Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Salads, Hold the Lettuce

When we were in Paris for our honeymoon, we noticed a trend when it came to salads. The lettuce was nowhere to be found. You might find a little hiding at the bottom of the plate (because really, a plate is a far superior vessel than a bowl when it comes to salad), but the French are much more into the other ingredients that make up a "salad" - the meats, the cheeses, the vegetables, the beans, the dressings. While I've been doing my best to consume my greens this summer, I've also wholly embraced this French tradition of Salad: Hold the Lettuce.

I mentioned my potato salad obsession, and here is my favorite rendition. It's Ina's recipe, adapted slightly to whatever I happen to have on hand in my kitchen at the moment. This is an easy thing to whip up quickly and have as a side dish when you're grilling. When I'm making it for just the two of us, I usually cut it in half. It makes great leftovers, too! I made it for a party we had last month, and people were crazy about it.

Ina's Old Fashioned Potato Salad

3 pounds small white potatoes
Kosher salt
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk (don't go out and buy buttermilk just for this - use half and half, or whole milk, or sour cream, or even some white wine)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped red onion


Place the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt in a large pot of water. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the potatoes are barely tender when pierced with a knife. Drain the potatoes in a colander, then place the colander with the potatoes over the empty pot and cover with a clean, dry kitchen towel. Allow the potatoes to steam for 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, dill, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Set aside.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut them in quarters or in half, depending on their size. Place the cut potatoes in a large bowl. While the potatoes are still warm, pour enough dressing over them to moisten. Add the celery and red onion, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Toss well, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve cold or at room temperature.


I tend to go easy on the salt in Ina's recipes - I usually cut it in half and then add more if I need to. It's one fault I find with her - she uses way too much salt sometimes!


I continued my summer theme of Salads: Hold the Lettuce at my friend Allison's baby shower that I co-hosted with my friend Stasi. I was in charge of the food, and thankfully my mother (who came to help me) talked me out of my original idea, which was quiches. Getting 3 or 4 quiches baked and hot and ready all at once would have been a nightmare. So, I decided to do salads instead!
Ina's Chinese Chicken Salad, Classic Egg Salad from ATK, "Fancy Coleslaw" (Mom's recipe and handiwork), and pretzel buns from our local butcher shop.

It was a sweltering 94 degrees the day of the shower, so it turned out to be the perfect menu for such a hot summer day. I also made this Watermelon Lemonade from Smitten Kitchen, which is the perfect refreshing beverage for a 7 month preggos lady.

The chicken salad recipe is linked above. A few notes from me: it makes a LOT of dressing, so I found it's best to put about 3/4 of the dressing on the salad and leave 1/4 on the side and allow people to add dressing to their tastes. I'm also a huge fan of her method of roasting bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and then removing the meat and shredding it - it makes for moist, lovely chicken in your salad.

Classic Egg Salad
1 rib celery, chopped fine
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 TBSP minced red onion
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (I substitute dill, because I love dill, but if you don't, parsley is fine)
1 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 TBSP fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
12 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped coarse*

*Fool-proof method for hard boiling eggs: Put eggs in pot; cover with water. Bring water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare ice bath. When 10 minutes is up, submerge eggs in ice bath for 5 minutes. Peel.

**I was once eating a hard-boiled egg at work and a co-worker said "Oh that's a great snack idea", and I said "Definitely, I usually boil a half dozen at the beginning of the week to have on hand for snacks", and she said "Oh, I wish I had time to do that, but you know you can buy them pre-boiled in the supermarket", and I said "...it takes 15 minutes...". And then I shut up before I made an enemy. But I have thought about this conversation non-stop since and how it just about sums up everything that's wrong with our country...but I digress...

Mix the celery, mayonnaise, onion, parsley, mustard, lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper together in a large bowl. Gently fold in the eggs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Will last for about 4 or 5 days in the fridge.

Fancy Coleslaw
(This borderlines Semi-Homemadeness, but it's seriously so good that I don't care. Flavor packets, quel horreur! My mom is slowly but surely turning me into Sandra Lee...I kid, I kid! But she did suggest I get a powdered lemonade mix for the party, to which I replied...start juicing lemons crazy lady.)

1 lb pkg coleslaw cabbage
1 bunch green onion chopped
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. sunflower seeds
2 pkg ramen beef noodles - not cooked
(save powdered packets for sauce)
3/4 c. veg. oil
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
garlic to taste
2 season packets from noodles

break up noodles into very small pieces
add almonds and seeds.
1/2 hr before serving add coleslaw to the above and
dressing. mix thoroughly.

