Brittany wrote this on 20 September 2011
I confess. If you had asked me, oh say, ten or twelve years ago, if I liked fish tacos, my answer would have been a very firm “No.” The fact that I had never had a fish taco at that time would have been irrelevant. I am from Minnesota you see, and we do not generally cover our fish with a lot of fixings and flavor cover-uppers. The fresh taste of walleye straight out of the lake and fried up that same day cannot be beat. Period. I am, as I have said before, my Father’s daughter. The thought of drizzling it with sauce and lettuce and cheese just made me shudder. In fact, it kind of still does. I had no clue that the quintessentially traditional fish taco is actually made with Wahoo or Mahi Mahi. Not exactly the daily catch in our 10,000 plus lakes.
When I moved to San Diego, everything changed. They were everywhere! I couldn’t get away from them! Between the street vendors, fish taco restaurant chains, and seeing them tacked onto every menu of every other restaurant like some kind of west coast requirement, I figured I better try one. I mean how sad would it have been to move back to the Midwest and say I never had a fish taco?! Sad.
So one day, standing at the end of a pier and staring out at the Pacific, (Oh! How I miss the Pacific!) my grumbling stomach deemed it necessary to purchase a fish taco from the weather beaten shack that was sharing my space at the end of said pier, looking like it would disintegrate into the ocean any moment. Technically it was a lobster taco and not a fish taco, but it was made the same way, with simple spices and a light topping of some kind of zesty sauce-thankfully, used sparingly- shredded cabbage and a bit of cheese. And it was sooo gooood. Nothing like I though it would be. It was so fresh and so light and so absolutely scrumptious, I decided then and there, as the seagulls threatened to dive bomb me in the hopes of getting a bite, that this was in no way breaking the sanctity of fresh fried lake fish. Instead, it was entirely different, hardly related, and perfectly safe to obsess over.
Fast forward a dozen years or so and I find this recipe for tilapia fish tacos in a Cooking Light magazine. So I try them, beating my family off with a spatula because they tried the fish right out of the pan and then ate so much we couldn’t actually have them for dinner that night. The fish is so good, it is like slap-your-thigh-roll-your-eyes-to-the-heavens kind of good. With my pregnancy making my stomach extremely unpredictable these days, I was just waiting for the right time to make them again. Yesterday, when I went to the store to get milk, I walked past the most beautiful Tilapia fillets I had ever seen. I didn’t even pause but turned to my 2 year old and said, “I MUST make fish tacos tonight!” And so I did. I discovered a few things along the way. Leftovers, something we didn’t have the last few times I made these, are fantastic. Cold from the fridge makes this fish great for lunch at work the next day, so make a few extra fillets. Second, a little acid takes the flavor of these tacos from fantastic to over the moon great! Don’t forget a squeeze of lemon or lime. Trust me on this one. The fact that these can be made in a matter of minutes makes them a great weeknight meal. The Pacific in the background is completely optional.
Beautiful tilapia fillets, seasoned and ready to go! One Year Ago: Pork Roast W/Mustard & Peach Glaze
Baja Fish Tacos
Adapted from Cooking Light
As I mentioned above, these tacos are even better with some kind of acid. If you add a splash or two of lime juice (bottled is just fine) to a large scoop of sour cream and stir until smooth, you have the perfect accompaniment. A finely minced jalapeno in there is great too! It cools the spice just a bit and cuts through the richness of the fish. It really makes a difference! If you aren’t a sour cream person, a squeeze of lemon or lime over the fish just before you eat it will also do the trick!
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4-8 tilapia fillets
Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle the fish fillets evenly on both sides. Saute in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until JUST done. Three to four minutes on the first side and only about 2 minutes on the second side. Serve in small corn or flour tortillas with avocado, tomatoes and finely shredded cabbage if you have it. Don’t forget the lime sour cream too!
Brittany wrote this on 17 September 2011
Most children I know love the stuff. Most adults I know do too. But how are you preparing it? Raw with dip? Steamed? In a stir fry? Did you know you can roast it? Did you know that roasting it gives it an entirely different flavor that is so unexpectedly wonderful that it just may convert the handful of you out there that do not like broccoli? Oh yes. It is that good. Of course the fact that it contains uber amounts of anti-cancer phyto-chemicals called glucosinolates (as does cabbage and cauliflower), potassium, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and iron, make this a vegetable that needs to be added to your weekly menu. Your health depends on it!!
So I will make this easy for you! Literally! It takes just a few minutes to throw this together and you can add it to the oven of whatever you might already be making for dinner. It is quick and a nice change of pace. Dusted with Parmesan cheese and you have yourself a beautiful side dish that is great pretty much year round, but would be a fantastic addition to a holiday table this year.One Year Ago: Tator-Tot Hotdish
Salt and Pepper
Rinse and trim the broccoli into bite sized florets. Shake dry. Spread in a single layer on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat all of the broccoli. Spread the vegetables evenly out again and roast in a 400 degree oven until bright green and crisp tender. They will be lightly browned and fragrant when done, about 15 minutes, depending on the size of your florets. Carefully spoon the broccoli onto a bowl and toss with Parmesan cheese.
Brittany wrote this on 15 September 2011
Hello again! I have returned after a long vacation, international travel (we went to Canada), and some life changing events! I should probably let you all know that my husband and I are expecting baby #3 next spring, just in case you wonder why the food I am cooking might be a little random. If I post a recipe for garlic ice cream in February, now you know why. Also, I can pretty much guarantee some future posts about homemade baby food!
