Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Cranberry Corn Muffins

These are an easy treat during the holidays, when cranberries are plentiful! I love the tartness of the cranberries with the hint of sweetness in the cornbread. A little lemon zest lightens it all up.

~ 1 cup rinsed whole cranberries
1 box cornbread/muffin mix (I use Trader Joe's -- THE BEST!)
1 lemon, zested
+ ingredients listed on cornbread package

Combine ingredients as listed on package (usually liquid first). Add lemon zest and mix. Then add dry mix to liquid and cranberries. Combine -- but do not overmix!

Pour into muffin pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. You should see the sides pulling away from the pan and lightly browned.

Let cool and enjoy! These are great to freeze for later, too!

(P.S. Sorry for so many poor quality food photos, these muffins look a lot more tasty in person! Maybe it's time for a quality digital camera?)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Leftover Turkey Chili

I roasted a 22lb bird for Thanksgiving this year. With a group of 8 for dinner there was quite a bit of leftover turkey. (It was all part of my grand strategy to get to try several post-turkey day recipes!)

This is a fantastic chili for a cool autumn day. The turkey really tastes delicious in it. Don't forget the cumin -- it's addition added immensely to the depth of flavor.

3 Tbl olive oil
2 small/medium onions, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 large can whole tomatoes (cut up with shears or hand crushed)
1 large can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato sauce
1 20oz can kidney beans
1.5-2 C pulled turkey (leftovers from Thanksgiving are perfect!) - no skin
3 Tbl chili powder
1 tsp chili flakes (more/less to taste)
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamin
salt to taste

Saute the onion and green pepper in olive oil in a dutch oven over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, until tender. Add garlic. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. All spices can be adjusted to your taste. If you think it may be too much, start out with less and add it while the chili simmers. Simmer, covered for 1-2 hours. The longer it cooks the richer the flavor gets.

Serve over rice or with cornbread.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tasty Turkish Turkey Meatloaf

Friends for Dinner: Turkey Meatloaf, Parsley & Tomato Couscous, and a Trader Joe's Coastal Sauvignon Blanc (a recent fav)

I saw a recipe for Turkish Turkey Meatloaf in last week's Dining Section of the New York Times and could not resist. I've been dying to try a meatloaf recipe and this sounded scrumptious. It did not disappoint. While I will be quick to admit that the ingredients ALL came from Trader Joe's and not a local food source, many of the ingredients you could find locally. That's what I get for being in a rush...

If you are hesitant to try meatloaf at home because you think of it as dry, greasy, and generally unappetizing do not resist. This came out moist and delicious, even my meatloaf-averse companion asked for the recipe!

See the New York Times for the original recipe. Here are the few changes I made:
  • I added 1/3 C diced carrot (1 large carrot)
  • I replaced regular bread crumbs for the panko and skipped the toasting step (I just sprinkled the extra bread crumbs on top of the loaves (see next bullet) and drizzled with some olive oil)
  • Half the loaf I spread over two mini loaf pans and the other half I formed in aluminum foil in a glass cake pan to retain its shape
Great served with a side of couscous or naan ( can make your own...see my next post!)

Good luck and enjoy! Let me know what you think...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Black Beans and Rice, Not a Side Dish

I grew up eating the typically Cuban meal of pork, black beans and rice on a regular basis. My mom learned from my grandmother (...I think) and passed down the tradition to me. However, it wasn't until a recent edition of Real Simple that I realized the black beans and rice didn't need to be relegated to a side dish...that it could take center stage.

This is good news!

Eating local requires that Adam and I reduce the amount of meat we eat primarily because it is more expensive. There aren't any local, cheap CAFOs in New England that I am aware of (thank goodness!). In general, I don't mind the expense because the meat is usually from grass-fed, free range sources that have a healthier balance of fats and tend to be leaner than their CAFO counterparts; but when trying to eat local on a budget, I am thrilled when I find a meatless meal that satisfies our entire family.

Trader Joe's supplied some of the meal components including the rice (imported), kalamata olives (definitely imported) and the black beans. The lettuce came from the Harvest Coop in Cambridge, the tomatoes and green peppers were from local farms. I guess this meal still has a way to go before being considered "local."Hey, I never said this would be easy...

