Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fresh Peach Muffins

On our way home from our weekend trip to Kansas City, we stopped at Kimmel Orchards. We enjoyed a wine tasting of their fruit and white wines, tasted their yummy apple cider donuts and purchased some beautiful white peaches. I can't wait to go back during apple season.

A juicy, fresh peach is such a sign of summer and I love eating them. My husband, however, prefers them in desserts. What dessert do you think of when you think of peaches? For me, it's cobblers or crisps. I wanted to try something besides a cobbler, crisp or pie.

I found the baking blog, Sweet Melissa Sunday's, their recipe for this week is Fresh Peach Muffins. They have the maximum number of bakers for their group. Darn! I thought the recipe looked so yummy and since I had fresh peaches, I decided to bake it anyway.

My notes for this recipe:

I blanched the peaches in boiling water for one minute and then transferred them to cold water to stop the cooking. The skin peeled off easily.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of diced peaches, a large peach yielded one cup. I didn't have orange zest, so I substituted lime zest.

These muffins are WONDERFUL. They have a very subtle peach flavor. I do think the cinnamon topping makes the muffins extra tasty.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Mis en Place?

For some reason I've never watched Top Chef. I happened across Padma Lakshmi promoting the new season on tv recently. This season is in Las Vegas, which makes it all the more appealing since Vegas is such a foodie town. I dvr'd the first two episodes and watched the first one today. The show reminds me of Next Food Network Star, only a little more ruthless. I love it!!

The first challenge envolved a mis en place. Although this concept is designed for restaurant kitchens, it has application to the home chef as well. Measuring and assembling ingredients before starting a recipe cuts down on time and possible mistakes.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How Organized are You?

I consider myself an organized person. My e-mail in box only contains mail that is unanswered or needs action. All other e-mails are filed or in the trash bin. My desk contains folders for everything and the stack of filing is small. The clothes in my closet are arranged by type and color. My recipes...not so much. I would like to think the reason is, there are so many pieces of paper to organize. I add a clipping or two to the pile every day. I do have accordian file folders with tabs for the type of recipes. I try to keep up on the filing and do an adequate job but it's more than just filing. If you want to find a recipe for a salad for a dinner, you have to go through the pieces of paper one by one to determine which one to use. Or if you want to find a recipe based on the ingredients in the pantry or refrigerator, there's no way to do that with these accordian files of recipes.

Earlier this week, my husband sent me this article. How great would it be if these accordian files could be turned into a virtual recipe box? With just a couple of days left in my medical leave, I am scrambling to finish all the projects on my "TO DO LIST". With many of them crossed off the list, I think I can find the time to explore these software options. Big Oven is a great option for bloggers with Facebook pages.

The downside to any of these programs is the recipes can't be scanned in, you have to enter them individuall into the program. Once you've taken the time to do that, what a great resource you will have at your fingertips. I will share my research and hopefully my eventual purchase as I delve into this over the next few weeks.

Do you know of other options for recipe organization?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Caramel Glazed Sea Scallops

I like scallops but never make them at home. I watched Paula Deen make this recipe a few months ago and decide it looked like a good first attempt for scallops. I know the key to good scallops is to not over cook them. I was a little concerned because this recipe didn't give a cooking time. These were wonderful! The caramel glaze is a perfect compliment for the scallops.

Caramel Glazed Sea Scallops
Recipe courtesy of Paula Dean

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 tablespoons butter
12 large sea scallops
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine oil and butter to saute pan over medium heat. Salt and pepper the scallops and add to the pan. Coat the scallops with the sugar. Allow scallops to brown and caramelize on both sides.

Spoon the glaze over the scallops and serve.

My notes on this recipe: The original recipe called for making a glaze with sugar, water and corn syrup but didn't really state what to do with it. It also said to make in advance and set aside. Mine ended up getting too hard. You don't need it, the glaze they cook in makes plenty.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Beautiful Gardens

We took a trip to Kansas City this past weekend to visit our good friends, Karen and Larry. The midwest has been experiencing perfect weather. Our weather has been more characteristic of fall than August. Saturday was a beautiful day, sunny and in the 70's. We knew we wanted to spend the day outside taking advantage of the weather.

Powell Gardens is a botanical garden just east of Kansas City. As we were driving there, I tried to remember my last trip to the gardens, Mother's Day, 15 years ago? It made me realize, once again, just how fast time flies. My son, Justin, who was in his early teens on my last visit, will turn 30 this year.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Perfect Summer Salad

Our tomato plant has produced the best slicing tomatoes. A fresh, juicy sliced tomato is a great summer salad. To make the salad even more perfect, fresh basil and mozarella. I miss these wonderful flavors during our cold winters.

