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Snow Alert Means Soup Time: Hearty Spinach-Tomato

Spinach Tomato Soup

French Toast Alert System may be activated, but I have my own comfort snow foods. Big pot of soup on the stove:

Tomato-Spinach Soup

  • 1 lb ground beef (or 1/2 ground beef, 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
  • 1/4 of a small onion, chopped
  • 24 oz diced tomatoes (fresh or canned)
  • 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach, cleaned
  • 8 oz sliced carrots (I use frozen)
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup water, more as needed
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (opt)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Grated Parmesan for garnish
  • spinach chiffonade for garnish

blender, saucepan

In saucepan, brown ground beef and onions. In a blender, blend together spinach and tomatoes, until smooth*.  Add to beef mixture, along with vegetables and spices.  Bring to low boil, stirring frequently, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve with Parmesan and spinach chiffonade.  Makes 4 generous servings.

*Blending the spinach, tomatoes together gives you a nice hearty tomato base for the soup.  You can add some additional spinach leaves at the end if you like, letting them get limp but not overcooked.

French Toast Alert System Raised To HIGH!

Rolled Stuffed French Toast Final

The French Toast Alert System has been raised from Elevated to High, as we are expected to get anywhere from 6 to 15 inches of snow tomorrow. If you were lucky enough to get to the store and buy your milk, eggs and bread before the shelves were cleared out, here’s your french toast recipe. Bonus cute sous chef.

Originally posted January 2014

This is a very simple recipe, but I needed a helper, for sure. All you need for this recipe is a good quality bread – I used 12 slices – 2 eggs, 1/4 cup milk, dash of cinnamon, dash of salt, 8 oz of cream cheese, strawberry jam and powdered sugar. You can spread anything you want on the bread, go for your favorites. I think peanut butter and jam would be really good.

Step One: In a bowl, add eggs, milk, cinnamon and salt and beat well.

Step Two: Roll the bread flat, just not too flat, so it’s easier to roll up.

Easy Peasy

Step Three: Spread cream cheese and jam in the center of the bread. Don’t get too close to the edges, because you don’t want it to squish out when you roll up.

Jam and Bread

Step Four: Roll bread up. You’ll want to do all of them before you start dipping and cooking.

Suisse Chef

Step Five: Melt butter in a skillet (adding more as needed as you cook)

Ready to dip

Step Six: Dip bread rolls one at a time quickly into the egg mixture, don’t let them soak. Then add them to the pan.

Rolled French Toast

Step Seven: Cook over medium heat, turning as each side browns, until the whole rolls is golden brown. Remove and immediately dust with powdered sugar. Repeat until all rolls are cooked.  We served 4 with twelve rolls and it was more than enough.

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Black “Forbidden” Rice

Pineapple riceI love rice. It’s a staple in my diet. I especially like brown rice and was very excited when brown jasmine and brown basmati were available at my local store. I make a big batch and refrigerate it for the week. It’s easy to warm it for a simple side. It also makes a quick lunch – heat it up, add some nuts, ponzu sauce, or butter, maybe leftover veggies and yum.

While rice is usually considered a side dish, I love it as a main course. That’s what most of tonight’s recipes are, including the featured recipe, which was inspired by a bag of black rice given to me by a friend. She wasn’t sure what to do with it and thought for sure I would. I didn’t, but had some fun experimenting.

To start off, pictured above is my Pineapple Rice Bowl, the complete dinner menu, recipes and shopping list are here.

Then there is Wash Day Beans and Rice, recipe here.

JeffreyW gives a great review on his Rice Cooker, click here and then uses it to make Fried Rice, recipe here.

What’s on your menu for the weekend? We have great weather right now, but snow is coming. Don’t forget to share your recipes, rice or otherwise, I’m always looking for something new.

Black rice 2a

Tonight’s featured recipe was inspired by a bag of black rice, also know as Emperor or Forbidden Rice, in my pantry. It’s a heritage grain and it has a complex flavor – it’s deep, nutty, savory, earthy. I had never even heard of it, much less tasted it. I cooked up a cup of it and it was love at first bite. But what to pair it with – it easily overwhelmed chicken and pork, and the flavors did not balance with beef. I did use it with some crumbled Spicy Italian sausage and that worked, the balance was right. What I thought it really needed was a citrus or vinegar pairing, some veggies, I wasn’t sure about nuts. Time to experiment.

