Sunday, June 28, 2009


This just goes to show how bad I am at remembering momentous occasions...apparently my one year anniversary of blogging was yesterday.

Thank you to all my readers - and especially my commenters - you've made the last year a very special, and surprisingly fulfilling journey.

I started this blog after moving to a new area. It was the first time I'd ever moved outside of the greater Seattle area and I didn't know a single soul other than my husband. I'd just gone through a very personal tragedy and was grasping at straws to keep myself sane. I'd been reading food blogs for a while, but didn't think I had the chops to write one myself - it seemed very intimidating.

Nevertheless, I jumped in with both feet and found it to be at once challenging and therapeutic. I have evolved and improved as a cook and as a photographer and can only hope to continue doing so as I progress.

Again, thank you to everyone who has contributed to the last year - either with ideas, advice, or a nice comment or two along the way.

I guess it's into the kitchen for another year of making tasty foods and writing about them - I hope to see you, same time and same place, this time next year.


Roasted Strawberry Compote with Vanilla Bean

There are few Monday afternoon activities that top walking down the street to my town's farmers market and picking up a basket of freshly picked, California-grown strawberries. I'm not sure what it is about the Central Coast area, but the powers of earth and awesomeness have collided and provided some prime strawberry-growin' turf.

I grew up in a small town in Northwest Washington State on a defunct raspberry farm. The area however, was not only well known for its raspberries, but also the strawberries, blueberries, and hazelnuts the fertile soil allowed to flourish. I remember many a day of going strawberry picking with my mother and sister to make jams, jellies, and whatnot. (Later in life we simply bought them in 5-gallon buckets from a local farm, but I still enjoy the memories of picking them by hand - though I'm sure I drove my mother batty while doing so.)

The strawberries from my childhood memories cannot even begin to compete with the berries they grow here. They are easily the best strawberries in the world. Still warm from the sun, plump and a deep garnet red. The flavor nearly explodes on your tongue - a burst of sweetness followed by the barest hint of tanginess. When I drive to the other farmers market in Monterey I have to buy at least one extra basket for the 10 minute drive home - they're impossible to resist.

I'm also sure that the people driving behind me can understand, though probably don't appreciate, the many strawberry hulls that go flying out my window as I drive along the coast.

I saw this recipe in Vegetarian Times a couple months ago and decided I had to try it. When I pulled it out this week to finally make it I realized that it called for frozen strawberries. Needless to say I was not going to be using some nasty old frozen berries when I had these priceless gems sitting in front of me. Instead I just froze some of my fresh berries. It worked perfectly - and probably came out better and with more flavor than if I'd used storebought frozen berries.

This is delicious, you should try it. We ate ours on frozen yogurt for dessert and in crepes for breakfast the next morning, though the versatility in no way stops at those two dishes.

Also, should you ever venture into the Central Coast area - don't forget to try the strawberries.

Roasted Strawberry Compote with Vanilla Bean
adapted from Vegetarian Times, February 2009

5 cups frozen whole strawberries
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 475°F.

Coat 13- x 9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Toss together strawberries, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean with back of knife, and stir into strawberries along with bean. Bake 25 minutes, stirring often. Remove vanilla bean before serving.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Shrimp & Spinach Stuffed Portobellos

Sometimes, when I have way too much time on my hands, I think about how it was discovered that certain foods are edible.

I'm sure everyone's thought about who the first guy was to eat a chicken egg - imagine his wife's face when that happened. "Honey, what are you doing? Don't play with that. Stop bothering the chicken! What are you doing with that frying pan...? OH MY GOD."

Similarly, the potato (once deemed poisonous), escargot (Seriously, who thought that one up? Whoever you are though, thank you!), and caviar seem equally as unappetizing when the attempt is made to look at them as if you'd never seen them before. Who's going to pull up a plant, see some weird looking round tuber thing stuck to its roots...and then decide to put it in their mouth? Also, how many raw potatoes were eaten before it was discovered that they're way better cooked?

All that being said, the mushroom is another one of these mystical, extremely tasty foods that frequently makes its way to our dinner plates that, at any point in our culinary history, could easily have been discarded as poison - or just plain gross. I mean, picture it in your head, walking through the damp woods your boot kicks over a bit of leaf litter revealing a spongy, brown plant. It's covered in dirt and leaves, possibly some kind of protective mucus - who's first thought is, "Gee, I should put this in my mouth"? (I know that question mark isn't where it's supposed to be - sue me.)

