April 29, 2013

Blueberry Vanilla Cream Pie

3 cups fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
4 teaspoons gelatin
16 oz cream cheese, softened
14 oz sweetened condensed milk

1 10-inch graham cracker crust

Puree 2 cups blueberries. Set aside. Pour the warm water into a large bowl. Sprinkle with gelatin. Allow to sit 10 minutes. Add the blueberry puree and vanilla paste and mix until well combined. Beat in cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk. Fold in remaining blueberries. Pour into pie crust. Refrigerate until set, at least 5 hours.

My thoughts:
It is a little early for Baltimore blueberries but the stores are full of tasty blueberries from warmer climes and I couldn't resist making my first ice box pie of the season. Ice box pies are so quick and easy to make because they don't require baking. Some, like this pie, don't even require any cooking at all! Just mix, pour into a prepared pie crust and refrigerate until set. Perfect for potluck or picnic because it travels well and can be made the night before. This pie is super blueberry-y thanks to the pureed and whole blueberries, you get a lot flavor in every bite!

April 26, 2013

Clam & Fennel Linguine

1 onion, finely chopped
1 bulb fennel, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 oz bottled clam juice
9 oz fresh linguine, cooked
50 little neck clams
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

Heat some olive oil in a large, heavy pot. Sauté onion and fennel until translucent. Add garlic and anchovy paste and cook, stirring occasionally until fragrant. Pour in wine and clam juice and boil until slightly reduced, 3-5 minutes. Add the clams and pepper to the sauce and simmer, covered, until the clams are fully opened. Toss with parsley and pasta.

My thoughts:
I've been on a fennel kick ever since I made that fennel-scallop chowder that was a-mazing. Who knew that fennel paired so well with seafood? Plus a new grocery store opened up and they sell it by the bulb not the pound which I love because fennel is heavy and there is a lot of waste since you don't use the top stalks or the fronds. So I am no longer paying $7-8 for a bulb of fennel! Hurrah! $2.49 is much easier to swallow, at least until I can (hopefully!) find it even cheaper at the farmers market. It just adds a lovely, light almost floral note to the dish while letting the seafood flavor really shine.

April 24, 2013

Salisbury Steak & Mushroom Gravy

1 slice of bread
1/3 cup milk
2/3 lb lean ground beef
1/3 lb ground pork
1/3 lb ground veal
1 small onion, grated
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 onion, chopped
8 oz sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 2/3 cup beef stock
2-3 tablespoons superfine flour (like Wondra)
sea salt

Soak the bread in the milk in a small saucer. When fully soaked, squeeze out the excess milk and then break into small pieces. Mix with the meat, grated onion, 2/3 of the garlic, salt and pepper. Form into 4-6 small, flat patties. Heat oil in the pan. Cook until quite browned on both sides and nearly cooked through. Remove to a plate and cover in foil. Add the remaining onion, garlic and mushrooms and saute until the onions are translucent. Add the stock, spices and whisk in the flour. Return the patties to the pan and cook until the sauce has reduced and the patties are fully cooked. Serve immediately over potatoes or noodles.

My thoughts:
I've been in a bit of food-nostalgic mood lately. I had actually been thinking about Salisbury steak when I saw it on the menu at Artifact Coffee as part of their new-ish supper menu and had to have it. We went and it was tasty but I thought it could be improved upon. They served the gravy on the side and it was fine, but the result was more of a of a hamburger served on vegetables with a bit of sauce than true Salisbury steak. Disappointing! I came home and decided I needed to make my own. And serve it over mashed potatoes, as is only proper. It really is quite simple and miles beyond the boil-in-a-bag, tv dinner or soup mix versions you might be familiar with. It is basically a flat meatball in mushroom-y, onion gravy. What isn't there to love?

April 22, 2013

Hatch Green Chile Sloppy Joes

1/3 lb lean ground beef
1/3 lb ground pork
1/3 lb ground veal
6 oz tomato paste
3/4 cup beef stock
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, diced
3/4 cup diced fire-roasted Hatch Green Chiles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground chipotle
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon jalapeno chile flakes
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt

In a large saucepan, saute the garlic, onion, peppers and carrot in olive oil until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add meat and saute until brown, stirring to break up the meat. Add the remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes, until thickened. Serve on buns.

