Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thanksgiving Lobster

We don't like turkey. More accurately, I wasn't prepared to buy a heritage bird and normal turkey makes me sad. So I researched out what an authentic Thanksgiving might have looked like and we decided to go with lobster - at least plausible if not necessarily authentic. Plus, the real question is why have turkey when you can eat lobster?
Add lobster to salted water
Boil for 11 minutes. Ice bath 5 minutes.
Check youtube for shelling strategies.
It appears I was way too busy eating to take pictures of the finished plates but we dipped the lobster in garlic butter and served it with the aforementioned salad with maple dressing, garlic mashed potatoes, my sil's yam recipe sans marshmallows, and my sister HOF's brilliant turkey out of Bezian bread:

An unintended consequence of subbing the lobster for turkey was that it didn't take us all day long to make dinner. In fact, it took just over an hour after the yams were baked and we were even juggling kids. It made the day so much more relaxing to not be scheduling oven availability and timing everything perfectly just to have to keep everything warm because the turkey's not done yet. I will say that the lobster was really fun to do once but it is a lot of effort with the de-shelling and having them alive in the fridge and all - so we'll probably try crab next year. Or spring for the heritage bird. Who knows.

*Special thanks to HOF for flying out to be with us - and doing all of my dishes!*

Green Apple Salad with Maple Dressing

This is probably my new favorite salad. Green apples with dried cherries, nuts and dressing made with real maple syrup. Go here for the recipe. I subbed pecans because I'm avoiding walnuts for the Boy and red wine vinegar because it's what I had. Oh, and I used olive oil. The dressing made at least twice as much as we needed but having leftover dressing is awesome. Thanks for sharing JL!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Jesse Tree

I've spent a lot of time in the last few weeks thinking about and working on a Jesse Tree so I thought I'd post on it in case anyone's interested. I had never heard of it before but I read about it on a few other blogs (here and here) and I loved the idea. Basically, you trace the lineage of Christ (stem of Jesse) to see how the way was prepared for Him. Which ends up meaning that you go thru most of the Old Testament bible prophet stories and wind up at the Nativity.

I brainstormed a bunch of ideas of how to make all the ornaments and loved this felt tree but it seemed like too much work for me this year. And I didn't want to just print something out (like you can do here). While musing over my options one baby-induced-sleepless night, I realized that I had a ton of craft buttons that could work for the stories. So I gathered those together, painted buttons for the ones I was missing, and hot glue gunned hooks on the ones that were missing loops. The Monkey got to pick out the $5 mini craft-tree to hang them on. And she loves her 'Jesse Tree'. Not sure how well you can see the buttons even on the close-up but here are the devotionals in order:

First row:
earth (Creation), apple (Adam and Eve), rainbow (Noah), grandfather (Abrahamic Covenant), baby (Sarah), poodle (supposed to be a ram for Isaac), ladder (Jacob's ladder), coat (Joseph's coat of many colors), worm (supposed to be a snake for Moses's 'look to God and live')

Second row:
red spool (for Rahab's red rope), leaves (for Ruth's wheat), stem of Jesse tree (Isaiah 11:1-5), crown (Samuel annoints David), house (watchtower from Habakkuk 2:1-3), altar of fire (Elijah), fishbones (Jonah), coin button (Esther 4), shaggy dog button (for Daniel's lions)

Third row:
glasses (Ezekiel's scroll), rose (Isaiah 35:1-2), small white button (for seed of faith with Zechariah and Elizabeth), honeybee (John the Baptist), angel (Annunciation), hammer (Joseph), heart (Mary), city (Bethlehem Micah 5:1-5, Luke 2:1-5), yellow button (for the Sun being blotted out - Helaman 13:2-4, 14:2-4 and 3 Nephi 1:8-14), treasure chest (Wise Men)

For the last night, I also have a small wooden Nativity ornament and the star for the top of the tree. And since I took the picture, I decided to use a tiny key ornament for living prophets that testify of Christ - using The Living Christ as the reading. Because I'm LDS, that's a really important tenet of my faith that I didn't want to leave out.

