Monday, March 31, 2008

Six-Word Memoir

Joy, the clever author of Joy of Desserts--a great blog that will satisfy any sweet tooth--has tagged me for a six-word memoir meme. The challenge is to describe myself in six words. That IS hard! But I'll give it a try:


Here are my tags, followed by the rules:

- Mary of Shazaam in the Kitchen, who is tremendously talented with a wit that entertains me to no end.

- Gloria, of Canela's Kitchen; Gloria is a blogger from Chile, with gorgeous photos, awesome recipes and a sweet personality that comes through in her writing. Plus she's recovering from knee surgery, so go on over and give her some bloggy love.

- Andy, The New Cook, who is ever-so-cleverly learning his way around the kitchen. He has a great blog that offers kitchen newbies step-by-step instructions.

- Coffee and Vanilla's brilliant author, Margot, who just celebrated 1 year of foodblogging with European and Caribbean flair.

- Green Gourmet Giraffe's Johanna of Melbourne, Australia. Her blog is always entertaining and inspiring, with lots of great recipes!

Rules for this meme:

- Write your own six-word memoir;

- Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like;

- Link to the person who tagged you in your post;

- Tag five more blogs with links;

- Remember to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play.

Coconut Cheesecake

I made this cheesecake sugar free as my birthday cake last week. It was so good that even the sugar-eaters ate it instead of the traditional cake.

This, of course, can be made with real sugar for those without that particular dietary restriction. It can also be made crustless with excellent results.

Coconut Cheesecake

cookie crust* (optional)
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar or sugar substitute
1 large egg
1/3 cup coconut milk (I used lite/reduced fat organic coconut milk)
1 tablespoon coconut rum or coconut extract
coconut topping**

Beat cream cheese and sugar until creamy; beat in egg. Gradually mix in creamer, then rum. Pour over crust (or without crust, into a greased 8-inch cake pan) and bake in a preheated 325*F oven until puffy and golden--about 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool. Cheesecake will deflate and harden as it cools. Cover and refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best).

*Cookie crust: I used Joseph's sugar-free coconut cookies, about 1/2 bag (1 bag = 6 ounces), crushed and mixed with 3 tablespoons of butter and pressed into the bottom only of my cake pan. It formed a beautifully crunchy base for my cheesecake.

**Coconut topping: Sugar-eaters can simply toast dessicated sweetened flaked coconut for a topping; however if, like me, you need to eat sugar-free, here's what I did: toast 1/2 cup organic unsweetened flaked coconut in a dry skillet until golden; remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sugar substitute and about 1/2 teaspoon vanilla-flavored sugar-free coffee syrup (agave nectar could also be used) and stir until well incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve: Plate cheesecake by turning a plate upside-down over your cake pan. Using both hands, carefully turn both over, tapping the cake pan to loosen (you may need to run a knife or spatula around the rim of cheesecake before doing this). When it releases, remove cake pan. You'll now have your cake crust-side up. Now place your serving plate upside-down on top of your cheesecake, and again, using both hands, turn it all over. Remove top plate. Now you will have the cheesecake on a serving plate right-side up. Don't worry if it cracks or tears--just mound your coconut topping over the top, sprinkling some around the plate decoratively.

Note: It would be easier to make this in a springform pan to avoid the double-flipping for plating. If you have one, use it.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Art You Can Eat

Remember this?

It was my entry to the March round of Art You Can Eat, and I'm one of three finalists!

The roundup has some really fabulous creations, so I'm really quite flattered to have been chosen among the top 3 in this event!

So please do visit Art You Can Eat and vote for me your favorite of the top 3 finalists before March 31st!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Curried Lamb Stew

With some leftover Easter lamb and a fridge brimming with ingredients just begging to be used, I decided to make this African-inspired Curried Lamb Stew.

It was so good. So yummy in fact that I wouldn't change a thing. Okay, maybe one thing: it could use more heat. But it was delicious as-is for my lunch guests who prefer very little spice. For me, in the future, I'll add some cayenne pepper--a good 2 teaspoons to start with.

Curried Lamb Stew
serves 6-8 dinner portions

This would be delicious with some couscous or quinoa cooked in a weak broth with some peanuts mixed in for crunch!

olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
5 cloves garlic (smashed, peeled and minced)
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
2-1/2 pounds lamb for stew (I used leftover cooked leg of lamb, cut into chunks)
8 cups low-salt chicken broth (if not low-salt, omit salt, below)
1 bay leaf
about 2 cups pitted dried plums (I used a 9-ounce box; could also use a mixture of prunes and raisins)
2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper or grains of paradise
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 cup natural-style peanut butter (crunchy or creamy, as desired; I used creamy)

1. In a large skillet set over medium heat, saute onion, carrots and celery in olive oil until onions are transparent; add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Transfer to a large soup pot, slow cooker or oven-safe large crock/dutch oven.

Now, I used the oven method, which is how I will explain the directions here; keep in mind that cooking a stew in the oven at 350*F is the equivalent of a stove-top simmer, so the timing will be the same.

