Monday, July 25, 2022

To zucchini...and beyond!

It's funny how sometimes life throws these head-shaking curve balls at you that don't really make any kind of lasting impact, but can be annoying as all get out.

Last year, we spent a lot of time prepping an overgrown area to become a 50' x 100' vegetable garden. We overturned ground, pulled weeds, added bagged compost, and struggled to maintain water distribution (with a well) and proper harvesting. 

We successfully grew sugar snap peas, tomatoes, potatoes, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, onions, pumpkins, and butternut squash. We were less than successful growing peppers and corn - so it became a mission to address the sandy soil which we thought was a corn-growing hindrance.

We hedged our corny bets for this year by creating our own kitchen/yard waste compost area, so that we could reuse our own organic material as fertilizer for the garden and then meticulously maintained and turned that material so that it became rich black gold for the soil. (The addition of chicken poop from the barn also assisted with the compost's nutrient capabilities!) Last Fall we purchased bags of cow shit from a local farmer in our town to enrich our soil even more as we turned over the ground one last time at the end of the growing season. The soil looked (and smelled) like real farm dirt - not sand, or clay which really does have a different aroma. 

We planted with one notation...DO NOT PLANT TOO MANY ZUCCHINI AND SQUASH. Even by only planting a few seeds, we still over-planted.

Every home gardener I know jokes about the productivity of zucchini and summer squash in their gardens on good years, without disease or bugs ravaging your plants. I'm not the first to use "Zucchini Apocalypse" by any means, but I do enjoy conjuring up the images of zombie zucchini, en masse, marching their way into our kitchens, multiplying as they slink along.

I imagine it looks kind of like this:

Fuck. And you should see what is *still* waiting for us in the garden. We just started harvesting, and there are still flowers budding.

I was NOT happy when my husband (yes, husband - as of 7/16/22!) came in loaded to the gills, with vegetables twice the size of my forearms! I knew right there that I was going to have to get creative with the cooking, so that none of this produce goes to waste. Zucchini Bread, which I think is gross, was NOT going to be the end-all to use all of this up. In fact, two cups of grated zucchini was a 1/3 of one of these monsters, and that was after seeding it.

I've been scouring the internets searching for recipes to rid us of the onslaught of zucchini and summer squash. 

Last year I discovered the beauty of Zucchini Relish - it's a simple substitution from your regular cucumber/pickle relish, but with more color. I can pints and half pints using a water bath, and it is delicious. Better yet, no one knows it's not traditional pickled relish until we tell them. Same crunch and bite.

I also make Zucchini and Summer Squash pickles, which are amazing on grilled chicken and burgers. Freezing cubes, rounds, and grated veg is also a go-to, but honestly we are still trying to knock off last year's harvest, so I don't want to go too far in that direction. 

So, as we delve further into the Zucchini Apocalypse, I'll be testing more zucchini and squash recipes and sharing them here.

Cheesy Zucchini Smash Cakes 

Baked zucchini pancakes.

2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Additions: Substitute summer squash for zucchini; add fresh herbs of your choosing; add crumbled bacon; substitute shallot/garlic for onion and/or garlic powder.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

Grate zucchini, and place in the center of a clean kitchen towel. Gather up the towel, and squeeze out the liquid from the zucchini. (I use this technique with frozen spinach dishes, as well as some jam preparations that I want to reduce liquid for before cooking.) 

 You want a semi-dry ball of zucchini to add to your bowl. In the same bowl, add all ingredients and mix with your hands to incorporate thoroughly.

Once fully incorporated, take 1/4 cup of the mixture and shape it into a mini pancake, pressing hard. Gently place on a silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.



Serve any way you'd like, but I used them as the English Muffin base for an eggs benedict'like dish that blew us away. (And yes, that is indeed a broken Hollandaise! I froze the last batch I made to see if it would stand doesn't, but it still had all the flavor.) The Zucchini Smash Cakes can also be used as an appetizer with a little sour cream and chive, or crème fraîche and smoked salmon if you want to be fancy. I'm sure a topping of caviar would be lovely for people who like that.