Insalata caprese (the salad from Capri) The salad was created in the 1950s at the Trattoria da Vincenzo for regulars out for a light lunch.

Caprese Salad

Large tomato, sliced
Fresh Basil Leaves
Fresh Mozarella
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Freshly Ground Pepper

Slice the tomato. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place basil leaves on top of tomatoes, slice mozarella and place on top of basil. Drizzle olive oil over all. Chill until serving time.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

My husband has a banana almost every morning for breakfast. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to get bananas that are at the right stage of ripening? They always seem to be too green or too ripe. Either way we seem to have some leftover at the end of the week that are too ripe for our tastes.

My fallback recipe for leftover bananas is Mrs. Flint's Banana Bread. While this is the best banana bread I've ever eaten, I am in the mood for something different. I love peanut butter and bananas, I can take a spoon, a jar of peanut butter and a banana and ENJOY!! I searched and found a recipe on All Recipes for Peanut Butter Banana Bread. After reading the reviews, I decided to make some changes and make muffins instead of bread.

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins
Adapted from All Recipes

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F . Line 12 muffin tins with paper muffin cups..
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Stir in peanut butter, bananas, flour and baking soda until blended. Fill muffin cups 3/4 full.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

My notes on this recipe: I would like even a little more peanut butter flavor in these muffins, I would increase the peanut butter to 3/4 cup. Keep a close eye on the baking time, at 20 minutes they are done and any time over 2o minutes would cause them to be dry.

Friday, August 21, 2009

What's in a Name?

My husband's sisters name is Rosemary. Since rosemary seems to be the theme of many of my recipes of late, I wondered what Rosemary means. The name Rosemary comes from the Latin, word ros marinus meaning "dew of the sea". For centuries rosemary has been a symbol of friendship and rembrance, often used in wedding bouquets.

Our neighbors, Greg and Amy brought us the most scrumptious dinner on my second night home from the hospital. Greg said the chicken dish was nothing fancy but a dish that everyone really likes. I think it's fancy enough and he was so right, we loved it. When Tim returned the dishes, I asked him to ask for the recipe. The recipe from Canadian Living's Country Cooking magazine, Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon. The notes on the recipe describe it perfectly, "Although this recipe seems very simple, the combined flavors are sophisticated and intriguing".

Chicken with Rosemary and Lemon

6 chicken breasts
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced

Pat chicken dry. Place in a shallow glass bowl or plastic bag. I use a tupperware container I've had this container for years and it works so well for marinating. The design of the container allows you to turn it over to marinate all sides.

Whisk together all of the ingredients, pour over chicken, turning to coat all sides. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

Arrange chicken pieces on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes of until chicken is no longer pink inside. Alternatively, grill over medium heat until chicken is cooked to a temperature of 170 degrees.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Blueberry Lemonade

Did you know today is National Lemonade Day? Nothing tastes better on a hot summer day than a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade. Although the weather is more like fall than summer here today, I still wanted to honor the day. I decided to try a twist on regular lemonade and make blueberry lemonade.

Blueberry Lemonade

3 cups blueberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 cups cold water
Ice cubes

Combine blueberries and sugar in the blender until well blended. Strain blueberry mixture. Add the lemon juice and cold water. Serve over ice.

This recipe also makes a great cocktail, add a shot of vodka or rum to the lemonade.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Anise Candy

Another favorite from Schmidt's Bakery is Anise Candy. Schmidt's sells this at Christmas time and every year my mother in law phones in her order for 30+ plus bags. Everyone in my family, except me, LOVES this candy.

I found some Anise Oil and decided to see if I could duplicate this sweet treat. I can't remember the last time I made hard candy. I had forgotten just how LONG it takes to get to the hard ball stage. I am sure our humid weather played a part in the timing.

The family reviews are in and while they said the candy was good, it just wasn't Schmidts.

Anise Candy

2 cups sugar
1/2 white corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon anise flavoring
1/2 teaspoon red food coloring

Boil sugar, syrup and water until a candy thermometer registers a hard crack stage.

A candy thermometer is essential for this process. Be prepared, this takes a long time, approximately an hour.

Remove from heat; add flavoring and food color, stir but be careful of the fumes when the oil is added.

