14 December 2012


Pogaca are little cheese/herb-filled Turkish pastries that I got a sudden hankering for last week.  My sister-in-law has never been afraid of making Turkish foods that she loves, so I was inspired to try these even though I'd never made nor seen them made before.  

First off, we must work on our pronunciation.  It might be tempting to look at "pogaca" and want to say "po-gak-a".  Um, no.  I apologize for not having Turkish characters (or not knowing how to access them), but the "g" should have a curl on its head (making it silent, drawing out the preceding vowel) and the "c" really needs it's tail (making it a "ch" sound).  Thus, we say "poh-ach-a" with a kind of dip in the voice after the "o".  All right, then.  Practice makes . . . good enough.

I found a great recipe online that yields a dough with a kind of flakiness.  It was very easy to work with and the pogaca were delicious--cold or re-heated--several days following.  The only changes I made to the recipe were to make a 1/2 batch (which I made into 20 pastries) and to use a mixture of feta and cottage cheese rather than all feta to make the inside a little creamier.  I think next time I would even go 1/2 and 1/2 on the cheeses; I would also make a 1/4 batch and do something like 15 pastries to get more of a two-bite size rather than a four-bite. 

I shaped mine by taking the ball of dough in both hands, sticking my thumbs in the center and turning it as if making a vase or cup on a pottery wheel.  You don't have to kick your foot as you do this, though.  Once I had the "walls" of the dough thin enough I put about a TBSP of filling in, pinched it shut, then turned it over and smoothed it back into a ball shape. 

As the recipe says, there is no need to pre-heat the oven (fun!), but I would recommend checking on them after about 25 minutes to see if they're browned to your liking.  I thought 35 minutes got them a little too dark for my taste.

If you're looking for an easy, fun pastry project that tastes delicious and keeps well, try making pogaca!  Did you remember to say "poh-ach-a"?

13 December 2012

Easy, Easy Truffles

So I'm the dummy who can't figure out how to melt chocolate for dipping without scorching it in the microwave (I think I'll just use the stove next time).  BUT, I'm also the genius who turned all that slightly scorched chocolate into yummy, smooth truffles!

I found this recipe for almond truffles (requirement being "uses evaporated milk instead of heavy cream"), but I'll re-write it here since I made enough minor alterations . . . 

Almond (or any flavor) Truffles
yield: about 24 1-inch candies

1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 tsp almond, vanilla--or any--flavoring (amount is for extract--proceed with  caution if you are using oils, adding just a little at a time)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup coating of choice (nuts, sugar, cocoa powder, etc.)

Method: Bring evaporated milk and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan on the stove.  Once it boils cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth.  Add flavoring and salt and stir again.  Refrigerate for a few hours until hard enough to mold.  Roll into one-inch balls and coat with cocoa powder, powdered sugar, toasted and crushed nuts, etc. to match the flavor of the truffles.  Enjoy!

My Hot Cocoa

Mmmmm . . . what could be better than a snowy day at home with a cup of hot cocoa and a good book?  Now, if only it would snow and the baby would sleep long enough for me to grab that book!  Well, at least I can have the hot cocoa any time I want.

In searching for recipes, I realized that most of them include coffee creamer.  Huh?  Doesn't hot cocoa already have powdered milk?  In order to avoid the creamer (which has way too many un-pronouncable ingredients), I had to come up with my own recipe.  I decided to use malted milk powder to add some depth of flavor (possibly missing if I didn't use the creamer) since I already had some on hand.  Once it's gone, I might try making the mix without too, just to see if it's still yummy.

But in case you need some hot cocoa today, here's my first recipe:

Anita's Hot Cocoa Mix
yield: 4 cups of mix (16 servings)

2 cups powdered milk
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup malted milk powder (plain, not chocolate)
1 tsp salt 

Mix together and store in an airtight container for as long as it will last!  I usually do half of the ingredients at a time in my food processor, so that any lumps are worked out nicely.  Then I stir it all together in a bowl.  Use 1/4 cup mix to 8-10 ounces of hot water (or add a little milk in place of some of the water to make it even creamier!).

Notesseems like maybe you could just use granulated sugar and skip the powdered sugar, but I haven't tried that yet.  The extra starch in the powdered sugar may add to the texture in a good way.  Also, I'm sure chocolate malted milk powder would be delicious too, though that's not what's in my cupboard.  Also, if you're not put off by coffee creamers, you could have lots of fun with different flavors (just use creamer in place of the malted milk powder).

Festive Cookies

Want some festive, colorful cookies for Christmas but can't stand the idea of all that icing (and the inevitable mess that goes with it)?  Not that I have anything against icing, really.  It's just that I've got extremely limited counter space, and all of it accessible to a 15-month-old-stool-pushing-and-climing-onto toddler.  Yeah.  Add icing to that mix.  