This is most definitely a recipe I am keeping in my zucchini arsenal for the rest of the summer! 

Now I am off to find a zucchini ice cream recipe because if I have to eat the stuff, I might as well find interesting ways to incorporate it.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Easy Not-Too-Hard Boiled Eggs

Having laying hens has taught me many things, but the most prevalent is that eggs add up fast when they're not consumed at the same velocity. 

We've given away dozens and dozens to friends, family, co-workers, and neighbors, and there is usually a stockpile of about 3 dozen on any given day in our egg sorter. Our girls currently give us about 6-8 eggs per day, but in a couple of months when the new chickie babies reach maturity, we may see a full dozen eggs per day. Right now, it seems overwhelming.

Our chicks seem pretty happy. They have a safe cushy house for night, and access to the rest of the barn and an enclosed chicken run during the day. (We did remove them from the compost bin, which they did not like, but we make sure to give them lots of kitchen scraps in their run, which they do like.) The first batch matured faster than we thought, and started laying in February, in the dead of winter - a full month earlier than we expected. 

From chirp, chirp, chirp to peek-a-boo.

Our hens lay blue, green, and pink butt nuggets, which is so pretty on display. Truth be told, only the blue ones peel easily, even not so freshly produced, so that's a bummer for deviled eggs. I've tested out every trick in the book, and if I want to make a hard boiled egg look good, I have to use the blue ones - which one bird in our flock makes (the blondie).


The rush was on to find alternative uses and preserving methods for our generous supply of eggs. 

There are a million pickled egg recipes on the interwebs, but I use THIS ONE from Feel Good Foodie, who's blog is insanely beautiful. Seriously. Visit. Bookmark. Try anything on her will not be disappointed.

These eggs are the last of the batch I made a week ago. That color.
I have found my method for hard boiling that I would like to share, especially if you plan to make pickled eggs any time soon. Which *at hem* you should, because they are delicious. I used to put eggs in a pot, fill it with water, bring it to a boil, and let it roll for 10 minutes. If you are doing anything that requires adding additional heat to the egg, cooking with this method will make your eggs rubbery and disgusting. If you are making deviled eggs, you can now avoid the green ring of doom! (Seriously, if you are bringing those to a party, and they are green, please start over.)

Here is a fool proof method that will give you the BEST hard boiled eggs in town:
  1. Put the eggs in a pot.
  2. Cover with cold water.
  3. Bring to a boil.
  4. Turn off the heat.
  5. Cover the pot.
  6. Remove the pot from the heat.
  7. Set a timer for 10 minutes for medium eggs, 12 minutes for large eggs. 
  8. Drain.
  9. Cool in cold/ice water.
  10. Peel.
I'm never going back to my old way again. I'm pretty sure my chickens thank me for no longer fucking up their daily gifts to us.
BTW - this is sure to be one of many blog posts about the hens. I'm slightly enamored by them, if you can't tell. 
These little ladies are Wyandottes. We chose breed specific with this flock addition.

Thursday, April 07, 2022

Creamy 'Shroom Pasta

Vermouth has become one of my all-time favorite kitchen staples. The funny and ironic part of that statement is that I have never tasted a martini, the number one noted usage of vermouth, or the actual spirit by itself. I should probably do both, you know, for point of reference or something.

I use vermouth in about half of the savory food I make, particularly when recipes call for de-glazing the pan. Vermouth can be used anywhere you'd use white wine in cooking. Generally the flavors are a little stronger than your average cooking wine, so if you're substituting you can use a little less if you're worried about it overpowering the dish. I never have such worries! The other thing to keep in mind if you are a vermouth newbie: dry vermouth adds a herbal flavor, while sweet vermouth adds a little... sweetness. I prefer cooking with extra dry or dry vermouth.

Since I laid that all out there, it should come as no great surprise that one of my "go-to" recipes for when I am cooking for one (me!) includes vermouth. 

Plus, it makes me feel fancy, and we all deserve that from time to time. 

I have certain requirements that need to be met if I am going to cook for myself because lets be honest, I have survived these alone nights perfectly fine with a pop tart and a cheese stick. 