2. In the same skillet, brown lamb stew meat on all sides; transfer to large pot with onion mixture. Add chicken broth, bay leaf, dried plums, sweet potatoes, salt, pepper and curry powder. Cook, covered, in preheated 350*F oven for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

3. Remove from oven; stir in coconut milk and peanut butter. Taste and correct seasoning, if needed. Return to oven for 1-1/2 hours more, stirring occasionally, or until lamb is fork-tender.

Note: Be careful not to allow the peanut butter to scorch. You may want to reduce the oven temperature to 250*F.

I served this stew with greek yogurt and sliced bananas, along with chipotle peppers in adobo for individual use.

The Potato Song

This is too funny not to share!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's My Birthday

Edited Note: Thank you, thank you, thank you to those who donated! I'm so blessed!

Today is my birthday, and, as a gift to me, please consider making a donation to Shaohannah's Hope, Inc.

Domestic and international adoption costs can range from $10,000 to over $35,000 USD. Let's face it--most people just don't have the financial resources to make adoption possible. Now, families can turn to Shaohannah's Hope for financial grants and other assistance!

Facilitating adoptions for families is their mission; by helping these families, they are creating life opportunities for orphans worldwide. That's what I call a worthy cause.

Even $1, $5 or $10 is a generous gift to a loving family. If 100 people donate only $10... well, you can do the math! Every little bit helps. Instead of waiting for December, why not start your charitable donations now for the 2008 U.S. tax season?

If you do decide to give, please do let me know. It sure would make my day.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easy Salsa

I love fresh salsa--but when good fresh tomatoes are scarce (or too expensive), it's easy to make from canned whole peeled tomatoes.
Note: Mr.W says this is the best salsa he's ever tasted. This, coming from a man who hates tomatoes... so serve this to your pickiest eaters!

Here's how I make it:

makes about 2-1/2 cups prepared salsa

1 28-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes, drained
1 green onion (white and green parts), chopped fine
1/4 cup cilantro (if you don't like cilantro, you can use more parsley or other herbs, as desired)
2 tablespoons parsley
the juice of 1 medium lime (2 tablespoons juice)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped fine
kosher salt (about 1 teaspoon)
freshly ground black pepper (about 1/4 teaspoon)

Chop tomatoes into a chunky dice; drain away excess liquid and seeds. Transfer chopped tomatoes to a non-metallic bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir gently with a spoon.

Can be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. (But it won't last that long.)

Monday, March 24, 2008

TGRWT #10: Pineapple and Blue Cheese

TGRWT (They Go Really Well Together) is a monthly-or-so foodblogging event created by that pairs unusual ingredients together. This is the tenth round and is hosted by David Barzelay at Eat Foo(d). See the roundup here.

For an in-depth discussion of the molecular gastronomy of this pairing, see this very well-written article.

I have always loved fruit and cheese together, so it comes as no surprise that this pairing intrigued me from the start.

I decided on a pineapple curd topped with crumbly gorgonzola served in tiny prosciutto cups.

What a delight! The pineapple curd was smooth and sweet (and something I was able to make using a sugar substitute to accommodate my dietary restrictions), the crumbly gorgonzola was salty and pungent, and the prosciutto cups provided a hammy, wonderfully crunchy base. It was an explosion of flavor that made my whole mouth sing.

Well, not actually sing, because my mouth was full, but you get the idea.

I served these as an appetizer before Easter dinner and they were well received by my guests. It's best to make these very small--two-bite sized or less--because they are a bit on the messy side. If you don't want to bother with the prosciutto cups, the pineapple curd can be served simply dolloped on spoons, topped with a few blue cheese crumbles.

A little goes a long way here--these are big flavors.

Pineapple Curd with Crumbly Gorgonzola in Prosciutto Cups

Pineapple Curd
inspired by
this recipe
makes about 2-1/2 cups

1 cup pineapple juice
3/4 cup sugar or substitute (I used Whey Low Granular Type D)
4 large eggs
1-3/4 sticks butter, cut into chunks

In a heavy saucepan, whisk together juice, sugar and eggs. Place over a medium-low flame and add butter all at once. Whisk constantly until butter melts, then reduce heat to low. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until the curd is thick enough to hold the marks of the whisk. (This took me about 45 minutes, so be prepared!)

Immediately pour curd through a fine wire mesh into a bowl then chill, covered with cling wrap.

Prosciutto Cups

Carefully drape thinly-sliced prosciutto over the backs of mini-muffin tins set upside-down in a larger, rimmed sheet pan (so that any grease can drain away). If the prosciutto breaks, just layer another piece over. (I used 2 layers.) Place in 200*F oven until crispy--about 30-45 minutes. Cool thoroughly before storing in an airtight container. (I held them only overnight, so I'm not sure how long they will keep.)

To Assemble

Pipe curd into cups and top with crumbly gorgonzola. Enjoy!

Waiter, there's something in my... Garlicky White Beans

Pulses (beans and legumes) are the required ingredient for this month's installation of the ever-popular "Waiter, there's something in my..." foodblogging event. This month, the host is the talented and ever-so-clever Jeanne of Cook Sister!.