Pour onto a greased cookie sheet, let sit a few minutes, score and cut once slightly hardened.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Granola Bars

I made Alton Brown's Granola to take on our Yellowstone vacation this summer. The granola was delicious but not clumpy enough for us. Since I've been home, I have had plenty of time to watch Food Network. Ina Garten's show featured Granola Bars which look very similar to Alton's Granola recipe, except these are bars.

Homemade Granola Bars
Adapted from Ina Garten

2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup tosted wheat germ
2 teaspoons cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teapoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kisher salt
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 x 12 baking pan with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds and coconut on a sheet pan and bake for 10 - 12 minutes, stirring often for even browning. Toss the mixture into a large mixing bowl, add the wheat germ and cinnamon. Mix well.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Place butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and salt into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring for a minute. Pour over the oatmeal mixture. Add the fruit and mix well.

Pour into a prepared pan. Using a small piece of parchment or wax paper, lightly press the mixture into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares.

Store in an airtight container.

My notes on this recipe:

Ina's recipe called for dates and apricots, I didn't have these but had raisins, so I substituted them. Also, I added cinnamon for a little extra flavor. I also felt that these didn't stay together as much as I would like. I need to research what might hold them together a little better next time.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rosemary Scones

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the rosemary is beautiful and plentiful. This is a recipe I watched Giada De Laurentis make last week. I've never been very good at breads, pie crusts and pastries but I've always made the dough "by hand". Giada claims this is an "easy" dough to make and made it in the food processor. They look wonderful, so I decided to give them a try.

Rosemary Scones
Adapted from Giada De Laurentis

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup jam


1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, from 1 large lemon
2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or silpat).

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, baking powder, rosemary, sea salt and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer the mixture to a medium bow. Gradually stir in the cream until the mixture forms a dough. On a lightly floured work surface, rool out the dough into 1/2 inch thick, 10 inch circle. Using a heart shaped cookie cuter, cut out heart shaped pieces of dough and place on the cookie sheet. Gently knead together any leftover pieces of dough and cut into heart shapes and add to the baking sheet. Using a small round measuring spoon, make an indentation in the center of each pastry heart. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of ham into the indentation. Bake for 18 to 2o minutes, until the edges are golden brown. Transfer scones to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes.

To make the glaze, mix together lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth. Gradually add the water until the mixture is thin enough to spread. Using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the scones. Let the scones set for approximately 30 minutes. Can be stored in an airtight container for 2 days.

My notes on this recipe:

One of the keys a good dough is making sure the butter is very cold. In the summer I keep my flour in the refrigerator, to keep away those pesky summer bugs. If you keep your flour in the refrigerator, allow it to warm to room temperature before using (approximately an hour).

The glaze recipe made way too much glaze for the amount of scones, next time I will cut the recipe in half.

I followed Giada's recipe exactly with one exception. Her recipe called for Strawberry jam. I used my mother in law's homemade, Strawberry Rhubarb jam instead.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rosemary Potato Frittata

My rosemary plant is beautiful this year. I love the scent and flavor of rosemary. Cooler weather is starting to creep into Nebraska and I am reminded that winter will be here ALL TOO SOON. I am looking for ways to use the rosemary before it's growing season is forced to come to an end.

I love breakfast and would love to enjoy a breakfast meal for dinner. For my husband, breakfast foods are only served for breakfast. So whenever I have the time, I like to make a new recipe for breakfast.

Rosemary Potato Frittata
Adapted from Rachael Ray

1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove of garlic, chopped.
3 medium to large yukon gold potatoes
3 to 4 sprigs rosemary, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup parmesean cheese
1 tablespoon McCormick vegetable seasoning

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium low heat. Thinly slice the potatoes. Add the potatoes to the skillet and season the layers with rosemary, salt and pepper. Raise the heat and cook for 6 to 7 minutes. Carefully turn the mixture and cook for 5 minutes longer.

In a large bowl, wisk the eggs and milk together. Wisk in the parmesean and vegetable seasoning. Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and lift the potatoes to allow the egg mixture to settle under them. Bake in the oven for 10 - 12 minutes. For the last couple of minutes, turn on the broiler to brown the top of the frittata. Watch carefully, so it does not burn. Remove from the oven and cut into slices and serve.

My notes on this recipe: The original recipe called for onion along with the potatoes, I am not a big fan of raw onions, so I omitted these. Next time, I think I will use them but sautee them first. I added the vegetable seasoning to the eggs to give them a little more flavor. I put the parmesean in with the egg mixture, the original recipe had it sprinkled on top for the last couple of minutes in the oven. I would like to try this recipe with another type of cheese, just to make it a little cheesier. Not sure what cheese will compliment the rosemary and potatoes, I think some type of savory cheese would be soooo good.