Again, whoever it was that tried them first - thanks. Because mushrooms are insanely delicious. Especially when they're stuffed with spicy shrimp, cheese, and spinach and then baked until they're hot and bubbly with yummy goodness.

My brother-in-law gave me the idea of pairing shrimp with sriracha - a spicy Asian condiment - while I was in Florida. For this idea I will be forever grateful. It's quite possibly my new favorite thing in the world. If you've never tried sriracha (pronounced sir-a-cha), or never tried shrimp cooked in a little butter and sriracha - you must immediately drop everything that you are doing and go make some right now. NOW.

I decided that instead of using ridiculous amounts of mayo or cream cheese to hold it all together that I'd use Laughing Cow Cheese. It's a spreadable cheese (great on Wheat Thins) that's only 35 calories per serving. I used the Garlic & Herb one - they're pretty tasty. I keep those and the little Babybel cheeses in the house at all times. They're been a great snack while I've been trying to lose weight (23 lbs. so far! 10 more, I'll be at 120, and life will be good!). Now that I recognize the versatility of the spreadable ones though, I definitely won't be giving them up when I quit trying to lose weight.

Even if you don't try the whole recipe, for whatever reason, I cannot stress this enough. Every single person in this world (except those allergic to shrimp) should try shrimp cooked in sriracha.

It will change your life.

Shrimp & Spinach Stuffed Portobellos

Serves 2

8 oz frozen spinach, thawed and drained of all water
1/4 small onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Laughing Cow Spreadable cheeses
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 Babybel Light, cut into small pieces (substitute mozzarella or other light cheese)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
10 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon sriracha
2 portobello caps

Preheat oven to 375 F

In a medium mixing bowl combine spinach, onion, garlic, cheeses and mayo. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. In a skillet over medium-high heat melt the butter. Cook the shrimp until just pink, toss with sriracha. Set aside. Place the portobello caps gills side up in a casserole dish. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Top each cap with half the shrimp and half the spinach mixture. Return to oven and bake for a further 15 minutes, or until the spinach is heated through and the cheese is warm and bubbling.

Nutritional Estimate

This is a nutritional estimate, I do not claim it to be exact - although it is pretty close.

1 serving equals one whole stuffed portobello cap

Calories: 245
Carbohydrates: 15g
Fat: 15g
Protein: 18g


CORRECTION 6/27: I am a numbskull and forgot to include the tablespoon of butter in my nutritional estimate. Therefore, the new estimate is:

Calories: 296
Carbohydrates: 15g
Fat: 20g
Protein: 18g

I would also like to point out that in omitting the mayonnaise saves 180 calories and 20g of fat, effectively halving the fat content of the recipe. This would make each cap only 206 calories and 10g of fat.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Buitoni Contest

A couple months ago I participated in a contest put on by Foodbuzz and Buitoni pasta to develop a new pasta sauce for their new Riserva line of pastas. I'm not much of a contest-entering kind of person - I have a perfect score of zero in the competitiveness slot in my personality. However, when I saw the grand prize was a set of brand new pots and pans, I decided that the worst thing that could happen was not winning. A novel concept, eh?

In any event, I entered this recipe: Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with a Cognac Cream Sauce and Baby Pea Shoots.

I didn't win - that honor is reserved for Taste With the Eyes and the lovely recipe for Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Veal, Portobello, Fried Sage and a Pinot Noir Cream Sauce.

I did however place as one of the runner-ups, which won me the sweet-ass colander you see above and enough pasta swag to keep me and the mister carb-loading until next year.

A complete list of the runner-ups is located at Foodbuzz. I recommend checking out the other recipes that placed, they all sound quite tasty.

Thanks to Foodbuzz and Buitoni for giving me the opportunity to participate - and thanks for the cool stuff. I'm not big on buying premade foods, but that Mushroom Agnolotti is good. I'll be stuffing myself on that for the next few months...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Orange-Ginger Custards

While typically a big fan of custards, I am not a fan of ginger. Fresh ginger, that is. Powdered ginger is quite delicious. My other half, however, is a huge fan of all things ginger. The original recipe calls for a tangerine and ginger combination, which I'm sure would be better than orange.

I originally saw this recipe in the November issue of Vegetarian Times. I bookmarked it because I knew he would like the ginger in it, but like most recipes from magazines it sat on the shelf for the last eight months or so. I decided to finally try it out this week - cleverly waiting until tangerines were out of season. As such I substituted oranges.

The mister said it was quite delicious, and while I found the flavor combination to be less than stellar, texturally it was creamy, smooth, and in all ways outstanding.

I can definitely see this recipe being used as a vehicle for all sorts of flavor combinations.

