Friday, October 30, 2009

Hearty hamburger and tomato stew (OAMC)

This stew is easy, fast, and freezes very well. The following recipe makes enough for two meals, so you can either have one tonight and one later, or package them both up during a OAMC session. It only takes thirty minutes to make, so it's also good for last minute preparation.

Hearty Hamburger and Tomato Stew (OAMC)

1 lb ground hamburger
2 onions, chopped
2 - 3 carrots, chopped on diagonal
Green pepper, chopped
1 c mushrooms, sliced
1 c green beans, cut
2 - 3 stalks of celery, chopped
16 oz can of corn
46 oz of tomato juice or V8, spicy
2 t sugar
1 t celery seed
Salt and pepper to taste
Hot sauce, if desired

Chop up your vegetables while you brown the hamburger. Add the onions and saute lightly. Add the rest of the ingredients through the tomato juice and heat to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Add spices and serve or freeze.

To serve after freezing, thaw and heat.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Beef burgundy stew

This stew is so amazing that you won’t care that it takes awhile to make! The preparation time can be cut down considerably by doing once a week food preparation, but even if you have to chop and cook everything same day, this recipe makes a stew worth waiting for. I usually cook and simmer mine in a large stock pot, but you can brown and cook the first few ingredients in a skillet, and then dump them into a crock pot to slow cook all day.

Beef Burgundy Stew

1-1/2 lb stew beef, floured
Olive oil

1/2 t thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
3 c Burgundy
1/4 c tomato paste

1/2 c water
2 c mushrooms, quartered
12 small red potatoes, quartered
6 medium carrots, 1″ pieces, or baby carrots
2 small onions, quartered
2 cans broth, 15 oz

Cornstarch in water (opt)
Salt and pepper (opt)

Brown the floured stew beef in a stock pot, it you haven’t already precooked it. Add thyme through tomato paste. Heat it up and let this simmer (or transfer to a crock pot) for at least 1-1/2 hours. About 30 minutes before you want to serve, add the water through the broth. Bring the mixture up to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Thicken with cornstarch in water if needed. Add salt and pepper if needed.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Scallion scones

I found the original recipe for these delicious savory scones in the January 2009 issue of Cooking Light. You can see it on the CL website at the link above. I made a few modifications to suit us better, and found that I needed to bake them longer than the test oven called for.

I usually associate scones with sweet toppings and fillings, so these are a tasty change, and thanks to some fancy ingredient substitution, they're moist but not overloaded with fat. It's delicious warm, fresh from the oven, and is pretty good the next day too!

Scallion Scones

1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 T sugar
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 c butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 c scallions, thinly sliced
3/4 c plain yogurt
1 large egg

Mix flour through salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter. Stir in the sliced scallions. Combine the yogurt and egg, and stir it into the flour mixture. The dough will be sticky. Knead it very lightly on a floured piece of parchment paper. Shape it into an 8 inch circle and place it on a baking sheet, still on the paper. Score the circle into 12 wedges, not cutting completely through the dough. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 425.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sweet Potato, Corn and Shrimp Chowder

My mother sent me a fabulous recipe that was created by a woman here in New England. In fact, this recipe was the grand prize winner in a contest that she entered. I'm sorry to say that I haven't been able to find out what contest that was, but I think it might have been for the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission. Anyway, please please please try this amazing chowder, and thank Carol Edmondson for it!

Carol is the chef at the charming Captain Freeman Inn in Brewster, MA.

Sweet Potato, Corn, and Shrimp Chowder

Yield: 10 cups
Preparation: 10 minutes
Cook: 30 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 medium North Carolina sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
(approximately 7 cups)
2 strips lean bacon, diced
1 large onion, diced (approximately 3 cups chopped onion)
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
4 cups chicken stock
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen corn kernels or kernels cut from 4 ears fresh corn
1/2 pound raw medium shrimp, peeled
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill plus 2 teaspoons for garnish
Garnish: 1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

In a large stock pot (6-quart or larger), heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sweet potatoes and bacon and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Add onion and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and cook until potatoes are just tender but hold their shape.

Remove 1-1/2 cups sweet potatoes from skillet and mash them with a fork. Return mashed potatoes to skillet. Add corn, shrimp, spices, hot sauce, and fresh herbs, stirring to combine. Return soup to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes; be careful not to overcook.