When you can't bear to turn on your oven, turn to one of these recipes for a refreshing summer lunch or dinner!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer = Good Eats, No Fuss (ok a little fuss)

Sheesh, seriously, it's been a month and a half since I last posted a recipe? Eeegads. My paltry excuse is thus: I've been eating scads of fresh local produce, most of which need little to no cooking to make taste good. Try this tonight: Go to the market or farm stand and get some fresh ears of corn. Wrap them tightly in plastic wrap; microwave for 3 minutes. If you're me, slather in butter and lightly salt. If you're my husband, skip the butter (wah?) and salt heavily. Eat. Floss. Fin.

I have actually made some delicious things lately and have even had the balls to turn on my oven. God bless central air. Topping the list has been the Tomato Corn Pie from Smitten Kitchen. People, I cannot even begin to explain how good it is. It's everything wonderful about summer wrapped up in a light biscuity crust, with some rich cheese and little lemony mayo to round it out. Make this tonight.

Took this pic with my new iPhone. Pic does not do it justice. Head over to Smitten Kitchen and drool over her pics.

I've been receiving my CSA box for about 4 weeks now and have gotten some really lovely salad greens, cucumbers, and radishes. One way I've discovered to get me to eat more salad greens is to have a homemade dressing on hand at all times. Make a dressing at the beginning of the week to keep in a plastic jar in the fridge. Shake, pour on salad greens, and voila, it's something to cancel out all the butter I normally consume a healthy lunch. Here's my favorite one via America's Test Kitchen (with a few notes from me):

Basic Vinagrette (makes about 1 cup)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 TBSP red or white wine vinegar (I prefer red)
2 tsp minced shallot (I use a little more than this, about 1 shallot)
2 tsps Dijon mustard
1 and 1/2 tsps minced fresh tarragon, dill, basil, or oregano or 1/2 tsp dried
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Shake all ingredients together in a jar with a tight fitting lid. It can be refrigerated for up to 7 days; bring to room temp then shake vigorously to recombine before using.

CSA week one loot: salad greens, snap peas, shelling peas, radishes, squash

Glorious radishes!

And lastly, here is a lovely meal we had a couple of weeks ago using basil and green beans from the CSA: Pesto potato salad with green beans. (smittenkitchenwhoelseimobsessed) and this amazing chicken from another blog that is quickly becoming a favorite, The Wednesday Chef.
Lately, I just can't get enough potato salad. This was a great way to quickly use up basil before it turned on me. The green beans were sweet and crunchy and amazing, and I kind of wished I'd just left them alone, but they were also terrific in this salad. The chicken is wonderful - recipe is linked above. I did use a whole cut up chicken rather than just legs as it states in the recipe, as my husband is not really into dark meat.

This meal is an easy weeknight creation and will provide substantial leftovers if you are a twosome, as we are. I was, however, on a bit of a rampage at the local grocery where the pine nuts were an outrageous $7.99 for 4 ounces and they were out of Panko for the chicken. (I ground up 2 slices of Pepperidge Farm Country White in my food processor and used that instead, good results, but will probably go with the panko next time). Amazingly, just two rows down on the shelf, I found the exact same pine nuts for $6.99 - only this was the ORGANIC version of the same brand - for $1 cheaper - ?????? I guess I'll just chalk it up to another of the many things that baffle me about our food system. Lesson learned: don't grab things at eye level, look above and below because you just might find the same (or better) thing for cheaper! (Note: I was still appalled at the cost of the pine nuts - Mark, could you pop over to Harvestime and remind me how much they are going for there? Methinks it is way less).

Hope I've given you some ideas for dinner this week! Stay tuned for a post on Summer Salads: Hold the Lettuce. Happy Summer!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer Grillin'

Ah, summer. Nothing beats an evening spent out on the deck, grilling something delicious, sipping a beverage, and spending time with loved ones. The hubs and I are somewhat novices at the grill, having spent the last 3 summers in a third-floor walk up apartment with hardly any outdoor space. We did once have a tiny hibachi that we kept on the balcony of his Lincoln Park high-rise apartment. We had two plastic chairs and would sit out there, looking out over a lovely...parking lot. Needless to say, we've upgraded our view a bit:
Last week we bought an inexpensive charcoal grill at Home Depot and have been grillin' fools ever since. I'm coming to the realization that you can grill just about anything - last night we did these colorful veggies:
Simply brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and grill until they reach your desired doneness, turning every so often. I like mine a little on the charred side). The asparagus and pepper will cook rather quickly, while the onion takes a bit more time (be sure to leave the skin on the onion to keep it from falling apart on the grill - and don't slice it too thin). Asparagus would benefit from a grill basket, (we lost one in the charcoal), but we haven't found one we like yet.
I found a great website that shows you exactly how to grill corn (it's so easy). Click here.