  1.  It has to be quick. 
  2.  The clean-up has to be minimal.
  3.  It must produce leftovers.

This meal, as is, takes 15 minutes to prep and cook, and you will need one pot and one skillet. The size of those vessels is at your mercy (and thus the size of your portioned leftovers). If you add a protein, the cooking time will increase. I'll share some notes below the actual recipe.


 Hello, you earthy bowl of comfort.

Creamy 'Shroom Pasta

Note: Keep in mind, this is a recipe that would serve two people (me, and my leftovers), so adjust your measurements accordingly, if you are feeding more folks. 
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1/2 onion, sliced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme 
1/4 tsp dried chili pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 cup extra dry vermouth*
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream**
Salt and pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese
Your choice of pasta
I like egg noodles for this, but I had gemelli on hand, and I chose NOT to run to the market.

Bring water to a boil in a stock pot. Cook your favorite pasta, in the quantity that you want, as directed, or as you have been taught. 
While the pasta is boiling, melt butter into olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion and sauté until translucent. 
Add mushrooms, garlic, thyme and chili pepper flakes. Season with salt, and
sauté until mushrooms start to lose some of their water, about 5 minutes.
De-glaze skillet with vermouth, scraping any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the vermouth reduce, until it looks like there is none left in the skillet. Add the chicken stock and reduce by half. Finish by stirring in heavy cream right before you serve. (Adding it too soon can make your sauce break.) 
Taste and add salt and pepper, if desired. 
Dump that pasta into the skillet, or the mushroom sauce into the drained pasta - whatever floats your boat. Stir slightly, being careful not the crush the pasta, to incorporate the sauce, and walk away for 2 minutes so the pasta absorbs some of the sauce.
Serve in a pasta bowl with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

 I could literally eat an entire vat of this, even if it isn't my pasta type of choice.

Make it vegetarian: Substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock.

For the meat-eaters: Add sliced or cubed chicken, beef, pork, or seafood (I've done this recipe with scallops.) Brown your proteins after you saute your vegetables. Remove the browned meat from the skillet, and de-glaze. Add in mushrooms, meat, chicken stock and cover. Adjust your cooking time by about 10-15 minutes to fully cook through your proteins. Finish as above.

Also for meat-eaters: A little crumbled bacon would rock.

As always, if you want more sauce, adjust the liquids. You will be amazed at how much of the sauce is absorbed by the pasta. 

*If cooking with alcohol is not your thing, omit the vermouth and increase the amount of chicken stock you use. You can also de-glaze the pan with water, but that sounds like it would taste terrible.

**If you do not have heavy cream, you can substitute half and half, or sour cream without it affecting the flavor or consistency.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

An update on the Homefront

First of all, I guess it's only prudent to acknowledge that yes, it's been over 4 years since my last post -  which also started off with an apology and an admittance that it had been 6 years since the update before that. So, 3 updates in 10 years...that's some solid blogging work. 

Transgressions aside, I actually have been cooking all throughout this time. 

We bought an old dairy farm in 2020, and have been slowly rehabbing the property to become more sustainable for life. Tending to soil conditions, naturally fertilizing, testing and growing crops, transplanting wild black raspberries, adding livestock, and building out flowering areas for pollinators. (We even have a milk weed patch to help maintain the migratory path of monarch butterflies.) We compost all of our kitchen waste, lawn clippings, and chicken poop. We also tap our maple trees and sugar homemade maple syrup. 

A print of the property when it was a dairy farm in 1960 hangs in our kitchen. 

Our main vegetable garden is about 20 feet x 70 feet. We grow all of the usual things: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, and beans, but because of the space have, we added items like potatoes, carrots, squash, and corn as well. In a small supplemental area we have rhubarb, strawberries, and asparagus. This past fall we added another garden area for pumpkins and gourds. 

We introduced a flock of chickens last September, and they started producing daily eggs in February. Raising chickens has a ton of advantages (compost nourishment, tick maintenance, and food), but they also provide an element of fun. Two weeks ago, we decided to add more babies into that mix, and while they are not big enough to introduce them to the rest of the girls yet, they grow so fast that they will all together in no time. (And then we will start to think about a Rooster to govern over the flock and keep the peace.)   

