Thursday, June 28, 2012

herb planter

After some inspiration, I enlisted T to build me a planter with sheet metal on the bottom for some herbs that can be easily switched from window to window or to a dining table for a simple centerpiece. For about $15 we got some rough-saw spruce and some herbs and T built this beaut.

Hopefully this inspires some outdoorsyness or backyard-gardening for you, too! Off to relax by the lake this weekend...
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

easiest summer dessert...ever

I look forward to receiving my monthly edition of Bon Appétit...but I rarely have the time for one of their creations during the week.  Unfortunately I do not stock items such as chile de árbol , dried hibiscus flowers, or miso paste on a daily basis nor do I have the energy to pop out to the store for an obscure ingredient. 

This month,
Bon Appétit pulled a major way. More than 90% of the recipes in this edition used items I had on hand, and some great simple recipes for summer. My new favorite summer dessert that is unbelievably easy with such a big punch of flavor is the Honey-Lemon Custard with Fruit.

Ingredients (serves 8, halve or quarter appropriately):
 2 cups heavy cream
4 tbsp. honey, divided
3 tbsp. sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
3 2" strips lemon peel
6 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided
1/4 cup light rum
1 cup berries or sliced mango (I used mango)

1. Heat cream, 2 tbsp honey, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until beginning to simmer. Cut vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape seeds and add to pot along with pod. Add lemon peel, remove from heat, and let steep for 5 minutes.

2. Remove vanilla bean and peel. Stir in 5 tbsp fresh lemon juice. Divide between ramekins, cover and let chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour (and up to 1 day).

3. While chilling, whisk remaining 2 tbsp honey, and 1 tbsp of lemon juice with rum in a small bowl. Stir in fruit of choice and let sit until juicy (about 1 hour)

4. When you can't wait any longer to eat the custard, remove from the refrigerator and eat along with fruit.

The fruit mixture cancels out the sugary custard to create a  happy (and refreshing) union. As we speak I am chilling a custard for a peach and raspberry mix...I obviously could not turn it down!
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Monday, June 25, 2012

perfectly roasted chicken (and what to do with the leftovers)

I was raised in a house full of chicken. We had chicken almost every night, every type of chicken; Chicken Kiev, Teriyaki Chicken, Honey Mustard Chicken, Chicken Tenders, Chicken Tetrazzini, Chicken everything. When I began dabbling in cooking, a whole chicken was out of the question, it never even crossed my mind as being possible. One day when I was bored I thought maybe I could tackle the whole chicken, with a back-up plan being possible since I had so much time! Once I decided to go for it, I bought the supplies, returned to the house, was hands-on for 10 minutes and then before I knew it I was DONE. It really was shocking how easy but impressive it was! Now having made over 20 roasted chickens, my newest obstacle to tackle is the timing of the sides...figuring out when to put sides into the oven so they aren't hard and undercooked or crisped to dust. Last night I finally got it!

1 whole chicken (3-5lbs)
2 onions
6 carrots
3 potatoes
1 lemon
5 cloves of garlic
Salt, pepper, and herbs of choice (I used herbs de provence)
Olive oil for drizzling 

 1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

 2. Remove giblets from cavity of chicken. Pat dry to ensure crispiness of chicken. Stand chicken up to drizzle olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs and spices of choice (herbs de provence, cayenne pepper, oregano, rosemary, basil, anything!), and lemon juice from 1 lemon into chicken. Also put in lemon rind from juiced lemon, 5 cloves of garlic (no need to peel), and 1 onion chopped roughly. 

3. Lay down on roasting pan, tuck wings under to provide even roasting, and tie legs together with cooking twine. Rub olive oil over top of chicken. Top with herbs and spices of choice. Salt and pepper.

4. Pop chicken into the preheated oven. Set timer for 30 minutes. (Set timer for 1 hour and 10 minutes if just making chicken or not these sides)

5. Once 30 minutes is up, wash potatoes and add to the oven. Set timer for 20 minutes.

6. Once 20 minutes has passed, add carrots and chopped onions to roasting pan with chicken. Set timer for 20 more minutes.

7. When timer is finished, remove chicken and place on a plate. Cover chicken with tin foil for 10 minutes to have chicken reabsorb liquids. Keep veggies in oven during this time.

8. Cut chicken and enjoy!


What to do with the leftovers: Chicken noodle soup (of course)!

 1. Remove chicken from bones and set aside. In a large soup pot, bring 4 cups of chicken stock and 2 cups of water to a simmer. Place chicken carcass and bones into liquid, lower and simmer partially covered for 30 minutes to release taste of chicken into stock.

2. Strain liquids and reserve in a bowl.

3. Return pot to medium heat with a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Chop up some vegetables of choice (onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, etc!) and add to oil. Add salt, pepper, and thyme.

 4. When vegetables soften (about 7 minutes but time varies depending on cut-size), add chicken, and broth. Cook together for a few minutes to mix flavors. Package up and let it cool off before popping it in the fridge.

5. Boil up some egg noodles for about 3 minutes until softened but mildly al dente. Package and again wait to cool before popping in the fridge.

