Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dinner: Black Bean Chilaquile

The Black Bean Chilaquile is probably my favorite Moosewood Recipe ever. It's perfect when you want something healthy, light, and filling. It's consistently awesome every time I make it, and it's my fall-back recipe when I cook for my vegetarian friends, who always praise it.

Tonight I reached for this recipe because I wanted something light to eat on the eve of our Revolver 7 course New Year's Eve meal. And I wanted something that was easy because cooking with a migraine isn't fun. (I know there are foods that cause migraines but are there foods that cure migraines?)

Here's the recipe with of my additions:


1 cup chopped onion
1 T olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz)
1 1/2 fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 can black beans (15 oz, drained)
2 T fresh lime juice
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
dash of cayenne pepper
dash of cumin
dash of chili pepper
couple drops of hot sauce (Cholula is our fav)
2 cups chopped Swiss chard, spinach, or kale
2 cups tortilla chips, crushed
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar
2 cups salsa


Preheat oven to 350. Saute onion until translucent, 8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, corn, black beans, lime, salt, pepper, and spices and continue to cook until heated through, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute greens for 1-3 minutes.

Prepare an 8X8 casserole dish or baking pan with light coating of oil. Spread half of the crushed tortilla chips on the bottom. Spoon the sauteed veggies over the chips and sprinkle with about 2/3 of the grated cheese. Arrange greens over the cheese and spoon half of the salsa. Finish with the rest of the tortilla chips and top with the remaining salsa and cheese. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling and beginning to brown.

Note: This recipe is always better the next day.

The Christmas Meal

All the holiday cooking turned out perfectly.
The mashed potatoes were a hit as well as the salad and breakfast casserole. I absolutely adored the salad, and it motivated me to no longer be afraid of de-seeding a pomegranate.
The curried applesauce perfectly cut the saltiness of the ham and enhanced its porkiness. But it was a bit different so I'm not sure my family really enjoyed it. You have to really love curry to really love the curried applesauce.
Of course, like all holidays, I forgot my little cooler at my parents' and sadly left behind the extra applesauce and a qt of Calder's Milk. I hope they found some use for them.
It was nice to cook for my family and share a meal with them. I'm looking forward to the day when FD and I can host a holiday meal in our own home. That will be the ultimate holiday cooking adventure for me. Until then, I'm delighted to make the sides and enjoy the holiday cheer. And I vow to continue working on my holiday baking--another resolution to add to the list.
For New Year's Eve's meal we're heading to Revolver for our annual tradition. I can't wait!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Cooking: Day 2, Part 3

The last part of my holiday cooking is a salad.

It's in pieces right now, but I promise to take a pic of the final results.

I got the recipe from Bon Appetit's Dec. 2009 issue.

I picked up walnuts instead of hazelnuts, so we'll see how it goes.

Escarole and Butter Lettuce Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Walnuts

Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 Champagne dressing
1/4 c OJ
1 1/2 t fresh lemon juice
1 t fresh lime juice
1 t grated lemon peel
1 t grated lime peel
1 t grated orange peel
1/2 c olive oil

Combine vinegar and next 6 ingredients in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Salad Ingredients:
1 large head of escarole, coarsely torn
1 large head of butter lettuce, coarsely torn
1 Golden Russet apple, quartered, cored, thinly sliced
1 c fresh pomegranate seeds
2/3 c walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Salad Directions:
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat.

--I think this salad is going to be an easy one to travel with. I have the dressing done, the lettuce washed and spun-dried, the pom seeds separated and cleaned in their own little bowl, and walnuts all done in their bowl. I'll slice the apple and tear the lettuce at my family's right before we eat. Easy enough to do while the Crack Potatoes are baking.

Holiday Cooking: Day 2, Part 2

Crack Potatoes. A holiday must.

(Check out my December column in Connotation Press to learn more about my obsession with Crack Potatoes.)

And as much as I love Crack Potatoes, I love gravy. Because my family is doing a ham, we're sans gravy this year.

So to ensure creaminess and flavor without gravy, I put a twist on the traditional Crack Potatoes recipe with the help of Cook's Illustrated Entertaining Issue 2009.

What I love about Crack Potatoes is you can make them ahead-of-time and they're another easy-to-transport dish.

Ingredients for Topping:
4 slices white bread (I used Zingerman's Bakerhouse White)
2 T butter, melted
1/4 c fresh parsley
salt & pepper

Directions for Topping:

Heat over to 300. Quarter each piece of bread and then pulse in food processor to course crumbs. Toss crumbs with melted butter and spread on baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 20 minutes. Let crumbs cool, then toss with parsley, salt and pepper.

Ingredients for Potatoes:
5 lbs potatoes, peeled, sliced into 3/4 inch thick rounds, and rinse thoroughly. (I used a mix of our local French Fingerlings, All Red, and Carola potatoes.)
2 1/2 c 2% milk, warmed
1 c sour cream
8 T butter, melted
2 1/2 t Dijon mustard
1 med garlic clove, minced
pinch cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
8 oz extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Bring potatoes to boil over high heat, then reduce to simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile in a small saucepan melt butter over medium heat, then add milk and garlic. Stir until warm.

Drain potatoes in colander. In batches mash potatoes. (You can use a ricer, but this time I used my stand-mixer to save time.) Stir in milk mixture, sour cream, mustard, and cayenne pepper. Season with salt and pepper. (The potatoes may seem really "wet," but don't fret. Keep stirring; they will thicken.)

Pour potatoes into 13X9 baking dish. Sprinkle shredded cheese on top then breadcrumbs.

To cook immediately: Heat oven to 350, bake uncovered, until hot throughout, 25-30 minutes.