Garnish soup with dill and sour cream, if desired. Soup may be made a few days ahead and chilled. Reheat before serving.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Polenta with prosciutto and onions

Lots of onions! This is one of the tastiest polenta dishes I’ve ever had. The recipe below serves 4 as a side dish; if you’d prefer to make it the main dish, the recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled.

Polenta with Prosciutto and Onions

Olive oil
3 – 4 thin slices of prosciutto
2 onions, chopped
1 c water
3/4 c chicken broth
1 t dried sage
1/2 c coarse cornmeal
1 T butter
1/2 c parmesan, fresh grated

Heat some olive oil in a large saucepan, and lightly crisp the prosciutto. Remove and set aside. Add the onions and more oil if needed, and cook till tender. Remove onions and set aside.

Add the water, broth, and sage to the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil. Slowly add the cornmeal, a little at a time, stirring constantly. I like to start this process with a whisk and end with a wooden spoon. Cook over low heat until the mixture is thick and pulls away from the pan.

Stir in the butter, a couple tablespoons of the cheese, and half the onions. Spread into a small (3 c) oven-proof serving dish. Top with the rest of the onions and the prosciutto, and sprinkle on the cheese. Bake for just a few minutes in a 400 degree oven to melt the cheese. This can be made ahead of time and popped into the oven for 10 – 15 minutes to heat before serving.

Refer to my post on basic polenta technique for more information on making polenta.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Our saké set

Mike returned from Japan earlier this month with a lovely bottle of saké in tow, so we got to break out our little saké set with the adorable puffer fish (which we purchased at DisneyWorld). How hokey is that? I really don't's a fun set to use.

In English, we refer to Japanese alcohol rice beverages as saké. In Japanese, saké is just the term for alcoholic beverages in general, and this drink is called Nihonshu, which means Japanese saké. We also tend to call it “rice wine”, but the processing method makes it more like a brewed beer than wine. Confused yet?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Plain old-fashioned popovers!

My goodness, I love these things! And for once, the food that I crave is super-easy peasy to make and takes only FOUR ingredients. Make them to supplement dinner, or stuff their empty puffy centers with tuna, chicken, or vegetable salad for a quick and easy finger meal.


4 eggs
2 c milk
1 t salt
2 c flour

Whisk eggs until light yellow. Whisk in the milk and salt. Dump in the flour and stir with a wooden spoon just to moisten. Don’t try to work out all the lumps…they won’t hurt anything. Pour the batter into well-greased large muffin tins, filling almost to the top. Bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Do not open the oven door while baking. Remove when done and stab each to release the steam. Let them cool for a few minutes and then remove them from the tins. Makes 12 popovers.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hawaiian chicken soup

Hot and tasty, spicy, salty, warming, and filling :-) We had this the other night, and I decided that it really needed some brown rice added. If you've been doing once a week food preparation, you can just throw in some brown rice that you've pre-cooked (freeze it if you need to keep it more than a few days).

Hawaiian Chicken Soup

1 T sesame oil
Canola oil
1 lb chicken tenders
1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c dry sherry
14 oz can chicken stock
1 1/2 c water
2 t soy sauce
1 T Asian sweet red chile sauce
1 package of spinach, mustard greens, or beet greens
Brown rice, pre-cooked

Heat oil in a large sauce pot. Add chicken and cook until just cooked through, chopping into smaller bits. Remove and set aside. Add a bit more oil and saute ginger and garlic for a few minutes. Add sherry and cook until mostly evaporated, scraping up any browned bits, about 3 minutes. Add stock and water; increase heat to high and bring to a boil for 5 minutes. Add soy sauce, chile sauce and greens, and cook until the greens are tender. Return the chicken to the pot and heat through. Serve in bowls over brown rice.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sauerbraten meatballs

These meatballs go together in a snap using some of the frozen meatballs that you prepared from the Master Mix recipe. You can even prepare the sauce and freeze the meatballs in it if you'd like to be able to pop these out of the freezer some's another good OAMC recipe.