Limes were on sale this week, so I settled on a citrus vinaigrette and fresh veggies paired with the rice (pictured above) for last night’s dinner and I think it worked out very well.  Walnuts worked well, cashews were overwhelmed by the rice. I served it warm, but it was good cold today.

Black “Forbidden”Rice with Citrus Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup black rice, rinsed
  • 1-3/4 cups water
  • snow peas (or veggie of your choice)
  • tomatoes (grape tomatoes work well)
  • toasted walnuts
  • 1/4 cup fresh limejuice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • dash of orange juice
  • pinch of lime zest
  • dash of ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • honey to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

saucepan, serving bowl

In the saucepan, add rice and water. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and let simmer on low until all water is absorbed, about 40 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Cut snow peas into about four pieces each, half the grape tomatoes, and lightly chop the walnuts. (You’ll notice I had to settle for ripe on the vine tomatoes yesterday – no grapes to be found).

For the vinaigrette, whisk juices, vinegar, ginger and honey together. Drizzle in oil, whisking constantly. Give it a quick taste and add more ginger and honey as desired.

Toss rice and veggie mixture with vinaigrette and serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.

That’s it for this week. Next week pull out your favorite Super Bowl snack recipes and we’ll focus on those for the recipe exchange. Have a good weekend – TaMara

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Friday Recipe Exchange: What’s Cookin’ This Week

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I thought this week I would again just review what I had cookin’ in my kitchen. And tonight’s feature recipe was inspired by a photo request mid-week. We get requests from time to time to use our photos. No surprise they are almost always JeffreyW’s. I believe there is even a Wikipedia entry that features one of his photos. This week it was a request to use his Enchilada Pie photo, seen below.

First up this week was Chicken and Buttermilk Biscuit Pie, pictured above and recipe here.

Next was Cream of Potato Cheese Soup, (full dinner menu, recipes and shopping list are here).

Bixby has been out of homemade treats since just before Christmas, so I decided it was time to make a batch of Pumpkin-Peanut Butter Cookies, recipe here. I had forgotten how much he liked them – he barely let me finish making them – bugged me the entire time. Speaking of cookies, the next night it was Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies (recipe here). I baked a dozen and then froze the rest as individual cookie dough balls to be baked later.

Speaking of Bixby, here is an update for the pet lovers, with bonus video.

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You can see why there was a request to use Jeffreyw’s photo above. Here is his recipe for Enchilada Montadas. For tonight’s featured recipes, a variation on enchiladas and black beans that is quick and easy to put together:

Enchilada Pie

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 20 oz. enchilada sauce
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, grated

skillet & 8×8 glass baking dish, lightly oiled

Add beef and onion to skillet and cook until beef is browned and onions are translucent. Add spices and sauces; let simmer while you prep tortillas. Tear tortillas into strips and use some to cover the bottom of a well-oiled casserole dish. Layer a portion of the beef mixture and cheese on top, then repeat (tortillas, beef, cheese) to fill up casserole; finish with layer of cheese. Bake 30 minutes at 350°

Black Bean Confetti

  • 14 oz can black beans
  • ½ green pepper, chopped
  • ½ red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Dash of limejuice

saucepans & large serving bowl or platter

In saucepan, add ingredients (except limejuice) and heat on medium. Toss with limejuice and serve.

That’s it for this week. There seems to be a pretty big game this weekend – I was asked who I was cheering for, since I have family and friends in New England and of course live in Colorado – my response: unless it’s the Red Sox, I am Switzerland. So good to everyone. And to those in the path of the big storm, stay safe and warm. – TaMara

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Quick and Easy

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This is the time of year when I wander around the store looking for anything fresh. I am big on farm stands, shopping the outside aisles of the store (away from all the processed stuff) and cooking from scratch. This is the difficult time for creative cooking in my kitchen. I fight the urge that long cold nights provoke: heavy, carb-laden meals. But there is no getting around it, there is more pasta, more bread, more potatoes, more cookies (!!) and less fresh, raw veggies as the winter days wear on.