Perna-Cuban Black Beans
1 Tbl olive oil
1 medium green pepper (diced)
1 small-medium onion (diced)
1-2 heads of fresh garlic (chopped)
1 can black beans
1/2 tsp cumin (...a personal addition to the family recipe)
Fresh cracked pepper to taste

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add the olive oil, green pepper and onion. Saute vegetables until tender (5-7 minutes). Lower the heat if necessary.
  3. Add the garlic and saute 2-3 minutes. Be sure not to burn it!
  4. Add the can of black beans (undrained), cumin, and cracked pepper. Stir to combine all ingredients. Simmer over medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. Taste and add more salt/pepper, if needed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Chicken Salad for Any Night of the Week

A "basic" chicken salad made with local heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers from our Maine vacation, and Iggy's bread. Using chicken tenders (rather than breasts) makes this meal finish even faster!

It's difficult to find a more convenient weeknight meal than a giant salad. Only one ingredient (well, two if you include the toasted Iggy's bread I added tonight) require cooking. The rest of the ingredients are just chopped, diced and tossed together. In about 10 minutes (plus an overnight chicken defrosting; a microwave works just as well) you can have a plentiful meal for as many as you need!

In my first week taking classes in Cambridge (I feel like it is such a privilege to be taught across the river at the real Harvard) I discovered the Central Square Farmer's Market. I was shopping at the Harvest Coop when a friend from school passed by with a reusable bag full of veggies. I was picking up tomatoes, trying to figure out where they were from. All she said was, "The good ones are out there." Out there? Out where?? Well in the Harvest Coop parking lot, of course!

The prices in the farmer's market are by all standards affordable and the selection was incredible. The other veggie-seeking customers sifting through produce at the Harvest Coop on Mondays are clearly unaware (as I was) about the treasure trove of goodies right out back!

Here are the details:
Central Square Farmer's Market
Bishop Allen Dr. and Norfolk St. (Parking Lot behind the Harvest Coop)
Monday, 11:30am-6:00pm
June 1 - November 23

"Basic" Chicken Salad Meal Cost (for 2)
Chicken (4 frozen tenders from TJ) ~ $3.00
Iggy's Bread ~ $2.75
Lettuce (1 head of romaine) ~ $1.50
Tomato (1 large) ~ $0.50
Cucumbers (1 medium) ~ $0.50
Red pepper (1/2 large) ~ $0.50
EVOO and Balsamic Vinegar ~ $0.25

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Great Farms From Mass to Maine

I have really enjoyed "discovering" farms and farm stands across New England. The photo below was taken during our Maine vacation (the spot we spotted on our bike ride home one day) and provided incredibly delicious corn for dinner at Long Lake the following day and some excellent cucumbers and potatoes.

 With some sample goods at the farm stand in Old Orchard Beach, ME

The farm stand we purchased from in Old Orchard Beach was located in Dayton, Maine. I never did get the name of the farm, and there are quite a few located there (Harris Farm, Cole Farm Dairy, Pumpkin Valley Farm). Nonetheless, it was an excellent stop and provided food for not only Mack and I, but our friends the next evening.

While eating local (i.e. eating at locally-owned, small business) is great to discuss as I did in my previous post, it really does matter where the ingredients come from. Indeed, it matters even more where the ingredients come from that I use in my own home!

My next few posts will chronicle some tasty concoctions that I have made with local ingredients, including produce from our friends' community garden to Allandale Farm.  Allandale Farm is conveniently located in Jamaica Plain, MA (part of Boston proper) and amazing produce at affordable prices.

Vegetables never tasted so good.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Maine Adventure: Our Local Stops

Posing by a "Local is Best" sign outside a Farm Stand in Old Orchard Beach off Rt. 5 while biking back from Kennebunkport, ME

Maine was probably one of the best possible places we could have traveled to on a local diet. Calling what I ate this past week a "diet" is probably misleading, because the word diet suggests sacrifice, pain, and overall displeasure and what I ate was anything but.

While not everything we ate in Maine was grown or caught there, a lot of it was! We stuck to the basics: seafood, lobster, fish, seafood...did I mention seafood? It may not have been the most healthful vacation meals (our seafood was routinely bathed in butter or some other fat of choice), but we contributed to the local economy by staying, shopping, and dining at small business locations (with one divergence that I would rather not talk about) and overall I would say that my eating local vacation was a success.

