Thursday, June 30, 2011

vegetarian variations: garden-stuffed zucchini

Should be doing dishes, taking a walk, lulu homework or just about anything but New Music Monday calls me to my kitchen island to write a little post *.   Sara and I took a road trip today to Ikea for some dorm room shopping.  Never been to an Ikea mainly because the closest one to our house is 128 miles away.  We rolled into the West Chester store outside Cincinnati over a big hill all the better to take in the sheer mass of the structure.  Good thing we had on our running shoes.  Successful trip.  Sara's favorite purchase:  a very useful and modern grey magnetic board.  Item she'd probably rather use for something other than it's intended purpose:  pop-up laundry basket which has quite a bounce to it when you compact it.  Anyway, we were discussing my plan of putting a desk in the kitchen where the backpack bench now resides.  The kitchen island could live computer-free.  Would be nice.  Found a great office chair and she told me that my current posting schedule really doesn't necessitate a new work station.  Point taken.  So, Sara, my zucchini-loving child here's the first post for this week.  Your birthday week.  Just guessing a few vegetables will be in order to celebrate your 19 years of greatness!

my plate

Garden-stuffed Zucchini

4 large zucchini
2 summer squash, diced
1 onion, diced
8 oz. sliced mushrooms, halved if large
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C loosely packed fresh chopped basil (or 2 tsp dried)
2 T chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
1 15-oz. can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 C quinoa

feta cheese, optional

Wash and pat dry the zucchini.  Slice off a good ellipse off the top, keeping the ends intact.  Use a sharp knife to cut about 1/4 inch in from the sides and almost an inch from the ends to assist in carving out the flesh.  Leave at least 1/4 inch in the bottom and use a spoon to carefully hollow out the zucchini.  It's not super easy, but it's going to get all squishy so don't sweat it.  Spray a shallow baking dish with non-stick spray and spread about a 1/2 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom.  (Next time I might try these without the sauce or maybe even on the grill to see if the zucchini can brown instead of just get squishy, a texture issue not a taste issue however so you choose).  Place the zucchinis in the pan.  Take the squash you removed during this process and dice it up for the filling.

Heat about 2 T of olive oil in a non-stick skillet.  Saute the onion over medium heat until translucent.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook, stirring for about 30 seconds until fragrant.  Add the zucchini centers, summer squash, mushrooms and a teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring until softened and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

While the vegetables are cooking down, over high bring 2/3 cup of water in a small saucepan to a boil and add quinoa.  Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for about 15 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

To the zucchini pan add the fire-roasted tomatoes, basil and oregano and cook until heated through.  Stir in the cooked quinoa.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Spoon mixture into zucchini's piling high (my filling overflowed and I placed the extra in the sauce along side the zucchinis-if you aren't using sauce in the bottom or you are grilling keep the extra filling warm and serve or save as needed).  Top with feta cheese (mozzarella would also be good), cover the pan with foil and bake for 25 minutes.  Here's another chance to brown up the zucchini, leave it uncovered.

ingredients:  note I did not use the red pepper

carved-out zucchini

onion, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms and garlic cooking down

fire-roasted tomatoes, basil and oregano stirring in to the mix

zucchini in prepared dish with sauce on the bottom

quinoa finishes the filling

stuffed and ready for foil and the oven

fresh from the oven

on Sara's plate

*please note this took me a few extra nights to post  *too sunny and too busy to watch Wimbledon during the day so I'm staying up too late watching it on my DVR  *I love Wimbledon!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

random thoughts and a video share

Working girl needs another day or two to pull together a post with a recipe.  Should be easy, you know it's summer when you go to Costco and Meijer and decide that although their produce is bountiful and well-priced, you need to wait until the weekend and see what's up at the farmer's markets around town.  Happiness is fresh and local and in the Midwest you appreciate the bounty of summer.  You also learn to embrace the humidity and heat one day and the grey skies and cool breeze the next.

This evening we could hear the Village of WestClay swim meet around the corner and it was maybe 67 degrees with a gusty cool breeze and heavy clouds.  A northeastern Ohio swim meet night if there ever was one.   I was a summer swimmer and eventually lifeguard, swim instructor and swim coach.  More than my fair share of those moments when you dive into the lake or pool and you're sure you'll have a heart attack when the frigid water hits your sternum.  But it was all worth it to bundle up in your sweatshirts and blankets and like jello powder off your fingers.  We ate boxes of jello for energy at swim meets, whose brilliant idea was that?  I learned to swim in a lake, the same one we would skate on in the winter and I love how that's so foreign to my kids.  I also love the old team pictures and how my husband's team wore the same suits a state away:  Speedo suits with the vertical red/white stripes or the stars and stripes versions we must have worn the summers around the USA bicentennial (yes, do the math I was 13 that year and totally awkward in my loose suit with the stretched out straps pulled together with a shoe lace).  My first summers guarding and teaching were spent in wooden guard chairs at murky lakes.  I still thank God that no one drowned on my watch.

