July 6, 2010


Whew! It's hot. Like 102 degrees hot. And right now I'm sitting on our third floor, typing away at my laptop. I have to run downstairs into the AC asap!

Being summer, both Meghan and I have very busy schedules, filled with camps, visits from family, volunteering, and just chillin'. Because of this, we have decided to take a short break from blogging and will try to be up and running (at least one of us) in mid-August. Until then there may be occasional posts, but nothing is promised.

Thank you for sticking with us throughout our erratic and eccentric posts. We will be back with more in just a little while. Stay tuned!

June 16, 2010

Lemon Dill White-Bean Hummus

You know, I really enjoy raw cooking. Because if you mess something up, it usually doesn't matter too much. Whether it's a smoothie or peanut butter balls, I know I have room to have fun.

Such is the case with this lemon dill hummus. We get a ton of dill from the CSA every year, so when I saw this recipe on Rebecca's blog, I was excited. My mom often uses lemon juice and dill as a seasoning for salmon so I knew my family would enjoy the combination.

My brother's current interest being film, he has started a series called "Dangerous Neighborhood". It's fun, and we've made quite a few episodes so far. So when Meghan and her brother K came over, the boys and my sister made the film while we made the hummus. They thought the hummus was "poison". :)

The hummus was a success! My parents enjoyed it and so did all us kids. It has a strong flavor, something which I think is often missing from homemade hummus. Dill, garlic, and lemon were the main flavors and were they delicious! We drastically reduced the amount of tahini used, because we aren't huge fans of it. I thought it was just right for us, but if you like tahini, by all means use more.

It's quick, easy, only uses one dish and makes a great snack or appetizer. Absolutely wonderful! It will become a regular in our house.

Lemon Dill Hummus
Note: We made a bunch of changes. The original recipe called for wasabi powder, which we did not have. We added the olive oil. The way we made it is italics.

1 can of Eden organic chickpeas or small white beans, rinsed and lightly drained
2 tablespoons lemon juice or juice of one organic lemon
1-2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/4 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sesame tahini
a healthy drizzle of olive oil
one quite large handful of dill from your garden, rinsed, patted dry, and coarsely chopped.

Combine all ingredients in your food processor and blend until you have a nice consistency for spreading onto flatbreads or dipping vegetables or corn chips. We had a bunch of whole beans left in ours, but that didn't bother anyone.


May 25, 2010

Korean Cuisine!

"pasta salad" additives

dumpling stuffing

I don't have any recipe this time, but I thought I'd share with you an amazing culinary experience I had recently.
At my dad's work place, they were having this Korean dinner, so my mom, brother and I went to help with the food preparations. I'm so glad we did. It was a great opportunity to have fun and expand my culinary horizons. And boy did I do both. We were the only ones helping out.