So thank you for your patience! With the exception of some nausea that may interrupt the regularity of my recipe posting, food will once again come at you more frequently. Just in time too! We are officially at the start of my favorite season-FALL! Even if the 50 degree day today didn’t convince me of it, the acorns hitting my roof like hail would definitely clue me in! I am positively giddy with all the recipes I want to test, create, and make again to share with all of you! Spices, roasting meats, baked fruit concoctions, pastas, and of course, holiday food! Just in case you are cringing at the future calorie total of all this food, don’t be alarmed yet. While I can guarantee that there will be dishes and desserts that are definitely…well…indulgent-i.e. Farmer’s Pasta with four cheeses will make you absolutely swoon!-I just don’t cook that way all the time. There will be plenty of food that won’t weigh you down during the chilly months!As for today’s recipe, making homemade salad dressing is one of those things that I think people are kind of scared of! Am I right? Years ago, when I was younger, thinner, and less wise, I sent a summer working in a fine dining restaurant. I was a daytime sous (prep) chef and spent my mornings making salads and cassoulet, peeling 5 gallon buckets of onions, sneaking tastes of the chocolate ganache, whipping up chutneys and sauces, cleaning calamari, peeling and deveining shrimp, roasting insane amounts of garlic potatoes, tackling a plethora of other tasks….and making salad dressings. When I was first given a stack of secret recipes and told to “make these” I wasn’t too alarmed. The top of the list was a ranch-style dressing and then a bleu cheese. Mmmm…bleu cheese dressing. I had sort of thrown those together before so no surprise there. But the third recipe in the pile was French. I just stared at it and blinked. Homemade French dressing? Seriously? Did people really make this stuff themselves? Apparently they did! I skimmed the recipe, wondering what all went into French dressing other than something red and obviously some sugar. Thirty minutes later with my half dozen bowls of homemade dressings, I was totally converted. Made from scratch dressing, French or otherwise, was absolutely fantastic. It made a big impression on me and even though I do not currently have a fridge full of my own dressing creations, there are a few that I rarely purchase. A vinaigrette is one of them. It literally takes just seconds to make and can be thrown together in the exact quantity you need. Fresh and fantastic every time with only a few pantry ingredients needed.
These cooler temperatures are producing another round of fresh garden greens and radishes. If you wonder about the sudden reappearance of lettuce at your Farmer’s Market, it is because most greens thrive in chilly weather. This is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of this spring vegetable! It won’t be back for long! A simple vinaigrette on tender greens, thinly sliced apple or pear, maybe some purple onion, some toasted pecans or walnuts, and a handful of dried cranberries make a perfect fall salad. Healthy, beautiful, and with a bit of roast chicken or bacon and crumbled bleu cheese, a satisfying supper. Light and easy, it will help off set the affects of that four cheese pasta I was telling you about. But we will worry about that later!! One Year Ago: Good Lookin’ Man Potatoes
This recipe is really just a method, as most of my How To recipes are. As long as you have a fat (olive oil) and an acid (vinegar or citrus juice) you can’t go wrong. Although I personally never make one with out a sweetener. I just love that whole sweet and sour combination!
I don’t really ever measure, but just in case you need a point of reference, I have tried to include measurements, or at least ratios, to give you a jumping off point. Feel free to alter as your tastes determine. Start off with the large bowl you are actually going to serve the salad in. Directly into the bottom of the bowl, add about 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. This is totally optional. I like the flavor it adds and the mustard will allow your dressing to emulsify, but it can easily be skipped. Please note that if you don’t like mustard, you don’t really actually taste it in here. Next add your sweetener at about 2-1 or 3-1. So if you add 1 tsp of mustard, drizzle in 2 tsp or even 1 T of honey. Whisk together in the bottom of the bowl. Next add your acid. In this case, red wine vinegar. Any good vinegar or citrus juice will do. About 2 tablespoons. Whisk it all well. Finally, your fat. Extra virgin olive oil is perfect because you will taste the fruity flavor of it in this dressing. You need about 1/4 of a cup. Fat to acid is about 2-1, but add more vinegar if you like the tangy taste. Whisk it all well. Season with salt and pepper and then taste it.
If it is too creamy, add a few more drops of vinegar. If it is too sour, add just a bit more honey. Tweak it just how you want, but use small incerments. I like to do a final taste on an actual piece of lettuce. Then I know just how the flavor will be when I serve it. And you are done!! This whole bowl can set out on the counter for several hours until you need it. Just add the lettuce to the bowl and toss it together. This is enough dressing to lightly dress a 6-8 oz package of greens. Don’t forget that this vinaigrette is so easy to change. Use a citrus juice instead of vinegar. Try maple syrup and balsamic vinegar in place of the honey and red wine vinegar. Also, feel free to triple the amounts and store in the fridge to use for several weeks. Just remember to use a light hand at first. You can always add more if you need to!
Brittany wrote this on 31 August 2011
Summer is drawing to a close. There. I said it. Sorry to burst your bubble, but regardless of what the temperature is where you live, the start of the school year is a not so subtle signal that the long days of water skiing and sunscreen are all but over. For me, even though my daughter started school two weeks ago, Labor Day weekend will always be my cut off. In Minnesota, Labor Day is the last day of the State Fair and school, inevitably, always began the next day. Also, you may think I am crazy, but the temp drops and it gets significantly cooler on the same day. Even though I now live in central IL, I just keep mentally telling myself I have just a few days left before I pull out my turtle necks.
That was a figure of speech, by the way. I haven’t worn a turtle neck since junior high…
In honor of the end of summer, I have a few recipes for you that use up the last of the in season produce. The one I am giving you today is so fresh and flavorful and…well…gorgeous, that you can’t help but devour it. So even if it is only 55 degrees at your house, you can still make this, close your eyes, and pretend that you are still at the cabin by the lake.
Panzanella salad, from what I have learned, is an Italian peasant dish. They are usually comprised of dried out leftover bread, tomatoes, and whatever vegetables from the garden you can come up with. This version is a bit less random and with the addition of feta, it is definitely Mediterranean. Some panzanella salads rely soley on the juices of the tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, and some salt and pepper to dress the whole thing, but this one has an actual dressing to toss it with. My point is, is there are flavors in this that you just aren’t fond of, then skip it. As long as there is bread and tomatoes, you can add whatever you like or happen to have on hand. Heck! Tomatoes, bread, maybe some garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper and nothing else would be pretty fantastic on its own! Those are my favorite ingredients anyway!