Those who are not busy laying are in their outdoor chicken run, scratching away.

Every day brings hours worth of chores, more as we get into nicer weather. 

I never thought I'd say this, but I am loving every minute of it - even in the deepest, darkest days of winter. In fact, I think all of this daily maintenance has actually helped with that depressed trapped feeling I experience in December, January, and February. 

I have also found a need, appreciation, and love for food preservation. In that exact order. Our first year in this house made us quickly learn that if we are going to grow it, we would have to learn ways to preserve it, so that we could enjoy our spoils throughout the year. The easier methods of water bath preserving gave us jars and jars of strawberry rhubarb jam, black raspberry jam, rhubarb dessert sauce, traditional cucumber pickles, zucchini pickles, relish, pickled green beans, applesauce, apple butter, salsa, and of course, tomato sauce.

We prepped and froze gallons of vegetables. (Note to self: Do not freeze in actual gallon bags, separate vegetables into smaller units, because the whole thing will freeze into one big block. It might be fun watching me attack bags like JasonVoorhees, but it's not good for my knives, or people's perception of me.)

We needed a pressure cooker, so that I could can goods, outside of pickling and making jam. I talked about wanting one so often that Santa Claus even got the hint and gifted me one!

That beauty has been a game changer in the short time that I've had it. I've canned chicken stock and fully preserved a mountain of homegrown butternut squash. It takes a ton of time, science, and mental energy, but the results are beautiful and delicious - most of the time. The baked beans I attempted to make were a huge fail, but it won't step me from trying the process one of more time.

There is a more layered aspect of homestead farm-to-table cooking that I am excited to share on this blog, as I continue to learn and grow. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

This post is dedicated to my brother Andy,and his fiance, Stephanie.  Less Andy and more Stephanie - since she mentioned about 5 times a couple of weeks ago that I needed to pick this back up.

I've thought about food blogging since my last post on November 17, 2013 and truth be told, it just seemed so....hard.

And, time consuming.

And, UGH!  

If you like comfort food, then make this.  Just be prepared that you do need a little time on your hands to fully execute the preparation.  I gave myself a full hour for prep because I have a wicked small kitchen and needed to wash dishes along the way.

This recipe works for a 9x13 pan, but it can be doubled (and tripled) for bigger pans to fit your needs.

Chicken and Spinach "White" Lasagna

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 bag of fresh baby spinach (or you can use frozen spinach)
2 garlic cloves
1 medium onion, diced
1/8 tsp pepper flakes (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 quart of whole milk
1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 box of ready to use, no boil lasagna noodles
4 cups mozzarella cheese
1 cup of parmesan cheese
1 large container of ricotta cheese 
1-2 eggs
salt and pepper
parsley, dried or fresh

In a stock pot, boil chicken breasts until done all the way through.  Set aside to cool.  Once cooled, shred chicken, and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add onion and garlic, sauteing until onion has softened and garlic is fragrant.  Add washed baby spinach, and saute until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add hot pepper flakes, if desired.  Set aside.  (Remember, spinach is mostly water - - and that big bunch you start off with is going to basically look like a single serving...but a little goes a long way.  If you really like spinach, double that shit.)

To make the "white sauce," aka béchamel sauce:
Melt butter is large sauce pan.  Once butter is melted, add flour and whisk.  Allow to cook until mixture takes on a nutty smell, and the roux darkens slightly.  Slowly add milk while whisking, and stir every couple of minutes until the mixture thickens.  This will happen when the mixture comes to a boil.  Season with salt and pepper, and add nutmeg.  Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine ricotta and 1-2 eggs to form a smooth, spreadable cheesy, messy glob of goodness.

Time to assemble this mass of chicken and cheese.

Layer one: Spoon some of the béchamel into the bottom of a 9x13 pyrex dish.  Lay down a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles.  Layer half of your cooked chicken.  Spoon a third of your ricotta on top of your chicken.  Top with mozzarella and parmesan.

