look for preshredded cabbage-and-carrot “coleslaw mix” near other prepared vegetables in the produce section.

1/4 cup thinly sliced onion
14 ounces extra-firm or firm water-packed tofu -- drained
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup prepared barbecue sauce
1 1/2 cups coleslaw mix or finely shredded cabbage -- (see Note)
2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Freshly ground pepper -- (to taste)
4 whole-wheat hamburger buns -- toasted
4 dill pickle sandwich slices

1. Place onion in a small bowl, cover with cold water and set aside. Stand tofu on its long narrow side. Cut lengthwise into 4 rectangular slabs, each about 1/2 inch thick, and pat dry. Sprinkle with salt.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu slabs (depending on the size of your pan, the tofu may slope up the sides a little). Cook until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Reduce heat to low. Add barbecue sauce and carefully turn the tofu to coat with the sauce. Cover and cook for 3 minutes more.

3. Meanwhile, combine coleslaw (or cabbage), mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic powder and pepper in a medium bowl. Drain the onion.

4. To assemble sandwiches, place about 1/3 cup of the coleslaw (or cabbage) mixture on each bun and top with a tofu slab, a pickle slice and a few onion slices. Spread any sauce remaining in the pan on the top buns.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, August 23, 2010

Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars


This is one of the most freaking delicious things I have ever made.


Marshmallow Crunch Brownie Bars
Joe's Blog
Adapted from Buttercup Bakes at Home

Brownie Layer:
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
11 tablespoons unsalted butter
7.5 ounces (about 1 1/4 cups) chopped bittersweet chocolate, divided
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

10.5 ounces mini-marshmallows
9 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) chopped milk chocolate
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium saucepan, add unsweetened chocolate, butter and 4.5 ounces (about 3/4 cup) bittersweet chocolate - melt over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from the heat, stir in espresso powder and set aside to cool for 5 minutes

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.

4. In a large bowl , whisk together eggs. Whisk in sugar and vanilla until well combined. Gradually add melted chocolate mixture, stirring until combined and smooth. Add dry ingredients and stir just until combined - fold in remaining 3 ounces (1/2 cup) bittersweet chocolate.

5. Scoop batter into a 9" x 13" baking pan coated with nonstick spray, smoothing the top with an offset spatula. Place into the oven and bake until a toothpick placed near the corner of the pan comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately scatter the marshmallows evenly over the top. Place pan back into the oven to soften the marshmallows, about 3 more minutes.

6. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, add milk chocolate, peanut butter and butter - heat over low heat, stirring, until smooth and combined. Remove from the heat and stir in Rice Krispies until thoroughly coated. Set aside and allow to cool for 3 to 5 minutes. Spread mixture evenly over the marshmallow layer on top of the brownies. Place pan into the refrigerator and chill until firm before cutting.

Yield: 24 bars

Spicy Wheat Berry Enchiladas

Remember that Garden Brown Sauce I made the other day for the Tofu Marsala? I used up the rest tonight in this enchilada recipe. Much to my chagrin, I realized too late that I don't have wheat berries in my pantry, I have pearl barley. How did I make this mistake? Oh well. It was still good with the barley. I gave us each two enchiladas and neither of us finished them - remember that these are grains and are more filling than just cheese! I don't know if I would make this again but I did enjoy it.


Spicy Wheat Berry Enchilada
Cooking Light, October 1998

1 cup uncooked wheat berries
4 cups water
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onion
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 jalapeño pepper -- seeded and minced
2 cups coarsely chopped spinach
2 cups Garden Brown Sauce
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
8 (8-inch) fat-free flour tortillas
2 cups bottled salsa -- divided
Cooking spray
1 cup shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese -- (4 ounces)

1. Place the wheat berries in a saucepan, and add water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 50 minutes or until tender, and drain.