A few of our local stops worth mentioning:
  • Fancy that... A bakery and sandwich shop in Ogunquit, Maine that serves Maine made ice cream and decent sandwiches. Not all the ingredients are local, indeed their brochure boasts of "Fresh imported meats, cheeses, roasted vegetables" (I assume the roasted vegetables are not imported...though I may be mistaken). Full disclosure: my sandwich was made with Boursin (a spreadable French cheese), but we ate Cape Cod chips to cancel that out and boost the local factor. If I would come here again it would be to get a nice cup of iced coffee and a freshly baked cookie. Click here to read my full review on Yelp.
  • Huot's Seafood Restaurant This restaurant, located in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, was recommended to us by the owner of the B&B for the best fried seafood in the area. After dining here and seeing an old menu I can tell you that prices have risen in the past 4 years. What used to be a $10 baked haddock meal is now $16, and comes with 2 sides of your choice. The seafood is caught locally by fisherman in the area. I would hands-down, no reservations, whole heartedly recommend the Shrimp Scampi baked dish served over rice pilaf to ANYONE who comes here. It was unforgettable. Genuinely local (even down to the off the menu side of fresh red beets). Click here to read my full review on Yelp.
  • Port Lobster This is basically a lobster pound that serves excellent, fresh seafood and the most delicious (and affordable-ish) lobster rolls in Kennebunkport. At least that's what the woman who was selling her horse and buggy service to passerbys told us. (Note to self: always ask the locals the best place to eat local...). For $10 you can buy a lobster roll, which is a bunch of cleaned, lobster, cut into chunks tossed with just a touch of mayonnaise, salt and pepper and served in a hot dog bun (we had ours toasted...a very good idea). One bite of the lobster roll and I told Adam I think I might be in heaven. It was that good. I can't imagine eating anything else out of a hot dog bun ever again ( that will be hard...). I posted a picture of my heavenly experience below. To order Port Lobster seafood online visit the Port Lobster website.

Eating local was surprisingly convenient on this vacation. There were no large mega-restaurants tempting us, the ones that seem to hit every major city and suburb in sight, and there were only a handful of franchises (e.g. Subway, Dunkin Donuts) that were located such that they were easy enough to avoid. Their slightly lower prices gave them some competitive advantage, but all in all it was just a few cents difference and I think most people went their for familiarity's sake.

As for affordability, it was a bit more difficult to calculate. We never felt like we were spending too much on what we were eating. Though finding a lobster roll for under $10 posed quite a challenge given we were biking through Kennebunkport (relatively more expensive that Old Orchard Beach, in my opinion). Asking locals about affordable eats, limiting meat consumption, and enjoying the free offerings at the B&B made for a reasonably priced vacation.

The eating local challenge continues...back home.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Taste-testing Local VS International Flavors

The Local Taste Challenge (Photo by Maisie Crow for the Boston Globe)

Today's Boston Globe "G" section is all about LOCAL food! I could not be more excited reading through today's paper. You know the feeling when you buy something new and all of a sudden it seems like it is all around you -- that's exactly how I feel right now with this Locavore challenge.

Between the Globe's op-ed today on the possibilities and limits of eating local and the G section blind local food taste-off, I have gotten my local fill for the day (or at least before I had my first cup o' joe). Oh -- and the winner of the taste-off? The local tomatoes, red beets, Duxbury-caught striped bass, and beef...not to mention many of the local cheeses and crustaceans. For a full report, check out the original article (with recipes, local resources, and more!).

Now that I've worked up an appetite, I'm off to explore what "local" looks like up the coast!

Note: Do I need to tell you how much I hope the New York Times does NOT sell the Globe to a trim 'em down, beat 'em up, get rich quick, and then get out kind of person....

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Eating Local on a Maine Vacation

Today I am gearing up for a short trip to Maine, where I will bask (sunscreen-covered) in the sun and bike down the coast. But, what does a vacation look like for a locavore? Or perhaps more accurately, a locavore wannabe?

