Friday, September 30, 2011

Homemade Tarragon and Garlic Vinegar

I have been making this vinegar recipe for years and I love love love it. It makes an incredibly flavorful vinaigrette. I have given this away as Christmas gifts and it makes a great hostess gift too.

If you can boil water and peel a clove of garlic, you can make this. Honest. The only thing that is challenging about this, is getting the garlic and tarragon out of the bottle once it is all gone. I usually fill the bottle with water and shake it into the sink, which brings some of the garlic out. Then I'll use a bamboo skewer to get the rest of the tarragon out. BUT....I only have to do this a couple of times a year! That's how long this vinegar will last you.

The vinegar sort of "cooks" the tarragon and takes some of the green away...but it is so tasty.

1 bottle white wine vinegar
4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled, cut in half so they pieces can fit into bottle
6-7 whole tarragon stalks
1 Bottle or jar 

1. Pour the vinegar into a small pot and bring ALMOST to a boil over medium-high heat.

2.  Put garlic and tarragon stalks into the new bottle or jar.

3. Using a funnel, pour the very hot vinegar into the bottle or jar over the tarragon and garlic. 


Let the vinegar cool, then cork the bottle (or close the lid on the jar).  That's it!  For a vinaigrette, use about 2-3 TBL olive oil with 1 tsp vinegar, salt and pepper. yum.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Quinoa and Kale Crustless Quiche

The title sounds like a tongue twister, but the recipe is a tongue pleaser!  A singer friend of mine, Nina Shortridge, sent a link to me, of a site that had this recipe.  The site features food the way I like to eat it: all natural, whole and TASTY!  I think you can have anything you want to eat in life, if you eat seasonally, and with moderation. 

Here's the link to the site: Click here to go to Food52.

Kale greens are some of the most vitamin packed greens on the planet. Check it out: Click here to see why kale is so good for you. 

Quinoa is an ancient grain that is gaining popularity because of it's wonderful taste and nutritional value. Click here to see why Quinoa is so good for you. It has a yummy "nutty" flavor with a chewy texture.

The only ingredient addition I made was sliced mushrooms.  I also added a bit of shredded cheddar on the top during the last 5 minutes of baking. If you look at the recipe online you'll see that I also made some changes in how to prepare it. For the sake of simplicity (and because it's my blog) I'm going to post how I made it (not how they made it).

Lee LOVED this recipe - he is a huge fan of Kale (as you probably know by my other posts) and he mmmm'd and wow'd his way through the meal.  :-)

Quinoa and Kale Crustless Quiche


1/2 C quinoa
1 C water
2 TBL olive oil
1 bunch kale, stems removed and cut into ribbons
1 vidalia onion, thinly sliced (a mandoline is perfect for thin slicing)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 C white cheddar cheese, grated
3 oz. cream cheese, cubed
4 eggs
salt and pepper to taste


1. Caramelize the onions: Heat the olive oil in a large pan on medium heat. when the oil is shimmering, add the onions. Cook on medium-low until the onions are very soft and brown. This may take up to 30 minutes. The key is to cook low and slow.

 2.. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9" pie dish. Rinse the quinoa (I do this in a fine mesh sieve - I find it is the easiest method).

Rinsing the quinoa...

Combine the quinoa and water in a pan. Bring to a boil on medium high heat and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, or until the water is absorbed into the quinoa. Set aside.

Cooked Quinoa

3. Remove the onions from the pan, and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add sliced mushrooms to the pan with a dab of butter. Saute on medium-high heat to get a nice brown sear on the mushrooms. When cooked, remove mushrooms to the bowl with the onions.

Slice the kale into strips by laying the leaves on top of one another and slice away!

4. Add the kale into the hot pan with a swirl of olive oil and a TBl or two of water. Cook onmedium heat until completely wilted and bright green, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool a bit.

Cooked and bright green.

5. Add kale, cooked quinoa, garlic, cream cheese, and cheddar to the mixing bowl. Stir until evenly mixed.

6. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs then pour over quinoa/kale mixture. Stir until egg is completely mixed in. Season with salt and pepper.

Ready for the oven.

7. Pour the mixture into prepared pie dish and bake for about 45 minutes or until top is golden brown. (I also added more cheddar to the top during the last 5 minutes of baking). Let cool for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Out of the oven....ready to slice....


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Apple Cake "Tatin"

If you've read any of my posts, you know I love Ina Garten. I was watching her show today and saw her make this. It looked so easy and since the weather was a bit cooler this evening, I thought it was time to turn on the oven and make something for dessert.