When we got there, we met the two Korean ladies who were in charge of the cooking. They were very busy, trying to prepare enough food for about 70 people, all in the next few hours. So we were immediately put to work upon arrival. I got a few menial tasks at first, such as grating carrots or stirring them gently as they sauteed in olive oil. But then, when I was done all that, I got to help make dumplings! The stuffing for the dumplings was make out of leafy greens, pork, kimchi (a marinated, spicy, cabbage, staple in the Korean diet), carrots, noodles, and a few other things.
To make the dumplings, you take a small, disk-shaped "wrapper" (can be found at the Asian market in Philly) and put a spoon-full of the filling in the center of it. Then you dip your finger in cold water and run it all around the edge of the "wrapper". Then you fold the "wrapper" up around the filling in a special way to make the dumpling look gourmet and all, and the dumpling is ready to be boiled.
Halfway through the dumpling-making, we ran out the the wrappers. It was my mom who saved the day, suggesting that we make balls out of the stuffing, dip them in egg yolk, and roll them in bread crumbs. It took a little while for the Korean ladies to fully understand the idea, as it was unfamiliar to them, but once they did they were dipping and rolling happily as were the rest of us. Granted, they didn't come out looking like traditional dumplings, but they passed.
Next I had another small task. I helped make pasta salad. Okay, that's not what it was called, but it was certainly similar to one. It contained the most interesting noodles ever. They were called glass noodles, because they looked like long, smooth strands of glass. And they were long. I'm guessing they were about a foot and a half. These noodles were also used in the dumplings. They were mixed with the same ingredients that went into the dumpling stuffing, plus so much soy sauce I feared the dish would be saltier than one hundred pounds of McDonald's french fries. The lady kept shaking it on there.
Then there were the rice balls to make. The rice balls were made out of rice (duh) with tuna fish, carrots, and I forget what else mixed in. And they were fun to make, too. All you had to do was take a small handful of the rice mixture and shape it into a ball. Lastly, a whole kimchi was brought out and sliced. It looked like something from a sci-fi movie. Okay, that's not a very nice thing to say. I should just say it was very unusual-looking, with the reddish-orange color and all the juice oozing out. It looked a lot better in the dumplings, where I couldn't really see it. But I guess you get used to it. (I wish I had thought to snap a picture of it!)
Now all the food was ready to be served. Mom and I helped, mom serving the dumplings and myself serving the rice balls. We had vegetarian versions of everything, so when I served the rice balls, I had to ask "Vegetarian or non-vegetarian?" Surprisingly, no one commented on the unusual dumplings.
Finally everyone had been served and I could finally taste the food for myself. Was it good? You bet. In fact, it was delicious. I had everything except the plain kimchi. As for the noodles, I was surprised when they didn't turn out to be too salty. I mean, they were salty, but not unreasonably so. I was a bit disappointed that all the traditional dumplings were taken before I got a chance, but the bread-crumb ones were scrumptious. They were a little spicy due to the kimchi, but not overpowering. And one bite of the rice balls told me they were absolutely fabulous. It was a very hearty meal, requiring no more than one serving to make you comfortably full.

May 10, 2010

Mother's Day pizza

Now, let's get one thing straight. This is not going to be a "memories of mom" or "everything I've learned from my mom" type of post. There's plenty of them out there. That said, happy Mother's Day to all moms!

My mom wanted to go out for a little bit with just my dad for lunch this Mother's day. So my little brother and sister and I ate lunch, cleaned up, watched I Love Lucy, and *drumroll please* I made pizza dough for dinner.

Things went just fine until I dumped all the shaggy bits of dough and flour onto the cutting board to knead. It was soooo sticky. I could hardly even knead it. Dough was all over my hands and I was a bit worried. But I washed my hands and things got better, but I had to wrestle with it for a long time before it was smooth (and not becoming attached to me at every punch).

Into an oiled bowl it went, covered with a dish cloth because we were and are out of plastic wrap. I turned the oven back on (because the kneading had taken so long) until it was 150 degrees and then turned it off and put the dough it. That might not have been my best shot, now that I think about it.

After the 40 minutes I stuck it in the fridge as it was just 4:30 (my parents just came home right after I did this).

When it was time, I took out the dough. It had developed a nice skin all over the top. Nice. Really nice. But I divided it up and started pulling. Now let me state here and now that I had never, ever formed and baked a pizza before (I usually just make the dough and then my mom does the baking part). And she was now taking her Mother's Day semi-snooze on a chair in the living room. She was not going to be interrupted if I could help it.

Things were going pretty well until it started to rip and become a rope. And I didn't care about getting a circle. I just wanted something that resembles something between a circle, a square, and a space alien. But it wasn't happening. So I balled it up and tried again, this time with the help of a rolling pin. But then the "crusts" turned into lines across the pizza and most of the stuff in between was getting precariously paper thin. Frustrated, I finally got something that worked. Oh, and did I mention that my dad was saying things like "Looks like Wisconsin." Thanks Dad.
SO then I remembered that I could put it on parchment paper. So I had to ease the dough onto the parchment paper, which took forever. (This trick really does work though.) Finally I was ready to top.

