Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Morning At The Farm

We live north of Seattle above the Snohomish Valley - that is filled with farms. On one of my recent trips in to Snohomish, I noticed a large ad for Mountain View Blueberry Farms - U Pick Blueberries and was reminded of the fun I had last year taking my son picking (and eating). I checked out their website, found their hours and asked Aidan if he would be up to blueberry picking with Mom - he gave me a big YES!

Aidan and I got up around 08:30, had a good breakfast, covered ourselves in suntan lotion and then headed out to pick some berries! We were there for a little over an hour and picked about 3 pounds of berries (about $6.00 worth). We both had fun together and the weather was perfect for picking berries! The blueberry season will continue to the mid-to-end of August, so we will probably get the opportunity to go again!

Tips for picking fruit: Check the farm's website before you go! Lots of places only take cash and can be open at off days/times. Make sure you wear sunscreen and hats - my kid complains about being sticky, but a sunburn is not fun or safe. If you are going for a long time, make sure that you take water with you and some wet wipes for your hands. Picking the fruit right at the farm is a really nice outing for the family and the results are fresh fruits that you can all enjoy!

Here is a recipe for Fresh Blueberry Coffee Cake (from my trusted Southern Living Cookbook):
1 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (8 ounce) carton sour cream
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
Glaze (3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon warm water, 1/2 teaspoon almond extract; combine all ingredients, stirring well)
  • Combine blueberries, 1/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan; cook over medium heat 2 to 3 minutes or until sauce is thickened, stirring constantly. Set aside.
  • Cream butter; gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating at medium speed of an electric mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in almond extract.
  • Spoon half the batter inot a greased 10-inch Bundt or tube pan; spoon on half the berry sauce, swirling partially through batter with a knife. Repeat with remaining batter and berry sauce. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until done. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from pan. Invert onto serving plate, and drizzle with glaze.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Gluten-Free, Wheat-Free, Non-Dairy Brownies, Are They Good?

I recently started a new job (yeah!!) and one of my co-workers has a gluten food allergy. One night we decided to have a gluten free dinner - that was easy, we had taco salads (super yummy and gluten free thanks to corn tortilla chips). I wanted to also have something chocolaty for dessert and I found Pamela's Chocolate Brownie Mix (that is gluten and wheat free) and thought I would give it a try.

These were very easy to make. I used the directions for the original oil recipe:
1 bag of Pamela's Brownie Mix
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients together and pour into a lightly greased square pan. Cook at 350 degrees for 18 minutes, then let cool. Cut into squares and enjoy!

I ended up cooking my batch for an additional 5 minutes (my stove usually takes a bit longer) and I let them cool for about 2 hours before I cut them. They were moist and filled with chocolate chunks and very good for a mix. I can't say that I missed the flour or wheat and felt that these were a great substitute! My one complaint is the price, almost $8.00 at Safeway, but if you can not eat wheat, gluten, or dairy I would spend the money to get my dessert fix!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hey! Where is Everyone?

Sorry we're spotty with the posts right now. Greta just started a brand new job (yay Greta!) and I'm trying to prep myself for my upcoming vacation. This week somehow vanished and next week's going to be dicey too, especially since I'll be at the beach and blogging just won't be on my radar.

Hang tight--we'll be back at it before you know it. In the meantime, enjoy your summer! Get out there and enjoy that fresh summer produce!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Salad Days!

Yesterday, Greta gave you a great idea for summer grilling. But when it's really hot...when you don't want to heat the house up or have a whole lot to eat...your best option is something easy, something like a salad.

There are so many good combinations of greens, veggies, fruit, protein, etc. that can come together to make a yummy, substantial meal. Here's one of my favorite salads--it comes from
Giada De Laurentiis and it's really worth trying out. My husband and I love salad, especially raw in salads. The addition of the orange vinaigrette and the salty, crumbled prosciutto really make this special. Give it a try--you'll love it (and if you have extra dressing, consider using it for a marinade for chicken or shrimp...yum!)

Spinach Salad with Orange Vinaigrette


* 6 slices prosciutto
* 2 oranges, zested
* 2 small oranges, juiced or 1 large orange, juiced
* 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
* 2 tablespoons honey
* 1 clove garlic, peeled
* 3/4 teaspoon salt
* 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 10 to 12 ounces pre-washed spinach


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Place the prosciutto slices on a baking sheet and bake until just crisp, about 10 minutes. Let cool. Crumble the prosciutto slices into a container and store in the refrigerator.