But I do have my go-to vegetable broth that is the base to almost all my soups. It is rich, creamy and satisfies that need for hearty comfort foods without all the guilt. Because I have a Vita-Mix, I just throw in celery, carrots, corn, green beans, spinach, tomatoes, green or red pepper, onion, dash of lemon juice , and water, blending until smooth. Spices vary depending on what type of soup I’m making, but a dash of lemon juice really brings out the flavors. It’s great on its own, or as a base for hearty vegetable soup, chicken tortilla soup, tomato-spinach soup and more.

Lately, besides soups, I’ve been making a lot of one-pot meals. I throw a few items into the pressure cooker and 20 minutes later, open it up and there’s a nice dinner. Not gourmet, but flavorful and good for a quick supper. Tonight’s feature recipe is one of those that can be cooked in a pressure cooker or saucepan. Put it together, cover and a bit later, dinner.

Let’s start with some other quick and easy recipes:

In the photo above, JeffreyW takes leftovers and makes a whole new awesome dinner. That’s why I always try to make extra sauce and freeze leftovers for quick meals.

Vegetable Pasta Toss (recipe here) is a friend of mine’s go-to meal on busy school nights. She varies the vegetables and spices to change it up.

Crispy Potato Chicken (recipe, full dinner menu and shopping list here) is easier than it sounds and a great way to shake up that typical chicken and potato dinner. Also you can easily substitute fish or pork chops for the chicken.

If you are like me and received pears for Christmas, here are two fresh and easy recipes with pears as the centerpiece:

Asian Pear, Cabbage and Grape Salad (click here)

Walnut Pear Salad (click here – there is also a dinner menu, Beef and Pepper Sub recipe and shopping list at that link)

I messed up the settings on my camera over the holidays (fixed now), so I’m a little short on photos this week. But here is a cell phone shot of my walk yesterday with the Bixster:

Bixby by the river 1 7 16

Tonight’s feature recipe is truly one-pot. I’ve made it in the pressure cooker successfully, but unless you’re confident with your pressure cooker, I’d stick with the saucepan. Unless you have an electric pressure cooker, like JeffreyW’s new one. I’ve paired it with an easy vegetable side.

Spicy Chicken & Rice

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 boneless chicken thighs (breast if you prefer)
  • 1 green pepper (substitute yellow or orange if you prefer)
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1-2 tbsp pickled sliced jalapeños
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 oz sliced black olives (opt)

large saucepan or dutch oven

Heat ½ tbsp oil in pan, add chicken and cook until browned on both sides. Remove and set aside to cool enough to cut into large pieces.  Add remaining oil, onion, peppers & jalapenos to pan and sauté.  Stir in uncooked rice and stir for 1 minute.  Add water, chicken broth, tomatoes, & chicken to pan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer, covered, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes.  Add olives and serve.

Peas w/Mushrooms & Onions

  • 8 oz pearl onions (fresh or frozen)
  • 4 mushrooms, washed & sliced
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 16 oz frozen peas
  • salt & pepper to taste

saucepan with lid, bowl

In the saucepan over medium, heat oil and butter. Add onions, mushrooms and stir until onions are softened. Remove to a bowl. Add peas and a splash of water to the saucepan and cover. Let simmer until peas are heated through. Add more water as needed – but you want them to steam, not boil. Once they are heated through, add mushroom mixture back to the saucepan and toss, adding salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll continue to try and highlight what’s fresh and easy to combat the winter blues – TaMara

spring training ball

Remember, only 42 days until spring training.  87 until opening day.



Quick Dinner: Vegetable Pasta Toss

And…we’re back. Tonight’s recipe exchange is going to focus on quick and fresh. This is as quick as it gets.

Vegetable Pasta Toss

  • 9 oz pkg linguine
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion (or 6 green onions, including greens)
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 8 oz broccoli florets
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 yellow squash, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated

saucepan, skillet

Cook linguine according to package directions.  While it cooks, heat oil in skillet over medium heat, add onions and saute until translucent. Add  garlic and vegetables, stirring until tender-crisp. Stir in tomatoes, basil and cook until heated through. Drain pasta and add to skillet, tossing well. Top with Parmesan cheese.