By this time, I was going plain. I brushed a little olive oil over it, and put the sauce on. I was afraid of it getting soggy so it was seriously under-sauced. I baked it for a little more than 10 minutes (oops) and then spread the cheese on top. I really wasn't sure how much to put on, and the danger of burning myself in a 450 degree oven didn't help me think. 8 minutes later when I checked on it, I saw pools of liquid (water?). *Enter scream of anguish*. So then I hastily took it out and with Dad's help I "drained" the pizza by tilting it above a bowl. It went into the oven for about 3 more minutes (you know, to help the moisture evaporate.)

So now pizza one was done. It needed more sauce and the cheese was definitely a problem, although on the finished pizza it was fine. Is there a low moisture mozzarella out there? I used freshly grated. Or did I put too much on. Or, since the pizza was so thin in places that it BURNED, the moisture was able to collect. Enlighten me, someone?

Pizza number 2 didn't go much better. This time, after it had baked for the first 10 minutes, I put more sauce on the puffy parts (this actually worked). And we used a "cheese blend" (no, Dad, cheddar, would not be a good choice) of some fancy romano and mozzarella. We still had the burned, too thin places. Also, the dough was a bit too salty, especially in this batch.

Edible, even delicious in parts (how can homemade pizza not be), but I definitely have a long way to go. Any hints, tips, and suggestions for next time I would be greatly appreciative of. For now I leave you with my favorite pizza dough recipe, which despite all my mistakes, still makes for a wonderful pizza.

Happy Mother's Day, Mommy. I love you.

Pizza Dough

My mom found this recipe online, so I don't know who to thank. But originally it came from "The Best Recipe" by the editors of Cook's Illustrated. It makes a crisp, not doughy (if you follow the instructions) crust.

Makes 2 pizzas, enough (with no leftovers) for the 5 of us for dinner with a salad.

Especially with the sharp cheese, we've found this dough to be a bit salty. Next time I might try reducing both the salt and the sugar by a 1/2 teaspoon (below is the unaltered version). I always use regular, Red Star yeast, but the recipe calls for rapid rise. I don't know what the original recipe called for, but I'd assume you can use both. I also always use AP flour.

1 1/2 cups warm water (105-110 degrees F)
1 packet or 4 teaspoons yeast (see note)
1 tablespoon sugar (see note)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups all purpose or bread flour (see note)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt (see note)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F then TURN OFF.

Pour the water into a small bowl. Add the yeast and sugar and mix to combine. Add the oil to the yeast mixture. Combine the salt and 3 cups of the flour in a large mixing bowl. Pour the yeast mixture into the the flour/salt and mix until combined with a sturdy wooden spoon or a spatula. Stir in the rest of the flour (1 cup) until a mass of dough forms. (I think I didn't mix it enough and that was part of the reason why it was sticky. You could even try doing part of the kneading in the bowl).
Place dough on a floured cutting board or very clean counter top and knead until smooth, about 5-7 (or a gazillion, in my case) minutes. Don't knead in too much extra flour, just enough to keep it from sticking.

Place the dough in a well (really well) oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and place in the oven for 40 minutes. Make sure the oven is turned off.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Remove and divide the dough in half. I cannot help you from here. The dough is usually not too sticky, but if you want to move the stretched dough onto parchment paper, brush lightly with olive oil first. It won't stick as much that way if you try to fold it in half.

To bake:

1. In the 450 degree oven on top of a pizza stone, bake crust, topped only with sauce for 10 minutes. (The parchment paper makes it really easy to slice in and out of the oven.)
2. Remove crust and add toppings (including extra sauce if necessary), including cheese on top.
3. Bake another 8-10 minutes until cheese is melted.

Serve and enjoy.

May 1, 2010

Peanut-Butter Balls

Apologies for the lack of pictures. My computer for some reason is not cooperating, so that I can't upload pictures. But I'll figure out the problem and get the pictures up as soon as possible.

