Category: Spring

Best Summer Sides from More Time at the Table

Best Summer Sides from More Time at the Table

Grilled Zucchini and Corn Salad

This week marks the beginning of weekend picnics, warm holiday get togethers, nights in the backyard, weeks at the beach, days at the cabin, and all kinds of thrilling grilling on your balcony or patio!  For fun, I ran through my TOP FAVORITE original summer sides on More Time at Table and brought them all together in one place just before Memorial Day.  I’ll keep perusing my files and as I find other luscious things I think you’d like, I’ll stick them in.  Be cool!

Continue reading “Best Summer Sides from More Time at the Table”

Pasta Primavera Soup (Spring Vegetable Soup with Pasta)

Pasta Primavera Soup (Spring Vegetable Soup with Pasta)

If you’re lucky enough to live in places where spring vegetables were planted weeks ago, you could already have a crop of spinach or green onions or asparagus. Our past-frost date in Colorado Springs hasn’t yet arrived; it’s June 1 – June 10. For the first time, I’ve snuck a few things in early, but am nightly ready to rush out to bring pots in or run into the yard like a crazy woman throwing blankets over newly-planted beds.  (We have upcoming lows of 32 F this week, for instance.)

Continue reading “Pasta Primavera Soup (Spring Vegetable Soup with Pasta)”

Sesame-Shrimp Noodles with Fresh Vegetable Toppings or Lilacs in the Rain

Sesame-Shrimp Noodles with Fresh Vegetable Toppings or Lilacs in the Rain

A cool and rainy spring in Saint Paul keeps me cooking indoors.  Typically I’d be raking together a salad while Dave grilled chicken or salmon.  Instead, just back from our happy daughter Emily’s graduation from seminary at Princeton, I’m slaving over a hot stove.  Well,  not really.

Here is Emily with her proud parents.  We sang in the choir! Go, Emily!

I will say that once I decided to make and blog some Asian noodles, they were everywhere I looked online.  Like this version from FOOD AND WINE.   I ignored all that and forged ahead.  Hmph; great minds think alike, etc.

If you’re looking for something luscious, filling, and healthy for dinner with plenty leftover for a cold lunch or tomorrow’s dinner, this is your meal.   The short story is that you cook up some noodles with snow peas, asparagus, and shrimp.  You stir in all kinds of things to make it taste good, and let your family or guests choose their toppings — a variety of chopped vegetables, sesame seeds, lime and nuts– at the table.

OR:  Add just the vegetables and “sauce” ingredients (skip the shrimp), along with the peanut topping, and you have a great side for meats you might be grilling for Memorial Day.  I picture this with  salmon, pork chops, or chicken, perhaps those that have been lolling around in an Asian marinade before grilling.

Try this photo recipe:  (Ingredients are in bold type.)

 
sesame-shrimp noodles with fresh vegetable toppings

4 servings
8 Weight Watcher’s Plus Points per serving

Place 2 tablespoons sesame seeds in a small skillet over low heat and toast, stirring occasionally, for several minutes until light brown.  Remove from heat; pour into a small bowl and place on table.  Chop 1/4 cup plain peanuts, scoop into another small bowl, and place on table.

Pour 2 tablespoons canola oil into the skillet over low heat and add 1 tablespoon each minced ginger and garlic.  Cook a minute or two or just until garlic begins to color.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring 5-6 quarts of salted and peppered water to boil for the pasta.  While it heats, chop 1/2 cup each bok choy, fresh cilantro, scallions (green onions), and cucumber.  Chop all of one red bell pepper.  Cut a lime into wedges.   Place the vegetables and the lime wedges side by side in a large bowl or in separate small bowls and put them on the table by the sesame seeds and peanuts.

 
To the by now boiling water, add one pound whole wheat linguine (I like Whole Foods 365 brand best) and cook for about 7 minutes.   Stir in 3/4 pound (12 ounces) fresh peeled and deveined shrimp, a cup each of stringed+ fresh snow peas and chopped fresh asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes until shrimp is firm and pink and noodles are nearly tender.

 
  Drain pasta, shrimp, asparagus and peas.  Pour back into the pot and, while hot, stir in garlic-ginger oil,  a generous pinch of crushed red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon each kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, 1/4 cup  soy sauce and 1  tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sesame oil, 1 teaspoon of Sriracha,  and the juice of one lime.   Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more Sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil, or lime, if needed. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold in shallow pasta bowls; pass fresh vegetables, extra lime slices, soy sauce, and chopped peanuts so that guests can add what they’d like at the table.

Cook’s Notes: 

+Destringing snow peas  If you don’t destring your snow peas, you’ll be flossing (without meaning to) during dinner. 

If you have a vegan or vegetarian in your group, cook the shrimp separately and place it in a separate bowl on the table.  You could add sauteed tofu, if desired, or 2 -3 tablespoons peanut butter to the soy sauce mixture.