And then there's meat, of course. My favorite thing to do is just go to the butcher shop and see what looks good that day, then bring it home and grill it! Last week I got a lovely flank steak, then came home and found this great marinade recipe online. We already had all the ingredients in our pantry, and I'm guessing you might too!
I served it with some oven-roasted sweet potato fries. Such a tasty meal, and so simple. Make this tonight!

Yesterday we had an All-American suburban day - we bought a lawn mower, mowed the grass, and then grilled burgers. I guess it's official now, we're suburbanites!
Perfect Hamburgers
from America's Test Kitchen
Note: ATK says that it is imperative you do not push down on the hamburgers as you grill them - this will squeeze out their juices and they will be dry and nasty. (My wording, not theirs).

1.5 lbs ground beef
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Vegetable oil

Place the ground beef on a large plate, sprinkle with the salt and pepper, then work it into the meat with your hands. Form into 4 balls, rolling the meat around in you hands, then patting flat into a patty (approx 1 inch tall). With your thumb, make a little indentation in the center of top of the patty. Coat each patty with 1 tsp of vegetable oil.

Grill over high heat (a single layer of charcoal) for about 5 minutes per side or until they reach your desired doneness. My husband insisted we cook them to well done (it was Sunday and the good butcher shop was closed, so we had to get supermarket meat) so we used the instant read thermometer to check for doneness (170 degrees). They were still quite juicy and delicious.

Do share your favorite grilling recipe in the comments! I've got endless summer nights ahead, need more things to grill!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Sole Meuniere

My husband and I had the loveliest honeymoon in Paris last August. One of the things I was dying to eat while I was there was sole meuniere. I did, and it was delicious - totally lived up to my expectations.

The other day I was feeling particularly nostalgic for Paris, so I decided what better way to transport myself there than through this amazing dish? I ventured over to the butcher shop where I've been buying fish these days - no sole. Rats. I decided to go with halibut in lieu of the sole, but you could substitute just about any mild white fish fillet and it would still be delicious.

I used Ina Garten's recipe from Back to Basics - I cut it in half even though she says it serves 2 people. It was plenty of food for the two of us. Serve with some good bread to mop up all that delicious buttery sauce.

Sole Meuniere

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sole fillets (or any mild white fish, such as halibut)
3 TBSP unsalted butter
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
3 TBSP freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 TBSP minced fresh parsley

Combine the flour, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper in a large shallow plate. Pat the sole fillets dry with paper towels and sprinkle one side of each fillet with salt.

Heat the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat until it starts to brown. Dredge the sole fillets in the seasoned flour on both sides, shake off the excess, and place in the hot butter in the pan. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 2 minutes. Turn carefully with a metal spatula and cook for 2 minutes on the other side. While the second side cooks, add the lemon zest and lemon juice to the pan. Carefully remove from the pan to a plate and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately!

Friday, May 14, 2010

We're Back! (and Grilled Swordfish with Tomato-Braised Cauliflower)

Aaaaand we're back after a month-long hiatus! For most of the last month, my life has looked a little something like this:

The hubs and I moved across a state-line, into the 'burbs. And while I miss my old, walkable neighborhood dearly (Seriously, why are the suburbs so anti-walking? We tried to walk to a nearby strip mall the other day and were nearly killed by oncoming traffic), I get to live in this big beautiful house with a big beautiful kitchen and laundry room.

The interior is still a work in progress (wallpaper is dead to me), but it's mostly cosmetic issues, and the kitchen is an absolute delight. I adore my dishwasher and garbage disposal and miles of counter space. And my new stainless-steel, french-door, bottom freezer refrigerator makes me smile every time I walk into the kitchen. It's refreshing to have an appliance that doesn't have 20+ years of someone else's dirt and grime in it.