To begin my search I Googled "locavore vacation maine". I thought I would go with something specific, you know, attempt to find the exact website I was looking for on try #1. The results? Not bad.

First, I came across the blog Diary of a Locavore, which has its own category on Maine (here). The site provides information and food for though on eating local in Cape Cod and the Islands, including recipes (many adapted from the Joy of Cooking) and amazing food photography. The author even hosts the Local Food Report on NPR (90.1/91.1/94.3 FM) a couple days a week for the Cape and Islands affiliate WCAI.

Through the Diary of a Locavore I was directed to a local bread producer in Maine: Borealis Breads, which is sold throughout the state. They recently opened a bistro and bakery at 183 Ocean Avenue in Portland which showcases local grains, meats, and produce. Perhaps a stop there on Friday is in order.

Another look at the Google search directed me to the Counting Sheep blog. Her post entitled "The 420 mile Locavore or MA to ME in 24 hours" was exactly what I was looking for. While not particularly healthy here are a few of the places mentioned:
  • Bob's Clam Hut in Kittery, ME - a bag of fried clams for $26 (not sure if this fits the 'affordable aspect of the TastyKate locavore challenge)
  • Wicked Whoopie Pies - I assume I can find these at a local market or corner store...
  • Ballard Meats and Seafood in Manchester, ME - a little far north for our trip, but good to know about.
  • Rocky Ridge Orchard in Bowdoin, ME - a great looking place for a pie, fresh milk, or homemade whoopie pies but a little out of our path for this trip.
Next, I was directed to the website American Towns which highlighted our destination: Old Orchard Beach. It included a restaurant directory and a list of local restaurants (as opposed to regional/franchised...I think) with "must buy" suggestions for each.

Here I found out that I can go to Bob's Clam Hut just across the NH border and get a lobster roll for a mere $11.00 or clam chowder for $4.00. It's looking much more tempting now... In Kennebunkport I could stop in at the Clam Shack and get a lobster roll for $18.00 (ouch!) or fried clam dinner for $19.00 or visit Mabel's Lobster Claw and delight in fresh chowder for $5.00 or eat an entire Shore Dinner for $17.00. Mabel's has peanut butter ice cream pie...I might skip dinner for that. Do you think the peanut butter is local, too?

So besides the whoopie pies and the lobster what will I do to eat local on our Maine vacation? I will ask questions! The key to finding local eateries and entertainment will be to ask good questions and direct them to the right people. That other tourist will have NO idea what I'm talking about, however, the B&B owners probably will. It's great to go on vacation and know that you are going to contribute to the local economy.

How can we get our economy back in shape? Buy local!

I welcome any and all suggestions on where to buy, eat, and enjoy healthy, local coastal Maine cuisine.

Farms in Short Supply for MA Markets

Today's Boston Globe ran a front page article on the increasing demand of farmers markets in Massachussetts. was small preview on the front page, but it was still there and I saw it before even opening up the paper.

It appears eating local is on the rise in this Bay State!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Locavore Chronicles: An Introduction

Locavore. n. A person who attempts to eat only foods grown locally.

Inspired by Barbara Kingsolver and her exciting adventure in eating all things local, I have decided to conscientiously incorporate more local foods into my dining and cooking repertoire. Kingsolver and her family took the path that is increasingly less traveled by vouching, for a year, to eat only what they could produce themselves or buy from local vendors. Their experience is chronicled in the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and I am a huge fan!

I have learned that to do so the first thing I must do is define what I mean by "local." It's a good question, because for many of us it wouldn't be ridiculous to define local as the whole United States. Increasingly the food we consume originates in other countries (ex. apples from Chile or fish from Thailand). However, it is probably appropriate to define local as a distance a little closer to home.

I would like to start by defining local as New England. I live in Boston and so anywhere from Connecticut to Maine can be local (at least for now).

My goal is to find out for myself just how difficult it is to buy and eat healthful, local meals.