Layer two:  Lay down a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles. Spoon some of the béchamel over the noodles.  Add all of your spinach mixture. Spoon a third of your ricotta on top of your spinach.  Top with mozzarella and parmesan.

Layer three: Lay down a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles. Spoon some of the béchamel over the noodles.  Add the rest of your cooked chicken. Spoon a third of your ricotta on top of your chicken.  Top with Spoon some of the béchamel over the noodles. 

Layer four, and final (for me, at least): Lay down a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles.  Spoon some of the béchamel over the noodles. Top with mozzarella and parmesan.  Sprinkle some parsley on top, just to make it look pretty.  Cover with foil, and bake - or keep in your fridge for a day or two and bake off another time.

Bake that bad boy for about an hour at 350 degrees, covered.  Remove foil during last 20 minutes to brown the top.  Let sit about 15 minutes before serving.

So, normally I would have a lovely picture to share, but since this was made for a funeral and taking a photo didn't seem proper, you will have to use your imagination!  

If you make this, beware - you do not need to serve big, giant helpings.  This recipe, as is, will make about 9-12 filling servings.  You can also freeze portions.  Just chill and cut, and either place in a freezer bag, or a tupperware container.

It is best to reheat in the oven, but the microwave will do a fine job as well.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

You know that craving that sometimes takes over your whole brain and no matter what you try to do to get rid of it, it just nags and nags at your taste buds until you find yourself drooling?  That has been me with the thought of cinnamon raisin bread for several weeks now.  I tried satisfying this craving by purchasing a loaf of the stuff at the store, but it failed miserably.  It was scrawny and flavorless and basically tasted like cardboard...with raisins.  No umpf.  No pizazz. 

I've been messing around with yeast products lately and making lots of homemade breads and other carb'y yummy things, so why can't *I* make a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread? 

I can make this, right?!

Do you want to know why?  Because I'm lazy!  And, every time the thought entered my mind (basically as often as when 16 year boys when they think about sex), I either was in the middle of something, or didn't have enough eggs, or not enough milk, or I needed to clean my kitchen, any other excuse here.

But, the craving was too great.

Let's break out the labor this recipe will generate.  Rising times of 1 hour, 40 minutes and 30 minutes.  Baking time of 45 minutes.  That's close to 3 hours, and doesn't even factor in mixing, kneading and cooling.

Was it worth it?

Fuck yeah. 

Cinnamon Raisin Bread
(makes 2 loaves)

For the dough:
2 1/4 tsp of dry, active yeast (or one envelope)
2 cups milk, warmed
6 1/2 cups of flour, plus more for dusting
1 stick of butter, plus more to lubricate pans
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of raisins
1 tbsp ground cinnamon

For the filling:
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp water

In the large bowl sprinkle yeast over warmed milk and whisk slightly until combined.  Set aside.

Take dried raisins and place in a small bowl covered with hot water.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment, add flour, sugar, 2 eggs and salt. Start mixer on low speed and slowly pour in milk mixture.  Once combined, raise the speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. 

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat dough into a 9 inch round, approximately 1'' thick.  Drain raisins from water and pat dry with paper towel.  Place in the middle of the dough round.  Sprinkle raisins with ground cinnamon.  Knead entire mixture until raisins and cinnamon are incorporated.  Place dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise 1 hour.  (Dough will be doubled in bulk.)

After first rise, return dough to lightly floured work surface and pat into a round.  Fold dough upon itself like a present, and return dough to the bowl with the seam sides down.  Let rise another 40 minutes. 

Near the end of the second rise, combine all of the ingredients for the filling in a small bowl.  Prepare your 2 loaf pans with butter.

Return the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide in half.  Roll one half into a 10 x 12 inch rectangle.  Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with half of the filling mixture evenly, all the way to the ends.  Fold 3 sides of your rectangle in about an inch or two and tightly roll down from the top, creating a log.  Place log seam side down in the prepared loaf pan.

Roll from the top, down.

Repeat with second half of dough and filling. 