One Year Ago: Dippin’ Biscuits
Adapted from Ina Garten
This dish is obviously beautiful, but the picture does not do the flavor justice. The light vinaigrette pulls all the flavors together and the result is so absolutely addicting, I have yet to ever have leftovers. It is a wonderful addition to just about any menu and can stand alone as a light lunch or supper. It goes great with Grilled Yogurt Chicken and makes it a full meal.
1 small french baguette, cut into 1 inch cubes
salt and pepper
1 hothouse cucumber, cubed *see note
2 large tomatoes, cubed
2 bell peppers, cubed (1 yellow and 1 red is pretty)
1/2 purple onion, sliced into quarter rounds
4 oz block of feta, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 c red wine vinegar
1/2 c olive oil
salt and pepper
Toss the bread cubes with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper and toast on a sheet pan in a 375 degree oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cool. Mix all ingredients of the vinaigrette together and set aside until ready-can be made several hours ahead of time. 20 minutes before you want to serve it, toss all ingredients together with the dressing. Toss every ten minutes or so and serve.
*Note: Hothouse, or English, cucumbers, have a thinner skin and don’t need to be peeled or scored. The are skinnier that regular cucumbers and come shrink wrapped in plastic to protect them. They also have less seeds. If you can’t find them, or just want to use a regular cucumber that is just fine. Just peel it and maybe scoop out the center a bit so it is easier to eat and digest.
Brittany wrote this on 21 August 2011
When posting recipes for you, I try to mention if that particular dish is good as leftovers, freezes well, can be made ahead, or doubles easily. These are tips that I always look for and kind of take a mental note about when I am looking through recipes. This information makes my life easier, more efficient, saves me some money, and…well…I feel all domestic and stuff…
It is at this time of year that my freezer (pic not included-its just a big white deep freeze so use your imagination) starts to burst at the seams. Summer produce is abundant and readily available so I waste no time in taking advantage! These are a few things that I stash away to enjoy during the colder months! Shredded Zucchini. I do this every year. When zucchini threatens to over take your garden (or your neighbors garden and then they try and pawn the excess off on you!) you want to make it last as long as you can, right? Zucchini can be cut into chunks and blanched for about 30 seconds, drained well and frozen. However, my preferred way to freeze it is fresh, shredded in the food processor, and frozen in a zip top freezer bag. I usually put about half of a large zucchini in every bag. Just make sure to squeeze out the extra moisture once it has thawed. It defrosts quickly on the counter and I stir it into soups, layer it in casseroles, such as Shepherd’s Pie, and of course, I make baked goods with it year round. Baked quick breads and muffins freeze really well, so right off the bat, I always make several loaves to put in the freezer. Earth Bread is our favorite (I make earth bread and cream cheese sandwiches to put in Evelyn’s lunches!) but with literally hundreds of recipes out there that use shredded fresh zucchini, you won’t be at a loss of ideas! In fact, a chocolate zucchini bread recipe is coming soon! Berries. We have talked about this before, but I just wanted to remind you again. All kinds of berries and they last for months and months! Sweet Corn! Its everywhere this time of year! And cheap! Blanch the corn-husked and de-silked of course-in boiling water for about a minute. Cut the corn off the cob and freeze. I can’t even tell you how fantastic it is to make a corn pudding for Thanksgiving with fresh corn on the cob that was frozen at its peak! The flavor is wonderful. Roasted Tomatoes. A great way to use up any small tomatoes from your garden. I do freeze and can marinara sauce when I can, but this is faster, easier, and a change of pace. I shared this recipe with you when we talked about grilled pizza, but what you may not know is that they also freeze well. Just cool on the pan to room temperature and then seal in a freezer bag. These defrost really fast so they are really easy to put on pizza all year! They also make a great pasta sauce. Just dump a few cups into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until you reach your desired consistency. It is great really chunky or pureed until smooth. Actually, this puree is also great to spread on a pizza if you prefer more of a sauce on your pie! Add an extra drizzle of olive oil if you want to loosen the mixture a bit. A spoonful of pesto added to the mix would be great too. Then just toss the whole thing with hot pasta and a healthy grate of Parmesan…drool drool drool! This makes a light sauce, not super heavy like a marinara and brings the taste of summer to your table in February!
Speaking of tomatoes…This is basically the sauce for Pasta Scuie Scuie, just minus the basil. Well, and made in a much larger quantity. The flavor is so much better than plain tomato sauce and it whips up in mere minutes, versus cooking down for hours on the stove. I freeze it in small amounts to toss with half a pound of pasta for a light lunch or side dish for dinner, and in larger amounts, to toss with a full pound of pasta and some fresh mozzarella. Outrageously good when the only tomatoes available are shipped from who knows where and are pale and mealy.Aaah. Basil. So abundant in the summer, so expensive in the winter. You see it in recipes during the warmer months all the time, but when I need it in the winter, my shoulders sag a bit. I have trouble growing it indoors and my efforts are sporadic, at best. But on my deck, basil grows like a weed, nearly doubling in size every few weeks. In order to preserve it for later (and keep the varmints from nibbling on it) once it reaches a good size and I have several cups of basil, I cut the plant down and make pesto. Within days, my little plant has recovered enough to give me basil to use in a recipe if I need it and by weeks end, my plant is abundant and flourishing again. The weather here is so mild in the fall, I should be able to get another batch of pesto in a month or two, just before I use up the last of my plant when it frosts. Pesto freezes AWESOME and can be used in appetizers, stirred into soups, and of course, tossed with hot pasta.
1 c toasted walnuts
2 cloves fresh garlic
4 oz (about 8 c, lightly packed) fresh basil leaves
healthy pinch of salt and pepper
olive oil, about 1/2-2/3 c
To toast walnuts, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees until fragrant, 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally. Do not let them burn! Cool to room temp. Add all ingredients, except oil, to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Slowly add oil in a slow stream while the processor is running, stopping when you reach desired consistency. It should be loose, but not runny. Toss a spoonful or so with fresh pasta, or spoon into ice cube trays. Freeze overnight and pop out and store in a freezer bag. Pesto does not need to be reheated before use. It will defrost in just a few minutes and the heat of the pasta is all you need. Toss with plenty of Parmesan cheese and serve.