On her show, she used plums, but said it would taste just fine with apples. I found the recipes for both online  - click the link below if you'd like to see them.

This is made with a kind of "caramel" sauce that is very simple, once the sugar begins to caramelize, it will begin to burn very easily if you don't take it off the heat. Since I don't have a candy thermometer, I just kept my eye on it, but you don't want to walk away from the pan once it begins to darken and caramelize.

Click here to see the recipe online!

Apple Cake "Tatin"


6 TBL (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the dish.
1 1/4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into 12 pieces. (I used 5 Gala because I like them)
1 3/4 C sugar (divided)
2 extra large eggs, room temperature
1/3 C sour cream (I used plain Greek yogurt because it's less fat and is a great substitute for sour cream)
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 C plus 2 TBL all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
confectioners sugar for dusting (I forgot to do this before I took the picture)


Preheat the oven to 350. Generously butter a 9-inch pie dish and arrange the apples in the dish, cut side down.

Combine 1 C of the sugar and 1/3 C water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, about 360 degrees on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but do not stir.  Pour evenly over the apples.

Meanwhile, cream the 6 TBL of butter and the remaining 3/4 C sugar in a stand mixer, or with a hadn mixer until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the sour cream, zest and vanilla and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder and the salt, and with the mixer on low, add it to the butter mixture. Mix only until just combined.

Pour the batter evenly over the apples and bake for 30 -40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, then invert cake onto a flat plate. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with confectioners' sugar.


Orange Sorbet

I love ice cream. I could eat it every day of my life and never get tired of it's creamy, cold goodness. I really don't care if it's the middle of winter either...I just want to eat ice cream. You could put all kinds of delectable desserts in front of me and I could pass them up easily if there was some ice cream to be had. Growing up, there was always a carton or two of ice cream in the fridge and we usually had some for dessert on most nights and that was probably because my mom hated to cook so there wasn't a lot of baking going on when I was younger.

I found this recipe (if you can even call it that!) in one of my Everyday Food Magazines and showed it to Lee (who loves sorbets just about as much as I love ice cream) and he thought it would be great so I decided to make it tonight. Now, let me say that Lee likes "tart" way more than I do. He will choose a lemony sorbet or some other tart sherbet over ice cream. I, however, always go for the creamy ones and truly love gelato more than any other type of ice cream. 

For this reason, I thought I might not like this recipe as much as Lee would. I was wrong! This turned out very "creamy", but with NO cream!  Anyway, because this goes into the food processor, it becomes a delicious, healthy, "creamy" concoction that you don't have to feel guilty about eating.

Orange Sorbet~


3 C fresh orange juice
1/2 C sugar


1.Squeeze 5-6 oranges to yield 3 C juice (I used Trader Joes Orange Juice because it is always delicious and never too tart or acidic). In a small saucepan, combine 1/4 C of the juice and 1/2 C sugar. Boil over high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.  Transfer mixture to a shallow 2 quart dish, and add remaining orange juice.

2.  Freeze until solid, 2- 2 1/2 hours. With a fork, break into small pieces. Put the broken, frozen juice into a food processor and process until very smooth (you may need to scrape down the frozen juice a couple of times). Transfer to an airtight container; store in freezer. Before serving, let soften in refrigerator for 10 - 15 minutes.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Steamed Flounder with Vegetable Couscous

I wanted to make something light but tasty for Lee and I last night and was so surprised at how much flavor there was for a "light" recipe! I usually end up making some changes or adding my own spices to recipes in some way and this one is no exception. Here are my changes: I used chicken broth instead of water (I know.....chicken broth with a fish recipe sounds suspect, but it added wonderful flavor), and I added 3 chopped green onions to the vegetables.  OH...and instead of using flounder, I used the "White Roughy" from Trader Joes, which comes frozen in the bright orange bag. This frozen fish is the ONLY frozen fish I ever use. It always turns out perfectly and never has a fishy taste.

Once again, this is from Everyday Food Magazine (I love Martha).

Steamed Flounder with Vegetable Couscous


1 C couscous (I used the whole wheat couscous from Trader Joes)
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
1 zucchini, finely diced
3 green onions, chopped fine
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 TBL olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 TBL plus 1 tsp Dijon mustard
4 flounder fillets (6-8 ounces ea.)
1 TBL white-wine vinegar


1. In a 2 quart, shallow microwave-safe dish, combine couscous, bell pepper, zucchini, green onion, oregano, 1 TBL oil and 1/2 C water (I used chicken broth). Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and microwave on high until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Stir mixture.

