29 July 2009

Anniversary Fare

The Uncensored Chef is back from a 1st Anniversary getaway! It was nice to take a little break from the computer. =)

Since we didn't leave for our trip until a few days after our actual anniversary, I made my husband a nice dinner at home. My mom said that we should go out since it was a celebration for both of us, but I love to cook and had such a fun afternoon cooking up this meal (see the menu below)!


Bagel with Cream Cheese, Basil, and Golden Nugget Tomatoes

Green Salad with Cranberry Stilton Cheese
Basil and Bacon Potato Salad

Teriyaki Venison Oven Kebab over Brown Rice

Rustic Shoofly Tart
Chocolate-dipped Strawberries

I really did spend the whole afternoon cooking! We were both hungry before dinner was ready, so I made the quick little bagel appetizers between chopping and baking . . . toasted bagel spread with cream cheese, topped with fresh, torn basil leaves and sliced golden nugget tomatoes. I added a dash of salt and pepper to complete it.

The venison "oven kebabs" (we don't have a grill) were great fun to do. I found a teriyaki marinade over at allrecipes.com that was meant for beef kebabs. I marinated the venison chunks in the fridge overnight. Prior to baking I added halved mushrooms, thick onion slices, and halved golden nugget tomatoes (our one plant is very productive right now!). I baked it all at 425F for about 20 minutes. Delicious served over brown rice!

For dessert, I wanted to make pie, because we had homemade pies at our wedding instead of cake. One of our favorites: shoofly. I also wanted to do chocolate-dipped strawberries since I'd just found some nice-looking strawberries for a good price. My dilemma: too much dessert. To solve the problem, I made a shoofly tart, using just half a recipe for the filling (we joked that it was a half-calorie pie!). I rolled the crust into a rough circle, big enough to fill a 9-inch pie plate to the rim. I put some of the crumbs onto the crust, ladled in the "wet" filling, dumped the rest of the crumbs on top, and gently folded the pie crust over the edge. I was nervous that the filling would bubble up over the crust, but it baked beautifully at 350F for about 20 minutes. It had a nice, moist bottom that night and turned cakier the next day, which made it perfect for an alfresco dessert downtown! The strawberries were yummy too!

Taste-tester spouts off effusively when asked for a comment. I think he's glad he married me.

22 July 2009

A New Kitchen

No, we're not renovating our small kitchen. I want to write about the kitchen I joined for today. Now that I'm only working three days a week, I've got some free time that I can do various things with. One of my goals was to go down to the OCP to hang out with my sister-in-law who is the kitchen manager there. Every day she sorts through an array of donated food items and turns them into warm, filling and delicious meals for anyone in town who wants to stop by for lunch.

When I got there at about 10:00 today, a group of women were already snapping yellow beans for lunch. My job assignment was to attack the mounds of squash and make squash cake. I didn't do a whole lot of attacking; the recipe only needed three medium-sized squash. This first assignment progressed slowly as I stopped every few moments to ask where such-and-such was located. My second cake--plum--went a lot faster. While the cakes baked a few of us decided to try making plum jam. We should have asked Sadie before cutting back on the sugar, because we actually ended up with plum syrup. We also drank plum smoothies while we worked and considered what a squash smoothie might taste like. Desperate ideas for desperate mounds of squash.

Before serving lunch, the community circled up and each person shared what he/she was thankful for. When it came my turn, I had to say I was thankful for my sister-in-law and all the hard work she does every day. And although I didn't add it, I was also thankful to get out of my little two-person kitchen for a morning and become part of a team, cooking for a whole community of people.

18 July 2009

Apple-Wineberry Jam

It's high berry season in our neck of the woods. We went wineberry picking again (remember the tarts?). This time I was determined to do something with more of a future. Jam.

I scoured the internet for good jam recipes, searching for raspberry jam since wineberry is a little less common. I found this recipe for raspberry apple jam which looked good to me since I had apples on hand, it didn't take pectin, and the apples would add some volume as the berries cooked down.

Anita's Apple-Wineberry Jam

4 cups wineberries
2 cups peeled, chopped apples (basically two apples)
2 cups sugar

Pretty simple. Just put everything into a pan over medium heat and cook until it's thick! I ended up using my stick blender towards the end to smooth out the apple chunks. I think I cooked it for about 50 minutes.

Of course, we had to try some right away!

The rest was ladled into jars and sealed. I processed them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Meet the Jam Family below (I was seriously hoping they'd have more children!).

16 July 2009

Beans & Rice 1

I call this Beans & Rice 1 because I have so many variations on this theme! Tonight I just needed something fast and easy. It's too hot to cook for long. My beans and rice always include the following: oil, onions, garlic, canned chili's or hot pepper, cumin, salt, and cooked/canned beans. That's the basic, and it goes from there depending on how creative I'm feeling or what else I have on hand. Tonight I added tomato sauce for something different.