Brittany wrote this on 9 August 2011
I have mentioned before that I usually keep a running list of menus to make for dinner during that week. I glance through my freezer and sort of mentally pair things with what I have coming out of my garden in the next few days and what is stashed in my pantry (Hmmm…do fresh tomatoes go well with freezer burned cornish game hen?). Sometimes I pull a recipe that I have recently come across or been scribbling down and add that to the stack so that when I look at the list and see, in my own handwriting, a meal I have never made before, I don’t start searching through my piles and piles of paper trying to find it. I have it all right there with the menus.
Of course, this system is absolutely perfect, life doesn’t get in the way at all, and I never stray from my weekly menu…
So I have had this dish on my menu for weeks now. It keeps making its way to the next week and then the next, never getting made. It had been so long since I actually read the recipe, I had no idea what it was anymore. So this weekend, I just sat down and made it. So…now I know why I flagged it in the first place. I mean, hello!! It uses zucchini and summer squash! Two things I am always trying to get rid of in August! It is fresh and not too heavy but still satisfyingly cheesy and gooey. Despite the fact that this recipe has one major flaw-no meat!-you won’t miss it. Seriously! I can’t believe I am telling you this, but is absolutely perfect without it. There are a few steps to putting it together, but nothing complicated. Leftovers a day or two later are wonderful! I have already added it to the menus for company in a few weeks. Hold the frosty chicken… One Year Ago: BBQ Pulled Pork
Baked Pasta W/Summer Veggies
A hunk of crusty bread is perfect with this. Maybe two hunks.
1 small summer squash, cubed
1 small zucchini, cubed
1/2 onion chopped fine
1 large tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T chopped, fresh basil
1 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 c low fat-ricotta cheese
2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 pound rigatoni, ziti, penne, or penne rigate, cooked according to package directions
In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute squash, zucchini and onion, for a few minutes or just until starting to soften. Add chopped tomato, garlic, salt and pepper. Heat together for 2-3 more minutes or until fragrant and heated through. Remove from heat and add the pasta, 1/2 of the mozzarella, oregano, and basil. I had to do this in a large separate bowl. Set aside and in a small bowl, beat ricotta and egg together with a fork until smooth. Stir into the pasta and vegetables and pour the whole thing into a large, sprayed casserole dish. Top with last cup of mozzarella. Bake at 400 degrees until bubbly and evenly browned, about 15 minutes. It won’t take long because everything is already cooked and hot. Enjoy!
Brittany wrote this on 5 August 2011
I have had this distant memory of grilled chicken sort of floating through my head for some time now. It was a previous recipe I had tried several years ago, but for the life of me I could not remember how to make it. I could vaguely recall ingredients including chicken, yogurt, garlic, and cumin. For some reason kebabs kept coming to mind and I definitely remembered that it tasted awesome. So now, deep into ‘the transfer’, which is what I have been calling the never ending process of putting all my recipes into my computer, it was nowhere to be found. The goldenrod colored sticky-note with writing in black pen that I have been looking for for months now, I was positive was gone.
Mmmm…but that chicken was so good! Maybe I could just try and create it from memory and tweak from there…
Then I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit developed by this couple. Alas! It jogged my memory and I quickly grabbed the first piece of paper I could find (which just happened to be in my pile of recipes waiting to be filed) and started scribbling down ingredients. Suddenly, I stopped and really looked at the paper. Of course, it was a goldenrod sticky-note. I flipped it over and you know what it said? Yogurt Chicken Kebabs. Chicken. Yogurt. Garlic. Cumin. Grill. No wonder I couldn’t remember anything else. That was all there was to the dish!!
So after an exasperated sigh and a very disgusted “Are you kidding me?” I created this. I like it much better than my first few attempts, so I figure it is safe to pass it on to you! Now for all you who are cringing and saying to yourself “Yogurt? And chicken? That is way to weird for me!”-just relax. Have you ever come across a recipe for fried chicken that had you soak it in buttermilk first? This is the same concept. While the yogurt does impart a bit of tangyness to the chicken, its main purpose is making it moist and full of flavor all the way through, not just on the surface. Unlike similar recipes, this one is quite subtle. The flavors are soft and suggestive, not an in your face spice fest! Garam masala, an Indian spice blend, is a common flavor used in recipes like this, but I like to pick and choose my spices individually. Well, that and the fact that garam masala can be hard to find and I wouldn’t use it nearly as often as I use the separate spices that are in it.
So now, I can toss my bright little sticky-note in the recycling bin, as the recipe is now in my computer. Phew! One down, a bazillion to go. One Year Ago: Banana Bran Muffins
Grilled Yogurt Chicken
This chicken is absolutely scrumptious. It is very easy to throw together and goes with just about anything. I kind of treat it like a good, plain chicken that has a bit of personality. Cold leftovers are spectacular sliced on a sandwich or chunked onto a salad.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 c plain, low fat yogurt (not vanilla!)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small or 1/2 large, onion, cut into large chunks
hefty drizzle of olive oil-maybe a 1/4 c
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3/4 tsp ground cumin
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp cardamom (optional-although I highly recommend it)
Combine all ingredients in a large zip top bag, squishing everything to mix it well. Marinade the chicken, in the fridge for AT LEAST 3-4 hours(for good flavor), but can be as long as overnight if you like. Grill on a well oiled grill over medium heat (indirect if charcoal), taking care to remove the extra marinade as you go. I just pull the pieces out of the bag with a tongs and use my other hand to grasp the outside of the bag and scrape them off as I go. The marinade will burn if there is too much. Depending on the thickness of your chicken, it will take about 4 minutes a side. Don’t overcook it! You want it firm, but not dry. Let it rest for five minutes to allow the juices to redistribute before you slice it.
