Author Archives: TaMara
I wanted to just do a bit of an update since I haven’t been posting many recipes. Life has become very focused on house hunting (and work, and Bixby). Over the last few months I’ve really honed in on what I am looking for, which doesn’t make it much easier in this crazy market, but at least I’m not wasting everyone’s time looking at every house that comes up. I won’t lie, it’s been discouraging, but in the midst of it, I’ve met some incredible people. One of my clients builds houses and today went out of his way to look at a house I was wavering on, to give me his very expert opinion. I have another client who remodels houses and he’s been offering advice on what to look for, and then there are the myriad of friends who have lent their support and taken time out of their schedules to come look at houses along the way. So, I view it as an adventure and a journey…and the house will find its way to me.
That being said, I am repelled by my kitchen. I spend as little time in there as possible, which is why I’ve had nothing much new to post. But I hope you’ll stick with me until I can unveil the new kitchen, which I am sure will inspire me to cook again.
All is not lost though, I am actually working on few recipes for Bixby. One my sister-in-law sent me and another is a way to make some training treats for him and I want to try my hand at homemade biscuits. I’ll share those in a week or so. Although, I’m a bit leery, because trying to cook for the cats never went over well and they are back on commercial cat food. Because fresh fish is obviously not good enough for them. Little furry hellions.
I also have a couple of nice summer vegetable recipes tucked away and if I can find my inspiration, I might try my hand at them before too long. But I wouldn’t get my hopes up, as I’m finding it difficult to do even the most basic cooking to make sure meals don’t dissolve into revolving takeout.
How about you? How do you cope when you’ve lost your desire to cook even the most basic foods?
Stay tuned, I’m sure things will get interesting… Until then – TaMara
JeffreyW posted his photo of cast iron baked beans a while back and all I could think was, “great idea, why haven’t I tried that?” I debated between posting about cast iron recipes or baked beans. With Memorial Day coming up fast, it seemed like a good time to bring back a bunch of baked bean recipes.
There was no real cooking in my kitchen this week, I’m uninspired while I house hunt. Luckily, I keep a lot of frozen meals, marinated meats and sauces in my freezer. I double batch much of what I cook and freeze for later. Boil up some fresh pasta or rice and I’ve got a quick meal. But I did get to a Bixby update for the pet lovers, he’s relaxin’ and chillin’ for your amusement here.
On to the recipes:
I like linking to JeffreyW’s recipes (rather than embedding them in the post) because he writes a narrative of the process instead of simply listing the recipe and often includes a batch of photos to illustrate. His Cast Iron Baked Beans recipe (click here) is no exception. It would silly to abridge it here.
I had these baked beans at a cookout and absolutely needed the recipe. Turns out it is just a few ingredients that spices up a simple can of baked beans and adds a touch of sweet, too. Nita’s Baked Beans, recipe here.
If baked beans aren’t your thing, how about Butter Beans and Greens (recipe here), since in many backyard gardens, the collards, mustard greens and spinach should be ready for spring harvest.
What’s on your plate this weekend? Do you have a dish that everyone asks for the recipe when you take it to gatherings? And do you give it out? Have any dishes you had to have the recipe after tasting it at a cookout or potluck?
The featured recipe tonight is savory, sweet. smoky and oven baked. Who knew molasses could be so good?
Baked Beans Photo by JeffreyW
And if you want a true New England experience, add some Brown Bread, recipe here. Brown bread was a childhood treat that I didn’t realized until later was unique to New England (at least at that time). My mom would fry it up in a skillet, served with lots of butter, maple syrup and baked beans.
Boston Baked Beans
This serves 8, but you can easily double it for large gatherings. The slow cooking, white beans and molasses are what give these baked beans their signature flavor.
- 1 pound (2 cups) dried white beans (Great Northern or navy beans)
- 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup ketchup (or 2 tbsp tomato paste)
- 1 tbsp dry mustard
- 1/4 pound thick sliced bacon, cut into pieces
- 4 cups water, or more if necessary
- 1/4 tsp salt (more may be needed, but start here)
- 1/4 tsp pepper
large dutch oven, bean pot or heavy duty oven proof pot
Soak the beans overnight, drain, and rinse them. (Here at high altitude, soaking doesn’t do much, so I pressure cook them for 20 minutes instead, then let them soak for an hour)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Drain and rinse the beans.