Visit the roundup to see a fantastic array of beany-goodness. There are several awesome recipes that I plan to try!

So without further ado, here is my entry.

Bursting with garlickyness (is that a word?) and balanced with salty romano cheese and sweet onion, this white bean dish could be served as a vegetarian main course or as a simple, yet flavorful, side dish to accompany meat or poultry.

Garlicky White Beans
serves 2 as a main course or 4 as a side dish

4 cups cooked beans, drained (I used great northern beans; you can use cannelini, or any bean you wish)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced vertically
3 to 5 cloves garlic, minced
freshly shaved romano (or your favorite) cheese

Place beans in a greased casserole dish; sprinkle with salt. Set aside.

In a skillet over a medium flame, saute onions in heated olive oil until transparent; add garlic and saute until fragrant (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and pour over beans.

Shave romano cheese over beans to cover generously, or as desired. Bake in a 325*F oven until top is golden and beans are hot.

Beans may be served hot or at room temperature.

This bean dish was served at my Easter table and was a delicious accompaniment to my leg of lamb.

Ode to Forgetfulness

How you taunt me, o brain-sieve,
that I might leave
my Easter sweet potatoes
sitting on the shelf
uncooked, unnoticed, forgotten.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

I hope you and your family have a blessed Easter today.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Phun with Pho

Pho (pronounced "Fuh") is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. Made with chicken or, more commonly, beef, the broth is flavored with star anise, cinnamon and cloves, along with charred onion and ginger. A bowl of pho would often contain some meat--chicken, rare or cooked beef, tripe or organ meats--and a good portion of rice noodles.

Served piping hot with a variety of add-ins such as herbs, bean sprouts, lime wedges, slices of chili pepper, soy sauce, fiery sriracha hot sauce, hoisin sauce and other condiments, pho is treat for anyone who wants to customize the spiciness of their food.

When I lived in Atlanta, my coworkers introduced me to Pho--specifically, Pho 79 Restaurant at 4166 Buford Highway, NE, Atlanta. Take note, however--I hear they've changed locations and moved all the way to Dunwoody Point to 5000 Winters Chapel Road. The owner is a really friendly woman who offers great service, huge portions, and reasonable prices.

It became a comfort food for me. When it was drizzly and wet, it was a day for pho. When it was snowing, or windy, it was a good day for pho.

I decided to try making some pho and, while not 100% authentic, it satisfied the craving. If anyone reading is a pho expert, please do let me know what I can do to make it better! (Besides actually using a matching set of chopsticks--I just grabbed!)

Beef Pho
serves 6

2 medium onions, unpeeled and cut in half
1 thumb-sized knob of ginger, unpeeled and cut in half
1 pound bone-in beef pieces (I used 1/2 pound neck bones and 1/2 pound shanks)
6 to 8 cups water
1 carrot, unpeeled and cut in large chunks
about 8 cloves
about 3 star anise
2 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
1-inch piece cinnamon stick (preferably saigon cinnamon; I used regular old cinnamon, which I think is actually cassia)
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 pound sliced steak or brisket, sliced, if desired (this depends on how much meat you are able to get from the pieces you use for the broth)
1 5-ounce package rice noodles (I used bean thread noodles because I had some)
hot water
1 lime, cut into wedges
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced with seeds intact
2 cups mung bean sprouts
sliced fresh green onions
thin strips of carrot (okay, this isn't traditional, but I thought it added some lovely color; I cut super-thin strips using a potato peeler)
basil (I didn't have any)
other vegetables, as desired

Place onions and ginger cut-side up on a baking sheet or piece of foil. Set under the broil for a few minutes to lightly char. Transfer to a crock pot, and add beef bones/pieces, water, carrot, cloves, star anise, fish sauce, cinnamon and salt. Cook on low for 6 hours, stirring occasionally.

Cool broth and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, remove fat solids that are on top. Pour into a colander that's set into a large bowl to catch the broth. Return broth to crock pot and set to high. (If you want a clearer broth you can strain it through a cheesecloth-lined wire mesh strainer... I didn't bother with that step.) Correct seasoning with salt, if needed.

Go through strained meat pieces and chop any good meat and add to pot. Discard bones, fatty bits and used-up onions, carrot and spices.

If you're using additional sliced beef, add to broth about 20 minutes before you want to eat. Pour hot water over dry noodles and rest 20 minutes, or until soft.

Arrange a platter with lime wedges, jalapeno slices, bean sprouts, green onions, carrot strips, cilantro, parsley and basil. Place chopsticks, hot sauce and hoisin sauce on table.

Pictured above, clockwise from top: jalapeno slices, vertically sliced green onion, cilantro, mint, fresh ginger slices, lime wedges, parsley; mung bean sprouts at center.

To serve, place a few pieces of green onion and a few strips of carrot in bowl; add noodles and top with hot broth and meat. Invite guests to add desired items to their soup bowls and enjoy.

After such a complicated--though not suffocatingly filling--lunch, I served a simple tray of miniature cookies in lemon, chocolate chip and almond. Sugar-free, of course.