Brittany wrote this on 31 July 2011
Do you ever look in your freezer and come across a food that isn’t exactly spoiled but you just don’t want to really eat it right then, so you put it back? Then you do it again. And then again. Maybe it has been in there for awhile, you aren’t exactly sure what you bought it for, or you just don’t feel like dealing with it? That was me a few days ago. Except that was my situation with the freezer and the pantry. In the freezer (and this is my fridge/freezer, not my deep chest freezer), I had this package of spinach. I haven’t the foggiest idea how long it had been in there, but I have a pretty good memory for food inventory and this wasn’t ringing any bells. Tack on the several months of kitchen renovation when I wasn’t doing any cooking at all, and we are looking at possibly over a year instead of mere months that it had been in there, waiting for me. This poor box of spinach stood by as a seemingly never ending stream of frozen veggies, vegetable ‘chicken’ nuggets, and the occasional bag of french fries were continuously rotated, as if through some kind of frozen food revolving door. It worked its way to the bottom of the freezer drawer, collecting those little bits of dried…whatever that stuff is that collects on old freezer stuff. You know, its like water crystals, but dirty and stale smelling.
Anyway, I can’t even begin to tell you how long I have been trying to ignore this box of frozen spinach. I mean, I like spinach. I just haven’t felt like dealing with it lately-ummm…or for the last year apparently. Then I checked my pantry, the bottom of which contained an unusually large amount of potatoes. I’m not sure why I have so much (over 25 pounds) but I think I ran out and then picked some up and then I forgot I picked some up and bought some more and then I had a coupon for another bag and then they were on sale and I said to myself “Self, that is a great deal on potatoes. We can always use more potatoes!”-and I think all of this negates my previous claim that I have a good memory for food inventory…
So I got creative and made this:
I have always like to stir things into my mashed potatoes; a sort of starch and vegetable combo that does double duty as a side dish for dinner. This one is particularly scrumptious. I mean seriously! How could you pass up gooey, melted pockets of cheese stirred into healthy vegetables. There was even enough leftover for dinner later in the week! Score! My kids, while admittedly not picky eaters, inhaled this like it was their last meal. When I served it again two days later, they actually cheered. Always a good sign! One Year Ago: Matt’s Pancakes
Smashed Potatoes W/Spinach
These are called ‘smashed’ potatoes because that is what they are. No equipment here needed except a potato masher or large spoon. In this case, lumpy is a good thing. If I had had the time, I would have covered it with extra cheese and baked it in the oven, but use whichever method works best for you.
4 large baking potatoes (or 6 medium, or 8 small), peeled and cut into large chunks
1 pkg chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 c shredded cheese, cheddar, colby-jack, or whatever you like
2 T softened butter
1/2-3/4 c sour cream
salt and pepper
Boil or steam the potatoes until tender. Drain and dump back into the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and mash with a potato masher until no large chunks remain and evenly mixed. Taste for seasoning (potatoes always need a little more salt than other foods) and serve. If needed, zap in the microwave if the cheese and spinach cooled it down too much.
Note: Can be made a few days ahead of time, cooled, covered, and in the fridge. If desired, spread in a shallow casserole dish, sprinkle with extra cheese, and bake at 350 until heated through and cheese has melted. Also, it is totally fantastic to leave the skins on the potatoes. Just scrub them clean before you cook them. It is a major vitamin boost, and if your kids are wary of potato peelings, they won’t even be able to tell because it will be masked by cheese and sour cream. Yum!
Brittany wrote this on 29 July 2011
I’m not going to be the one to say it. Don’t worry. You won’t here it from me. No sir! I’m not going to be the one who tells you that these summer days, with all the heat and humidity, are quickly dwindling down to just a few precious weekends. I won’t be hinting to you that the seemingly huge expanse of time that always seems to go by so fast (I have yet to hear someone say ‘Uhg! This is such a long summer! I wish it would end!’) is of course,well, almost over. In our house, we are getting ready for school. This is something I am a bit unaccustomed to doing at the end of July! I grew up in a state where snow in May is a bummer, but not all that uncommon. Starting school before Labor Day would shrink our summer to mere weeks, not months. But here in south central IL, where I am told-though have yet to experience-that sometimes we get no snow the entire winter, our mild and tolerable weather begins the end of February and doesn’t end until Christmas. What does this mean? It means that after an entire month of humid days over 100 degrees, it is really OK that my daughter launches her school career the middle of August. Kindergarten is looming before us; exciting for her and heart wrenching for me. We’ll be ready. I know this because her new monogrammed backpack arrived in the mail yesterday and now (as my 5 year old dances around the house with all her spanking new school supplies carefully arranged beneath pink butterflies) all is right with the world!
But I’m not ready to give up on these carefree days just yet! I blame the stubbornness on my Dad. My calendar says it is still July, and that means my grill is still the my most important and used piece of cooking equipment. And darn it! I am going to pretend that summer is not fading. I am going to take advantage of every last meal that I can cook outside. And you should too! Starting…with this.
These pictures are a bit frustrating for me. After taking over 100 different photos of this chicken, I am still disappointed in the fact that none of them quite convey the absolutely phenomenal level of yumminess that this dish possesses.
I am not exaggerating! Yes, I know that I have a track record of being a teensy bit over dramatic, but this chicken is so scrumptious…it is kind of…a little bit like…it is so…*sigh*. If there had been leftovers I would have eaten them for breakfast. Unfortunately, we ate it all. And then licked our fingers clean. And then we licked the plate. Oh. Just me on that last one? Well, anyway it was good. So good, I am trying to come up with an excuse to make it again. I am headed to a barbecue tomorrow and I have to bring a side dish. Barbecue chicken counts as a side dish, right? One Year Ago: Margarita Pasta Salad
Barbecued Chicken W/Sweet Mustard Glaze
Recipe adapted from Cooking Light
This chicken gets its wonderful color from paprika and chili powder. It is sticky and sweet and tangy and smokey. All the things good barbecued chicken should be!
6-8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs and/or drummies
2 T brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
salt and pepper
quick drizzle of olive oil
Combine all ingredients in a large zip top bag. Let sit for several hours. Pull chicken directly from the bag and grill until cooked through and juices run clear. Meanwhile, mix together in a small bowl:
1/4 c ketchup
1 T brown sugar
1 T red wine or apple cider vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
When chicken is cooked, brush both sides with glaze. Grill over the lowest heat-or indirect if you have a charcoal grill-just until the sauce is caramelized on the chicken. Brush again if there is leftover sauce and serve.