To heat up, simply dump liquid and noodles into a covered pot over medium heat. Heat up and serve a warm, filling, and super-filling dinner or lunch for the next day!
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

early fourth of july bbq

Growing up in the middle of nowhere, my town used to put on a fireworks show a week or so before July 4th (due to fearing the residents would go to a larger fireworks show in neighboring towns instead of ours). In honor of this ritual, we celebrated with a BBQ.

The evening began with some Pimms and cheeses. We continued with hot dogs, cheeseburgers, veggie burgers, potato salad, cole slaw, and garlic basil corn... the usual June 23nd pseudo-July-4th-BBQ spread. We wrapped up the evening with strawberry shortcake and called it a night after relaxing under the lanterns. Looking forward to the real July 4th filled with sparklers and a quiet night in.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

avocado time (x4)

Avocados are getting a lot of attention recently...and for good reason. They're nutritious and easily blended into a recipe for some healthy creaminess.

Here is one of my favorite avocado recipes (super healthy substitutions and super duper easy)! Recipe One: Green goodness pasta.

Ingredients (serves 2 generously):
 1 lb pasta of choice
3 avocados
1 lemon
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup olive oil   
Pinch of salt
Small handful of fresh basil
Parmesan to grate on top

1. Bring pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta. Cook until almost fully cooked.

2. Remove skins and pits of avocados and scoop flesh into blender with juice from 1 lemon, garlic, olive oil, salt, and basil. Blend until creamy (about 45 seconds).

3. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water and drain the pasta.

4. Return pasta to pot over medium heat with reserved water and the avocado mixture. Continually mix under pasta is fully covered, cooked, and warm!

If you happened to buy the avocados in a bulk bag here are 3 other simple but nutritious recipes:

Recipe Two: Avocado Strawberry + Goat Cheese Sandwich (recipe and picture from here) 

2 slices of bread 
1 avocado 
4 medium strawberries, thinly sliced 
2T goat’s milk mozzarella, crumbled 
1t lemon juice 
1/8t salt 
Black pepper to top 

1. Toast the bread and place on a cooling rack [avoids sogginess] to stay crisp but not hot. 

2. Mash the avocado with a fork and then mash in the lemon juice + salt.

3. Add as much avocado to the toast as desired and add 1 layer of thinly sliced strawberries.

4. Top with salt, pepper, and about 1T crumbled goat cheese per slice.

Recipe Three: Salmon Sliders with Tangy Avocado Sauce (Recipe and photo from here)

1 pound fresh salmon filet, skin removed, and thinly sliced 
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced 
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced 
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs 
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt 
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper 
1 egg  
1 ripe avocado, peeled and sliced 
1/4 cup mayonnaise 
1/4 cup sour cream (or greek yogurt)
1 tablespoon milk 
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar 
1/8 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper 
12 mini buns

1. Place sliced salmon and bell pepper into a food processor. Pulse 2-3 times until mixture is coarsely chopped.

2. Remove mixture and place in a medium bowl. Add Panko bread crumbs, Kosher salt, pepper and egg and mix with a spoon until well mixed. If mixture is not holding together, add additional Panko bread crumbs, 1 tablespoon at a time.

3. Shape salmon mixture into small patties that will eventually be able to fit your buns.

4. Heat a skillet to medium-high. Cook patties for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until completely cooked through.

5. Remove and place on individual mini dinner rolls or buns
6. For the sauce: In a medium bowl, mash the avocado. Sit in mayonnaise, sour cream (or greek yogurt),milk, and vinegar until smooth and creamy. Add salt and cracked black pepper and stir until mixed.

7. Spoon Tangy Avocado Sauce over cooked salmon sliders. Top with a slice of fresh Avocado and the bun. Serve warm.

Recipe Four: Hot Tuna
No photograph available because I eat it too quickly after I make it...

Ingredients (for 2 sandwiches)
4 slices of bread of choice
1 can of tuna
1 tbs mayonnaise
2 tsps hot sauce of choice (I use Frank's red hot)
Pinch of pepper and salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 avocado
*any other add-ins of your typical tuna salad--celery seed, raw onions, mustard, relish, etc.*

1. Toast bread and set aside.

2. Flake tuna in a bowl, mix in 1 tbs mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons hot sauce, pinch of pepper and salt, and 1/2 tsp onion powder.

3. Peel and slice avocado.  

4. Layer in the following way: toast, topped with slices of avocado to cover toast, and top with tuna mixture. 

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Monday, June 18, 2012

erin's dog park day

One of Erin's favorite places on earth is the dog park. The only child that Erin is, she sits back and watches others play while wading solely in the water, happy with just a tennis ball dropping and splashing water into her face. Even though she just observes 80% of the time, she loves it. "Dog park" isn't even allowed to be uttered in our house, unless it's in the immediate future. 

After Erin got to enjoy her favorite place in the world...I got to enjoy my favorite food in the world! King crab legs!

To wrap up the laid-back weekend, I snipped some lavender (one of my favorite scents) for my antique alabaster vase I found last year.

It's always nice to bring some nature full of color and relaxing scents into the house! Hopefully these last more than a few days...before Moose attacks them.
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