Peanut butter balls have a long history in my family. When I was about three, my mom found the recipe on the back of a cereal box, tried it, and the product was an instant hit. They were brought along on picnics, eaten for dessert and snack, and the recipe has been shared with many friends (I haven't met a single person who hasn't liked them). Now, whenever my brother or I are looking for a snack, my mom always says: "Make peanut-butter balls!"
Peanut butter balls, in case you are wondering, are a mixture of peanut butter, honey, cinnamon, vanilla extract, cereal, and possibly nuts shaped into balls. A few years ago, we started rolling the balls in shredded coconut to eliminate sticky fingers.
The type of cereal you use doesn't matter. You can use rice crispies, or you could use corn flakes. Right now, I use crushed Weetabix. If you decide to use nuts, I would recommend walnuts.
Most importantly, peanut butter balls are so easy and take only about ten minutes to make. As you will see below, they're as easy as 1-2-3! (excuse the cliche.)

Peanut-Butter Balls

  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey (more or less if you like)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3-5 cups crushed Weetabix (enough to make the mixture stiff enough to form balls)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (optional)

  1. Mix together all ingredients except coconut.
  2. Shape the mixture into balls, dipping your hands first in a small bowl of cold water to help the peanut-butter mixture hold together.
  3. Roll the balls in shredded coconut, if desired.

April 15, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Bars

I'm just back from a trip to NC for a highland dance competition, so this post will be shorter than usual. Thanks for understanding! See you soon!

NOTE: My brother deleted my photos of these (by accident), so there will be no pictures in this post until I make and photograph them again.

I don't know about you, but I love cookies. However, I don't make them very often, mostly because of how long it takes. First you have to make sure the butter is soft enough, but not too soft. Then, you have to make the dough, alternating this, half of that. Then, sometimes, you have to let the dough sit in the fridge for an hour (such is the case with one of my favorite cookies). Then you have to scoop out equal sized balls and bake sheet after sheet of cookies. Is it worth it? Yes, but since neither me nor my mom have time to do that often, we were excited to try this recipe.

Oatmeal Raisin Bars. Melted butter, comes together like a quick bread, and no scooping or baking one sheet at a time. It all goes into a 8x8 pan and you're done. Beautiful.

And the taste? Well, they taste like an oatmeal raisin cookie in bar form. They're more substantial, and they don't have the lacy crunch throughout that usually characterizes the cookie version. Sweet, chewy, a slightly crunchy top, with raisins throughout. They're absolutely delicious, and perfect for those who don't have time to make the traditional version. Like me. Mmmmm.

Oatmeal Raisin Bars
From the June 2008 issue of Everyday Food. Received through Rebecca.

The sugars in this recipe are flexible. You can use raw sugar for the granulated, dark for light brown sugar, and once I made them with 3/4 cup of white and 1/4 of brown and they turned out fine. Also, I've put the instructions for the pan per the original recipe, but when I made these at my aunt's house I made them with Pam, without parchment paper. Just be sure to let it cool before cutting. I have also made a "mix" out of it -- mixing the first ingredients in a baggie without the egg and butter, and then the flour, oats, and raisins in a second.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. (Both metal and glass have worked for me). Line bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides; butter paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugars, egg, salt and cinnamon until smooth. Add in flour, oats and raisins; fold in until just combined.

3. Spread batter (for me it's more like pressing and not as much spreading) in prepared pan, and bake until toothppick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached (and a light golden brown color), 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake to work surface; cut into 16 bars. To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature. They are best within 3 days, but I had some that lasted 5 and were fine, but they're best within that 3 day period.

April 4, 2010

Leftover ham?

NOTE: Apologizes for the lack of pictures. I will upload them as soon as I can. Thanks! :) ~Erin
UPDATE 4/11: Here they are!

Well, Easter is nearly over and it was a good one for me. My family and I went to the Easter sunrise service and breakfast in addition to the usual service... it was a beautiful morning.

To save us all from eating pancakes twice on Easter, I decided that I would try to make our dinner. And it was an undertaking. Besides the fact that I stressed out several times, everything went very well. We had: mashed potatoes, green beans, deviled eggs, salad, dinner rolls, glazed ham, and carrot cake cupcakes for dessert. Everything was delish.

