Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hot Pot

While looking through Mamaw’s recipe file recently, I stumbled across a favorite from my childhood. And it was written in my mom’s handwriting!

Hot Pot was a big hit growing up. It’s a layered dish of potatoes, onions, and hamburger, and I pretty much stuffed myself each time Mom made it. So I was thrilled with my discovery.

One glitch: The recipe is meant for an electric skillet and I don’t own one. So I thought I’d give it a try with my Jamie Oliver T-Fal three and a half-quart stainless-steel deep saute pan and lid instead. (This has been my go-to skillet for years!) 

It worked!

The recipe had to be adjusted a little bit, but not anything drastic. The primary change was cutting back on the amount of broth I used. (I’ve provided both the electric skillet and stove-top directions in the recipe.)

And instead of using hamburger, I tried it with pork sausage from a local butcher. It was wonderful! So feel free to make this quick and easy meal for dinner or breakfast/brunch!

Yield: 4
Author: Linda Ditch
Hot Pot

Hot Pot

An easy, hearty family dinner for those who love meat and potatoes.


  • 1 1/2 pounds hamburger or breakfast sausage
  • 4 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • Beef broth for hamburger, or chicken broth for sausage (1 cup for the electric skillet recipe, 1/2 cup for stovetop)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (plus more for garnish)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. For the electric skillet: Place 1/3 of the sliced potatoes in the bottom of the electric skillet. Add 1/2 of the hamburger/sausage, and then 1/2 of the onion. Layer another third of the potatoes on the onion, and then the rest of the hamburger/sausage and onion. Finish with the final third of the potatoes on top. Pour in the broth, and sprinkle the top with the parsley, salt and pepper. Cook at 250 degrees until the potatoes are tender, about 1 hour.
  2. For the stovetop: In a deep skillet with a lid, brown the hamburger/sausage over medium/high heat until just done. Remove from the skillet and set aside. With the skillet off the heat, layer in the ingredients as directed above. Place back on the heat and bring the broth to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes. If the broth evaporates before the potatoes are done, add a little more. If the potatoes are tender but there is still broth in the pan, remove the lid and allow the liquid to evaporate.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Peachy Maple Syrup

I’ve written before about how much I love peaches. Adore them. Crave them. Dream about them. Well, you get the idea.

Unfortunately I often buy more peaches at the farmers market than I can consume. (The Picky Eater says he likes peaches, but he never eats any of them. Hum.)

What to do when faced with a bowl of almost-too-ripe peaches? All summer I’ve seen lovely photos, blogs and articles featuring yummy-looking peach cakes, muffins, ice creams, tarts, pies, etc. But I wanted to do something different.

A craving for pancakes was my inspiration. I would take those really, really ripe peaches and make them into peach pancake syrup. I got the idea from another food blog (I don’t remember which one, unfortunately) where the writer raved about pancakes from a New York City diner served with a cherry compote. But I hated the thought of giving up maple syrup for the peach variety, so I just combined both!

I used real, 100-percent maple syrup for this recipe. After two decades of living in New England, I can’t imagine ever switching back to the imitation kind.


Since the peaches were so ripe, they released plenty of juice.  If yours are on the hard side, you may want to add a little water to get the right consistency. Also, if you’re peaches aren’t very sweet, give the syrup a taste and add a little sugar if necessary.

I served this yummy, peachy syrup over my multigrain pancakes, and the combination was perfect! I may have to try it over French toast tomorrow. Maybe some waffles? Oh and ice cream! Mmmm…

Peachy Maple Syrup

2 cups sliced and pealed fresh peaches (frozen would work, too.)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup 100-percent pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick
Pinch of salt

Place the sliced peaches into a heavy medium-sized sauce pan. Toss them with the lemon juice, and then add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the syrup has reached the desired thickness, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve warm.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Butterquick Coffee Cake from Mamaw’s Recipe Box

The morning aromas from the kitchen are often remembered with fondness and longing: Freshly brewed coffee. Bacon sizzling to a crisp in the skillet. Toast popping and ready for butter and jam (or cinnamon-sugar!)