If you have leftover cooked chicken, you can add sliced chicken with the garlic-ginger oil instead of cooking shrimp with the noodles.

Vegetables are very interchangeable; please add what you have or you like.  For instance, julienned carrots could be used instead of asparagus or sliced celery in place of the snow peas.  

My lilac are in bloom–finally.  But it’s too cold and rainy to go enjoy them.  Hopefully tomorrow!

Sing a new song,
Alyce

38 Power Foods, Week 17 — Berries — Fresh Berry Cake

38 Power Foods, Week 17 — Berries — Fresh Berry Cake

Just looking at this cake will tell you that it’s not difficult to make and it’s NOT.  A quick glance at the recipe, however, might put you off.  Don’t let it.  There may be a little reading involved, but the cooking and baking are fairly simple and don’t take long.  In fact, though it’s two layers, you only bake one cake.  After it’s cool, you cut it in half.

But listen, if you’re not a baker, this is just the cake for you… because you can get away without baking a cake at all!  Just buy a Sara Lee pound cake and cut it into layers–maybe three?–and do a loaf-shaped cake on a pretty rectangular tray.  Follow the rest of the directions for the berries and filling and there you are!   You could also bake a box cake into cupcakes, slice them, put half in a pretty coffee cup and decorate from there.  Whatever you do, this is a beautiful, tasty cake for Easter, Mother’s Day, or the Memorial Day picnic.  (Assemble this cake where you’re serving it.)  If you don’t have a special cake plate, don’t worry about it.  Whoever eats this will be happy no matter what.  Next time you run in Good Will, see a funky antique shop or a garage sale,  keep an eye our for great serving pieces.  No need to spend a fortune at the department stores. 

Another idea comes from my mother-in-law, who, when I was  a young wife, often made a similar cake using a homemade or store bought angel food cake.  To cut calories, she used Cool Whip, but I can’t go that far.   If I’m eating cake I want to eat cake.  Let them eat cake!  But if you really must cut the whipped cream for health or allergy reasons, try the Cool Whip version.
Cook’s Note:  While October isn’t prime berry time (there are still a few blueberries coming from upper Michigan and Canada), I made this earlier in the year and knew it would be perfect for the Power Foods Berry Post.  Save the recipe for next spring if you’d like to try it with all fresh berries.
I made this for Mother’s Day and took it to a friend’s.  We all had a tiny slice with a huge cup of coffee. 

 Easy Berry Butter Cake (Aida Mollenkamp–courtesy Food Network)

Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins, plus cooling time | Active Time: 25 mins | Makes:8 to 10 servings

  • For the cake:*

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for coating the pan

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened, plus more for coating the pan

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

*Or use a purchased cake like Sara Lee Pound Cake

  • For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

    To assemble:

    • 1 1/2 pounds mixed berries*, washed (if you’re using *strawberries, they’ll also need to be hulled and quartered)  You might not need quite this many berries; mine didn’t fit on the cake. 
    •  
    INSTRUCTIONS
    For the cake:
    1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-inch round cake pan with butter and flour, tap out the excess flour, and set the pan aside. Combine measured flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until evenly combined; set aside.
    2. Place measured butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium high until light in color and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium high until white in color and the texture of wet sand, about 3 minutes more.
    3. Add eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated, then add milk and continue mixing until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated, about 2 minutes more.
    1. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake and turn out onto the rack, right side up, to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the filling.
    For the filling:
    Place mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add cream, sugar, and almond extract, increase speed to medium high, and whip until ingredients are combined and firm peaks form, about 15 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
    To assemble: *

    1. Slice cake in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Divide filling evenly between the cut side and the top of the cake. Divide berries evenly over the filling. Stack cakes on top of each other and serve.

     

    If using a purchased cake like frozen Sara Lee pound cake, you might want to slice it (into thirds, perhaps) while it’s still partially frozen.  (Recipe first posted in May of 2012)
     

    Note:  I’ll share with you that whenever I’ve made a recipe by Aida Mollenkamp, it’s been incredible.  I don’t see her on Food Network anymore; is she still on?  But she does have a lot of recipes.  One that immediately comes to mind is her lasagna. Can’t make that very often.
     

     I like berries because of all the things they can do for us…provide tons of vitamins, fiber, antioxidants,  memory ability boosters, and more…  But I also love them because they’re gorgeous, inexpensive (relatively),  taste incredibly good, and are low in calories.  Many of them are also easy to grow at home.  And while we’re out of berry season in most places in the country, I just got a couple of pints of Michigan blueberries much like the tiny wild Maine berries that are often lusciously sweet-tart and make such great pancakes and muffins.  For more on berries and why we should eat them, click here. 
      ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
     I blog with a great group of writers every Friday where we cook our way through the list of foods from Whole Living Magazine’s Power Foods:  150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients:    Read more about beautiful berries this week at these sites: 
    Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
    Minnie Gupta from TheLady8Home.com

    Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
    .
    Want to join us?  We’d like to have you as part of the group.  Get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com


    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Need some fall love?
    Try reading this week on my Dinner Place blog (Cooking for One):
    Sing a new song,
    Alyce
    P.S.  Fellow blogger @donteatalone.blogspot.com,  Milton Brasher-Cunningham, has just published a book you might be interested in:
    Check it out!

