February 25, 2015

Crispy Quinoa Chicken Salad



Crispy Quinoa Chicken Salad


Crispy Quinoa Chicken Salad



Hey, Quinoa. Yeah you, Quinoa, poster child of healthy eating. I've got you figured out and I don't hate you any more. I just didn't know how to cook you properly and found your hard-to-pronounce name a bit pretentious and Gwynethy. So I stayed away. Until today when bags of your tiny meek self were discovered in the back of my pantry where the farro and couscous I adore should've been and I had no choice. You were rinsed to wash away your bitter coating, cooked in milk (you probably haven't been introduced– milk is a creamy, white liquid produced by something we non-vegans call a cow) and then hard-seared in oil to give you crust and crunch and sass. Feels good, right? 

And tastes good. And feels like something other than mush in your mouth. Combined with chicken, avocado, basil and a curry vinaigrette it makes for a light fulfilling meal that's whole food but not wholeier-than-thou food.

Crispy Quinoa Chicken Salad

serves 2 for meal or 4 as a side

1 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1 bay leaf
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 avocado, diced
2 chicken breasts, cooked
Big handful basil leaves, julienned

Curry Vinaigrette
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 small garlic clove, mashed
scant 1/4 cup lemon juice (from half of juicy lemon)
1/3 cup olive oil

For vinaigrette—whisk all ingredients together until emulsified and set aside.

Thoroughly rinse quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer until the water runs clear. Put bay leaf, salt, water and milk into a heavy saute pan and bring to a boil. Add rinsed couscous, stir and turn heat down to simmer. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed. Test quinoa for doneness. Sometimes there's still some liquid left and I jut drain it off. Dump the quinoa into a shallow bowl and return saute pan to the stove.

Heat pan over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When hot, add about half the cooked quinoa and let it pop, dry out and brown, stirring frequently with a thin metal spatula for about 5 minutes. Scrape out all crunchy bits and add to bowl of soft quinoa. Add chicken, avocado, basil and about half the dressing. Toss gently and add more dressing, if desired. Serve on a bed a frisee or other lettuce you like.





February 17, 2015

Grapefruit Cookies

Grapefruit Cookies


Grapefruit Cookies
My kids have always been crazy about those sugar cookies at Target. You know the ones. They're big, soft, thickly iced with bright colored frosting and have a list of ingredients as long as the Apple Agreement I reflexively hit "Agree" to but have never read. They contain sugar, flour, margarine and all kinds of artificial flavorings and colorings. Yuck. I mean, yum! Yum! They're good. I get it. But maybe I can make something just as good, better or at least a respectable stand-in that includes ingredients I could find at any natural food store or co-op. 

I know, it takes more time than plopping down a few bucks for a pack of 6 or 12. I have no quarrel with that, but once you get the hang of dough making and keeping the ingredients around, it's pretty quick.

Having a stand mixer helps hugely. It's not even fair comparing a baker who has one and a baker who doesn't. A stand mixer is speed and freedom for your hands to prep other stuff, wash up, etc. while your butter creams. It's a damn fine piece of machinery and I think I'd give my car away before I gave up my mixer. Okay, maybe not my car but for sure the snowblower. We haven't had a lot of snow this year and my memory is short. 


February 10, 2015

Cardamom Cayenne Cashew Caramel Corn


Cardamom Cayenne Cashew Caramel Corn


I'm trying to cram in a years' worth of movie viewing this month in preparation for the Oscar's in a few weeks. Saw and loved Birdman (best soundtrack by a set of drums plus I'm kind of mesmerized by Michael Keaton's mouth...that sounds weird, right?), sincerely appreciated Boyhood and thought Grand Budapest Hotel was a fun romp. Three down, five to go. I'll never make it. But it's OK—I'll still watch the ceremonies with friends, drink champagne, eat good food and root for my favorite performances, speeches and dresses in the comfort of my family room. It's a tradition. 

I usually provide popcorn for my guests and have been playing around with this variation—a sweet and spicy caramel corn. Cardamom, which is a mellow cousin of the ginger family, is one of my favorite spices for sweet things—so warm and flavorful. It's kind of luxe to use cashews instead of peanuts but it fits the fancy Oscar theme, so why not? Next time I think I'll throw in dried cherries to provide a little chew and two more 'C's' for my title— Chewy Cherry Cardamom Cayenne Cashew Caramel Corn!

February 5, 2015

Chard Salad with Crackling Bread Croutons

Chard Salad with Crackling Bread Croutons




Did you hear? Harper Lee has a new book coming out, Go Set a Watchmana book she wrote before To Kill a Mockingbird. This has prompted me to do two things I've never done before. One is preorder a book and the second is to make crackling bread, or at least a version of crackling bread using bacon bits and bacon fat in place of the usual pork cracklings and fat. 

January 28, 2015

Quick Roti — Or how carbs can cure the blues...

Quick Roti

I learned an expensive lesson last weekend. We hosted a post-holiday Holiday Party for my husbands office crew of about 60 people and, knowing I had a busy week, decided to cater it. We planned a Spanish wine tasting and tapas theme because a good friend of ours is a wine writer/purveyor and he suggested it and was willing to secure all the wine. For the tapas I looked around at local caterers and settled on one that had been in business for a long time and had a good reputation. The owner was very confident, asked a minimum of questions, sent me a sample menu and we were off.

