Friday, November 19, 2010

Bruschetta with Black Olive Pesto, Ricotta and Basil

This is the final recipe in my Bruschetta series. Enjoy.

Bruschetta with Black Olive Pesto, Ricotta and Basil                           

Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer.                          
Use only a high-quality whole-milk ricotta for this recipe

1    medium garlic clove , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
2    1/2    cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4    cup artichoke hearts
2    Tablespoons fresh grated Parmesan                       
2    Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil , plus extra for serving               
1    small shallot , minced (about 2 tablespoons)                       
1 1/2    teaspoons juice from 1 lemon                       
1 1/2    cups whole-milk ricotta cheese (see note)                       
    Table salt and ground black pepper           
4    tablespoons fresh basil leaves , finely shredded/divided                 


Process garlic, olives, artichokes, grated Parmesan, olive oil, shallot, and lemon juice in food processor until uniform paste forms, about 10 seconds, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once during processing. Combine ricotta with salt and pepper (to taste) and 2 tablespoons shredded basil in small bowl and spread to edges. Divide olive pesto among toasts and carefully spread over ricotta. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with reserved basil, and serve.    

I hope you have enjoyed this series of Brushetta recipes and perhaps even gotten inspired to try some other flavor combinations.  New tasty appetizers are always so useful for parties. I'd love to hear about your favorite.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Disappearing Artichoke Bruschetta

This was the biggest hit of all the different Bruschetta recipes I tested.   It literally disappeared. As an appetizer, latecomers didn't even have a chance to taste it! Better make extra. 

Bruschetta with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan                            

Serves 8 to 10 as an appetizer.  


14 ounces artichoke hearts , rinsed and patted dry with paper towels                      
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon                      
1 medium garlic clove , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)                      
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for serving                      
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves , finely shredded                      
 Table salt and ground black pepper                      
2 ounces Parmesan cheese , 1 ounce finely grated (about 1/2 cup), 1 ounce shaved into strips with vegetable peeler                      


Pulse artichoke hearts, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in food processor until coarse puree forms, about six 1-second pulses, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula once during processing. Add grated Parmesan and pulse to combine, about two 1-second pulses. Divide artichoke mixture among toasts and spread to edges. Top with shaved Parmesan. Sprinkle with black pepper to taste, drizzle with olive oil, and serve.                      

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Classic Bruschetta

The first in my series of Bruschetta recipes.

Bruschetta with Tomatoes and Basil             

Makes 8 large slices.             

This is the classic bruschetta, although you can substitute other herbs. Decrease the quantity of stronger herbs, such as thyme or oregano.    

4          medium tomatoes , ripe, (about 1 2/3 pounds), cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice     
1/3       cup shredded fresh basil leaves         
1 1/2    tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves
2          tablespoons balsamic vinegar 
1          loaf country bread (approximately a 12-by-5-inch loaf), sliced crosswise into 1-inch thick pieces, ends removed         
3          large clove garlic , peeled       
7          tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil                                           
2          medium red onions (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise and diced very fine                                       
1 1/2    tablespoons minced fresh mint leaves                                    

Heat 3 1/2 tablespoons of the oil in large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onions and 2 cloves of garlic; sauté, stirring often, until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Continue to cook, stirring often, until onions are sweet and tender, 7 to 8 minutes longer. Stir in mint and vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set onion mixture aside. (Can be covered and refrigerated up to 1 week.)                                      

Mix tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper to taste in medium bowl. Set aside.                                             

Heat broiler or light grill fire.                                     

Broil or grill bread until golden brown on both sides. Place toast slices on large platter, rub garlic over tops, then brush with oil.                                    

When the onion mix has cooled mix together with the tomato mix

Use slotted spoon to divide tomato mixture among toast slices. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Really Good Bruschetta; Techniques

I was recently invited to an Italian themed party.  Well when I think Italian food, I think "There goes my diet"  But I don't want that to happen, and I can't not go to this party. So, since it was a pot luck, I signed up to bring "something w/veggies" (i.e. something I can eat even everything else is pasta) and started trying to find a truly Italian vegetable.  Well of course I thought of the tomato, but all alone that is kind of boring, and I've done the tomato, basil, mozzarella salad so many times I'm bored with it. So my next thought was Bruschetta. YUMMY! but still a little plain. So, I decided to "dress it up". I also needed to find out how to make it “transportable” for a party without having it go soggy or all the toppings falling off.  In my research I found the following information about the science of

Really Good Bruschetta!
There’s a whole lot more to bruschetta than chopped tomatoes and basil. I wanted smart flavor combinations that didn’t require a bib.

The Problem

The ingredients in modern bruschetta—toasted bread, tomatoes, and basil—may be an appealing combination, but in reality, the tomatoes usually lack flavor, excess liquid results in soggy bread, and precariously stacked toppings often end up on your shirt.

The Goal

I wanted my bruschetta to be full of flavor, easy to eat, and substantial enough to serve as either an appetizer or light entree.

The Solution

Aside from deciding on the ingredients, my biggest challenge was figuring out how to contain the toppings on my toasts so that they were easy to pick up and eat, even when drizzled with the standard vinaigrette.

I realized early on that to make the whole package structurally sound from crust to crown, I needed a “glue” to anchor the toppings to the bread. I discovered that the solution didn’t lie in a condiment, but in a technique.