Sauerbraten Meatballs

1 c pineapple juice
3/4 c beef stock
1/2 c gingersnap crumbs
1/3 c brown sugar
1/4 c raisins
2 T lemon juice

1/3 recipe of basic meatballs (1 lb beef)

Bring the sauce ingredients to a boil; cook and stir until crumbs dissolve. Add the frozen meatballs and simmer until thawed, usually around 15 to 20 minutes. Serve over hot rice or noodles.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Baked penne and cheese

This is mac and cheese for grownups! Kids will like it too, but it's really for us :-)

Baked Penne and Cheese

1 lb penne pasta

1/4 c butter
3 large leeks, chopped
1/4 c flour
3 1/2 c milk
1 pound extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
1 T prepared Dijon mustard
1 t Tobasco sauce
2 eggs

Boil the pasta to the al dente stage in a large pot of salted water. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl and set aside. Grease a 15 x 10 baking dish.

Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan. Add the leeks and cook until tender but not brown. Add the flour and stir into the leeks and butter. Add milk slowly, stirring into the mix and bring to a simmer. Add cheese, mustard, and Tobasco. Stir until all the cheese is melted and remove from heat.

Stir a small amount at a time of the cheese sauce into the eggs, being careful not to curdle them. Stir the egg mixture into the rest of the cheese sauce in the pan. Add drained pasta to the saucepan, mix together and transfer to the baking dish. This much can be done ahead of time if needed.

Preheat oven to 400. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the tops of the pasta are lightly browned. Let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes to set.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chicken with garlic-vinegar sauce

This meal can be prepared in a large heavy pot on the stove top. It tastes best when it has a chance to simmer for awhile, so even though the preparation is pretty quick, you'll want to allow enough time for the flavors to develop. I'm going to call it a sixty minute meal for that reason, but you can let it simmer even longer if you'd like, or stick it into a crock pot.

Chicken with Garlic-Vinegar Sauce

2 lbs or more of chicken pieces (thighs work very well)
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
Salt and pepper

Olive oil
3 shallots, minced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 c red wine vinegar
1 c chicken broth
2 sprigs of fresh thyme

1/2 c sour cream
1 T prepared Dijon mustard
1 T tomato paste
1 T flour

Brown the chicken on all sides in the oil and butter, seasoned with salt and pepper. It doesn't need to be cooked through; remove from the pot. Add more oil and saute the shallots and garlic. Add the vinegar, broth and thyme to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; add the chicken and cover. Allow to simmer for about 45 minutes.

Remove chicken and discard thyme sprigs from sauce. Whisk the sour cream through flour together and add into sauce. Heat but do not boil. Return chicken to pot to coat with sauce.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Candy apple cupcakes

I love cupcakes (they are almost cute by definition), I love apple cake, I don’t love package mixes. So when I saw this recipe in Woman’s Day magazine, I couldn’t wait to try it!

When I made mine, I decided against the caramel topping…instead I used a pecan-laden frosting which Mike declared to be “just right” :-)

Candy Apple Cupcakes
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1⁄2 tsp cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp salt
1 1⁄2 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1⁄2 cup granulated sugar
1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1⁄2 cup sour cream
2 large eggs

1 pkg (14 oz) 50 caramel candies
2 Tbsp heavy cream
Ice cream sticks

Garnish: Red jimmies or sprinkles

1. Heat oven to 350°F. You’ll need 24 muffin cups lined with paper liners.

2. Cupcakes: Combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Beat applesauce, sugars, butter, sour cream and eggs in a bowl with mixer on low speed just to combine. in flour mixture until well blended.

4. Divide batter among muffin cups. 30 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in cupcakes comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely.

5. Glaze: Heat caramels in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, until melted. Add heavy cream and stir until combined. Cool 2 minutes. Working quickly, while mixture is still warm, spread top of each cupcake with 2 tsp of glaze. If glaze gets hard to spread, heat on low, stirring until more melted. Insert an ice cream stick into center and top with jimmies or sprinkles, if using. Place in freezer for 5 minutes to set.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rosemary mashed potatoes

You can either mash or whip these potatoes…personally, I like the lumps that are left behind when they’re hand-mashed. Since we’ve leaving the skins on, and they’re lumpy anyway, what’s a little more texture? :-)

We love these potatoes. They’re warm and filling in cooler weather, and the rosemary gives them a wonderful rustic flavor.