Instead, to get my holiday color/sparkle fix I mixed up a batch of plain old snickerdoodle dough (I love snickerdoodles!) and rolled the balls in colored sugar instead of white sugar.  How simple is that?  I'm sure about a million other people have already done this, but in case you hadn't thought of it yet, either . . . 

red:  this comes out looking pink when done, but still pretty


I like the green!  Reminds me of St. Pat's Day too!


So here's to your sticky-free but still colorful and bright Christmas (if you choose to go this route)!  If not, well I guess I still hope you have a colorful and bright Christmas too.

29 November 2012

Venison Steaks with Mushrooms

Another successful hunt and another traditional venison tenderloin dinner.  This is probably the one time a year I actually cook steaks.  In fact, I didn't even save more than the 6 slices of tenderloin for this dinner because last year I ended up chunking all of it to cook in stews or curries anyway.  

But I really liked how this recipe turned out, so I might save a few more steaks if my man gets a doe too.  

As I remember it:

Venison Steaks with Mushroom Sauce
3-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are!

6 venison tenderloin steaks
garlic, salt, and pepper for rubbing

2 TBSP butter

1/2 onion, sliced
1-2 cups sliced mushrooms (I had baby bellas)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup broth (I just had vegetarian bullion on hand)
1 TBSP worcestershire sauce
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar (this would be better with wine or sherry)
1 TBSP flour mixed smooth with a few tablespoons water
salt, pepper, ground rosemary to taste

Instructions:  Pound out your venison steaks to about 1/2-inch thick.  Rub on one side with minced garlic, salt and pepper.  Rub on other side with salt and pepper.  Set aside to marinate until ready to continue with the recipe.

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat and sear the steaks 1-2 minutes on each side until browned.  Remove from skillet and set aside.  In the same skillet sautee onions for a few minutes until beginning to turn translucent.  Add more butter if necessary.  Add mushrooms and garlic and continue to sautee over medium heat until the mushrooms are "wilted" (do you know what I mean?).  Add remaining ingredients to skillet and simmer until thickened.  Put steaks back in to the sauce and simmer, covered, a few minutes on each side until done to your liking.  Serve over potatoes or rice!

Cook's Word: when I first made the sauce, I didn't think to add flour for thickening, which is why it got added in later with water.  However, I think it would be just as well to sprinkle flour over the mushroom/onion saute and cook a minute or so before adding the other liquids.  I also simmered the steaks in the sauce longer than I would another time (about 1/2 hour) but they were nice and tender, so no harm done.  I did need to keep flipping them because the top would dry out.  I suppose I could have kept the pan covered and eliminated that problem.  Yeah, there are always improvements for next time.  We all liked the flavor very well, though.  This served four adults with medium appetites, so you might want to consider doing at least two steaks per person if you have BIG appetites!


A simple and delicious dish for any meal of the day, especially if you want quiche but don't feel like fooling with a crust (or the baking element in your oven just went out, which is what happened to me right before Thanksgiving!). Like quiche, you can fill your frittata with any combination of ingredients that suits your fancy: bacon and cheese; asparagus and ham; spinach; onions; potatoes. And so on. Once you have your fillings prepared (sauteed, cooked, wilted, fried, etc.) you pour your egg/cheese mixture over them in an oven-proof skillet and cook on the stove until the eggs are mostly set but still wet on top. Then transfer to the oven and broil until the top is lightly browned. That's it! 

For this frittata, I used sauteed spinach and onions and boiled potato slices. I mixed in some needing-to-be-used cream cheese with the eggs and then sprinkled feta on the top just before it went under the broiler. YUM! I was trying to conserve cookware, so I sauteed the spinach and onions right in the cast iron skillet that I cooked the frittata in. However, I think I would do them in a separate pan next time so that I could layer the frittata with the potatoes on the bottom of the pan, then spinach, then eggs poured over all. That way the potatoes could get crispy on the bottom instead of the spinach. Make sure there is some butter or oil under all that too, by the way! 

For this frittata, I used 6 eggs and a dash of milk, salt and pepper. It took longer to cook on the stove than I thought it should, but that may have been because I was using a cast iron skillet instead of a non-stick making it hard to lift the edges and let the eggs on top run down underneath to cook faster. 

Whatever your method, this is simpler and faster than quiche and just as tasty. As a main course, this fed two adults and a toddler with two slices left over. Enjoy experimenting!