In a blender, combine the orange zest, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth. With the blender running, add the olive oil in a steady stream until combined. Transfer to a container and store in the refrigerator.

To serve, put the spinach in a large bowl. Toss with enough of the vinaigrette to coat the spinach. Sprinkle with the crisp prosciutto crumbles, toss again, and serve.I also like to have what I call "Cold Plate" for dinner on hot summer nights. For a Cold Plate, you just need to put whatever salads, veggies, etc. you like on a plate and serve it up. I lay down some crisp greens and add a nice scoop of Chicken Salad (one of my favorite things ever!). I add to the plate raw red peppers, celery, carrots, olives, pepperocini, and maybe a hard boiled egg or sliced tomato if you want. It's an easy dinner and if you don't want to cook, you can just grab pre-cooked Chicken Salad from a deli or the grocery store.

If you want to make your own Chicken Salad, try this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa (note: I never use tarragon because I can't stand the stuff! I use parsley instead.)

Chicken Salad Contessa


* 2 split (1 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on (1 1/2 pounds)
* Good olive oil
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper * 1/2 cup pecan halves
* 1/2 cup walnuts halves
* 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
* 1/2 cup sour cream
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves, divided
* 1 cup green grapes, cut in 1/2
* Lettuce leaves, for serving

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts, skin side up, on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside until cool.

When the chicken is cool, remove meat from the bones and discard the skin and bones. Cut the chicken into a 3/4-inch dice.

Meanwhile, place the pecans and walnuts on a separate sheet pan and toast in the oven for 7 to 8 minutes until golden. Set aside to cool.

For the dressing, mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Fold in half the chopped tarragon leaves.

Place the diced chicken in a bowl, add the pecans, walnuts and grapes. Pour the dressing over the chicken and toss well. Sprinkle the remaining chopped tarragon leaves on top, and serve on a bed of lettuce leaves.
There are so many great salads to be made. I also like throwing together mixed greens, crumbled blue cheese, sliced green onions, craisins, nuts of some sort, and tossing it all with a blue cheese vinaigrette. Yum! Also good, especially for summer: baby spinach, fresh strawberries or raspberries and chopped macadamia nuts with a raspberry vinaigrette--it's crunchy, fresh, and delicious.

What's your favorite salad?

*recipes and photos from Food Network.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Beating The Summer Heat

When the mercury rises, I lose my appetite for heavy, rich foods. In their place, I find myself wanting lighter, grilled fare. To help weather the summer heat, I break out my grill as often as I can and eat my meals on the shaded deck outside.

This past week, it really felt like summer in the Seattle area. Although not the searing heat that the East Coast is suffering through, it was still hotter than normal out here. To get through one of the hotter evenings, I was asked to cook the whole meal on the grill (so that the oven/stove didn't heat up the house anymore than it already was). The other request was that the meal contain shrimp and veggies. My response was shrimp and veggie skewers with polenta and Rainer cherries.

Here is my recipe for the meal:

Shrimp and Veggies
2 lbs shrimp
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini
1 large onion


1 1/2 cups Chardonnay
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 of a fresh squeezed lime
2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper (use more if you like)
  • Place skewers in water and allow to soak (the longer the better).
  • Add all marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well.
  • Clean, peel, and devein the shrimp.
  • Cut all veggies into bite sized pieces.
  • Add the shrimp and veggies to a large zip lock bag and pour in the marinade; coat well.
  • Refrigerate mixture for at least 2 hours.
  • Divide the shrimp into 4 equal servings and place on skewers.
  • Divide the veggies and place on skewers.
  • Preheat the grill.
  • Add the veggie skewers to the grill and cook over medium-high heat for ~3-5 minutes per side. Once cooked to the desired doneness, move to the upper rack (to keep warm).
  • Add the shrimp skewers and cook for ~3 minutes per side.
Grilled Polenta
1 tube of polenta, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (~12)
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
chili powder
  • Place polenta slices on a cookie sheet that has been lightly coated with olive oil.
  • Brush both sides of the polenta slices with olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with salt, pepper and chili powder.
  • Place the slices on the grill - I use a grill sheet, but you could add them directly to the rack. Cook on medium-high heat for ~5-7 minutes per side. I flipped mine 3 times to make sure that I had a nice crunch on both sides.
Serve everything up and enjoy! This is a pretty low calorie meal, is super tasty and perfect on a hot summer night.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quick Dinner: Turkey Marsala

