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Blueberry Bars

DSC_0829 (1600x1060)We spend more time than I’d like to admit just looking at Google images of prepared foods.  It’s a good way to discover recipes and to learn how other people arrange things for useful ideas on food photography.  That’s how we came across this recipe for blueberry bars. We did question the addition of basil in the recipe and so we did a search.  It’s really a thing – who knew!  We didn’t have any peaches so we went straight blueberry.DSC_0814 (1600x1060)It’s easy to make creme fraiche at home!  I started this one the other day when we decided to go with this recipe, it has a pint of heavy cream and one of those little cups of plain Greek yogurt along with the seeds scraped out of a vanilla bean.  It set out overnight so the magic could work, I let it go 24 hours at room temp before refrigerating.  This is good stuff all by its own self!DSC_0815 (1600x1060)Here it is sans the crumb topping, the bottom layer is as much like a cookie as anything, it was made with half sugar and half sweetener.  Mrs J subbed Splenda for all the sugar in the filling, but she did go with real brown sugar on top so it would brown.DSC_0826 (1600x1060)Fresh from the oven!  We set this into the big freezer so it would firm up nicely for cutting into individual bars.  An hour or two and it was good to go.  I feared it might stick to the pan but it came out easily, be sure to remember to butter the pan!

Rosemary Parmesan Roasted Potatoes

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I saw these potatoes on a new food show on TV and they were pretty good looking, better than these.  He used a deep fryer to finish his off and I went with the oven for mine.  Start by boiling/steaming  large Russet potatoes – put them in a pot and add enough water to half cover them, bring to a simmer on the stove, then cover the pot and finish them in a 400 oven for about an hour.  When they cool a little break them up into pieces, add salt, and douse them with olive oil on a baking tray.  Toss on a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary and roast them in the hot oven until they brown sufficiently.  Toss the roasted potatoes with grated Parmesan and serve .DSC_0700 (1600x1060)I’ve been seeing people using basil butter here and there for a while now so I decided to give it a try.  I used a good handful of basil leaves, a couple cloves of garlic, a squirt of lemon juice and the zest of a lemon along with a little sugar.  Chop those up and run them in a food processor until they are are a fine paste, then add butter and spin that until everything combines.  Roll the soft butter mixture into a tube in some plastic wrap and then refrigerate to make handling it easier.  It’s pretty good on steak.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Grilled Herb Steak Tacos

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I was planning to put together a salad for dinner on Wednesday after a long day, but when I looked around I had all the ingredients for tacos and that inspired both dinner that night and tonight’s recipe exchange.

For my tacos that night, I used homemade fajita seasoning (recipe for seasoning and fajitas here) instead of packaged taco seasoning. The recipe makes a lot, so I always have some on hand.

On the taco front, not to be missed are JeffreyW’s awesome Fish Tacos (pictured above, recipe and photo directions here).

Earlier in the week, an excellent and creamy, sharp goat cheese was the center piece of my Stuffed Burgers (recipe here) for dinner. So easy to make and full of juicy flavor.

The Dinner Menu was a given, since Olathe Sweet Corn finally arrived in stores. This menu was also the first one I put together many years ago, because it was and still is, a summer staple. Menu, recipes and shopping lists here.

For the pet lovers, here’s Bixby awaiting our lunch guests and a bonus Greek Pasta Recipe.

With that I leave you to the comments. Tacos, burritos or fajitas, what’s your favorite? And what’s on your weekend menu as we move into the last month of summer?

Now for the featured recipe:

Grilled Herbed Steak for Tacos or Burritos

Notes: Serve with either corn or flour tortillas and stuff with fresh garden items, such as tomatoes, lettuce, diced zucchini, grilled corn, and top with Fresh Garden Salsa (recipe here). And if you don’t like cilantro, there are alternatives offered at the bottom of the recipe.

Herb Paste

  • 1/2 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves*
  • 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 medium jalapeno, quartered – remove veins and seeds for milder, otherwise, use it all
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp fresh limejuice

Pulse in a food processor or blender, cilantro, garlic, scallions, jalapeño, and cumin until finely chopped. Add oil and process until mixture is smooth and resembles pesto. Transfer 2 tbsps of the herb paste to medium bowl; whisk in lime juice and set aside.

Steak

  • 2 lbs flank steak – cut lengthwise (with grain) into 4 equal pieces (cooks quicker this way)
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

Using dinner fork or tenderizer, poke each piece of steak 10 to 12 times on each side. Place in large baking dish; rub all sides of steak pieces with salt and then coat with remaining herb paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour. Remove from the refrigerator 5-10 minutes before cooking.