Cardamom and allspice with fresh anise and cinnamon...lemongrass and Thai basil...grapefruit and vanilla...

Orange-Ginger Custards
adapted from Vegetarian Times, November 2008

Serves 6

2 cups nonfat milk
zest of 1 orange
1 inch piece of ginger root, peeled and chopped roughly
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
supremed orange sections for garnish

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat milk, zest, and ginger in medium saucepan over medium heat, until milk’s surface begins to bubble, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, and cool. Strain milk through fine sieve into medium bowl, discarding zest and ginger. Mix in sugar. Beat eggs with pinch of salt in small bowl. Whisk beaten eggs into milk mixture. Fill 6 4-oz. (1/2-cup) ramekins with custard. Place ramekins in roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with boiling water that reaches about one-third up sides
of ramekins. Bake 50 to 60 minutes, or until custards jiggle slightly. Remove from water bath, and cool. Garnish each custard with an orange section before serving.

Nutritional Estimate

This is a nutritional estimate, I do not claim it to be exact - although it is pretty close.

Calories: 119
Carbohydrates: 21g
Fat: 2g
Protein: 5g

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lime Meringue Tartelettes

Lime and Lemon Meringue pies and I have always had a contentious relationship. As long as I can remember I've always had an affinity for sour foods. Sweets hold little power for me - I could probably go the rest of my life without chocolates, cookies, and candy and not really miss them - but sour foods, that's another story. Put me in a room with a bag of Sour Patch Kids and there's little wonder who'll be walking out of their uneaten. (Now that I'm thinking about it, if I ever see a Sour Patch Kid that I think might be capable of eating me I bet it will change my entire outlook on food in general.)

As such, I've always loved lime and lemon meringue pies. I'd discard the meringue and eat the mouth-puckering filling all by itself. When the husband asked me to make a Key Lime Pie yesterday I decided it wouldn't be such a bad deal. Unfortunately it is nigh impossible to find key limes or key lime juice around here, so plain lime it was. Nevertheless, it turned out deliciously.

Typically I am not a fan of prepackaged food making its way into my kitchen, but the ease of the miniature graham cracker shells were just too hard to pass up while I was grocery shopping. We'll blame it on the jet lag from just having got back into town the night before. If you're uninterested in using the premade shells, feel free to make your own by mixing crushed graham cracker with a little sugar and melted butter.

Additionally, some people choose to add green food coloring when making lime pies and tarts to differentiate them from lemon confections. I didn't - I think food coloring is for Easter eggs. If Mother Nature had intended lime juice to be neon green she would've made it the same color as the rind - but she didn't, so enjoy it as it is. That being said, obviously feel free to do whatever the heck you want.

Lime Meringue Tartelettes

Makes 4 Tartelettes

4 mini graham cracker shells
4 yolks
125 g sugar (1/2 cup)
56 g butter, softened (4 tablespoons)
zest of 1 lime
100 ml lime juice (1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons)
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar

In a medium saucepan whisk together the sugar and egg yolks until thoroughly combined. Add butter, zest, and lime juice and stir continuously over med-low heat until thickened - about 7-10 minutes. Do NOT let boil. If it starts to simmer, remove the pan from heat and whisk until it cools enough to place back on the burner without bubbling. Divide the filling between the 4 graham shells, approximately 1/4 cup per each shell. Place in the refrigerator to set up while making the meringue. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a metal bowl (NOT aluminum), add the cream of tartar and egg whites. Whisk until soft peaks form. Add the sugar in a slow, continuous stream until all is combined. Continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Top each filled shell with a large dollop of meringue. Place the 4 shells on a baking sheet in the center of the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until meringue is nicely browned. Allow to rest for at least 20 minutes before serving. Garnish with lime zest if desired.

Nutritional Estimate

This is a nutritional estimate, I do not claim it to be exact - although it is pretty close.

1 serving = 1 tartelette

Calories: 446
Carbohydrates: 61g
Fat: 21g
Protein: 6g
Fiber: 1g

Sunday, June 21, 2009

New Love...

For the first time there's a man other than my lovely husband that's got me wrapped around his tiny little fingers.

I've never felt the driving need to procreate that some women do. The pitter-patter of little feet and the scent of baby shampoo does little for me.

...or at least it didn't until I met him.

I still don't feel the push to start a family, but at least now I know how truly wonderful it can be.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Off to see the wizard...

...or at least my brand new baby nephew.

I'll be incommunicado for the next few weeks as I help my lovely sister and her husband welcome their new baby boy into the world.

See you all soon!