06 November 2012

Apple Pie: Two Ways

About a month ago I got all these apples at an Amish farm about 1/2 hour from where we live. Some of them were delicious and we made applesauce with them. Then others were just plain . . . plain (this is not an Amish joke).  They were bland. And I've been thinking of ways to use them (I think there are actually about a dozen still left). One of my ideas was to use them for jazzed-up pies. 

The first pie (pictured on the right) was traditional, the way my husband makes them: sliced apples piled high, then dumped out and tossed with lemon juice, sugar, and cinnamon and dumped back in. Or something like that. He usually finishes his apple pies off with a crumb topping, but I had plenty of pastry dough so I double-crusted mine.  Spoiler: this turned out to be the better of the two pies.  If it ain't broke, right?

The second way was an experiment for peanut-butter apple pie. My idea was to simply make crumbs as for a peanut butter pudding pie (peanut butter mixed with powdered sugar) and layer that with the apple slices. Sounds good, right? It turned out okay. Which is to say the crumbs kinda just got wet, and the apples didn't seem to cook through as well as they did in the traditional pie. Was it too many vents (cute hearts though they be?) that let the steam out instead of trapping it to cook the apples? Who knows. But I think if I tried this another time, I would make some sort of creamy peanut butter sauce and just put it under the apples because--as my apple-pie-expert husband points out--when you eat apples with peanut butter it's normally just a smear of peanut butter on one side of the apple. At least that's how we do it around here. 

 Any other suggestions?

24 September 2012

Meze Plate

I had to go back a ways to find this.  All the way back to August 23.  It's not that I haven't been cooking, it's just that I've been doing too many other things I guess, like moving and traveling and celebrating my child's first birthday.  You know.  

So back in August I made some killer hummus.  No, I did not write down the recipe, but it had plenty of lemon juice and tahini and not too much garlic (my usual downfall).  I restrained myself and was very pleased with the result.  Unfortunately, I decided to serve it up with dollops of pesto and hot pepper paste which makes it look like a weird mask in the photo and really overpowered my hummus.  Ugh.  Live and learn.

I added some toasted homemade flatbread, colorful local carrots, cucumbers, a roasted squash salad and some marinated mushrooms for a quite satisfying lunch. 

I've also got a great idea for a fast healthy food restaurant.  Meze.  That's the Turkish word for appetizer.  Serve a great basic core of Mediterranean meze (flatbread with hummus, tabbouleh, baked goat cheese, olives, stuffed grape leaves, spanakopita, etc.) and add seasonal salads during the summer.  Customers pick a plate of 3-5 meze and it's a meal!  I would eat there.  As long as they didn't muss up the hummus.

13 August 2012


Well, I'm not entirely sure it was worth the time and effort, but I wanted to try out a collage sometime, and here it is!  (Don't look too close at the edges--Atticus is about to wake up, and I don't feel like going back into the project and changing it again!)

I made some peach yogurt pops last week to freeze in my cheap-o mini pop molds.  As you can see, I like to eat mine by scraping my teeth down the sides.  The yogurt melts slowly, allowing you plenty of time to enjoy the creamy fruity goodness as you take a break from washing dishes or sneak outside to satisfy a mid-afternoon food craving.  Who, me?

Once I'd worked my way down to about a 1/3 of pop's original size, I stashed it back in the freezer for someone else's afternoon craving.  It was well-enjoyed both times.

Really, these pops are just yogurt, peaches, a teensy bit of sugar, and vanilla.  So there's no harm in eating one for breakfast and no need to feel sneaky about eating one any other time of day!  Plus, mine are small.

Yogurt Fruit Pops

Equal amounts:
fresh or frozen fruit

sugar to taste
dash of vanilla or other complimentary flavoring

Do it!  Whiz all together in a blender and pour into molds.  If you don't have popsicle molds, just use a cup or small yogurt container, cover with foil, and put a popsicle stick in it.  Freeze and enjoy!

10 August 2012

Grits: Take 1 & 2

Nothing makes me feel so southern as making a bowl of hot, buttery, cheesy grits for breakfast (except maybe frying green tomatoes!).  A little fresh-ground black pepper on top, and you need nothing more.

When we'd eaten all we wanted--baby LOVED the grits!--I put the leftovers in a small loaf pan and into the fridge.  The next morning I sliced the grit loaf up as you would for fried cornmeal mush and fried it gently in a skillet with some butter.  Topped with homemade syrup or fruit sauce, we enjoyed it as much the second day as we did the first.

Grits: Take 1 & 2.  Simple.

09 August 2012

Hot, Blistered Corn on the Cob!

Have you maxed out your corn on the cob eating capacity for the summer yet?  Well, I was getting there.  We had eaten it fresh a few times, processed two big batches for the freezer (I'm not even sure how much corn I ate while cutting it off the cob!), and had about a dozen ears in the fridge, cooked and ready to eat.  If we could.