Anyway, we're only on Day 5 but it's already been a really meaningful experience. It's a fun way to teach the Monkey more Bible stories. I keep the devotionals short and sweet (5 min or less) because she's three but she asks really great questions and we've had some sweet moments already.

In general, I do a good job keeping our Christmas traditions simple, but adding this in seems to really be increasing our Christ-centered focus for the Season.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Cake

I'm not eating eggs right now in hopes that it will clear up the Boy's eczema. It's working pretty well so far, but tonight I really wanted a treat. Luckily, HOF is visiting for Thanksgiving and reminded me of this Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe I had randomly found in the comments section of a blog post on favorite food storage recipes. Then she made it for me and did all the dishes - it was awesome.

3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. cocoa
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. vinegar
1 c. oil
2 c. water

Sift dry ingredients together. Add vinegar, vanilla, oil and water. Beat well. Pour into ungreased pan. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

I made a berry compote by simply simmering down frozen blueberries and raspberries on the stove until they made a nice, thick sauce. And then we made it not-so vegan by serving it with whipping cream and ganache. Delicious.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Turkey Relish Tray

Um, this is the cutest idea ever. Cheeseball for the turkey head. Arrange veggies. I am totally going to use this for T-day from here on out. Thanks MB!

Stewed Apple Breakfast

I've been eating this for breakfast pretty much every morning lately. The Boy has some eczema so I'm trying to avoid dairy and eggs to see if it clears up. Since I'm also trying to avoid grains for my own sensitivities, that has pretty much destroyed all of my usual breakfast candidates. So I came up with this.

I just open a jar of my chunky, canned applesauce and warm it up on the stove. Then I open a can of whole fat coconut milk and scoop out a few generous spoonfuls of the cream that hardens in the top of the can. Let it get all melty in the warm sauce. Top with nuts if desired. 

And that's it. I store the coconut milk in a glass tupperware in the fridge and use the liquid part of the can for a smoothie at some point during the week.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Kale Salad

Loved this kale salad recipe. The first time I made it, I did the garlic on the cutting board with a knife and the salad turned out lemony and delicious. The second time, I dug out the mortar and pestle for the garlic and it was a completely different salad. Garlicky and also delicious. We leave the breadcrumbs out because we're cutting grains at the moment but I'm sure that would make it even better.

Also, the blog this recipe comes from has a bunch of recipes I'm excited about trying. Thank you JL for the great find!

German Chocolate Cake

This was the totally awesome Captain America cake my sister-in-law made this year. Yes, she free-handed that. And the kids all got to make shields at the party. It was very cool. Anyway, delicious cake. Recipe comes from V's mom.

1 package (4-ounce) German Sweet Chocolate
1/2 cup boiling water
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk
4 egg whites, stiffly beaten

Melt chocolate in boiling water, cool.  Cream butter and sugar well.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each.  Blend in vanilla and melted chocolate.  Add soda and salt.  Add half of the flour and half of the milk.  Blend well.  Add remaining flour and milk.  Beat egg whites until stiff.  Fold into cake batter mixture.  Pour batter into three gener­ously greased and floured 8 or 9-inch round cake pans.  Bake in pre­heated 350 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until cake springs back when lightly pressed in center.  Cool in pans 15 minutes.  Remove and cool completely on racks.  Fill between layers and frost top with Coconut Pecan Frosting.  Frost around sides of cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting.

Coconut Pecan Frosting
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups angel flake coconut

In small sauce pan combine first five ingredients.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and add pecans and coconut.  Cool completely before spreading on cake.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 box powdered sugar, minus 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dash of salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

With electric mixer, mix butter, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla and salt until smooth.  Slowly add cocoa, mixing until well blended.  Spread around sides of cake.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


My friend JL gave me the idea of using pesto as a pizza topping rather than fresh basil or as a replacement for the tomato sauce. I love this idea because pesto keeps well in the freezer and it gives me the chance to stock up on it while it's in season. With all the craziness, I only got one batch put together and we went thru it really fast - but next season I'd like to try again to stock up on basil while it's plentiful and cheap. This recipe is from Mario Batali's Italian Grill, page 50 - paraphrased, of course.