By pulsing one of the topping ingredients in the food processor until it formed a rough paste, not only did I achieve the stable base I needed for the other toppings, but I provided contrasting textures. And to make sure it could offer optimum crunch with each bite, I toasted the bread and brushed it with fresh garlic butter right before topping it. I also discovered that while the individual toppings can be mixed up in advance, you want to assemble them right before you are ready to eat to avoid the toast going soggy.

 Check back again soon for a sampling of some of the recipes I made.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Wild Rice Pilaf

This recipe took a little more time than I usually spend for a dinner side but it made enough rice to last for several weeks so it was good well worth the extra work.

To a heavy bottom pot add:

2 cups broth
2 bay leaves
4-6 sprigs of thyme tide with kitchen twine

Bring to a boil and add:

1 cup wild rice

Reduce to simmer and cook 35-40 minutes.
If all the broth is absorbed before the rice is softened add another 1/2 cup and cook until soft

Meanwhile to a 12" skillet add:

3 T butter
1 onion chopped fine
1 carrot chopped fine
1 t kosher salt

Sauté for 3-5 minutes then add:

1 cup rice (I used short grain brown rice)
1 cup orzo
Cook until transparent another 3-5 minutes then add:

2 1/2 cups broth
2 bay leaves
4-6 sprigs thyme tied with twine

Simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed
Discard herbs and combine wild rice and regular rice mixture. Set aside.

In your skillet melt:
1 tablespoon butter


2-3 large mushrooms chopped fine
3-5 garlic cloves (you can use roasted for a more mellow flavor)

Sauté until browned.

Stir mushrooms into rice pilaf.

In your steamer, cook 2 broccoli stems as described in the "Broccoli" post.

Add to your rice pilaf.

This is enough rice to serve a family of eight twice or a family of two for several weeks. Package according to your usage and refrigerate.

Friday, September 17, 2010


I really like broccoli. I eat it raw or steamed, mixed with other veggies, etc. But usually when using broccoli you only eat the flowerets. Nobody really wants to dip that unappetizing, tough stem into a veggie dip and eat it raw. So what do you do with it? Normally it will just go to waste, trash or compost. But it is still edible, just unappetizing in its current state. I found a great new way to use it.

You've seen those flavored rice packets? My local grocery sells one call cheddar and broccoli rice, and it has all of about, 1/8 of a teaspoon of actually broccoli along with a flavor packet of powdered cheese. I can do better than that. Here's how:

Take your broccoli stem and slice it about a 1/4 inch thick. Put these slices in your steamer with a little kosher salt & a few fresh herbs. Steam them until they get nice and soft.

While those are cooking start your rice. You will need:

1 1/2 cups long-grain brown rice or medium-grain brown rice, or short-grain brown rice
2 1/3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Kosher salt
1tablespoons unsalted butter
1tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Combine these ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer until rice has absorbed liquid and is soft, stir occasionally.

Now add your steamed broccoli stem and 1/2 cup shredded cheese, I used parmesan because it was what I had on hand but you can use whatever your favorite cheese is.

Yummy, my hubby is eating brown rice and actually liking it! And I found a way to keep perfectly good food from going to waste. Double score!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mushrooms & sweet Potatoes

Last night I had a little extra time to get dinner and wanted to change things up a bit so the dinner plates don't look exactly the same every night. :-) Well, that kind of a mood is when my kitchen turns into a science lab and occasionally what comes out isn't half bad. So here are two brand-new, straight out of my head recipes that I served last night and what I learned from them.

Mushroom Sauce

Approx. 1/2 - 1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, chopped small the white & light green parts
1 clove elephant ear garlic sliced thin (A vegetable peeler works GREAT for this)
8 oz. of mushrooms sliced

Add these ingredients and sauté until nicely browned. Then add

2T white wine vinegar
1/8 cup white wine

Continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed then add

1/4 cup cream
Kosher salt to taste

Cook stirring constantly for about 1-2 minutes. Serve over brown rice or potatoes immediately

*What I learned on this recipe:

Be careful how much oil you use. You need a little to keep things from sticking but if you use to much the mushrooms absorb it all and the dish turns out greasy. Also, be sure to use olive oil or a sparing amount of Natural butter. I tired another form of fat and it did not mix well with the other ingredients.

Spice Garlic Sweet Potatoes

3 cups sweet potatoes
3-4 cloves roasted garlic
1 teaspoon cilantro
1 teaspoon parsley
1/8-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Kosher salt & Pepper to taste.

Mix all ingredients thoroughly. If desired add 1/8 cup cream

NOTE:  I started with cold sweet potatoes so I added all ingredients except cream & warmed them in my steamer. Then I mixed the cream in right before serving

*What I learned from this recipe:

Make sure you don't over do the spice. With only 2 cups of sweet potatoes this was to spice for one family member but just right for another, it depends on your tastes. Add more sweet potatoes if to spice & I added the cream to cut the heat a bit.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What's for Dinner? And Breakfast, and Lunch? Plus How to cook Brussel Sprouts

OK. so you are probably asking yourself how does this work practically?

Well here is a typical day for me:

For breakfast I take a banana and a stone fruit (peach plum, nectarine, whatever happens to be on the best sale at the local farmers market that week) and a small Tupperware of grapes.

I usually eat the banana by 8:30 then perhaps an hour later the grapes and between 10:30 & 11:00 I'll eat the stone fruit, or I might save it till later in the day, the key is I only eat when I'm hungry. I also keep a water bottle filled with ice water at my desk - you should drink about a gallon of water per day and often those "hunger cravings" are actually "thirst cravings" but we have trained our bodies to get most of their water from the food we eat by not hydrating with pure water. When I start to think I'm hungry I drink some water first, then decide if I still need to eat something. When I do want to eat, I have a nice, healthy, guilt free, fresh fruit snack.