My thoughts:
In addition to trying to use up things I canned last year, I am trying to eat up food that I froze before it rolls back into season again. I still have a good stash of fire-roasted Hatch Green Chiles in my freezer so I've been tossing them into chili and tacos and other recipes that need a kick. I also made these sloppy joes and they were so good that I thought I'd share. They are spicy so perhaps this is more of a grown-up sloppy joe (if there is such a thing) than the sweet-ish kind you get from a jar. However, the nostalgia factor is still there and honestly, I'd rather eat something tasty than something bottled and "authentic" just for memory's sake. If you want to get really kitschy, serve it with tater tots and serve it on tv trays.

April 19, 2013

The Sort of Cuban (Sandwich)


for the pork
2 lb boneless pork roast
juice and zest of 2 navel oranges
8 cloves of garlic, quartered
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

8 slices Swiss cheese
16 slices lean capicola
1/3 cup dill pickle slices, drained
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 crusty long rolls

Place the ingredients for the pork in a 2- or 4-quart slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hours. Remove from slow cooker and cut into bite sized pieces.

Spread the mustard on the roll. Line each with the cheese, capicola and pickles. Top with pork. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I've been in bit of a sandwich mood lately.  Which is odd, because normally I go through long periods of severe sandwich ennui, at times bordering on sandwich loathing.

I like hot sandwiches but I don't always feel like panino and I don't always have the time to roast meat for lunch or a quick dinner so I've been using the slow cooker to cook the meat. I am embarrassed I didn't think of this before, it would have have been a great addition to my first cookbook but better late than never, right? This sandwich is sort of a riff on the classic Cuban. I used Dijon instead of yellow mustard, upgraded to capicola from basic ham and while the meat is hot and helps melt the traditional Swiss, I didn't press the sandwich. Instead, I used crusty bread from our local Italian store. It was so good! All of flavors of a Cuban, but much easier (and faster!) to make. I felt like the pork had a depth of flavor that the pork in sandwiches often lack, another plus in the slow cooker column. So go forth and make this sandwich, you won't regret it!

April 17, 2013

Jammy Ice Cream Soda

8 oz seltzer or club soda
1 large scoop vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons jam (I used strawberry thyme)

Spoon the jam into the bottom of a tall glass. Pour in the sparkling water. Top with ice cream. Stir lightly with a long spoon. Serve with a straw and drink immediately.

Serves one.

My thoughts:
I'm still working my way through the jam, pickles, fruit ketchup, fruit butter and barbecue sauce I canned last year. I've been using jam in place of syrup on things like pancakes and waffles and it got me to thinking of other syrupy ways to use jam. I love ice cream sodas. Different than a float, which is made with soda, and easier than milkshakes they combine ice cream and syrup with one of my favorite beverages: sparkling water. This means they are lighter and I think more refreshing than other ice cream based drinks. Adding the jam gives it a fresh fruity flavor that is much tastier (and I'd bet, better for you) than using those garishly colored, artificially flavored fruit syrups they sell. Yum.

April 16, 2013

New recipe on Relish! The Steak & Green Sandwich

The people over at Relish and the brains behind Hidden Valley Ranch hired me to develop a new sandwich recipe using their new line of sandwich spreads and dips.

Check out my recipe for the Steak & Green which features surprisingly thick and creamy Hidden Valley Oven Roasted Garlic Parmesan Sandwich Spread & Dip, which adds a rich garlic flavor to a sandwich stuffed with steak, asparagus, avocado, lettuce and cheese.

I bet any of the other varieties—Hidden Valley Spicy Chipotle Pepper Sandwich Spread & Dip, Hidden Valley Smoked Bacon Ranch Sandwich Spread & Dip or Hidden Valley Country Herb Ranch Sandwich Spread & Dip—would be worthy substitutions. Check out other bloggers' craveable sandwiches using the spread here and don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win 1,000.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.

April 15, 2013

Gorgonzola Chive Cheese Ball


8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup 1/2 inch pieces of chives
5 oz crumbled Gorgonzola
1 oz shredded Cabot extra sharp cheddar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 inch chunk of shallot, minced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup minced flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup blanched, slivered almonds

Place the cheeses, chives, cream cheese, shallot, and Worcestershire sauce in a blender. Pulse until smooth. Scrape into a bowl and chill for 30 minutes to an hour. Scrape it out of the bowl and shape into a ball. Sprinkle the parsley and almonds in a shallow bowl and roll the ball into the mixture until evenly coated. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

My thoughts:

I don't think people make and eat cheese balls nearly as much as they ought to. Or maybe it is just the people we know (and we do seem to know an inordinate amount of vegans) but never do I see a cheese ball on the table. It is a shame because 1. it's cheese 2. it is pretty easy to make 3. it is always a crowd pleaser and did I mention 4. it's cheese! I know some people think of them and have '50s flashbacks to cheese balls that were made with waxy "nippy" cheese and rolled in salty nuts but cheese balls can be so much more. I like them made with strong tasting cheese like Gorgonzola and rolled in herbs in addition to nuts. You could just do herbs but if you are making it ahead of time, it does keep its shape better for longer when rolled in the almonds. I like to serve it with a variety of fun shaped crackers but you could go healthy and serve with crisp vegetables. Skinny radishes (with their tops left on as handles) are especially good with this one.