3 garlic cloves
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves
3 TB pine nuts
generous pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup plus 2 TB olive oil
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 TB pecorino romano, freshly grated

With the motor running, drop the garlic into a food processor to chop it. Add the basil, pine nuts, and salt and pulse until the basil and nuts are coarsely chopped, then process until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the cheeses. May be stored in a tightly sealed jar, topped with a thin layer of olive oil, for several weeks in the fridge.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Melon Balls

I randomly decided to use my cookie scoop to make melon balls the other day. It turns out it is WAY faster to prep a cantaloupe that way. I had no idea. I always thought it was just to make it look fancy. But no - I did a pretty good job of getting all the fruit out of it and it was a ton faster than slicing the rind off. 

If you're leaving the rind on when you slice, that's definitely the fastest method. But if you're cutting the rind off anyway, try the cookie scoop. I'm totally sold on the method. And it's pretty fun to eat that way too.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Vegetable Broth

I'm not sure why but I've never made this before and I felt completely magic doing it. I was trying to make a broth for my risotto so it wouldn't taste like chicken bullion. I read a few recipes online and decided that the basic idea was to just use up all the random veggies in the fridge. So I just sort of went for it. 

I started by sauteeing the onions in some olive oil. Then I added in carrots and celery just to feel like I had a good, solid base. The rest was mostly squash I didn't know what to do with and a random turnip made it in too. I sauteed that all a bit longer, then added salt and water (about 2/3rds full). Bring to a boil, then simmer for as long as possible. 

After cooking about 6 hours, I decided it was done. I strained the broth out and then had a brilliant idea to put all the cooked veggie pulp in my blender. It worked brilliantly and I was really proud of not wasting all of that like I normally would. Alice and I liked the soup but V didn't. It was pretty bland but I had low expectations so maybe that's why I liked it. Plus, a little pepper and Parmesan grated on top makes anything pretty good. haha. And it was a by-product anyway. I still got my veg broth for my risotto.

Teriyaki Salmon

This was a quick meal that went over really well. I based it on this recipe but added a bunch of extra ginger, left out the red pepper flakes, and cooked it on the stove instead of broiling it. This will probably be on the regular rotation as we add more fish into our diet.

Risotto with Chard and Fried Okra

For some reason I was really excited about risotto last month. My first effort was a complete disaster - stir risotto - put the binky back in - stir risotto - comfort child with stubbed toe - stir risotto - put the binky back in. Seriously - disaster. Anyway it ended up tasting like rice-a-roni and the whole ordeal was pretty tragic.

Then I got a TON of okra in my csa box. Having no idea what to do with okra, I consulted epicurious and found this fantastic recipe. I made a vegetable broth to use instead of the chicken broth so that it wouldn't end up tasting like bullion again and we were both really happy with the results. And the okra really enhanced the dish.

Note: for future reference, I'd like to try a barley risotto either here or here. It's a way to use a whole grain for risotto. Honestly though, I don't think the result is worth the 45 min of hands-on cook time. At least not as a regular occurrence during my current stage of life.

Best Brownies Ever

Seriously, the best brownies we've ever had. Huge thanks to JL and CD for steering me to this recipe! Make sure to use the fancy high fat cocoa powder. It does make a difference. And really, you should just make a double batch in a 9x13 if you want them to last more than 10 minutes. I leave out the nuts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Crockpot Yams

Wash the yams. Wrap them in tinfoil. Put them in a crockpot on high for 5 hours or until soft. Peel off foil and skins. Mash. Add butter and salt. Serve.

Note: this also works for 'baked' potatoes. It's a great way to have yams or potatoes without heating up the house.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Zucchini with Orzo and Feta

I got this great simple meal idea from JL and it was a huge hit at our house. Basically just cook up some orzo pasta, saute some vegetables, and pile them up with feta and pine nuts. We had pecans on hand so I toasted them and used those instead of the pine nuts. It was fan-tas-tic. And simple to make. I hear it also works well with quinoa or brown rice instead of the orzo. Maybe I'd even try amaranth. So good though. And you can sub in whatever veggies you happen to have in your csa box that week.