Now add my Mamaw’s Butterquick Coffee Cake to the list, for as it bakes the most wonderful smell of brown sugar and cinnamon fills the air.

Mamaw’s recipe card says she found the instructions for this coffee cake from August 10, 1980 edition of Missouri Ruralist, a publication my parents continue to receive on the farm. And I know why it caught her attention: It’s easy to make!

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, Mamaw hated to cook. However, she created many wonderful dishes, probably because she was a farmer’s wife in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, etc, and it was expected of her.

(The picture was taken by Papaw at the farm and is of Mamaw and Mom holding me when I was four months old.)

To make this recipe even easier, I tried out a mixing method I’ve watched Nigella Lawson do many times on her cooking shows. I put all of the ingredients into a food processor and whizzed them together! In a snap, the cake batter was ready for the pan. The only thing I mixed by hand was the crunchy topping.

I think Mamaw would have approved.  

This delicate cake with its crunchy nut-coconut topping practically melts in your mouth. Since the hearty breakfast Mamaw typically prepared each morning consisted of cereal, eggs, bacon, toast, and orange juice, I think she would have served this coffee cake to friends when they came to play cards, or the women’s church group on these lovely dessert plates.

Butterquick Coffee Cake would also make a yummy after-school snack. Just imagine the kids walking in the door to be greeted by the aroma of freshly-baked cake.

Got milk?

Butterquick Coffee Cake

For crunchy topping:
2 tablespoons soft butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup of coconut and/or 1/2 cup chopped nuts

For cake:
1/2 cups soft unsalted butter
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

To make the crunchy topping: In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the butter, brown sugar, flour and cinnamon until crumbly. (The easiest way is to rub everything together with your fingers.) Stir in the coconut and/or nuts. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

To make the cake, place all of the ingredients into the food processor, putting in the liquid ingredients first, and then the dry. Whiz everything together until well blended, about 1 minute. Pour into the pan. Cover the top with the crunchy topping. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out with just a few crumbs.

Serve warm.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

#SundaySupper Chicken Florentine

Today’s #SundaySupper celebrates the marriage of food and wine—a match made in heaven! All of today’s bloggers made dishes either paired with a specific wine or with wine in the recipe. Or, like me, both! (After all, if the wine is in the dish then it also tastes wonderful in the glass.) And some of our group used specific wines from the Schlossadler Family of Wine and The Wine Club by Schlossadler Wines.

Many people are a bit intimidated at the thought of matching food with wine, especially when faced with the wide selection available at a shop, store, or online. For almost three years I wrote a food and wine column for a New Hampshire newspaper. I’m no expert, by any means, but local wine shop owners are, and they are happy to give advice and suggestions.

The old rule of red wine with beef and white wine with chicken and fish is a good place to start, but it doesn’t always hold true. The key is balance. The wine you choose should not overpower the food, and vice versa. For example, a heavy red wine would completely overwhelm a lovely piece of fish or a lightly seasoned chicken dish. And a crisp white wine would be wasted if served with robust roast beef.

Another good tip is to match the dish’s country of origin with a wine from that same country. For example, Italian foods go nicely with Italian wines, and so on.

I typically drink red wines—Pinot Noir, Shiraz, and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, my favorite white variety is an Italian Pinot Grigio, a light, dry, crisp wine with a hint of citrus. It pairs well with seafood, creamy pasta dishes, and one of my favorite recipes, Chicken Florentine, both as an ingredient and as the meal’s beverage-of-choice.

Chicken Florentine is an elegant dish thanks to its lovely wine and cream sauce flavored with shallots and garlic. However, it is also easy to prepare! I’ve made it many times as a weeknight dinner. Traditionally, the chicken is served of a bed of sauteed spinach, but I’ve also served it with buttered noodles for those who aren’t fans of Popeye’s favorite vegetable.     

Chicken Florentine
Adapted from a Food Network recipe from Giada De Laurentis

18 ounces fresh baby spinach
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Flour, for dredging
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Pinot Grigio.)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley, plus more for garnish

In a large skillet over medium heat, place 1 tablespoon each of the butter and olive oil. Once the butter is melted, saute the baby spinach until just wilted and tender. Place into a small bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.

Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and then dredge in the flour to lightly coat. Shake off the excess flour. In the same skillet, add another 1 tablespoon each of butter and olive oil until the butter melts. Add the chicken and cook until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Place the chicken on a plate and cover with foil to stay warm.

Continuing in the same skillet, melt the remaining butter and olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and saute until the shallots are translucent, about 1 minute. Pour in the wine, stirring to scrape up the brown bits in the pan, and bring to a boil. Simmer until the liquid has reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and continue to boil until the sauce reduced by half again, about another 3 minutes. Add the parsley, plus salt and pepper to taste. Return the chicken to the skillet, turning to coat in the sauce.

To plate, place a mound of the spinach in the center of each plate. Place a chicken breast on top of the spinach and then spoon sauce over the top. Garnish with a bit of chopped parsley.

Be sure to join us at 7pm ET for our #SundaySupper Chat with @schlossiwines. Follow along on twitter by using hashtag #SundaySupper or using Tweetchat. And check out our #sundaysupper pinterest board.

We have a special discount for all participants: Free Shipping when you join The Wine Club by Schlossadler Wines! Use code FFSS1. The next Shipment is October 2012 and features Halloween Day Ghostly Whites, Haunted Red for all friendly spirits everywhere.

Below is a talented group of Sunday Supper bloggers with wine-food dishes to share.  This first group paired wines from the Schlossadler Wine Club:
The rest of us chose our favorite wine-friendly recipes:
Wine Pairings by ENOFYLZ

Friday, August 17, 2012

Roast Chicken á la Julia

This is it! I have finally reached the top of the GourmetLive 50 Women Game-Changers list. And, as luck would have it, I finished this journey the same week our leading lady would have turned 100 years old: Julia Child.

As I mentioned in her birthday post, I always try to mark August 15th in some special way to honor Julia, who is third on my own Most Influential Women list, right after Mom and Mamaw. While those two wonderful women in my life taught me the basics of cooking and the importance of family meals, Julia helped open my eyes to a world of food far outside of my Midwest upbringing.

However, Julia’s influence reached far beyond my kitchen skills. She gave me courage when I decided to plunge head first into my life-long dream of writing at the age of 36 because she showed us all that it is never too late to find your life’s passion, and through following that passion, find success. I became a newspaper op-ed writer at 36. My first magazine article was published in the Boston Globe magazine when I was 37. I became a magazine editor when I was 38, and a full-time freelance writer a month before my 41st birthday.

But there’s more to Julia’s influence. The other evening, as I was reading the new Bob Spitz biography, Dearie, I realized she succeeded because she was true to herself. She was Julia Child, the very tall woman with the unique voice who lived life with gusto and enthusiasm no matter what anyone else thought of her. She was passionate about food, cooking and life in general. She didn’t try to be anyone else or fit into someone else’s mold. And by being true to who she was, she swept us all up with her energetic spirit to be fearless in life.

Thank you, Julia.

On her 100th birthday, I went to Topeka’s mid-week farmers market imagining what it was like for her to shop in those Paris markets so many years ago. I chatted with the sun-darkened farmer in his bib overalls about his peaches and tomatoes, and enjoyed a sample of fresh cantaloupe from a smiling Mennonite women in her light blue cotton dress with little white flowers, and the white mesh cap on her head.

For lunch, I enjoyed a lovely French triple-cream cheese and bread, along with some of the tomatoes and cantaloupe.  

For dinner, I roasted a chicken. Of course.

Roasting chicken used to make me very nervous. How long do you keep in it in the oven? (My Mamaw roasted turkeys for 30 minutes per pound!) Do you cover it with foil? (The women in my family always covered it tightly with foil, which meant no brown, crispy skin.)

Julia to the rescue! When she died in 2004, I was looking through a copy of Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom for recipes to make in her memory. Cooking just seemed like the right thing to do. I had settled on chocolate mousse to share with my neighbors, but I also wanted something to make for dinner. That’s when I found it! The answer to all of my roasting problems!

