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School Lunch Flashback

11 Aug

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I’m bringing back this article I wrote for Edible Marin Wine country in 2012. This continues to be an easy fun lunch for my kiddo!

If you have a rice cooker, set it the night before to cook fresh rice in the morning before you get up. Use whatever is on hand, leftovers, nuts, veggies , chicken, steak, whatever you have on hand.

We are all getting ready for school and being prepared for lunch making is a real time saver. Good luck!

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By Jennifer Carden / Photographed by Matthew Carden

If it’s day one of 200 or so school days to come and you’re already out of ideas, you are not alone. It feels like kids’ school lunches have been the same since the ’50s. Does this sound familiar: PB&J with the crust cut off, an apple and juice? My own mom used those waxed bags that never quite closed, so one side of the sandwich was dried out by the time lunch rolled around. I almost never ate them. Sorry, Mom.

I consulted with my daughter when I was writing this piece and she provided some useful food for thought on why kids don’t finish their lunch at school. “I like to get through my lunch fast so we can go out to recess,” she divulged. I think that’s pretty universal. So give this sleight of hand a try to spice up your child’s lunchtime with a game of handball… sushi, that is!

Temarizushi is Japanese for “hand ball,” and these small jewel-like rice balls, formed by hand, are traditionally served in the spring for young children’s parties. They are actually great year-round, changing the toppings with the seasons, and a perfect way to use the leftovers in your refrigerator. Three rice balls that include a protein have around the equivalent nutritional value of most lunchbox sandwiches, making them the right kind of fuel for all that playing and learning. The balls are easy and fun for kids to make the night before school.

TO PREPARE HAND BALL SUSHI:

Tear or cut a dozen 4- by 4-inch squares of plastic wrap and set aside on a clean, dry work surface. (Note: If you lay them down with half extending over the edge of the counter it makes them easy to grab when you need them.) Place a small amount of your chosen ingredient on a sheet of the plastic wrap. Drop approximately 2 teaspoons of room-temperature sushi rice on top of your *Toppings of choice. If it is sticky, dampen your hands with a bit of water.

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*Toppings of your choice such as: toasted sesame seeds; nori (toasted seaweed), cut out with a hole punch or cut into shapes; carrot, zucchini or cucumber ribbons; cooked fresh pumpkin; corn; sliced black olives; tofu, cut into animal shapes with small cookie cutters; leftover chicken, salmon or scrambled eggs; edible flowers; or thinly sliced deli meats like turkey or ham For a sweet option, add cinnamon sugar to the rice and top with thinly sliced apples.

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Gather the plastic wrap up around the rice ball, then twist the plastic wrap tightly, firmly pressing the rice into a ball shape. Continue with new ingredients until you have used up all the rice. Wait at least 15 minutes to unwrap the balls and serve. If you make these ahead of time, leave in the wrap and store in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature to serve. For lunch boxes, leave them wrapped for safekeeping and your child will have fun unwrapping them at lunchtime.

How to make perfect sushi rice every time.

Ingredients for Perfect Sushi Rice

2 cups sushi rice

2 cups water

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons mirin

2 teaspoons salt

Ingredients

Toppings of your choice* (examples below)

Instructions

TO PREPARE PERFECT SUSHI RICE:

Do not follow the directions on the bag of rice! Rinse the rice only 3–4 times— the water does NOT have to run clear as it will instruct on the bag. Allow rice to drain thoroughly.

While rice is draining, combine vinegar, sugar, salt and mirin in a bowl and mix well. Set aside.

Add the rice and water to a pan and bring quickly to a boil over high heat. Once it reaches a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 15 minutes before removing the pot from the heat, keeping the lid CLOSED. Abso- lutely no stirring or sneaking a peek!

Let rice rest for 10 minutes, then remove the cover.

Spread the rice in a wide glass or ceramic dish to cool and lightly fan the rice while adding the vinegar mixture. Mix rice gently, being careful not to break or mash it.

Cook’s note: If you have a rice cooker, follow the directions for “sushi rice” and add the vinegar and other seasonings after cooking.

Yields 4 cups of rice.