I chopped up 3 yellow zucchini and 3 rond de nice.
Saute in butter and salt to taste. It was so much zucchini, I started it in two pans and then moved it all into one once it cooked down.
Pile it all up - orzo, veg, feta, nuts - and serve.
Update: We've made this again with brown rice and with couscous. Both versions were great. We love feta at our house!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Green Smoothies

I have jumped on the green smoothie bandwagon. I went to a Relief Society mtg last month about healthy eating and we got to sample a green smoothie. It was actually pretty good so I thought I could try it at home and we've been so happy with the results - they're now on our regular menu. It a super simple lunch with some peanut butter toast or crackers and cheese. And I feel so healthy eating it!

handful of greens (kale, spinach, etc.)
banana (peeled, frozen is ok)
lemon (peeled but not necessarily seeded)
something else (cored apple, pear, handful of frozen fruit)
ice (opt.)

And that's it. Stick it in your BlendTec or Vitamix. Not sure if this will work in a normal blender. My ingredients usually fill up the blender and then I pour water in to about half the level and add 3-4 ice cubes. I usually use a frozen banana so that makes it cold too. I think it's important to be cold. I also like it a bit thinner than my usual smoothies or I start thinking 'sludge' when drinking it and that grosses me out.

But seriously, it tastes great. And the green color is fun. I like to serve it in our mason jars so we can see the pretty green. When I put it in our red plastic cups, it looks brown and no one wants to drink a brown smoothie. On that note - I was warned not to do carrots with greens or you run into the same problem.

The key part I'd been missing when previously thinking about green smoothies is that the lemon cuts the bitterness. The lemon is vital to having it taste good so don't leave it out. Also, I tried it with apple juice instead of the water and thought it was too sweet. But if you don't find the basic recipe sweet enough, you could try subbing juices.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Summer Trip

We had some fun culinary experiences on our summer trip this year. We went to NC, KY, and OH to visit family. Our favorite find is called Chef and the Farmer in Kinston, NC. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere - but it was fantastic! Above is a picture of my fried okra with ranch ice cream (it wasn't plated like that - I just didn't pause to take a picture until it was almost all gone). The whole experience was amazing. I ordered their Succotash and Carolina Rice Risotto. Delicious. V got the Berkshire pork. So great. It was just a lovely dining experience and no one gave us dirty looks for bringing kids - tho I will say they were pretty much perfect while we were there.

We also hit Los Fogones in Goldsboro. I wish I had a picture. The place was classic. And the chicken was amazing. I'm really not a huge fan of chicken lately but it was remarkably flavorful. And they had this purple drink that they make from scratch from stewed corn, cinnamon, sugar and random tropical fruits. It was surprisingly good. Like, I had to keep tasting it to figure out another layer of flavor.

We went to the Rundown Cafe after seeing Kitty Hawk and their soup was fabulous. I would really like to figure out how to recreate it here. I did find a recipe to try but I'm sure it was a white fish and not shrimp at the cafe. It was basically chunks of yam and veggies with a bit of fish in a savory coconut milk broth. Really good even though it was hot out. Didn't love the rest of what we ordered but I would love to figure out how to make that soup.

V made the trek to Hillbilly Hotdog while in KY and split the home-wrecker with his brother. And garlic ranch fries. Apparently it was spectacular despite being his nervous about some of the toppings. It comes on a platter with a chef's knife.

While in Cleveland, we went to Lola's. Very awesome. And a triple date with my siblings so it was super fun. I had the ribeye with the smoked garlic bone marrow butter. Yeah. Incredible. V had the quail and pork belly. The Lola fries were great and the 6am Special was whimsical but not particularly wowing. The Beef Cheek Pierogi had a ton of flavor and tho I'm not a fan of Ceviche, I recognized it was really well done. Note: it is a place you need to order appetizer, main, and dessert to come away feeling satisfied - which we did.

And we invaded The Melt with all the cousins. Seriously, we took up like 1/3 of the restaurant but they were super nice about it. Their portions were huge and apparently I was hungry cause I easily downed mine and most of the Monkey's servings. I had the Mushroom Melt, V had the Meatball, and the Monkey got the pbj. I did not love their coleslaw but the sandwiches were great. And huge.