This was a really fun meal to serve to my friends--they all seemed to enjoy it.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter Plans

Resurrecton Sunday is one of those holidays I like to keep very simple. My brother and sister-in-law will be joining us for a mid-day meal, followed by rest and relaxation.

We've hashed out a tentative menu as follows:

  • Boneless Half Leg of Lamb
  • Small Apricot-Glazed Sliced Ham
  • Roast Turkey
  • Baked Great Northern Beans with Garlic and Bacon
  • Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges
  • Macaroni and Cheese (as required by Mr.W)
  • Quinoa & Broccoli Casserole
  • Tossed Salad

I'll also be making a sugar-free cheesecake (probably this one), and my sister-in-law will likely bring some sort of sugar-full dessert, to be determined.

At times like this, I constantly re-think the menu. As I'm bombarded by fabulous ideas and recipes from other blogs, and, I can't help but think, "Oh, that would be great at our table this year!" However, I think our menu is pretty good and will satisfy all those food-cravings, dietary restrictions and holiday dish expections of our small group.

Overall, I think it's a pretty good meal plan. A lot of food for four people, no doubt!

What are your meal plans for this Easter? I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Buns are Overrated

Mr.W is a hamburger man, and about twice a month I like to oblige, albeit sans bun and with healthy sides! I'm sure he would have preferred macaroni and cheese from the box or potato chips, but he needs more antioxidants in his life. Besides, what kind of wife would I be if I indulged him and ruined his health in the process?

I made these mini-cheeseburgers, which were fantastic with a balsamic-mushroom sauce, side salad and curried sweet potato fries... no buns necessary.

It's not much of a recipe, but I'll give the details:

  • Sweet potatoes were washed and peeled, cut into sticks and tossed in a bowl with olive oil, salt, chili powder, curry powder and freshly grated nutmeg, moved to a rack set into a cookie sheet and baked at 350*F for 30 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, hamburger patties were pan-fried until cooked to medium-plus and well-done (Mr.W must have his meat well) and removed to rest.

  • Quartered cremini mushrooms (also called baby portabellas) were salted and sauteed in the pan juices until they released their liquid; then I poured about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar over and let that simmer down until reduced by half. Finished with 2 tablespoons salted butter.

  • I tossed together a quick salad of various leftover veggies: napa cabbage, iceburg lettuce, baby spinach, grape tomatoes, red and yellow bell pepper--all dressed with a dash of salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of red wine vinegar.

This was a simple, satisfying meal, perfect for a weekday, even if Mr.W avoided the mushrooms and opted for ketchup and mustard instead.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

$50 at Williams-Sonoma

Kate over at The Clean Plate Club is having a giveaway--a $50 Williams-Sonoma Gift Card! I'd say that's pretty darned exciting!

A couple of weeks ago my sister-in-law and I went to Williams-Sonoma to browse. We do that every once in a while for fun. When we saw packs of dish towels marked down to $3.79, I snatched up a package with bright yellow stripes--so springy!

When I checked out, the cashier asked, "Is this all you'll be buying today?"

Well, uh, yeah.

BUT, if I had a $50 gift card, I'd do more shopping... maybe some good balsamic vinegar and orange olive oil. Or maybe some himilayan pink salt. Then again, I do need some sheet pans....

Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spaghettini with Garlic Oil

Or, Spaghettini Aglio e Olio.

A few days ago I visited The New Cook and read about Andy's Aglio e Olio Pasta. Dressing pasta with olive oil cooked with garlic (and other bits you may have around your kitchen) is one of those comfort foods anyone from an Italian neighborhood knows. It really brought back some memories.

When I was in my teens and cooking for our family, I used to add a can of tuna to this recipe. You'd be surprised how delicious that is! Other additions and combinations include cherry tomatoes, shallots, various herbs, fresh green beans, even a good squeeze of lemon... you're only limited by your imagination here!

I had to make some.

I stayed pretty close to the original, adding only onion, basil, oregano and red pepper flake for some spice, finishing with a little butter, and tossing it all with spaghettini and topping with a generous dusting of pecorino romano cheese.

Pasta with Garlic Oil
serves 2

- 1/2 pound spaghettini, or pasta of choice, cooked in boiling salted water according to package directions, drained, reserving 1/4 cup of cooking liquid
- olive oil - several good turns around the pan... maybe 1/4 cup (sorry, I didn't measure--it was about 1/4 inch depth in my 8-inch saute pan)
- 1 small onion, peeled and diced
- 3 to 5 cloves garlic (I used three very large cloves), minced
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake
- 1 tablespoon salted butter
- grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese

Saute onion in olive oil over medium-low heat until transparent; add garlic, basil, red pepper flake and cook, stirring constantly, until garlic is fragrant and beginning to brown (this only takes about 2 to 3 minutes). Immediately remove from heat. Add butter and let melt. Toss with cooked pasta and reserved pasta cooking liquid; dust generously with grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese.

