February 27, 2014

Mini Salted Lemon Cheesecakes

Mini Salted Lemon Cheesecakes

The Oscar's are my Superbowl Sunday.

When the kids were younger, my husband and I had an unspoken agreement - I would be primary so he could watch the big game in January and he would return the favor a month later for the Academy Awards. And for the past 10 years we've had a small group of friends over to watch the awards with us. We love every minute - the competition, the spectacle, the clothes!, the back stories, the honoring of actors who have achieved a milestone or died during the past year (I'm sure this year there will be a segment devoted to Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Aren't we all so sad to see him go too soon? Didn't you love how quiet and human his acting was  - always with a little smirk directed only at himself and never a judgement of others? Tough one.)

This year I'm making these individual lemon cheesecakes with a some salt flakes lodged into the lemon curd. The salt makes the lemon more intense and brings out the sweetness in the crust and filling. This recipe makes nine but you could easily double it for more minis or triple the filling and double the crust for a full size cake (the lemon curd recipe makes plenty).

February 20, 2014

Kale Salad with Chimichurri and Hummus

Kale Salad with Chimichurri and Hummus

I'm stretched. One old house, two kids, two dogs, one husband with a demanding job and various volunteer commitments have left me flailing.

Each thing is suffering in some way - either the kids don't have enough of my focused face time  or I forget to submit the form for their entry to this, membership to that or registration for the other thing. The dogs are bouncing off the ceiling, chewing the runner on the stairs and following me around e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e looking hopefully into my eye when they can catch it hoping I'll take them for a walk or to the dog park. My husband wants me to listen to his work challenges, their progression and resolution and also please tell him where he needs to be when and could I email him directions too.

I communicated wrong dates for the school fundraiser because as I was typing the email for it I was mentally already on to the next thing. I missed our daughter's parent-teacher conference, twice! Once because I was planning rides to a 4th grade roller skating party - the other time I was probably wrist deep in biscuit dough, listening to Fresh Air and having a grand ole time.  No tiger mother here. I know people are starting to think to I'm a flake. I might be... but that's not why I'm messing up. I just have too many bits and pieces tap-tap-tapping on the inside of my brain. My untoned caboose is jumping from one track to the other without any quality control measures and I find I'm rolling along with a missing wheel or two. It's not my finest hour.

Calgon, take me away. Or should I say Julia Child?

(At this time I'd like to thank anyone who's actually read to this point and didn't skip ahead to the recipe. It's this kind of free therapy that is keeping me sane).

We've been eating loads of this salad ever since they started packaging baby kale into easy to rip open plastic tubs (which are even easier to recycle now that Mpls has gone to single sort recycling bins). I've been wanting to try Smitten Kitchen's Ethereal Hummus recipe so I'm using that as a creamy base which kale has no trouble holding up to.  It's worth the trouble. You drag your fork through the hummus, then scoop up some crunchy salad dressed in a ka-pow chimichurri dressing and it's a bright combination of creamy, crunchy, rich and fresh. If you don't like chimichurri, just use lemon and olive oil on your salad and it will be just as great, but milder.

February 16, 2014

Chorizo Noodle Frittata

Chorizo Noodle Frittata

Chorizo Noodle Frittata

Like many others around the world, we've watched a lot of the Olympics this week and have been dazzled by freshness and intensity of the athletes. The downhill skiers take my breath away as does the height and pitch of the course (scary!) and I must say I was kind of thrilled by the women's snowboard cross event. That sport is growing on me. The announcers are enthusiastic and helpful and my only quibble is with the amount of camera time devoted to Bode Millers pretty wife and the mic on her that captures her pep talks with Bode which sound fake even though they're probably not. It's that weird thing where it's impossible to act naturally once you know you're being photographed or recorded. It's why people wave and smile like lunatics or shout "wooo!".

Anyway, we've been bringing our dinner plates to the floor in front of the TV and that's a treat - talk of sports and athletes makes for easy conversation and it's nice to root for the same team. Go USA!

This noodle frittata recipe is based on one from Food & Wine Magazine. I get so many food magazines and have vowed to try more recipes from them (plus don't you just love to say the word "noodle"?). I've been disappointed by frittatas in the past - too eggy and rubbery. Not so this one. This dish is creamy, super flavorful and has a nice soft, yet firm texture. It's substantial and would be good for brunch or dinner. Also great the next day warmed up in the microwave. Maybe better.

Note: bowl is on floor, dog is not on table.

February 11, 2014

Pineapple Banana Bread

I started making this banana bread a week ago.  That's when I had some spotted and fragrant bananas in the basket on the counter sharing their musty perfume with the sandwich bread. That first loaf was kind of awful. Great flavor but heavy, dense and a bit wet. So I've been playing with the recipe since adjusting the amount of pineapple, bananas, flour and fat and I think I finally got it right with this one (the fourth loaf). 

I love the flavor of pineapple and banana together (makes me think of something I'd drink on a beach with a fish taco, no shoes and no schedule) but both contain a lot of moisture which can seriously weigh down a baked good. So I tried an America's Test Kitchen tip of microwaving the bananas to get them to release some of their moisture but...it didn't work. This is probably because the bananas I used weren't brown enough (I was running out of patience in nailing this thing). However, I'm still recommending it because I know you wouldn't dream of making banana bread with hard, sunny yellow, unfreckled bananas but will instead wait for those that usually end up forgotten at the bottom of someone's lunch bag or purse and are the reason banana bread exists at all. I'm confident those kind of bananas will behave just as Christopher Kimball says they will and release abundant liquid which you can reduce on the stove and add back into your batter to make your bread incredible. I did it with the pineapple and wasn't disappointed. 

I used coconut oil because of seemed to fit the tropical theme and I like it as a substitute for butter or vegetable oil.  Wish I could say it made this vegan but there are eggs so....maybe next time.

February 4, 2014

Thai Beef with Coconut Rice & Cilantro Yogurt

Thai Beef with Coconut Rice & Cilantro Yogurt

A few years ago on a chilly Friday evening we were at our friends John and Faye's house hanging out in their kitchen and catching up over a beer while the kids played in the basement (a popular way for us to spend Friday nights when the kids were younger). We decided to order takeout from a great Thai place in the neighborhood and Faye ordered her favorite, a beef salad called Laab. I'd never had it before and was surprised to see that the beef wasn't cut into strips as I had imagined but was ground into small pieces like, well, hamburger. I thought ground beef was strictly the purview of North Americans and Europeans. Hamburgers, shepherds pie, pasties and that kind of thing. Well let me tell you, humble ground beef becomes quite a showy flower when it's combined with a few Thai staples and fried until it gets a little crispy around the edges. This is my version of that dish. It's savory, tangy, bright and feels good-for-you. 

I paired it with fragrant basmati rice cooked in coconut milk, crunchy raw vegetables (julienned just for fun and because I got a new tool for Christmas that makes it so easy*) and a tangy cilantro yogurt sauce. A fine meal that comes together quickly. I wish my photos did it justice but I was itching to eat this and decided they were "good enough". By the time I loaded the pictures onto my computer it was too late and every morsel had been consumed. So you'll have to trust me on this.

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