Something had to get me re-energized.

How 'bout a bottle of sweet chili sauce?  

In Israel, where they apparently don't grow sweet corn, a little sweet, spicy chili sauce and a few minutes on the grill made even field corn-like stuff go down yummly.

I had to try it.

Here's what you do:  Take cooked corn on the cob, slather with sweet chili sauce (like this--I had a homemade concoction I put up last year), and place it on a cookie sheet under the broiler of your oven until nice and blistery, turning as needed.  

Yep.  That's it!  Of course, if you have the grill all fired up you might as well throw them on that.  But the broiler works just as well.

Watch out lips!!!!  Wowza, I made some hot chili sauce last summer!  It gets all caramelized and gooey as it heats and just sticks to the lips--you know with corn on the cob it's hard to avoid lip-to-food contact.  But yum, yum!  Even my taste-tester (who normally doesn't offer up feedback) volunteered, "this is really good."  He liked it cold the next day too.

So if you're getting a little tired of corn already, try this to spice it up a bit.  Or a lot. 

01 August 2012

Peaches & [S]cream

The morning started innocently enough.  Baby slept through the night [insert lots of "!" here], something I've been complaining about the last week.  So I awoke at 7:00, blissfully went back to sleep, and woke again at 8:00.  Diaper change, nurse.  

I knew David had been up awhile already so I told him I'd make pancakes and bring some to him in his office when they were ready.  Little A was happily entertaining himself with toys, the Bumbo seat tray, etc.  I began mixing up the pancakes from a recipe out of the "Luarel's Kitchen" cookbook.  As I was getting ready to add some sweet cream buttermilk powder to my other dry ingredients (I know this, because later I found the cup measure with buttermilk powder still in it sitting on top of the other ingredients in the mixing bowl) I heard a loud thud and scream.  

This is not the sound a mother wants to hear when she's had her back to her child for the last 10 minutes.  

I whipped around as I heard David also bounding down the steps.  In a moment I saw what had happened.  My son was sitting on the floor by the cookbook shelf with the object below lying next to his foot:

OUCH!  OUCH!  and OUCH!    Oh, my poor boy!  He was scrEAMing!  And rightfully so; I weighed the iron later at 6.5 pounds.  It fell on his left big toe, scraping a good bit of skin off and doing who knows what to his toe bone. Well, needless to say, pancakes were hastily abandoned as we phoned Dr. Grandpa and scrambled to gather gauze, children's acetaminophen, and ice for the ride over.  One of us had to hold Little A the whole time to keep him from grabbing/kicking his hurt toe.

We arrived at Grandma and Grandpa's still screaming and uncertain about what the rest of our day might look like.  Well, triage nurse Grandma and Dr. Grandpa quickly assessed the toe, bandaged it, and supplied animal crackers while I nursed to keep him as still as possible.  All in all, he seemed to recover well, especially when Grandpa got some of that acetaminophen down his throat.  

About an hour after the "thud" we were home with instructions to leave the bandage in place as long as possible and administer acetaminophen as needed for pain.  Little A got another diaper change and some more milk and went down for a nap.  David returned to his office upstairs.

And me?  

Well, it was back to the pancakes.  We all needed a little treat to help recover.  I finished mixing up the batter, adding a little extra flour to make it less runny.  While the first few pancakes sizzled in the skillet I thawed some peaches and threw some sugar/cornstarch/water mix on the stove to heat. Once thawed, the peaches were dumped in along with a little drizzle of almond flavoring.  And a few hours after they were promised, I had a stack of pancakes ready to take to David . . . 

And of course, one BIG one (the stack was just too messy to do twice) for me.  Little A, who loves pancakes and fruit got some for an early lunch when he woke up.  And now you know why this blog post title is "Peaches and [S]cream".  Here's to a hopefully uneventful rest of the day.

Fruit Sauce for Pancakes:

1 cup fresh or frozen peach slices (or any other fruit)
1 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP cornstarch
1/3 cup cold water
drizzle of almond or vanilla flavoring

Thaw peaches if frozen.  Dissolve sugar and cornstarch in water and set on stove over med-high heat.  When peaches are thawed add to mix along with flavoring.  Stir occasionally, and let bubble until the juices are clear.  Remove from heat.

18 July 2012

Summer Cucumbers

Well, it's the time of year that, no matter how sparse your garden looked a month or two ago, you find yourself SWAMPED with some produce or other and looking for creative new ways to use it.  A few weeks ago, I made a quart and pint of refrigerator pickles from this recipe.  I forgot to harvest and add dill the first time through.  But the fun of doing pickles like this is you just keep adding more stuff (new cucumber slices, extra seasoning, etc.) to the brine and just keep on eating!  I think the flavor improves with time.