Rosemary Mashed Potatoes

Several sprigs of fresh rosemary or 2 – 3 t dried
4 – 5 Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 c milk (skim is fine)
3 – 4 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Cube the potatoes small while you get a pot of water boiling. Boil cubes until soft along with the rosemary, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and remove the stems of the rosemary. Add the milk and oil, and mash together. Add salt and pepper.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sun-dried tomato sauce for pasta

We had this sauce with spaghetti, but I think it would be really good with rotini or penne too. It doesn’t stick to the pasta quite as well as some sauces, so my thoughts are that it would be fun to have with a more robust pasta. However you serve it, it’s delicious! Fast and tasty…see what you think ;-)

Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce for Pasta

10-12 oz sun-dried tomatoes in oil, whole or chopped
Onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1/3 c tomato paste
1 c white wine, dry

1 lb pasta

Salt and pepper
Flat-leaf parsley, chopped for generous garnish
4-6 oz feta cheese

Start the salted water boiling for the pasta. In a skillet, pour out some of the oil from the tomatoes and saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes until soft. Add the tomato paste and stir constantly while it cooks for a few minutes. Add the wine and tomatoes and simmer while the pasta cooks.

Drain the pasta and mound it up on plates or shallow bowls. Spoon on some sauce and crumble feta cheese over. Add parsley and serve.

Image: Stock.xchng

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chipotle gazpacho soup

Oh I just love gazpacho soup, even when the weather is no longer hot. I love every version of it I’ve ever tried, but I think this one has catapaulted itself to the top of my list! This is the basis for a great vegetarian meal, tasty enough that the meat will never be missed. This soup will be best if you can make it ahead of time and let the flavors develop. If not, no worries…just throw in some extra cayenne and chipotle sauce. Even on a cool evening, this soup will warm your innards!

Chipotle Gazpacho Soup

1 clove of garlic
2 scallions
1-1/2 c corn
1-1/2 c cucumber
2 medium sized tomatoes
46 oz tomato juice
3/4 c chipotle grilling sauce (we used Hannaford’s)
2 t cumin powder or seeds
1/2 t cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Roughly chop up the vegetables and add them to a food processor in the order listed. Pour the vegetable juice into a covered bowl; add the processed veggies and the spices. Refrigerate for several hours if possible. Garnish with additional cucumber or scallions if desired.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some thoughts on bread machines

Since this blog is called Real Food Fast, I make no apology that I use a bread machine. I also know how to do it by hand, and I used to bake all of our bread that way when my kids were very little. I received a question offline that I want to share with you:

Ann wrote:
If you do not mind me asking can you tell me what brand and/or model you have? I will have to look around online but I know I use to find many bread machines at tag/yard sales and whatnot so my impression was they did not work very well.
I replied:
I think what happens to a lot of people is that they don’t think about how bread baking is going to fit into their routine. They buy a bread machine and use it a few times, and then just lose interest. It’s a big machine, and you’ve got to have a place to keep it that doesn’t eat up counter space but also is easy to fetch and carry. I keep mine on top of the dryer, so laundry day is also bread day lol!
Some of the ones you find at yard sales may not work very well…I don’t know, but I’ve had great luck with my cheapie yard sale find. It’s an old Oster, and came with an instruction booklet that I actually read lol! It has a paddle that leaves a big hole in the bottom middle of the loaf, but that doesn’t bother us too much. If it does, I take the dough out to shape and bake the old fashioned way.
All I can say is that I love this machine, and it’s the best thing I ever did, getting it. Now we have fresh bread where before, despite my best intentions, we had none! :-)

Here are two of my favorite bread machine recipes (besides Naan and Pizza Dough):

Sunflower Oatmeal Bread

1/2 c water
1/2 c + 2 T buttermilk
1 large egg
1 1/2 T butter, cut into pieces
2 T honey
1 T molasses
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 c oats
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c unsalted sunflower seeds
1 1/2 t salt
2 1/2 t yeast

Basic cycle, light crust.

Cracked Wheat Bread

3/4 c boiling water
1/2 c cracked wheat or bulgur
3 T molasses
2 T butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 t salt

3/4 c water
2 2/3 c white flour
1/3 c whole wheat flour
2 1/4 t yeast

Pour boiling water over cracked wheat in a bowl.  Add molasses through salt and let it stand 1 hour at room temperature. This mixture will be considered a liquid ingredient.