2. Dividing evenly, spread 1TBL Dijon over one side of fish; season with salt and pepper. Roll up each fillet, and place on top of couscous. Cover, and microwave on high until fish is almost cooked through, about 4 minutes. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes to finish cooking. (If the fish is not opaque at this point, as mine wasn't, just put it back in the microwave for 2 more minutes and let rest again).

3. Meanwhile, make a vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk remaining teaspoon Dijon, with vinegar and remaining 2 TBL of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle fish and couscous with vinaigrette, and season with ground pepper and freshly chopped parsley.


Lemon-Cornmeal Cookies

Sometimes, you just gotta have a cookie. That's how I felt the other night, but I didn't want to go into a long and laborious, time consuming cookie making session. Those times are left to Christmas when I want to make special recipes that are a bit more involved and require a bit of attention to detail.

No, I wanted something very quick, easy, healthy and tasty. So I headed to my Everyday Food Magazine collection and found this recipe which filled the bill.  I'm not sure, but I think these cookies have their origin in Italy. (don't quote me on that!).  They are more of a "crunchy" cookie, rather than a soft and chewy cookie. They are great with a cup of tea and have a wonderful, fresh lemon taste.

Lemon-Cornmeal Cookies


1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
1 C yellow cornmeal
1 TBL finely grated lemon zest (I used the zest of 2 small lemons)
1/2 tsp salt
12 TBL (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, very soft
3/4 C sugar
1 large egg


1. Preheat oven to 350. In a small bowl, whisk together four, cornmeal, lemon zest and salt.

2. In a large bowl mix butter, sugar, and egg until combined. Gradually add dry ingredients until moistened.

3. Pinch off and roll dough between hands to form balls, each equal to 1 1/2 TBL (I used a small cookie scoop for uniform size). Place on 2 baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. With fingers or palm of hand, flatten balls to 3/4 inch thickness.

4. Bake until lightly browned around edges, 20-25 minutes; transfer to racks to cool completely.


Sausages with Kale and White Beans

I think you either love kale, or hate it. I think Brussels Sprouts and cabbage have the same defining factor with people. They all draw a line and you are squarely on one side or the other. So for those of you who don't like kale, this recipe is probably not for you. BUT for those of you who do, this recipe is a winner! It is not, however, vegetarian. This one includes delicious, fatty, tummy warming Italian sausages. If you don't want to use those, you could substitute one of the wonderful vegetarian sausages that are on the market now and the result would be just fine. If you want to add more fiber to your diet, this recipe is a great way to do it because both kale and beans are high in fiber and low in fat. yum!

This recipe comes from Everyday Food Magazine (a Martha Stewart mag) and it was very quick and easy. I made a few changes, as I usually do, which I will note here.

Sausages with Kale and White Beans (otherwise known as Cannellini)


1 large bunch of kale (1 1/4 lbs to 1 1/2 lbs)
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 lbs sweet Italian sausages (about 8 links)
2 TBL olive oil
salt and pepper
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans
2 TBL white-wine vinegar


1. Remove thick stems from kale, and discard. Chop kale; wash and dry. Peel and thinly slice garlic, combine with kale in a large bowl (or you can do this ahead of time and put the kale and garlic in a plastic baggie).

2. Heat broiler, with racks set 4 inches from heat. With a fork, pierce sausages all over; place on a broilerproof rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through, 8-10 minutes.

3. While sausages are cooking, heat oil in a large skillet (I used a large, deep pan) over medium-high heat.  (At this point I added one finely chopped onion, which the recipe does not include). Add kale, garlic, and 1/2 C water, season with salt and pepper to taste. (I used chicken broth instead of water for extra flavor - the broth has salt so season accordingly. I also added my "secret seasoning weapon...1 tsp of smoked paprika!).  Cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until kale is wilted and tender, 10 -12 minutes (I let it cook for about 20). Drain and rinse beans, add to skillet along with vinegar. Cook, uncovered, tossing gently until beans are heated through, about 2 minutes.

4. Serve cut sausages on a bed of the kale and beans. ( I used 5 sweet Italian sausages and 2 Andouille sausages to give it a bit of kick!).


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Buns buns buns buns... (sung to the tune of "Spam spam spam spam"...)

I have only made yeast bread a few times in my life, most recently with the recipe I'm going to tell you about today, and also a "No Knead Bread" recipe that I had fantastic results with and posted about in March. I also like to make Irish Soda Bread (which really should be called, "Breadmaking for Dummies" because it is completely fool proof because there's no yeast involved).

