August 29, 2017

Yellow Squash "Home Fries"


4 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch wide pieces
2 medium-large yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch thick half moons
1 medium onion, sliced into 1/8 inch thick half moons
freshly ground black pepper


Saute the bacon in a large skillet. When nearly fully cooked, drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat out of the pan and add the onions and squash. Saute until the onion is translucent and the squash is just fork tender. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
Good home fries (not hash browns and not what some places try to call home fries but are really just dried up, sad potatoes of dubious origin) are one of my all time favorite foods. My Grandpop always made them for us, often with a side of fried chicken which seems like an iffy choice health-wise but he did live well into his nineties and was very spry so who am I to judge? I make my home fries the same way and they are always very good. Anyway, I was craving some home fries but was already making a dish that had potatoes in it so I thought I'd be creative and give the home fries treatment to some yellow squash I had hanging around. The results were very good. The trick is not to overcook the squash and leave it with some bite to it and to cook it in bacon grease. Not quite as good as it would have been with potatoes but perhaps a bit healthier and very tasty in its own right.

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August 25, 2017

Tortilla de Patatas con Pimientos (Spanish Omelette with Potatoes and Peppers)


1 7-oz jar roasted red peppers in water (or roast and peel one 1 red bell pepper)
2 cups olive oil
1 1/2 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced into 1/8 thick half moons
1 small onion, sliced into 1/8 thick half moons
2 cups olive oil
8 eggs, beaten

Drain and chop the pepper. Set aside.

Place the potatoes and onion slices in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Add the oil until they are fully covered. Over medium-low heat, simmer the potatoes and onions until the potatoes are just barely fork-tender. Using a slotted spoon or if possible a handheld strainer like this one, remove the potatoes and onions to a bowl without breaking up the potatoes. Add the peppers. Sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

Carefully pour the hot oil into a heat-safe bowl (I used a 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup). Allow to cool, then discard.

Pour the beaten eggs over the potato mixture,  and shake the bowl to distribute the egg. Pour the mixture into the (still well greased) pan. Smooth out the top of the omelette if needed. Cook, for about 15-20 minutes until just set. Flip the omelette on to a plate as if you were inverting a cake on to a baking rack or platter* then slide the raw part of the omelette back into the pan to brown 1-3 minutes. Remove to a platter. Allow to cool 2 minutes before slicing. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.

*I found this visual example of flipping the tortilla here.

My thoughts:
Tortilla de Patatas is one of my favorite things to order when we get tapas. We had a particularly good one in London of all places and it has been in the back of my mind ever since to make one myself. Flipping it is somewhat harrowing but it does give a great browned crust on both sides. If you don't feel up to browning it, use an oven-safe skillet and finish it off in the oven as you would it's Italian cousin the frittata.

Apparently, even the use of onions in Tortilla de Patatas is a bit of a debate among cooks so I'm sure peppers might be met with some skepticism as well but they are both so great in this I don't care. It not only was very tasty but it is a fairly quick dish to make when you don't have much in the house beyond the basics.

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August 23, 2017

Cauliflower Cheese

1 medium-large head cauliflower, cut into florets
6 oz extra sharp cheddar, grated
2 3/4 cups whole milk
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2-1 teaspoon dry mustard (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper
kosher salt
2 tablespoons bread crumbs


Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the cauliflower and cook until fork tender, about 5 minutes. Drain. Place cauliflower in a 2-quart casserole. Set aside.

In the same pot or a new saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour until just starting to brown. Add the milk and spices and whisk until smooth and starting to thicken about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Whisk or stir until smooth.

Pour over the cauliflower. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake, uncovered for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I've been reading a lot of British books lately and after a couple of mentions of cauliflower cheese I knew I had to make it. Luckily it is not cheese made out of cauliflower (which in the US it probably would be since we are the home of silly inventions like cauliflower "rice" and cauliflower "pizza crust") but rather a cheddar-y, creamy cauliflower casserole. Much better. I used Vermont cheddar but if you had British cheddar use that! For the the dry mustard I, of course, used Colman's which I always buy in the jumbo tins. I served this with pork but I think this homey dish would go well with any meat. It is super comforting but very quick to make and perfect for cauliflower season when cauliflower is extra sweet and delicious.

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August 19, 2017

Strawberry Confetti Whipped Cream

1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup freeze-dried strawberries
1/4 cup jumbo sized confetti sprinkles
1 drop red liquid food coloring


Place the freeze-dried strawberries in a  powerful mixer, mortar and pestle or food processor and grind until it forms a powder. Whisk the powder through a fine sieve into a bowl. Discard the seeds. Measure out 2 tablespoons of strawberry powder. Discard or store for future use any leftover strawberry powder.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a mixing bowl using a hand mixer beat the cream, strawberry powder, food coloring, and sugar together until soft peaks form.

