Last week was one long week. The roofers showed up Monday for the new roof, I started a new job, and allergy season hit like Mohammad Ali. By Friday night I was all in. Good news showed up in my inbox from Denison Farm though, strawberry season has started! They’re a few weeks early, but I’ll take it! The first strawberries of the season were enough to draw my itchy, watery, exhausted rear out the door and down to the farmer’s market. I had planned on getting at least a half flat, but since they only had about a flat left by the time I made it down there. There was a line behind me, so I settled for a couple of pints. There will be more strawberries to come.
The first strawberries call for something simple, I’ve waited all year to taste fresh strawberries, I want to taste the strawberry. So I settled for a classic, which is all I could handle through allergy fog anyway. I used raw almonds, if you use salted almonds I would leave the salt out. Continue reading →
Tomorrow, April 23, is Shakespeare’s birthday. After almost 500 years people are still remaking his work. Joss Whedon has a version of Much Ado About Nothing coming out this summer with Nathan Fillion as Dogberry. I don’t know Joss; I’m not such a fan of Shakespearian speech in films set in modern times but I like ya so I’ll probably give it a view. My favorite version is this one from Kenneth Branagh.
What to make for one of the greatest writers that ever lived? Since I’m a history geek of course I instantly decided that it should be something he would have recognized. Problem is the food we eat has changed a great deal since his time. Shakespeare lived during an exciting time. The cross cultural food exchange that began with the “finding” of the “New World” was just getting underway. And while turkey was readily accepted, “Tastes like swan, try it!” many other now popular foods did not. I finally decided on shepherd’s pie, which is basically a casserole of mashed potatoes over stew. He’d recognize the dish if not all the ingredients in it. In his day they would have used mashed parsnips or turnips instead of potatoes and of course no tomato sauce or corn. I’m not sure how much garlic they used in England at the time either.
The next thing I decided is that I had to go big. The bard strikes me as someone who liked the good life and liked to live large. He might not have been able to live it very often, writers then and now struggle to make a living, but something over the top seemed appropriate. I added every think I like in mashed potatoes.
Some people get all picky about shepherd’s pie and claim it’s not the real thing if it’s not made with lamb. I say phooey. Shepherd’s pie is a peasant dish and I’m pretty sure they made it out of whatever they could catch to put in the pot. Besides, my farmer was out of ground lamb. Make it out of whatever kind of red meat you can catch. I would stay away from poultry as it wouldn’t have the right texture for the stew.
Be careful of it under the broiler, it browns fast. This may have been the first time I’ve used the broiler in this oven and I set the broiler on high. Luckily the topping caramelizes before it actually burns so if it’s a bit “browner” than you would like it might still be okay. The recipe doesn’t call for parsley but that’s because I forgot to add it. I had just spread the mashed potatoes over the stew when I realized the parsley was still sitting on the counter. I would totally add it next time. If you use fresh parsley add it when you take the stew off the heat and before the mashed potatoes. You could also add it to the potatoes; chives would be another good addition to them. Continue reading →
Raw broccoli isn’t high on my list of favorites. To be totally honest, it’s not on my list of favorites, it’s in the okay section. It’s just so…fibrous. It takes forever to chew and takes over the taste of everything else. So for this salad I do one of the following: defrost a bag of frozen broccoli and chop it, steam chopped fresh broccoli, or shred the broccoli. Shredded broccoli is my favorite but it takes the most work and clean up (drag out the mandolin, try not to maim myself using it, then clean the mandolin trying to get all the little bits of broccoli off of it). The picture is of defrosted and chopped broccoli.
This salad is supper yummy and filling. It has tons of crunch and the cranberries give it just the right amount of sweet. Poppy seed dressing (at least Annie’s brand) is pretty sweet as well. This is the only salad I use it with so far. The broccoli can take all that sweetness in stride and still be tasty broccoli. Continue reading →
I’ve been on an oatmeal kick lately. It could be that I discovered making it in the microwave. Three minutes and BAM! Done. It could also have something to do with the fact that I didn’t realize I had oatmeal and bought more, now I have lots of oatmeal.
This idea hit me while I was wondering what to do with the juice leftover from Not My Mom’s Fruit Salad. Why not replace the water with juice when I make my oatmeal?
Worked like a charm. I usually put more sugar than I like to admit in my oatmeal and I didn’t put any in when I used juice. The sweetness might have come from the dried pineapple as well. Topped with some lightly salted nuts it was totally yummy! Yep, salted nuts, they’ll help open the taste receptors in your mouth. They probably added to the seeming sweetness of this oatmeal.