A Cheese Wiz

2 Nov
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Humboldt Fog with Grilled Peaches and Orzo

melt-cover500-241x300I can’t totally recall but I think I met Stepahanie Stiavetti at an IACP conference (not the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference) it’s the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Stephanie is a food writer and recipe developer and I am excited to announce that she has just written her first cookbook.

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Humboldt Fog Cheese

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of her book, Melt the Art of Macaroni and Cheese.  I get a lot of books to review and most of the time I don’t love every book I get and rarely review them. I wanted to review Stephanie’s because it’s her first and because we both like to dye various strands of our hair bright red. (Not really, but that is true about the hair, her hair always looks great!)

I’ll start by telling you that unfortunately cheese is not my friend, I love cheese but it really hates me. UNLESS of course…..it’s very expensive, made and by hand from Pygmy goats in an obscure smallish town somewhere. Are you still with me? When I looked through Melt I instantly knew what recipe I would make, one that was kid friendly and made with a cheese I was very familiar with.

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Humboldt Fog Cheese

About 8 years ago my husband and I did all the photography for Cypress Grove Cheve Cheese Company. No joke, we had about 100 pounds of cheese to shoot! In that in that excessive amount of cheese were three wheels of Humboldt Fog deliciousness. We ended up having a party and inviting strangers in to take cheese home! That’s when the love affair started with a beautiful creamy wheel of snowy white goat cheese. Humboldt Fog could be mistaken at first glance for Blue cheese, but it’s so not a blue cheese. Cheese maker Mary Keehn of Humboldt County, California invented this cheese named for our famous coastal fog. We have toured Mary’s cheese making facility in Arcadia and it is fascinating, they make some of our favorite cheese. The story goes that in the morning the cream would be set into the molds and then a layer of charred vegetable ash laid atop the cream to separate the cream from the afternoon milking, creating a distinct dark green blue line of ash in the center of each wedge.

Now that you know the back story about my slight obsession with this cheese, I can tell you about the yummy recipe I made from Stephanie’s book.

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She even spelled her name in Orzo and alphabet pasta!

Yes, Yes I know it’s not peach season but the weather is warm and the grill is right out front and begging to be used. I was lucky enough to find peaches, really beautiful ones locally and I was also trying to pick a kid friendly recipe to share from Melt. I knew my family liked grilled peaches, we usually make them for a sweet dessert with whipped cream, we haven’t eaten them in a savory dish.  Another way I thought I could to add a kid zip to this dish was to use alphabet pasta mixed with the orzo, this was a hit!

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Juicy Grilled Peaches

We left out the mint but could have added it just as easily, ours was sad and brown and better left alone in the garden to wither. We all loved the dish, with sweet hints of peach, tart vinegar and creamy sharp cheese flavors mingling together. I loved the addition of pistachios, the kid could have done with out them but I think the added saltiness and crunch was needed. I highly recommend this dish for a summer party, I repeat summer, don’t be a seasonal rule breaker like I am! I like Melt it’s good for a twist on Mac and Cheese and is full of other great ideas.

There is a great MELT giveaway here be sure to go over to The Culinary Life and enter win a set of Le Crueset cookware

Humboldt Fog with Grilled Peaches and Orzo

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What could be nicer than a blushing peach? The sun-kissed color, the ticklish feel of the fuzz, the sweet-as-sugar-cane flavor. This simple orzo salad lets these traits shine—and without the nuisance of peach juice dribbling down your arm. Summer in a bowl, this is.

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Peaches awaiting the grill

Serves 4

3 freestone yellow peaches

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons olive oil

S ea salt

10 ounces orzo (or 5 oz orzo and 5 oz alphabet pasta can be cooked together)

¼ cup chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

¼ cup chopped spearmint

1/2 cup chopped pistachios

Freshly ground black pepper

6 ounces Humboldt Fog, rind removed and crumbled into large chunks

1. Using a barely damp paper towel, lightly scrub the peaches of any extraneous fuzz. Don’t wash the peaches, as they will soak up excess water. Using a sharp knife, cut each peach in half lengthwise around the pit, using the peach’s crevices as a guide. Discard the pits.

2. Set the peach halves in a zip-top bag and toss with honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Allow the peaches to marinate for 10 minutes.