So, I unearthed my cookbooks and have been cooking up a storm these past couple of weeks. Fresh Michigan asparagus has been abundant in the local groceries (which leave something to be desired, but more on that later), so we've been eating loads of it. If you're looking for a kick-ass recipe with asparagus, look no further than this gem from Smitten Kitchen. We had it for brunch last Sunday and it was amazing.

You know how when you move, you find things you forgot you had and make resolutions to actually use them? Well, I have made a resolution to cook from more of my cookbooks and not just my usual standbys (ahem, ATK and Smitten Kitchen). When we were in Greece, I bought this lovely book called "How to Roast a Lamb" by Michael Psilakis. Some of the recipes are quite advanced, but this Grilled Swordfish with Tomato-Braised Cauliflower is so simple and full of delicious flavors. If you're near a body of water or in a big city, you can probably get amazing swordfish, and if you're in the sticks like me (and you google "Fish Markets" in your zip code and come up with Long John Silvers) you may have to go with a flash frozen variety, which was actually quite delicious. This cauliflower is so good, I ate it the next day for lunch, just by itself. Don't be alarmed by the cinnamon in a savory dish - just trust me, it is fabulous.

Grilled Swordfish with Tomato-Braised Cauliflower
from "How to Roast a Lamb" by Michael Psilakis

2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 medium head cauliflower, broken into florets
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
Large pinch ground cinnamon
1/2 large Spanish or sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 fresh bay leaf or 2 dried
2 cinnamon sticks
1 TBSP tomato paste
2 TBSPs red wine vinegar
1 and a half cups of water
2 whole sprigs thyme
2 tsps Dijon mustard
4 swordfish steaks, about 5 oz each

In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, warm the oil until it is very hot. Add the cauliflower florets. Season with kosher salt and pepper, and dust with the cinnamon. Shake the pan for 2 to 3 minutes, until nicely golden. Add the onion, bay leaves, and cinnamon sticks. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the vinegar. (This means pour it in and stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom). Add the water, thyme sprigs, and mustard. Partially cover the pan and braise over low heat until the cauliflower is tender. Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks.

Preheat a charcoal or gas grill (or cast-iron grill pan or skillet) until very hot. Season both sides of the swordfish steaks with salt and pepper and grill for 1 and a half to 2 minutes on each side (Psilakis says that swordfish should be cooked to the same temp as you would enjoy a tuna steak, so somewhat raw on the inside - you can cook it slightly longer if you prefer it more done on the inside). Rest steaks for a few minutes before serving.

This all comes together VERY quickly, which makes it perfect for a weeknight dinner, but it's also fancy enough for company. And you probably already have most of the ingredients for it in your pantry and fridge. I'd serve it with some crusty bread and maybe a Greek salad. Enjoy!

Friday, April 16, 2010

By Popular Request: Pastitsio

Pastitsio is essentially "Greek lasagna". It is undoubtedly on the menu at every Greek restaurant in America - along with moussaka, it's one of the most popular Greek-American dishes. Unfortunately, restaurant pastitsio often disappoints. Sometimes they drench it in a red sauce, often times you can't taste the nutmeg in the sauce, or the sauce is bland, or the bechamel is like glue. The good news is: you can easily create delicious pastitsio in your own kitchen! I've adapted (slightly) this recipe from the Greektown Chicago cookbook. We've made it for friends and received rave reviews.

adapted from Greektown Chicago cookbook

Note: for this recipe, it is best to use Greek pasta that is made for pastitsio. If you live near an ethnic grocery, they likely stock it. Greek Misko No. 2 is what you want. If you can't find it, substitute penne or macaroni pasta. Your ethnic grocery will likely have Myzithra cheese as well. If not, substitute grated Parmesan - but I really urge you to get the Myzithra, as the flavor will be much more authentic!