Cover pans loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for the third and final time, for approximately 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Brush the tops of the loaves with remaining beaten egg and place loaf pans on a lined baking sheet.*  Bake for 45 minutes, rotating half way through baking time.  Remember to use a foil tent if the tops start to brown faster than you'd like. 

Turn bread out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing...if you can.  I couldn't.  I waited about 10 minutes in misery before deciding that a burnt mouth wouldn't be too bad.

That's a whole lotta goodness right there!

How best to describe the taste?  Hmmmmm....soft, soft bread, juicy raisins and gooey cinnamon sugar filling.  It tastes like heaven.  Like, when I think of relaxing on the cloudy surface of heaven looking down at mere mortals while they are showering, I can see myself feasting on this bread.  It's that good.
*I don't know why I didn't do this.  My loaves split slightly and I had a hot sugar eruption.  If I used a baking sheet, it would've caught the mess so that I wouldn't have to clean my oven.  Grrrr....

Friday, July 26, 2013


I like bagels.  I buy them at the grocery store on every "big" shopping day.  In between, I fill my bagel need by spending the additional $2.99 when I grab my morning "Medium Carmel Mocha Iced Coffee with Cream and Sugar please" at Dunkin Donuts.  Bagels are tasty.  They scream comfort. 

I can totally make bagels that taste as good at home, right?  RIGHT???

Yes.  Yes, I can.  And, I did.  And you can too!

The first thing you will need are muscles.  Make a fist and bring it up to your ear.  Feel your bicep?  Good.  You have the necessary muscles needed to make great homemade bagels.  Time to get down to it....

Homemade Bagels

2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 ½ tablespoons of granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups of warm water (you may need up to a 1/2 cup more, depending on climate)
3 ½ cups of bread flour
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
¼ cup cornmeal (for dusting)

In ½ cup of the warm water, pour in the sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let it sit for 5 minutes.  Stir the yeast and sugar mixture until it all dissolves in the water.

Mix the flour and salt in the bowl of stand up mixer.  Pour in the warm yeast/water. Mix and stir in additional water as needed. Depending on where you live, you may need to add anywhere from a couple tablespoons to about ¼ cup of water. Your dough should be moist and firm after you have mixed it.

From here, you can keep the dough in the mixer with a dough hook and have the machine knead it, but I feel it's better to hand-knead the dough.  Playing with your food makes the end result more rewarding.  On a well floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Work in as much flour as possible to form a firm and stiff dough.

Large, raw well-kneaded dough ball.

Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel, or piece of plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 10 minutes.

Divide your dough into 8 pieces, using a sharp knife.  (For GIANT bagels, cut into 6 pieces, or smaller bagels, 10 pieces.  I recommend being consistant with the size for more thorough baking.)  Shape each piece into a ball.  Take your dough ball and knead it gently against the countertop by moving your hand and the ball in a circular motion until a perfect little dough ball forms.  Repeat with each piece.

Gently press your finger into the center of each dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the ring to about ⅓ the diameter of the bagel and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Repeat with each remaining dough ball.  Cover with a damp kitchen towel and allow for a 3rd and final rise, approximately 10 minutes.

Post boil, pre bake.  Like large dumplings!

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and start a large stock pot of water to a low boil.  Use a slotted spoon or lower the bagels into the water. Do not overcrowd!  The bagels will float to the top either immediately, or in a couple of seconds.  Let them boil for a minute on each side, for lighter bagels...2 minutes for chewier bagels.  (I went with the 2 minutes!)  Remove from water and place on a baking sheet dusted with 1/4 cup'ish of cornmeal.  If you would like to top your bagels, do it now!  Optional toppings include: caraway seeds, coarse salt, minced fresh/dried garlic, minced fresh/dried onion, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or all of the above. Or none. It's your call.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack, then enjoy! 

Smother those bad boys with sweet cream butter, or tangy cream cheese, or peanut butter, or jam. 