It’s a simple formula: 45 minutes plus 7 minutes per pound!  Start roasting at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, and then finish roasting at 350 degrees. Baste every 10 to 20 minutes.

This formula never fails! It produces a bird with crispy skin and moist flesh. The chicken I made for dinner was 5 pounds, so 45 minutes + 35 minutes (5 pounds x 7) = 80 minutes to the perfect roast chicken. You can check it with an instant-read meat thermometer to be sure (165-170 degrees), but trust me, this works! When I’ve second-guessed the formula and left the bird in longer, it has come out dry.

You can also find this formula in From Julia Child’s Kitchen. As for a roasting recipe, Julia has created many. I start with the one in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I don’t follow it to the letter. Sometimes I truss the chicken, and sometimes I don’t. And I don’t bother with turning the bird from side to side in the first few minutes. I don’t layer blanched bacon over the breast, but chose instead to follow her directions of basting every 10 to 20 minutes. And I choose my seasonings to fit my mood that day—pretty much based on what I have in the pantry.

I think that would please Julia.

Be fearless!

Cheers to you, Julia! And thanks. You were the ultimate Game-Changer. 

Roast Chicken á la Julia

1 roasting chicken (4 to 7 pounds)
1 onion, cut in quarters
3 stalks celery, cut into three pieces
Seasoning of choice (I used 1 teaspoon dried thyme and a sprig of rosemary)
4 tablespoons of softened butter, divided
Salt and pepper
Potatoes (1 to 2 per person), washed and cut into quarters (halves for small potatoes)
4 carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Prepare the chicken by removing the sack of giblets and neck from the inside cavity and rinse with cold water. Dry the bird well with paper towels, inside and out. Sprinkle the inside cavity with salt, pepper, and seasonings. Place one of the onion quarters inside. Truss the bird, if you wish.

In the bottom of a roasting pan, place the onions and celery. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables. Rub the bird with 2 tablespoons of butter, and then sprinkle the outside with salt, pepper, and seasonings.

Place the roasting pan into the oven. In a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Bake the chicken for 15 minutes, and then turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees F for the remaining cooking time. (Roast the chicken for 45 minutes plus 7 minutes per pound.) Baste the chicken with the melted butter, and continue to baste every 10 to 20 minutes with the pan drippings.

For the last hour of roasting, place the carrots and potatoes in the bottom of the roasting pan and baste along with the bird.

Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with foil, and allow to stand for 20 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, remove the drippings from the pan to make into a gravy, or make the gravy in the roasting pan after removing the vegetables.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Happy 100th, Julia Child!

How do you know when you’re a truly food-obsessed individual? When you turn Julia Child’s birthday into your own personal holiday. I’ve always marked the day in some small way. This year it seems the whole food world is celebrating, too! (I wonder what she would think of all this hoopla?)

As I said, each year, in one way or another, I’ve celebrated Julia’s birthday. And today is no exception. I’m cooking with Julia in mind while I work on Friday’s 50 Women Game-Changers blog post. This week I reached the top of this list, which is Julia, of course.

However, I couldn’t let today pass without at least saying, “Happy Birthday, Julia! Thank you so much for all you did for those of us who enjoy good food. And thank you for inspiring me to believe it is never too late to find your life's passion.”

So stay tuned until Friday for my post honoring one of the people most admire. Until then, feel free to check out some of my other Julia-inspired blog posts from the past year. The recipes include:

Leek and Potato Soup (I don't have a photo of this recipe, so here's the picture I took of the Time magazine cover that hangs in my kitchen.)


And the latest, French-StyleCountry Pâté.

See you Friday!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


I’m in a cookie mood. You probably guessed that since my last post also featured cookies. But my current cookie trend isn't just because they are yummy treats that can satisfy the most rampant sweet craving. Or that you can eat a lot of cookies and not feel as guilty as if you ate three slices of cake or pie.

What I love most about cookies is their shareablity. It’s so easy to just stick a few in a bag and hand them over to a loved one;  place a tray in the hallway near the elevator with a sign, “Help yourself;” or grab a few from the cookie jar to serve with coffee to friends or family. And, as I mentioned in my last post, baking cookies is a great way to share time in the kitchen with even the smallest child.