To make ahead (up to 2 days ahead): Wrap casserole in plastic. To cook, unwrap plastic and top with foil. Bake for 20 minutes at 350, covered. Remove foil, bake until topping is crisp, 20-30 minutes more.

--I'm dying to see how this Crack Potatoes recipe turns out. I'll keep you posted.

Holiday Cooking: Day 2, Part 1

Today's cooking is much better. Probably because I'm actually cooking and not attempting any desserts.

For Christmas morning, I made a breakfast casserole from the Cook's Country Oct/Nov 2009 issue.

I made it once before and felt it needed some revision. But I really liked it. And it's super easy to make. Even better, it's easy to transport if you travel to several houses over the holidays.

1 loaf Italian bread, cubed
1 lb pork sausage
1 med onion, diced
3 c shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
12 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 c 2% milk
1 T hot sauce


You can choose to bake the bread or not. If you do, toast in a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes. I've found my baking the bread it stands out more in the casserole.

Brown the sausage over medium heat with sage, salt, and pepper. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes.

Grease 9X13 baking dish. Coat bottom of dish with 1/2 of the bread cubes. Top with 1/2 the sausage mixture and 1 cup of cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, sausage, and cheese.

Whisk eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and hot sauce in a large bowl. Pour evenly over casserole. Wrap with plastic and weigh down with boxes of broth or 4 large tomato cans. Refrigerate 1-48 hours.

To bake, heat oven to 350. Remove weights, unwrap casserole, and bake until edges are golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Cooking: Truffles Part 2


Everyday Food
truffles aren't even worthy of taking a picture of.

Goddamn it, Martha Stewart. Why are your recipes so hit-or-miss? Maybe because you don't write them...

They started melting the minute I started rolling them.

I don't know why because they chilled for over 3 hours.

And I'm mad because these truffles taste better than the Weight Watchers ones, but why try to serve them when they look so gross with my fingerprints all over them and when they are misshapen from melting.

I'm tempted to give up on desserts, except for the Jell-O Stained Glass Cake.

Off to walk off my dessert frustration with Bleu.

Christmas Cooking: Truffles Part 1

I'm not much of a baker, so I thought I'd give truffles a whirl.

I found two recipes: one in the Best of Weight Watchers Magazine cookbook and one in Everyday Food.

I wanted to test them both because they have the same calorie count (55) per truffle. Many people don't worry about calories during the holiday season, but several of my family members are trying to lose weight and others have diabetes. I wanted to make a little something they could enjoy too.

I love the taste of the truffle, but I used too much cocoa powder to roll them in. If you don't eat the Weight Watcher truffle all in one bite, you first taste the bitter from the cocoa, which is a little off putting. Next time I think I'll only roll them in edible glitter. Roll and learn, right?

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 oz cream cheese
1/4 t champagne extract (or any extract you like)
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder


Microwave chocolate chips in a medium bowl on High until nearly melted. Stir until smooth. Let cool.

Add cream cheese and extract; with electric mixer on medium speed, beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and continue beating until smooth and thick. Shape mixture into a thin 12-inch log. Wrap well in plastic, and refrigerate until chilled through, at least 30 minutes.

Spread cocoa onto a sheet of wax paper. Slice the log into 24 pieces and roll each into a 3/4 inch ball. Roll balls in cocoa (or other topping) to evenly coat.

Storage: keep in an airtight container for a week or up to a month in the freezer.

Stay tuned for Part 2: The Everyday Food truffles.

Christmas Cooking: Day 1

I don't mind holiday cooking. Not one bit.

Maybe it's because I'm a young cook.

Or maybe it's because I simply like making people happy with food.

Or maybe I like the challenge of trying to use all local ingredients in the foods I make.

Or maybe I'm just plain crazy.

For whatever reason, I'm just glad I like it because it helps lift the burden for those who don't like holiday cooking.

Today I started with applesauce to accompany our ham. I tried a homemade unsweetened applesauce recipe that I'm quite happy with. It's from the Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier. I used Golden Russets from our local farmer, Homestead Gardens.

I'm quite happy with how the applesauce turned out. It's savory and smooth with a lot of flavor. I'm hoping that making it earlier and letting it sit will only enhance the flavor.

10 medium apples (any kind except Red Delicious or summer-harvested apples)
1 T water
1 t ground nutmeg
2 T local honey
zest of lime (sadly not local)
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t curry powder


Core and quarter apples. (You can leave the skins on if you are using a food processor to blend the sauce.) Place in a large saucepan with water and the nutmeg.

Cover the pot and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the apples are tender. Puree in a food processor to the desired consistency. Stir in honey, lime zest, ginger and curry.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ben's Table, Bowling Green, Ohio: Restaurant Review

Thankfully, it's the end of fall semester. Time to catch up with all my loved ones while there are NO essays to grade.

This past Saturday morning Bowling Green was graced by a blanket of snow. (I'm a snow person, so "graced" is the right word choice for me.) My friend Sarah and I were going to go to the Toledo's Farmers Market, but the roads weren't quite clean enough yet. So I suggested breakfast, and she suggested Ben's Table.

I'm happy to report it was the best breakfast I've had in BG--sans hangover.

Ben's Table is located on South Main and seats about 50 guests. Their menu is breakfast and lunch ONLY. A godsend for a place like BG where it seems lunch out never really is worth it.

As I said, though, I started with breakfast at Ben's Table. I ordered the spinach, bacon, and Monterey Jack cheese omelet with a side of Ben's potatoes. This 3-egg omelet was delicious without being greasy and filling without being overwhelming. And being that I am a sucker for potatoes, Ben's potatoes did not disappoint. I finished every last one.