When the peaks have formed, remove the bowl from the mixer and use a large spoon to gently fold in the sprinkles without deflating the cream. Spoon into a bowl or directly onto cake.

Serve immediately and refrigerate leftovers. Best eaten the day it is made.

My thoughts:
Today is my birthday! Woohoo! I'm celebrating by walking the boardwalk, eating crabs and playing skeeball but I am leaving you with this festive recipe.

I was at the store the other day and I spotted a Hello Kitty ice cream cake. I already had quite an assortment of Hello Kitty paperware on hand so having a pre-birthday Hello Kitty party for me seemed perfect. (Fun fact: When I turned 25 my now-husband threw me a little dinner party and everyone who came brought me at least one Hello Kitty themed present--without coordinating or asking what I'd want.) It was a fun way to kick off my "birthday week".

Being me, I wanted to make something to go with the ice cream cake.  Whipped cream seemed like the obvious solution: who doesn't like whipped cream? I love working with freeze-dried fruit so I flavored it with homemade strawberry powder and colored it with just a drop of red food dye to enhance the pink color. Then I stirred in some jumbo confetti for an extra bit of fun and pop of color. It went great with the vanilla confetti cake, it was fresh and fruity tasting yet light.

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August 14, 2017

"Everything" Popcorn


4 cups air-popped popcorn
1/2 teaspoon dehydrated minced onion
1/2 teaspoon dehydrated minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon popcorn salt
2-3 tablespoons melted butter


Place the popcorn in a large bowl. Drizzle with butter and toss to coat. Sprinkle with spices, toss to distribute.

My thoughts:
Matt's away for a few days being the volunteer coordinator for a Jewish deaf event so I've been left to my own devices. I'm not used to cooking for one anymore! Today I did a sort of snackies meal for one and made this everything bagel inspired popcorn, sliced tomatoes from the garden, and my new obsession: baby cucumbers dipped in hummus.

To make it more festive, I served it on this cute tray I received in my August PopSugar Must Have Box and put the popcorn in a vintage school lunch bowl my Grandpop got when he worked for the Board of Ed in the '70s.

You can get $10 off your first PopSugar Box with the code PARTY until 8/31. My birthday is this week so I loved that the theme for August (the 5th "birthday" of the PopSugar box) was celebrations and birthdays!

To celebrate their fifth birthday, Popsugar is giving away some prizes if you sign up for a PopSugar Box before the end of August.

Week 1: Limited # of lucky subscribers will win something from Pehr Designs

Week 2: Limited # of lucky subscribers will win something from First Aid

Beauty Week 3: Limited # of lucky subscribers will win something from Kendra Scott

Week 4: Limited # of lucky subscribers will win something from Tarte cosmetics

Week 5 (8/31): 5 Grand Prize! Limited # of subscribers something from Cambridge Satchel Co + 1 year Must Have

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August 11, 2017

Masala Chai Spiced Pickled Peaches

8-10 large peaches, pitted, peeled and sliced
2 cups water
2 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 inch knob ginger, sliced
8 whole cloves
1/8 cup green cardamom pods
12 black peppercorns
12 allspice berries
2 cinnamon sticks
8 whole cloves
2 tablespoons loose black tea, in a tea ball

Prep your jars/lids. Evenly divide the spices and peach slices between 2 quart-sized jars. Set aside.

Combine the water, vinegar, ginger, tea ball, and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a low boil. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove ginger slices and discard. Pour brine over the peach slices, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove any bubbles. Seal and process in a water bath for 10 minutes.

Yield: 2 quarts

Note: A great source for canning information is the Blue Book guide to preserving. I highly recommend it for learning how to can.

My thoughts:

Sweet Preservation asked me to be a Canbassador again this year, tasked with spreading the canning word, so of course, I said yes.The Washington State Fruit Commission sent me a huge box of gigantic peaches and nectarines. I didn't feel like jam so I thought I'd make a batch of fruit pickles. I haven't made any in about 4 years and I miss the bright sweet-tartness they add to a cheese plate, salad, sandwiches and even savory meat dishes. The inspiration for these came from the masala chai my husband learned to make when he lived in Texas of all places. We had all of the ingredients on hand but if you don't, any Indian or Nepalese market should have them. The peaches have a great spicy-sweet flavor going on and a pleasant warmness from the spice mix.

August 09, 2017

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and combine thoroughly. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until a very thick dough forms. Fold in the chips and coconut. Form cookies by dropping 1 heaping teaspoon of dough two inches apart. Flatten slightly then bake until light brown, about 14 minutes. Slide them out on the parchment paper on to a wire rack and allow them to cool 1-2 minutes on the parchment on the wire rack before removing the parchment and allowing them to cool directly on the wire rack.