Although this is probably the simplest of Italian recipes, I'm bringing it to the Festa Italiana, a foodblogging event celebrating Italian Food, co-hosted by Finding La Dolce Vida and Proud Italian Cook.

See the roundup Part 1 and Part 2 for lots and lots of delicious-looking Italian dishes from around the blogosphere!

Corncakes for Breakfast

A few days ago I found this lovely bag of cornmeal in my grocery store.

Good heavens, it's not very PC, is it? My robust apologies to anyone who might be offended.

I bought it, though, because the price was right and it's a good quality cornmeal. My first experiment was this morning: corncakes.

They were dense but good. This recipe made exactly two 5-inch cakes. As you can see, I ate them with butter and maple syrup (sugar-free syrup, actually).

Now this particular brand of cornmeal is not gluten-free, but the recipe can be if you use GF ingredients.

makes 2 5-inch cakes

Combine in a bowl:

1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar or sugar substitute
1/8 teaspoon baking powder

Whisk together; add:

1/8 cup mayonnaise
1/4 plus 1/8 cup milk

Stir to combine. Heat an 8-inch skillet over a medium flame. Spray pan with canola spray and spoon about 1/2 of the mixture, spreading slightly with the back of a spoon.

Cook until bubbles appear around the edges, about 3 minutes. Flip carefully with a spatula. Reduce flame to low. Cook another 2 to 3 minutes, or until bottom is golden. Remove from pan and keep warm; cook remaining batter the same way.

Stack with butter and drizzle with your favorite syrup. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Interview with a Cadbury Creme Egg

Want to read something hilarious? Head on over to Cakespy for an interview with a Cabury Creme Egg!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

iPod Touch Giveaway

Hey, folks... just to pass the word, Cooking... by the Seat of My Pants! is giving away a free iPod. Check it out.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

This year, the Pope moved St. Patrick's Day to Saturday, March 15th this year--today--to avoid conflict with Holy Monday on March 17th. And although I think that's just plain ridiculous, it's still a good excuse to enjoy some good Irish food!

I love corned beef--it's an institution in my family. But unlike the throw-it-all-in-a-pot boiled corned beef and cabbage of my youth, I prefer to make colcannon with either corned beef or ham.

Granted, I probably should be corning my own beef brisket, but this foodblogger has her limits.

So here's the recipe I use--I hope you'll try it for something different--if not for your St. Patrick's Day meal, perhaps as a different way to use up some leftovers.

Corned Beef & Colcannon

Corned Beef
adapted from Alton Brown's recipe

2 to 2-1/2 pound corned beef brisket (I use store-bought)
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Combine ingredients in a crock pot with enough water to cover; set to low and cook overnight (6 to 8 hours). Drain and set aside.


1-1/2 sticks butter, divided (3/4 cup)
1 small head regular green cabbage or savoy cabbage, sliced
5-6 white potatoes, peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter and saute cabbage until fork-tender.

While cabbage is cooking, boil potatoes in salted water until fork-tender (or microwave until soft) and drain. Place cooked potatoes in a large bowl and mash with remaining 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter and enough milk to reach a stiff, creamy consistency. Add cooked cabbage and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve generous spoonfuls of colcannon with pieces of cooked corned beef swirled in and a good knob of butter melting over.

Colcannon lends itself to variations--it would be excellent with the addition of caramelized onions, shallots or leeks. It's also equally delicious with ham--I love it beside some good roast beef.

Obviously this is not a diet meal with all that butter, but it's good!

Recipe previously posted here.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Asian Noodle Salad

Part of my quest for Spring has led me into the produce department more often and, even though it's not local (our ground is still frozen), it calls to me like a siren's song.

When I read Pioneer Woman's recent post on an Asian Noodle Salad, I really wanted to try it. I don't know why, because I've never been a fan of cold noodle salads.

To be fair, I've tried one; it was on a cold, rainy day in Atlanta. Cold noodle salads are best enjoyed during hot weather. At least that's what I'm told.

So I cranked up the furnace and made it anyway here at Chez W for some pals that came for lunch.

They loved it! It was a huge hit--beautiful to behold, and plentiful. My guests had three platefuls each, at least. Not that I was counting or anything.

I'll admit that I'm rather ambivalent about the salad, however. It was good. It was a salad.

It definitely reminded me of my years in South Korea--the dressing embodies the flavors of a good bulgogi marinade.

I warn you--this is an EXPENSIVE salad to make. The grocery bill for all the stuff was about $25. So this is probably best made when you have some garden bounty to use! (And sorry, folks--the dressing will give you some serious bad breath--have mints or gum available, please!)

Asian Noodle Salad
Serves 6 generously
Adapted from
Pioneer Woman's recipe, who adapted it from Jamie Oliver's recipe

1 head napa cabbage, sliced
1 red bell pepper (capasicum), cut into strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
1 bag baby spinach
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper, sliced into rings
1 package (about 10 ounces) bean thread noodles, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes to soften (you could also use rice noodles for authentic asian cooking--otherwise a substitute of cooked pasta will work)
1 bag bean sprouts (I couldn't find any and so left them out)
toasted peanuts or cashews of choice (I omitted these)
chopped herbs: cilantro, parsley, mint, basil... whatever your heart desires (I used a parsley-mint combo, about 1/4 cup packed)

Layer everything in the biggest bowl you own; toss with hands until ingredients are well distributed. Heap onto a big platter and serve with dressing on the side.