At noon I get some raw vegetables (sugar peas, broccoli, celery, carrots, etc.) and dip them into my homemade creamy balsamic dip. I will also have a bit of rice or vegetables left over from dinner the night before. (While I have brought my cooking down from every recipes feeds 8, I still usually have enough to feed 3 instead of 2 but I don't have an aversion to eating leftovers the next day so no problem. )

I will take a variety of dried fruit and another stone fruit back to work for the afternoon and when the 2 o'clock munchies hit and everyone else in the office is scouring for chocolate, I have my sweet dried fruit. Most dried fruit is as sweet as candy because the sugar in the fruit is concentrated. It also gives you a great energy boost without the sugar crash you exporiance from simple sugars like chocolate & other sweets.

For Dinner I have a variety of vegetables that I bought at the farmers market that weekend. When I get something that takes a long time to cook, like potatoes or corn on the cob. I cook it over the weekend and refrigerate it. Then it is a simple matter of re-heating in my steamer and it is ready to go. I usually make a side of either rice or potatoes and two vegetables. I was making more initially because my husband didn't think 2 vegetables and rice would fill him up. After a few days he asked me to limit the amounts I was cooking and keep it to just these three items. At some point, usually midweek, I serve a small portion of tuna salad, which I also made over the weekend so the flavors would have a chance to develop.

As you can see we aren't starving by any means, or even depriving ourselves. In fact, we are eating better, quantity and quality wise, than we had prior to this experiment. We are also exploring new foods and many things that one or the other of us thought we "didn't like" we have grown to love because it was on sale at the farmers market and we learned a good way to cook it.

For example, Brussel Sprouts. Can I see a show of hands, who hates brussel sprouts? Well same here, but my husband has fond memories of his step-mom's brussel sprouts growing up, so once a year I would make them for him. Granted, mine were never as good as hers. :-) Well brussel sprouts are incredibly cheap especially when they are on the "dollar discount" table at the farmers market. So I decided I would learn how to make them. Since I already had my stove burners full that night I decided to try them in the steamer. (besides, I had already tired making them sautéed, boiled, and baked & hadn't liked them much) I put a layer of them in my steamer and sprinkled them with olive oil. Them I decided for flavor to add a mix of herbs, I have a kitchen garden of herbs or you can use an Italian mix. I used oregano, thyme, basil, rosemary, parsley) then I took about a teaspoon of kosher salt and sprinkled over them and steamed them until soft.

The result was the best veggie side dish that I could remember having. I now LOVE brussel sprouts and am probably driving my hubby crazy with how often I want to make them. I get so excited when they are on sale at the farmers market and so disappointed when they aren't.
So if you think you don't like something, try it again. You probably just haven't had it cooked right. I can't recommend the steamer enough for this. Vegetables were meant to taste GOOD. (I really don't thing God decided to make something that tastes horrible and force people to eat it :) They are also FULL of stuff that is GOOD FOR YOU. But so often we bake, boil or nuke the flavor and the vitamins right out of them. With the steamer, you retain all the yummy goodness and it takes much less time to cook. Besides just outright experimenting with food, I search the internet for recipes that include a new item I just found at the market or skim through some of the hundreds of cookbooks we have for recipe ideas. I usually use these as just a base idea and modify them according to our personal preferences, but these recipes give me a starting place. Have fun and don't be afraid to experiment. What new vegetable can you cook this week?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Diet

I realize that there has been a long break in this blog, which is to be expected when you suddenly find yourself involved in as many activities as we have had going on over the summer. But this is also due to the fact that we have made a dramatic change in our eating and cooking habits. Over the summer my husband and I were challenged to try a diet/fast that is found in the book of Daniel

Daniel 1:8-16 (The Message)
But Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king’s food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet. The head of the palace staff, by God’s grace, liked Daniel, but he warned him, “I’m afraid of what my master the king will do. He is the one who assigned this diet and if he sees that you are not as healthy as the rest, he’ll have my head!”
But Daniel appealed to a steward who had been assigned by the head of the palace staff to be in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: “Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water. Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see.”
The steward agreed to do it and fed them vegetables and water for ten days. At the end of the ten days they looked better and more robust than all the others who had been eating from the royal menu. So the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu of food and drink and served them only vegetables.

We decided that as a spiritual discipline we would eat only fruits, vegetables and nuts for two weeks. In no way did we expect this to be easy or something that we would want to do long term. I am the Queen of Desserts (especially chocolate) and my husband is the King of Carnivores. We decided to do this for only two weeks as a spiritual discipline.