Put the beans in a large, ovenproof pot.. Add the onions, brown sugar, molasses, tomato paste, mustard, and bacon. Add water, salt, and pepper. Return the beans to a boil. Cover the pan and transfer to the oven.
Cook the beans for 4 hours, checking them every hour to see if the pan seems dry. Add more water as needed, ½ cup at a time.
Add more salt and pepper, if you like, and let the beans sit for 15 minutes before serving.
Note: To reheat leftovers, add more water and cook over low heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes or until hot.
Missing the full dinner menus and shopping lists? If you click here, it will take you to all the ones I have posted. That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend. – TaMara
I looked up from desk today to see the Beast chillin’. That’s fine little one, you just relax while I put in a few more hours to pay for your dog food.
Just a quick update. Bixby hurt his leg last week. I’m assuming from jumping off the couch or bed. How a 140 lb dog can get so much air boggles my mind. But he can leap twice his height from a standing position. I’ve cut down on walks until it feels better. He put more weight on it today, so probably by the end of this week we’ll back to our regular routine.
I special ordered him a 32-inch collar because nothing else fits well. Also a new harness and leash. The leash has a padded handle which came highly recommended for big dogs.
He turns 11-months old this weekend. I have his “surgery” schedule for the first week of June. I would have waited longer, but he’s not handling the testosterone well – nothing aggressive – but he is an alpha dog already and add those hormones and it does create some issues. For his bones and muscles a little longer would have been better, but for his emotional success, now is the time. I probably don’t have to tell you that after what happened to Missy, I’m more than a little anxious about this. It will be a long day.
Yesterday, he was literally in the dog house (his crate) after dragging me across the yard to see the Great Dane next door. He knows dragging is a no-no. I was working at my desk and every once in a while I’d hear this big SIGH and then he’d blow air out his big jowls – his version of pouting. I love this dog. Can’t believe he’ll be a year old soon.
I thought Mother’s Day weekend would be a good time to visit some breakfast recipes. I love French Toast – deliciously captured in still life above by JeffreyW – second only to German pancakes, with Walnut Syrup (recipes here). So perfect French Toast is tonight’s featured recipe.
If pancakes are your favorite, don’t worry, got those recipes, too. A local breakfast spot makes the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever had and I played around with ingredients until I made a comparable batch of Perfectly Fluffy Pancakes, recipe here. A Whole Wheat version can be found here, and yes, they’re surprisingly fluffy, too.
You want bacon, of course, because what’s breakfast without bacon? Here are some interesting takes on it: Candied Bacon here, Cayenne Candied Bacon (photo above by JeffreyW) here, and Oven Baked Bacon here. (And of course we covered waffle iron bacon last week)
What’s on your breakfast menu this Mother’s Day? We’ve got a prediction of SNOW! Say it isn’t so. Share your favorite breakfast recipes in the comments, I can always use new ideas for when company arrives. And because it’s Mother’s Day weekend, here’s a flower for you:
My friend grows specialty Iris and this is called the Star Trek Enterprise Iris from her garden.
Now for the french toast. The key for really good french toast is using a hearty bread, flavoring the batter and letting the bread soak for at least 30 seconds to soak up all the good flavor. Yum.
- 1 cup milk or half and half
- 3 eggs
- dash of salt
- dash of cinnamon
- tbsp of honey or tsp of sugar
- Day old bread such as a country, brioche or challah loaf, sliced into eight, 1/2 inch slices (stale bread soaks up the batter nicely without getting soggy)
- toppings of choice – maple syrup, powdered sugar, blueberry preserves, strawberries, whipped cream – you get the idea
8×8 glass baking dish, 2 baking sheets, cooling rack, skillet or griddle
Place cooling rack onto the first baking sheet (to catch batter drips). Pre-heat oven 375 degrees, then turn down to 300 degrees.
