Mission: Possible

Note the deep yellow hues in the field. Autumn is coming.

Note the deep yellow hues in the field. Autumn is coming.

No Meat

No Seafood

No Gluten

No Dairy

I’ve found myself being invited to a lot of potlucks this summer. In these days of food sensitivities, cooking for a crowd has become a bit more challenging than it used to be; no longer can I make a quick pasta salad with pieces of meat and cheese. I put a lot of thought into what I make so I’m sure everyone can have a helping; now, whether people eat it is another story, but at least I’ve attempted to offer a dish that can be eaten by all. The Eater of the House has noted through the years that while I make a healthy dish to share, that sometimes they aren’t that appealing. Hence the bean salads I’ve brought home because no one wanted them. (Insert sad face.)

The above was the list for the latest dinner party I attended. I fretted for days over what to make; every time I thought of something, it had one of the ingredients not to include. Cucumbers and tomatoes are in season right now, so I thought of an easy caprese salad, but I couldn’t use mozzarella. Then I thought of my cucumber salad, but I couldn’t use the sour cream. But what if I combined the cucumbers and tomatoes with other ingredients? With some leftover beans I defrosted in the freezer, I was well on my way!

This a terrific base-line salad, in that you can take the original recipe and add what you’d like to it: leftover chicken, salmon, or shrimp; feta cheese; even pasta all would be good additions to this, making it an entrée. Also herbs! I wanted to add some fresh basil, but didn’t have any, but I know that would add great flavor, or chives, mint, or dill. Try different veggies–crunchy red peppers, celery, kohlrabi would be delicious. The reason for the corn was I had one ear left in the vegetable bin, but I wish I had more. (And that ingredient is totally optional!) For the dressing, I used red wine vinegar, but another flavored vinegar or even lemon would be great. I measured it by the capful until I got the right acidity that I liked.

But best of all, the salad fit the bill and is relatively low in calories! And this time, I brought home an empty bowl! (Insert happy face!)

salad2
Cucumber and Tomato Salad with Chickpeas

Both tomatoes and cucumbers are water-filled vegetables, so I seed them as much as possible to avoid a soppy salad. To seed the tomatoes, I cut them into fourths and just remove a bit of the seeds before dicing.

1 can of chickpeas, or about 2 cups
2 large tomatoes, seeded and diced
3 cups cucumbers, peeled, seeded, and chopped into large chunks
The kernels from one ear of corn (optional)
4 radishes, sliced thinly
A couple of tablespoons of scallions
Olive oil and red wine vinegar, to taste (a few teaspoons each)
Salt and pepper

Add all of the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and vinegar and toss gently.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Nutritional Weight and Wellness, Minnesota

A few years ago I discovered the podcast, “Weight and Wellness,” produced by the nutritionists at Nutritional Weight and Wellness, http://www.weightandwellness.com/ which has locations surrounding the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Each week, they tackle a subject where nutrition can help you solve your physical ailments, from aching joints, menopause symptoms, anxiety and depression, and the list goes on. I always walk away with a list of tips and recipes.

Their website is a fountain of nutritional information and resources and they have four online classes you can take!  http://www.weightandwellness.com/services/online-classes/. I have yet to take one, but I plan to in the near future!

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BLT Pasta

At least once a week during the summer, I make pasta for dinner. Normally it’s pesto, because it’s basil season and hands down it’s my favorite meal; I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week and I would never grow tired of it. But sometimes it’s fun to change it up!

Once in a blue moon, I’ll order a BLT for lunch as I always find cooking bacon at home leaves the smell lingering way longer than it takes to actually eat it. But making this dish in the summer when you can open the windows was worth the bacon-smelling kitchen! Although I had regular penne in the cupboard, I decided to try the mezze (mini) penne that is suggested, and with grape tomatoes on the counter and baby spinach in the fridge, it was a quick and easy weeknight dinner!

blt pasta

BLT Pasta
This recipe originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cooking Light.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: about 1 2/3 cups)

8 ounces uncooked mezze penne pasta
6 center-cut bacon slices
2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 ounce fresh Romano cheese, finely grated (about 1/4 cup)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon; cook 6 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; crumble. Add tomatoes and salt to drippings in pan; cook 3 minutes or until tomatoes are tender, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and pasta to pan; cook 1 minute or just until spinach begins to wilt, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle pasta with bacon, pepper, and cheese.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: A Super Easy Method to Separate Eggs
A friend sent me this video of how to separate eggs with a water bottle. I was skeptical even after watching the video, because it looked so easy, I didn’t think there was a way that it work. So one morning before scrambling my eggs I decided to try it. And it really works! It just scoops it up! I will definitely do this next time I need to separate eggs!

You can watch the video here.

Number 200

200What began during a March blizzard in 2011 as a creative way to get my adventures in the kitchen out into the world has developed into a weekly ritual of cooking and writing. In three years’ time, you’ve come along with me to specialty food shops in Florida, our local agricultural fair, and the sites of New York; my birthday tribute to Julia Child (when the electricity went out); I Mad Men’d myself for cocktails and Caesar salad; I’ve passed along family recipes, recipes I’ve created, and of course those from Cooking Light.