     

38 Power Foods, Week 2 — Asparagus — Asparagus Soup

38 Power Foods, Week 2 — Asparagus — Asparagus Soup

Alyce’s Asparagus Soup a la Silver Palate

Every Friday for the foreseeable future, I’ll be blogging one of the 38 healthiest ingredients from POWER FOODS : 150 DELICIOUS RECIPES WITH THE 38 HEALTHIEST INGREDIENTS by the editors of Whole Living Magazine. 

38 Power Foods is a group effort!   Stop by these other blogs and see what they’re cooking each week as we team up to bring you some of the healthiest cooking available: 

Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
Jill – SaucyCooks 

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
.
As we go along, I’m guessing we’ll get some other writers involved.  If you’re interested in joining the gang writing each week, get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com
             ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 

Read me regularly and you know asparagus is just about my favorite vegetable.  Maybe zucchini is first; I don’t know.  But I cook asparagus at the drop of a hat.  In lots of ways.  Here’s one of my favorite recipes, worth buying some gorgeous tiny bowls for (think antique store) so you can make this as a first-course.  I first made Asparagus Soup as a starter for the lunch celebrating my daughter’s baptism, and have been making it ever since.

alyce’s asparagus soup a la silver palate
   4 main course servings         6-8 first course servings

  • 1 1/2 medium onions, chopped coarsely
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2T butter or olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 6T fresh tarragon (or 2t dry), divided
  • 1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2# asparagus, trimmed well and chopped
  • 1 1/2-2 quarts chicken broth, unsalted*
  •  3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery with leaves, chopped
  • 4-6 drops hot sauce (I like Tabasco.)
  • 1/4 c low-fat sour cream*
  • Lemon rind
In  6qt stockpot, heat butter or oil over medium-low and add chopped onions and shallot. Saute about 10 minutes until softened; add garlic.  Cook another 5 minutes or until vegetables are very soft.  Add salt, pepper, tarragon, parsley, and asparagus.  Let flavors marry by cooking a minute or two, stirring and smelling as you go.  Oh, tarragon.
Pour in 1 1/2 qts chicken stock and add the carrots and celery.  Add the Tabasco carefully.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer 40 minutes or so until all the vegetables are very tender indeed.  As it cooks, add more broth if it seems too thick.   Taste and adjust seasonings. 
 Carefully puree in batches in blender (hold down top with a big towel) or in the food processor.   You can use an immersion blender if you have one, of course.
Pour back into pan and serve hot or let cool and chill to serve cold.  Top with a spoonful of sour cream, a sprinkle of tarragon, and a grate or two of fresh lemon rind.
*For a vegan version, use vegetable broth and leave out sour cream
If you live in St. Paul, my tarragon is right off my back porch in a whiskey barrel; you’re welcome to pick some.
………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
about asparagus   
                                                                                                             A. Morgan
  Asparagus is the leading supplier among vegetables of folic acid. A 5.3 ounce serving provides 60% of the recommended daily allowance for folacin which is necessary for blood cell formation, growth, and prevention of liver disease. Folacin has been shown to play a significant role in the prevention of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, that cause paralysis and death in 2,500 babies each year.

Its wealth of nutrients, fiber and very low sodium and calorie content make asparagus a nutritionally wise choice for today’s health-conscious consumer.

Asparagus is:

  • Low in calories, only 20 per 5.3 oz. serving, less than 4 calories per spear.
  • Contains no fat or cholesterol.
  • Very low in sodium.
  • A good source of potassium.(1)
  • A source of fiber (3 grams per 5.3 oz. serving). (2)
  • An excellent source of folacin. (3)
  • A significant source of thiamin. (4)
  • A significant source of vitamin B6. (4)
  • One of the richest sources of rutin, a compound which strengthens capillary walls.
  • Contains glutathione (GSH). (5)  
  • nutrition info:  courtesy asparagus.org
other new projects – phew!
Here’s my fast Clam Chowder.  Should it go in the new book???
I’m SO excited:  I’m just starting to write a small cookbook called 30 Soups in 30 Minutes, and would enjoy some ideas you might have about what soups you’d like to know how to make quickly–or which soups from either blog you particularly like.   There’ll also be some simple accompaniments for the soups, wine pairings, and a few tiny (read instant) desserts.  It looks like I’ll be publishing through amazon on Create Space and then on to  Kindle.  Thoughts?  Anyone done this before?  I have July and August to work hard on it; I’m not directing a choir and only have some lessons and a seminar to teach.  If you’d like to test any soup recipes, let me know; I need testers.  The first recipe, Broccoli Soup with Toasted Brie, is ready for testing.   Someone once wanted to do wine pairings for this book.  Still up for it?!   I’m so grateful to each of you for your support over the last three years (or more) and can’t wait to show you the book!  Now that I’ve put it out on the blog, I’m gonna have to come through, eh?  Sounding real.
Sing a new song; cook a new soup,
Alyce
Pie 101 – Derby Pie

Pie 101 – Derby Pie

“Derby” Pie or  Pecan-Chocolate-Bourbon Pie.  Can you say decadent?