April 10, 2013

Lemon-Dill Shrimp and Pasta Salad

1 1/2 lb medium shrimp, steamed and peeled
12 oz tri-color penne, cooked
1 cubanelle pepper, diced
2 mini cucumbers, diced
1/3 cup diced red onion

for the dressing:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chopped fresh dill
juice and zest of 1 large lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Toss together the salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Drizzle over the salad and toss to coat. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes prior to serving.

My thoughts:
The weather has done a drastic turn around since the freak snowstorm in late March. It has been nearly 80 or even above this weekend which means it is officially hammock and picnic time! I've been shuffling my schedule so I have some free time in the afternoon to get out and enjoy the sunshine. This salad is perfect for just such a day. It is light yet filling and with the addition of the cucumbers, a fairly well balanced meal by itself. Just add some fruit to the side and you are good to go!

April 08, 2013

Black Rice Salad with Pickled Nectarines & Snap Peas

4 cups cooked black rice, cooled
1 pint pickled nectarines or peaches, drained and diced
1/2 red onion, large dice
1 lb snap peas, steamed
1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Toss the rice, pickled nectarines, red onion and peas. Sprinkle with herbs and spices. Drizzle with olive oil. Refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to serving.

My thoughts:
I'm still on my crusade to use up all of the the jam, pickles, fruit ketchup, butter and barbecue sauce I made last year. These pickled nectarines (actually this jar was a mix of nectarines and peaches) was one of my favorites. They are super flavorful with a fruity pucker than pretty much eliminates the need for much of a dressing. Just let the salad mellow a bit and it will infuse itself with flavor.

I like sharing recipes using home canned foods (or artisanal canned foods you bought) because it really brings the whole canning enterprise full circle. The number one question I get about canning is "what do you do with all the food you can". I do try to stick with small batch canning when possible so I don't end up with a lot of any one food and I give away some jars to friends but I really do try to use as much as I can myself. I do know it is a daunting task so I created a tag of all my recipes that use food I canned myself and a Pinterest board that might be of use to those in need.

Back to the salad, I was excited to see black rice at Costco of all places, so I thought I'd make a cold salad with it. Similarly to wild rice (which isn't even a true rice!) it holds its shape really well even when cold and tossed with other ingredients. It has a nutty flavor that can stand up against strong flavors, like that of the pickles. A substantial yet refreshing salad for a spring meal.

Note: You can make a quick pickle version of the pickled nectarines or peaches. Follow the instructions but refrigerate them instead of canning them. Eat within 2 months.

April 05, 2013

Jam Filled Buttermilk Sweet Rolls with Jam-Cream Cheese Frosting


for the dough:
4 cups flour
1/2 oz yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, sliced
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt

roll filling:
4-6 oz jam (I used raspberry-plum jam)

3 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon jam (I used raspberry-plum jam)
1/8 teaspoon salt


In a small saucepan, warm butter and buttermilk to about 120°. Pour into a large mixing bowl, add yeast. Let sit. Slowly add the sugar, vanilla paste and the egg. Add salt and 2 cups of flour on low, mix until smooth. Slowly mix in the remaining 2 cups of flour. The mixture should become a sticky dough at this time. Scrape out the dough onto floured counter top. Knead dough until it doesn't stick to your hands, adding small amounts of flour (up to 1/2 cup) as needed.

Place in a greased bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let rise for about 45 minutes or until it doubles in size. Remove dough from bowl and place on a floured counter. Roll out in a 12 by 24 inch rectangle. The dough should be about 3/4 inch thick. Spread jam in a thin layer over the dough. Roll dough from the short side in into a tight log. Cut into 1 inch thick slices. Place in 2 lightly greased 9 inch round cake pans, forming a circle with one roll in the middle. Preheat oven to 350. Allow to rise about 1/2 hour until they are about level to the top of the cake pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, then test for doneness. Pay careful attention to the creases where the rolls touch each other. Remove to a wire rack or invert on a plate. Whisk together the icing ingredients. Ice while the rolls are slightly warm. Store leftovers in an air-tight container.