Brittany wrote this on 25 July 2011
Sometimes you just know when a recipe is going to be successful. Maybe the title tips you off. For example, anything with ‘honey’ as a main ingredient has got to be worth trying, right? Perhaps a picture is enough to be sure of a successful dish. At one time or another haven’t we all been pulled in by a photograph of a juicy hamburger or a picture of gooey brownies that was so clear we could swear the scent of warm chocolate was wafting from the page? In this case, it was the ingredient list: fresh sweet corn, crisp zucchini, and plenty of basil. Yes, sir! I saw those and gave a little sigh. Three foods that are best mid-summer and all in the same bowl! Of course, if you are lacking the ability to mix flavors in your head to determine the flavor of a dish, here is another visual aid. Its fresh. Its crisp. Its light. And it drives me crazy that I didn’t think of it on my own! I found this recipe in my archives while I was searching for a new way to eat zucchini. My family loves zucchini and I have one or two recipes that we could not live without! However, given the abundance of zucchini recipes out there now that it is appearing at farmers markets (and maybe your own backyard) at an alarming rate, I decided to take advantage of the season and start trying new ideas. I also picked this one because I was planning dinner yesterday and I had all the ingredients so it did not require a trip to the store!
Do not be fooled by the simple appearance of this dish! It is fairly bursting with flavor. The fresh sweet corn right from the field is so sweet its almost sugary and the basil is something unexpected. It tastes great warm but can also be served room temperature. One Year Ago: Three Lemon Chicken
Zucchini & Corn W/Basil
Adapted from Martha Stewart.
This feeds about 4 people with no leftovers.
2 c fresh corn, cut from 2-3 ears of corn
1/2 large zucchini (or 1 small or medium), cubed into bite sized pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 c chopped basil, about 8 large leaves
splash of white wine vinegar
In a medium saute pan over medium heat, drizzle a few tablespoon of olive oil. Add the garlic and zucchini and lightly saute, just until the zucchini is bright green-about 3 minutes. Add the corn and toss together, cooking a few minutes more. Season with salt and pepper and taste for doneness. When done, toss in the basil and vinegar-these two cut the sweetness of the vegetables. Serve.
Brittany wrote this on 21 July 2011
You may have noticed that Brittany’s Pantry is now on facebook! Click on the link and ‘like’ the page for updates on what I’m cooking currently, extra tips and links, and of course quick access to new posts. A Flikr Photostream is also a new addition so feel free to click here to check out my journey to understanding photography!
I mostly want to thank all of you who have encouraged me through this project! I have had a wonderful year (even with of five bouts of pneumonia and remodeling the kitchen-and house-I am supposed to be cooking in for this blog) and I have learned a lot! Blogging is such an interesting medium to me and the outpouring of support from all of you, my readers, is greatly appreciated! So now onto the food. I know, I know. Get to the good stuff, right?
Toward the end of my college education, I found myself on an all but deserted campus in the middle of the summer; living alone, cramming through a chemistry class I had to take but really didn’t want to be in, working until dinner every day, and then coming home to an empty house. My roommates were out and about for the summer and my fiancee was stationed in Hawaii on a nuclear submarine. I was in central Wiscnsin, missing my man, my friends, and a house with better air conditioning. To fill in the voids of alone time, earn a few extra credits (and to break-up my daily post-suppertime Food Network marathons-I had just discovered cable) I signed up for a night class. Outdoor Grilling. Yup. My university offered classes like that. Cool, huh? It lasted for two weeks, started an hour after I got off work, and finished just as the sun went down. The students were split into groups, each group was given 3 or 4 recipes and all the ingredients to make them, and then we were turned loose! We all completed our recipes and then filled a table with the finished dishes, every member of the class getting a taste of every recipe from that day. I left stuffed to my ears every night. I ate steak salad for the first time in my life, grilled fruits and then doused them in homemade chocolate sauce, learned a bazillion different marinades-and learned how to grill pizza. With the exception of the chocolate sauce (that was seriously so good our group drank the leftovers), grilling pizza was far and away the most eye opening food we made. It was easy, quick, made with few ingredients and in my opinion, the best pizza I had ever had.
I still feel that way about grilled pizza. Like many foods, it just seems to taste better made outdoors. Since it requires you to work quickly, it forces you to keep it simple. Here’s how to do it!
One Year Ago: Basic Wheat Bread
1 lb pizza dough, purchased or homemade (see below for recipe)
roasted tomatoes, purchased or homemade (see below for recipe)
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced thin
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped
This recipe is adapted from my bread machine user manual. Awesome.
1 c warm water
2 T olive oil
1 T honey or sugar
1 tsp salt
1 c white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c bread flour
1 tsp active dry yeast
Add ingredients in the order recommended by your bread machine and select the ‘dough’ cycle. Can be refrigerated overnight if needed or frozen for several months. Defrost in the fridge and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before using. Alternatively, mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently until smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl and drizzle with just a bit of olive oil, turning the dough so that it doesn’t stick. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. Punch down and proceed with recipe.
Adapted from Ina Garten
12 Roma tomatoes, halved and seeds scooped out
4 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp sugar
Salt and Pepper
Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and dump out onto a foil lined baking sheet. Arrange tomatoes cut side up and roast at 375 for 45 minutes to an hour, or until tomatoes are caramelized. Use immediately, chill for a few days, or seal in a plastic bag and freeze for several months. These are great on pizza, sandwiches, diced and tossed with pasta, orserved on a platter of antipasto.
So… Lightly dust a sheet pan with cornmeal-I like the crunch it gives the final pizza. Plop your lovely dough in the middle of the pan. Gently press into a large rectangle. The bigger you go, the thinner the crust. Just don’t go too thin or it will create holes when you put it on your grill and burn.