When someone needs something baked, I do it if I can.  If I have the time.  Not everyone bakes.  I love to bake and need an excuse now that there are only two of us in the house.  If I bake for an event, I somehow always manage to make enough so that we can share a sample or even have a tiny sweetness for ourselves.  (If it’s pie, it’s usually for Dave; I eat a bite, that’s it.  He loves pie too much for me to eat much.)

(Aside:  After I saw how many people read my basic Pie 101 post, I thought I’d begin a series (quite intermittent) on pies.  I hope  you like them.  Anywho, read on.)

Dave’s baby pie in a 4″ ramekin.  He was so relieved.

My friend Roberta likes to give Kentucky Derby parties and her pie baker was a no-show.  I was happy to have an afternoon in the kitchen, though I had never before baked Derby Pie.  I had baked many a pecan pie (the easiest pie to make except for custard and, by the way, pecan pie is a kind of custard pie as it contains eggs and melted butter) and this didn’t look much different–once I figured out what it was.  And while it wasn’t terribly different, it sure tasted differently.   Think of pecans.  Then think of what they taste like sweetened up a little.  Add chocolate.  Bourbon.  You have the picture.  And oh, how lovely this would be for Thanksgiving.

I don’t know from bourbon, but this is what I bought.

But to begin with,  I  couldn’t locate a recipe in any one of my many cookbooks.   A bit embarrassing.  But not much.

This is my cookbook corner.  That’s not all of them, of course.   And no Derby Pie. Hmph.

I thought it was odd that there was no “Derby Pie” even in any of my baking books; I have a few baking books!  Back to the computer to discover that “Derby Pie” –or the term itself– is patented and can only be baked by the Kern family in Louisville, Kentucky.  In other words, they have a monopoly on it.  Once I knew exactly what Derby Pie was, I began to look on other sites for a recipe.  I found dozens –some too simple and some too complicated– and settled on one (below) from examiner.com, a site I wrote for for a few years.  It looked like a recipe I could easily triple or quadruple, which was my day’s goal.

Warming the eggs in warm water since I forgot to take them out the night before.  Room temperature eggs are needed for baking.  I left them about 10 minutes.  Warm eggs crack easier and are less likely to leave bits of shell in your bowl.
Collecting the pie plates.  I keep a couple in my kitchen and the rest downstairs. I use pie plates for a lot of cooking.  They’re perfect for anything in the microwave (vegetables, leftovers) and I bake biscuits in them because you can take the Pyrex plate to the table and the biscuits stay warm.  I almost always use glass pie plates for even baking and for seeing the crust when checking to see if the pie is done.  Do not ever use disposable aluminum pie plates; they’re just too shallow and lightweight.
Toasting all the pecans at once on a half sheet pan.  I like to buy pecans in the fall from Georgia growers.  Often churches sell pecans for fundraisers.  Buy enough for the year then and freeze them.  I make a lot of spicy pecans for Christmas and also at other times of the year for nibbles with wine. (below)

Here I’ve mixed them with other nuts for gift giving or cookie trays.  Recipe here.

For photos of the making dough portion, turn back to my Pie 101 (Step-by-Step) or use your own favorite.  My own dough recipe–scroll down.  Do not use a sweetened dough here.

Dough in all four pie plates, including the baby pie for Dave.
Mixing each pie’s ingredients separately to make sure each pie has enough of everything.
Carefully filling the shells so that I don’t spill the filling onto the pie dough.  Some people do this on the oven rack.
This one is baked in a deep dish stoneware plate from Pampered Chef.  Emile Henry also makes a good deep dish plate.

Glass Pyrex plate

Side view of deep dish pie.

The baby.  You can bake pie in about anything that’s oven proof.  Apilco (French porcelain–excellent dishes for everyday and any day) makes large coffee cups that are oven-proof–as does Corning Ware.