Whisk together milk, eggs, salt, cinnamon and honey (or sugar) in 8×8 baking dish. Soak bread, two slices at a time, for about 30 seconds and then remove to cooling rack and let sit for a minute or so.
Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a skillet or griddle over medium heat. Place both slices of bread into the melted butter. At this point you can put another two slices in the batter for 30 seconds and then move them to the cooling rack.
Flip the slices in the pan once they’re golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. (I know I’m asking you to multi-task, but you can do it, I have faith. Set a timer, it’ll help). Once both sides are golden, remove to the second baking sheet and place it in the warm oven. Repeat until all slices are cooked.
Serve hot with favorite toppings.
Have a great weekend – TaMara
When I was sick last month, I watched a lot of cooking shows while resting on the couch. One that caught my imagination was different things that can be made in a waffle iron. That spurred the idea for tonight’s recipe exchange. Unexpected recipes for various cooking appliances.
First up, Biscuit Breakfast Sandwiches made in the waffle iron. Not as elegant as JeffreyW’s delicious looking waffle, bacon and egg sandwich pictured above, but it’s a quick- less than 10-minute – tasty breakfast. Click here for recipe and directions.
One of the best ideas I’ve heard in a long time is Grilling Pizza outside on the grill. Recipes and instruction here.
And finally, make a spinach lasagna in the slow-cooker that tastes like it was oven-baked, with this recipe for Slow-cooker Lasagna here.
What’s on your plate this weekend? Anyone else have unusual recipes for kitchen gadgets? Anyone harvesting from their garden yet? It’s just about time for my favorites here, peas and new potatoes, along with lettuce, spinach and asparagus.
Tonight’s featured recipe solved my biggest issue with hash browns, how to make them easy, quick and crisp. The waffle iron was the unexpected answer.
It’s so easy. The best part is, there is no need to wring the water from the shredded potatoes, my least favorite step of making hash browns. It’s messy, but without that, skillet fried hash browns never crisp up properly, even with my cast iron press.
The waffle iron to the rescue. Mine is 7 inches across and enough for one potato, but it’s so fast, it was easy to make enough for everyone. I just put the finished ones in the oven to stay warm.
I shredded the potato and lightly patted the shreds with a paper towel, I mixed in a little olive oil, salt, pepper, shredded onion and garlic powder. I brushed oil on both plates and pre-heated the iron, mine has temp settings, so I put it on the highest setting. I spread the shredded potato thinly over the iron, closed the lid tight and let cook for 2 minutes, checked on them, then removed when they were crisp enough. Over the four potatoes I made, the longest time was 4:30 minutes, shortest time was a little less than 3 minutes.
It was so easy and the cleanup was basically wiping out the waffle iron with a paper towel. The next time I do it, I think I’ll add some shredded green or red pepper. It’s definitely a good way to put my waffle iron to use.
That’s it for this week. No Bixby update, although he learned how to use a drinking fountain yesterday. Pretty damn cute. I’ll try to get video for next week. Hope you have a good weekend – TaMara
I have friends who love grilled pizza and make it frequently. I always thought it sounded good, but haven’t tried it yet. If it sounds like something fun to try, here are two pretty reliable sources for how-to:
The Pizza Lab: The Complete Updated Guide To Grilled Pizza
How to Grill Pizza, a Crash Course
Grilled pizza is made by laying a stretched piece of dough directly on the grates over hot coals, cooking the first side, flipping it, topping it in reverse order (that’s cheese, then sauce), then returning it to the fire to cook the second side. As the second side cooks, the cheese melts, and the sauce warms. It’s as simple as that.
Here’s how to get it done.
Step 1: Pick A Nice Day
You preferably want to make your dough at least a day in advance, so look at the forecast, and plan accordingly. We picked this past Wednesday, which started out as a sunny, balmy 85°F New York summer day. Our hope was that we’d be down to comfortable lounging temperature at just about the time the grill was fired up and evening started to settle in.
Step 2: Make Dough – for the rest of the instructions click over to here.