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Bixby Update: Merry Christmas Eve

HO HO HO1

I’m a horrible pet person. I don’t remember my pets birthdays or when they arrived. I don’t buy them Christmas presents or dress them in cute outfits. Occasionally I throw embarrassing reindeer antlers on the dogs. As you can see Bixby is not amused.

Bixby Officemate1

This is where he spends his days – right next to my desk, snoozing. It’s hard to believe this is his second Christmas (even harder to believe it’s Zander’s third). I was looking at photos from last year and he was pretty big then, even though he was only  6 months old. But nothing like now. He’s almost 160 lbs, and 35″ at his shoulders. His head is pretty much as big as he was at 8 weeks when I picked him up.

He was standing next to me the other day and I reached my hand down to pet him and wondered why anyone would have a “regular” sized dog. I guess I’m just a Giant Breed kinda person.

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Between snow storms we had a nice play date at our friends’ property. It was bittersweet because they just lost their dog and Bixby would periodically go to the backdoor and look for him.

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Bixby is an awesome dog, but not an easy dog. He never eats cat food (even though it is easily accessible), never takes food off the counters, he’s been good about the chewing – other than a few pairs of flip-flops – and is pretty good  with boundaries. He LOVES people, he adores his cats and still cannot understand why they are indifferent to him (after all he is an AWESOME dog) and is pretty good with other dogs.

But Bixby is also a very alpha dog. Every day begins anew, I remind him he is the low rung on the ladder in the household and he gives me the “maybe” look. And many times during the day I must remind him that he is not in charge. I should have known within thirty minutes after I picked him up that he was going to be a challenge. He made it clear he was not one to be bossed, even then.

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It’s constant and sometimes exhausting, but I swear to you I would not have it any other way. He has such a big spirit, such joy. He makes me laugh, even when he’s turned his big body into granite so I can’t move him and he won’t listen to anything. He does test my patience when he decides to drag me down the street to see some new friend. But wait, there’s more! Click to read

Thanksgiving Files: Spatchcock Turkey

Spatchcock Turkey finishSometimes the scariest part of the Thanksgiving Dinner is the worry that the turkey will not turn out properly – undercooked, overcooked, dry, flavorless – and ruin the whole meal. I’ve cooked in bags, roasted, braised, fried, deboned – about everything but brine. I’m not a fan of brining. And still every year I worry.

I tryout various new methods a few days before the big day, just to spice things up and make sure there are leftovers in my frig. This year I decided to try removing the backbone and flattening the bird, cooking it at a high temperature for a shorter cooking time. It seemed like it was pretty foolproof and stress free. My brother is going to prep one of his two turkeys similarly, but smoke it instead.

I put it together today so I could get the recipe up in time for your holiday.

BTW, my recommendation is to always get two smaller birds instead of one massive bird – you’ll have a much better outcome with shorter cooking times. Not to mention not having to worry about fitting a huge bird in the oven. We usually do an oven bird, then grill, smoke or fry another.

For this recipe, a good set of poultry shears makes quick work of removing the backbone. I prepped the bird yesterday, wrapped it up and refrigerated it. This gave me time to make a nice broth from the backbone, giblets and neck last night (see notes below) and make the cranberry sauce, because it’s always better the next day.

Spatchcock Turkey Prep

Roasted Spatchcock Turkey

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 whole turkey (10-12 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil

Rimmed baking sheet, rack

In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, crush together pepper, salt, sage and rosemary and add to brown sugar. Set aside.

With a sharp knife or scissors, remove the back bone of the turkey, flip over and press down on the breast bone to break and flatten. I wasn’t quite strong enough, so I turned the bird over, scored the bone, flipped it back and tried again, this time it broke easily. I then trimmed off the wing tips. See my notes below on what to do with the back and wing tips.

Place the bird flat, breast side up, on the rack in the baking sheet. Rub with spice mix and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Before cooking drizzle olive oil over turkey and roast for 1 hour or until the temperature of the thickest part of the breast reaches 160 degrees. Remove from the oven, tent with foil and let rest for 30 minutes (during this time the bird temperature will reach 165 degrees and thighs should be 175 degrees).