The whole gang all done.    Enough for a Kentucky Derby Party.    How about Thanksgiving?

derby pie

  • Recipe for 10-inch Single Crust Pie Crust  (see below for my crust recipe or use your own)
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted (and cooled or it’ll cook your eggs)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup Karo light corn syrup
  • 4 large eggs  (at room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla  (I like Nielson-Massey vanilla; some prefer Penzey’s.)
  • 1/4 cup bourbon (You see -above- I used Jim Beam.  You may know more and choose better.)
  • 3/4 cup gourmet chocolate chips (I use Guiradelli or Guittard; Callebaut is lovely, but pricey and hard to locate.*)
  • 1 1/4 cup toasted pecans or walnuts, shelled and chopped in half if desired

 How To Make Kentucky Derby Chocolate Pecan Pie

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Roll crust according to my directions in the Best Ever Pie Crust Recipe, or use Alyce’s crust below,  or use a store bought pre-baked pie crust, line a 10-inch deep dish pie pan with the dough, and flute the edges as desired.
  • In a large mixing bowl, on medium speed with whisk attachment, whip butter, sugars, corn syrup, eggs, vanilla and bourbon together until frothy.
  • Remove bowl from mixer, and fold in chocolate chips and pecans or walnuts. Blend well.
  • Pour into prepared pie crust and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes or until set.
  • Serve warm, or cool completely before serving with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • Yields 8-10 slices.   Derby  Pie Recipe courtesy Donna Diegel, Examiner.com

*You can also choose an excellent semi or bittersweet baking chocolate like Valrhona or Callebaut and chop your own chocolate if you like.  BTW, I sometimes order Valrhona chocolate from amazon.com though it is sometimes available at Whole Foods or better grocery stores.)

Alyce’s Pie Dough Recipe:

Pâte Brisée-— Made in a Cuisinart — This is the dough I use most often.
                                                        for each 10″ pie shell 
1 1/3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup or 1/4#  unsalted butter, very cold, cut into 8 pieces (1 stick) 
1/4 cup ice water (measure 1/4 cup water into a 1 cup measuring cup half full of ice)

Place flour and salt in the work bowl of the food processor fitted with steel blade.  Pulse a couple of times to distribute salt.  Add cold butter and pulse briefly several times until butter is worked into flour in several different sizes (1/4″ – 1/2″).  With machine running, slowly pour water through feed tube until dough begins to come together.  Stop machine and carefully remove dough from work bowl.  Working quickly to avoid melting the butter within the dough, form into a ball and then flatten into a disc.  Roll out and fill immediately (see above) or chill, well-wrapped,  1 hour or up to two days ahead. 

Sing a new song; bake a new pie,
Alyce

Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera–All from Trader Joe’s

Welcome spring!

If you shop Trader Joe’s, you might know Israeli couscous–a bit more like round orzo than couscous.  Maybe you buy it?  And if you live in the metro D.C. area or read papers online, you might have read a recipe from the Washington Post a few weeks ago for a Toasted Israeli Couscous Primavera.  I do not live in the D.C. area, though I did for years; these days my traveling husband occasionally brings me a WP home to Saint Paul.  I’m always glad to get it because it was the first paper away from Chicago to which I became really attached.   And as a food blogger, I like seeing what’s going on somewhere else food-wise.   If  you’re a regular reader, you know I rarely blog a recipe from a newspaper.  Until recently when I jumped on board the fun 50 Women Game-Changers in Food blogging adventure, I  blogged almost exclusively original recipes. This one’s yummy, though, and I wanted it on my own site–if only for my own self!  You can, and I did, buy everything you need to make this recipe at any Trader Joe’s.

I don’t know how you feel about Trader Joe’s.  People praise it to the highest heavens and you would have thought our lives were being saved from the plague if you listened to the around-town chat before the store opened on its tight corner with underground parking.   I was in grad school at St. Thomas that summer, and even I heard about it.   And this is a city with fine, locally-owned groceries we can walk to in nearly every neighborhood.  The beauty of Saint Paul!

So I’m of mixed emotions over what’s there–inside Trader Joe’s, I mean.  First off, I’m not drinking that wine not no-how.  Not even in Sangria.  I mean, have you tasted it?   I’d rather drink Coke and be sober.   Secondly, the produce (even though you can get cool things like fresh English peas) looks a little sad, a bit used, and not real green in both its meanings.  I mean, why wrap Italian parsley up on paper plates and in plastic?  The other thing is I have the sense (with no reason, I think) that some of this food might be processed in ways I wouldn’t like or in China maybe.   I feel like a snob.  And guess I am.  I repeat:  I have no basis for these feelings or ideas.  I even looked on the boxes of a few things I bought.  The Israeli couscous, for instance, says “Made in Israel.”  Duh.  The canned salmon is wild from Alaska.  Huh.

The chef is always right.  This sign is right by my main prep space.  Just cookin’.

But I go.  Once in a while.  I’ll only go at very specified times.  Like 10am on Tuesday.  If you try and shop at our Trader Joe’s in the afternoon, evening, or on the weekends, you just can’t get in and out of the parking lot or nearby streets.  The location, albeit the only one they could obtain in our city, is crowded, crowded.   While I’m there, I grab up stuff like sparkling pink lemonade in beautiful liter bottles, peanut-butter stuff pretzel chunks that are addictive, boxes of 100-calorie each scrumptious Belgian milk chocolate, and maybe even a plant or two.  Sometimes a little cheese, though I feel guilty not buying it at our local cheese shop, St. Paul Cheese, which is all of four blocks from my house.