I didn’t have a whole cup of juice, more like ¾, so I added water until I had a full cup. If you like cooked nuts, add them before cooking. I don’t, so I add them after. I used tropical juice, dried pineapple, and cashews, but I don’t see why any combination wouldn’t work. Continue reading →
When my grandmother was in her late eighties I lived with her awhile. It ended up being a fairly short time as she was in need of 24 hour company and I could not provide that. She was more than willing to give up cooking duty and I was happy to take it over. At some point she had lost interest in food and after 80 years of cooking (she started as a child helping to prepare meals) she was ready to give it up. Don’t get me wrong, she complained bitterly if I baked pie or cake or some other goodie and didn’t leave her any. She just wasn’t hungry for most meals. She had also become quite picky.
Chicken ‘n Pea Salad was one of the things I could routinely serve that she would eat. It’s also something that you can whip up quick after working all day. You can use up leftover chicken or defrost and grill up some (breaded tenders would be quite tasty). There always seems to be a bag of peas in the freezer (it feels empty without them) and some pasta sitting in the cupboard waiting to be used up. I’m not sure it’s allowed not to have ranch dressing in the fridge, at least not with my family. You can make it as basic or fancy as your audiences taste buds will allow, throw in some diced onion or shredded carrots. I normally use shell shaped pasta but I didn’t have any, the macaroni works just as well. Continue reading →
I have a confession. I believe this may have been the first time I’ve cooked bone in ribs. They always seemed difficult and rib meat tends to dry out quickly. That is why I love my slow cooker! You put the food in and several hours of ignoring it later, viola, done! This is so easy I’m afraid that I’ll be cooking ribs much more frequently now. It’s time to use up all that barbecue sauce sitting in the cupboard.
It was too wet and cold here (and I was far too lazy today) to try this, but instead of adding the barbecue sauce to the pot you could remove the ribs and finish them on the grill. That would give them those caramelized barbecue sauce bits that many people mistake for burnt sauce, mmmm. This method will still be great in the summer as a slow cooker doesn’t produce a lot of heat like your stove or BBQ would.
You will have to check on this recipe once or twice as the cooking time will vary as to the type of ribs and the bone to rib ratio. The garlic slow cooks and starts to melt into the sauce. If you want slow cooked garlic (it tastes kind of like roasted) then use the largest cloves. Continue reading →
I was looking for ways to use hard boiled eggs when I came across a recipe for pan bagnat. According to Wikipedia it’s a sandwich from Nice, France. In the local dialect, the name translates as wet bread. You stack the ingredients on the bread, after removing enough to make a trench, then pour the dressing over it, and set it aside for some time.
French dips, hot roast beef with gravy, even some people’s French toast, are just not my style. I’m not much for soggy bread but the sandwich sounded really good otherwise! That’s when I realized I could turn it into a salad. I thought about leaving the bread completely out and calling it something else. But while this recipe was percolating in the back of my mind, I started thinking more about bread. Most recipes that combine liquid with bread are an effort to revive stale bread. Until fairly recently most bread was much thicker and coarser than what we normally eat. The bread normally used for the sandwich is a crusty wheat bread; this was starting to make sense. I decided to give it a try. I still don’t know if I would like the sandwich but the salad was right tasty! The bread absorbed just enough dressing that it was damp but not soggy.
Market of Choice carries a demi baguette that I adore (just big enough for two servings). However, I didn’t use it right away and it became stale. I won’t say I could’ve drove nails with it, but it was close. If you use stale bread, please be careful cutting it! Continue reading →
Every Easter we were inundated by boiled eggs when I was growing up. There were three of us kids and there needed to be enough eggs to hide that we could all find some. Back then very few people bought the plastic eggs as that meant you had to buy stuff to put in them and boiled eggs were far cheaper as you could eat them afterwards. But then you ended up with a couple dozen eggs to eat up. “Mom, I’m hungry!” was met by, “Eat a boiled egg!” followed by, “Noooo, I’m tired of eggs!” The fridge would smell like boiled eggs for what seemed like an eternity.
If you find yourself in this situation, you might check out my recipe for pickled eggs as they’ll keep quite a bit longer than fresh ones. You could even use pickled eggs in Scotch Eggs; it would give them extra flavor. Scotch Eggs are a tasty way to use up your boiled eggs.
I was introduced to Scotch Eggs through Scottish festivals and games. I took to calling them heart attack balls for quite a while. There is nothing healthy or politically correct about them (well, okay, I used pastured organic eggs and bought the sausage from a local store). Quite simply, a Scotch Egg is pork sausage molded around a boiled egg, breaded and deep fried. These tasty, filling orbs were often packed into lunches or snacks for tea (working people’s tea, not fancy tea). You can eat them hot out of the oven but they are meant to be served cold or at room temperature and really are better that way. They’re best eaten by hand so no utensils needed. They’re even better with beer. Continue reading →