3. While the peaches marinate, cook the orzo in some salted boiling water until al dente. Drain through a colander and set aside.

4. Once the peaches are done marinating, reserve the marinade and place the peach halves on a hot, oiled grill, cut-side down. Cover and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the peaches are soft and have developed some charming dark grill marks. Roughly chop into bite-size pieces and set aside.

5. Combine the peaches, marinade, orzo, parsley, spearmint, and pistachios in a bowl and toss. Add a bit more sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper to taste. Plonk in the Humboldt Fog and toss once or twice, just enough to bring everything together.

Overmixing will melt the cheese, and our goal here is to maintain its chunky texture.

Alternative cheeses: Though Humboldt Fog is widely available, a good stand-in would be Goat’s Leap Eclipse, Bermuda Triangle, or any stellar chèvre.

Wine pairings: rosé, Sauvignon Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Gewürztraminer

Additional pairings for the cheese: plums, cherries, balsamic vinegar reduction

Breakfast in Bed (kind of)

30 Jul

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 “Noosa Finest Yoghurt would like to serve you an Aussie-style ‘brekkie in bed,’ hand delivered to your door on a morning of your choice.”

Um OK, who doesn’t like breakfast in bed? When Noosa decided they wanted to drive to Novato to serve us brekie we said heck yes-sir-ee!! We usually eat eggs but I made an exception for this morning. I set the alarm for 7:30 and on the dot at 8 the van rolled up. Out came the most bubbly delivery gal, the sun wasn’t out but it didn’t matter she was so sunny and cheerful.

Not only did we get yoghurt hand delivered we got, organic granola, fresh juice and fruit brought right to our door. She unpacked her cooler onto the breakfast table and then we went outside to take photos of the van. She drove back to San Francisco and we dug in. We opened all the flavors right away, tasting them and giving our opinions. The raspberry was a hit even though I didn’t think I would like it, I loved it.   I really loved the honey flavor and so did Claire. The fruit purees are delicious too, not gummy or overly sweet. Noosa yoghurts stay away from artificial ingredients of any kind, including flavors, colors and preservatives, it just feels like good homemade food.

contact-page-sb-img1I had seen them at the store but I never picked one up but now I will, for sure, in fact when we were in Nantucket last week I grabbed a few at the market there. Noosa uses the best seasonal produce the market has to offer, and pack it in clear tubs so you can see for yourself the lusciousness of what you’re about to enjoy. And it was lush, I am used to lactose free yogurt so this to me was like the most creamy luscious treat.  I had never had Aussie style yoghurt, it has a uniquely sweet/tart tang and thick, velvety texture, I’m hooked. Noosa is made in small batches, on-site at the family-owned Morning Fresh Dairy in Bellvue, Colorado, and infused with locally produced clover alfalfa honey.images

We decided that we could get used to this breakfast delivery thing. I think this would be a great business for someone, I am lazy in the morning, just ask my husband! Once a week can someone can come over and bring breakfast to us,  I would be so in to that?

Yoghurt has roots all over the world, India, Greece, Bulgaria, Switzerland, France and so on…..It’ s used in savory and sweet dishes you can read more here.

Lets clear up this spelling thing…yogurt or yoghurt?

The word is originally derived from Turkish, to be curdled or coagulated; to thicken. There are many variations of spelling but they are mostly all pronounced the same so spell it however you want. Just don’t forget to try Noosa!!

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Sorry Noosa I don’t think I’ll be tasting the Vegemite anytime soon…I’m sure it’s delicious 😉

Bullseye Pops

11 Jun

EMWC Summer 2013 Stone's Soup Corner

THE KIDS are ALL Right

Photo Matthew Carden

Another share from Edible Marin Wine Country, I couldn’t pass up sharing this recipe!

When I sat down to write this issue’s Stone’s Soup Corner, I thought I had it all worked out. Melon soup was on the agenda. Perfect for summer— cool, refreshing and easy.

I usually clear my ideas with my 9-year-old daughter before I discuss them with my editor, but this time I never got around to asking her what she thought about this soup idea. Her reaction when she heard: “Mom, no kid is going to eat that!”

And she was right. I had lost sight of whom I was writing for. So, together, we brainstormed for a summer melon-y idea and came up with these creamy pops.