Back to the subject. I had found this recipe for home made burger and hot dog buns, so Lee and I decided to make grilled burgers and the buns were fantastic! I neglected to take pictures of my bun-making adventure because, to be totally honest with you, I didn't expect that I would be successful with them!  I think my only mistake was that I didn't roll the dough THICK enough. I used a large plastic cup to cut them -  it was the perfect size for buns. You can also make hot dog buns with this same recipe and these can be frozen too.

I found this bun recipe online on another recipe posting site. It was very simple to make - and quick too!
The poster's name is Bonnie Dare, and she gives credit to Sally. I don't know either one of these people....but I'm happy they like to post their recipes!


1 cup plus 3 tablespoons warm water 110 degrees
1/3 cup of canola oil
1/4 cup of sugar
2 full tablespoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
3 1/3 cups bread flour
1 pat of real butter


1. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Assemble all the ingredients. Use exact measurements. Do not substitute ingredients and follow the recipe exactly.

2.  Rinse a large mixing bowl with hot water to warm it up. Add warm water, oil, sugar and the yeast. Set the timer for 15 minutes.

3. While you are waiting for the yeast to work, measure your flour and add the one teaspoon of salt to the flour and mix well. Beat the egg.

4. After the 15 minutes is up and the yeast has had a chance to work, add egg and the bread flour a little at a time to the yeast mixture with a whisk until it starts to get thick, and then trade your whisk for a wooden spoon and finish adding the rest of the flour or as much as needed to make a dough you can roll. It will be a nice tender dough.

5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Roll to about 3/4 inch thick and cut out with a 4 inch glass or a clean can. Transfer the cut out dough to the parchment paper. If you want hotdog buns, turn the sides down and under to overlap and lay on the parchment paper. If you want hamburger buns, use the entire circle and place it on the parchment paper.

6. Brush tops of buns with the melted butter. Dont' skip this step because it makes them like store bought buns!

7. Let buns rise in the oven with the light on for about ten minutes. Bake buns at 425 for 10 minutes.

NOTE: I followed these instructions exactly, and I found that it took my oven way too long to heat to 425, and I had to bake them longer than 10 minutes. You may want to begin heating the oven as you put them in to rise for 10 minutes.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Skillet Lasagna

It's August and it has been BLAZING hot here in Southern CA. But I've been wanting to make something cheesey and saucey and noodley (I know....that isn't a word but I like it anyway) and this is the perfect recipe for times when you don't want to heat up the whole house because of the oven, but still want something that tastes like it's been cooking in the oven for hours. It's a recipe I found in the Food Network Magazine (Sept issue of 2009) called Skillet Lasagna. It is VERY easy and VERY satisfying!

Click here to see the recipe online

I admit my picture doesn't look as good as the picture shown on the Food Network website, but I can promise you that you will love this lasagna because you don't have to boil the noodles!! YAY! You just take them out of the box and put them on the veggies. Also, you can use store bought ricotta cheese, but you can also make your own - it is super easy! I have posted the recipe here on my blog - (it's an Ina Garten recipe so you know it's good!). Lastly, this recipe calls for only one carrot but I always use two. You can use more zucchini if you like too!

 ~Skillet Lasagna~

1/4 C extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 lbs ripe tomatoes, diced ( also you may want to use some store bought marinara or make your own with my "Marinara Me" sauce posted here on my blog)
4 TBL chopped fresh basil and parsley, plus more for garnish
-kosher salt and pepper to taste
1 C ricotta cheese
1 large egg
2 TBL grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
6 sheets no-bake lasagna noodles
1 carrot peeled into ribbons
1 zucchini peeled into ribbons
3 1/2 C baby spinach
1/3 pound mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced (I like to use fresh mozzarella - it's just so creamy and delicious)

1. Heat the 1/4 C olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic; cook until golden, 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, 1 TBL herbs, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste; cook until saucy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree (at this point I opted to just leave the tomatoes in the skillet and used my marinara for the rest of the recipe - you can also use store bought marinara). Return 1 C of the sauce to the skillet and reduce the heat to low; reserve the remaining sauce.

2. Meanwhile, mix the ricotta, egg, Parmesan, the remaining 3 TBL herbs, 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.

3. Place 2 lasagna noodles over the sauce in the skillet. Layer half of the carrot and zucchini on top; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover with half of the spinach, half of the ricotta mixture, a few pieces of the mozzarella and 2-3 TBL of the reserved tomato sauce. Repeat the layers, ending with the noodles. Top with the remaining sauce and mozzarella. Cover and simmer until the lasagna is cooked and the cheese melts, 20 - 25 minutes.

4. Let rest for a few minutes before slicing. Garnish with more Parmesan and fresh herbs.