To cook: Scrape excess herb paste off steak and sprinkle all sides of pieces evenly with sugar and pepper. Sear steak pieces on the grill for 3 minutes, then turn and grill the other side for 3 minutes. Continue to cook (don’t turn more than one more time) until internal temperature registers 125 to 130 degrees, usually an additional 2 to 7 minutes. Transfer steak to cutting board and let rest 5 minutes.

To Serve: Using a carving knife, slice steak pieces across grain into 1/8-inch-thick pieces. Transfer sliced steak to bowl with herb paste-limejuice mixture and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper if needed. Serve with tortillas and choice of vegetables, shredded cheese and salsa, etc. Garnish with additional limejuice if desired.

*If you don’t like cilantro, you can substitute celery leaves or fresh basil, or try a mixture of both.

That’s if for this week, have a terrific weekend – TaMara

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Pizza!

20150709_164335 (1600x1060)The local Amish run store stocks a considerable selection of different flours and I took a chance on these two, not having much of a clue just what they were, exactly.  The durum name rang a bell and I thought it might be useful in making pasta but the prairie gold meant nothing at all to me.  Google to the rescue!

I didn’t have these in mind when I started looking around for a pizza dough recipe that proofs in the fridge overnight using just a little yeast, but when I came across this “Now or Later” recipe from King Arthur they seemed perfect.  I went with 1-3/4 cups of the prairie gold and 1-1/4 cup of the durum.  The mention of their pizza flavoring sent me on a separate track, trying to see if I could make something like it with ingredients on hand.  I went with a half teaspoon each of garlic and onion powder, and a couple teaspoons of dried thyme.  I let my machine mix it all, then placed it into a bowl, covered the dough with plastic, and left it overnight in the fridge.DSC_0592 (1600x1060)

After pulling from the refrigerator and letting it warm enough to be pliable it was stretched out into a baking tray, covered with plastic wrap and left to rise a little more before topping it, half with tomato sauce, ham, sausage, onion, pepper rings, and fresh mozzarella and half in the classic margherita style.DSC_0595 (1600x1060)The flours did give the dough a golden hue, and the pie tasted pretty good.  I don’t know if the flour seasonings I added helped all that much but they sure didn’t hurt it any.DSC_0596 (1600x1060)

Fun with Food: Slow-cooker Spinach Lasagna

Slow-Cooker Lasagna 2

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.

 

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Revisiting Fun with Ricotta

Yummy Cannoli by JeffreyW

Yummy Cannoli by JeffreyW

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.

Veggie Meatballs

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

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  • 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.

Serve them with your favorite pasta and sauce. If you need sauce ideas, click here for Garden Fresh Sauce and click here for Awesome Sauce.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara

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Dinner Menu: Mambo Italiano Edition

Spaghetti and Meatballs2

Going old school tonight.  I thought you may still have some zucchini and tomatoes that needed to be used up and this menu does both.  Growing up, spaghetti was a weekly occurrence.  I’m not sure where my mom learned to make it, because it is my dad’s half of the family that is Italian, but it was always a hit at our house.  Over the years we’ve all played with different variations, but this is pretty close to the original. Whether it was at a weekly family meal or the Christmas dinner at my Gram’s, this basic sauce ruled.  And the good thing is, it is simple to modify depending on your tastes.  If you want to spice things up, add 1/4 to 1/2 lb of spicy Italian sausage and reduce the ground beef by as much.

Quick, easy and freezes well, I usually make double so I have some on hand for quick dinners.  Trust me, you will never find any jar sauce in my house.  Ever.  If you’d like to have meatballs instead, recipe is here.

On the board tonight:

  1. Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce
  2. Zucchini Italiano
  3. Crusty Italian Bread
  4. Sherbet or even better, Gelato

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce

  • 9 – 12 oz pasta of choice (I like angel hair for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 14 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp dried basil, crushed*
  • 3 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp rosemary, crushed
  • 1 carrot, finely grated or 1/2 tsp sugar (these reduce the acidity of the sauce and bring out the spices – trust me on this one)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

2 saucepans and large skillet

In skillet, heat oil, sauté pepper, onion, garlic.  Add hamburger and cook thoroughly.  Add tomato paste and 1 tsp ea of crushed basil, oregano and rosemary, mix well.   In saucepan, add remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, add meat mixture and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to directions, drain well and serve with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

Zucchini Italiano

  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ½  tsp oregano, crushed
  • ½  tsp basil, crushed
  • 4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

medium skillet

Clean and slice zucchini, heat oil in skillet, add zucchini, garlic and spices. Stir-fry over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon water and let steam until zucchini is tender.  Toss with parmesan and serve.