Best get back to my studying (loving my lululemon experience, but so much to learn).  Really just wanted to check in and make sure you've seen this highly amusing video.  If you shop at Whole Foods (and you should if there's one in your neighborhood), you will giggle.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Pig Roast time: mac and cheese for a party

The Seventh Annual Bellingrath Pig Roast is in the books.  First ever with rain.  A light rain, but boy does a little light rain go a long way.  Greg, Bob, Tammy and I pulled the pig and had about an hour to spare before the party, a nice cushion of time.  I took the pig inside and added sauce to two of the three pans and they all went into hot ovens to wait.

Bob, Greg and fire

sorry to my vegetarian friends:  pulling the pig
 with Greg (please check out his gloves),
Tammy and Bob

3 pans of pig before sauce

meal time

buffet line

neighbors in our classy tent city

Somehow by the time I showered and dried my hair (a very unnecessary step as it turns out), the rain showers were falling.  We don't rent a pretty white party tent.  It never rains.  Ha.  We still won't rent a tent, but we might round up a few more tailgate tents before the next one.  Light rain and chips are a very bad combination.   Light rain and my hostess high gear don't mesh well either.  The rain stopped pretty quickly and everything was better.  The pig was absolutely delicious this year.  Think they boys have really got the hang of it.  This year's pig was 97 pounds and barely fit in the roaster.  I salt and season the pig (seasoning from Shoup's who sells us the pig) and every now and then check in with the roasting (usually about 4-5 hours).  The boys tap the keg before the pig hits the roaster, so I'm kind of the DD for the pig.  You know, you see a lot of smoke and head over to raise the lid and check the thermometer to find it maxed out at 600 degrees F.  Might be time to suggest the lid remains open a while.  This year Bob brought out his flat screen and an HD antenna (very cool) and they watched the US Open golf so between golf and beer and the occasional neighbor passing by you might worry.  Greg had it under control, however.  About four and a half hours this year and all the temperature checks verified the pig was indeed ready to come of the heat and be pulled.  We don our thick rubber gloves and pull, sort and shred the pork.  Many years we've still been pulling pig when the party started.  Never too sure how long we'll be roasting.  This year we were actually ahead of schedule.  Nice whenever that happens (and if I'm throwing the party, that's not often).

a big batch of guacamole takes a lot of avocados

ready to smush

size comparison with watermelons

yes, this was all gone 

Searched my blog today and surprised myself by finding I have never posted my often mentioned famous mac and cheese.  Shocking.  To make sure Kelly and Sara always had something to eat at a family party or pitch-in, I started making big trays of mac and cheese.  A Cooking Light recipe is the basis of my version, but I have not looked at a recipe in years so this one is truly mine.  If you can go with the flow on adding a little more of something to suit your taste, you'll be fine with this recipe.  This recipe is for a great big double batch for a party, but you can easily halve it for a family meal.

Here's the key to the whole thing:  you melt butter in a saucepan and then you add an equal measure of flour and stir to make a roux or thick paste, do not let it brown unless browned butter is the flavor you desire.  When I make a little batch for lunch I just use about 2 T of butter and 2 T of flour.  When I make a batch for a party it's 8 T of each.  The next step is whisking in milk:  for a little batch start with about 1 1/2 C of milk (sometimes it's a little milk and the rest chicken broth for a more savory flavor especially if I'm not adding a lot of cheese for a "light" version) for the party batch I started with about 2 C of milk.  Keep whisking until it's nice and thick.  Do not let it boil over and keep stirring so it doesn't stick to the bottom of your pan.  Turn down the heat and add your seasonings and stir in the cheese to melt.  Then add more milk or broth as desired to coat your macaroni.  So for my lunch version I'm probably done after the 1 1/2 C milk.  For a party version I'm probably adding a total of 4 C of milk.  And if I do it ahead, I'll add another cup or so when I'm reheating.  You can serve it from the pan or you can spray a baking pan and pour it in the pan (make sure to add enough milk unless you like it firm and dry and there's nothing wrong with that) and then get super fancy and melt some butter, add some panko/breadcrumbs to brown a bit and spread that across the mac and cheese before you bake it.