2 lbs ground beef
2 TBSP water
2 medium size onions, chopped fine
1 lb macaroni
1 cinnamon stick
2 TBSP tomato paste, mixed with 1 cup water
2 cups grated Myzithra cheese
10 TBSP butter
5 eggs, separated
1 qt milk (best to use whole)
3/4 cup cake flour
cinnamon and nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Bechamel sauce: Make this first so it has ample time to cool. In a 2 quart sauce pan, bring milk to a boil. In a separate saucepan, melt butter and slowly stir in cake flour, until it forms a smooth paste. Add hot milk. Stir continuously over a low flame until it thickens. Set aside to cool.
Pasta: Boil macaroni in salted water according to package instructions (you want it quite al dente since it will bake in the oven later). Drain and let stand while you prepare the meat sauce.
Meat sauce: In a large skillet, cook onions in the 2 TBSP water until transparent. Add ground meat and cinnamon stick. Cook until meat is lightly browned. Add diluted tomato paste, and stir well. Add cinnamon, nutmeg (a healthy amount - you want to be able to taste a good amount of these!), then salt and pepper to taste. Cook slowly until the meat is cooked and most of the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat.
Combine: Place macaroni back into large pot, then add meat mixture. Blend well. In a seperate bowl, beat 5 egg whites with 1 egg yolk and add this to the mixture. Slowly mix well (use your hands for best results). Add 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, and continue to mix.
Bake: Spread the meat/macaroni mixture into a 9x13 or square baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese and some cinnamon over the top. Beat the remaining 4 egg yolks in a large bowl. Slowly add the cooled Bechamel sauce to the beaten yolks. If it's too thick, add a little milk while beating. Spread evenly over the meat/macaroni mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 1 hour.

Whew! Seems like a lot of steps, but it actually doesn't take too long to get it into the oven. The meat sauce is easily prepared ahead of time - and actually we have even prepared it up to the baking point one day in advance of a dinner party and baked it right before guests arrived.

If you're tired of the same-old lasagna, give this a try to mix things up a little. It has a much different flavor profile than Italian lasagna. The cinnamon and nutmeg in the savory sauce gives it a wonderful depth of flavor, and the creamy Bechamel on top gives it a rich, stick-to-your-ribs kind of goodness. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bread Making Success!

I have a confession: I am afraid of yeast. I haven't had a whole lot of luck with bread making so far, and I'm always terrified that I haven't properly activated the yeast and the dough won't rise. Well friends, let me introduce you to this light wheat bread recipe, which if I can make, you can too. It uses instant yeast, so no worrying about liquid temperatures and dissolving and activating the yeast. I literally did a little happy dance around the kitchen when it came out of the oven looking beautiful and perfect. Knowing that my husband is eating his daily turkey and cheese sandwich on freshly homemade bread has brought my heart joy this week (it's the little things, really).

The recipe, of course, is from Smitten Kitchen. I can't praise this blog enough. I feel like Deb and I would be friends if we met. Also, I think she's a good teacher. And a bread baking enthusiast to boot, so what better way to learn the fine art of bread baking? Watch out, I might start making a loaf every week!

The original recipe is from Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, a book that I'm thinking of buying. Give this a try on a Sunday afternoon when you don't have a lot going on - the actual "hands-on" time is only about 15 minutes or so, and the rest is done while you do other things around the house, or catch up on your DVR, or whatever! It's the perfect sandwich bread. Once you have a taste of this, you won't want to go back to pre-sliced, store-bought bread! And you avoid all the crazy ingredients they put in that stuff these days (read an ingredient list, it's scary).

I've dispelled my fear of bread-baking, now it's your turn!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Braised Beef Short Ribs

yes, that is a giant bone

After a week of the vegan diet (well, we may or may not have succumbed to a little cheese, shhhh), the hubs and I were ready for a meaty meal. I've been wanting to do beef short ribs for some time now, so it seemed like the perfect time to give it a try. Smitten Kitchen has a great recipe, but it seemed a little too involved for a weeknight, and I didn't want to buy port for the sauce. America's Test Kitchen had a similar recipe, albeit quite a bit simpler, so I chose that one. This is a perfect dinner party meal - it only takes about 30 minutes to get it to the point where it braises in the oven for 2.5 to 3 hours. So you could easily prepare it a few hours before your party, and the house will be full of delicious smells when your guests arrive. Then you just pull it out of the oven and plate it!

I was really happy with how this turned out - the sauce had a great depth of flavor and the meat was oh-so-tender. I served it with Ina's Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes and a green salad. The only thing I would do differently next time is trim a bit more fat from the ribs before cooking. The leftovers tasted great the next day, too!

Braised Beef Short Ribs
from America's Test Kitchen

Note: ATK recommends English style short ribs, but I could only find Flanken style. Either style works with the recipe. English are a bit cheaper if you can find them.

6 pounds bone-in English style short ribs, trimmed
Note: this was a monstrous amount for 2 people - I bought about 4 pounds but kept all the other recipe amounts the same - ended up with a little extra sauce but that was fine with me! If you're making it for a party, gauge about 1 pound per person.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped coarse
2 carrots, peeled and chopped coarse
1 rib celery, chopped coarse
9 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp tomato paste
3 cups dry red wine (I used a pinot noir I had lying around)
4 cups low sodium chicken broth (I use Swanson organic)
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 tsp dried thyme
3 bay leaves


1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Pat the ribs dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half the ribs, about 10 minutes, then transfer to a large plate (Note: it took me 3 batches of browning). Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat and repeat with the remaining ribs.

2. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pot and return it to medium heat. Add the onions, carrot, celery, 1/4 tsp salt and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the flour and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute.

3. Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, and browned ribs. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook in the oven until the meat is tender, 2.5 to 3.5 hours.

4. Transfer the ribs to a large plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Strain the broth into a large container, let settle for 5 minutes, then skim any fat from the surface using a spoon. (Note: I strained half the sauce and left the other half alone because I wanted the chunky veggies! Not exactly sure why they'd want you to discard all those good veggies.)

yes, we eat in front of our TV. don't judge! :)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Raw Vegan Cheesecake

I'm posting this a little late, but this recipe was the pièce de résistance of Vegan Week! Every year on Good Friday, my church choir has a party to celebrate the hard work we put into the Easter season. This year, I searched online for days to find a dessert recipe that would be both delicious, vegan, and as all natural as possible. I wasn't interested in using silken tofu or any of that crap, so I was thrilled to find a recipe for a raw vegan cheesecake that actually sounded delicious! Here's the recipe for Lemony Cheesecake with berry sauce.

The "cheese" section of this cheesecake is made up of cashews! Soaking them for a couple hours makes them soft enough to process in a food processor. You have to process them for a while, but it's amazing how they come together into a cheesecake-esque consistency!

Instead of making this into one cheesecake, I figured cheesecake bites would be better for a cocktail party. Buy the little baking papers and fill with your batter.
Instead of the berry sauce the recipe calls out, I just finely diced some strawberries and tossed them with a little freshly squeezed lemon juice and some agave nectar. A delicious addition!

These cheesecake bites were a HUGE hit at the party! You really have to try making these... they're easier than "real" cheesecake and much healthier!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Very Fallible Easter

Somehow, these are the only three photos I managed to take on Easter...likely because I was too busy stuffing my face with that amazing ham and washing it down with several mimosas.

Easter happens to be one of the Fallible Foodies' favorite holiday. Mark was in his element; the perfect host with the perfect spread. I can only take credit for the hash brown casserole, a recipe passed down through generations of my family. It is a very "semi-homemade" recipe: last year I debated trying to substitute the can of cream of chicken soup with homemade chicken stock and heavy cream. My husband stopped me. Some things are just better left alone, I suppose, and this casserole is one of them. I mean, you can't go wrong with that much sour cream, butter, and cheese really.

Other dishes on the spread included Ina's Carrot Salad, Orzo Vegetable Salad with Feta, and a delightful fresh green bean salad. Our friend Alix made a to-die-for Martha Stewart almond cake covered in meringue (pictured above). And of course, the booze flowed heavily. We singers with church jobs certainly deserved it after all that singing.

We're planning to keep up the blog, so keep coming back! We are going to try to post a couple of recipes a week. We welcome your comments and do let us know if you've tried one of our recipes!!! Happy Spring from the Fallible Foodies!!!

Hash Brown Casserole

2 sticks butter
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 cups sour cream
2 lbs frozen hash browns (I used Ore-Ida)
1 tsp salt, 1 1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup crushed corn flakes

Melt butter and mix with soup and sour cream. In another large bowl, mix together the potatoes, salt, pepper, onion, and cheese (use your hands to toss). Stir first mixture into second. Pack into 9x13 inch baking pan. Before baking sprinkle crushed cornflakes over the top. Bake uncovered for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

You can prepare this a day ahead (I did) up to the baking step - just don't put the cornflakes on until you're ready to bake! It makes a perfect compliment to ham or an egg brunch dish.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Vegan Recipe FAIL - Why it's good to be fallible.

What revithia should look like - stolen photo from Mama's Taverna blog.

Another Greek staple during Lent is Revithia soup, or chickpea soup. I had a delicious homemade version while we were in Greece, and the ingredient list is unbelievably simple, so we decided to try making it. My husband often knows how these things are supposed to taste, but has no idea how to make them. Our usual course of action is to consult the interwebs - where we have oft encountered terrible recipes. We have several Greek cookbooks (written in Greek), so after exhausting the internet, we usually sit down and the hubs translates while I type.