2. Preheat oven to 350°.

3. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 4 ingredients (onion through jalapeño); sauté 2 minutes. Add spinach, Garden Brown Sauce, cilantro, and lime juice. Stir in wheat berries (mixture will be thick). Heat tortillas according to package directions. Spoon about 2/3 cup wheat berry mixture down center of each tortilla; roll up. Spread 1/2 cup salsa in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Place tortillas, seam sides down, in dish. Pour 1 1/2 cups salsa over tortillas; top with cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Risotto with Eggplant, Pine Nuts, and Tomatoes

There's just something magical about making risotto. I enjoy it. This one turned out really good. I don't know if I'd make it again, but I did really like it. It came together really nicely. And if you multitask and do the eggplant at the same time as the risotto, then it's pretty quick to prepare. Yum!


Risotto with Eggplant, Pine Nuts, and Tomatoes (Risotto con Melanzane, Pinoli, e Pomodori)

I first tasted this dish at a tiny trattoria in Rome, one balmy evening in late summer. It always reminds me of being in Italy. Salting the eggplants before cooking will remove any bitterness and toasting the pine nuts until golden will intensify their nutty flavor.

1 small eggplant, about 7 oz, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
4-6 medium Italian plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
1/4 cup unsalted butter
8 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 1/2 cups risotto rice, such as vialone nana, carnaroli, or arborio
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts, pan-toasted
A handful of fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
A handful of fresh basil, coarsely chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the eggplant in a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Rinse to remove the sale and pat dry. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet, add the eggplant, and cook until golden. Add the tomatoes and cook until softened.

2. Put the stock in a saucepan. Heat until almost boiling, then reduce the heat until barely simmering to keep it hot.

3. Heat the butter and remaining oil in a deep skillet or heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 1-2 minutes, until softened but not browned. Add the garlic.

4. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until the grains are well-coated and glistening, about 1 minute. Pour in the wine and stir until it has been completely absorbed.

5. Add 1 ladle of hot stock and simmer, stirring until it has been absorbed. Continue to add the stock at intervals and cook as before, until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender but firm (al dente), about 18-20 minutes. Reserve the last ladle of stock.

6. Add the reserved stock, the eggplant and tomato mixture, the Parmesan, pine nuts, parsley, basil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Remove from the heat, cover, and let rest for 2 minutes.

7. Spoon into warmed bowls and serve immediately.

Servings: 4

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

All-Grown Up Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Whaaaaat? I baked? And on a Wednesday? I got off work early today and I guess I was just in the mood. So I finally made this cookie recipe that I had planned to make over the weekend.

Now, if you've read my blog for awhile you know that I already have two chocolate chip cookies. I make Alton Brown's Chewy for gifts, parties, and large quantities. I make Giant Chocolate Chunk Cookies when we just really want some cookies and milk. So, why did I make another chocolate chip cookie recipe?

Well, it all boils down to this: he is an impulse shopper at the grocery store. No matter how much he eats before we go, he ends up buying something that he never plans to consume. One day we were at Wegmans and they had a sample of fruit smoothies made with Ovaltine. For some reason, he felt that we MUST BUY the Ovaltine. So we did, and he came home and drank some and realized it is gross.

And then we had a tub of Ovaltine left in the cabinet.

So when I found this recipe that uses Ovaltine in the batter, I had to make it. Because then at least the purchase wasn't all for naught. And it was worth it! These cookies are delicious. They definitely have a different flavor, but it isn't noticeably Ovaltine or espresso. It's just rich and almost caramel-like. It's good. I would recommend baking for a little longer than they suggest because our cookies were still really gooey after 11 minutes. And if you can't find Lyle's Golden Syrup, you can substitute corn syrup (though I really recommend finding Lyle's!). I won't add this to the rotation, but it's a nice way to use up the rest of the Ovaltine!


All-Grown Up Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Joe's Blog

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/8 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup Lyle's Golden Syrup
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup chocolate malted milk powder
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat to 375

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt baking powder and baking soda.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until combined. Add golden syrup and beat until creamy. Mix in the egg, vanilla, malted milk powder and espresso powder. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

4. Drop heaping tablespoons worth of dough onto parchment lined baking sheet and bake until the edges are golden, but the center still looks a little under done, about 9 to 11 minutes. Remove and place the baking sheet on a wire rack to cool for at least 10 minutes before removing the cookies to cool completely.