What's really refreshing about Ben's Table is their interest in serving quality food. I found the eggs to be really tasty and fresh. The bacon was crunchy, flavorful, and not fatty. The spinach was perfectly wilted, and the red potatoes were absolutely delightful. It's reassuring to eat at a local joint whose motto is "Eat Local. Eat Healthy. Be Happy."

And I was so happy I bragged to FD about my breakfast, and we had to go there for lunch today--"to keep things fair."

Their homemade soups are just what I expected--delectable. I had the black bean and ham; it was wonderful. But I had horrible food envy for FD's turkey, bacon, tomato melt and french fries. Ahhhh, more potatoes. We both played it a little safe on our orders. I didn't want a big lunch, and FD didn't want to have beef twice in one day. (We're having burgers tonight.) If we had been more adventurous, FD would have ordered Grandma's Recipe, a meatloaf sandwich, and I would have ordered the Salmon burger.

No fear: we're back Tuesday for lunch. We can try different menu items then.

The service was friendly and the atmosphere is comfortable with live plants and warm colors.

Ben's Table is open Tuesday-Saturday 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m.-3 p.m., and closed Mondays. They offer carryout.
Ben's Table
1021 South Main Street
Bowling Green, OH 43402-4720
(419) 352-1060

Friday, December 18, 2009

Tis the Season of Potlucks

This week we had our office potluck.

I brought a new chili recipe that I found on epicurious. But I doctored it up quite a bit. See below for my take.

My co-workers went all out too; they made sausage won tons, homemade apple pie, better brushetta, and spinach dip. Plus we had a great assortment of fruit and veggies with hummus and other dipping sauces.

I was quite happy and full. A good time was had by all.

Here's the recipe for the chili with my revisions:

1/2 pound bacon, coarsely chopped
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 28-ounce can Italian-style tomatoes, tomatoes chopped, juices reserved
2 15 1/2-ounce cans black beans

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh hot chilies

3 T Cumin

2 T Chili Powder

pinch of cinnamon

1 bottle beer


Sauté bacon in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until brown, about 4 minutes. Drain off fat and discard. Add beef to pot and sauté,. with onion and garlic, until brown, breaking up clumps with back of spoon, about 7 minutes. Drain beef. Add tomatoes with juices, beans and spices. Bring chili to boil. Add beer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until thickened to desired consistency, stirring occasionally, about 3 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle chili into bowls. Serve, passing cheese, onions and sour cream separately.

(Make ahead: pour chili into crock pot. Refridgerate overnight. Reheat in crock pot for 3-4 hours on low.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dinner: Cider Braised Pork Shoulder with Mashed Taters and Flash Fried Kale

Rachel Zucker shared this recipe for Cider Braised Pork Shoulder when she visited BG this past fall.

I tried it once before, and it was tasty but--believe it or not--I over-braised the meat. I didn't check on it enough, and just let it cook for 3 hours. I should have taken it out at 2 1/4 hours. (Hence, why I never blogged about it, even though I should have.) Cook and learn, which I did.

This time was a different story. The caramelized onions were perfect. There was a bunch of juice at the end of the braising time, which made a fantastic sauce. (Add a 1/4 to 1/2 cup more cider than is called for.) I mashed the potatoes just right using my stand mixer rather than a ricer, and the kale just made the meal even more earthy.

Not to brag, but I kinda out-did myself tonight.

And there is enough meat for sandwiches and other concoctions all week long. God bless leftovers.

This is definitely how I'll cook pork shoulder and butt in the future. Thanks for sharing, Rachel!

I'm in Love with The Big Jerk

Last night FD and I ate at The Big Jerk, a late-night take-out/delivery ONLY joint, in Findlay, Ohio.

Upon going to bed last night, I dreamed I ate there three times in one day: at 4 p.m., at 9 p.m., and then again at 2 a.m.

It was one of the best dreams I've had in ages.

I'll be giving a full review of The Big Jerk in the January issue of Connotation Press, but until then let me share a few reasons to go there:

1.) The service is outstanding. They're funny, sassy, and helpful. My favorite combo.
2.) The Coconut Curry Chicken soup for $3.25. Yes, I said $3.25.
3.) The pulled pork Jerk Style sandwich for $5. (Did you know fast food could be so fresh, so tasty, and so cheap?)
4.) The ever awesome Debi and Michael Bulkowski run the show.

I'm still trying to convince them to deliver to BG. Until then, just go there and eat. It's so worth it, it's sick.

The Big Jerk
227 1/2 N. Main St.
Findlay, OH
Tues-Thurs 4-10 p.m.
Fri & Sat 4 p.m. - 3 a.m.

(Yes, I'm tempted to get a hotel room, go to Revolver for dinner, go to the bars for the night, and then go to The Big Jerk when the bars close. I can't think of a better night out...)

Not Exactly Food Related But Christmas Related

This past weekend FD and I had a Saturday of food adventures.

It began at Kermit's in BG where, at 9 a.m., I ordered a patty melt with fries.

Then it was a morning of work and dog walking before we hit I-75 to buy our live Christmas tree from the Christmas tree farm I call a pawpaw farm. Then we checked out a new restaurant in Findlay.

Regular readers may remember my PawPaw Adventure in September. As I promised Dave Reese, I returned to Kaleidoscope Farms this Christmas season to buy a live Christmas tree. Kaleidoscope Farms is a family owned and operated Christmas tree farm that has won the Ohio State Fair Grand Champion Christmas Tree in 2004 and the 2006 and 2009 Ohio State Fair People's Choice Award. The live nativity scene, horse drawn sleigh, and absolutely welcoming and kind customer service set Reese's farm apart from other live tree ventures.