8 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
6 tablespoons soy sauce (I used low-salt)
1/3 cup brown sugar (I used brown sugar substitute)
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
2 cloves chopped garlic

Combine oils and set aside; combine remaining ingredients in a food processor and puree. With processor on, pour in oil in a slow stream until it's all been incorporated. (This emulsifies the dressing so you don't have to stir it later.) Serve with salad.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

Although the calendar says it's almost spring, the weather outside still says winter. It's quite cold, and we still get snow several times a week. But we also get little periods of sunshine in the afternoons that cause everyone to come out of their homes and offices to enjoy that bit of warmth--a reminder of better days to come.

Years ago I went to the Strawberry Festival in Plant City, Florida. What a treat! And the flavor of those perfect strawberries has never been far from my memory. So when I saw a basket of strawberries from Plant City at my local grocery store, I knew this was just the taste of spring I've been looking for.

I remembered watching Ina Garten top strawberries with balsamic vinegar as a topping for panna cotta. I've been reading about panna cotta for years and had never tried it, so I figured it was time.

I made Ina's panna cotta recipe, but went my own way for the strawberries; these were served topped with lemon zest, a generous spoonful of balsamic strawberries, and finished with a couple of crumbled sugar-free lemon cookies.

Hello, Spring!

It was just what I was looking for: sweet, light, creamy, a little crunch from the cookies... a beautiful balance of vanilla, strawberry and lemon.

Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries

Panna Cotta
recipe from Ina Garten

1/2 packet (1 teaspoon) unflavored gelatin powder
1-1/2 tablespoons cold water
1 1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I used homemade vanilla extract)
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped (I used a mexican vanilla bean)
1/3 cup sugar (I used sugar substitute)
lemon zest for serving

In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin on 1 1/2 tablespoons of cold water. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to dissolve.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 3/4 cup of the cream, the yogurt, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean seeds.

Heat the remaining 3/4 cup of cream and the 1/3 cup of sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Off the heat, add the softened gelatin to the hot cream and stir to dissolve.

Pour the hot cream-gelatin mixture into the cold cream-yogurt mixture and stir to combine. (I did this whisking constantly.)

Pour into 4 (6 to 8-ounce) ramekins or custard cups (I poured into wine glasses, about half full) and refrigerate uncovered until cold. When the panna cottas are thoroughly chilled, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. (I covered the panna cottas in wine glasses right after pouring.)

Balsamic Strawberries

2 pints (4 cups) fresh strawberries, washed, hulled and cut into quarters
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar, simmered until reduced by half (this sweetens the vinegar significantly and takes away the acidic bite of the vinegar)
1/8 cup sugar (I used sugar substitute, WheyLow brand)

Combine the strawberries, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or until read to use.

This is my entry for Food for Plastic Challenge II: A Taste of Spring, hosted by What's Cooking?

Poor Man's Peach Cobbler

There are hundreds--maybe even thousands--of cobbler recipes out there. And grunts. And brown bettys. And crumbles.

But this, my friends--THIS is the one your family will ask for. Because it's so tasty... so butterylicious... so eye-rollin'-toe-curlin' good.

It really is.

Now Mr.W's office has a lot of women in it. And as we know, where there are lots of women, there are lots of office events that require me to cook something to send in. Way back when he started this job, I made this cobbler recipe.

Now it's all they ask for. If there's a party, they sign Mr.W up for This Cobbler Recipe. They don't want anything else.

Which makes things pretty easy for me, wouldn't you say?

(Most southerners probably know this recipe already... but for the rest of y'all, enjoy!)

Poor Man's Peach Cobbler
serves 4 to 6

1 stick salted butter
1 cup self-rising flour*
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup milk
1 large can (mine says 29 ounces) peach halves or slices in heavy syrup

In a 13x9x2-inch pan (actually I used foil roasters this time, because I had to send them to the office), place the stick of butter. Put in cold oven and preheat to 350*F.

While the oven is preheating and melting your butter, mix together the flour, sugar and milk. I like to use my kitchenaid to stir together the dry ingredients then add the wet--but you really can't mess this up, folks. Just mix it together.

Remove pan from oven before butter is all the way melted. Or not. However, really.

(Obviously you see two pans here; I made two batches for Mr.W's office.)

Dump in the batter. Yes, the batter first. Trust me. I wouldn't steer you wrong.

Now spoon in your undrained peaches (don't get too much of that syrup just yet) and plop them onto the batter. Decoratively, or not. If it's a little uneven, don't worry about it. Then you'll have some peachier sections and some cobblier sections. It's all good.

Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of your heavy syrup from the can over the peaches.

Now put in the oven (center rack is best) and bake for a good hour or more. The batter will rise up over most of the peaches and get all brown and bubbly... oh, my.