Yield: about 1 1/2-2 dozen cookies

My thoughts:
Matt's been busy volunteering at the National Black Deaf Advocates conference that is being held here in Baltimore this week so I've been trying to keep busy! I had a big craving for chocolate chip cookies and it turns out today (8/4) is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day! It is all silly and made up but it seemed like a sign so I went ahead and whipped up these cookies while I caught up on various Australian dramas. I don't know why I don't make cookies more often; I mixed these up, baked them and ate one all during a single episode of Janet King. Admittedly, this isn't a huge batch but still, that's pretty speedy! Then I had two more while catching up on Insecure because they were that good.

The coconut adds a touch of a tropical note, of course, but it also adds a subtle yet pleasant chewiness to the cookie that I liked a lot. I think the extra moisture will keep them soft and fresh longer than regular chocolate chip cookies too which is always a plus when there are only two of you eating them! The perfect cookie for chocolate and coconut lovers.

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August 07, 2017

Chicken Spiedies

for the chicken:
1 1/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of 3 lemons
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
4 cloves garlic, sliced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

to serve:
soft Italian or "deli" rolls

Place all of the chicken ingredients in a marinating container or resealable plastic bag. Refrigerate for 4 hours.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and place on (soaked if bamboo) skewers. Place on a platter and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal grill. When ready, place the skewers on the grill and cook, 3-5 minutes on each side or until fully cooked.

Lightly grill the insides of the bread (brush with oil first if desired). Remove the skewers from the chicken, place inside the roll. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
I've seen Spiedie marinade at a few stores (mostly NY and NJ based chains) and was intrigued so I googled it and it turns out that speidies are Binghamton, NY's specialty. There is even a speidie festival! The origins are a bit murky but it seems like it was brought to central NY state by Italian immigrants and soon became a bar and street fair favorite. Sort of like central NY's answer to barbecue.

Originally they were made with lamb but there are also variations that use beef, pork, and chicken. Chicken is always super popular (and cheap!) so that seems to be the most common variety now. Chicken breast seems to be the most popular but chicken thighs are so much more flavorful and grill so nicely, I used them instead. The marinade is easy, you take your basic Italian spices (parsley, oregano, basil), vinegar, garlic, lemon juice and interestingly, mint and toss it all together. So easy! You could use all fresh herbs but I don't have much of an herb garden this year and I find that dry herbs work just as well in a marinate if not even better because they distribute more evenly in the liquid. You don't want to marinate the chicken too long since the mix is so acidic so about 4 hours will do it. The marinade makes the meat so super flavor and tender it doesn't need anything else. A bit of mayo can be good, though. Try these sandwiches the next time you grill, it is just as easy as kabobs but a bit more fun!

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August 02, 2017

Deviled Egg Shrimp Salad

5 hard-boiled eggs
1 lb peeled, cooked shrimp
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons dillweed
1 1/2 teaspoon dill relish
1/2 teaspoon hot paprika
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
freshly ground black pepper

to serve:
rolls or sliced bread
tomato slices (optional)
additional paprika (optional)

Halve the eggs. Remove the yolks to a large bowl. Set aside.

Coarsely chop the egg whites and shrimp. Place in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Mash together the spices, mayo and mustard into the yolks until smooth. Add the shrimp and egg whites. Stir to evenly combine all ingredients.

Spoon on to rolls/bread, garnish with tomato slice, sprinkle with paprika and serve. Alternatively, refrigerate the salad until ready to eat, up to 24 hours.
My thoughts:
I came up with the idea for this while reading The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South by John T. Edge (read my thoughts on my book blog). In it he describes a truly dreadful sounding dish consisting of a bed of deviled eggs topped with a creamy, cheesy gravy, shrimp and served over those awful "Chinese" crunchy noodles. I shuddered. Then I got to thinking.  I like shrimp salad. I like deviled eggs. I've even made shrimp deviled eggs! What if I made something that combined the two and made something actually tasty (no offense to people who actually like the casserole, I found recipes for it online so someone must still be making it) and probably a whole lot easier?  I'm glad I did. This shrimp salad-egg salad hybrid is awesome. It is like the creamiest deviled eggs ever mixed with tasty, sweet shrimp. What's not to love?

I had mine on a long roll because we happen to have them for a dish I was planning to make tomorrow for dinner but Matt had his on potato bread and said it was just as good. I also got to break out my faux paper plates with an ant print so win-win.

Note: look for dill relish near regular sweet pickle relish in the condiment aisle or near pickles. If you can't find it, finely chop up half of a dill pickle spear.

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