From my own experience there, it was an honor to meet his sons and family and to introduce Dave to my husband. (It seems we'd both become legends to our families based on my previous blog post about the farm!) FD and I had a fantastic, fun time picking out our skinny, little Christmas tree. (We just don't have the space for a "big boy.") I think surprised everyone with our "skinny love," including other patrons who had collected glorious, full-bodied trees. Most importantly, we had an even more fun chatting with Dave's sons and daughters-in-law! Thank you, Reese family, for yet another wonderful visit! See you again soon!

(Bleu was only well-behaved for the photo. Otherwise he is consistently trying to eat branches and drink the tree's water.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dinner: A Disaster Saved

My family is furious that I eat tofu because that means FD eats tofu.

I think it's funny.

But interesting.

I like tofu because it's a mystery. What do you do with something that's so wet and bland, something that can take on the property of any flavor it marinades in? And it's a challenge for hardcore meat-eaters. I recognize the environmental impact we can have by eating vegetarian at least once a day. We love meat. We buy local meat. We buy grass-fed. But even our happy grazing cows, chicken, pigs, lamb, turkey, duck, and other animal friends need a break. And I can use a break from them too.

So, I tried this Tofu with Gingered Greens recipe from Moosewood. (Keep in mind I'm an animal advocate. In the most life-cycle of senses...It's the only website that had the original recipe.)

While I've had a lot of success with Moosewood recipes, several friends of mine haven't. I can see why. Seriously. I mean this in the most lovingly way, but a bunch of weed-smoking hippies creating vegetarian recipes? That sounds more like failure more than success, at least to me. High people will eat anything. Right?

From the moment I started this recipe it was a disaster. You know, the kind where your kitchen is smoking and you have the fire extinguisher in hand.

The downsides: I will never again broil tofu in its marinade. (WTF? The smoking pan is still outside on our driveway.) I just decided cilantro wasn't the herb to use. (Again, WTF?)

So here's my revision of Moosewood's Recipe:

Tofu Marinade:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 T brown sugar

1 15oz tofu cake--well drained

1/8 cup vegetable oil
2 t grated fresh ginger root
3 cups coarsely shredded bok choy, kale, Chinese cabbage, or Swiss chard (we used turnip greens and kale)
2 T fresh lemon
2 hot peppers, seeded and minced

In a small saucepan, bring the marinade indgredients to a boil. Simmer for 1 minute and remove from heat. Cut the block of tofu into 1/2 inch slices, then cut slices into 1 inch squares. Pour marinade over tofu and let set for 10 minutes.

Get basmati rice started.

Heat skillet to medium-high. Pour in oil. Add tofu. Fry for 10 minutes total or until browned. Put in plate and set aside.

Clean out pan while hot. Set back on stovetop. Pour in oil. Add ginger. Add greens. When greens start looking "bright" add hot peppers. Cook peppers until done and greens until wilted.

Stir tofu into greens until rewarmed.

Serve over rice.

(I thought it needed more of a sauce, but FD liked it as is. I thought it was okay. Like I said, it was a dinner disaster saved.)

While writing this post Dan put on the Oak Ridge Boys. He's very happy.


Graciously, I was invited to join FD's poetry workshop for their potluck last night.

It was an honor to join these five creative ladies and FD for some quality dindin.

We had baked beans, scalloped potatoes, artichoke dip, cabbage roll casserole, a veggie tray, and a homemade cheese ball.

While I adored everything the ladies shared, I can't stop craving the cheese ball, which, according to its maker, "is a secret family recipe with beef." I thought it was bacon, but beef makes it way more interesting. I'm hooked. I need the recipe.

Cheese: the key to my heart. (Along with kale and a Christmas list of other things...)

But if I was Santa I would want cheese and crackers. Seriously. It's cold out. Protein is needed. Cheese is the answer.

For the record, I refrained from having more than two plates. I didn't want my host and hostesses to think I was a professional eater, even though I probably could be.

Thanks for the hospitality, all!


It's 14 degrees outside.

I know because I have a dog.

And I know because there's no more local kale in my life.

Until my local farmers gave me one of the best Christmas presents ever: A bag of kale mix from their own stash.

Thank you, Santa and Homestead Farms, for making my dreams come true.

I'm saving it for the last day of classes--tomorrow night. Just going to flash sear in a pan with butter, olive oil, and lemon--my favorite way from Molly Wizenberg. And I'm going to savor it.

Or at least try to...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Buggy!

My niece turns 4 today!

These are the childhood years of enchanted cakes!

Enjoy, my Bugster!

A Bit Overdramatic But Sincere

I got this email from my local farmer yesterday:

"The deep freeze has hit us hard and the market growing season has been ended. The produce we now have to offer is in cool storage.

See next 2 pages for current produce and herb offerings. The weather is expected to be very unsettled with snow and ice possible, so delivery may be changed or delayed if conditions are bad.

Thank you for your business."

The end of the season is here. And while I love the snow, ice, and greyness of winter, I will miss my weekly veggie delivery--the potatoes, onions, lettuce mixes, radishes, cabbages, beets.

I will miss my kale.

A lot.

Sometimes I wish I lived in California.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Even More Kale

I'm hooked. On kale. It's bad.

This delicious kale soup recipe from my dear friend Lynn in West Virginia only perpetuates my kale craving.

Bean Soup With Kale

1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
8 large garlic cloves, crushed or minced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cups chopped raw kale
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 (15 ounce) cans white beans, such as cannellini or navy, undrained
2 (15 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dried Italian herb seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped parsley

In a large pot, heat olive oil. Add garlic and onion; saute until soft. Add kale and saute, stirring, until wilted. Add the broth, beans, tomato, herbs, spices, and salt and pepper. Simmer 20 minutes. Ladle into bowls; sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Dinner: Pasta & Kale

When the cupboards seem bare, there always seems to be pasta.