And from Alton Brown at The Food Network:
Grilled Pizza – Various Toppings
Dough – Enough for 3 (16-inch) round pizzas:
16 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for peel and rolling
1 envelope instant or rapid rise yeast
1 tablespoon kosher salt
10 ounces warm water, approximately 105 degrees F
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons for bowl
1 tablespoon malted barley syrup
For complete instructions, click here.
Margherita topping – Enough to top 1 (16-inch) round pizza (recipe here)
Date and prosciutto topping – Enough to top 1 (16-inch) round pizza (recipe here)
These all sound yummy and can’t wait to experiment with them. – TaMara
This week I’m having fun with unusual recipes in unusual gadgets. Here’s one from December 2012:
This is a great take on spinach lasagna, using a slow-cooker. This entire dish completely surprised me. I was at work, one day, in our morning meeting – which was actually an excuse for the guys to wow me with their cooking ideas – when Vern told me about the slow-cooker lasagna he’d made the night before. I was skeptical. Lasagna in a slow-cooker sounded like it would have the consistency of canned ravioli. But he insisted it was really good. So I set out to see for myself. I have to say, he wasn’t wrong. It had a great flavor, the texture was very similar to having cooked it in an oven and the top was nicely browned and the cheese perfectly gooey. The only caveat is that it cooks in about 4 hours, so you can’t put it together in the morning and have it ready when you get home at the end of the work day. It would be burned to a crisp, even on low.
So, here is tonight’s featured recipe, my version of slow-cooker lasagna:
Slow-Cooker Spinach Lasagna
- 1 lb lean ground beef (opt, you can skip to keep this vegetarian)
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 2 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 carrot shredded (this cuts the acidity of the sauce, adds a touch of sweetness)
- 1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
- 28 oz canned tomato sauce
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 2 tsp of dried basil, crushed
- 12 ounces ricotta cheese (you can sub in cottage cheese if desired)
- 1 egg
- 2 cups fresh spinach, washed and rough chopped
- 16 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 12 ounces lasagna noodles, uncooked (I used brown rice pasta to keep it gluten free)
Sauce: Brown ground beef, along with onion, garlic, carrots and green pepper in a saucepan (if you are omitting the beef, sauté vegetables in a tbsp of olive oil). Add tomato sauce, paste and spices. Bring to a low boil, reduce heat and let simmer on low while preparing remaining ingredients.
Mix together ricotta cheese and egg, until well combined. Fold in spinach.
In the slow-cooker, spoon a layer of sauce onto the bottom, add a double layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (break to fit) and top with a portion of the ricotta mixture and then a portion of the mozzarella. Add sauce, then a single layer of noodles, ricotta and mozzarella and repeat layers until ingredients are all used up. (Because slow-cookers vary in size, I unfortunately can’t give you precise layering, as I can with the traditional lasagna. You’ll have to eye it. The good news is, it will all cook together and be just fine regardless).
Finish with sauce, mozzarella and then shredded Parmesan.
Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.
Last month when I was so sick, I spent a lot of time resting on the couch, watching TV. This was on some cooking show, they were making a breakfast sandwich using only a waffle iron. Sounded like fun. It took me a couple of times to get the timing right because it all happens fast. Start to finish it was ten minutes per sandwich. And clean up was a breeze. Paper towel to clean out the waffle iron is all you need.
I started with the biscuits, because I didn’t want the bacon to flavor everything. I first tried refrigerator crescent rolls, but they were hard to work with and way too sweet. My second try was with refrigerator biscuits. I thought they worked about really well. The crew on the show actually reheated store bought bagged croissants. That would work, too. For the biscuit, I used one biscuit that I separated in half to cook. You could use two if you wanted thicker sandwich.
Next up: bacon. My waffle iron is 7 inches across and easily held two slices of bacon, cut in half. It cooks up fast, so keep an eye on it.
It was crisped in less than 2 minutes. I then drained off the excess grease and it was time for the eggs and cheese.