Food is at the center of so much of our lives and too often it becomes simply a chore. We shoo the kids away so we can get the cooking done, clean up and get on to the next task. But food should be fun, not stressful or humorless. That is why I like cooking for kids and silly grown-ups.

Sometimes on a hot day sharing a moment with a sloppy, drippy homemade pop is simply the right thing to do. Forget all the to-do lists and the dirty laundry, just for a moment. These Bull’s Eye Honeydew Pops highlight the ripest melons of the season. They are creamy, refreshing and dairy free!

Make an extra batch to keep in your freezer—it’s nice to have homemade pops ready for a playdate or family dessert on a hot summer night.

bullseye

Bullseye Honeydew Pops

Yield: 6 regular-size pops or 24 ice-cube-size pops

3⁄4 cup full-fat coconut milk
1⁄2 cup sugar
6 large mint leaves (Mint grows wild, so go check your garden before

you buy it at the market.)
3 cups very ripe Honeydew melon flesh (about 1⁄2 a melon 24 fresh or frozen cherries
Decorative straws (cut to size) or Popsicle sticks

Extra Tools

Straws or wooden Popsicle sticks

Small pop molds (Note: pop molds look great, but an ice cube tray will work just fine.)

Add coconut milk, sugar and mint leaves to a small saucepan and warm slowly over medium heat, scraping the sides constantly with a rubber spatula. When the sugar is dissolved, remove pan from heat and cool mixture to room temperature.

Dice the melon flesh into small pieces and place in a blender. Drain the mint from the cooled syrup, then add syrup to the blender. Blend until smooth and frothy.

Place four cherries into each pop mold—or, if you are using ice cube trays to make your pops, place a stick or straw into each cherry and place 1 in each cube reservoir.

Pour the coconut-melon mixture around the cherries in each mold, then place a straw or Popsicle stick into the center. If you are using ice cube trays, carefully pour the mixture around each cherry in the tray.

Freeze for 4 hours or until firm.

edible marin & wine country summer 2013 | 53

Super Delicious Fluffy Gluten Free Oatmeal Muffins

21 May

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I recently found Cup to Cup Gluten Free Flour and I think it may be the best one so far. Image

I just feel better when I eat gluten free! I have been eating that way for almost 6 years. I do eat gluten occasionally but for the most part I stick with a GF free diet. When I first started this way of eating I had gallstones, and they were horrible! I had to cut out fat and fat tastes good. After my gallbladder was removed (they tell you you don’t really need it, they lie!) I had a very hard time eating any fatty foods, so I started cutting out even more thinking maybe my digestion was screwy because of wheat or dairy. What happened, was that I started feeling alert and my occasional migraines disappeared for good.  I really had no idea I was even in a fog, but I must have been for a very long time because the change I saw from going off wheat was big. I was able to slowly reintroduce fat, truly unfortunate for my waistline!

I cut out most dairy too and my tummy problems cleared up a lot but not all the way. It wasn’t until just under two years ago I found out I had Thyroid issues that I was clear of tummy problems and the fog continues to be lifted. I continue to try and avoid dairy and wheat and feel worlds better for it.  I think a lot of us walk around not even knowing we feel terrible.

All this for muffins, yes I just gave you way too much information, but if you or your kids are feeling foggy, unmotivated or bloated try giving up gluten for a few months.

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Fluffy Gluten Free Oatmeal Muffins

These muffins are gluten free but you wouldn’t know it.

The flour does have milk powder so if you can handle a tiny bit of dairy it will be perfect for you.

1/2 cup milk (soy or almond milk)
 3/4 cup instant oatmeal
 2 Tbs vegetable oil
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 eggs
 2/3 cup brown sugar

1 cup all-purpose flour (gluten free flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup mini chips
1/4 cup shredded sweet coconut or unsweetened

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Butter 12 muffin cups or use cupcake papers
Mix oats and milk together in a bowl, set aside to soak for 15 minutes or longer.
Combine  flour,  baking powder, baking soda, and salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, set aside.
In a large measuring cup add coconut oil into vegetable oil. If the coconut oil is solid, mash the coconut oil into vegetable oil. Add eggs and brown sugar and mix until smooth
Add oatmeal milk mixture into wet mixture, mix.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, add chocolate chips and coconut, mix until just incorporated.
Fill the prepared muffin cups with batter.
Bake in preheated oven until tops are golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