Generally we don't eat a lot of pasta. But being that we are trying to be even more conscious of our dining out and our food choices, I thought I'd give the good ol' carb a whirl.

I wanted something quick, easy, and without all that heavy tomato sauce. Of course, I reached for my tried and true Jamie Oliver cookbook Jamie's Dinners.

While the fettuccine was boiling I fried up prosciutto, set it aside, and then whipped up one of Jamie's quick sauces of minced garlic, parm, a squeeze of lemon, and olive oil. After I reserved a little of the pasta's water to stick the noodles and thicken the sauce, I drained the noodles, put them back in the warm stock pot, and incorporated the sauce and prosciutto. Easy enough.

The side dish was easy too. Lately, we've been addicted to kale. I can't get this Molly Wizenberg article our of my head, especially this passage, "She pulled out my largest skillet, put it on the stove, and slipped in some olive oil and a sliver of butter. While the pan warmed, she washed the kale, spun it dry, and gave it a coarse chop. Then she piled it into the hot pan, where it sputtered and crackled like popcorn." I wanted to hear that crackle, so I gave this technique a try. It's been my favorite way of cooking kale thus far.

A simple rustic dinner. Cheap yet tasty. Light yet filling. Quick yet thoughtful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

For Cooks Who Love Twilight

There is only one thing that rivals food in my life: Twilight.
These aprons perfectly combo the two into one.
Happy opening night of New Moon, Twi-hards!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cabbage Roll Crockpot

I've never really fan of cabbage. Until recently.

And I've never really been a fan of cabbage rolls. Until recently.

This dish is how I became a fan of both. My sister-in-law Tracie shared it with me last fall, and since then we're addicts for it, especially when the time comes that we can see our breath while walking Bleu Dog.

What I love most about this dish is we all the bitter and sweet from the cabbage and the tang of vinegar of a cabbage roll without all the messy rolling and the time to takes to roll.

Tra's Cabbage Roll Crockpot

The Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion
4 cups of chopped cabbage
1 green pepper, chopped
1 cup uncooked brown Minute rice
1 cup of water
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 can undrained diced tomatoes
1/2 c ketchup
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T sugar
1 T Worcester sauce
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/4 t garlic powder

(optional: a dash of cinnamon, fresh oregano or parsley, and/or grated nutmeg)

The How-To:
1.) Brown beef and onion in skillet and drain. Put in crockpot.
2.) Add cabbage, green pepper, and rice to crockpot.
3.) In bowl combine water and tomato paste. Pour into crockpot.
4.) Add remaining ingredients to crockpot.
5.) Stir until mixed.
6.) Cover and cook on Low for 3 hours.

To serve: Dish up into soup bowls. Or put onto mashed potatoes with a side of corn.
With the leftovers: Consider making a pot pie. I think I'm going to try this soon.
If there are even more leftovers: Freeze it.

Winter Wheat, Here We Come

This morning Sarah, Karen, and I are presenting a panel on food writing for the Winter Wheat Festival! Come on out and join us! We're talking about the literary elements of nonfiction, the sensory experience of food, and ways to consider publishing food writing.

If you do join us, please feel free to share your writing exercise in the comment box on my blog, Sarah's blog, or Babine's Facebook Notes.

Hope to see you there!

ps Thank you to all of our panel attendees for a fantastic morning discussion about food writing. And to my lovely fellow panelists: Sarah and Babs!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

DHS' Flaxseed Crusted Mushrooms

One of my very dear friends/colleagues invited me to try the flaxseed crusted mushrooms she had made last night and packed in her lunch today.

And I gladly accepted. I waited until her class started their in-class writing, and I went on down to taste these little goodies.

I'm running out to buy flaxseed today. On my lunch break.

All DHS did was dress some exotic mushrooms in olive oil, sprinkle crushed flaxseed over them and bake them. Who knew incredibly healthy veggies were so very tasty? And her olive oil and garlic green beans were just as crack-a-lious.

Thanks, DHS, for sharing your lunch with me. I do have to admit, though, I had a moment of "You know you're addicted to food when..." I walked in your class to eat your lunch.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Simple Little Dinner I'm Quite Proud Of

I don't just get comfort from "comfort food." All food comforts me. Cooking comforts me. And I embrace that, especially on days I can't (for more reasons than one) articulate the exact reasons why I'm sick and tired, achy, bitchy, pissy, whiney, exhausted, done-with-it-all, etc., etc.

Today was one of those days I came home from work and just needed to decompress with a counter-shark lab at my feet, a glass of wine (the best $6.99 wine I've ever had in my life!), some stellar recipes, and my LeCreuset.

Suddenly, all became right my own silent little-world-bubble.

Tonight I made Lamb Chops with Yogurt Sauce (Everyday Food), Lemony Shredded Brussels Spouts (Everyday Food), and Baked Carrots and Parsnips (Jamie Oliver--At this point can I cook a meal without using one of Jamie's recipes???).

I was quite pleased with how everything turned out. (Even though I wish the picture showed the true colors a bit better...)

This completely local-foods meal took me 40 minutes to prep and cook. That's rad. And I didn't use a different skillet for the brussels sprouts. While the chops were resting I cooked up my precious little cabbage heads in the same skillet I seared the lamb in so they took on a little more flavor. And lemon. Thank God for lemon. It pulled this whole meal together. And mint. The yogurt sauce calls for cilantro, but I couldn't bring myself to by that plastic-container-crap from the grocery store. So I used our crazy-ass mint (from our organic gardener) that won't die no matter what. And it was awesome! I also used a red candy onion (from the same organic farmer) rather than a shallot, and it was perfect too. All the flavor in the sauce brought out the lamb's flavor. --I'm thinking next year I going to buy a lamb--

Writing this post kinda makes me want to eat it all over again. Right now.