Note: During my internet searching for Revithia recipes, I found a fantastic Greek food blog. I'm now obsessed. Check it out. Mamas Taverna.

So anyways, this recipe failed on a couple of levels. Firstly, the Greek recipe that we translated suggested removing the skins from the chickpeas after soaking them (if you've ever worked with dried chickpeas, or even some canned ones, you will know what I'm talking about). This resulted in me sitting in front of the television for 2 hours, rubbing skins off chickpeas, one by one. (I tried several other more time-effective methods, none of which worked). Upon further internet research, I think this was an unnecessary step. I still can't believe I spent so much time on that...

The second fail was in the seasoning department (and wasn't my fault - thank God, otherwise I'd still be pouting about it - the hubs takes these things much less seriously than I). He had somehow translated the salt and pepper amounts completely wrong, resulting in a soup that tasted like the ocean and burned the back of your throat. Oh, that sad wasted two hours of chickpea hulling! We ended up having to dump the whole thing out. Luckily we still had leftover Fasolakia and ate that instead.

I think we will for sure try this again - next time we won't spend the time taking off the skins (when boiling for the soup, you skim the top, so any errant skins will come out that way), and we will certainly get the seasoning right the second time around.

Recipe here.

Vegan Chili: What a Crock!

This recipe is from the Crockpot 365 website. If you haven't been there, you need to check it out. If you've never cooked in your crockpot, you are truly missing out because there is no cheaper or easier way to feed the hungry mouths in your home. Nothing beats coming home from work and having the house already smell like dinner. Anyway, the woman who runs the site decided to make every meal for a year in her crockpot, which turned into a Julie and Julia-esque book deal (if only that fate were possible for the fallible foodies...). I've made other crock meals from from this website before, but this one came recommended to me by a very awesome vegetarian.

Click here to find the recipe.

I made a few alterations, kind of one and a halving the recipe. I added some green pepper, another sweet potato, some black beans, and a little more orange juice. That's the beauty of the crock. You throw almost anything into it and what comes out will usually be edible! (Some recipes on the cRock blog are fails and it's really funny to read what she says about them).

Before, circa 7:30 am. Look at that beautiful morning sunshine gleaming off those veggies! Note: I would cut the sweet potatoes and peppers a little smaller next time.

After! It smells like magic. Just don't forget the Chipotle Chili powder!

And the end result! I served it over some brown rice made in my rice cooker (another magical machine, just like the crock pot). This meal is warm, hearty, and delicious. You won't miss the meat at all, I promise! You might miss the cheese and sour cream, though... I made this for an impromptu dinner party of 5 and it was a smash hit!


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Roasted Veggies

Roasted carrots, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts

Roasted veggies are a staple in our kitchen. When I'm unsure of what to make for dinner, roasted veggies are usually my default dish. Or when I've perhaps over-indulged a bit on desserts or fried foods one weekend, a couple of dinners of roasted veggies can turn it all around. Roasting in the oven at a high temperature is bound to make any veggie taste good - even ones you thought you hated. Just go to the store, pick out what looks fresh, chop it up, toss in some olive oil, sprinkle with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper et voila! You've got a delicious meal. Adding potatoes always helps make it more hearty and feel like a main dish rather than a side.

A few tips to keep in mind when roasting veggies:

1) Roast at 400 to 425 degrees to achieve that yummy caramelization.

2) Be sure to use plenty of olive oil and toss to make sure each veggie is coated - don't want them sticking to the pan!

3) Don't chop them too small - they will shrink when roasting, so err on the larger side.

4) Root veggies will take a bit longer than, say green beans and asparagus. Start the root veggies first (including potatoes, if you desire), then after about 15 minutes or so, add the green veggies and roast for 10 minutes more (or until all is tender). For the veggies pictured below, I roasted them all together for about 20 minutes, shaking the pan a few times during roasting to make sure they didn't stick.



I tried a new method for roasting beets last night, too. I read about this in America's Test Kitchen (where else?) and decided to try it. First you remove the stem parts, scrub the beet, and wrap it in foil. (You can do this with multiple beets as well, I just happened to be roasting one). Place the foil package on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a knife slides easily into the beet.

Unwrap (carefully, it's hot!) and let cool for 10 minutes. Using paper towels (to shield your fingers from beet stains), rub off the skin of the beet - it will come off very easily.

Once you've got all the skin off, slice the beet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper! I find beets delicious all by themselves, but they are also wonderful in salads, such as with arugula and goat cheese.