Just because I should, I did a little digging and, if you’d like, you can read a professional review–a bit dated– of Trader Joe’s here.  It’s all good.  Nothing to substantiate my weird, stuck up feelings.
Well,  now that that’s off my chest…I can go on about the recipe.  Right?

I tape upcoming recipes on the door.
Things I’m testing or things I’d like to make sometime go up.  The couscous was up for a while before I got to it.

A wonderfully simple all-in-one spring side dish (or summer-add whatever vegetables), we enjoyed this as a foil to a rosemary-roasted pork loin drizzled with homemade barbeque sauce for our second annual “Lilacs are Blooming” dinner party.  (A leek soup with a bit of bacon was the first course that night, but that’s another blog.)  Appearing and tasting something like  risotto, this is much easier; the couscous is cooked in only 10 minutes and the entire dish in about 15–no long-lived ladling and stirring.     My notes or changes are in red.   Try this:

toasted israeli couscous primavera  courtesy WP/Stephanie Witt Sedgwick
  4 main-dish servings; 6 side-dish servings

2T olive oil, divided
2/3 c chopped scallions (1 bunch, white and light green parts)  I used ramps
1 1/2 cups dried Israeli couscous
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 3/4 cups no-salt added or homemade chicken broth, heated just to boiling
Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice from 1 lemon (2t zest, 2T juice)
8 oz asparagus, woody ends trimmed, cut into 1″ pieces
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted, or blanched fresh peas
2 oz baby spinach leaves
Aleppo pepper to taste
2T fresh parsley, chopped

  1. Heat 1 T of the oil in a 2-3 qt over medium heat.  Add the sallions; cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until just softened.
  2. Add the couscous and season with salt and pepper to taste; stir to combine.  Add the hot broth, lemon zest and juice.
  3. Bring to a boil and add asparagus and peas; cover.  Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat so the broth is barely bubbling at the edges, until the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is cooked through.
  4. Combine the spinach, the parsley and the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large serving bowl.  Add the cooked couscous and vegetables and stir until the spinach has wilted.  
  5. Dust with aleppo pepper.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Serve immediately.

Author’s Notes:  Couscous cooks quickly, and when it’s done, it will stick to the pan.   Keep a close eye on it, and stir every few minutes.  After cooking, the couscou will clump together if you let the dish sit too long.  Serve immediately, or add more oil if you plan to make the dish ahead of time.  Vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth if desired.

My notes:  I didn’t add more oil, but I did add more broth to keep the dish moist.  I made it  right before our guests arrived for dinner, turned it off, and reheated it for serving.  It was tender,  moist, quite warm, and was not over-cooked even though I had kept it covered.

Made Derby pies for a friend’s Derby party…

Congratulations to Poor Man’s Feast--the blogging winner for the James Beard Awards!  Give a shout-out!

Sing a new song,
Alyce

Fresh Berry Cake for Mother’s Day–Bake or Not

Fresh Berry Cake for Mother’s Day–Bake or Not

Looks like Mother’s Day!

I hope you’re looking for a cake to make for your Mom for Mother’s Day.  If you are, you’re sooo wonderful.  What mom wouldn’t love someone who baked a great-looking and yummy cake like this?   I made it to take to a friend’s for Easter and took it unassembled as I wanted it as fresh as it could be. 

Just looking at this cake will tell you that it’s not difficult to make and it’s NOT.  A quick glance at the recipe, however, might put you off.  Don’t let it.  There may be a little reading involved, but the cooking and baking are fairly simple and don’t take long.  In fact, though it’s two layers, you only bake one cake.  After it’s cool, you cut it in half.

 

But listen, if you’re not a baker, this is just the cake for you… because you can get away without baking a cake at all!  Just buy a Sara Lee pound cake and cut it into layers–maybe three?–and do a loaf-shaped cake on a pretty rectangular tray.  Follow the rest of the directions for the berries and filling and there you are!   You could also bake a box cake into cupcakes, slice them, put half in a pretty coffee cup and decorate from there.  Whatever you do, this is a beautiful, tasty cake for mom or anyone.
If you don’t have a special cake plate, don’t worry about it.  Whoever eats this will be happy no matter what.  Next time you run in Good Will or see a funky antique shop, keep an eye our for great serving pieces.  No need to spend a fortune at the department stores. 