I just got off skype with Kelly from Vienna.  She longs for macaroni and cheese.  Yesterday they were walking lovely Vienna and passed a KFC when she thought she saw a poster for mac and cheese in the window.  She said her pulse quickened and she got so excited but soon realized it was a dish of corn.  There are KFC's everywhere (there was one at our subway stop in Tokyo) and they keep checking, but have yet to find mac and cheese in Europe.  She has found plenty of other wonderful things to eat and has taken lots of pictures to show her mom.  So, this post is for Kelly.  I promise a big pot of mac and cheese the minute you walk in the door in August.

Mac and Cheese for a Party

8 T unsalted butter
8 T flour
4 C milk
1 1/2 t salt
1 t freshly ground pepper
2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 t paprika
1 t Coleman's dry mustard
4 C grated cheese (sharp cheddar, mild cheddar, jack cheese any mixture you like)
2 pounds elbow macaroni (I use one box of whole grain and one box of regular from Barilla with the ridges or rigate)

So, I pretty much explained this in the proceeding paragraphs but cook your elbow macaroni as directed on the package.  Be sure to use a generous 2T of salt for 2 pounds of pasta.  Make your roux by melting the butter over medium heat and then whisking in the flour until you've made a nice paste.  Do not brown. Turn up the heat and whisking continuously add the milk starting with a cup and a half or so.  When this thickens,  lower the heat and whisk in the seasonings (salt through mustard).  Whisk in  another cup and a half of milk until smooth.  Stir in the cheese with a spoon (or a whisk, but cheese can get stringy and mix that with all the wires of the whisk and clean-up is not too fun) until smooth and melted.  Stir in the elbows.  Add more milk if desired.  Taste for salt and pepper.  Serve warm from the stove or pour into a big greased serving pan and keep warm in the oven (cover with foil).  To be fancy, before serving melt another 2 or 3 T of butter in a pan and add a generous cup of panko/breadcrumbs and toss until lightly browned.  Sprinkle over mac and cheese any time during the heating or holding in the oven (heat at 350 degrees, hold at 275).  If you put the panko on top, do not cover with foil.  Keep the golden crumbs crispy.

macaroni boiling

melted butter with flour to make a roux

whisking in the milk (this is skim milk and look how rich the sauce becomes)
this is also how you make bechamel sauce (now you know)

added the spices

stirring in the cheese

elbows ready for their shining moment

this is what mac and cheese for a party looks like, it looks delicious and bountiful

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Right, about that Monday post....Blueberry Hand Pies

So, about the New Music Monday post that got away from me.   That's my routine and I had every intention of observing it this week, but Greg was home and since he'd be traveling the rest of the week I thought he might like to look at something other than the back of my as I sat at my computer blogging.  We took a bike ride before the start of the Stanley Cup and by the time we got home Boston was up four goals!  It was not that long of a ride.  Wow.  Unless our Chicago born and raised neighbor, Bob, comes over and there is a Black Hawks game on, we don't watch a lot of hockey until the Stanley Cup.  I still can't follow the puck, but it's fun anyway.  Greg loves hockey in-person and he'd probably watch more of it if we had a local team.  I grew up skating on our neighborhood lake and he grew up playing hockey on ice with his boots or shoes on his feet.  I grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio and our winter weather was much more consistent (read colder and more snow) than the winters here in Indiana.  Anyway, I baked Monday night but here it's mid-week and the post is just starting to take shape.  Sorry about that.

Sara's Quinn wanted some blueberry pie and knew just who to ask to get one.  She sent me a text message one night last weekend and I would have baked it right then if I had more than a handful of blueberries (current favorite addition to my yogurt/muesli bowl every morning).  The next day we grabbed a bag of frozen blueberries at Whole Foods and I found a recipe from a Bobby Flay show that I've been meaning to try for a year or two for blackberry hand pies.  Blueberry for blackberry is an even exchange and truly this little pie thing would be good with any relatively firm fruit filling.  I buy King Arthur Flour's Pie Filling Enhancer which they recommend you use in place of the flour in your filling to help thicken the filling and bring out the fruit flavor.  As usual, KA knows best but if you don't have a regular shopping habit on you can just use all-purpose flour in your filling.  

Bobby Flay grilled the hand pies on a foil-lined sheet.  When I baked my hand pies it was almost 10:00 at night and I thought the oven would work just as well.  There's a fun factor involved with the grilling and I'll try it some day, but baking in the oven is a little more predictable for most people.  