If the dough is so elastic that it just retracts back and won’t stretch out, let it rest for 10 minutes and try again. Brush both sides of the dough generously with olive oil. Actually, I just drizzle a bunch on and smear it around with my hands and then flip and do it again. DO NOT FORGET THIS STEP! It isn’t pretty trying to remove un-oiled dough from a grill. Make sure you have all your toppings ready. Carry the whole pan outside to your well cleaned grill. Turn the burners down to low or use indirect heat if using a charcoal grill. Carefully, so as not to tear the dough-but with conviction!- lay the dough directly on the grates of the grill, quickly straightening it out to the correct shape. Watch your fingers! Its hot! Close the lid and let ‘bake’ for 3-5 minutes. The underside should be lightly browned and the whole thing slightly puffed. Carefully, and with a heatproof spatula or whatever happens to work for you-no plastic please-FLIP! Immediately top with tomatoes. And basil. And then the mozzarella. Admire your handy work… …and close the lid! The other side has been baking since you flipped it so you want to add the toppings quickly and get it closed so that the cheese has time to melt before the crust is done cooking. Hence, the low heat and toppings ready to go! By the time the cheese has melted, just a minute or two, your crust should be nicely browned on the other side. See?! Melty, wonderful, gooey goodness. Very carefully, with a sheet pan, or large cutting board ready, slide the pizza off the grill. Be careful! My husband is somewhat of an expert at this… Phew! Take a deep breath and dig in!! Variations:
-Saute chopped mushrooms in a bit of butter.
-Finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes.
-Puree roasted tomatoes or purchased sundried tomatoes in olive oil in a food processor. Add olive oil to make it as thick or as thin as you want, as long as it is spreadable. Spread this in the bottom, and then top with basil and cheese. This is out of this world good!
-Shredded fontina melts well and is awesome with nothing more with it than fresh basil.
-Add finely diced pepperoni or browned and crumbled Italian sausage.
-Cheese (mozzarella or fontina or heck!-sliced brie is good too) and a sprinkle of dried oregano. This is especially good as an appetizer, cut into smaller strips.
Note: Fresh sliced tomatoes are good, but the excess water makes the crust soggy.
Brittany wrote this on 13 July 2011
Do you ever get into those moods when you just want to do something different? Not necessarily something crazy-although there is always a time for that too. Nope. Just a little break from the norm. That was me today, staring at the salmon on my counter. The fish, all fresh and pink and full of healthy fats, stared back. Waiting.
So I headed to my cookbook collection and started paging through. I randomly pulled volumes off the shelf, flipping the pages, finding nothing, and then I came across Ellie Krieger‘s cookbook, and immediately skipped back to the index, knowing that she would have a winner for me. Sure enough, she didn’t disappoint. How could I have missed this recipe in the several years I have had this cookbook?! I cannot WAIT to make this again. Crazy fast. Crazy good. And good for you! I was afraid the flavor combinations of the rub would overpower the fish, but the salmon holds its own. We don’t have much leftover, but what little there is will be flaked right from the fridge over a salad tomorrow. Sweet & Spicy Salmon
This rub caramelizes on the fish. A-Ma-Zing.
3-4 salmon fillets, about 5 oz each
1 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper, about 1/4 tsp each
In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar and spices together until combined. Sprinkle evenly over the flesh of the fish (not the skin), pressing with your fingers a bit to make it adhere and ‘coat’ the fish well. Film a few tablespoons of olive oil in a small saute pan and place over medium, medium high heat. Place flesh side down in the oil-it should sizzle loudly-and let cook, not touching it, for 3-4 minutes. Flip gently and continue cooking until just barely pink in the thickest part and the flesh flakes easily.
Brittany wrote this on 11 July 2011
Yes, this dish may look a bit familiar. Can you see the similarities between these two pictures? With the exception of the type of pasta I used, the ingredients are nearly identical. The top dish is Pasta Scuie Scuie (pronounced ‘shway shway’ and meaning ‘quick quick’ in Italian) and the bottom dish is Margarita Pasta Salad. There are two very significant differences though. Garlic and heat. In fact these are so important that it means one dish turns out fresh and cool, while the other dish is creamy, velvety, and rich. Both are fantastic. Both are easy. And both are quick to make and use the fresh ingredients of summer; tomatoes and fresh basil. However, the flavors of the finished recipes could not be more different.
And how do you guarantee success when making Pasta Scuie Scuie? Use a really great tomato. Now that most gardens are starting to produce this summer fruit with abundance, you can take advantage of that and highlight the earthy, sweet, sun drenched flavor of a fresh tomato. This flavor is nearly impossible with a grocery store tomato and I highly recommend using your own or, if possible those from a local farmers market. A fresh homegrown tomato could wear a super hero cape, it is so good! But where ever you get it, you need just one. A few minutes of time and that one tomato will reward you with lunch or dinner for four very happy individuals. Scrumptious, satisfying and very, ‘quick quick’. Pasta Scuie Scuie
This recipe is adapted from something I saw Giada DeLarentiis make about a bazillion years ago. It is also fantastic with whole wheat pastas.
1 large tomato or 2 small, diced
salt and pepper
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 T chopped basil, about 6 leaves or so
1-8oz pkg fresh mozzarella, cubed (if you can find mozzarella ‘pearls’ that will save you time)
1/2 pound small shaped pasta such as orechette, ditalini, small shells, macaroni, or mini-penne
Cook the pasta according to manufacturers directions. Drain. Dump pasta into a serving bowl. Meanwhile, in a small saute pan (I use the little pan I fry eggs in) add a healthy drizzle of olive oil. Close to 1/4 c or so. Add the garlic, tomato, and a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring to a bit of a simmer over medium heat and let bubble slowly, just until the tomatoes start to break down. This will only take a minute or two. Remove from heat and stir in the basil. Pour over pasta, making sure to scrape the pan clean with a rubber spatula! Gently toss with the pasta. Add the mozzarella. Gently toss together. Serve.
*Note* Add the mozzarella at the end. If you don’t, the heat of the past and sauce will melt it all together in one big ball. Yes, this tastes fantastic, but not exactly good for quality control. Also, save yourself some time and boil the pasta a day ahead and refrigerate! No need to reheat, just toss fresh sauce with the chilled pasta and mix thoroughly. Leftover grilled chicken is a great addition.