My thoughts:
It is that time of year when a canner's thoughts turn to using up all of the jam, pickles, fruit ketchup, butter and barbecue sauce they made last year before canning season hits in full swing. Luckily in Maryland our stone fruit and berry season isn't in full swing for quite a few months so I have to time to clean out my canning cabinet. I've had the idea for a fruity sweet roll for a while now but I had been thinking of it as a way to use fresh fruit. Then I looked at all the jam I have and thought why not try it with jam. I might still make a fresh fruit version when the time comes but I'm over the moon about how these rolls turned out. If you are not a canner, you can, of course, use purchased jam but for best results it needs to be on the thick side. Of course, you also want it to be full of fresh fruit flavor which really shines in these rolls. The dough, made with tart buttermilk, isn't overly sweet as to provide a foil for the icing and jam filling. I don't want to give anyone a toothache! It really is a fun, sweet, fruity alternative to the more traditional cinnamon roll.

April 04, 2013

Torta Ahogada (drowned sandwich)


to serve:
4 long rolls with hard outer crusts (pan salado or other crusty bread with a soft center)
1 1/2 cup Old El Paso Traditional Refried Beans
1 medium white onion, sliced into thin rings

for the pork:
1 onion, cut into rings
3 lb boneless pork roast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried minced onion
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon oregano

20 dried chiles de árbol (stems and seeds removed)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
1/2 medium onion
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon dried oregano
8 oz no salt added tomato sauce
freshly ground black pepper

Line the bottom of a 4 quart slow cooker insert with the onion rings. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic powder, minced onion, ancho chile and oregano. Rub into all sides of the pork roast. Place in the slow cooker over the onions. Cook on low 8 hours. Cube or shred the pork. Broil for 5-10 minutes or until crisped around the edges.

Soak the dried chiles in 3 cups boiling water. Soak for 10-15 minutes or until Drain, reserving the liquid. Add the chiles and remaining sauce ingredients to a blender. Pulse until smooth, adding chile liquid as needed to thin the mixture.

Heat the refried beans in a small pan. Spread a small amount of the beans on both sides of the bread. Fill with pork. Top with sliced onion. Close the sandwich and pour the sauce over the top. Eat quickly!

My thoughts:
Old El Paso challenged me to come up with a new and exciting way to use their classic refried beans. I didn't want to take the easy way out and make dip or tacos so I made one of my favorite Mexican sandwiches, torta ahogada. The name literally means "drowned sandwich" and it is adpt. You basically take a meat-filled sandwich and drench it with sauce. Then eat it with your hands. It isn't pretty but it is delish.

Traditionally the sandwich is served with your choice of salsa dulce or salsa enchilosa. Salsa dulce really isn't sweet but it is tempered by tomato sauce while salsa enchilosa is straight chile. I went the dulce route but rest assured, the sauce is still pretty hot but the pepitas and tomato sauce both thicken it and keep it from scorching your mouth.  I truly can't articulate how tasty this sandwich this is. The pork is melt-in-your mouth tender with slight crispy bits reinstatement of real carnitas. The refried beans act as sort of a barrier to keep the sauce from turning the sandwich into total mush although the long it takes you to eat the sandwich, the softer and messier it gets. The sandwich is a snap to make as well. The pork cooks all day in the slow cooker, the sauce takes about 20 seconds to make in the blender and the broiling/reheating the beans is simple and can be done simutaiously. Perfect for a special weeknight dinner.

April 01, 2013

Creamy Loaded Potato Salad

2 lb potatoes, cut into small cubes and cooked
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
1 teaspoon minced chives
1/3 cup Greek yogurt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Toss the potatoes, celery, onion and bacon together in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, chives, yogurt, mayonnaise, salt and pepper. Pour over the potato mixture. Stir to evenly distribute the dressing. Use the back of the spoon to slightly smash some of the potatoes. Stir again. Serve immediately or refrigerate a few hours.
My thoughts:
There is a place we get our steamed crabs at that has really good potato salad. When we first started going there we didn't realize they sold side dishes and I would either make something at home or we'd end up hungry not too long after we were finished picking crabs. When we realized they sold cold salads, we picked them up and the potato was by far our favorite. It reminded us of a twice baked or "loaded" baked potato but in potato salad form. I am not sure exactly what is in it but this is what I came up with for the months where crabs are out of season and we have no reason to frequent a crab shack. I wouldn't say it is an exact replica, I know the "real" version has green onions not chives and I'm pretty sure that it does not have yogurt (but maybe sour cream) but I like the flavor of the Greek yogurt and it lightens it up a bit. The chives just make it a little more baked potato-y. Try making it for your next crab feast or picnic!