Luckily, I've learned to control myself through Weight Watchers...

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Weekend of Cooking, Eating, and Grading

This weekend almost all of my dreams came true.

My all-time favorite poet joined FD and I for brunch at our house. We had bacon, goose, radishes, tomato salad, kale chips, and roasted potatoes. Everything we ate came from Ohio. It was a fantastic little meal, but what made it so fantastic was sharing it with Rachel Zucker. (Thanks, Rachel! I hope we can share another meal together soon!) My only regret: I didn't take any pictures.

[After brunch and before dinner I graded essays.]

For dinner that night, we invited friends over for homemade pizzas: one game pizza and one
pepperoni-onion-mushroom pizza. I served a side salad of bibb lettuce, radishes (clearly, I'm addicted to them), and red onion with the Everyday Food garlic and herb vinaigrette. Again,
great company. My only regret: I didn't take any pictures.

[After dinner I tried grading essays, but that was a futile cause.]

For lunch the next day, my foodie friend Lenz made me Chicken Liver Pate with wine soaked figs, as she promised. I was happy. And I finally remembered to take pictures.

What I loved about the pate was whatever condiment/garnish we added changed the flavor. On its own, the pate was rich, salty, and metallic-y (in a good way). Paired with a radish, the pate took on some heat and the pepperiness of the dish came alive. With yellow mustard, the sweetness moved to the forefront. With a fig, the earthy, gaminess came alive. I loved every bite. And if we hadn't decided to have a 3-course lunch, I would have eaten half the mold pictured above.

Our second course was artichokes with white wine reduction, butter, and Canal Junction's Burr Oak cheese dipping sauce. Lenz boiled the artichokes in salted water for about 45 minutes. In the meantime she made the sauce. We sat down to a feast of leaves and hearts. I was impatient for the third course, so quite frankly, all the peeling wasn't worth it to me. Lenz helped me get the heart, and after that I waited for the main course of game and polenta--my new food addiction.

As a token of appreciation, I'll let Lenz post her own polenta recipe. It's one I'm going to use again and again. As she says, polenta is the grown-up version of Mac 'n' Cheese. I adore it. And this course's was no exception. My only regret was that we didn't bake it right away after serving it. It got hard. I attempted reheating it on the stove later that day with more water and bouillon cubes. It just wasn't the same. Next time I'm baking it right away. Definitely.

Confession: Lenz and I cooked and ate from 11-3. That's food dedication.

[I graded later in the evening--after my wine buzz wore off...]

[The next morning and afternoon I graded like a fiend.]

Sunday was our dear friend Babs' birthday, and I wanted to give her something special. Of course, that gift would be a meal. But not just any meal. A Jamie Oliver meal. If I can't give her the man, I can, at least, give her his food.

For our first course, I served a simple garden salad with mushrooms, radishes, and red onion. Then for dinner I made her the Steak, Guinness and Cheese Pie with Puff Pastry Lid with a side of peas with the artichokes' wine, butter, and cheese dipping sauce. I was quite proud of how
everything turned out. (Though, I'm not sure why my pie filling was lighter and less liquidy than Jamie's...I will need to explore this more...) The taste, though, was spot on. It was the perfect birthday/comfort food I could have made for Babs' October birthday, and I think she was quite happy. My only regret: Babs made her own dessert because I suck at baking. And her cream cheese pound cake with pomegranate and cranberry sauce was a perfect ending to a spectacular meal.

[After dinner I could not grade. I was too full. But I finished this morning. Go, me!]

All in all, this was the best weekend I've ever had with grading.

Food does make everything better.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Halloween: A Table Setting

I scored the table runner and spider web basket at Crate and Barrel after last Halloween. They were on wicked sale.

I adore how they look with our Crate and Barrel dining set.

(Yes, if you didn't know, I am a label whore, even when it comes to my holiday decorating.)

I just wish now that I had bought the matching place-mats and fabric napkins...

Here's to a Happy Halloween season and the good treats that come with it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Must-Have iPhone/iTouch App for Home Cooks

My dream has (almost) come true.

On my iPhone, not only can I watch Twilight as much as I want, but also I can now watch Jamie Oliver as much as I want.

Ah, the simple joys in life.

For $7.99, you too can download Jamie Oliver's 20 Minute Meals.

That seems pricey, doesn't it? I don't normally buy apps that aren't labeled as free. But this one is well worth the cash.

Not only does Jamie provide recipes, 50 of which are new--meaning, not found in his cookbooks or website--but also he has included an overview of each recipe, the shopping list for each recipe (which you can use to create your interactive grocery list, complete with being able to mark off the items in your cart), a photo step-by-step breakdown of the recipe (many of which include audio tips from Jamie), AND helpful hint videos on topics such as knife skills and pestle and mortar skills.

What's so fantastic about Jamie is, he isn't belittling or cocky in his how-to videos. He's just a dude who wants to help you enjoy cooking efficiently and intelligently. *Sigh*

I bought the app yesterday and already have next week's meals planned with my shopping list created! And I've watched almost every hour and half's worth of videos, which I found entertaining and informative. The app is simple, easy-to-use, and visually appealing.

Additionally, I get the impression from the app's description and Jamie's videos, too, that the app will be updated with new recipes and videos periodically. Cool?

Now, Michael Symon needs to create an app, and all my iPhone fantasies will be fulfilled.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kale: The Answer for Restlessness

I hate being sick. Mostly because I hate feeling helpless and tired. I'm a high energy person.

This week I was t-boned by some strange virus that should be labeled as the flu.

Awaking from a 6-hour nap yesterday, I heard Kale calling my name. I answered. Mostly because all this sleeping is making me feel restless, useless, and frustrated.