As usual, we have a lot of ham leftover. Here are some random ideas for using up ham that just came into my head:

-- in omelettes
-- with pasta and asiago cheese. (recipe below)
-- in soup.
-- in quiches
-- on sandwiches.

I don't know about you, but brie is not my favorite eating cheese -- but it's really good melted. Then it gets all buttery and the weird aftertaste goes away and it's just plain gooey yumminess! And ham and brie go really well together. Sometime I'm going to try ham and brie mac 'n' cheese, but it hasn't happened yet. In the meantime, here's a wonderful, panini-like sandwich or appetizer that celebrates one of my favorite combos. Hmmmm, I think we have one more bagel left....

(Hint: scroll down for another recipe)

Brie and Ham Sandwiches.

The amounts here are really loose, so feel free to estimate or guessimate when making.

1 bagel (mini for an appetizer), roll, bun, or 2 slices artisan bread.
Some slices of ham (not lunchmeat ham, although you could try it in the ideas above.)
Some slices of brie cheese (any intensity, although I've never tried it with the really strong stuff. Also, Trader Joe's double cream brie is amazing.)
1 teaspoon mustard, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Split bagel or cut roll, etc in half. Spread mustard over both pieces. Arrange ham, then brie on top of bread pieces. Bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes or until brie is melted. Serve immediately. Makes one lunch serving.

Here is another recipe that I made up for a delicious, easy lunch, especially if you use leftover pasta. Ham also goes well with asiago. There are the salty, slightly sweet bites of ham, the buttery pasta, the mild creamy beans, and sprinkling of sharp cheese. My mom says it's "really good", which, for one of my creations, is a quite high rating.

Pasta with Ham, Beans, and Asiago.

Note: as with the last recipe, the measurements are estimates.

A few handfuls pasta, cooked. (enough for one serving).
1/3 cup thinly sliced or finely chopped ham (lunchmeat works fine here)
1/3 cup white beans (optional), cooked
1/4 cup grated sharp cheese -- like asiago or pecorino romano/parmesan
Several tablespoons of butter, divided, and softened a little if possible.
A pinch of fresh or dried rosemary (optional)

If using cold, cooked pasta:

Bring a few cups of cold water to boil in a frying pan with high sides. (as high as you can get -- or use a saucepan). Add the pasta and cook for 1 minute. Add beans and cook for an addition minute. Drain.

If using hot pasta, proceed from here (put the beans in the last minute of your cooking time):

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a hot frying pan. Add pasta, beans, ham, rosemary, and 3 pinches of cheese. Stir, adding additional butter as necessary, until everything is hot and the pasta is coated with butter (shiny -- nothing should be bare, but don't overdo it). Make sure not to fry the pasta or anything else. Serve, sprinkled with remaining cheese. Makes 1 lunch serving.

March 28, 2010

Cornbread-Chili Casserole

One day about a week ago my mom and I were wondering what to have for dinner. I mentioned this recipe I found in that week's Parade issue (Parade is the name of a little magazine-type thing that comes in the paper once a week). We had all the ingredients, and it sounded good, so I went ahead with it.

Actually, contrary to the title, this recipe contains no chili. But it has chili-like ingredients in it, such as onion, salsa, chili powder, and cumin. And then there's the cornbread, which adds a chili-like touch. I didn't prepare the recipe exactly according to directions because some parts contradicted my tried and true food-preparation methods. For example, instead of cooking the beef along with the already-cooked onions, I cooked the beef first, and then added it to the onions when they were done cooking. I also used a sauce pan instead of a large skillet; I also added less salsa, to save some for my brother's snacking. Then, as we don't buy cornbread mix, I made the cornbread from scratch. And even though the recipe calls for cheddar cheese, I used t he Mexican blend that can be easily purchased at Trader Joe's. And even though the recipe says to spread the cornbread batter on top of the "chili", I found it easier and funner to just throw globs of cornbread batter on in no particular order. Strange, I know. But at least I didn't make a mess and my hands were clean. Oh, and please note, it took a lot less time to bake than is prescribed by the recipe. The recipe says to bake for 40 minutes, but I think 15 is more like it, a little more if you like your cornbread past the "golden brown stage".