I ate my first homemade bagel, split, toasted and smeared with regular full-fat cream cheese.  And, I loved every second of it.  I also paired it with Banana Bread Muffins, using this recipe.  But seriously, the bagel would've been enough.  At this point, I was so gosh-darn hungry that I went a little overboard.  :-)

If you are afraid of yeast...don't be.  I use the dry active yeast jars located near the flour in the supermarket.  You can also purchase packets.  Something of note...there is about 2 1/4 tsp of yeast in a single packet.  I've googled that about 30 times over the years because I always forget. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pizza Crust

Yesterday I had the biggest craving for pizza.  After spending an hour trying to call my local pizza joint (I kid you not) and not getting through, I gave up and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which did NOTHING in satisfying my craving.  Today, I took matters in my own hands and decided that if I was going to eat pizza, I was going to have to make it myself, since obviously no one wants to answer my cry for help.

Enter one of my favorite Martha Stewart cookbooks - Favorite Comfort Food, which was printed in 1999. Like most of Martha's recipes, nothing is very basic or easy.  "Proper" pizza dough was going to take about 2 hours to prepare!  I thought to myself..."Self?  You have the day off.  Just do it so you can go to bed with a smile on your face.  Feed to your belly and move on!"

Things you don't need, which are included in the recipe:
  • A pizza wheel - just use a knife
  • A pizza stone - a cookie sheet works just fine
  • A pizza peel - where the FUCK to you store THAT thing?!  Come on Martha!!!
So, although this is Martha's recipe...I have simplified it for the average home cook.  You still will need 2 hours though, so be prepared.


(This recipe makes dough for two 12 inch round pizzas or one large square pizza.)

1/4 tsp sugar
1 package of dry yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp
1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp olive oil, plus more for oiling your bowl
pizza toppings of your choice

Pour water into a small bowl.  Sprinkle in sugar and yeast and whisk with a fork to dissolve.  Set aside for 5 minutes while yeast activates or "blooms."  Mixture will become slightly foamy.

Meanwhile, mix together flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add olive oil and yeast mixture and combine with your hands, adding more flour if needed, until dough is smooth when squeezed.  Transfer to a clean surface and knead for about a minute, then shape into a ball. 

Oil a large bowl and place your dough ball, smooth side up.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot for about 40 minutes, until dough doubles in size.  Remove wrap and punch down with your fist.  Knead for another minute and once again, place dough ball smooth side up and return to let rise a second time, for about 30 minutes until it again doubles in size.

This is when my stomach started to growl.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Punch down the dough for the second time in preparation for the third rise.  Place dough on a clean, flat surface and let rest for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, sprinkle your cooking surface with cornmeal in preparation for your crust!  If making two pizzas, divide your dough in half.*

Using your fists, knuckles and fingers, gently stretch your dough to the size of your cooking surface.  Top your pizza as you wish - I used leftover boneless hot chicken wings, onions, peppers and pepperoni.  And, maybe extra cheese as well.  Bake for 12-18 minutes, let cool and enjoy.

*If you plan on baking only one 12 inch round pizza, wrap up your remaining dough and freeze.  Thaw completely before using. 

This dough had a great chewy crust and baked evenly in my oven, without turning - - but if you have hot spots, you may want to turn once during baking.  This crust has sparked an interest in having a homemade pizza party with my friends and the next time I have a couple hours of free time, I'm making a couple of batches of this dough and freezing it for future uses!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Swordfish topped with mango salsa

My ex's father's side of the family is Russian and used to make the best Pierogi which we would fest on for weeks after the Russian Orthodox Easter, or AKA, the Pierogi Sweatshop holiday.  All of the women used to gather in his aunt's kitchen and make homemade potato pierogi until their hands fell off.  Being an outsider, I was never invited to participate and even though I knew how mind-numbing the work was, I kinda wish I was.  Because then I would've never tried to make them alone, at home this past weekend. 

I followed the recipe for Potato and Onion Pierogi from Robert Irvine.  It was HORRIBLE.  So - if you follow the rest of my recipe below, just pick up some Mrs. T's Pierogies and call it a day.  DO NOT suffer like I did!  (BTW - that is a free endorsement right there for Mrs. T's, but really, I love their pierogi!) 