Here's what we found out:

  • The first three days are the worst, especially when your co-workers bring donuts, bagels and chocolate into the office.
  • Days 4 and following, you begin to feel "GREAT" and you loose the craving for sweets, breads, and meat.
  • By day 14 we were converts. We felt healthier than either of us could remember and both of us had lost 10 pounds!
  • Another benefit - Fruits and vegetables don't cost near as much as we thought, our grocery bill was cut in half by shopping at our local farmers markets and Whole Food, Greenwise stores. These are some of the more expensive stores but we weren't buying, meat, bread or prepared foods so it came out MUCH cheaper than "normal" shopping at a cheaper store.
At this point our spiritual exercise was over but we had also learned some valuable health lessons and as good stewards of the bodies and life God has given us we decided to continue this experiment with a few modifications.
  • We began incorporating fish 1-2 times a week. On the weekend, or if we are entertaining we will have a nice fish fillet and I make a nice tuna salad that we have a some point during the week.
  • We switched from two gallons of regular milk per week to a quart of organic, non-homogenized milk per week. (Yes organic, non-homogenized milk is more expensive, but we actually come out cheaper here b/c we are dinking less. I'll go into the problems with homogenized milk and milk products in general later).
  • We also buy dark chocolate covered pretzels from a local chocolate factory (yes, I can make my own but don't have time right now) we allow ourselves one chocolate pretzel per day if we want it. The surprise, we don’t always want it! When you have cut out sweets completely for a few weeks the craving isn't there anymore. Now when I get that occasional craving, I have something mildly sweet that doesn't leave me craving even more sweets and fat. It also doesn't have the milk products that were causing us so much trouble.
  • We also use chicken broth in our cooking and occasionally eggs.
As you can see this isn't strictly following any one diet, while it has similarities to vegetarian diets, vegan diets and the Daniel diet it is really not any one of them; instead it is a lifestyle choice that we have made for this time in our lives to eat healthier foods.

So how do we do it? I'm sure some of you are wondering if you can even think of 14 different vegetables, let alone ways to cook them. I know that is how I felt at the begin of this experiment. Well over the next few weeks I'll share some of the ones I've tried. I am finding that there are many wonderful new things to try at your local farmers market and just because you think you don't like something, don't write it off, you probably just haven't had it cooked the right way yet.

So what does a typical meal look like for us? Well here is what I am serving tonight.
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Green beans w/mushrooms & herbs
  • Brocciflower w/balsamic dip
Here's what I did

  • Sweet potatoes I wrapped in foil and baked at 350 for 90 minutes (until soft) I did this over the weekend so tonight all I have to do is put them in my steamer for about 12 minutes to warm up. Then I mash them with a little kosher salt. I have found that this year the fresh sweet potatoes are so sweet they don't need anything else to flavor them, if you want other flavoring feel free to play around.
  • In the second tray of my steamer I put the brocciflower and sprinkled it with just a touch of olive oil and some Italian herbs (fresh or dried) When it is finished in the steamer I cut a few leaves of fresh basil overtop and grate a tiny bit of parmesan cheese over them. I serve creamy balsamic dip on the side.
  • The only thing left to do is the green beans. I take a small handful of chopped mushrooms (about 4-5 small white mushrooms) and sauté them in olive oil with about 5 basil leaves chopped and 6 cloves of roasted garlic. I then add three handfuls of green beans and sauté for just a few minutes until al dente.
Dinners is ready and it only took 12 minutes! Doesn't sound like enough? You'd be surprised how filling vegetables are but if you feel the need for more add a side of rice.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Lemon & Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

It is that time of year here in South Florida. Blueberry season!  Our wonderful produce supplier delivered 48 quarts of blueberries last week and I began another adventure to find wonderful recipes to use them up fast enough.  Fortunately, blueberries freeze quite well so I did not have to use all 48 quarts in one day.  I also was able to share some with family and friends but still had plenty I wanted to use.  Here are some awesome recipes I tried that tasted absolutely fabulous!

Lemon & Blueberry Upside-Down Cake

This was my first attempt at this and as usual I made several modification for my personal taste. I actually read several recipes and then when I felt I understood the science behind it went into the kitchen to make something totally different.  When I brought this to to the video crew at church they set a new record; the entire cake was gone in under five minutes.  I should have made two!

Blueberry topping

3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

Lemon-almond butter cake

3/4 cup cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 ounces almond paste (scant 1/2 cup), broken into small pieces
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon peel
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature

For blueberry topping:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine brown sugar and butter in 8-inch-diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides (preferably nonstick). Place cake pan over medium heat and whisk constantly until butter and sugar melt and mixture is smooth and bubbling. Using pot holders, remove pan from heat; cool 15 minutes. Sprinkle blueberries evenly over.

Note: if you are taking this cake as a gift these are great : Bake and Give pans You can give things in the pan or in this case I ripped the paper pan off the cake before I gave it - so much easier than a metal cake pan!

For lemon-almond butter cake:

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into medium bowl. Combine almond paste, sugar, vanilla extract, lemon juice and lemon peel in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until almond paste is broken into very small pieces, about 1 minute. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, beating until mixture is smooth and scraping down sides of bowl occasionally. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well and scraping sides of bowl after each addition. Add flour mixture and beat just until batter is smooth. Spoon batter in dollops over blueberries in pan; spread evenly with offset spatula to smooth.

Bake cake until deep golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 43 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 1 minute. Run small knife around cake to loosen. Place large platter atop pan. Using oven mitts or potholders and using both hands, hold platter and cake pan firmly together and invert; shake gently, allowing cake to settle on platter. Cool at least 20 minutes.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Chicken Salad

I can never find a good chicken salad recipe that has flavor and isn't bland or runny, so with the help of my husbands taste-buds I developed this recipe.  The flavor is stunning and you can adjust the liquid ingredients to your desired "wetness". You really want to make this at least 1 day in advance so the flavor can develop properly.   This is a great hit with my senior clients as well as at parties and showers for friends.  Everyone loves a good chicken salad!