The two major questions that I have are:
  1. Can eating local be affordable?
  2. Can eating local be convenient?
Full disclosure: this is going to be an incremental approach to eating local. It will take a lot of learning on my part and I hope to share some of my findings and challenges with all of you. I am excited to find out just how to incorporate more affordable, local foods into my family's diet. It will probably not be easy, but I am up for the challenge. I hope that what I find will help you and your family, too!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Easy Dill Salmon

I "stole" some salmon from my mom's freezer on the way back to Boston from Pennsylvania. I knew it would help keep the rest of my perishables cool, and that by the time I finished my 6 hour trek it would be defrosted and ready for the oven! This can be an easy weekday meal or it can be spruced up with sides like risotto or roasted potatoes for a fabulous and party-friendly weekend dinner. (P.S. I wouldn't recommend this particular defrosting technique...normally you want to remove it from the plastic wrap -- BPA people!! -- and defrost in the refrigerator overnight).

The zucchini (plentiful this time of year) was bought fresh from Allandale Farm! I can't believe I just found out that there is a local farm in Jamaica Plain! They even sell milk in glass bottles. I can't wait to make them my primary produce stop.

1 6 oz. salmon fillet (de-skinned, de-boned)
1 Tbl olive oil
pinch of dill
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Turn on the oven broiler.
  2. Lay the salmon on an oven sheet (I used aluminum foil under the fish to ease clean up) and rub with olive oil on either side. Sprinkle generously with dill, salt and pepper.
  3. Put salmon in oven for about 7 minutes about 2-3 inches from broiler coil.
  4. Remove when salmon looks opaque. Let rest for a minute or two. Do not overcook!!
Zucchini was boiled (to soften) in a skillet with a little layer of water, salt, and pepper for about 4 minutes. Then drained them and I added just a splash of olive oil and crushed garlic until heated through.

Buen provecho!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Sausage and Potato Frittata

This morning I made my first frittata. I told Adam and his immediate response was "What the heck is a frittata?!" A frittata is a simple egg dish -- like an omelet without the flipping and folding. If you are like me, when I try to cook an omelet I often end up with scrambled eggs. I didn't have enough butter, the eggs aren't folding, the egg isn't cooked through, etc. etc.

I wanted to do something special for Adam (it's his first day back in Boston since last month!) and I knew he would be pleased with a breakfast full of meat and potatoes. While bacon would be his first choice, I opted for a couple-pleasing sweet apple chicken sausage (a pre-cooked sausage that is super easy to use!). For extra nutrition I added some frozen spinach, as well. The combination of sweet and savory for this frittata worked out extremely well. I highly recommend you try it. Don't be intimidated by the name -- I may never make a traditional omelet again!

Sausage and Potato Frittata

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 Tbl organic half and half (or whatever milk/cream you have in the refrigerator)
  • 2 sweet apple chicken sausage links, sliced into rounds
  • 1 Tbl butter
  • 1 red potato, diced
  • 1/3 C frozen spinach, thawed
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. In a bowl, beat the eggs with the cream and 1/4 tsp salt, set aside.
  2. In a 10-inch skillet over medium heat add the butter and diced potatoes. Coat the potatoes well with the butter and some salt (no more than 1/4 tsp). Add the slices of sausage around the egg of the pan to warm/brown. Cover and cook 8-10 minutes until potatoes are tender. Stir about 5 minutes in.
  3. Uncover add the spinach. Cook until warmed through. (If you like the sausage a bit crispy you can turn the heat up a bit to try and brown them a bit more).
  4. Once all the ingredients are well combined, turn the heat to LOW and add the eggs. Slowly incorporate the eggs with the sausage and potatoes so that they don't just lay at the bottom of the skillet. Cover and cook 8-10 minutes over LOW heat.
  5. If the egg has cooked all the way through you can be finished. However I liked finishing my frittata in the oven. Put on the oven broiler and then move the skillet to the top rack of the oven. Watch carefully and take it out when the top has cooked and set (about 3-4 minutes).
  6. With an oven mitt (a friendly reminder!) remove the skillet from the oven. Let sit for 3-4 minutes.
The best part about a frittata is that it is traditionally served at room temperature! So this is a great dish for guests when you have lots of cooking going on. I can't wait to experiment with more frittata combinations. However, this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Buen provecho!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Whole Wheat Tortillas

My friends at Kitchen-Concoctions recently published a recipe for homemade tortillas that I could not wait to try. With a few TastyKate alterations I made these for cheese quesadillas and they turned out fantastic! I made half a batch and ended up with 7 medium-sized (not "burrito size") tortillas.