Another idea comes from my mother-in-law, who, when I was  a young wife, often made a similar cake using a homemade or store bought angel food cake.  To cut calories, she used Cool Whip, but I can’t go that far.   If I’m eating cake I want to eat cake.  Let them eat cake!  But if you really must cut the whipped cream for health or allergy reasons, try the Cool Whip version.

courtesy Sara Lee Desserts

Easy Berry Butter Cake (Aida Mollenkamp–courtesy Food Network)

Difficulty: Easy | Total Time: 1 hr 5 mins, plus cooling time | Active Time: 25 mins | Makes:8 to 10 servings

  • For the cake:*

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for coating the pan

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 stick), softened, plus more for coating the pan

  • 1 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

*Or use a purchased cake like Sara Lee Pound Cake

  • For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

To assemble:

  • 1 1/2 pounds mixed berries*, washed (if you’re using *strawberries, they’ll also need to be hulled and quartered)  You might not need quite this many berries; mine didn’t fit on the cake.
INSTRUCTIONS
For the cake:
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8-inch round cake pan with butter and flour, tap out the excess flour, and set the pan aside. Combine measured flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk until evenly combined; set aside.
  2. Place measured butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium high until light in color and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add sugar and continue to beat on medium high until white in color and the texture of wet sand, about 3 minutes more.
  3. Add eggs one at a time, letting each incorporate fully before adding the next. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture. Mix just until incorporated, then add milk and continue mixing until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture, mixing just until incorporated, about 2 minutes more.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake and turn out onto the rack, right side up, to cool completely. Meanwhile, make the filling.

For the filling:

  1. Place mascarpone in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whip on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Add cream, sugar, and almond extract, increase speed to medium high, and whip until ingredients are combined and firm peaks form, about 15 seconds more. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble: *

  1. Slice cake in half horizontally using a serrated knife. Divide filling evenly between the cut side and the top of the cake. Divide berries evenly over the filling. Stack cakes on top of each other and serve.
If using a purchased cake like frozen Sara Lee pound cake, you might want to slice it (into thirds, perhaps) while it’s still partially frozen.
Note:  I’ll share with you that whenever I’ve made a recipe by Aida Mollenkamp, it’s been incredible.  I don’t see her on Food Network anymore; is she still on?  But she does have a lot of recipes.  One that immediately comes to mind is her lasagna.  Have mercy.  I could double in size eating that stuff.
Need a great idea for Mother’s Day? 
      Send Mom an ecard and give to Share our Strength:  No Kid Hungry here.

Sing a new song and bake/make an easy cake,

Alyce
Lemon Orzo with Asparagus, Peas, and Fennel

Lemon Orzo with Asparagus, Peas, and Fennel

Next day:  add some feta, more vegetables, and some oregano for a great salad.

When it’s spring, I’m all over asparagus.  You know that if you read my stuff.    But, it’s fennel, too.  Ramps (a bit like scallions) are also a treat if I can find them.  I like to bring all these April goodies together…and here’s one favorite I pair with a grilled or poached salmon.   Later on, come summer (or for next-day leftovers), I make a great salad by using this basic recipe with a few additions.  Try this:
.
lemon orzo with asparagus, peas, and fennel
    serves 4-6
  • 1/2# orzo, cooked al dente according to dirrections and drained

  • 1T each olive oil and butter (use all olive oil for vegan option)

  • 1# trimmed asparagus cut into 1/2″ pieces

  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, and sliced

  • 1/2 cup fresh/frozen peas

  • 1/4 cup sliced red onion or ramps

  • Juice of a lemon

  • 1T grated lemon rind

  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of crushed red pepper

While the orzo cooks, saute the asparagus, fennel, peas and onion in the olive and butter for 3-4 minutes until softened.  In a large bowl, mix together the drained orzo with the cooked vegetables.  Add the lemon juice, lemon rind, and season generously with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Add a bit of crushed red pepper  (or aleppo pepper if you want the taste, but not all the heat) and taste.  Adjust seasonings.  Serve hot or at room temperature.
For the next-day or summer cold salad, you can add to the leftovers chopped feta, dried oregano, fresh basil, any other on-hand chopped vegetables, a splash of red wine vinegar and a little more olive oil.  Taste and adjust seasonings again.
Two-Dog Kitchen and Around the ‘Hood:
Out of my garden:

All together:  Annual Lilac-Bloom Dinner last Friday at our house.

Newman came for the occasion.

Gabby’s always happy with guests!

Sing a new song, get outside,
Alyce

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #35 – Delia Smith

50 Women Game-Changers in Food – #35 – Delia Smith

Would you cook with this woman?  Meet Delia Smith.

In North America, we might argue over who taught us to cook.  While Julia really was on tv, I’m sure I learned to cook from a. my mother, b. James Beard, and c. SILVER PALATE.  (We all teach ourselves right in our kitchen, don’t we?)  But in the UK, there’s no question about who taught you to cook; Delia Smith, #35 in Gourmet’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food, did.  (photo courtesy BBC)

Way back in the ’70s (was it that far away?), you only had to tune in to the telly to learn how to make pastry (or lots else) with Delia in London or Edinburgh. For grins, scroll down to the bottom of the post and click on the video and see what the buzz was about.  Could you bake a blind tart shell after watching that television program? I admit I missed Julia a bit as I watched!