If you're not a big fan of vegetables, have a go at roasting them. I honestly believe it's a good way to get even the pickiest of eaters to enjoy veggies.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Italian Couscous: An Experiment

I love couscous. LOVE it. When I was thinking of things to make for "Vegan Week," it was one of the first things to pop into my mind, because I didn't want to deal with any of the weird, hard to find, meat imitation junk that a lot of vegans and vegetarians eat. I wanted to keep it simple and easy. Couscous can be made in a ton of different ways, but I didn't find one that was necessarily "Italian" inspired. So what the heck, I figured I'd give it a whirl.

Italian Couscous (my own invention)
1 red onion, diced
1 zucchini, sliced, then quartered into small pieces
1 red pepper, diced
1 cups sun dried tomatoes, diced
2 1/4 cups couscous
3 cups vegetable stock (homemade! hopefully you already have this in your freezer)
Salt, Pepper
Olive Oil
Handful of fresh Basil, julienned

This will easily serve 6 people.

Warm 2 Tbs olive oil in a large pot. Add the onion and zucchini and saute for a few minutes before adding the red pepper. Sautee until the veggies are cooked through, but make sure to not over cook them.

Delicious and Beautiful!

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add couscous and a teaspoon of salt, remove from heat, Cover, and let sit for 5 minutes.

Stir in the sun dried tomatoes, a little more salt, pepper, and basil. Spoon into deep dishes, and enjoy!

Note: This made a delicious light supper. My one complaint was that it could use a lot more seasoning. Maybe some red pepper flakes thrown in with the couscous? I'm open to suggestions, let me know what you think! (Also, Kaycee thought it could use more zucchini).

Hummus of the Holy Week: Hearts of Palm

First off, I hope my picture isn't offensive to anyone... it's, um... art! When I was trying to come up with a "Hummus of the Holy Week," roommate Emily had the best idea: Hearts of Palm! She's brilliant! Although, I also asked her on Palm Sunday, so I'm sure that had something to do with it...

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can chick peas, drained
1/2 can hearts of palm (I bought the "salad size")
1/3 cup tahini
Juice of 2 lemons
1.5 tsp salt
a few dashes of Frank's Red Hot (this may be a little fallible.. but unlike ketchup, it only has a handful of ingredients, all completely pronounceable)

You should know how to turn this into hummus by now (thank you, food processor!). Also, if I haven't mentioned this on past hummus posts, this is just the Barefoot Contessa hummus with a special guest star.

Vegan Week - It's Easy When You're Greek!

Many apologies for my lack of posting last week - I came down with a heinous sinus infection the day after returning from Greece, so it was a bit of a rough week. I pretty much ate scrambled eggs all week, which doesn't make for exciting food blogging. I also made a rather disappointing One Pot Chicken and Rice. I get very mad and pouty when my food doesn't turn out well, despite compliments from the hubs. But anyways, I digress.

Onto the title of this post - eating vegan is truly easy when you're Greek! The Greeks have vegan eating down pat, as they do it several days a week for most of Lent. So I knew I'd have plenty of yummy recipes to draw upon for this week. Fasolakia, a vegetable dish of string beans and potatoes is one of our favorites. It's rich and hearty and you won't miss your meat or dairy with this one!


1.5 lb string beans, cleaned and ends snipped (I like to use kitchen scissors!)
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (Muir Glen Organic brand was on sale this week, yippee!)
2 TBSP tomato paste
1/2 to 1 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, diced


Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a large pot or Dutch Oven. Add the onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the string beans and toss to combine with the onions and oil. Saute for another 5 minutes.

Mix your tomato paste with 1/2 cup of water (use a fork - beat like you're doing scrambled eggs). Add the tomato paste/water mixture and your diced tomatoes to the pot. Stir to combine. Add additional water if it looks to dry (you will want there to be a good amount of liquid in the pot, as it will reduce considerably). Add the potatoes and salt and pepper. Cover the pot and let it cook for about 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Check for done-ness of potatoes and beans (a fork should slide easily into a potato, the beans should be quite tender). If need be, recover and cook a bit longer. Let it cook for a few additional minutes uncovered to reduced the sauce (5 minutes or so).

It's seriously so good. And good for you! Post-Vegan Week, I'd serve it with some Feta, and perhaps even as a side-dish to some yummy meat. But it's just as good on its own, I swear! Try it - you won't be disappointed.