Basic cycle, light crust.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Applesauce and apple butter

As I already told you, we've got a very good crop of apples this year. Rather than just simply stuffing ourselves full of apple cake and apple dumplings (which we have been doing), I decided to put some of them away for later.

So I've been making applesauce and apple butter until it's practically coming out my ears! It will be worth it in the middle of the winter :-)

I use my large crock pot for making both of these treats. The measurements aren't've got to taste as you go. I almost never add any sugar to the apple sauce, but I feel our apple butter needs some. Here are approximations of how I make these:


Approximately 20 apples, halved and cored
1 full cinnamon stick

Place all apples cut side down into the crock pot and cook all day on low until the skins will peel easily but before they start to split too much. Let the apples cool and peel them. Put back into the crock pot with the cinnamon stick and cook for several hours more, still on low. Don't bother to process unless you have fussy eaters.

Apple Butter

Approximately 20 apples, halved and cored
1 c brown sugar
1/3 c apple cider vinegar or apple cider (I prefer the tang of vinegar)
2 t cinnamon
1 t cloves
1 t allspice
1 t salt

Start the process the same as for apple sauce until you've peeled the apples. Return the apples to the crock pot and still in the sugar and vinegar. Cook for several hours on low uncovered, stirring occasionally. Towards the end, stir in the spices. Process for smoothness if desired.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Chicken Dijon

As the weather gets cooler, my family’s tastes turn to warm comfort food like Chicken Dijon! Along with Chicken Cacciatore, this warm, tasty chicken dish both fills us up and satisfies our longing for something savory.

Although you could save some time and make this a thirty minute meal by starting with pre-cooked chicken, the longer cooking time makes a huge difference in taste, and the whole meal will still be under an hour to prepare.

Chicken Dijon

2 large chicken breasts, skinless and boneless

1/3 c coarse Dijon mustard
2/3 c plain yogurt
2 cloves of garlic, mashed

1 c bread crumbs
2 t Herbes de Provence

To save some cooking time, you can butterfly the chicken if you like. I prefer to leave the breasts whole, and the cooking time below reflects that. Mix the mustard, yogurt, and garlic in a bowl; spread 1/3 of the mixture out in the baking dish you’re going to use for the chicken. Place the chicken breasts on top of the mixture, and cover them with the rest. Sprinkle the tops with bread crumbs and Herbes de Provence. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350. Cooking time depends upon thickness of the chicken pieces.

Herbes de Provence
This is a mixture of thyme, rosemary, oregano, bay, lavender, and (sometimes) salt. I prefer to mix it up with salt :-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cider chicken stew (OAMC)

A lovely fall stew to make with either hard cider or the regular tame stuff :-) This makes 4 very hearty servings or 6 medium ones. Since it’s a wonderful OAMC recipe, think about whether to double it so that the time invested is more profitable. This takes a long simmering time to taste its best.

Cider Chicken Stew

Olive oil
4-5 shallots, chopped
1 teaspoon curry powder

Unbleached flour
Salt and pepper
2 lbs boneless chicken parts, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups hard cider (or regular non-alcoholic)
14 oz can of chicken broth
1 T flour
1 c water
2 c butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1/2 ” pieces

1/4 c sliced almonds, toasted (optional garnish)

Heat a little olive oil in a large, heavy sauce pot. Saute shallots until light brown. Add curry powder and heat for one more minute. Spoon shallot mixture into a large bowl.

Place some flour, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl and dredge chicken. Add more oil to the pot and brown the chicken on all sides, working in batches. Add the browned chicken to shallot mixture in the bowl. Repeat until all the chicken if done.
Add cider to pot, scraping well to get all the browned bits. Combine 1 T flour with some of the broth, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Continue adding broth until all is combined. Add broth mixture and water to the pot, bringing it to a boil. Stir in chicken mixture, more salt and pepper if needed. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in squash. Simmer, uncovered, 55 minutes or until chicken and squash are very tender and sauce thickens (if planning to eat right away). Simmer for only about 20 – 30 minutes if planning to freeze. Serve immediately with toasted almond garnish, or freeze for later.