Yield: 3 dozen

Spinach, Feta, and Tomato Quiche

I remember bringing this magazine with me to my internship one day and my supervisor saw the photo for this recipe on the cover and was like, "Oh my gosh, must try." It definitely looked yummy! But it took me forever to get around to making it!

I have to say, after all that hype, and all the time that goes into making it, it was not particularly special. I would have liked it to be more quichey. Instead it was just kind of like soggy spinach with some tomato, feta, and phyllo dough. It was good, it just wasn't quiche. So I was disappointed. I plan to eat the leftovers, but I don't plan to make it again.


Spinach, Feta, and Tomato Quiche
Vegetarian Times, April 2009

The filling here can be replaced with your favorite veggies and cheese, and you can increase the amount of quiche batter for larger pies using this simple equation: count ?/2 cup milk for every egg used. The recipe will also work in a prepared piecrust.

6 sheets frozen phyllo dough -- thawed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
10 ounce package frozen spinach -- thawed, all liquid squeezed out
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
10 cherry tomatoes -- halved
2 eggs
1 cup low-fat milk
pinch ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°F. To make Crust: Coat 9-inch pie pan with cooking spray. Lay 1 phyllo sheet on work surface, and brush all over with oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds. Top with second phyllo sheet, and brush with oil. Top with third phyllo sheet, brush with oil, and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. sesame seeds. Repeat phyllo and oil layers twice more. Sprinkle fifth phyllo sheet with remaining sesame seeds, and top with sixth phyllo sheet. Press into prepared pie pan; trim edges with scissors.

To make Filling: Stir together spinach and onion. Sprinkle feta cheese over Crust. Top with spinach mixture. Arrange tomato halves over quiche.

To make Quiche Batter: Whisk together all ingredients in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Pour Quiche Batter over Filling in Crust. Set quiche on baking sheet, and bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until top is brown and center is set.

Servings: 6

Monday, August 16, 2010

Tofu Marsala

It's been a l-o-o-ng time since I've had marsala. So when I saw this I thought it was unique and decided to try it. Don't expect anything special. It's still tofu. But it was yummy!!! And if you are carnivorous, you could most certainly substitute in some chicken. The sauce really is delicious. I probably wouldn't make it again due to the tofu just being meh, but I would highly recommend it to those of you who want to use chicken instead.


Tofu Marsala
Cooking Light, October 1998

2 cups Garden Brown Sauce
1/2 cup sweet Marsala -- divided
24 3/5 ounces extra-firm tofu -- drained
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons olive oil -- divided
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup minced green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 cups hot cooked linguine -- (about 8 ounces uncooked pasta)
Chopped fresh parsley -- (optional)

Combine Garden Brown Sauce and 1/4 cup Marsala in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; keep warm.

Slice tofu lengthwise into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) steaks. Dredge in flour. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of tofu; sauté 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with 1 teaspoon oil and remaining tofu. Stir in 1/4 cup Marsala and juice, scraping pan to loosen brown bits. Stir in brown sauce mixture, onions, and 2 tablespoons parsley. Arrange 1 cup pasta on each of 4 plates; top each with 2 tofu steaks and 1/2 cup sauce. Garnish with additional parsley, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Garden Brown Sauce (Vegetarian Gravy)

I'm posting this because it's the base for a few different recipes, and thus it warrants its own post. This takes about an hour-ish to cook. I made it easy by buying some pre-chopped mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) and added some extra onion for good measure. It actually turns out quite lovely and is very yummy. It works great in the recipes. Yum!