With pickles in the fridge and lots of cucumbers still to use (and more growing in the garden!), I made a goal to eat some cucumber at every meal.  This primarily took the form of a sweet-n-tangy cucumber/onion/mayo salad, but when we got tired of that I had to move on (and yes, we had raita once or twice too!).

Last night I tried another take on the cucumber, one that Asian cuisine is probably more familiar with than my native Menno-Americo-Germanic food culture.  I had a few pretty old cukes still sitting in the fridge that had gotten partially frozen (from the top shelf of the fridge being a little too cold).  While they might not make great pickles and definitely wouldn't be good for fresh eating, I thought they might do okay in something cooked.  Enter stir-fry cucumbers.  

Before cooking anything, I peeled and sliced cucumber halves which I salted and let sit to drain.  After it had sat awhile, I wrung the slices in a towel to get as much moisture out as possible.  In the meantime,  I made a cheater's spinach kimchi (cheating because it didn't ferment at all and had no cabbage in it) and prepped the other ingredients I wanted for my cucumber saute.  

I started cooking the dish by pan-scrambling a few eggs which I removed from the pan to add back in later.  In the hot skillet, I quickly seared my red pepper and onion chunks with some smashed garlic in a little oil.  When they started looking tender, I added the cucumbers and a soy-ginger-rice vinegar-chili kinda sauce I'd mixed up.  I didn't want the cucumbers to get mushy, so I really did not cook it very long once I'd added them.  I pulled the skillet from the stove then added the scrambled eggs back in along with some fresh-chopped cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.  We ate it over rice noodles with my spinach kimchi on the side.

Now.  The low-down.  While the flavor of the saute was good, the flavor of the cucumbers in it was not.  They were bitter, and I should have checked them out before cooking them.  On the other hand, there were so many other flavors happening, that it was still possible to enjoy the dish overall.  I think I would make it again with fresh, sweet cukes.  And I'm not sure I would use soy sauce again as it made the whole dish a rather unattractive brown.  Well, here's to experimentation!  

Got any stellar cucumber recipes to share?  We'll take 'em!

29 June 2012

Ginger Peach Slushie

Well, they didn't turn out quite as well as I had hoped. How's that for an opening line? [pause while I watch a youtube video about how to replace my left shift key] So, it didn't turn out specatularly, but the slushie was a pretty color and refreshing.  And when temps top 90+ that counts for something.  I started by making a ginger brew on the stove, which I sweetened a little, cooled with ice, then dumped into the blender (ginger chunks and all!) with a good dose of frozen peach slices, more ice, and water to make it blend.  Which is what made it bland. 

I think another time I would use a mild fruit juice (apple, for example) to loosen it up as it blends instead of water.  Not a bad first attempt, but has room to improve for sure!

19 June 2012

Asian Meatballs

We've gotten into quite a routine with the Vietnamese noodle bowls this spring--almost summer! With lettuce and fresh herbs from the garden, it's hard to resist making this once a week (and nobody's complaining about that!). Only problem is, I've run out of the chunk venison and pork tenderloin that were perfect for marinating and pan-frying for the top of the salad. What I still have tons of in the freezer is ground venison. 

Enter: Asian Meatballs! I thought just seasoning and frying ground meat would be a little weird for this dish, but a nicely defined meatball? Could work. I found a recipe and dove in. 


I modified the recipe a bit, but not enough to really post a new recipe. I used green onion instead of regular onion. I added a dash of sesame oil. I used pepper paste instead of pepper flakes. That sort of thing. The smell was heavenly. And the meatballs worked out pretty well with the noodle bowl too. 

Our only complaint: they were a bit too big to maneuver easily with the chopsticks. Remedy? I made the rest of the batch into mini-meatballs which were frozen raw on a baking sheet then put into a container for future use. Whenever I make noodle bowls, I'll just bake the meatballs at about 375F for 10-15 minutes and be ready to go! 

Aren't they adorable?

30 May 2012

Pupusa Journey

Pupusa: a fried cheese-stuffed corn meal patty with red tomato-y salsa (salsa roja) and vinegar-y cabbage and carrot slaw (curtido).  Origen: El Salvador.  Currently unavailable in the region I live in.

Except in my own kitchen.

(you'll see even more of these kinds of posts [noodle bowl, jiaozi, etc.] as I learn how to re-create some of my favorite foods that I can't buy where I now live)

No recipes today.  I'm still working out my technique.  Looking at the picture above, my mouth is literally watering.  The darkened flecks, the cheese oozing out the sides, the mound of pupusas waiting to be devoured . . . it all looks right.  But it's not quite.  My pupusas are too thick, and when your masa-to-cheese ratio is skewed, it just ain't right. You want them (well, I want them) to be thin enough that when you wrap up your salsa roja and curtido (see below) the thing bends delicately.  Mine tend to crack.  Well, learning to make pupusas by myself in the wilds of Pennsylvania was bound to be a journey.  And thanks to a recent trip to Virginia to re-stock my Maseca, the journey will continue.