Let me say this right now: for the most part, my Safeway sucks. You have to constantly check expiration dates on everything from milk to bread to canned goods (I once found a year old loaf of bread on their lie!), their produce is sub-par (and often filled with pesky fruit flies), and the never seem to have particular cuts of meat that I want.

One of my favorite proteins is turkey breast cutlets. They're very easy to cook...and very versatile. But Safeway rarely has them in stock. The other day, I saw a few packages in the poultry section and I snatched them up.

There's so much you can do with turkey breast cutlets--here's a quick, easy, yummy recipe that should be a family-pleaser:

Turkey Marsala
  • One package of turkey breast cutlets (about 1 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced (use whatever you like--I used criminis)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/3 cup marsala
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1-2 Tablespoons freshly chopped parsley (optional!)
  1. Heat olive oil over med-high heat in a non-stick skillet.
  2. Combine the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge turkey cutlets in flour and tap to remove excess.
  3. When oil is hot, add flour-coated turkey cutlets to the pan and cook until turkey is no longer raw, about 4 minutes or so per side (more if you like it browned and a bit crunchy!).
  4. Place cooked turkey on a plate and cover with foil.
  5. Add a little more oil to your pan (or just spray it with Pam if you don't want to add the fat) and add the shallots and garlic to the pan. Cook for a minute, stirring constantly.
  6. Add the mushrooms to the pan and stir. Season with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook the vegetable mixture until mushrooms are softened, about 3 minutes.
  7. Pour the marsala and chicken broth into the pan, stirring to get up any cooked on bits that may be at the bottom of the pan. Add the juice of the lemon and stir well. Allow the mixture to cook over high heat to reduce a bit.
  8. Add the butter to the marsala/mushroom mixture. This will help thicken up the sauce.
  9. Return the turkey cutlets to the pan (be sure to pour in any juices that accumulated) and heat through.
  10. Sprinkle parsley over the turkey and serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Answer To Leftovers - Casserole

What do you do with leftover taco fixings (aside from have tacos again)? My answer, to make a casserole.

As Lydia said in her post yesterday, we had tacos for the fourth of July and with it, lots of leftovers (no guac though). I didn't want to have the same dinner over, so I mixed everything together in a large bowl - this included seasoned taco meat, refried black beans, Spanish rice, tomatoes, onions, salsa, sour cream, and crunchy taco shells (broken into bite sized pieces). I then put the mix in a casserole dish and covered it with leftover cheese (I added a bit more cheese too) and cooked it at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.

I still had shredded lettuce and 1/2 an avocado, so that became a salad. I added some carrot shreds and hot peppers and Mom made a vinaigrette for it and we squeezed a fresh lemon over it all. The salad went nicely with the casserole and gave us something fresh to eat.

When I served the dish, we ate it with leftover tortilla chips, salsa and sour cream (some of Lydia's guacamole would have been delicious too). It was a really good use of taco leftovers and I would make it again! The best part is you can add anything you like to the dish and it will probably work well!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Holy Guacamole!

Since our family is not big on sticking to the rules when it comes to food and celebrations (remember: we had tachos for Thanksgiving!), this 4th of July we got together and ate tacos!

Greta pulled everything together (tasty, seasoned ground beef, refried black beans, Spanish rice, and all the taco fixings), so I felt like I should at least make one contribution. My molcajete has been thoroughly seasoned and has been waiting to be used, so I decided to make guacamole for the family dinner.
A few days ago, I went to one of my favorite places, Trader Joe's. I was all set to pick up my guacamole ingredients, but super-fabulous TJ's had something better--a guacamole kit! For about $3.50, I picked up almost everything I needed: two avocados, a roma tomato, a couple cloves of garlic, a jalapeno pepper, a lime, and a shallot. Perfecto!