*CRUSHING Spices – when using dry spices, to get the best flavor, you should crush them, either by rubbing them in your hand or using a mortar and pestle before adding them to a recipe.

Shopping List:

  • 9 – 12 oz pasta
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 14 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 carrot
  • Parmesan cheese
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • Crusty Italian Bread
  • Sherbet or  Gelato

Also: olive oil, crushed garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, rosemary, salt & pepper

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Originally published Oct 2010 copyright What’s 4 Dinner Solutions Cookbook Spring Edition

Roasted Grape Tomatoes

We have a couple of grape tomato bushes out back and they have been churning out tomatoes by the score.  I went out this morning and picked a half bucketful and there were that many on the ground.  I went looking for a roasting recipe and Martha Stewart came through for me.DSC_9082 (1600x1060)I used more olive oil than required, probably, and had a lot of fresh thyme.  These took longer than a hour and I bumped the temp up to 400 or so before I got much in the way of  a color change.  I stirred them once and returned them to the oven.DSC_9088 (1600x1060)We ate some of them with angel hair pasta for lunch.  My basil has gone to seed but I did find a few bright green new leaves that looked tender.  The portion of the tomatoes I used for the dish had a tablespoon or two of butter stirred in.  Pretty good stuff, not sure what to do with the rest of the tomatoes, I picked enough to fill that pan three times, the last batch is in the oven as I write this.

Vodka Sauce

Living as we do in the remote wilderness of Southern Illinois the latest food fad filters down to us a few years behind most everyone else.  Not sure how long this sauce has been a thing but I’ve been seeing it here and there lately and gave it a try tonight.  Most recipes use peeled tomatoes but I had a bunch more of those little cherry toms and there is no way I’m peeling them.  I went looking for an easy recipe.DSC_8936 [1600x1060]I have a bunch of fresh thyme leaves in this, and a good bit of fresh basil.  Not sure why the directions call for cooking down the vodka with just the onions and garlic in the pan, most of the recipes I looked at mention using the alcohol to bring out flavors from the tomatoes that water and oil can’t touch.  I cooked the cherries down a bit and then added the vodka.  As the sauce thickened I added some white wine, too.  This recipe didn’t mention cheese but I mixed in a cup of grated Romano right before the cream.  I wish I could say this stuff was really delicious and I can’t wait to do it again but it was just OK.  I sure won’t be using unpeeled tomatoes in any more of it. DSC_8943 (1600x1060)The salad was nice. This has blue cheese dressing and some crumbled blue cheese.

Pizza Pr0n – Margherita

This year, the margherita pizza celebrates its 125th birthday. One of the world’s favourite foods was reputedly invented at a pizzeria nowadays known as Brandi (00 39 081 416 928;brandi.it) at Salita Sant Anna Di Palazzo 1-2 in the city’s Chiaia neighbourhood. In 1889, its pizzaiolo, Raffaele Esposito, and his wife, Maria Giovanna Brandi, were summoned to the nearby Capodimonte palace and asked to invent a pizza for the then-queen, Margherita.

(Via)DSC_8853 (1600x1060)I’m sure this crust is much too thick for a purist.  I started the dough yesterday with 2 cups of bread flour and then added water to equal 65% of the weight of those 2 cups.  I used a handy electronic kitchen scale to weigh the flour but I don’t remember now what that came to.  Anyway, multiplied that by .65 to get the weight of the water I wanted.  Add a scant 1/4 tsp of yeast and a teaspoon of sugar to the liquid, plus a tablespoon of olive oil and stir into the flour.   The dough was very wet so I only kneaded it a little and then plopped it into an oiled bowl and covered with plastic and a damp towel.  It was left overnight to rise.DSC_8854 (1600x1060)I punched the dough down this morning and returned it to the bowl to continue proofing.  Why the fuss with weighing the water and flour?

Hydration affects the process of bread building and the nature of the final result. Generally speaking, the more water in the dough, the more open the final bread’s crumb. Bread can also be classified according to three categories based on hydration: stiff, standard or rustic.

(Via)

DSC_8857 (1600x1060)I rolled the dough out on a floured board and transferred it to my rimmed pan for baking, brushed the top with garlic oil, and distributed the toppings.  This one got the traditional Margherita treatment with mozzarella and Roma tomatoes and went into a 500 oven until the crust and toppings got a nice color.  Add the basil after the pie comes out of the oven or it will burn to a crisp.DSC_8859 (1600x1060)I like ground red pepper on my slices, along with fresh grated black pepper and salt.  Drizzle more of the garlic oil over it and enjoy!

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