So, fifteen minutes after I put it in the oven, it was ready to be eaten.

I served it with sour cream and extra cheese. And boy was it yummy. Even with all my tweaking and substituting, it was great. (Although there could have been more salsa.)

Here is the recipe, from Dorie Greenspan's 1-2-3Eats column in Parade, plus the cornbread recipe from The Joy of Cooking. I edited both recipes, to accomodate my changes, and to fit the format of the recipe shown below.

Chili - Cornbread Casserole

  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 - 1/2 lbs. ground chuck
  • 1 - 1/2 c. bottled salsa
  • one 15 oz. can corn, drained (another substitution: I used frozen corn that came in a plastic bag)
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar, optional (or, in my case, Mexican blend, which is still optional, but I would recommend using it)
  • cumin to taste
  • chili powder to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • one 7 to 8 oz box of cornbread mix (or see recipe that follows this one)
  • ingredients necessary for cornbread mix (if you're using it)

Cornbread (from The Joy of Cooking)

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 - 1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 c. yellow stone-ground cornmeal
  • 1 - 1/2 c. buttermilk or yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 to 4 tbsp. melted butter
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Heat oil in a large skillet (or sauce pan) and saute onion until soft
  2. In a separate skillet, cook beef until no longer pink
  3. Add beef to onions and along with salsa, corn, water, and cheese. Season to taste with cumin and chili powder
  4. Place mixture in a 7 -x- 11 inch casserole pan, spread evenly and set aside
  5. Mix all the dry ingredients for the cornbread together
  6. Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well
  7. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and mix well
  8. Take globs of cornbread mixture and place them on the beef mixture, the pat them down a little with a spatula
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the cornbread is browned slightly and the "chili" below it is bubbling
  10. Serve hot with sour cream and additional cheese.

March 19, 2010

Banana Oatmeal Nut Muffins

Sometimes you have to try new alternatives, even to a favorite recipe.

These muffins are a case in point -- I had been using Simply Recipe/Elise's recipe for banana nut muffins, and were they good! They were super moist, banana-y, and everything banana bread should be. Yes that's right, I said bread.
You see, I think of muffins as something to eat for breakfast. Something that I can make with just a quick sanction from my mom. But bread, is more of a dessert, or as a once-in-awhile breakfast. But when I make muffins I want something relatively virtuous, filling, but still yummy.

Enter a recipe I saw on Naturally Ella (another Erin -- eeee!). Oats? Maple syrup? Whole wheat flour? Wow, this is a whole new breed of muffin we have here! But did it work? Oh yes. Oh yes it did.

With a 1/4 cup less sugar (and half of it unrefined), and all of the above, these muffins were a whole lot healthier, I thought. A bit more fat, but we can live with that. :) Did they taste healthier? Yes, but in a good way.

They were light and cakey, with a slight chewiness from the oats. A mildly earthy flavor, sweet, and of course, that nostalgic banana flavor.
Were they better than Elise's? No, not really. Different, but not particularly better. But if somewhat healthy and muffin is what you're after these are the ones for you.

Oatmeal Banana Nut Muffin
From Naturally Ella
Servings: 12-18 (muffins)

This is the first batch I made (only a few slight changes). The second is changed a good deal more, and uses large bananas instead of medium. So depending on what size bananas you have, you can see what I did. The topping is not mandatory. Make sure you chop the nuts up smaller than I did. I used homemade granola in the second batch, so don't be afraid to use your imagination for that. Enjoy!

1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 medium bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons yogurt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup walnut pieces

Topping: (optional)
1/4 cup oatmeal
2 tablespoons sucanat
2 tablespoons pecan pieces -- chop!

Preheat oven to 350˚
In a medium bowl -- mash the bananas, add in oil, syrup, sugar, extract, and sour cream-stir until combined. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and mix by hand with a wooden spoon until batter is combined. Don't over-mix. Fold in pecans.
Scoop into prepared muffin tin (fill about 2/3 of the way full) and top with oatmeal mixture. Bake for 20-25 (took me about 23-27) minutes until top springs back and when inserted, a fork comes out clean.