After a couple of false starts as a hairstylist and travel agent, and without much education, Delia began reading cookbooks in the reading room at the British Museum.  Not long after, she was cooking and writing for the Daily Mirror starting in 1969, where she met her husband, Michael Wynn Jones.

Many television episodes, newspaper articles,  books (21 million sold), a website, and even a soccer club later, Delia continues to deliver basic, commonsense, always-trusted cooking advice, recipes, and technique.  She’s so successful at delivering the goods that, within the world marketplace, there’s now something called “The Delia Effect.”  Which means it’ll sell like the proverbial hotcakes, as her stamp on anything makes product fly off the shelves in the UK. Reportedly, egg sales in England rose by 10% after her book How to Cook was published.

Delia’s Complete How to Cook can be ordered through amazon.com, as can other volumes, though some appear to be more available overseas than here in the States.   Time for a few days in London, I’d say.

 Reading through recipes and trying to decide which to try for this blog, I found no shortage of tasty and wonderful-sounding things to cook.  Oven-Baked Smoked Pancetta and Leek Risotto caught my eye, as did Grilled Venison Steaks with Red Onion, Grape, and Raisin Confit, a selection from Delia’s website under the banner, “What Should You be Cooking This Month?”  There’s also a tab for ingredients and the available recipes to use them.  Special diets, Under 30 minutes, Freezing, and Cooking for One are just a few of the sections you might want to peruse on the site.   I especially enjoyed “Recipe of the Day” and “Competitions.”  At the very bottom are links to lists of recipes like, “French,” “Pasta,” and so on.  While it might not be true, the website has every indication of containing a good portion of her thirty-plus years’ recipes and information, which makes it a treasure trove, to say nothing of a great value.

You could make “Italian Baked Fish” (and who doesn’t want more baked fish recipes) as did I, and give Delia a whirl:

First:  Make a little marinara with mushrooms.

 italian baked fish  serves 4  (recipe courtesy deliaonline.com)

4 thick pieces of cod or other white fish (MN cooks:  try our Lake Superior white fish here.)
2T olive oil (no need for extra virgin oil)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 fat clove garlic, crushed
1# ripe tomatoes or 400g tin of Italian tomatoes
4 oz (110 g) sliced mushrooms
1 T chopped fresh basil
1 T capers, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lemon
12 black olives (I opted for kalamata.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

method

Start by making a good, thick tomato sauce:  heat the olive oil in a saucepan and fry the onion for about 5 minutes.  Now add the garlic and tomatoes.  Season with salt and pepper, then bring to a simmering point and cook gently, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Next add the sliced mushrooms, making sure they are well stirred in.  Simmer for a further few minutes until it looks like a thick sauce.  Lastly, stir in the fresh basil and chopped capers.

Next, season the fish with lemon, salt, and pepper

 Now place the fish in a shallow baking dish or tin, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little lemon juice on each piece.  Next spoon an equal quantity of the sauce on to each piece of fish and arrange a few olives on top.   Cover the dish with foil and bake on a high shelf (in upper 1/3 of oven) for about 25 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish.  Serve with new potatoes or brown rice and a tossed green salad.  

Last, top with marinara, and bake.

 I sometimes cook fish right down in a chunky tomato-onion-garlic-etc bath either on top of the stove or in the oven; you might try that idea if it appeals to you.  Here’s my fast snapper in tomato sauce.  Get your vegetables, honey.

Next week, join us when we’ll feature #36, Edna Lewis. “The granddaughter of an emancipated slave, Lewis, another Judith Jones protégée, brought sophisticated Southern dishes into the spotlight.” 
 ~~~~~

If you’d like to cook a few other gorgeous Delia Smith (or other) meals, click on the blogs of the food bloggers featuring Gourmet Live’s 50 Women Game-Changers in Food this (or another) week:
 
Val – More Than Burnt Toast, Taryn – Have Kitchen Will Feed, Susan – The Spice Garden, Heather – girlichef, Miranda – Mangoes and Chutney, Jeanette – Healthy Living  Mary – One Perfect Bite, Kathleen – Bake Away with Me, Sue – The View from Great Island Barbara – Movable Feasts , Linda A – There and Back Again, Nancy – Picadillo Mireya – My Healthy Eating Habits, Veronica – My Catholic Kitchen Annie – Most Lovely Things, Claudia – Journey of an Italian Cook, Alyce – More Time at the Table, Amrita – Beetles Kitchen Escapades
~~~~~
What’s on Alyce’s blog about cooking for one, Dinner Place?

Pork Tenderloin Salad with Berries and Oranges and a Sherry Vinaigrette

 Thanks for stopping by.


just for fun, here’s the early video of Delia teaching pastry-making  in the late ’70s.  courtesy BBC                              Bake a new tart, Alyce