  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour + 1 1/4 C white whole wheat flour
  • 3 Tbl canola oil
  • warm water (don't let it boil -- if you can't put your finger in it, it's too hot and let it cool a bit)

These can be stored for a couple days in the fridge in an airtight plastic bag once they have cooled down if you can keep your hands off of them! Good luck.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kale and White Bean Soup

This soup was absolutely delicious and extremely easy to make. I was able to use many ingredients that I usually have in the fridge, plus just a few extras (kale and mushrooms) that I picked up at the store. Inexpensive and quick -- it's an easy weeknight meal any time of year.

  • 2 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 C baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 can of whole tomatoes, drained and diced
  • 1 Tbl minced or crushed garlic
  • 1 t dried basil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 32oz box of organic chicken broth
  • 1/2 can white kidney (or cannelloni) beans
  • 2-3 C kale torn up
  • 3 Tbl fresh parsley, chopped
  1. In a dutch oven, saute onions, carrots, and celery in olive oil over medium-high heat. Add S&P to taste.
  2. When tender (~3 min) add mushrooms and saute (~2 min)
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients except the kale and parsley.
  4. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, tasting to see whether you need to add any spices, S&P.
  5. Add kale and parsley, stir. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat.
  6. Let cool a bit (no need for a burnt tongue) and serve.
Serves ~4

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Balsamic BBQ Chicken

Spring is here! That means it is time to break out the grill (or at least start thinking about it) here in New England. For me that means a time to prepare my favorite BBQ chicken recipe: Balsamic BBQ Chicken by Giada deLaurentiis

This recipe is tangy, slightly sweet, and absolutely delicious. While vacationing in Sea Ranch with some of my favorite girlfriends (pictured above!!)  I had the chance to share the recipe. I believe it was a great success. 

Just a note: you can make this in the oven or on the grill, skin on or skin off, and chicken or steak. You may not go back to the bottled stuff again...

Below is the TastyKate version of the recipe with some slight alterations. If you want to access the original or read others' reviews check out the Food Network website

1 C balsamic vinegar
2/3 C ketchup (high-frustose corn syrup free -- TJ's has a great one!)
1/4 C brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
1 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

4 pieces of chicken bone-in (leaving the bone in will keep the chicken moist)

Put all the ingredients (except the chicken) in a small saucepan and stir until well incorporated and smooth. Simmer over med/low heat for 20 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Keep over low heat until serving.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. If cooking on the grill, lightly brush with BBQ sauce and cook over medium heat turning once (about 8 minutes/side). Brush chicken with BBQ sauce every few minutes until chicken is cooked through.  Serve with remaining BBQ sauce. 

If baking the chicken in the oven, wait to add BBQ sauce until the chicken has cooked at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes. Spoon over a generous amount of BBQ sauce and bake another 15-20 minutes. 

I hope you enjoy this recipe! It is one I will keep using for years to come.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Perfectly Simple Peanut Butter Cookies

Ever want to make a quick batch of cookies and you feel like there is just one ingredient that you don't have for any given recipe? Perhaps you are thinking chocolate chip cookies might be nice, but are out of chocolate chips. Or you want some sugar cookies, but don't have any (or enough...) butter. Well, today I wanted to make some cookies. I had no all-purpose flour (only whole wheat...which would make a dense cookie by itself), no oats, too little butter... You get the idea. Then the unexpected happened. I found a cookie recipe with only THREE ingredients! Did I have sugar? Yes! Did I have 1 egg? Yes! Did I have peanut butter? Yes!

So this recipe was inspired by one that I found on The website must have had 3 or 4 recipes just like this one. I tweaked it a bit, read reviewer comments, and tried it out. The results -- delectable. I will definitely be making these again. They are just too easy. (beware!)