Can you see the goodness? And you'll have to make this to understand the wonderful aroma this leaves all over your house.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Or half-n-half drizzled over. Or just out of the bowl. You'll be licking the plate before long.

This recipe lends itself to any number of variations. You could add cinnamon and nutmeg. You could use different fruit. And as much as I've thought about gourmet-ing this up, I can't bring myself to do it. Because it's so good, just as it is.

Sometimes simple is best.

*If you don't have self-rising flour, combine 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder. Works perfectly--in fact, that's what I did for the recipe photographed above.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies

When a friend is hurting, what can you do?

One of my nearest and dearest is really going through a rough time. Without going too much into detail, her teenage granddaughter has gotten herself mixed up with a bad crowd, and is now going through the painful process of learning that there are consequences for one's actions.

Watching it all happen has been difficult--for the girl's grandmother, and for me. It's strange to be on the other side of it all. I remember being that young, and thinking that adults couldn't possibly understand.

We do.

I want to help... somehow. I find myself feeling inadequately prepared, wanting to do something but not knowing what. So I listen. I offer to drive when we go somewhere. We have lunch together.

And I made some cookies.

I figured a few delicious cookies were in order. I made two different kinds of cookies from the same recipe: plain, with sliced almonds, and some made in mini-muffin tin and topped with a blob of seedless raspberry no-sugar-added-fruit-sweetened jelly: a pb&j cookie.

I made these sugar-free because of dietary needs--but can be made with regular sugar. They're are also gluten-free.

These are so good... I hope they offer my friend a few moments of enjoyment during this difficult time.

Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 2 dozen
from Kalyn's recipe

1 large egg
1 cup sugar or sweetener of choice (I used Whey Low Granular Type D)

1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used homemade vanilla extract)

1 cup natural peanut butter
1 tsp. water
1/3 cup chopped peanuts (optional)(I used sliced almonds... chocolate chips would be great here, too.)

Preheat oven to 350*F.

In a bowl, beat together the egg, sugar/sub, baking powder, and vanilla until creamy. Add peanut butter and water and beat together.

Stir in nuts if using.

For regular cookies:
Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Press with tines of a fork to make cross-hatch pattern. Bake 15 minutes, or until puffed and lightly browned. They will be soft to the touch.

Allow to cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack. Cookies will firm up as they cool.

For PB&J cookies:
Fill greased mini-muffin tins about half-full with cookie dough. Press flat with fingers or back of a spoon. Bake about 10-15 minutes, or until puffed and lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes in tin, then carefully remove to a cooling rack. Top with sugar-free jelly of choice.

This is my entry for SHF: Sweet Gifts, hosted by the talented Danielle of Habeas Brulee. See the roundup of many delicious sweet gifts here.

And the Winner Is...


Mary's name has been randomly selected as winner of my 1-year blogiversary contest. Mary, please email me sometime in the next couple of days and we'll get the particulars sorted out.

Warm thanks to everyone who participated!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Breakfast for Shovelling

Sunday was a crazy, blustery day. Here's what it looked like outside at 8am:

Our entire driveway was missing under a good 18 inches of snow & drift. So Mr.W and I knew we had to get out there in the mess.

But first, we needed breakfast to fortify ourselves.

Are those some gorgeous eggs, or what?

Now y'all know that I love some grits, and my husband is surely a southern man... but in this region, my hometown, it's all about home fries. And a good, hearty breakfast is just what's needed before going out to attack the snow. So I fried us up some potatoes and onions to go with those lovely eggs. And bacon. You can't shovel without some bacon in your belly.

After eating all that, we were able to re-route the snowdrifts that had somehow blown inside our back storm door, along with the deep snow up and down the entire driveway. Mr.W found the front sidewalk and shovelled it, too.

I'm afraid I don't have a real recipe for this food... it's simple, stick-to-your-ribs food! Here's the general method:

- fry up some bacon; set on paper towels to drain

- pour off most of the bacon grease and start frying potatoes and sliced onions, adding a little butter if needed

- when potatoes are fork-tender and starting to fall apart, pan-fry eggs (with salt and pepper) as desired

This is my entry to Homegrown Gourmet #6: Breakfast hosted by Culinography. See the roundup here for lots of fabulous breakfast ideas!

Man Food: Cheesy Chicken Burrito Soup

This soup was a bit of an accident--and what a happy surprise, for me and for the men I fed it to.

I was looking for some kind of chicken chili dish to serve to Mr.W's friends, but they dislike all things sour creamy... so this soup was created.

Chock full of healthy goodness, this soup is a crowd-pleaser! Even your South-Beach and Low-Carb buddies will be able to eat this one.

Cheesy Chicken Burrito Soup
serves 6 to 8

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb ground chicken or ground turkey
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon garlic powder
4 cups or 2 cans beans (I used pintos)
4 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Fry chicken breast pieces in olive oil until browned; set aside. Brown ground chicken; set aside. Add remaining ingredients to slow cooker and set on low for four hours.