You know what was most horrible about the pierogi making experience?  The fact that the recipe said it would make 24 and I when I finished, I had a solid 6.  Most didn't stay closed in the boiling water, my dough was too thick for some and created a mushy mess and others just looked like something spewed from an animal.  I wish I had photos for the outtake reel, but that would've been just a slap in the face.

Swordfish Topped with Mango Salsa Over Pierogi

For Protein (feel free to change out swordfish with tilapia, or even chicken):
(4) 4oz pieces of Swordfish
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp compound butter (butter, parsley, salt and pepper combined)

For Salsa:
2 ripe Mangos, peeled and diced
1 cup of fresh pineapple, diced
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
1/2 a jalapeno pepper, ribs and seeds removed, finely diced
2 ripe kiwi fruit, peeled and diced
1/4 cup red onion, finely diced
salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp honey
zest and juice of one lime

Pierogi "soup":
3 pierogi per person
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup cut green beans
1 carrot, grated
1 small onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, diced
1/2 cup vodka
1 cup vegetable stock
salt and pepper

Prepare mango salsa a day ahead.  Mix all ingredients and refrigerate to let flavors combine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place fish in a shallow baking dish brushed with oil, presentation side down. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until fish is done, turning once.

Meanwhile, bring water in a large pot to a boil.  Add pierogi and cook and it floats.

In a large skillet, melt butter.  Add onion and garlic until translucent.  Remove.  Add cooked pierogi and slightly brown each side, turning once.  Add sauteed onion and garlic, green bean and carrots until slightly tender, approximately 2-3 minutes.  Add vodka and reduce by half, then add vegetable stock and simmer with a lid off until slightly reduced.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Arrange pierogi and vegetables in a shallow serving dish.  Spoon broth over.  Top with fish and finally the mango salsa.  Each bite is a party in your mouth!  Plus, it's pretty. 

Note: Please be advised that swordfish contains high traces of mercury in it, and if you are prone to migraines, make the substitution!  I got the worst migraine headache hours after feasting on this and my doctor said the mercury may have attributed to it - who knows...but you may want to err on the side of caution. 

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Fried Rice - why order takeout?

I don't know why, but New Years day always makes me crave asian food. Why is this?! Someone please explain!!! Actually, let me think about this for a could be because New Years is a turning point in America's healthy brigade, and all I can think about (besides the fact that I will not be able to find a parking spot at the gym) is that I want something salty that will give me cankles, high blood pressure and make me hungry a couple of hours later! I've tried my hand at a couple of "asian inspired" dishes throughout the years, but my fried rice has become a staple.

I don't know why more people don't make fried rice at home?! It's easy, and if the rice is already cooked - and left over from your pork chops and applesauce dinner - fast to prepare. It can also be very substantial and satisfying because you can load it with as many vegetables and lean protein as you want! Really, you are limited by your own imagination.

I like making it at home because I like to keep the crunch in my vegetables - something my mother never believed in growing up! A mushy piece of broccoli makes me want to run towards the front door kicking and screaming about the monstrosity of it all. It's funny how I said "growing up" as if her mushy veggie love doesn't still appear to this day. Someone take away her steamer!!!! Or, give her a new kitchen timer that clips to her apron that doesn't go over 6 minutes.


2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 cup onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 cups of prepared, cooled white rice of your choice*
1 cup cooked and cubed pork or beef
1/2 cup soy sauce, or ginger flavored soy sauce (whatever suites your palette)

1 tsp sesame oil
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup grated carrot

In a large WOK, or skillet heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add eggs and stir until they form a soft scramble. Remove eggs from WOK and set aside.

Heat remaining vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add onion, garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add rice and meat, stirring to combine. Add soy sauce and sesame oil, and cook through. Before serving, add frozen peas (they will defrost with the heat of the rice), reserved scrambled egg and carrots. Serve.

That's it...about 10 minutes in prep, total. I've seen fried rice with lots of different kinds of vegetables, seafood and meats...but this happens to be my favorite combination. Oh, and the leftovers are AMAZING!!!

*I use Jasmine rice for all of my rice needs. It's the only kind of rice that I don't seem to burn, and I like the way each individual piece of rice stands on it's own and doesn't clump up or stick.