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Big Salad

6 Mar

20130306-164515.jpgMost of the time I work from home, with the exception of occasional travel or being at our Art Gallery. My husband also works at home and we try not to eat lunch out too much.   I am always in need fast easy and lunches, and it’s usually some form of leftovers magically disguised as a new dish. We love big salads at our house especially as the weather gets warmer.  If you keep clean chopped veggies on hand you will be more likely to choose a healthier alternative like a salad to take out.

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode in the with the “big salad?” This reminded me of that, it’s never ending, full of crunchy veggies, sweet and soft potatoes and creamy dressing. Just make sure if you make it, your lunch date knows YOU made it! (make sure you watch the Seinfeld link)  I suggest sharing because it isn’t exactly a low cal salad and you wouldn’t want to hog the whole thing, would you?

I used gluten free soy sauce and organic peanut butter but you use what ever you have on hand.
Kids may also like this salad, it’s not to tangy and they tend to love peanut butter. You can substitute almond or sunflower butter easily, adjusting the water may be necessary. You could serve some toasty flat bread with this salad but the crunchy veggies were enough for me.
The sauce can work over rice as a hot dish too, just heat it up, add a few more dashes of soy sauce and off you go….

 

Here is a tip for grating ginger. Peel fresh ginger and keep it in the freezer. When needed for soups, sauces or tea just use a micro grater and grate directly into your recipe. I reach for my ginger all the time!

Big Salad

Serves 2 large  or 4 smaller servings

Creamy Peanut Butter Dressing

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter

3 tablespoons soy sauce (or more to taste)

2 teaspoons honey or agave

2 Tbs rice wine vinegar

Grated fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon dried ginger

pinch of ground pepper

1/4 cup hot water

Pinch of red pepper flakes

In a heat proof glass measuring cup or mug add all ingredients except water. Put in microwave for 30 seconds or less.   Mix all ingredients with a fork until well blended. Add hot water slowly until, your desired consistency, add red pepper flakes.

Salad

Use any veggies you have on hand, this is what I used.

2 small sweet potatoes, cooked and chopped (see recipe)
Baby spinach
Kale, raw, shredded
cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces
broccoli, chopped into bite size pieces
red onions, sliced in to half moons
scallions, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
cherry tomatoes, halved
carrots diced
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wash and pierce potatoes, toss in microwave and cook about 5-6 minutes on high or until very soft. Remove from microwave and let cool for 10 minutes. Strip the peel off with your fingers, it should be easy to remove. If it gives you trouble, scoop out flesh with a spoon. Chop in to small bite size chunks, set aside.

Assemble a crisp salad: Add everything except the sweet potato to a large bowl, toss with dressing (start with a small amount, you can always add but can’t remove too much dressing)
Add sweet potato on top and drizzle a bit of dressing on it. Serve! You can top with chopped peanuts if desired.

Acorn Squash, Cutting Cooking Time in “Half” with a Little Help from OrAngie

12 Nov

I knew I wanted to share this idea with you but I was holding off for some reason. Maybe it’s because I recently posted about squash, but we LOVE squash!!
I’m super excited to be a part of the Paint Chip Pals Rainbow-Tastic Holiday blog hop which supports a fun and exciting Kickstarter campaign.  The Paint Chip Pals plush dolls – a colorful set of characters saving the world from blah one color at a time! Learn more about this exciting campaign and the creators Andrea and Cliff Currie (whom you may recognize from Hand Make My Day and Craft Wars) here!

I love all the Paint Chip Pals for their bright hues and unique personalities I naturally honed in on the chef OrAngie as the inspiration for this squashie project because I like her fireyness and off the hook kitchen skills. When I was contacted recently by The Paint Chip Pals to do a blog post, I knew this was the one for them.  I saw OrAngie the cute Paint Chip chef who loves making Orangie cupcakes and mini yam sandwiches and fell in love! We try to be as creative as we can over here and the Paint Chip Pals fall right into our category for fun!