Banana Nut Muffins
Adapted from Naturally Ella

The second recipe I made, with large bananas. Changes in italic.

1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 large bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon yogurt
1 tablespoon milk
(the yogurt and the milk are very interchangeable and open to substitution)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup pecan pieces

Topping: (optional)
homemade granola

Preheat oven to 350˚
In a medium bowl -- mash the bananas, add in oil, syrup, sugar, extract, and sour cream-stir until combined. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to banana mixture and mix by hand with a wooden spoon until batter is combined. Don't over-mix. Fold in pecans.
Scoop into prepared muffin tin (fill about 2/3 of the way full) and top with oatmeal mixture. Bake for 20-25 (took me about 23-27) minutes until top springs back and when inserted, a fork comes out clean.

March 13, 2010

One Spaghetti Sauce Beats All

The store-bought spaghetti sauce is good, but homemade spaghetti sauce is by far better. Not only does it taste so much fresher (especially if you use fresh vegetables and herbs) it's really fun to make. I love the chopping, sauteing, and simmering, not to mention the heavenly aromas. Also, there's the freedom to add as much of any ingredient as you like and not have to worry about ruining the sauce. The recipe I use doesn't take long to make at all, but if you're in a real hurry, make it in big batches and freeze it in separate containers. That way, you can take one container out in the morning, leave it on the counter all day, and it will be just as convenient as if it were store bought.
Here is my basic recipe, but as I said earlier, feel free to experiment and adjust it to your tastes.

I'll post pictures when they are available.

Basic Spaghetti Sauce
  • 3/4 cup olive oil (or enough to cover the bottom of the pot you're using)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 medium onion
  • 1 medium zucchini (optional)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper (any color bell pepper can be substituted)
  • 3 tablespoons dried oregano*
  • 3 tablespoons dried parsley*
  • 3 tablespoons dried basil*
  • 1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
  • 2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes (w/ liquid)
  • 1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained (optional)
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  1. Chop the onion and mince the garlic. Saute them in the olive oil for about two minutes.
  2. While the onion and garlic are sauteing, chop the zucchini, bell pepper, and artichoke hearts and add them to the sauce along with the oregano, basil, and parsley.
  3. Saute for two more minutes and add the beef and diced tomatoes.
  4. Simmer for ten to fifteen minutes, longer if you like a stronger flavor. When the sauce has simmered long enough, add the tomato paste and stir well to remove any lumps.
  5. Serve with your favorite pasta.

*if you like, you can use fresh oregano, parsley and basil. However, the flavor of fresh herbs is not as strong as that of dried herbs, so you'll have to add more fresh herbs than is specified in the above recipe.

February 28, 2010

A friend + a ball of sticky dough = fun!

I love working with dough. And, in general, alone. However some times, two shoulders, fingers, and minds are better than one. Like... soft pretzels.

This afternoon I went over to Meghan's house after church. We get together frequently on Sundays and cook. After lunch, some eggs, and a mound of salsa-ed dishes we got to work making soft pretzels. We were armed with challenge, flour, and anticipation.

Pretzels take a good deal of work, especially if you don't have an Kitchen Aid mixer, like Meghan. But laughter and chatter made the thumping light and the rising short. Walking her dog during a baking or rising time is a tradition of ours. The air was biting today, especially as I only wore a sweatshirt. The mounds of melting snow. The frisking little dog. *Sigh*.

The pretzels were wonderful. Soft, warm, fresh, slightly eggy. Oh my. Nothing like the commercial ones. These are so delicious. They were clear winners and I can't wait to make them again!

About the recipe: since no mixer was available we mixed and kneaded the dough by hand. This was rather tiring, but I enjoy kneading, and we could take turns. Meghan didn't have a very large pan, so we halved the baking soda and sugar for the poaching part. Also, when shaping the dough into a rope, this is what I did: rolled between my palms till I had a goodly sized rope. Then I twirled and stretched it in the air (don't do anything too dramatic, keep it safe), then rolled it once more through my palms. Don't use too much flour, and don't make the pieces too big. We did a combination of three seasonings: salt (it was fine, not coarse), cinnamon-sugar, and garlic powder and dried chives. All were yummy.

A wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

Soft Pretzels
From And Now for Something Completely Delicious.
Makes 16 pretzels

2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar (we used 2 tablespoons total)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup baking soda (we used 1/8 cup.)
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt (we used fine.)

For a dough hook:
Pour the warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then add one cup of flour to the yeast mixture and mix until combined. Add salt and the remaining flour and mix until combined. Beat on medium-low until the dough starts to pull away from the sides. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix until combined. Knead with the dough hook another 3 to 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.

By hand:
Pour the warm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar into a large bowl. Add the yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then add one cup of flour to the yeast mixture and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Add salt and the remaining flour and mix until combined. Keep mixing until "dough pulls away from the sides" (basically whenever). If the dough is still sticky, add more flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix until combined. Knead on a floured surface for about 5 - 7 minutes and until smooth and elastic. (See photo above).

Transfer the dough into a bowl coated with cooking spray (or olive oil, in our case). Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Separate the dough into 16 pieces about 2 1/2 ounces each. With your hands and with the aid of a slightly floured work surface, roll each piece into an 18-inch long strip. Then shape into a pretzel and set on a sheet pan. Let the pretzels rest for about 15 minutes, allowing them to rise a little more.

Meanwhile, boil a few inches of water in a wide, shallow pan over medium high heat. Add the baking soda and the remaining 2 (or 1) tablespoons of sugar. Transfer 3 to 4 pretzels to the water at a time and poach them on each side for 1 minute. Remove them with a slotted spoon and return to the lined sheet pan.

Beat the egg with 1 teaspoon of water and brush each pretzel with the wash. Sprinkle with the course salt or other seasonings. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden (took us 13-14 mins). Let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with mustard or your favorite dip or sauce.

These pretzels are best eaten the day they are made, but will keep on the counter, uncovered for a few days,

January 17, 2010

The Usurpers!

Hello -- we are hijacking this blog! We are Erin and Meghan, teenage daughters of Kathy and Nancy, respectively, previous authors of this blog. We also have an interest in cooking and eating homemade local and healthy food. We decided to take over this long-dormant blog to share that interest with you. We hope you'll join us.

Here are some of the things we will blog about:

- recipes using in season (locally!) vegetables and fruits, particularly in the spring and summer.

- stories about the local farmers market and other ways to get good food.

- recipes for healthy food, not necessarily with in season produce.

- our journeys as young cooks.

- and from-scratch homemade food.

We will be posting about 1-2 times a week, taking turns.

About us:


I'm Meghan and I like to make pasta sauce out of fresh vegetables. Even though I've been helping in the kitchen for as long as I can remember, I officially fell in love with the culinary arts about a year ago, and since then I've been cooking and baking a variety of things such as pasta sauce (duh), rich chocolate brownies, and chili. I believe there is always something special about making your own meals, so I look forward to sharing many recipes in the years to come.
My other interests include playing the flute, writing stories and poetry, and learning the very precise art of ballet. I also have a new book blog, Books For Thought.


When I was 3 years old I asked my parents, "What's Coca-Cola?".

Ever since I was little I've loved to eat. I've grown less and less picky as I've grown older and have an appreciation of fine food. In short, I'm a foodie. Ever since my first batch of oatmeal cookies with no flour in them I have also been a cook and baker. I especially love CLEAN food. I love making things like homemade bread, all sorts of salads, and apple or banana cake. On the first day of 2010, after a batch of amazing chocolate cookies, my mom said, "You're launched". I hope you'll join me in my launching career!

When I'm not in the kitchen, which can be often, I'm making flashcards for my study of Scottish Gaelic, reading the dictionary to fuel my interest in linguistics, dancing to bagpipes, reading books, writing essays and blog posts which you can find at my personal blog, Soul Root.