1 cup cooked rice or 1 cup rinsed quinoa (I used quinoa)
2 cups shredded cheddar, jack or favorite cheese
1-1/2 cups heavy cream mixed with 2 teaspoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
1/2 pound frozen corn niblets

Turn slow cooker to high for 2 hours. Serve hot.

This is my entry to the Monthly Mingle: One-Dish Dinners, hosted by Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey. Get lots of one-dish meal ideas at the roundup.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Hello, Lover.

"Oh, my greasy lover, bacon." --Jim Gaffigan

I heart bacon.

And when I read Shauna's recent post on a bacon-themed potluck she and The Chef hosted, well... needless to say, I drooled.

Chatting with a friend shortly thereafter, I described bacon-wrapped dates. She said, "Oooh. I wonder how that tastes."

"I don't think we'll have to wonder for long," I replied.

And we didn't. Last night I made them, we tasted, and swooned. Eyes rolled. Tongues lolled. We sniffed and gobbled and sucked on the toothpicks after they were gone.

So if you like bacon, try these. You won't be sorry.

Bacon-Wrapped Dates with White Balsamic-Shallot Glaze
makes 6

6 medjool dates (I left the pits inside.)
3 slices bacon, each cut in half
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (I used a pear-infused white balsamic vinegar)

Wrap bacon strips around dates and secure with toothpicks. Place in a greased pan. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400*F.

In a saucepan set over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add shallot and cook, stirring often, until transparent. Add vinegar and simmer until reduced by half.

Drizzle vinegar mixture over dates and bake, uncovered, for about 10-15 minutes (turning over half-way through cooking), or until bacon is well cooked. Remove from oven and cool in pan 5 minutes. Transfer dates to a paper towel to drain any remaining grease.

Food Art: Eggs

Art You Eat is a monthly event for beautiful edibles; Inge of Vanielje Kitchen won last month's event with an amazing creation... and had the honor of choosing the theme for this month:

Eggs. (Edited note: I'm a finalist! Check out the roundup at Art You Eat and vote on your favorite!)

Is that not the cutest little devilled egg you've ever seen? What an easy and entertaining way to eat an egg, too... perfect for picky little ones!

Egg Chicks
adapted from this recipe

4 hard boiled eggs, peeled
1 teaspoon mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon prepared yellow mustard
pinch salt
pinch white pepper
pinch curry powder
8 whole black peppercorns
carrot, cut into triangles for beaks

Using a small knife, cut the top third from each egg in a zig-zag pattern as pictured. Carefully remove top and scoop out cooked yolks. Set egg whites aside.

With a fork, mash yolks with mayonnaise, mustard, salt, white pepper and curry powder. Taste and correct seasoning according to your taste, if needed.

Check egg-white bottoms; you may need to cut a small slice from the bottoms to make them stand upright.

Gently spoon yolk mixture back into large bottom portions of egg whites, mounding up over the tops. Place lids on top at a rakish angle, to allow the "chicks" to peek out.

Decorate filling with peppercorns for eyes and carrot triangles for beaks.

Photograph madly before devouring.

It's as delicious as it is cute: first I picked out his eyes, then I bit his head off...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Happy Bloggy Birthday to Me


One year ago today I started this blog.

And in honor of my blog turning one year old, I'm prepared to give away a custom-mixed spice blend. Yes, you could be the lucky recipient of spices from my kitchen to yours--along with a recipe for use, of course. Just comment below and next week (March 11) a winner will be selected at random.

Let the games begin!

Edited note: The winner is... Mary!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Cube Steak and Gravy

I've mentioned often enough that Mr.W is a picky, picky eater. But the things he likes, he'll eat time and time again.

Cube steak and gravy is one of those meals.

When we got married and Mr.W was still in the Navy, we ate this meal every Friday night. Partially because we couldn't afford to go out... but mostly because it's delicious! Back then, we ate it with steamed white rice. Nowadays, however, we use brown rice.

Cube Steak and Gravy
serves 2

canola spray
2 to 4 cube steaks
salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 to 3 cups milk
1 cup long-grain rice, cooked according to package directions

Spray a large saucepan with canola spray and heat over a medium flame. Season steaks with salt and pepper to taste and fry for about 5 minutes per side for well done. Remove from saucepan and wrap in aluminum foil; keep warm in a 200*F oven.

Melt butter in saucepan and whisk in flour; add about 1/4 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add milk a little at a time, whisking in after each addition. As the milk heats up, the flour-butter mixture will combine with the milk and thicken the whole mess. If gravy gets too thick, whisk in more milk. Try not to let the milk to come to a boil.

Gravy is the correct thickness when you can draw your finger across the back of a spoon (or silicon spatula) and isn't immediately filled back in with remaining gravy.

Serve hot steaks with cooked rice; dress with gravy, as desired.

You can see from my photos that my gravy got WAY too thick; then I added too much milk at once, and ended with lumpy gravy. But after slow heating and constant stirring, it finally thinned out without too many remaining lumps. Yes, even after making this for 9 years, I sometimes still get lumpy gravy. But that's okay--it tastes good anyway.

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