“How can squash be fun?” you ask. Well first off when I was looking at the photos of this pretty Orange Acorn squash my first thought was it looks a bit like OrAngie! It’s orange, and has a pretty little scalloped edge. If it had arms it would probably reach out for a hug, it’s like a little baby OrAngie. See how cute she is, do you see a resemblance?

If you have never made Acorn Squash before it is the easiest side dish to make and is sure to impress your guests! Don’t you want some Ohhh’s and Ahhh’s at the table once in a while? (You know you do) Now I didn’t learn to make this at culinary school or on a cooking show, this is just how mom used to make it, simple, comforting, buttery and sweet. I did however come up with this brilliant microwave steaming method to cut cooking time…all by myself! Now go to the store and buy some acorn squash, when you get back I will tell you what to do with this prehistoric looking food.

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Nothing Special :

Dam Good Old Fashioned Acorn Squash Recipe

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2 similar sized acorn squash

1/2 cup water

4 Tbs butter, coconut oil or Earth Balance

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup maple syrup

pinch salt

Preheat oven to 425˚F

Wash squash with water, dry.

Place a towel on a cutting board, put squash down stem side horizontal to board. Wrap towel around base of squash like a snake, to secure it in place while you cut through it. Slice a tiny amount off the stem side and bottom so when the squash is sitting upright it won’t wobble. Using a sharp knife* cut through the equator (the fat middle) of the squash. (see photo)

Scoop all the seeds and pulp out of the center. Pour 1/2 the water into the bottom half of each squash, place top of squash back on top. (see photo) Place the squash in the microwave for 5 minutes on high. It is now steaming, when you remove it use caution not to get a steam burn. The squash should be tender when poked with a knife. If it is not, return it to the microwave.

Dump out any remaining water; place the squash on a baking sheet. Add 1 Tbs butter, 1 Tbs brown sugar, 1 Tbs maple syrup and a pinch of salt to the flesh of each squash. Lightly poke each one with a fork a few times to let the butter and sugar sink in.

Cook for 15 minutes or until bubbly and tender, let cool 5 minutes, serve.

* sharp knife – If the squash is too tough to cut through or you are afraid of slipping place it in the microwave for 2 minutes to soften.

Chicken Little Hand Pies

22 Sep

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Chicken pot pie is not nearly as daunting a project as you may think. I know it sounds fussy with all that dough, sauce making, chicken cooking, chopping and so on. It is really just a matter of tossing everything in a pan and adding some kind of doughy top.  I got all excited one night while I was cooking some chicken and though these would be a prefect thing to make the next night for dinner.  Because I’d already cooked the chicken and would use the leftovers for the pies, it would be so easy. Then I remembered I don’t have those cute little pots that are  special for making individual chicken pot pie in. I have a million small dishes, but like Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, none were just right, some were too small and some were too large. Then I thought who needs those stinkin’ mini pots anyway, I’ll make hand pies and then I won’t even have to wash forks after dinner because you eat these with your hands! Brilliant.

Then I realized that I had scheduled a very busy day the next day so… home-made pie dough wasn’t going to happen. Ok, I cheated, call me Semi Homemade (it’s ok I don’t mind, I know I can make pie dough if I really needed to) 

So I made the filling that evening after dinner and snuggled it right in the fridge for the next day. I was lucky enough to have some homemade chicken stock on hand. I was unlucky because I had a house of sick people, precisely why I had chicken stock.  The next day I had to grab some stuff at the store anyway so I tossed in a pre made pie dough, you can get fairly healthy ones at a natural market. You could use puff dough If you can’t find pie dough. I enlisted the help of my daughter in making these, she picked the size and shapes for the pies. We cut out the dough with cookie cutters, brushed them with egg, filled them and sealed them. Chilling the mixture makes easy work of filling the little pies when it’s time. We assembled them around 3 o’clock and put them back in the refrigerator until it was time to bake them before dinner. You could also freeze them raw for another day.  They baked up really pretty and were equally as tasty. You can try adding anything, make them vegetarian even, just use your creative genius. Serve alongside a colorful salad.

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Chicken Little Hand Pies

These little suckers stay very hot inside for a long time, be careful when serving little kids.

If using raw chicken, cut it up very small and add it after the broth, simmer until it is cooked through.