The recipe was a hit with my husband, although he couldn't resist telling me how good it would be with some MEAT in it, possibly some spicy sausage.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Variation On An 'Ole Favorite

My family and friends all enjoy Nana's Quick Chocolate Cake. It's an often requested favorite. I've wondered about different variations of this easy and tasty treat. I am a big fan of Paula Deen. In her cookbook, The Lady & Sons Just Desserts, she has the recipe for Gooey Butter Cake and has lots of variations. Maybe I am on to something here with this cake.

Feeling a little restless, I decided to try and see if I could stand in the kitchen long enough to make this "quick" cake. I substituted a yellow cake mix for the chocolate cake mix, vanilla pudding for the chocolate pudding and butterscotch chips for the chocolate chips.

I am pleased with the results. The cake is just as moist and yummy. The vanilla version is a not quite as rich.

What version to try next?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Quinoa Stuffed Banana Peppers

I first tried quinoa over the Fourth of July holiday. My son, Justin, was here for a visit. Not even sure how to pronounce quinoa (keen-wah), I asked Justin if he'd had it and how to pronounce it. We found both red and white quinoa in bulk at Whole Foods. We decided to purchase some of both colors.

Since first trying quinoa last month, I've been reading and hearing about quinoa and it's health benefits. It is so much more nutritious than rice or pasta and is gluten free.

We have a great crop of banana peppers from our garden. We've been grilling them and using them in salads. I wanted to try and find another way to use them. In doing some searching yesterday, I found lots of recipes for stuffing them. We love stuffed peppers but always stuff the larger peppers. Most of the recipes I found used meat in the stuffing. I often make the green ones vegetarian and use rice for the stuffing. I decided to create my own recipe using quinoa for the stuffing.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

8 banana peppers
2 tablespoons butter
2 whole tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
1 egg
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup bread crumbs

Cut off tops of peppers, and remove ribs and seeds. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add peppers, reduce heat, and simmer until tender but still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Slit peppers for stuffing.

Cook 1 cup quinoa in 1 1/2 cups chicken broth, 20 minutes or until water is absorbed.

Heat butter in a medium skillet. Saute onion until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce and garlic. Season with basil, oregano, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine egg, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar and Parmesan. Mix in quinoa, bread crumbs and 1 cup of the tomato sauce mixture.

Fill each pepper with the meat mixture. Place in a 3 quart casserole dish, and pour remaining tomato sauce mixture over peppers.

Bake uncovered for 30 - 45 minutes.

My notes on this recipe: We loved the flavor and texture. This makes a great vegetarian stuffing. I would like to try this recipe with a mozarella cheese topping. This recipe made more than enough stuffing for 8 banana peppers. A half recipe would be just about the right amount for 8 peppers or a whole recipe would be ample for 16 peppers. I froze my leftover stuffing.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Favorite Summer Cocktail

What's your favorite summer cocktail? We love Mojitos. Mojito's are so refreshing, clean and crisp on a hot summer day. Today is one of those hot midwestern summer days. The temperature is going to be close to the century mark and the heat index even higher.

The traditional mojito is made with mint but lately I've seen some recipes made with basil or a combination of basil and mint. My basil crop is abundant, so I think it's worth a try.

Although some recipes use granulated sugar, to me it doesn't disolve and create the same smooth sweetness that simple syrup does.

Basil Mojito

1/2 lime, cut into quarters
6 basil leaves
1/4 c. simple syrup
2 ozs. white rum
club soda

Muddle the lime and basil in a cocktail glass. Add simple syrup and rum. Stir to blend. Add ice cubes and top with club soda. Garnish with a lime wedge and sprig of basil.


Friday, August 7, 2009

Where have you been?

About 30 days ago, I was given some medical news that comsumed my life and my thoughts. In hindsight, maybe blogging would have been a good, theraputic thing. As it turns out, I am very lucky and my worst fears won't be realized. I will be home recovering from surgery for the next month , the perfect opportunity for blogging.

Summer fruits and vegetables are abundant. The tomatoes and peppers in my garden will be perfect for salsa. Hoping my one tomatillo plant spared by the rabbits produces the beautiful fruits. Did you know they are related to Chinese Lanterns?

I have a whole list of new recipes and I can't wait to try them!!!!!!!!!!!