Brittany wrote this on 7 July 2011
Yes, its green potato salad. I’ll explain in a minute.
About a year ago, I decided to start a blog. I had been asked over and over for recipes, input, sometimes advice, and I thought that if I started putting it all in one place, I could share with everyone about everything-all at the same time! My friends and family (and a few strangers) could take from it what they wanted, maybe try something new, and I would have a master list of my best and most used recipes. Before I actually set this blog in motion, I had an ongoing list of food running through my head. This is a bit what it sounded like:
“Mmmm. Yeah (OK fine. Yah. I’m from MN after all…) Hmm. Corn Casserole. That one is a great one. People are always asking for that recipe. Mmhmm. Bread. Yup. Earth Bread too. That is perfect. Hmm. Maybe? No. How about? No. I wonder if people like…? Aarg! I just…oooh! I won’t forget that one. Yah. And-ho ho! I can’t wait to share this with everyone!”
And so on and so forth.
The following is that kind of recipe. It has been on my mind to share with all of you for over a year, and so far, something has always got in the way; no time to photograph it, change of menu plans, or often, the avocados that make it such a lovely green were still on my counter and about as soft as a baseball. I must say un-ripe avocados are fast turning into a pet peeve of mine…But not today! Nothing can keep me quiet any longer! Behold! My favorite potato salad!
But it comes with a few rules. First of all, the reason this was not on the blog before Memorial Day or 4th of July, was because it is terrible to bring to a potluck or serve to a crowd as it cannot be made ahead of time. Blast you avocados! So wonderful! So creamy! Yet so temperamental when exposed to air! It is this process (oxidation) that makes this salad look…um…well…lets just say really unappetizing after a few hours. The avocados turn black and even though it tastes absolutely fine, its sorta hard to make yourself eat it. DO NOT LET THIS ONE MINOR FLAW DISCOURAGE YOU FROM MAKING THIS DISH! Just keep in mind that it works best for small groups and your goal is to not have any leftovers. Although just to clarify, my family really doesn’t care and eats it anyway, discoloration or no! The flavor is so fantastic, it is well worth it. Cobb Potato Salad
All of these quantities are approximate. Omit anything you don’t like, with the exception of the dressing. In a group, this could serve 6-8 if there is other food, but generally count on serving about 4-5 with this.
2 1/2 lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
olive oil and red wine vinegar-about 2 T of each
salt and pepper
3 hard boiled eggs, diced
4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
2 T of chives, chopped or 2 green onions, chopped
crumbled bleu cheese to taste, about 1/4 c
1 c mayo
Boil the cubed potatoes until just soft, but not mushy. Drain and dump into a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle liberally with olive oil and red wine vinegar (any vinegar will do). Toss carefully to coat the potatoes evenly. Chill until cold. *NOTE* This step adds a difference you won’t taste in the final dish, but you will notice the next time if you skip it. I do this for any kind of potato salad I make as it gives flavor to the actual vegetable itself, instead of just coating it. You can also make this ahead of time up to this point.
Once the potatoes are cold, mash the mayo and avocado together and add it to the bowl, along with the rest of the ingredients. Mix gently, but thoroughly. Serve immediately.
Brittany wrote this on 30 June 2011
I always love the days leading up to a holiday weekend. Most people have some extra time off and are happy and excited and full of anticipation for special plans. My house is no exception and when it comes to the fourth of July, we get especially giddy! Our town spends three days (this year it is four because the fourth is on a Monday) celebrating with various activities. Food, two parades, vendors, outdoor movies, concerts, games, pool time, shopping, kids activities, and two nights of fireworks, and that is just the tip of the iceberg! If you take into account the cooking and BBQs with friends, it makes for an extremely busy, but enjoyable, weekend.
Call me crazy, but I also love all the magazines this month. The internet, newspapers, and television are all full of ways to celebrate Independence Day, but the food magazines and blogs are brimming with recipes, ideas and pictures to make us drool! I just love it! I have spent the last few days wading through endless recipes for potato salads, burgers, fried chicken, bars, popsicles, and hot dog toppings. The cherry pie on the cover of Family Circle makes me roll my eyes and groan every time I pass my coffee table! Must. Eat. Cherry. Pie.
So the basic gist of all this is that I am no exception. I want to make sure you have some good food ideas for this weekend and what better food for fourth of July than RIBS! Heck! Who cares about the holiday! I just want to eat grilled pork! All smokey and sticky and sweet and tangy and…*slap*! Huh? What? OK. (slobber slobber) Back to the recipe.
Sweet & Tangy Ribs
The rub is my own concoction but the BBQ sauce is adapted from BHG. When I want something homemade and quick but super tasty, this sauce is perfect. It is so much easier (and faster!) than cooking down onions and crushed tomatoes and the gazillion other ingredients that go into a barbecue sauce. It is great on grilled chicken too, but sticky and tangy and messy and absolutely outstanding on ribs!
3 full racks of pork ribs, either baby back or st louis style
2 T brown sugar
1 T kosher salt
1 T smoked paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-12 oz jar chili sauce
1-12 oz jar grape jelly
2 T yellow mustard
2 T Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 tsp smoked paprika (optional)
Mix all dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Sprinkle ribs evenly on both sides. If possible, let sit overnight in the fridge. Bake at 300 degrees for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, checking them at 2 1/2 for doneness. The ribs should be tender but not totally falling apart. *Can be made a day ahead up to this point. Cool and refrigerate if desired then continue with the recipe.* After baking the ribs, brush with barbecue sauce and grill over medium high heat, just to add a little color to the ribs and caramelize the sauce. Cut into serving pieces, passing the leftover sauce on the side.
For the barbecue sauce, combine the chili sauce and jelly in a small saucepan over medium heat until the jelly melts, whisking until it is smooth. Whisk in the rest of the ingredients and heat to a slow bubble. Taste and cool. Will keep chilled for a week or so.