Quinn and Clay enjoyed their pies the next day while we were all skyping with Kelly from Berlin.  She called us on skype at a great time when all three of us were home and the boys were on their way.  And we had an amazing connection most of the hour or so we skyped.  Her iPad 2 is so amazing.  I love how we can just see and talk to each other for free.  Awesome.  

Have a good Father's Day weekend (it is almost here)!  I am struggling a bit to balance my new life of housewife, blogger, lululemon educator in training, tennis player, yoga girl and etc.  This weekend is the 7th Annual Bellingrath Pig Roast so I will be entertaining house guests and helping host the 100 or so friends and neighbors that make the work worth it!  I'll be making big trays of macaroni and cheese and a huge bowl of guacamole along with supervising the pig roasting.  Someone has to accurately use the meat thermometer and sort as we pull the pig.  Someone who has not tapped the keg at 10 a.m.!

Blueberry Hand Pies

Pie Crust

1 C all-purpose flour
1/3 C cake flour (another picky ingredient, I used it but you can just use all-purpose flour)
1 T sugar 
1/2 tsp salt
8 T chilled unsalted butter, cut in 1/2-inch pieces
3 plus T ice water (put ice cubes and water in a measuring cup and measure from there)

Blueberry Filling

1/4 C all-purpose flour or King Arthur Flour Pie Filling Enhancer
4 C fresh or frozen blueberries (if they are frozen, thaw them a bit so the dry ingredients hold onto the berries, I just used defrost on my microwave)
1/2 C sugar

egg white, beaten with one T water
coarse sparkling, Turbinado or demarara sugar

For the crust use a food processor and blend together the flours, sugar and salt.  Add chilled butter and pulse until mixture resembles a coarse meal.  Sprinkle in water and pulse just until dough clumps together (my dough needed 2 extra T of ice water, add one at a time as needed so it's not too sticky).  Gather dough into a ball and divide into two equal rounds.  Flatten the rounds with your hands and wrap them in plastic wrap.  Chill for 45 minutes in the refrigerator or 15 minutes in the freezer like I did because I did not have the time to wait.

Make the filling by combining all ingredients until the berries hold together a bit.  Let sit while the dough chills. 

Heat grill to medium indirect heat or heat oven to 450 degrees.  

Roll out each disk until the dough is about 1/4-inch thick.  Use a plate and trace a 4-6 inch diameter circle and cut out dough.  I got  4 circles out of each disk, you may get more or less.  Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil (or spray nonstick spray on heavy duty foil) if you are grilling or parchment paper if you are baking in the oven.  Place 1/2 C filling on one side of the dough leaving half of dough to fold over and edges clean to seal.  Fold over dough (you might need to carefully stretch it a bit to go over the filling) to form a half moon.  Crimp edges with a fork.  Brush tops with the egg white wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Grill on pan, rotating pies after 20 minutes, until golden or about 40-50 minutes total.  Bake in oven at 450 for 15 minutes and then at 375 for an additional 20 minutes or so until golden.  

Serve warm with ice cream or room temperature and eat them out of hand.  They are sooooo delicious.  I dare you to stop at one.  I could not do it! 

dough in food processor

berries all ready to go

chilled dough ready to roll

cutting circles (I rolled mine after cutting to make them bigger, and re-rolled the scraps)

ready to fold

folded and crimped

egg washed and sugared

baked to perfection


Clay and Quinn with their pies in front of my computer

Sara too!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Shout-out to my readers

Just a little shout-out to my readers this morning.  You make my day!  However you found me, I'm glad you are here.  The list of countries represented is amazing.

Today I complete the paperwork for my new part-time job (!), but it is New Music Monday and I have some recipes and pictures waiting for posts so I'll be writing again this evening.

Thanks for reading!


It's Farmers' Market time!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Night Post-Rhubarb-Raspberry Oat Muffins

Happy weekend to you!  My little family and I had a great Saturday starting with Sara and Greg rocking the Carmel Marathon Championship Weekend 8K.  Sara finished second in her division and Greg was most excited that he had a 24 minute split time after three miles.  I ran cross country in high school, and this is pretty sad, but my goal was to run miles in under 8 minutes (when I was 15!).

Sara and Greg, my champions!

I ran x-country and track because I wanted to be on a team and had no ball skills of any kind.  Back in the dark ages we didn't have girls' soccer and that might have been my only other chance at a team sport because throwing and catching were not involved.  I lettered in cross country purely because my fabulous high school was also fabulously small.