Beans & Rice 1

2 TBSP vegetable oil
1/2 med. onion, diced
1 large clove garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
few pieces canned chili's
1 tsp. cumin
1 (15 oz.) can red beans
1/2 (15 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 chicken bullion cube
dash of brown sugar (maybe 1/2 tsp?)
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent. Add the chili's and crush with stirring utensil. Add cumin, stir, and let cook a minute or so. Add beans,crushed tomatoes, chicken bullion, and about a 1/4 cup water and simmer until heated through. Eat over rice.

Tonight I topped my beans and rice with some raw shredded cabbage, diced golden nugget tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze of lime juice. Fresh mango slices sprinkled with cayenne pepper on the side. Cook's Word? Mmmmmmm . . . add some fresh cilantro and take it to another level of delish.

15 July 2009

Quick Fix

One of our favorite quick lunches or dinner (besides "root, hog, or die" or fast food) is a simple tuna melt. Nothing spectacular, just your favorite tuna salad (tuna, mayo, onions, celery, beans, pickles, shredded carrots, horseradish, whatever!) on a slice of bread or bagel. Top with a slice of tomato and shredded cheese--we like cheddar--and pop in the toaster oven for a minute or so until the cheese melts. When it comes out we often add a leaf of lettuce and sometimes hot sauce. Not what I'd call "pretty food" but simple and (usually) delicious!

10 July 2009

Chocolate & Fig Scones

So here it is . . .

Chocolate & Fig Scones

3/4 cup flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
2 TBSP brown sugar
dash salt
2.5 TBSP butter
1/4 cup dark chocolate pieces
1/4 cup chopped dried figs
1/4 cup milk
2 TBSP yogurt

Sift flour, baking powder, brown sugar, and salt into a bowl. Cut in butter to the size of peas. I like to refrigerate or freeze here to re-solidify the butter. Stir in fig and chocolate pieces. Stir in milk and yogurt just until flour is incorporated. Dough will be too sticky to handle! I just dump it out on my pizza stone or pre-greased and -floured baking sheet and press it into a circle. Score into 6 - 8 triangles with a knife (see picture below) and bake at 400F for about 12 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Brew some coffee. Enjoy! This makes fairly small scones. In fact, it is a modified half-recipe, so it can easily be doubled. If you prefer round scones, dump your sticky dough onto a generous pile of flour, dust top with flour too, and pat flat before cutting with a biscuit cutter, or glass, or what have you.

Cook's Word: I love the buttery taste of these and the combination of dark chocolate and figs! They are crisp on the outside and moist inside. They re-heat nicely in a toaster oven to give the same freshly-baked texture. For endless variety, omit the chocolate and figs and add any combination of dried fruit, spices, or melty candy that suits your fancy!

All in a Day's Cooking

I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon cooking up a storm. I only wished I could've cooked up some rain to go with it!

It started with a 50 cent pack of frozen okra at the discount grocers. Okra. I think "gumbo." Oh, and I have those two potlucks this weekend to contribute something to. Whey from making (failed) yogurt last week. Potato flakes we've had in the cupboard for far too long. Potato bread. And while the oven is hot, I might as well whip up a batch of scones . . . Do I really wonder WHY I'm tired after a meal?!

The potato bread turned out lovely, moist and delicious with a little butter on it. I made two plain round loaves, and two garlic-rosemary free-form "baguettes" for the two potlucks. I also had to do a miniature of each variety for us to try while it was hot and fresh. I didn't use enough garlic powder or rosemary. I'll have to play with it some more before posting a recipe.

The okra gumbo came from allrecipes.com. I basically followed this recipe minus the file powder since I didn't have any, and plus a dash of ginger. I also only used half the amount of mushrooms it called for since I might want some of them for pizza later. I found it a bit on the salty side, and I don't mean expensive! The okra only cost 25 cents, after all, and the canned tomatoes were a gift from the new neighbors. =) We ate it over brown rice.

Then there were the Chocolate & Fig Scones. All I can say is, "yummy, yummy!" I meant to take a picture of them after they were baked, but I didn't have the memory card in. By the time I realized my mistake, the last one was in my tummy. Deliciously buttery and dark-chocolate-y. I may have to post the recipe . . .

Bon Apetit!

08 July 2009


Remember the Garden Lavender Pound Cake? One was for "the new neighbors who live down the lane." Well, we did go and give it to them. They invited us in to chat and we ended up talking about this giant berry patch in a local city park. We all agreed that it would be great fun to go together, so Monday night we piled into their van and headed across town. Turns out the patch was LOADED with berries--most of them not quite ripe. We did get about five cups though.

We thought they were raspberries, but the flavor was more tart and they had a slightly sticky residue. Turns out they're wineberries, which my husband found out from his wild foods-fanatic co-worker the next day. So, what to do with all those berries? Well, this IS a post on a food blog, so you might have guessed I baked something with them (what was left after we kept stuffing our faces, that is). And you're right. I baked. Tarts. 16 muffin-sized tarts.