21 May 2012

Vietnamese Noodle Bowl

So I used to work at this great cafe that made all sorts of yummy food from fresh, local ingredients, and my favorite was the noodle bowl.  Rice noodles layered with lettuce, herbs, carrots, and chicken and soaked with a sweet/sour/tart/pungent sauce.  YUM.  YUM.  I crave it.

Then I found a Vietnamese restaurant that made a killer noodle bowl (they should, right?) in a deeper bowl with smaller noodles, more finely chopped ingredients and marinated beef.  Oh wow.  I LOVED it!  

Well, too bad that the Vietnamese restaurant closed and I moved away from that town anyhow.  Sigh.  Here in central PA not so much Vietnamese food unless I want to drive an hour.  

As with the Chinese food, it's time to make my own.

Of course, I did what I always do and scoured the internet for recipes then made my own version of a noodle bowl with what I had on hand.  It turned out AWESOME!

Here's what you do:

1. Make the sauce (Nuoc Cham or Nuoc Mam): lime, water, sugar, fish sauce, garlic and a leeetle bit of sriracha

2. Cook the rice noodles, drain & rinse (you end up eating this at room temperature).

3. Cook any meat you want (I marinated some chopped pork tenderloin in a ginger/garlic/soy marinade and pan fried it)

4. Chop, slice, shred, crush, etc. the other ingredients and start layering:

    Lettuce (shredded--I think bok choy would be nice too)
    Cilantro, Mint (and Basil if available!)
    Carrots (shredded)
    Cucumber (shredded)
    Green Onion (sliced--I forgot to add it, and I could tell it wasn't the same!)
    Nuts (I used toasted sesame seed, but peanuts or cashews would be     
          yummy too!)
    Nuoc Cham  (I used this recipe and added sriracha and garlic)

I'm going to make this again sometime this week using marinated venison on top.  And I won't forget the green onions!  Let me know if you try making it and what you think.

08 May 2012

Bl[h]u[e]barb Pie

When we were in Virginia a few weeks ago I hastily harvested all the rhubarb I could get off our plants there.  I brought it back to Pennsylvania and stashed it in the fridge where it waited.  Waited.  Waited . . .   (It seems like this is a pretty common story on this blog--I somehow procure a special ingredient, then have to mull over how to use it for a week or so until the fear of it finally rotting away in the fridge catapults me into action).  

So, where were we?  Ah--waiting rhubarb.  So patient.  I finally started going through my favorite sources to find a good rhubarb recipe that would do justice to my (our) hopes that were about three years in the making--dreaming about, talking about, finding, planting, re-planting, waiting out the first season, and finally harvesting rhubarb!  When it comes to pies or cakes or cookies, I always check out my Mennonite cookbooks first.  I wasn't too inspired by the cooked fillings and the cliche strawberry-rhubarb combination.  Next stop--Allrecipes.com where I came across this.  I LOVE simple recipes that allow the main ingredients to "sing" as the author of the recipe says.  

After reading the reviews I decided to make a few changes.  And of course, I had to be short on one ingredient:  rhubarb.  The recipe calls for four cups, chopped, and I only came up with three.  Which is how it came to be Bl[h]u[e]barb pie.  Read on.

Bl[h]u[e]barb Pie (or Berry Berry Rhubarb)

Crust for 9-in. pie top and bottom (if you use a little lard---wowza!)
3 cups rhubarb, diced
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup sugar
6 TBSP all-purpose flour

Instructions:  Make your crust, roll out the bottom, place in pan, and let sit in the refrigerator while you chop the rhubarb.  Place an oven rack to the bottom-most position in the oven and preheat the oven to 450F, then go ahead and chop that rhubarb!  I actually diced it so the pieces were about the same size as a large blueberry.  Next, mix together the sugar and flour and scatter about a 1/4 cup onto the bottom pie crust.  Fill with your diced rhubarb and berries, spreading the berries evenly throughout.  Sprinkle the remaining sugar/flour mix over the fruit and top with another crust, cutting a vent (I made a curly "C" for our last name in case you were wondering what that design was on the opening picture).  Bake at 450F for 15 minutes then reduce heat to 350F and bake an additional 45 - 50 minutes or until crust is browned to your liking.