Tip: Slicing semi frozen chicken is easier than trying to slice raw chicken. Place your raw chicken in the freezer for 10 minutes and then slice away.

Adapted from Epicurious

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, quartered lengthwise and diced
1 small potato, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 celery rib, halved lengthwise and diced

1/4 cup thawed corn kernels

1/2 cup ounces cooked shredded chicken

Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme

Squeeze of lemon juice about a 1/2 tsp

2 unbaked pie crusts, either store-bought or homemade (not pie shells)
1 egg, beaten

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the carrot,potato and celery and season with salt and pepper to taste, raise the heat to medium-high. Cook until the vegetables are softened , add the corn and pre-cooked chicken.

Sprinkle the flour over everything in the pan, stir, and cook for 1 minute. Add the broth,  thyme and lemon juice,  and simmer for 5 minutes more or until thickened.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cool and refrigerate until cold, about to 30 minutes. Remove the pie crusts from the refrigerator so they can soften slightly.

When the filling is cool, preheat oven to 4oo°F  Grease or line two baking sheets with parchment.

Lay the crust out on a cutting board.   Use cookie cutter to cut as many shapes as you can. Re-roll the dough and cut more until you have no more crust left.

Place about 1 Tbs.  of filling in the center of dough, brush beaten egg around the outside of the crust,  then place another matching shape in top. Crimp the edges together with a fork, and prick the top a few times for steam to escape. Carefully transfer pie to the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining pie crust and filling. Just before baking brush all the pies with egg wash.

Bake until golden brown, 20 30 minutes.

My at Home Burger is an Ugly Duckling

11 Aug

Fast food burger at home

I love summer but I hate the heat, I’m a typical Sagittarius, just can’t make up my mind! The reason I love summer, especially in California is for the tomatoes. With tomatoes comes the grilled summery food of the Gods….the perfect burger and I love those too!!
My darling child states that she hates burgers, at the mention of In and Out Burger she cringes!

Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger with Cajun Fries

Actual Five Guys Bacon Cheeseburger with Cajun Fries (Photo credit: powerplantop)

My at home burger

When there is a food she hates, it just makes me try harder, I just keep making it and serving it in tiny cut up pieces. I make sure to serve something she loves with it, if I’m lucky she eats it all! Enthralling dinner table conversation helps to distract from the detested edible too!!
Anyway, Michael Pollen says if your going to eat junk food make it yourself! I had a hankering for a sloppy Five Guys style burger with summer tomato, so I grilled up a batch. I know eating healthy is a must but once in a while a juicy burger hits the spot. Just be careful not to eat like that daily and you should be A-OK.
I cheated with the roll because I haven’t mastered from scratch extra soft squishy rolls yet…forgive me?
Now I’ve tried it all, adding egg, bread crumbs, onion, A-1 sauce, you name it I’ve tried to enhance my burgers with it. I have gone full circle back to plain old meat, salt and pepper and that’s the way it’s going to stay.  Grinding your own Chuck would be best, a Kitchen Aid mixer attachment is pretty handy! If you can’t grind your own then buy the best meat you can. Buy the best meat with highest fat content. (don’t judge, trust me)

Back to tomatoes…we all love them and the heirlooms are at their peak and sweet as sugar. Keep it simple, cheese, tomato, onion maybe a thinly sliced pickle.

By the way, my kid ate a half of one of these  beauties, think she still hates burgers?

Best Burger

It may be ugly and squished  but it tastes good and when it comes to burgers that’s what’s important.

For easy clean up and to avoid cross contamination:  Place two sheets of foil on a cookie sheet, the top one will have the raw burgers. The clean one stays underneath and is used for the cooked the burgers. When you place burgers on the grill take the  top dirty foil away, use the clean sheet to place the cooked burgers on.

1 lb high fat content ground beef

Salt
Pepper
Softest buns you can find

3 Tbs butter melted
Cheese, sliced tomato, onion, pickle

Prepare a cookie sheet with two large pieces of foil one on top of the other.
Cut up 5 smaller pieces for wrapping burgers after cooking, place near grill.

To form the burgers, gently make 5 thin patties, do not roll into a ball or press into a mold.  Place patties on the  foil lined baking sheet.

