Thursday, August 30, 2012

Swiss Green Beans

The last weekend of summer is upon us. This calls for family get-togethers, back yard BBQS, farewell trips to the beach, and back to school! I have always loved the beginning of September because it means I go back to the classroom and dig in for another year of teaching. I love to cook and I love to play my instruments, but teaching is my life’s calling – it’s where I feel most at home.
If you are planning a weekend picnic, this is the perfect salad. Straight from one of the Moosewood Cookbooks (The Enchanted Broccoli Forest). It’s perfect in every way and always gets RAVE reviews. I know at first glance the ingredients don’t seem to ‘match,’ but trust me, they’re excellent!

Here’s what you need:
1 ½ lbs fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed
2 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ C extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried dill
Black pepper to taste
2 tsp Dijon mustard
3-4 T fresh lemon juice
1 T red wine vinegar
½ C fresh parsley, minced
1/3 lb swiss cheese, cut in thin strips
½ C chopped ripe olives – use a great quality olive; avoid using the canned stuff
1 small green pepper cut in thin strips
1 small red pepper cut in thin strips
½ C chopped or slivered, toasted almonds

Here’s what you do:
Blanch the green beans until tender-crisp. Cool them under cold water. Slice the cheese and veggies. Prepare the dressing by whisking everything together…. The original recipe calls for adding the vinegar and lemon juice at the last minute to keep the beans nice and green and crisp. I know that’s probably the best way to prepare this salad, but I just mix it all together and it turns out great every time.

Happy Labor Day to my American friends, and happy back to school to all those teachers, parents and students out there! 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Food Revolution Minestrone Soup

Hello friends! Is it still too warm to be posting a soup recipe? We love soup around here and this is a keeper.....anything from Food Revolution is A+. If you haven't tried any of Jamie Oliver's recipes, I highly suggest them. I have a few on the blog, so check them out by clicking on the index to the right. 

What is it about soup? People either love it or hate it. Me? I’m a lover….a true lover. Soup is such a comfort to me because it fills not only my stomach, but my soul. Even if the weather gets a little warm, soup is still on my menu.  It’s cheap. It’s easy. It only takes one pot to make. It usually freezes well and it makes a great meal for lunch the next day. Tracy's Living Cookbook blog is filled with great soup recipes. Click around and see for yourself. 

As I write this, I have three minestrone soup recipes:

                Mom’s Minestrone – This recipe uses canned veggies and has a weird secret ingredient. I’m not giving it way here –you’ll have to click here if you are curious.
                Hearty Minestrone from Cook’s Illustrated. I hope you are all reading and cooking from this fine magazine. The recipes there are a bit complicated, but every single one is excellent! I turn to my old Cook’s Illustrated magazines often for the best of what I’m looking for. I haven’t posted this recipe here, but I bet you could find it on line. (Check for January 2010)
                Food Revolution Minestrone: AWESOME! I use the recipe right from the website (here) and do not change a single thing. It has BACON J and Parmesan cheese…. I mean, come on! How can you go wrong with those? 

Gather the necessary ingredients, saute the bacon, add the veggies to soften for a while, add the broth and canned veggies and simmer. So easy!

There is also a bay leaf in this soup, which adds a really nice, rich flavor. See it in there? 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

August is almost over!

What's so perfect about Michigan in August? Lots of stuff. 

Lots of lush green spaces, lots of fresh clean water, one tiny cute dog.
(I shared this photo here with other 'green' photos.)

Funny birds that hang around your house looking for fish to eat.

We grow 'em big up here..... yikes

Frisbee on the beach. Don't get too excited - I can throw it about 3 feet. 

Fresh tomatoes from my garden, slow roasted to perfection. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Two hors d’oeuvres a la Martha

While in Chicago earlier this summer, I visited a used book store and stumbled upon a treasure - “Martha Stewart’s Hors d’oeuvres Handbook.” It is a beautiful volume of excellent ideas for hor d’oeuvres of all types. The first third of the huge book is only photographs. I must have leafed through those pages dozens of times, fantasizing about all the fabulous cocktail parties I would host, everyone nibbling on glorious finger food.

The recipes are clearly written, the photographs are outstanding, the quality shows: total Martha. Today I share two recipes from the book: one very simple and the other a bit more involved.

Wasabi Cream Cheese
4 oz cream cheese
1 T wasabi paste (or to taste, but this amount of heat was perfect)
Mix well, serve on crackers or pretty veggies.
I sprinkled toasted sesame seeds on mine to create a grown-up version of “Ants on a Log." Of course, Martha's were beautifully presented on all kinds of veggies, but mine don't look bad!

Pommes Annette
(There are all kinds of recipes for Pommes Annette on the internet. I couldn’t find Martha’s version out there, so I am actually typing the entire thing here for you. It seems really tricky, but it was fun to make and the end result was excellent!)