January 17, 2015

Tahini Roasted Broccoli



Tahini Roasted Broccoli




I've been roasting broccoli and cauliflower for years and it's always a winner. Put a little brown on vegetables and they really shine. But I'm always on the hunt for a twist and came across a few recipes that drizzle roasted vegetables with a tahini dressing after they come out of the oven. Tahini is a middle eastern sesame seed paste that frequently co-stars with chickpeas in the blockbuster known as hummus.

January 14, 2015

Duck Hash


Duck Hash


Duck Hash

The Christmas before last (2013) I received a big can of duck leg confit with duck fat. It looks like this: 

January 8, 2015

Cauliflower and Greens Soup


Cauliflower and Greens Soup

And thus begins the bleaker side of winter. Yeah, it's cold. Yeah, it's dark. Yeah, my feet are freezing...all the time except when I'm in a hot bath. But it's not so bad. We burrow in, watch TV, read, chase the dog around the house to wear him out, wear layers of homey comfort and "forget" to shave our legs (fur = warmth). And of course cook, bake, eat and repeat.

January 4, 2015

One Pan Sausage & Broccoli with Sweet Potato Mash


I cook a lot—everyday, sometimes all day. Baking in the morning, making breakfast, preparing lunches for my daughter and myself, then dinner and in between some other dish that I'm playing with. I begin each recipe chock full of optimism that this is going to be the tastiest dish ever and when it's not, I'm woefully disappointed and hell-bent on working the thing until it is and then I'm so sick of it that I'm sure not make it again for a very long time.

Are other people like that? Did Pete Sampras tire of his serve? Does Thomas Keller still like his little caviar cones? Is Martin Scorcese bored with his nightclub sequence shot in "Goodfellas"? Am I comparing myself to these titans of their profession?


December 14, 2014

Deviled Eggs with Pickled Celery and Bacon Bits




Deviled Eggs with Pickled Celery and Bacon Bits

Uncle. 
UNCLE, I say!
To bacon that is.
You win.

Universally loved and appreciated (not that many vegetarians or kosher-keepers in my circle) I don't know why I've resisted so long and in this case, deviled eggs with pickled celery and homemade bacon bits, a little goes a long way. A bit of work peeling, scooping out and re-stuffing the eggs but worth it for the happy people who scarf them up at the "bring an app" party. The pickled celery is so good too. Great idea from Smitten Kitchen. Tangy and crunchy like a pickle but without the assertive flavor of dill.

December 7, 2014

Garlic Fennel Pork Roast

Garlic Fennel Pork Roast

Most Saturday nights during junior high I had dinner with my dad and his wife. My parents had split when I was in grade school and I was lucky that my dad got re-married to a nice woman who thought it was important for us to spend time interacting during our weekend visits. So they always put together a sit-down dinner that was usually followed by a board or card game and a movie.

Garlic Fennel Pork Roast

December 3, 2014

Cardamom Spice Cookies with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Cardamom Spice Cookies with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting

Serious cooks stress the importance of using fresh spices and I'm sure they're right but I made these cookies with spices that have been in my pantry since I unpacked them from our move three years ago (who knows how long they had been at the old place) and they taste great. 

Better than great—eyes flare in surprise great. Nothing fancy or bedazzled about this holiday cookie–just a homely little nugget that's cakey and crisp with lightly spiced flavor and a big hunk of caramel cream cheese frosting.

November 30, 2014

Cranberry Sauce Crisp


Cranberry Sauce Crisp


I have a daughter who plays hockey. She's 11, bright-eyed, friendly and focused on the ice. She cheers the loudest (really, I'm not exaggerating, she's loud) and laughs the hardest. If I ever wonder where she is all I have to do is cock my head like a bird-dog and listen. If she's in the vicinity, I'll hear her. Being a quiet, reserved person myself I can hardly believe she came out of me and it's kind of a thrill.

November 18, 2014

Thanksgiving Tried and True

corn husk poms poms


Who doesn't like Thanksgiving? Lots of good food, wine, football and kids underfoot with none of the greedy grabbing that can rear it's ugly head at Christmas. I've hosted a big group for the past three years and have learned to put my energy into the bird (fresh, local, brined and roasted), gravy (see below), harvesty decor, a running-through-the-neighborhood hunt that sends my family and friends from clue to clue then finishing with a mad dash back home to claim their prize (something silly for the kids and a glass of something for the adults) and dig into a meal they've worked an appetite up for. I say "yes" to everyone who offers to bring something including mashed potatoes and stuffing and buy the rest. Hey, I want to have fun too!

November 9, 2014

Triple Decker French Onion Grilled Cheese


Triple Decker French Onion Grilled Cheese

This sandwich, a crispy, gooey number that tastes like french onion soup, is an indulgence that may send you to the couch for an afternoon of napping or watching any old movie that happens to be on. Especially if you eat it with a cold beer, like me. 

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