Garden Brown Sauce (Vegetarian Gravy)
Cooking Light, October 1998

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup sliced mushrooms
4 garlic cloves -- halved
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry red wine
6 cups water
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bay leaves

Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrot; sauté 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Add celery, mushrooms, and garlic; cook 10 minutes. Add paste; sauté 10 minutes or until browned. Add flour; cook 1 minute. Stir in wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add water and remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, reserving stock. Discard solids. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Yield: 4 cups

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pasta with Vietnamese Pesto

Dear Lord, I actually cooked today. It was super easy and took very little effort, but it's still a new recipe from a cookbook that I've meant to make for a long time. I actually did use fresh ingredients - all of them! I'm proud of myself. I used Thai basil we are growing on the window sill. I think it's going to die soon.

The pasta was unfortunately just meh. It would probably be a better side dish than main dish. We had it with some premade spring rolls. A good dinner, but not great.


Pasta with Vietnamese Pesto
Vegetarian Planet via AllRecipes

1 pound dried rice noodles
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup sweet Thai basil
2 cloves garlic, halved
1/2 teaspoon minced lemon grass bulb
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon vegetarian fish sauce
4 tablespoons chopped, unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
7 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 lime, cut into wedges
salt and pepper to taste

1. Soak rice noodles in a large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes. Drain the noodles, and set them aside.

2. Make the pesto: In a blender or food processor combine the chopped cilantro, basil, garlic cloves, lemongrass, jalapeno peppers, imitation fish sauce or salt, and 2 tablespoons of the peanuts. Whirl just until the herbs and peanuts are coarsely chopped. While the machine is running add the oil in a thin stream. Then add the remaining peanuts and run the machine in short spurts until the peanuts are coarsely chopped.

3. Place soaked rice noodles into a large skillet with 1/2 cup water over medium-high heat. Stir until most of the water has been absorbed and the noodles are tender.

4. Add almost all of the pesto, and stir well, adding a few tablespoons of water if the pesto is clumping.

5. Taste the pasta and add more pesto, lime juice, imitation fish sauce, salt, or pepper if you like. Garnish the pasta with the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanuts, and serve right away.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, August 09, 2010

Hard 8

Where have I been? TEXAS! We went to Dallas for a few days to visit my relatives out there. It was a lot of fun! We did everything we wanted to do, especially Gibby's Number 1 Goal: "Eat Texas barbecue." I told my aunt this ahead of time so they picked out a barbecue restaurant that they like. So we went to Hard 8 BBQ in Coppell, Texas.

This is no chain, like Longhorn Steakhouse or Texas Roadhouse. This is the real deal. Don't believe me?


That's a TON OF MEAT on top of the smoker. There were like 12 smokestacks in the ceiling. There was chicken and ribs and brisket and bacon-jalapeno-turkey poppers and pulled pork and other pounds of flesh. You order it by the pound and they slice it up and give it to you right off the smoker.

It was me & Gibby, my aunt & uncle, and my grandparents. So six of us. Technically 5 if you consider that I didn't eat any of the meat. So they got all of this to share:


They didn't quite finish it and my grandparents took some home. My goodness. Gibby liked it but they all agreed there was too much fat on the ribs. Oh well.

And what did I eat? The poor vegetarian lost at the barbecue restaurant? Everyone always figures I will starve. No sir!


Side dishes are my friend. I had cornbread salad and a garden salad and bread and roasted corn and a big baked potato, and some banana pudding. No one else made it to the banana pudding, so really I'm better off than they all were! It was the good kind, with the 'Nilla Wafers in the bottom. Oh yum.

So Gibby had his Texas barbecue. Hooray!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Toasted Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables

I was worried about this meal because it's just so simple. I worried that it was too simple. Grilled veggies with a vinaigrette on top of Israeli couscous (pasta)? Simple! Turns out it is DELICIOUS. We both really liked it a lot. I forgot to toast the couscous ahead of time but it was still very good. We definitely would make this again.