In a cold-like, zombie-like trance I roasted up some kale chips using a recipe (and kale) from Prose and Potatoes (and her garden!)

They are delicious. It's nice to know even when I'm sick I can still cook fairly well. That made made me feel a little bit better.

If you aren't a fan of kale, definitely try this recipe. It's the bomb!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Fall Evening Dinner--Outside

My new obsession: pork.

I want to know about all about it, and I want to eat it all the time.

My consistent obsession: Jamie Oliver.

After the stellar success of Jamie Oliver's pork shoulder recipe, I thought I would be able to trust him for some ground pork recipes. Of course, my English love didn't let me down.

Tonight we tried Jamie O's Green Chilli. Imagine the love child of a fresh, full-of-chilies chilli and the most amazing taco meat you've ever eaten. That's Jamie's recipe.

I didn't use all green peppers and chilis, which the recipe calls for, though. I need color, but everything else was spot on. I adored this recipe, yet I would make a few changes in the future. First, I would add WAY LESS water. He calls for 1/2 a cup. I would add a 1/4 and then see if it needs more. If so, I would add a tablespoon at a time. I had gotten my ground pork and ground venison (how I love when those Brits call it minced meat!) all dry, but when I added the 1/2 cup of water, it made the mixture wet again. Also, I would add one very hot chili pepper. We had some "medium hot" chili peppers, but those weren't hot enough for me. I needed more heat, which I think would have made the dish more edgy. Next time, I'm adding more heat--be it through the addition of jalapeno and chili powder.

The mint, lettuce, and lime make this dish, though, so be sure to dress the dish with those seemingly unneeded garnishes. Also, it's great with the tortilla, but I think nacho chips would as good or even better.

The best part of this meal was eating outside in the chilly evening with an ember-hot-fire in our outside fireplace roaring at our feet. I've been feeling under-the-weather today, but FD's fire
and Jamie's Green Chilli made me feel like a million bucks.

Leave it to my two favorite men to make me feel better.

Dishing Out Some Dishes

We've been making some good eats, but over the past month I haven't had too much time to post them.

Finally, I have some time.

This 'za is one of the best we've made in awhile. Turkey pepperoni, local onions, local shiitake mushrooms.

Vension steak with local heirloom green beans steamed with onions and vinegar and mashed local potatoes with bleu cheese and port caramelized onions. Both side dishes came from the 2009 Cook's Illustrated Fall Entertaining issue. The port caramelized onions were beyond the bomb. They were off the hook!

Finally, Roasted Beet Soup. One of the most delicious soups I've made in a long time. But messy to make. At least for me. I had the bright idea to use my immersion blender rather than my food processor. Most times this is a good idea. This time it wasn't. My French oven is huge, and there wasn't really enough beets to puree, which caused quite a bit of splatter. Enough that FD walked in the kitchen and asked, "Who did you just murder?"

I'll make it again, though, because it was that delicious! Thanks, Carrie, for recommending that recipe to me.

After another section of grading and three more cups of echinacea tea with lots of lemon and honey for this crazy sore throat I have, I forsee me spending some quality time in the kitchen and whipping up some more good eats!

(Dishes not pictured: Jamie Oliver's recipe for pesto; bacon-wrapped divers with walleye and rainbow chard and a side of pasta with pesto; Moosewood black bean casserole; Zingermann's peppered bacon cheddar scone with scrambled eggs; spaghetti squash with marinara sauce and local greens; and tofu curry with local blue potatoes. Suddenly, I'm starving...)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chicken Feet (aka Hobbit Hands)

Let it to Lenz to get me to eat something that looks like Hobbit hands.

After coming home from a chicken slaughtering workshop, Sarah called me in an ecstatic frenzy; she had scored some chicken feet and I was going to come over and try them with her.

I couldn't say no.

I didn't want to say no.

While she parboiled and fried and marinated the chicken feet, I roughly chopped veggies for our stir-fry.

We got our nerve from a couple glasses of sake. And she prepped me by having me read a blog post about eating chicken feet. Honestly, I was more nervous about this food adventure than eating bull testes. Strange, huh?

Sarah's marinade for them was divine. Gooey with lots of heat.

The chicken feet: not so much for me. They're a lot of skin, tendons, and bone with little to no meat. If you love wings, maybe you would like chicken feet.

I'm a breast and thigh girl. And I'll think I'll stick with those.

However, I have a feeling I would love chicken livers...

But I'm thankful that Sarah cooked them and made me try them. I'll try anything once.

Symon's Roast

I heart Michael Symon.

Here's a cook-dude who could open restaurants in LA, NY, or Chicago, but he keeps it real and opens them in Cleveland and Detroit. That brings a huge smile to my face.

Our families are in Cleveland.

Some of best of friends are in Detroit.

We can eat Michael Symon's food whenever we want.

Located in the historic Book Cadillac Hotel is Detroit's gorgeous Roast. But I'm conflicted.

I didn't like Roast as much as I like Lola, Symon's flagship restaurant.

The deal is this: the food was good, the service was good, the atmosphere is good. But it all just felt good. I wanted to have a fuckyesawesome!-spaz-freakout, but it never happened. Did I drink too much wine? Did order too much food? I feel like it's my fault that I missed something I shouldn't have.

What I enjoyed most was the company of our friends Sarah, John, and E (who took this magnificent pics for my blog! Thanks, E!)

Let me be clear: in the moment of dining at Roast, I was in food heaven. The beef tartar was to die for. The rib eye with shallot confit was amazing. The roasted chicken was mouth-watering. The short rib smelled divine.

But I was disappointed that our server didn't describe each meat on our charcuterie board. The wild boar was incredibly salty. The roasted bone marrow wasn't all that special. The brownie with lime was disgusting.