I had no trouble with it sticking, because the bacon grease kept the waffle iron well oiled. Mine held only one egg. Milk worked better than water for mixing. And my iron has adjustable temperature, so on my second try, I lowered it to the lowest setting and got the egg the way I liked, less brown, more light and fluffy.
The eggs were surprisingly fluffy, no matter what, but milk gave them a bit more loft. You could easily add green pepper or onions to the mix, maybe even tomatoes. Just watch the amounts because you don’t want the egg to spill out of the sides, then you have a mess.
The key to preparation is to have everything ready to go. Biscuits separated, egg beaten, cheese shredded and bacon cut. Then it is a quick process – biscuit took 2 minutes, bacon took 2 minutes, egg took less than a minute, then I added the cheese and that was another 30 seconds, tops. Assemble and eat. Yum.
Things are not slowing down here. I put a bid in on a cute little Victorian house, only to face 15 other bids this past week. I did not realize house hunting was going to turn into a full-time job that feels like an episode of the Bachelor, where I go home without the rose each week. Between that and raising a rambunctious 10-month old Great Dane, the weeks are slipping by. Speaking of the Beast, I had to clean out the freezer to make room for his frozen apples halves (apples were on sale, so I stocked up) and his giant beef bones (again, on sale, so I stocked up and boiled a good two week supply). Deep in the freezer, behind the pumpkin, cranberries and leftovers, was a pint of ricotta.
Decided I needed to use it up, so I dug into the archives looking for my vegetarian meatball recipe. That became tonight’s featured recipe, and I pulled up the previous recipe exchange where it was featured and said, “hey, that looks good.” In other words, tonight is a repeat. Next week, though, I’m planning on sharing some fun recipes I’ve been playing with this week.
To start tonight, how about homemade ricotta? JeffreyW has made it and if you click here and he’ll take you step by step through the process.
He then puts his homemade ricotta to good use with Stuffed Shells, as pretty to look at as they are delicious. (recipe and photos here)
I have a great alternative to regular gnocchi, a lighter, easier version using ricotta cheese and a fire roasted sauce to make a simple, quick Baked Gnocchi. (recipe here).
A quick Skillet Lasagna (recipe here) is great for weeknights and a breeze to make.
And a yummy dessert from JeffreyW, a beautiful Cannoli recipe, pictured above and found here.
Finally, for the pet lovers, a Bixby update from the pup himself. If you click here, be prepared, he’s a Beast, standing at his full height on his hind legs.
What’s on your menu for the weekend? Anyone else house hunting? Have you started your gardens in earnest yet?
Now on to the featured recipe. These are very simple to make and are delicious. It’s a great vegetarian alternative for your pasta dishes. They’re light and once you get the technique down, you can play with the flavors and customize them to your palate.
Most of the recipes I looked at used Italian Breadcrumbs. But I really feel these need fresh breadcrumbs, so I’ve included instructions for making your own. I didn’t season mine because I didn’t want them to overpower the delicate flavors of the cheeses. Fresh breadcrumbs absorb flavors and moisture more than packaged ones, so I thought it gave the whole meatball a better, lighter texture. I added a bit of garlic powder (fresh garlic did not work with this, it was overpowering and a touch bitter), basil, oregano and fennel. The fennel really took it up a notch. My second round of these, I added a bit of red pepper flake.
Spinach and Ricotta Vegetarian Meatballs
- 1-1/2 to 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs (instructions below)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese mix
- 1-1/2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh oregano or 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 2 tsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder (not salt)
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- Salt and pepper
- 4 eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, asiago, romano cheese
- Olive oil
Breadcrumbs: this took a full 1-lb loaf of day-old Italian or French bread. I bought it from the day-old rack for cheap. I tore it into small pieces, spread out on a baking sheet and dried it in a 200 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. I didn’t want them toasted or seasoned because I thought it would overpower the delicate flavors of these meatballs. Once they were dried, I ran them through the blender. I reserved 1/4 cup for rolling the balls in before cooking.