Despite being a pretty good home cook, I know there always is room to grow and for improvement. I recently made pancakes for my nephew who dubbed them good and gobbled them up, but when I bit into them, I realized I had forgotten the sugar! Well, at least my audience was happy! Just like everything in life, I am always learning and all I can do is to keep trying and mastering my craft. A big thank you to all who have been with me along the way, and a special thank you to Marta T., my very first follower who wasn’t related to me! And I can’t let this post escape with without thanking the Eater of the House, who has withstood experimental, delicious (and not so delicious), and really late dinners because of my writing and cooking! He is my first test taster, so nothing goes here without his seal of approval!

So since this is Post #200, I decided to give myself a reprieve this week and revisit my favorite pie recipe since it’s August and peach season. What better way to celebrate these beautiful golden orbs than with a pie?

peach pie

I can’t take credit for this pie; my Mom baked this beauty!


Crumbly Peach Pie
2/3 cup sugar (scant)
3/8 cup (6 Tablespoons) flour
1/3 cup (5 Tablespoons) butter (scant)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg 6-8 peach halves, skinned

Mix the ingredients together and place half of the mixture at the bottom of a ready-to-bake pie crust. Place the peach halves on top and add the remainder of the crumbly mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden.

To peel peaches: Fill a large pan with water and bring to a boil. In the sink, fill a large bowl with extra cold water. When the water has come to a boil, add the peaches one at a time and let it sit in the water for about 45 seconds to a minute. (The timing is very important, as you don’t want the peaches to cook.) Transfer immediately to the bowl of cold water. If everything goes well, you should be able to slip off the skins easily with your fingers. If you find they don’t, you can stick them in the hot water a little bit longer.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Tourterelle, New Haven, Vermont
For my 200th post, I thought I would give you a little peek at food in other kitchens in the state. Tourterelle is one of my favorite local restaurants that is one where we go for special occasions. The Eater of the House took me out a couple of weeks ago as a thank you for the pick up and drop off during a hiking excursion. French in theme, it’s a little country house that has a beautiful bar and several rooms where you can dine solo, à deux, or with a party.

I wasn’t very hungry that night, but that didn’t stop us from ordering the Salade de Homard (lobster salad), chunks of lobster with crunchy kohlrabi, radishes, a thin buttermilk dressing, and topped with puffed polenta. I could have eaten three of those alone! For my entrée, I ordered the Crêpe à la St Jacques, a thinly folded crepe with fresh sea scallops and wild mushrooms in a thin wine sauce. (If I were at home, I would have licked my plate!)

Unless it’s going to our local pub, I like to go to restaurants that serve food I can’t or won’t make at home. I know I will never even attempt to make crêpes at home, so this was a lovely evening out with absolutely delicious food. So this week, let someone else do the cooking and tell me about your adventures!
lobstercrepe

Spiced Chicken Thighs and Parsley Couscous

I’ve really gotten into spice rubs for meat lately. Easier and less messy than marinades, they are a nice way to spice up (no pun intended) a boring piece of meat, with spices and herbs that already are in the cupboard.

This was an easy Sunday dinner. Always one for looking for simplicity, by browning and roasting the chicken in the same pan, it makes a one-dish supper–less cleanup! I had Israeli couscous in the cupboard, so I used that, which made it more of a pasta side dish. If you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative, quinoa or rice can certainly be used. Served with the first corn of the season, it was a delicious meal and the leftover chicken was perfect on my salads for lunch!

herbed chix

Spiced Chicken Thighs and Parsley Couscous
This recipe originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Sip on a cool glass of ginger lemonade for just 32 cents per serving: Bring 4 cups water and 1/3 cup sliced fresh ginger to a boil in a medium saucepan; remove from heat. Steep 30 minutes. Strain; discard solids. Mix the liquid with the juice of 2 large lemons and 3 tablepoons honey. Serve over ice.

Serves 4 (serving size: 2 thighs and about 1/2 cup couscous)

2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed and skinned (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2/3 cup uncooked couscous
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Combine cumin, sugar, chili powder, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt, red pepper, lemon rind, and black pepper in a small bowl; rub spice mixture over both sides of chicken. Heat a large ovenproof skillet or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan, placing it skin side down; cook 5 minutes on each side or until chicken is browned. (If necessary, work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.) Transfer pan to oven. Bake chicken at 425° for 14 minutes or until done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 10 minutes before serving.

3. While chicken rests, heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add couscous and garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring frequently. Carefully stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and chicken stock. Bring liquid to a boil. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 4 minutes (avoid opening the lid). Fluff couscous with a fork, and stir in parsley and lemon juice.

summer_box1MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Lovethesecretingredient.net
Far be it for me to think I’m the only food blog out there worth reading (there are zillions out there, so I know I’m only a teeny spec in the cyber world!). But I came across Mary Frances’s blog, Love the Secret Ingredient, a couple of years ago, and have thoroughly enjoyed reading her adventures in the kitchen since then. She cooks a little bit like me; I have this in the fridge, what can I make?

She’s had a project for the last few months that I really admire: seasonal food boxes, all to benefit Feed the Children. I ordered the summer box (pictured), and received a delicious spice rub, some yummy salsa, and other goodies. And the box was totally gluten-free. This sort of project is totally out of my realm, so I’m excited to find something foodie related–and impressed she took her blog and food interest to the next level!

I’ll be ordering the fall box soon! Check it Mary Frances’s blog at www.lovethesecretingredient.net.