Toasted Israeli Couscous Salad with Grilled Summer Vegetables
Bobby Flay

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic -- coarsely chopped
1 cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 green zucchini -- quartered lengthwise
2 yellow zucchini -- quartered lengthwise
6 spears asparagus -- trimmed
12 cherry tomatoes
1 red bell pepper -- quartered and seeded
1 yellow bell pepper -- quartered and seeded
1/4 cup basil chiffonade -- (stack leaves, roll in a cigar shape and cut crosswise into thin strips)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Israeli couscous
Vegetable stock -- heated

In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and garlic, slowly add the olive oil and whisk until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Pour 1/2 the marinade over the vegetables and let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. Preheat the grill. Remove the vegetables from the marinade and grill the vegetables until just cooked through. Cut the zucchini and peppers into 1/2-inch pieces, cut the tomatoes in half. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat, add the couscous and toast until lightly golden brown. Cover the couscous with the hot stock and bring to a boil, cook until al dente and drain well. Place in a large serving bowl, add the grilled vegetables and herbs and toss with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature.

Servings: 8

Monday, August 02, 2010

Spiced Potatoes with Barley and Lentils

This was a little time-consuming, as I had to cook the lentils first. Did you know that cooking lentils smells gross? But they taste good. I didn't add cajun spice and instead used garam masala, but I wish I'd used more. The red chile I got didn't spice things up at all. This dish has potential but it just missed all the spice marks for us and ended up pretty bland. Nutritious! But bland. Not a make-again.


Spiced Potatoes with Barley and Lentils
Veggie Num Num

1 cup pearl barley
Olive oil
20 ounces new potatoes, scrubbed
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 red chilli, diced
2 teaspoons cajun spice mix
1 cup brown lentils, cooked or canned
2 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 cup peas, frozen or fresh
1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1. Pre soak the barley for at least 2 hours before hand by placing in water and setting aside in the fridge. I usually start to soak the barley in the morning to prepare dinner that night.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a large fry pan; add the garlic and chilli, cook for 1 minute until garlic is soft.

3. Add the whole potatoes and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning; fry the potatoes turning occasionally for 5-8 minutes until golden.

4. Transfer to a large pot.

5. Add the stock, drained barley, lentils, and lemon juice; bring to the boil.

6. Simmer partly covered for 20-25 minutes until potatoes are tender, adding more stock if needed.

7. Once the potatoes are cooked add the lemon rind, peas and parsley and toss through; season with salt and pepper to taste.

8. Serve as a main dish or side.

Yield: 4-6

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Oatmeal Cookie-Peach Cobbler

Well this is just delicious. Absolutely delicious. I mean, it's a simple peach filling covered in what is essentially a giant oatmeal cookie. The simplicity is beautiful. A lot of peach cobbler recipes I've seen involve cinnamon, but this is just sugar and fruit.

Now. This weekend was Peach Day at Wegmans, so I bought all fresh, locally-grown organic peaches. And then I had to figure out how the hell to prepare them for the cobbler. It's not a hard process; it's just time-consuming and messy. Don't forget that peach juice stains :( You could use canned or frozen peaches but I really truly do recommend using fresh ones. It's so delicious with fresh ones!

HERE are instructions for peeling the peaches.
HERE are instructions for slicing the peaches.

It is so sad that I don't know things like how to prepare fresh produce without looking it up online. I'm sure some of you share that lack of knowledge though so perhaps we will all learn something today.

As for the cobbler, it is happily sitting in our refrigerator to be taken for lunches this week. It's exceptional. I would make it for big summer gatherings, or just to celebrate peach season. I love it.


Oatmeal Cookie-Peach Cobbler
Cooking Light, June 2009

You can make this in individual ramekins with one dollop of dough on top of each. The baking time remains the same.

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter -- softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
4 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour -- (about 1 cup)
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

11 cups sliced peeled peaches -- (about 5 pounds)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare topping, place first 3 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Weigh or lightly spoon 1 cup flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine 1 cup flour, oats, baking powder, and salt; stir with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture; beat at low speed until blended. Cover and chill 30 minutes.

3. To prepare filling, combine sliced peeled peaches, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and fresh lemon juice in a bowl; toss to coat. Spoon mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Dollop 12 mounds of chilled dough over peach mixture at even intervals. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly.

Servings: 12