Just before dinner was ready, I whipped up the guac in my molcajete. Here's what I did:
  • Roughly chop the shallot and garlic cloves. Place them in the molcajete and add a hefty pinch of kosher salt. Using the pestle, grind the shallot and garlic into a paste (the salt will facilitate grinding). If you don't have a molcajete, throw the salt over the shallot and garlic and, using your chef's knife, chop everything into a nice paste.
  • Slice open an avocado and scoop out the meat into the molcajete (when I made this, I only used 1 1/2 avocado--use as much as you want!). Squeeze the juice of at least one lime over the avocado (I used 1 1/2 limes)--this will help keep the avocado from turning brown. If you don't have a molcajete, just use a normal bowl.
  • With your pestle (or the back of a spoon if not using a molcajete), squish the avocado, mixing the lime juice and shallot/garlic combo.
  • Finely mince as much of the jalapeno as you like (be sure to remove the seeds and membranes) and add it to the avocado mixture. Stir, or combine with the pestle.
  • Chop the roma tomato into bite-sized pieces. Add as much as you want to the guac and stir (or grind) well. (I used about 1/2 the roma tomato).
  • Adjust the guacamole to your taste--you may want to add more salt, lime, or tomato.
  • Serve immediately! It's super yummy on tortilla chips, in tacos, however you want to serve it.
  • NOTE: If you like it, you could add some fresh cilantro to the guac!
My dad raved about this guac and said it was the best he'd ever had. He said anytime I want to make it, he'd be willing to eat it!

I liked how simple this was to make using the molcajete. You can control how fine the avocado chunks are very easily. It may just be wishful thinking, but I think the molcajete helps improve the flavor of the guac. And I was very happy that the molcajete didn't add any unwanted grit...I worked like crazy to prep the darn thing, so I'm glad my elbow-grease paid off.

Whether you have a molcajete or not, be sure to whip up this guacamole! It's easy, fresh and, best of all, delicious!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

I can't believe July 4th is almost here. Thanks to our strangely cool weather, we haven't really had more than a taste of summer here in the Seattle area. I guess I shouldn't complain: the rest of the country has had to suffer through blistering heat, something I am just not equipped to deal with.As we get ready to celebrate our independence, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on some of the places I've lived over the years. America is a huge country, and there are so many regional differences that keep things interesting.

Here are some July 4th inspired foods from my personal, regional history with America.

My sister and I grew up in Maryland. Though I lived there for about 18 years of my life, I have no great desire to return to the mid-Atlantic. It's too darn hot (and humid!) in the summer and it's way too flat for my tastes.

But when it comes to the 4th of July in MD, you can't beat a good Maryland-style crab feast! We would devour what seemed like dozens of tasty blue crabs coated in Old Bay, served up with fresh corn, tomatoes, and bread. Not to mention cold beer for the grown ups (as a kid, I opted for Coke while Greta drank milk...blech! Milk and crabs?).

If you want to have a Maryland crab feast but you're not in MD, you're in luck. You can order from Phillip's and have everything you need sent to you. We did this last year. It was a lot of fun!


I moved to Vermont after high school and graduated from Castleton State College. Vermont has a very special place in my heart, and I find myself missing the Green Mountain State more than I care to admit.

When it comes time to fire up the grill, hot dogs are a favorite. But in VT (and other areas in New England), hot dog buns are very different than what the rest of the country is used to. New England hot dog buns look like a folded piece of white bread, and for some reason they make hot dogs (or lobster rolls) taste so much better.

While you can't buy New England hot dog buns easily, you can make them yourself. Check out this blog entry from one of my faves, King Arthur Flour, on how to use their New England Hot Dog Bun Pan.

I've never lived in NC, but my late father-in-law was from there. As a kid, our family made a few trips to the south (to Disney World and to South Carolina) and every time we crossed into North Carolina, we made sure to stop off for some pulled pork sandwiches.

North Carolina style BBQ is by far our family favorite. The sauce is more vinegar based instead of being dominated by tomato sauce. The pulled pork is tender and perfect, and sops up the vinegar-y sauce in porky heaven.

In honor of my father-in-law--and because I really crave a good NC-style pulled pork from time to time, check out this recipe--'ll have to try it sometime soon!

No matter what you eat or how you celebrate, have a fun, safe 4th of July!