Perfectly Simple Peanut Butter Cookies
- 1 C peanut butter (natural works, just stir well!)
- 1/3 C packed brown sugar
- 1/3 C granulated sugar
- 1 egg

Now you can just use those above. However, based on what others have said I added the following...
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 3 Tbl white whole wheat flour

Note: Other variations include replacing 1/2 the peanut butter with almond butter. Those who did this really liked the cookie. I didn't have almond butter around, but if I did it would have certainly made it into the recipe. Almonds are thought to be quite a bit more healthy than peanuts -- so try it out!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Use an ice cream scoop or large spoon to create golf ball size cookies. Place them on a cookie sheet. Take a fork and make the tell tale criss-cross design on top pushing the peanut butter balls down slightly. Bake for 10 minutes. Let sit at least 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet. They will be crumbly if removed too soon.

Enjoy this delicious, easy, and relatively healthful dessert! (Just don't eat the whole batch.)

Friday, January 9, 2009

"The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating"

Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times writes that these 11 foods are packed full of nutrients and antioxidants, not to mention full of flavor!
  1. Beets
  2. Cabbage
  3. Swiss Chard
  4. Cinnamon (though not a good reason to eat cinnamon buns...)
  5. Pomegranate Juice
  6. Dried Plums (aka prunes)
  7. Pumpkin Seeds
  8. Sardines
  9. Turmeric
  10. Frozen blueberries
  11. Canned pumpkin
The article gives some good insight into the main health benefits, as well as some tips on how to incorporate these ingredients into your diet.

It was amazing to see how many of these things have I started eating because of joining a CSA (community supported agriculture). Even now that I am far away from California I still will buy cabbage and swiss chard at the store -- beets, not as much. Everything on this list is delicious and not bank-breaking.

Perhaps a series on great recipes with the above ingredients highlighted is in order?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Roasted Sweet Potato Sandwich

One of the most delightful cafe sandwiches that I have ever had was at Ula Cafe in Jamaica Plain, MA. It was an unusual combination -- a sweet potato, avocado, and sprouts...etc, etc, sandwich. I can't afford eating their $7.95 version with any regularity so I decided to try to recreate it at home. You can buy turkey as a back up and use the sweet potatoes for an array of other dishes if the final version doesn't suit you. Me -- I'm planning on having it for lunch every day this week. So much for perishable ingredients!

Roasted Sweet Potato Wedges
Cut 5 sweet potatoes (I made these all at once to freeze and use in other dishes) into wedges or thick slices.
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix sweet potatoes with about 2-3 Tbl olive oil, salt and pepper.
Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, turning once until tender, but not mushy.

Assemble Sandwich:
1 avocado, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 Tomato, sliced
4 slices Provolone cheese (or Monterey Jack)
2 Tbl Tahini 
8 slices Semolina bread (sourdough or a hearty italian bread works well, too)

Spread each bread slice with about 1 tsp of Tahini. Then layer the sprouts, tomato, onion, cheese, avocado and sweet potato on 4 of the bread slices. Place the other slice of Tahini bread on top.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Bourgogne Pinot Noir

While shopping at our local TJ's I was looking for a red wine that would pair well with pork or another light protein, like fish. A member of the TJ crew confirmed my suspicion that a Pinot Noir would be a good choice. Now, I was hesitant to pick a Pinot Noir, because a) they can get expensive, and b) there seems to be more of a linear relationship between price and tastyness (aka. a cheap pinot noir will not necessarily be very fun to drink). A few of the $14-$18 wines were suggested, but I was looking more in the "$10" (really under $10...) price range. Perhaps the only Pinot Noir under $10 that TJ carried was one from France. The employee recommended it with some reservations, "it is really light...I mean, really light," he said. 

So why did I buy it? My thoughts guided by the employee's description...
1. Not too spicy
2. Easy to drink, smooth
3. My friends may enjoy it, too. 
4. $7.99

Great! "I'll take it!" I told him. 

Being invited to a friend's for dinner, I was hesitant to bring the wine with me. But, it was the only one we had and I figured it couldn't be that bad. I just hoped they weren't serving some really heavy meal that would completely overwhelm the flavor.

My thoughts:
After finishing off two other bottles of red, this wine was opened and served. It certainly was the most light and clean of the wines we drank that night. It was reminiscent of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in some way. It was not a terrible wine, but it was also not very memorable. Hints of cherry and a clean finish. I would like to try a few other Pinot Noirs before coming back to this one.

Cuvee 2007
Blason de Bourgogne
Pinot Noir
13% Alc.