Chicken Salad

1 whole roasted chicken shredded/diced (about 4-5 cups)
4 celery ribs diced very fine
4 green onion, white and green parts minced ( like to cut these with my herb scissors-so easy!)
3/4-1 cup mayonnaise
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
4 table spoons fresh parsley leaves
1/4 - 1/2 cup dill relish
salt to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl an refrigerate overnight before serving.  This is excellent in mini croissants for baby showers and wedding showers, or any other party that needs a specially elegant dish.

Tapioca Pudding Recipe

I have made this several times for an elderly friend and client who loves Tapioca Pudding because his mother made it for him growing up.  However, he never eats it when he goes out because they are never as good as his mother’s was.  When I first made this for him, he raved about how good it was, “Even better than my Mom’s”.  I take that as a great compliment. This recipe is defiantly a keeper.

The Basics of Tapioca Pudding A great batch of tapioca requires equal parts patience, attentiveness, and top-notch ingredients. There is much stirring involved, and you need to watch the pudding religiously. That being said, making tapioca is relatively simple.  The most important, top-level considerations are:

- Use your thickest-bottomed pot - this will help prevent scorching. Once you've scorched the pudding, that's it - you've ruined it. I use my Le Crueset dutch oven pot,

- Pay attention to temperature. You need to bring the tapioca pudding mixture up slowly for a few reasons. To avoid scorching, but also this gives the tapioca balls time to cook as they are coming up to a boil.

- Stir constantly. I have to admit that I get lazy and don't stir the entire time, and if your stove isn't overly hot, this is fine.

- Make a double batch - one for you and one to share. The recipe below is for a single batch, but easily doubles.

- It is important to soak small pearl tapioca before attempting to make pudding with it, or your texture will be off. Some people soak overnight, but I found that 30-60 minutes or so worked with small tapioca, resulting in a lively textured tapioca with wonderful creamy, custard bridging the beads.

- Many recipes call for water, I loved the 100% milk version.

- I did one batch with instant tapioca - this comes in a box, and like instant oatmeal the tapioca pieces are much smaller (and in this case also pre-cooked). The universal feeling among everyone who tasted it was that it wasn’t very good for the flavor and, there was an aversion to the texture.  Starting from scratch with the small pearl tapioca was the way to go - Bob's Red Mill All Natural Small Pearl Tapioca worked beautifully as a base ingredient.

Tapioca Pudding Recipe

This tapioca pudding recipe makes a classic-tasting vanilla spiked pudding.

3 cups milk, divided

1/3 cup small pearl tapioca

2 extra-large egg yolks, lightly beaten

1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Infused Syrup

2 vanilla beans, split along the length
2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour 3/4 cup of the milk into a medium-sized, thick-bottomed pot. Scrape the vanilla bean along its length with a knife and add that bean "paste" along with the bean itself to the pot Add the tapioca and soak for 60 minutes. Whisk in the egg yolks, salt, sugar, vanilla syrup, and the remaining milk.

Over medium heat slowly bring the mixture just barely to a boil, stirring all along - this should take about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat and let the mixture fall to a simmer - you keep it here until the tapioca is fully cooked, another 20 minutes or so. Keep in mind this time can be significantly longer (or shorter). The tapioca will tell you when it is ready if you watch carefully. The tapioca beads will swell up and become almost entirely translucent. The custardy part of pudding will thicken dramatically as well - keep tasting and assessing at this stage. It is even more critical to keep stirring at this point avoid dreaded scorching. Remove from heat and let cool a bit.  Stir in vanilla extract at the very end, after the pudding is completely cooked. This tapioca tastes its best when served warm, but is still delicious cold as well.

Serves 4-6

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Caramelized Almonds Corrected

I was looking this recipe over today and relized that when I copied it from my Word document into BLOGGER the formatting got mixed up and portions were all wrong.  Sorry I didn't catch it sooner.  Here is the corrected recipe. 
Caramelized Almonds

3 cups slivered/sliced almonds (with skin)  
1 1/2 cups
 Brown Sugar
1/4 cup
4 tbsp 
1/2 tsp
2 tbsp
 Vegetable/Canola oil

Mix sugar and salt in a bowl. Heat a wide pan on medium and add honey, water, oil & stir. Allow to boil and add the almonds and keep stirring and cooking till all the liquid has been absorbed by the nuts.
Immediately transfer to a bowl and sprinkle the sugar-salt mixture over it and toss so it's uniformly coated.

Spread this almond mixture on a covered baking sheet and allow to cool completely.
 Tasty honey roasted nuts are ready to devour or pack and gift.

Friday, April 9, 2010


Easter Sunday, 2007 my then boyfriend purposed to me following the sunrise service.  Just me, him, and 20,000 of our closest friends & family. (Just for fun here is a picture my uncle snapped.) So each year we celebrate the anniversary of that event by doing something for those who serve so faithfully at our church.  This year we decided to serve a breakfast for our video and server crew. 

I was looking for something yummy & filling that would also be easy to prepare and cook.  I settled on whole wheat sourdough waffles & chocolate whole grain sourdough waffles.  It was easy to mix up the levain and separate wet and dry ingredients the night before.  Then I just packed them all up with my waffle maker and homemade fruit syrups for a tasty breakfast for some very hardworking, hungry guys.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Waffles

This recipe uses the acidity of sourdough in reaction with baking soda for leavening.  It makes for a light, crispy waffle with a flavor you won't find anywhere else. If you are planning to take this somewhere before baking as I did use three separate containers, one for the levain and one for wet ingredients and another for dry.   Use a large bowl to mix this as the batter expands quickly as soon as the baking soda meets the levain.