Carve and serve.

NOTES: I took the back, wing tips, neck and giblets, covered them with water and simmered them for about an hour. I then used the broth for both the stuffing and gravy. I also cooked the stuffing in the oven, in a baking dish, uncovered, with the turkey. They finished up about the same time.

The next time I make this, I would forego the metal rack and instead use a roasting pan and place the bird on a bed of carrots, celery and onion. With the shorter cooking time, the flavor could use the boost. I do feel this is a great technique for wood grilling or smoking.

More Recipes: We have a bunch, a peck, a bushel, of Thanksgiving recipes, including my favorite Upside-Down Cranberry Cake (here), No Boil Mashed Potatoes (here), and Non-Traditional Sides (here), click on this link for all the other recipes or search by name or ingredient in the search box at the bottom of the blog.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!  – TaMara

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Breakfast Pizzas

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I wanted to tackle breakfast because with lots of people visiting over the holidays, it can be fun to do something special for breakfast. I had a breakfast pizza recipe tucked away for a while and I was on the hunt for the perfect crust. I finally stumbled upon some terrific flat bread, something I have been looking for since moving to Colorado. I was spoiled in Boston and LA, where every store had a locally made brand stocked. So with a nice flat bread I was ready to tackle tonight’s featured recipe.

But let’s begin with something sweet that was great fun to get the kids involved with, French Toast Rollups, recipe here.

I like this Sour Cream Pecan Coffee Cake because, well, pecans and streusel, but also because I can make it and leave it out for everyone to enjoy at their leisure with coffee.

I also have a Blueberry Coffee Cake, along with a full dinner menu and recipes here (because coffee cake, not just for breakfast).

Finally, for Blueberry Sour Cream Pancakes, click here.

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What’s on your plate for the weekend? If you’re cooking for Thanksgiving, what’s on your menu?

For tonight’s featured recipe, I snagged some of JeffreyW’s photos (top and middle of the post) to illustrate the many forms these pizzas can take. I made single pizzas, topped with an egg and lots of cheese. The ideas are endless. But below is a recipe for the basics.

Breakfast pizza

Breakfast Pizzas

Crust: flat bread, naan, pita bread or a pizza dough

Toppings: I used olive oil, breakfast sausage, mozzarella, spinach, garlic and an egg for each individual pizza.

To assemble: on a baking sheet arrange the crusts, brush lightly with oil, then spread roasted garlic, add crumbled (uncooked) breakfast sausage and shredded cheese, leaving a space in the center for the egg. I used the sausage and cheese to create a well for the egg.

At this point you have two choices, you can leave it on the baking sheet or move it to the oven rack. Because I was using flat bread and it was stable, I moved it to the oven rack and then added the egg into the well (I cracked the egg into a bowl and then transferred to the pizza, it seemed a smarter way to manage it all). You can also scramble the egg and pour slowly over the ingredients.

Bake at 450 degrees until the egg is cooked. I lost track of time and let the egg cook too long, I would have preferred a soft yolk. Remove, top with chopped spinach and serve immediately.

That’s it for this week. No recipe exchange next week because I’m assuming we will all be in a food coma. Have a great weekend and an excellent holiday. – TaMara

And for those who missed it, dinner menu this week is Spicy Potato Soup and Mocha Cake, menu, recipes and shopping list here. Great for a non-turkey meal to serve to company.

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Breakfast Treat: Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Pecans

Photo from Martha Stewart

Photo from Martha Stewart

When I’m expecting company for the holidays, I usually indulge in baking sweet treats that can be enjoyed with coffee for breakfast, at people’s leisure. I love a good coffee cake. Add pecans and I’m sold.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake with Pecans

Cake:

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsps vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Streusel:

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 1 1/2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsps cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 ½ cup whole pecans

Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsps orange juice

4 mixing bowls

Bundt pan, greased and floured

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

With a mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Using a spatula, scrape the sides and bottom to make sure the mixture if fully combined.

For the streusel, crumble the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl (I use a fork or pastry cutter). Gently mix in pecans.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from the pan and place on a serving plate. Whisk the powdered sugar and orange juice together, adding a more OJ if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon.

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