V also did B Spot Burgers. Blew his mind. Apparently the best burgers he's had. I guess he ordered a TON of food though and was pretty full for like a whole day afterwards (the Fat Doug, the Stadium Brat, Chili Cheese Fries, Chocolate banana shake with caramelized marshmallows on top, and a taste of the Apple Pie Bacon shake - which seemed to be an actual piece of apple pie stuck in the blender with vanilla ice cream and bacon sprinkled on top). I'd definitely like to try B Spot next time we're in town. It just didn't work out timing wise for us both to go.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Strawberry Jam Round 2

Somehow amidst all the craziness around here, we managed to make some jam. I made some last year to break in my canner and surprisingly that batch lasted us a full 12 months. I really liked last year's jam but this year I decided to tweak it a bit and try using less honey. 

I made three different versions - same as last year, half the honey, and no honey at all. We used most of 2 flats of organic berries. I think it ended up being about 27 pints of jam. V thinks it was about $70 of berries. I used the no sugar pectin that I bought last minute at Ralph's. Next year I need to get the pectin in bulk online so it will be cheaper. It's really not cheap to make it this way but it's honey sweetened and organic with no preservatives. I like being in control of what I eat. Plus, I feel like a super-homemaker when I can.

We didn't really like the no honey version - tho it was a beautiful bright red. I think the berries are just too acidic. But the others turned out well. I am happy with the half honey version so I think I'll do that from here on out. At least for strawberry jam. I am starting to think about berry combinations. Maybe next year I'll be confident enough to get more adventurous. Raspberry jam is actually my favorite but fresh raspberries are super expensive around here and I've never had frozen berry jam turn out for me.

mash the berries (V's job)
boil berries, pectin, and apple juice. add honey and boil 3 min.
fill the jars and process 10 minutes at sea level

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Halibut Curry

I've been without a computer for a while so there haven't been new posts for a few weeks. But I have still been cooking! I made this chicken curry recipe with halibut and it turned out really well. I haven't really been a fan of chicken lately so I was excited that the substitution worked.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Monster Cookies (GF)

1 1/3 sticks butter
1 ½ cup honey
1 lb crunchy peanut butter
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
7 cups oatmeal
1 cup chocolate chips 

Cream butter and honey. Add peanut butter. Mix in eggs, vanilla and baking soda. Add oats while mixer is running. Mix in chocolate chips. Scoop generous spoonfuls onto cookie sheets and bake at 325' for 16-18 minutes.

Note: This is a modified and smaller recipe based on my preferences. The original recipe is literally humongous and you're supposed to make really large cookies out of it (1 lb butter, 2 lbs brown sugar, 4 cups white sugar, 3 lbs crunchy peanut butter, 1 dozen eggs, 1 TB vanilla, 2 TB baking soda, 18 cups oats, 2 cups m&ms, 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips). 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Peanut Butter

This post inspired me to try my hand at homemade peanut butter. It was sooo simple. Seriously. If you have a food processor, it takes practically no effort. First, buy peanuts. I bought raw valencias with skins on from Azure Standard.

yes, those are silly bands underneath
Next, dump them onto a baking sheet and roast them in your 350' oven for 15-20 minutes or until shiny and slightly fragrant. Shake the pan once in the middle if you want to. Dump them into your food processor. You can wait a bit for them to cool if you'd like.

Process them for about 5 minutes. After about 3 minutes, the peanuts start to ball up in the mixer. You could stop there if you like it like that but I prefer mine more creamy. If you continue to process, the ball will eventually breakup and become more like peanut butter. If your food processor is having a hard time with it, try doing 1 lb of peanuts at a time.

You can flavor with just salt or add a TB of coconut oil and/or honey. I just used a bit of sea salt. 2 lbs of peanuts made 2 pints of peanut butter. Store in the fridge.

Now I just need to figure out how to store 30 lbs of peanuts in my apartment...

Carrot Cake

We finally found our perfect carrot cake! Go here for the recipe. We've made it twice now and preferred it with whole wheat flour and less powdered sugar in the frosting. Fantastic recipe though. If you like carrot cake - try it.

bake the cakes
make the frosting
have thirds