Cook's word(s):  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  YUM.  First, the smidgen of lard I put in the crust must have done something miraculous because it was tender, flaky, etc., etc. every word that describes a delectable crust.  Next, the flavor was excellent--the blueberries added a sweet little twist, but there was also no mistaking the rhubarb.  And, finally the texture.  One of my complaints about fruit pies is how they ooze and puddle when you slice them.  Not so with this pie.  The flour must cook in to the juices so that when it cools to holds up under pressure, so that each slice is a nice, distinct even piece of the pie.  That's my girl.  A simple recipe, a seconds-worthy result.  What are you waiting for?  Don't think you have to use blueberries either because I bet this would be equally tasty with a cup of almost any berry: sliced strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, or a combination (which is why I had the alternative name Berry Berry Rhubarb).  Go get cookin'!

29 April 2012


I was pretty excited one night to try out the Chinese place in town. Let me explain. 

We just moved to rural Pennsylvania where eatery options within a 10-mile radius include a few fast food joints, some pizza places, and a couple of diners. So a typical Chinese food establishment--while not generally my first choice--provided the tantalizing dream of some ethnic eating. Too bad it was just a dream. The place was filthy, the food smelled . . . somehow "off", and it made me sick later in the evening. Hmmmmmm. Rather disappointing (plus, they didn't give us any of those delightfully slightly stale fortune cookies that you usually get with Chinese takeout). Good-bye dream of the occasional break from cooking to eat some hot, saucy, delicious Americanized Chinese food! 

Hello making my own. 

The first time I made Chinese dumplings (jiaozi) was when I was in college. Somehow, I got invited along with my sister and brother-in-law to make jiaozi with a group of visiting Chinese professors for the Chinese new year. I remember it was a lot of fun, the dumplings were delicious, and my sister and I even made them another time for our family. I was sure I could do it again. I found this recipe, and followed it pretty close, though I ended up with only 25 dumplings instead of 40 (I think I put more filling in each one that I was supposed to).   I kinda had fun figuring out how I liked to close them up.

To go with the dumplings, I made a spicy venison and vegetable stir-fry out of a cookbook called "Extending the Table" (which has an index that organizes recipes according to their country of origin--yay!), rice (duh!),  and a cabbage, carrot, cucumber salad with a ginger/lime dressing and toasted sesame seeds that I made up out of my own head.  The meal was delicious, MSG-free, and didn't make me sick!  The downside: I'm not sure a 1/2-day's labor counts as a break from cooking.  Guess I'll just have to order pizza when I don't feel like making dinner.

19 April 2012

Strawberry Cake

Remember back when I was sorting those five cases of 1/2-molded strawberries? Probably not. I sure remember it though. And I've got loads of crushed berries in the freezer waiting to be used.

I got out a bag the week before Easter to make this cake as an early birthday surprise for my mother-in-law. The recipe is one of the few I found that actually uses real strawberries instead of strawberry-flavored gelatin (and a cake mix!). It is moist and just lovely with a zesty lemon icing. Best eaten the day it's made or the following day. The one I pictured above is a 1/2 recipe baked in a 9-inch round pan. I would recommend waiting to put any sliced berries on top until just before you serve the cake. I did mine ahead and they bled a bit by the time we ate it. Still delicious, but not as pristine looking. =)

17 April 2012

Recipe Review: Parsnip Latkes

I found this interesting recipe for parsnip latkes on the Smitten Kitchen website a few weeks ago when I was looking for ways to use my impulse-buy bag of parsnips from the grocery store. While I enjoyed making them, they took a lot of work (hey, when you don't have a dishwasher, any recipe that calls for the use of a food processor is a lot of work!). And I didn't think the outcome was really worthy of it all.

It wasn't the flavor so much-- I enjoyed the parsnip perfuminess--but I found the texture a bit . . . limp. Maybe I didn't wring enough liquid out of the potatoes and parsnips. Maybe we didn't eat them soon enough. Maybe I didn't use enough/used too much oil. Who knows. The bottom line is I don't think I'd do it again (and I'll just avoid parsnips altogether until I find another interesting recipe to try).

Oh, I did dig that horseradish-dill sauce though!

Corn Chowder

A great dish for when you might be low on supplies and low on time. Luckily, we have plenty of sweet corn in our freezer right now, but I'm sure this would taste good with canned corn too. I'll leave off the amounts as I trust you experienced cooks can figure out how much is good for you!

Simple Corn Chowder

Onion, diced + a little butter for sauteing
Potatoes, diced (I like to use redskins and leave the jackets on)
Milk or half-&-half or cream
Salt/Pepper to taste

Yep, that's the whole ingredient list! I even resisted any urges to add garlic. =) Saute your onions in butter (or oil if you like) until nice and soft. Add potatoes, corn, and just enough water to cover. Cook until potatoes are done to your preferred softness. Add milk, etc. and salt/pepper to taste. How easy was that?! All of the following make excellent garnishes: shredded cheddar, chives, cilantro, or bacon.