Meatballs: Mix together ricotta, grated cheeses, spinach and spices. Add the eggs and mix well. Then add the breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup at a time. You want it to come together to form soft balls, but you don’t want it to be dry. Once you can form a soft ball with some structure, you don’t need to add more breadcrumbs.
Scoop up a heaping tablespoon (I used my cookie dough scoop) and roll the mixture into balls.
Mix together 1/4 cup breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup grated cheeses in a bowl and roll each meatball in the mixture, coating on all sides.
You can bake or pan fry these. I chose to pan fry, it used a bit of oil, but it gave them a nice flavor. Baking them would be my option if I was doubling the recipe.
To fry: heat olive oil in a skillet on medium and add the meatballs, leaving enough space between them to easily turn them. They are soft, so it’s a delicate process. The good news is, if you really want them round (instead of kind of flattened) you can reshape them after they come out of the pan. Turn them until they are golden brown on all sides.
To bake: place them on a well oiled baking sheet or use parchment paper. Brush them with a bit of oil if desired. Leave space around each one so they brown evenly and bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. You can turn them halfway through if desired.
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara
And robins are suspect, too. Hi! I’m almost 10 1/2 months old and life is a blast. Well, except for the squirrels. I’m up to 135 lbs and tower over my person when I stand on my back legs and hug her. We’ve been having some adventures. My person is looking for a new house and when she finds one she likes, we walk around the neighborhood and meet people. It’s always fun.
I’ve been doing pretty good at meeting people, lately, too. We went for a long walk the other day and my person let me meet everyone who wanted to pet me. I love to meet new people, but a lot of the time, my person would make me sit and hold while they walked on by. Now I don’t pull or jump at them, so I get a lot more pets. And people always say how handsome I am.
TaMara’s note: A month makes a huge difference. I’d say about 90 percent of the time he is on his best behavior with people, so I’m much more relaxed about letting them approach him and pet him. He still has moments, but I’m good at anticipating it and heading off interactions. Which is good, because everyone wants to say hi.
Now about those squirrels. They are evil. They sit on the trunks of the trees on my walks, right at eye level and tease and taunt me. Sometimes I just can’t help myself I have to try and get them. That gets me in trouble, because I’m not suppose to pull my person halfway across the street. But. I. Hate. Them. And robins, oh they are just so, robin-y. I don’t like them either. But I saw my very first Great Blue Heron, flying above us and it was soooo cool I had to stop and watch until it landed in a tree. Then we saw an Osprey catch a fish. Dove in the water, pulled it out. I was so excited I almost ran right into the pond myself.
TaMara’s note: Yeah, don’t know what it is about the robins. He’s great with the Canada geese on our walks, so good in fact, they cross the path right in front of him, much to his delight. And ducks and chickens are all on his list of friends. But robins…not so much. He really does like those big birds, though.
I had a play date today with my best bud Kodiak. It is sooo much fun to run around with someone who is okay with rough housing. It’s hard being the biggest boy on the block (ok, not really, because my next door neighbor is a big black and white Mantle Dane, but he’s older and not big on rough housing). It’s good to be able to play the way I want and not get in trouble.
One last thing, a few weeks ago, one of my litter mates, Missy, left us. She was a kitty, but I still thought of her as one of mine. I miss her and still look for her under the table on her chair. My person was so sad, I tried everything to make her smile. I’d lay under her desk and put my head on her foot. Then I’d roll over, paws up until she smiled. Finally, I had to do something drastic, so I climbed up on the couch next to her desk and put my head next to her computer and turned upside-down till she laughed. That felt good. Then she told me I had to be nice to Jake because Missy was his mama and he missed her. So I’ve done my best to be friends with Jake, even though I’m kind of jealous of him. But I think it makes him feel better and I know it makes my person feel better.
My person bought me a new food dish today and I can’t wait to try it out. I’m pretty hungry after my big day. So I’m off to eat. Hope you got some good stuff in your food dishes today, too. – Bixby
TaMara’s note: Had some issues with his plastic food toys, so I’m trying something new. Have I mentioned how much I adore this pup? He’s growing up into such a great, sweet dog. It’s hard work most days, but I think it’s worth it.