Using a small roller or your fingers, press evenly to make a 3 1/2 -4 inch patty. It will look huge but the high fat in the meat will cook and the burger will shrink a lot.
Don’t fiddle with the edges, keep them ragged. The more you touch the meat the tougher the burger will be.
Chill patties for 15 minutes while grill heats up. (you can even freeze them very slightly to make it easire to transfet to the grill)

Brush melted butter on the buns and add to the cookie sheet. Just before cooking, sprinkle burgers with salt and pepper.
On medium high, about 400 degrees place burgers on the grill.

Wait until you see some juices coming to the top, about 7-10 minutes.

Flip burgers once only, you will loose all the juices if you keep flipping it.

Add buns butter side down to grill.

Add cheese to top of burgers. Cook to desired doneness
When finished assemble burgers and wrap in foil.

You may want to mark the “with cheese” ones.
Hand out burgers and let each person add toppings, eat!

Stay tuned for how to use up with those leftover burger buns!

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My Little Food Stylist and Butterfly Dumplings

23 Jul

Easy soup with a twist

“Soup…mom I want soup for dinner tonight.” “Honey it’s 4:45, dinner is in one hour, I’d have to go to the store, blah, blah, blah…”  Once I get fixated on something to make nothing will stop me, so off to Trader Joe’s I ran (biked)….whoosh…

I grabbed a bag of frozen wontons and just like that…whoosh…I was back. I tossed together a very quick and “Semi Homemade” soup. I was lucky enough to have some good chicken stock on hand in the freezer, dried mushrooms and fresh spinach. I followed the directions on the bag for making the wontons, tossed in some onion and garlic, ginger, and let it simmer. It was very fast and created a warm light dinner. We can’t all be Super Mom or Super Chef every day and it’s ok, we shouldn’t have to be.

I was busy, getting the rest of our meal together and kidlet was restless so I came up with having her “style” her dinner. She loves tofu, the marinated kind, so I handed her some cookie cutters and tofu and walked away. When I turned back around she had placed the butterfly shapes so perfectly in the soup, I was shocked! She sees me working all the time, she even helps out occasionally on my food styling jobs.  I know she has the ability to decorate her food and make it beautiful, now if she would just start making entire meals for us!  I’m pretty convinced by now that if they cook it they eat it or in our case, if you decorate it, you eat it.

It helps to have some ingredients on hand for quick dinners these are things I love to keep around:
peeled ginger in the freezer, you can add it to soups,
Cooked marinated tofu
Chicken stock, homemade or boxed
Dried mushroom assortment
Green onions, sliced frozen

Wonton Soup with Tofu Butterflies

I realize that not everyone has a Trader Joe’s market across the street. This recipe is so flexible that you can use just about anything in it. If you can’t get wontons, try Gyoza or just ramen style noodles and cooked chicken. Make this to taste, if your kids need more flavor, add more soy sauce and sesame.  Water chestnuts are crunchy and take on the flavor of the dish they are in, try them. Try dried reconstituted mushrooms, they can add great flavor to lots of dishes.

1 Bag of Trader Joe’s Frozen mini chicken wontons
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 coins of ginger, peeled
1-2 green onions, sliced thin
1 cup sliced mushrooms 
2 Tbs soy sauce
4 cups of Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 can of  sliced water chestnuts, drained
1 tsp sesame oil
Handful of spinach, fresh or frozen
Teriyaki marinated cooked tofu
Salt/Pepper
Optional
2 eggs, beaten (see below)
Follow directions on the bag of wontons, when cooked, remove and set aside. They should be browned on the bottom and cooked through.
In the same pan, add a tablespoon of oil (peanut, or vegetable) sauté garlic, ginger, green onions and mushrooms until dry.  Turn heat to medium and add the soy sauce and stir to incorporate.  Add chicken broth, and water chestnuts and  simmer.   Add the mini wontons back, to warm through, add sesame oil  serve. Salt and pepper to taste.
If adding the beaten egg for and egg drop style soup, add just before the wontons.
Slowly stream in the beaten eggs to simmering (not boiling) soup mixture, let simmer untouched 2 minutes. Continue with finishing the recipe.
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