Edamame Salad

Edamame SaladI fell off the salad wagon. Not only did I fall off the salad wagon, I fell of the vegetable wagon and the cooking wagon and I have the road rash to show for it.

Perhaps it’s getting used to the new job and hours, maybe it’s the allergies, maybe it’s because I actually did fall down and go scrape on the concrete and it still hurts like heck, or maybe it’s PMS. Maybe it’s all just excuses for why I have not only not felt like cooking but not firing up the computer to post. I’m not on the computer as much since I got my shiny new phone. I guess I am on the computer, probably much more, it’s just much smaller.

Whatever it is, here is my peace offering for being away. I fell in love with edamame (soy beans) at the sushi restaurant. Steamed edamame is an appetizer and snack in Japanese cuisine. The little bowl of fuzzy pods are cracked open and consumed in no time at our table. Once I knew what to do with them I bought a bag of frozen beans for at home. A quick boil and voila! Snack time. If I’m craving something salty I’ll use a couple dashes of soy sauce on them, soy on soy action. That is what gave me the idea for this salad dressing.

It’s really pretty simple and lovely and easy, which is exactly what one needs to crawl back on to the salad wagon. Continue reading →

Quick Bacon & Green Beans

Quick Bacon & Green BeansFresh green beans and I don’t get along, I’ve never been able to cook them right. Maybe that will be one of my summer goals, to finally figure out cooked fresh green beans! I love canned green beans though. It’s another one of those turn arounds from when I was a kid. When I was a kid I hated them but since I didn’t like most veg that was okay.

Elephant garlic is not just giant garlic although it is closely related. It has a really mild garlic taste so it’s okay to use a lot of it. You do not want to use regular garlic in a straight across swap unless you are really into garlic (like me!).

Use the best bacon you can find (like there’s bad bacon, ha!). I used Trader Joe’s Black Forest bacon which is one of the best bacon’s I’ve had. They seem to have tried to follow the real Black Forest method which you can read about here. Be careful when cooking it, it cooks fast and must have a high sugar content as it burns fast.

This is a total fake for one of those all day kind of recipes, it doesn’t take very long at all. You could serve it as a side by I frequently it as an entrée with some toast. Continue reading →

Seared Scallops with Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

Seared Scallops with Strawberry Balsamic ReductionBalsamic vinegar and strawberries are friends. Balsamic be all like, “Strawberry! Missed ya! Why you only visit me once a year?” I figure they should have a good long visit together… in a pan…where they wouldn’t be interrupted. And seared scallops are just seared scallops; they’re awesome all on their own. We all know that spinach already gets along with everybody else so I had to invite them to the party. I can’t say much more here other than sometimes I impress even myself, which is saying a lot. My inner food critic is pretty harsh.

By the way, I did not lick the browned butter out of the pan when the scallops were done. It was tempting but I resisted. Instead I wiped it up with crusty bread and then toasted the bread. I highly recommend this! So yummy. Continue reading →

Sesame Ginger Kale Salad

Sesame Ginger Kale SaladKale and I never used to get along. My first job was in a pizza parlor. Every morning we had to fill the salad display with ice and prepared salads. These displays were edged with large leaves of kale which we kept in a bucket with water when not on display. They smelled horrible. It wasn’t being kept in the water; they smelled horrible when they were freshly delivered. I often put the produce order away and they stunk right off the truck. I couldn’t imagine how people could eat the stuff. I knew they did, but it was smelly and the leaves were tuff and fibrous. It was even worse if you were hung over.

Twenty some years later a coworker offered me his salad that he wasn’t going to eat. Kale and I had met a few times at the store and farmer’s market but there had been no real introduction. This kale looked different and it didn’t seem to smell, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go there. But this coworker had pretty good taste and the salad had sesame and ginger in it. You can sell me just about anything if it’s been coated in sesame and ginger. It was love at first bite and kale and I have been spending a lot of quality time together since. It’s even managed to introduce me to some of its other leafy friends like sorrel, mustard, and beet. A gate opened and suddenly there was a whole new leafy world available!

This is my ode to that life changing salad. Continue reading →

I Ate My Dog’s Cookie

Dog CookiesLuckily he can’t count and he didn’t see me. Um…maybe I should explain.

Everyday my dog gets a cookie (also called biscuit). Usually this happens when I’m leaving the house. Yes, this started as a blatant bribe due to the guilt inducing forlorn look I received because I was cruel enough to leave without him. I tried explaining that I had to go earn his kibble, but no dice. Over the years I have discovered that it also helps keep his dog breath in check so now he gets one every day whether I leave or not.

My dog has junk food taste. I’ve tried feeding him expensive dog food he won’t have any of it. I tried getting the more expensive cookies, the kind that actually smell like food, but he doesn’t like them. It got to the point where he would not accept the bribe or not eat it. I’d come home and the cookie was there on the floor. He likes the kind that on sale are $4 for a 3 pound bag and smell kinda like sawdust. Seriously?! It’s better for my pocket book but I wonder about the ingredients. I finally decided to try making my own.

The first time I tried the recipe I had to leave as soon as I turned off the oven. I came back to an extraordinary savory smell filling the house. It made my mouth water. I mentioned how good it smelled to some friends and they urged me to eat one (I’m really glad I wasn’t friends with them as a kid, who knows what I would’ve tried eating!). It was a small batch and I’d already put them in his cookie jar. They’re also hard enough I didn’t want to try my teeth on them. The second batch was much bigger and I snagged one out of the oven before they were hard. Not bad, needs salt for my taste but I’ve had worse biscuits/crackers. They might be pretty good with a spread.

Regardless of how I feel about the cookies, the dog loves them. Success! Cookies that he eats and that I can live with the ingredient list and price. As an added bonus, they don’t take long to make and last quite a while.

The next batch I will be doing away with the wheat germ and substituting ground flax seed. I already buy flax seed but don’t usually use wheat germ. As mentioned above, the 90 minutes is a minimum. I left the first time and took them out when I got back. The second time I watched a movie. Make sure your pans are well greased; they tend to stick if they aren’t. Also, if you’re not using homemade chicken stock than make sure you buy the salt free kind. Our vet is not a fan of store bought broth and was only okay with me feeding the pets broth if it was home made. I’m sure you could use any kind of stock; you could even use vegetable stock for vegan cookies. Continue reading →

Strawberry & Spinach Salad

Strawberry & Spinach SaladLast 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 →

The Bard’s Pie

The Bard's Shepherd PieTomorrow, 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 →

Broccoli Salad

Broccoli SaladRaw 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 →

Oatmeal Made with Juice

Oatmeal Made with JuiceI’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 →

Chicken ‘n Pea Salad

Chicken n Pea SaladWhen 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 →

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