I found this recipe for raspberry pie and went from there. I started with a basic pie crust recipe, cutting circles to fit into a muffin cup. Turns out my metal two-cup measure was perfect for the job! I brushed the insides with egg and baked for three minutes (430F).

After the shells had pre-baked I filled the tarts with the adapted pie mixture:

(all measures approximate)
3 1/2 cups berries
1/2 cup brown sugar, loosely packed
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
2 TBSP butter, cut into dry ingredients
1 tsp. vanilla

I baked them for about thirty minutes (10 at 430F, then another 20 at 400F, or something like that). They came out pretty and pretty juicy. The filling bubbled up and down around the bottoms, which made them sticky too. I was glad I had generously greased the muffin tins! But the flavor was good. Not too sweet.

We got to sample them fresh out of the oven, and the rest stayed for company the next night. We added a dollop of vanilla ice-cream the second time around. Delish!

Cook's Word: I think I'd either add more cornstarch or reduce amount of berries next time as they were fairly juicy. If I had a tart pan, these would be adorable as a one-bite experience. But with the size and texture of these, they had to be eaten on a plate with a fork.

02 July 2009


Too much fun! Bagels have become one of those things that we just buy and never think about making at home. While many recipes are involved and complicated, my sister found one that you can whip out in an afternoon (or morning). I won't post the recipe here, just a link to the original. I added some whole wheat flour, of course, and dipped mine in sesame seeds just before baking. I also made 12 instead of 8 bagels, and found that they didn't need to bake 10 minutes on each side. I'll try 6 or 7 minutes per side next time.

The dough gets formed into little balls that rest.
Mine rested a l---o---n---g time because I had
two other projects going on at the same time.

After it rests 20 minutes, the dough gets shaped
into bagels which rest again another 10 - 20 minutes.

The bagels are boiled before being baked. It
was surprisingly easy and not messy (though boiling
did make them a little sticky). I coated them with
sesame seeds prior to baking. Turned out really great!

I had to run out for some neufchatel cheese
so we could eat them hot and fresh that night!

Garden Lavender Pound Cake

The lavender is in bloom in my little corner herb garden. Or it was until I snipped off all the flowers for a cake. In Turkey I had made this cake for the first time, and I knew the recipe was in one of my journals. Somewhere. After about twenty-some pages of heart-stopping drama, there it was: "Garden Lavender Pound Cake: BH&G, April 2004". What was scrawled across a whole 8 1/2 X 11-sized page has since been condensed to a single recipe card. Which is much easier to locate upon demand.

Garden Lavender Pound Cake
(Better Homes & Gardens, April 2004; narrative is mine)

4 eggs
1 c. butter
3/4 c. yogurt
1 c. sugar
1 - 2 TBSP dried lavender flowers*
2 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 TBSP vanilla
1 tsp. lemon zest

Let eggs, butter, and yogurt sit out to reach room temperature. In the meantime, grind lavender flowers into 1/2 cup of the sugar. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl. In another bowl cream butter, lavender sugar, remaining sugar, and vanilla.

Add eggs--one at a time--beating between each. Alternately add sifted dry ingredients and yogurt to the batter. It will be thick! Fold in lemon zest. Grease and flour your baking pans (2 8X4 or one bundt). Bake at 325F for 45 minutes, testing near center for done-ness. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, and then removed from pan and cool completely.

This cake stands well on its own, or can be glazed with the following:

1 c. powdered sugar
1 TBSP melted butter
3 - 4 tsp. lemon juice

Mix and drizzle over warm cake, letting it drip down the sides.


I ended up making three small cakes (3 1/2 by 6 in.) from a half-recipe: "one for my master (and myself), one for my dames (women's group) and one for the new neighbors who live down the lane." The one pictured above was garnished especially for my dames, only one of whom showed up. Somehow we still managed to polish it off between just the two of us. It went down quite nicely with a half-pot of decaf coffee. Cook's word.

* Be careful to only use lavender that has not been treated with pesticides or other chemicals. And don't use too many flowers, as they can give a perfume-y or soapy taste.

01 July 2009

Pizza Night

Somehow, I always think pizza will a fast supper. You only have to let the dough raise 20 minutes! It seems I forget about all the rolling, cutting, chopping, spreading, and baking that's involved. In any case, it's a delicious--if not quick--supper.

This week I made what I think is my favorite pizza to-date: goat's cheese with fresh basil and a little parmesean.

My taste-tester preferred this variety with sauteed summer squash slices, chopped green pepper and mozzarella cheese. I also mixed some BBQ sauce in with the pizza sauce which adds a nice flavor.

I also made some minty tabouli for added greens. I actually think I overdid it on the mint, but we gobbled it up anyway!

And just because it makes us happy . . .

our first garden produce! I don't really like eating little tomatoes, but it's so wonderful so see a small plant grow and flower and develop something edible!