1 Tablespoon Active Whole Wheat Sourdough Levain
1 1/2 Cups (6 oz) White Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup Buttermilk


2 Eggs
1/4 Cup Orange Juice
1/4 Cup Milk
1/4 Cup (1/2 stick) Butter, melted
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt

To make the levain:  The night before you make the waffles, or early in the morning if you are planning to have them for dinner, combine the levain ingredients in large bowl. Then cover and set aside for at least 8 hours.

To make the batter:  When you are ready to make the waffles, beat the liquid ingredients together and stir them into the sponge.  Them blend the dry ingredients in a small bowl and stir them into the sponge.

To bake the waffles: Bake in a preheated iron until the steam stops coming out the sides, 4 to 5 minutes.

Chocolate Whole Grain Sourdough Waffles

These decadent dessert waffles are so light and crispy it's hard to believe they are made with sourdough and whole wheat.  They are supper delicious with whipped cream and fruit, or anything that goes with chocolate. If you are planning to take this somewhere before baking as I did use three separate containers, one for the levain and one for wet ingredients and another for dry.   Use a large bowl to mix this as the batter expands quickly as soon as the baking soda meets the levain.


1/2 Cup Active Whole Wheat Sourdough Levain
1 Cup Buttermilk
1Cup White Whole Wheat Flour


1/2 Cup Dutch-Process Cocoa
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of ground cinnamon
2 Eggs
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 Cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 Cup Chocolate Chips

To make the levain:  The night before you make the waffles, or early in the morning if you are planning to have them for dinner, combine the levain ingredients in large bowl. Then cover and set aside for at least 8 hours.

To make the batter:  When you are ready to make the waffles, beat the liquid ingredients, including the sugar, together and stir them into the sponge.  Them blend the dry ingredients in a small bowl and stir them into the sponge.

To bake the waffles: Bake in a preheated iron until the steam stops coming out the sides, 4 to 5 minutes.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Absolutely Amazing Balsamic Vinaigrette

I am so tired of having to pay $5.00 or even more for a salad dressing that  doesn’t taste cheap and chemically.  While I am all for eating the best food, in taste as well nutrition content and lack of artificial ingredients; the health food/organic movement has resulted in anything “good for you” having ever increasing prices.  And don’t even get me started on my pet peeve that the people who need to eat healthy the most are often the least able to afford it.  But I digress.

So I started looking for a balsamic vinaigrette recipe that would taste as good as the expensive stuff we get in the stores, but be cheaper and better for us as well.  Unfortunately, most of the recipes called for mixing balsamic vinegar with oil and salt & pepper and being done with it.  Functional? Yes. Easy? Yes. Tastes Great? No. Hold together in the fridge without separating? No. (I don’t know about you but separated salad dressing always makes me wonder if it is still good. I know it is a natural process, but still….) So I set out to create a tasty recipe myself.

I started with the basics, vinegar, oil, salt & pepper and then let my taste buds dictate the rest.  I also checked in with my own personal food science reference Cooks Illustrated to find out why it separated and how to stop separating.  The resulting recipe was interesting, fairly simple, and tasted 10 times better than the most expensive Balsamic Vinaigrette I have ever bought.  And most of the ingredients are common in every kitchen so it was far cheaper than buying it.  Try it yourself and see.

Absolutely Amazing Balsamic Vinaigrette

½ cup good quality balsamic vinegar
4 Tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons Honey
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon Teriyaki sauce
1 teaspoon spice mustard
1 Tablespoon Mayo (this is the ingredient that prevents separating, be aware if you leave it out you may have some separation as your dressing sits)
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon paprika
leaves from one small sprig of rosemary
1 cup oil (olive, canola or vegetable)
Salt & Pepper to taste

I use a liquid measuring cup to measure all my liquids and then add the other ingredients right into the cup and use my immersion blender to process them.  If you don’t have an immersion blender just measure them into your blender and pulse a few times to mix.  Make sure you store this in the fridge and use within a month.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

I have recently switched to cooking with all whole grains for my husbands health. Since he loves sourdough I have cultivated a whole wheat sourdough starter so I can make a whole grain sourdough for him. However, I am finding that I have abundantly more sourdough starter than I need to make bread for us. So I started researching other ways of using up the extra starter and found many interesting ideas from some really old cookbooks, so now I’m going to play with them and updating the recipes to suit our tastes.

The first recipe I am going to try is actually the last one I collected but I was so surprised to find it in a collection of sourdough recipes that I was intrigued. It was actually a chocolate cake with two ingredients I never thought I would find in a chocolate cake: sourdough and cold coffee. I absolutely never put espresso powder or anything else “coffee flavored” in any of my recipes b/c I can’t stand coffee. But this recipe sounded so interesting that I decided to break that rule and raided my husbands coffee pot for the ¾ cup of coffee for this cake. This has met with rave reviews so far and is one of the simplest chocolate cakes I have every made. It was easy, yet stunningly delicious! While the dark chocolate buttercream icing wasn't included in the original recipe I did some research and modified it a bit to get the recipe below.  It really "takes the cake".

Sourdough Chocolate Cake

½ Cup Sourdough Starter
1½ Cups all Purpose white Flour (I use White Whole Wheat)
2 Cups sugar
¾ Cup Powdered Cocoa
1 Teaspoon baking powder
2 Teaspoons baking soda
2 Eggs
1 Cup milk
½ Cup vegetable oil
¾ Cup cold coffee
1 Tablespoon vanilla

Put the starter in a large bowl, cover loosely and allow to stand at room temperature until active and bubbling – at least an hour. Then add the reat of the ingredients, in the order given, beating well after each addition.

Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans, pour the batter, which will be thin, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until the layers test done when poked with a toothpick.

Allow to cool about 10 minutes before removing from the pans, then finish cooling the layers on wire rack. Do not frost until the cake is completely cold.

This is wonderful with dark chocolate butter cream icing.

Dark Chocolate Buttercream Icing

1 cup butter or margarine (NEVER, EVER, EVER use shortening in an icing recipe!)
7 (1 ounce each) unsweetened chocolate squares, melted
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups (approx. 1 lb.) confectioners' sugar sifted
4-5 tablespoons milk
3-4 tablespoons light corn syrup or vanilla infused syrup

Cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add cocoa and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Add 3-4 tablespoons light corn syrup per recipe to thin icing if desired. Keep icing covered with a damp cloth until ready to use.

Cucumbers, Pickles, Relish…

Well you cannot say we are not blessed. One week ago 2 bushels of cucumbers were dropped on my doorstep; well, actually, he brought them all the way in and left them in the middle of my kitchen floor. Which is none to large and since trying to move around them as a centerpiece was just to difficult I had to do something with them ASAP.

I had my first order of business, to make 50 jars of bread and butter pickles for the church auction. Oh look, that used less than a ¼ bushel…what to do with everything else.

While this only used ¼ bushel, it took 16 hours to do alone and I didn’t even what to think about more bread and butter pickles, besides, I don’t like them. A little research and several conversations with people who had tried this method I was assured that the very best dill pickles ever come from an old fashioned recipe called “Old Fashioned Brined Dill Pickles” or “Old Fashioned 3 Week Pickles”. This recipe involves slicing the pickles according to your liking. Mixing 5 gallons of brine and layering pickles, spices and fresh dill & garlic in a 5 gallon bucket with the brine and letting them sit for 3 weeks before canning. So that recipe is in progress at the moment; if it turns out a success I will post it for those who are curious.

One 5-gallon bucket of whole dill pickles and another of sandwich slices and I still had cucumbers left. So off I sent several bags of them with my aunt to be made into salads, snuck into veggie dishes and made into Indian food. She brought me back a very delicious dish with paper-thin slices of cucumber mixed with dill, chives and sour cream, yum!

With still a drawer in my fridge full of cucumbers I decided to tackle making relish. Here I was met with a challenge. Every recipe I found contained a large amount of bell peppers, which I am allergic to. It took about three days of research to find the solution. In a relish recipe the vegetables themselves are not as important as the bulk of veggies so if you are short on one ingredient or, as in my case, allergic to one of them, you can sub it out for another vegetable of equal bulk. So with this in mind I took several relish recipes and 32 cups of shredded cucumbers and came up with the following recipe for relish. I did actually find people online with the same allergy who were looking for the same solution but none had yet been offered, so for those of you who are allergic, or just don’t like bell pepper here is the relish recipe for you! (It can be scaled down, I just had this large an amount of cucumber so I gave you the recipe as I did it. Remember the jars make great gifts!)

"Pepper Free" Relish

32 cups of cucumbers shredded
12 carrots shredded
(you can also sub in celery for some of the carrots if you like)
1-2 onions shredded
1 whole head of garlic peeled and separated into cloves
(add these to your veggies when shredding)

14 cups cider vinegar
2 ½ Tablespoons dill seed
1 ½ Tablespoons celery seed
1 ½ Tablespoons mustard seed
1 cup pickling salt

Mix your shredded veggies together and let stand in the fridge overnight then strain the liquid out of them, you can reduce the amount to be strained off my squeezing gentle when you mix the veggies and discarding the resulting liquid.

In a large stockpot mix vinegar and spices and stir until the salt dissolves. Add the veggies and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Fill hot relish into clean, hot pint jars leaving ½” head-space. Wipe rimes of jars with damp, clean paper towel and apply lid. Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Let cool, undisturbed, for 24 hours and check seals.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


What would you do with 65 pounds of strawberries? Well when 65 pounds of strawberries landed on my dinning room table last week this is what I did with them. As strawberry season is descending upon the rest of the country soon I thought you might like to use some of the ideas.

Strawberry Jam

10 cups raw whole strawberries crushed to 6 cups
1 ½ box of Pectin
4 cups sugar

Wash your jars and lids in dishwasher on extra hot/sanitize cycle
Wash & hull strawberries crush to 6 cups
Measure sugar set ¼ cup aside
Mix reserved ¼ cup sugar with pectin and cook to a full boil
Add remaining sugar & bring to a boil again for 1 minute stirring constantly
Let stand for 7 minutes and stir again
Fill jar to within ¼ inch of tops and put lids on
Process jars in a boiling water bath, keeping them covered with at least 2 inches of water at a boil for 10 minutes.
Remove and cool jars

Strawberry Syrup

6-7 cups of crushed berries
7 Cups sugar

Wash your jars and lids in dishwasher on extra hot/sanitize cycle
Take your 6-7 cups crushed strawberries and blend in blender or food processor
Measure your sugar
Heat the berries in a big pot to boiling and simmer until soft (5 to 10 minutes)
Strain the hot berries through a colander
Combine the juice with 7 cups of sugar in a large saucepan, bring it to boiling, and simmer for 1 minute. Remove from heat
Fill jar to within ¼ inch of tops and put lids on
Process jars in a boiling water bath, keeping them covered with at least 2 inches of water at a boil for 10 minutes.
Remove and cool jars

Strawberry Vinegar

2 pints strawberries, rinsed, stemmed, and halved, ¼ cup reserved
1 quart cider vinegar
1 cup sugar

Combine berries & vinegar in large saucepan and let stand for 1 hour.
And sugar to saucepan and heat to a slow boil to dissolve
Simmer for 10 minutes
Strain the vinegar through sieve press out as much juice as possible
Add some of the reserved strawberries to each bottle. Fill jar to within ¼ inch of tops and put lids on. Store in a cool dark place for 2 weeks before using.