Anyway, I did not run this morning.  Who ever heard of an 8K?  I can still crank out a 5K as part of a pack in a road race, but that extra 3K is not happening.  I clearly remember my sports medicine doctor telling me at 16 before my first of three knee surgeries, "Some people are just not made to be athletes.  You should probably just sit there and look pretty."  Seeing as how I was not particularly pretty as a teenager, I had the surgery and just kept going.  I'm still not fast, but you can not wear me out easily.  Wednesday night was nice and hot, but thanks to at least 5 hot yoga classes a week I survived the heat and stayed in my singles tennis match until time was called.  I'm not fast, nor am I very skilled at winning,  but I can just keep going.  

So the family that's on this continent ran a race and I went to the Farmer's Market waiting for my runners.  Bought lovely organic broccoli, kale, strawberries, shell peas, pok choy (yep, like bok choy but with a "p", no other difference that Sara and I could tell)  and some regular rhubarb in tiny little stalks.

Later in the day Greg and I took a cool-down (for him) walk and I finally dug into a big gardening project I  dreaded.  Our Korean lilac bushes were 6 pretty little bushes when I planted the landscape 9 years ago.  Geez, they spread like crazy.   So down on my hands, knees, butt, upside down and however else my yoga body could reach the work I pulled out, pruned and chopped the invasive monsters into submission.  I've learned not to use pruning shears and iPod headphones with a few near misses, so I put the iPad's iTunes on iShuffle (it's just "shuffle", but the symmetry was too tempting) and sung along.

So after dinner I was still hungry and the rhubarb was calling me.  I did a little search and combined some good ideas into the following recipe.  I used a couple of things you might not have in your pantry:  pastry blend flour, whole wheat pastry flour and raspberry jammy bits.  The pastry flours in theory give a more tender crumb and in practice tonight that was indeed the case, but all-purpose and whole wheat flours would be fine.  The raspberry jammy bits are little pellets of dried raspberry jammy goodness from King Athur Flour's online catalog.  Just using rhubarb would be perfectly delicious.  If you don't have jammy bits (and I can pretty much guarantee that no one I know has them) and you want to add a sweeter fruit flavor maybe swirl a 1/2 tsp of raspberry or strawberry jam into the individual cups of batter in your muffin tin before baking.  Just a thought.

I have enjoyed two muffins so far.  I am no longer hungry.   They are very good!  Normally I wouldn't post on a Saturday night, but I'm watching Mumford and Sons streaming live from Bonaroo and if I'm blogging I don't feel so bad about not sitting with Greg in the nice cool basement.  Since M & Sons will not be playing anywhere near Indy this summer the streaming will have to do.  It looks ridiculously hot down in Tennessee.  So many bandanas on sweaty heads and people holding water bottles.  Still, a little jealous.  Live music is almost always so amazing.

Have a great rest of the weekend!

Rhubarb-Raspberry Oat Muffins

1 C light brown sugar
1/2 C canola oil (or other light flavored vegetable oil)
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C lowfat buttermilk (or 1 C lowfat or skim milk with 1 T lemon juice stirred in to curdle the milk)
1 C oats (not quick cooking, I like oven toasted oats from Trader Joe's)
1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat all-purpose flour
1 C unbleached all-purpose flour or pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C chopped rhubarb (red parts of the stalks, preferably)
1/2 C raspberry jammy bits, completely optional
demerara sugar for tops

Heat oven to 500 degrees.  Grease 18 standard-size muffin cups in tins or line cups with papers.

In a medium bowl, whisk together brown sugar, oil, egg, vanilla and buttermilk.  In a larger bowl, whisk together oats, flours, powder, soda and salt.  Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and stir together just until combined (no longer, or your muffins will be tough and who wants a tough muffin?).  Stir in the rhubarb and jammy bits, if using.

Scoop batter into muffin cups filling about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle tops of muffins with demerara sugar.  Place tins in the hot oven and immediately reduce heat to 400 degrees (I read this temperature drop will help the muffins rise).  Bake at 400 degrees for 12-14 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool muffins slightly in the pans and then turn to release and cool.

most of the ingredients

dry ingredients

wet ingredients

King Arthur Flour raspberry jammy bits

wet plus dry

almost ready

rhubarb stirred in and scooping going on

well-loved tins full of muffin batter sprinkled with coarse sugar

out of the oven

cooling rack right side up and upside down

muffins anyone?