Can you see why I'm torn? I thought after a few weeks, I would feel happier about our visit. That I would have made my peace with the pro's and con's to the point it would be all pro. But I still feel a little ripped up and just not right about it.

Would I go back? For sure. Maybe I will drink less wine. Maybe I will only order one starter. Maybe I will ask our server to talk about the food more.

The definite is I want to go there again with our D-town dinner companions. They rule during every dining experience we have with them, even if the meal isn't all that.

And I will always heart Michael Symon, even if I'm not sold on Roast.

(For all the fab photos taken by E., check out my Facebook album.)

Friday, October 2, 2009

October Issue of Connotation Press LIVE!

Can't get enough food writing?

Want some new great recipes?

The theme this month: Offal.

A special thanks to the lovely ladies who contributed this month: Sarah P., Sarah L., and Carrie H.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Pawpaw Adventure

After eating a lunch of Rocky Mountain Oysters last Friday with my new foodie friend Sarah, she and her hubs celebrated their 4th wedding anniversary dinner that same night at Revolver, my all-time fav restaurant. For dessert, Sarah had pawpaw creme brulee. Then she had a pawpaw meltdown-turned-obsession, which I completely understand and am grateful for because her food "crazies" inspired a wonderful food adventure.

The kind folks at Revolver shared with the Sarah the name and phone number of the farm from
which they acquired their pawpaws. Dave Resse owns Kaleidoscope Farms, a fantastic, glorious, maticulously manicured, award-winning Christmas tree farm. When we arrived in Mount Cory at the farm, he warmly greeted us with a pawpaw infused soft pretzel, which only heightened our enthusiasm for this rare fruit. With our old jeans and ready-for-action boots, we followed a neat trail lined with Christmas trees to a opening of woods. Through the woods we hiked along a beaten path of burrs and thorns until we arrived at the first pawpaw tree. Dave pointed to a little green-ish jellybean dangling from a thin branch: "There's a pawpaw." Using his extension scissors, he cut the fruit from the branch, and Sarah precisely caught it to break its fall.

The pawpaw fruit is very fragile. It bruises easily and seems to burst open even easier. When the fruit is ripe, it has a little give much like the top of ripe pear. Dave told us that he never planted the pawpaw trees; they've just "been here." Meaning, native Ohioians, the original people of the land, Native Americans, probably ate fruit from these same trees. The history-lover in me couldn't contain a sqweal of delight! The meat of the fruit is bright yellow, and it's layered with flavors: citurus, mild nuts, mango, a hint of sweet grape, and earth. It's succulent and wild but also elegant and distinguished.

Because most of the pawpaws trees were extremely tall, Dave abandoned the extension
scissors, and we resorted to gently shaking the
trees, hoping all the ripe pawpaws would fall
lightly. For me, this was the best part of our adventure. I loved spotting those little pawpaws that blended into the green of the woods, gingerly rocking the thin trunk of the tree, alertly watching where the ripe pawpaws fell, and quickly gathering those little tasty treats. My gatherer instinct kicked in, and I was on fire. It was immensely rewarding and satisfying to gather something in the wild that would become a dish I would eat.

But Sarah is going to have to cook the pawpaws; she has the pawpaw cookbook. Dave had just been to an Ohio PawPaw Growers convention where he kindly picked up a copy of The Edible Pawpaw cookbook for Sarah. This isn't a fruit I would wing a recipe for. I don't know much about it, so I'm leaving the cooking to Sarah. But I guarantee I will be a taster as she works through the 7 lbs of pawpaw we gathered. And I guarantee I will be buying the cookbook and buying pawpaws next year when they are in season for the small window of weeks from September through October.

While gathering the last of the 7 lbs, Sarah and I dived to the wood's floor to save several pawpaws and emerged stung by nettles. Resourceful Dave immediately found jewelweed, which he rubbed on our stings, and which healed our minor run-in the nastier side of nature.

After trekking back through the woods and through the tree farm, Dave took us for a ride in his Kubota, one of my all-time favorite vehicles, to show us the rest of the farm. The best part of our ride was watching the sunset over perfectly lined pines. I remember breathing so deeply and feeling purely happy and at peace, at home in my home state.

On our way home, unintentionally coming full-circle but intentionally craving good food, Sarah and I stopped at Revolver for the pawpaw creme brulee. Unfortunately, they were closed for a private party, but ever-awesome chef Michael made us two helpings for take-out. (Thank you, Michael and the whole Revolver gang, espeically Jonah!!!!)

Outside on the dusk-and-candle-lit patio, we gleefully cracked through a perfect sugar coat and celebrated the success of our pawpaw adventure.

While our adventure further strengthened our friendship bond and brought Sarah and I closer to our food-souls, the one thing that really became more clear to me was my love for Ohio. I know a lot of people think our state doesn't have much to offer or they think that there's nothing special about Ohio. But I beg to differ. I'm finding that while living in a rural Ohio community, the more resourceful I am, the better my life here in rural Ohio is. Finding true family farms, like Dave's and Luginbill's, or local cheeses and breads, or taking a driving tour of Wood County to learn its history, or participating in local community projects and activities only further connects me to the land, my land, the state I love. I'm a Cleveland-girl at heart, but I'm learning to appreciate all the communities of Ohio, which in turn only fuels my love of Ohio as a state with lots of something-specials to offer. I'm learning that the appreciation of place helps me live in the present moment, and the present moment helps me build a home for where I am right now in my life. And my heart is at home in Ohio.

***This post owes a special thanks to Dave Reese, Micheal Bulkowski, and Jonah. Without these three good-hearted men, our adventure wouldn't have been as safe and as wonderful as it was. Thank you all!