To serve after frozen, remove from the freezer to the fridge the night before or in the morning. Heat gently until completely thawed, and then simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes until stew thickens up.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Apple dumplings for the fall

These are my husband’s traditional favorite autumn dessert! He’s managed to get all our friends hooked on them too, since we often do a post apple-picking party each year. The original recipe called for vegetable shortening; these days, we prefer to use butter or oil instead in most recipes, but I still occasionally use shortening for this one. Sometimes it’s just better to stick with tradition.

I got the recipe from my mother-in-law, but she had altered it enough that I am sharing her rendition here :-)

Apple Dumplings

2 c flour
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
2/3 c shortening (or butter)
1/2 c milk

3 apples, peeled, cut in half, and cored

Syrup, maple or recipe below

Mix the dry ingredients together, cut in the shortening until coarse crumbs form, and stir in the milk. This makes a pie-type of dough except that it has some leavening in it. Form the dough into 6 balls.

Form dough around each apple half. Place in a greased pan, sprinkle with cinnamon, and pour about a cup of syrup over them. Maple syrup can be used, or the recipe below. Bake at 375 for 35 min. Serve warm in a bowl with milk.


1 c water
1 c sugar
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
2 T butter

Boil together. I really prefer using real maple syrup, but if none is available, this will do the trick!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lamb with mint and feta pesto

At a recent restaurant outing, a friend of ours had a ground lamb burger topped with a fabulous mint and feta pesto. If you'd like to try making it from scratch, here's my recipe for Basic Basil Pesto. Just substitute a cup of mint leaves for one cup of the basil leaves, and process the same way. Add crumbled feta cheese to the portion that you're ready to use.

Another easier method would be to buy already prepared pesto and doctor it up. I tried that, and even the pesto that I buy (which already has some parmesan cheese mixed in) tasted great with the feta and mint added.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Potatoes Romanoff

Here is a crock pot version of this marvelous potato dish! I have to make it for my family for all special occasions or they feel cheated. Since there's always lots going on during special occasions, I like this method because you can get them set up and out of the way ahead of time, and you don't have to worry about fussy timing issues. It's one of our favorite dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Potatoes Romanoff

6 large potatoes

2 c cottage cheese
1 c sour cream (regular or low-fat, but not fat-free)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 scallions, chopped
Green olives
Salt & pepper
8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded

Chop potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes, without peeling. Boil for 2-3 minutes until just slightly softened. Drain and place into slow cooker on low setting. Mix cottage cheese through cheddar cheese in the order listed. Mix with potatoes and heat gently. Too high a temp will turn the potatoes to mashed, and you want them to hold their shape so keep the heat low.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What's in season now? Autumn

What’s a person to do when faced with the dizzying array of “fresh” fruits and vegetables in the modern grocery store? Strawberries are now available in the middle of winter, but they also usually taste like cardboard at that time of the year! I’ve had to think through my buying habits very carefully in the last few years, since I spend most of my time and money in the produce aisle :-)

I love to buy organic if possible, especially if it’s an item with thin skin, or an item that I know from previous experience is far superior in taste to the non-organic varieties (like oranges). But organic is not the be-all and end-all of making choices. Some organic growers are huge agribusinesses that are only one step better than non-organic growers. They may not be spraying, but they are just as likely to be depleting the soil and shipping produce long distances.

Sometimes, buying local produce is the better choice, even if the farm is not certified organic. Fresh produce, in season, locally grown…especially if it’s grown on smaller independent farms…may end up being your best choice. Get to know your local farmers and farmstands. Find out what local farms supply your local grocery store.

That means we also have to know what actually is in season! We’ve lost our sense of the seasons over the last decade. Even though it’s probably neither possible nor convenient to eat local, organic, in-season food 100% of the time, most of us could do a lot better job if we simply went back to basics and paid attention!

So here’s my list of what’s available in my neck of the woods. Please feel free to leave more suggestions in the comments, particularly if there are food items available in your local region that I didn’t mention.

Here’s a link to a page with links to many summer recipes using these ingredients. I’ll be adding to it and creating new lists for each season. You can always find this page in the sidebar: What’s in season now?


Mussels, oysters, sea bass, trout (brown)
Duck, venison
Arugula, beans, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, parsips, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, squash, spinach, turnips
Apples, blackberries, cranberries, elderberries, figs, grapes, melons, nuts, pears, plums, pomegranates

Image: Stock.xchng