Strawberry Fruit Leather
(you know fruit roll-ups?)

8 cups of berries crushed
¼ - ½ cup of sugar

Process the berries in the blender and sweeten to taste. Put sheets of parchment paper on cookie trays. Spread the fruit puree as evenly as possibly on the trays, to between 1/4 and 3/8 of an inch thick. Dehydrate in your oven on dehydrate cycle or the lowest setting possible, with the door propped open, rotate the pans throughout the drying process to help ensure they dry evenly, to let the excess moisture escape the oven. When there are no tacky spots, the leather is dried. Drying times vary widely, depending upon the liquid content of the puree, the thickness of the puree on the trays, and temperature. Begin checking the leather after 2-3 hours. Roll them up on the parchment paper and store in gallon zipper bags.

Storage: at room temperature (in a dark place) -- three weeks

Refrigerated -- three months

Freezer -- twelve months

Strawberry Ice Cream

1 cup whole milk
4 cups crushed strawberries
¾ cup sugar
2cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt

1 vanilla bean split in half lengthwise
6 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of cream and salt in medium saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the warm milk and add the bean as well. Cover, remove from heat and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl whisk egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the pan.
Stir constantly over medium heat scraping the bottom until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir in the cream. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator (if it is fully cold it will not set in the ice cream freezer) Follow the manufactures instruction on you ice cream maker to freeze, mix the strawberries into the ice cream in the last 15 minutes of churning.

Strawberry Smoothies

6 cups frozen strawberries
Flavored syrup
Vanilla yogurt or ice cream

Blend strawberries in blender; add yogurt or ice cream and flavored syrup to taste and texture.

Strawberry & Feta Salad

Sliced strawberries
Feta Cheese
Poppy seed dressing

Strawberry & Brie Salad

Baby lettuce
Brie chopped into tiny pieces
Sliced strawberries
Caramelized almonds (recipe below)
Strawberry dressing (recipe below)

Caramelized Almonds

slivered/sliced almonds (with skin)
2 cups
1/4 cup
4 tbsp 
1/2 tsp
2 tbsp
 Vegetable/Canola oil
2 tsp

Mix sugar and salt in a bowl. Heat a wide pan on medium and add honey, water, oil & stir. Allow to boil and add the roasted almonds and keep stirring and cooking till all the liquid has been absorbed by the nuts.
Immediately transfer to a bowl and sprinkle the sugar-salt mixture over it and toss so it's uniformly coated.

Spread this almond mixture on a covered baking sheet and allow to cool completely.
Tasty honey roasted nuts are ready to devour or pack and gift.

Strawberry Dressing

½ cup olive oil
1/3 cup strawberry vinegar (recipe above)
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch of mined onion
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

Blend with until emulsified.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Best Cup of Hot Cocoa Ever

OK, so it was Valentines Day and I just wanted to make a really special cup of Hot Cocoa and relax with my sweet hubby. So I mixed up the cocoa in my very favorite kitchen appliance my Bialette Hot Chocolate Maker and made chocolate whipped cream. I have a wonderful tool for making whipped cream (ISI Whipped Cream Maker) but I had never made chocolate whipped cream in it. What the heck, it couldn't be that different from regular whipped cream could it? So I carefully mixed the ingredients for Chocolate Whipped Cream and poured them into my ISI Whipped Cream Maker. Attached the ISI Cream Charger and prepared to dispense glorious chocolate whipped cream onto the perfect cup of hot cocoa. OOPS, try as I might nothing would come out. So I passed of the task of extracting whipped cream from the dispenser to my husband. Still nothing, so he depressurized the canister and informed me that I could open it and scoop out the cream. Doing as I was told I began to open the canister and heard a slight hiss. The last of the pressure releasing, or so I thought. The next thing I knew, I was holding the top of the canister, the bottom has shot into the dinning room, and my husband, I and our kitchen were all covered in chocolate whipped cream, with on perfect dollop having landed in the cup of hot cocoa I was trying to put it on in the first place! (I decided to treat you with a picture of just one of the walls and counter areas that were splattered) Once I got done laughing, scrubbing the walls, floors & cabinets, I sat down to enjoy The Best Cup of Hot Cocoa Ever. If you want to try it here is the recipe. But I don't suggest using your ISI Whipped Cream Maker for the Chocolate Whipped Cream, save it for regular cream with no chocolate to clog it up.

Hot Cocoa
1 Cup whole milk
2 Tablespoons ground dark chocolate ( I buy
callebaut in bulk and grind it in my food processor)
1 handful of mini marshmallows
Add all ingredients to your hot chocolate maker and run for 6-8 minutes or cook in sauce pan over medium heat until warm but not boiling (the marshmallows will be melted).

Chocolate Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup VERY FINELY ground dark chocolate

2-3 Tablespoons vanilla syrup (you can buy it
here or check back later to learn how to make your own)
Mix all ingredients and let sit for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes use your hand mixer to whip the cream into stiff peaks. Spoon onto Hot Cocoa and enjoy!