Pommes Annette – Martha Stewart
2 T butter room temperature, plus 1 T melted
24 small sprigs fresh thyme, plus 1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
18-24 fingerling potatoes, skin on
5 ounces goat cheese (I used cream cheese)
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, rack in center of oven. Using some of the melted butter, generously butter 4 mini muffin tins. Place one tiny sprig of thyme in the bottom of each cup.

Using a mandolin, cut the potatoes into 1/16 inch slices (I cut mine into 1/32 inch slices). Using a pastry brush, butter both sides of 24 slices of potatoes with the room-temperature butter. Place the slices over the thyme sprigs to make the first layer. Top each slice with about 1/8 t of cheese, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Make 9 more layers, alternating unbuttered potato slices with the cheese; only the top and bottom potato slices are buttered. Sprinkle a few thyme leaves on the last layer of cheese. Finish with one last slice of buttered potato on top of each cup.

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit over each muffin tin. Brush the paper generously with the remaining melted butter. Place the parchment, buttered side down, over the potatoes in the tin. Place a second muffin tin of the exact size on top of the parchment and press down. Place a large cast iron or other ovenproof skillet on top to compress the potatoes and place in all in the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the weight, the top muffin tin, and the parchment paper. Bake for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool slightly. Carefully run a knife around the inside of each cup. Using a butter knife, gently remove each Pommes Annette and turn over onto a serving plate. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Some thoughts about blogging

Last night I had the opportunity to meet with other West Michigan Bloggers for some drinks, dinner and sharing. We make up an impressive group – young moms blogging about raising kids, a few blogs about how to ‘do it yourself’, and even blogs about living simply and getting organized….(I should read those more often, but I digress…)

There was some talk about blogging conferences. There was some talk about SEO. There was some talk about how to make money on your blog. But for me, the best point of discussion was about remembering that blogging is about community. Don’t you agree?

I wonder how all my blogging friends out there feel about these things. Do you blog with the numbers constantly in your mind – How many hits? How many comments? How many new followers?

Or do you blog with a sense of community? Is your blog a place where you can be creative, no matter what others may think? Do you care what people think about your blog??? I wonder…. if bloggers care what others think about what they post, does the blog then remain truly ‘their’ blog….or does the space become something else????

I have met some incredibly interesting and creative people through this blog – folks as far away as Australia, Africa, Ireland and England. Yes, I love my American blogging buddies too, but isn’t it awesome how small and intimate the world can seem through your computer? That’s community.

I would love to hear your thoughts about these things and not just because I am staring at my stats page.  

Bathroom Restoration

Last week I was the proud owner of a 1960’s vintage style PINK bathroom. I capitalize the word PINK because that is exactly where the emphasis must go - P.I.N.K.  The walls, the floor, the counter… See for yourself……

This week I am the proud owner of an empty, dusty, hollowed out room…. Dreaming of my browns and ivories. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sesame Seed Chicken

Here’s a great way to liven up the ever-versatile boneless, skinless chicken breast. It’s my own concoction, loosely based on all kinds of recipes I have seen. You can tweak the sauce as much as you like to your taste, just be sure to stick with the basics of Asian food: both sweet and hot.
I served this last week on a bed of rice (how fancy!) with a side of cooked carrots and sliced cucumbers and radishes.

Here’s what you need:
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to about ½ inch thick
Lots of sesame seeds
Fresh ginger, grated or minced, to taste
Fresh garlic, mince, to taste
½ C dry white wine
2 T honey
1 C chicken stock (I think I used veggie stock)
½ t sesame oil
2 T hot Asian chili sauce
1 T hoisin sauce

Here’s what you do:
Dredge the pounded breasts in lots of sesame seeds. Saute them in a tiny bit of oil, turning only once until golden brown. Remove from pan.

To make the sauce, sauté the ginger and garlic for about a minute. You never want any garlic to brown because it will be totally bitter and ruined. Just let it warm up and cook through here. Add the wine, honey, chicken stock, sesame oil, chili sauce and hoisin sauce. Whisk until smooth and continue to cook for about 5 minutes until a bit thicker. Season with soy to taste.
Slice the chicken, serve over rice or couscous, with the sauce drizzled over all. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The rhythm of summer

Summer has a totally different rhythm for me..... 
it means - a trip to Chicago to see my beloved Detroit Tigers beat the Cubbies

Summer means.....a trip to my parents' place up north. ( I was going to post a beautiful picture of Lake Huron, but I like this one better....It's their front yard.....aka....deer salad bar......)

Summer means..... a drive by the funky up-north bar where my husband and I fell in love.... I know, romantic! (don't judge! 27 years and going strong!!)

Summer means.... watching this funny picture of my dog going viral on the internet.... He's a cutie!