Cook's Word: The first time I made this I had some half-&-half sitting around (not being used!). The half-&-half made the soup incredibly silky and delicious, but the flavor was still good with plain old 1% milk another time around. I think a bit of celery sauteed with the onion would be yummy too.

10 April 2012

The Bread Journey Concludes

Well, Lent is over. I think I had a 90% success rate with my chosen discipline of making bread each day. And I'm still in the frame of mind (two days out from Easter) of wondering what bread I should organize my dinner menu around. I did enjoy finding some recipes that I may just include in meals more regularly like chapati, tortillas, and the Greek Easter Bread pictured above (okay, maybe I'll just break out this tender, butter and egg bread once a year!). All in all, I think I really needed the daily reminder of God's goodness throughout what was an emotionally up and down Lenten season this year.

Some of the breads of the last two months . . .

Irish Soda Bread--appropriately as St. Patrick's Day on March 17 is smack in the middle of Lent. I made an Irish stew to go along with it for a family weekend in Virginia.

This was a "No-Time" bread (google that!) in which I substituted my remaining cocoa powder (so I wouldn't have to pack it). It was good, but I baked it waaaay too long, resulting in a burnt crust. Bummer!

French Bread (Corinna, you asked me what bread I was making one particular day--here it is!)

Mmmmmm . . . Ethiopian food! I got the injera recipe along with the recipes for beef wat [ahem, venison], lentil salad, and the vegetables from a cookbook called "Extending the Table". A truly delicious combination of flavors and fun to eat with our hands!

And an experiment: Vegan Peach Pancakes

I substituted a flax meal/water mix for the eggs, and put in peaches with juice in place of milk. They were a little soggy, but YUM! Of course, I had to non-vegan accessorize with real buttah and a glass of milk to wash it all down. Yes, all.

Easter Cookies (Ma'amoul)

I learned the make these pretty cookies from some Arab friends when I lived in Nazareth, Israel. They are made with a semolina dough and filled with date paste. Not too sweet themselves, the powdered sugar dusting makes them go down just a tad easier. I've been trying to make these every year around Easter (usually on Good Friday) as the shapes are symbolic for the season--a circle for the crown of thorns, a straight one for palm branches, and an open arc for the empty tomb. I think I made up the last one myself and the dough is so easy and fun to work with that it is open to all kinds of new interpretations. I use a recipe from Joan Nathan's "The Foods of Israel Today" which calls for semonlina and flour, but I will link to a similar recipe I found online (but have not used myself).

Each year I try to make them with friends rather than just by myself as that seems like the right thing to to with an Arab holiday recipe. The first time I made them was with my mom and sister. Another year, a group of friends came over to help. This year, I introduced the cookies to my mother-in-law. We only made a 1/2 recipe, but there was still plenty of time while rolling and shaping the cookies to talk and enjoy each other's company. I tried my hand at making Arabic coffee (strong coffee with cardamom) which we shared with our husbands along with some of the fresh-baked cookies. We both kept some for ourselves and a few to give to friends.

Let me know if you'd be interested in being on my invite list sometime!

28 March 2012

Bread in Between

So the season of Lent just happened to be when we decided to move three hours north of where we lived. And then go back to the old place two different times. The first was a short weekend, and I sorta cheated on the bread thing by getting a biscuit mix ("just add water!") because my cupboards looked like this:

Cooks word: Fresh = yum! Leftover the next morning = ugh!

The next trip south was for two weeks, so I went armed with flour (white and whole wheat), yeast, baking soda, baking powder, and sugar. Just in case I needed to make bread or something. However, I was still short on the kitchen gadget end of things. I had to borrow a can opener and grater from two different neighbors. Other things could be approximated like a cup for a biscuit cutter (my husband actually scoffs at the "need" for a biscuit cutter but, hey, it's my grandmother's vintage one!) or a smooth-sided canning jar for a rolling pin:

I ended up using this jar quite a bit and it turned out some lovely tortillas as well as this stack of pita: (I'm really into colons at the moment)

One of the funniest (and of course, un-photographed) genius ideas was a rigged up pancake spatula from a canning lid and wooden scraper. It fell apart in two seconds and after two grubby, mangled pancakes I had the brilliant insight to make miniature cakes my wooden scraper could flip smoothly. Did that make sense? Small scraper. Small pancakes.

While the challenge of living in a minimally-stocked kitchen was fun for a week or two, I'm glad to be heading back into my regular quarters with all my lovable familiar gadgetry. Ah!