I made these Lemondoodles this past weekend for my stepson, Mike, Jr.’s 27th birthday. He loves all types of lemon-flavored sweets. (Last year I blogged about the Elusive Lemon Cake I made for his celebration.)

Mike, Jr. loved these cookies when I made them last fall, so I decided they would make an appropriate birthday treat. I gave him a bag-full as a present, and I also took some to the small family gathering we had to celebrate his day, along with my Gathering Brownies for those more inclined to enjoy chocolate over lemon. Not only did he take home his gift cookies, he also took the ones leftover on the platter.

I guess he really likes them!

These cookies got their name because The Picky Eater (better known as my wonderful husband, Michael) looked at them and said, “They look like snickerdoodles.” And he’s right, they do—a bit crispy on the outside, chewy in the middle, and bursting with lemon flavor. I came across the original recipe on the Lauren’s Latest blog, but I’ve also seen it on other blogs and recipe sites. I changed it a bit, upping the lemon zest to make the flavor more intense. It’s almost like lemonade in a cookie!

Adapted from Lauren’s Latest
Makes 3 1/2 dozen

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
3 teaspoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Sifted powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla, eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice until blended, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Slowly stir in the powdered ingredients until they are just blended. Don’t over mix.

Sift the powdered sugar into a shallow bowl. Roll the cookie dough into 1-inch balls and then roll the balls in the powdered sugar. Place 1 1/2-inches apart on the baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, or until the cookies just begin brown on the bottom. Don’t over bake. Cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes, and then finish cooking on a rack. Store in an air-tight container.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Alice Waters’s Chocolate Crackle Cookies

Before words like “localvore,” “sustainability,” and “organic” hit the American mainstream, there was Alice Waters. She opened her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California in 1971, and from the beginning used ingredients that were local, seasonal, and organic. And a food movement began…Which I'm sure explains why she is number 2 on the Gourmet Live 50 Women Game-Changers list.

I’ve admired Waters for a number of years, but not only for her dedication to supporting local farmers and using seasonal ingredients. My admiration also comes from her help in creating the Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. This living classroom, and the kitchen built to go along with it, provided the teaching staff the opportunity to not only show children where their food comes from and how lovely something freshly grown can taste, but also ties subjects like math, history, social studies, and science to the kitchen and garden. (This photo of Alice Waters came from the Chez Panisse website.) 

Remember helping Mom or Grandma in the kitchen? Or picking vegetables from the backyard garden? I do, and those are some of my most cherished memories. But in today’s busy, zooming culture, I’m afraid those memories for this generation of children may be missing.

It is so important that our children understand where the food they eat comes from, who grows it, and what’s in it. My mom and grandmothers showed me. In my first marriage, I tried to show my stepkids by having make-your-own pizza nights and baking cookies. Looking back, I could have done so much more, but I let our busy lives get in the way—a mistake I wish I could correct.

The first thing I remember making with my mom was chocolate chip cookies. That is why I chose this yummy cookie recipe to honor Alice Waters instead of one featuring fresh produce. In her book, The Art of Simple Food, she wrote, “For children, simple home baking provides a wonderful introduction to the kitchen: It teaches basic lessons in organization, measurements, mixing, oven use, and clean up. For many cooks, baking cookies was the spark that ignited a lifelong passion for cooking.”

That’s the way it was for me, and hopefully that same passion will be passed along to the generations to come.

So grab the nearest kid and bake come cookies!

Chocolate Crackle Cookies
Adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

1 cup blanched almonds
2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons brandy (or coffee, if you prefer)
2 eggs, at room temperature
Granulated sugar, for rolling
Sifted powdered sugar, for rolling

In a food processor, place the almonds and 2 tablespoons of sugar. Process until the almonds are chopped very fine. Pour into a bowl and sift the flour and baking powder over the top. Mix to combine and set aside.

In a heat-proof bowl over simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Stir in the brandy (or coffee) until smooth and set aside off the heat.

In the bowl of a mixer, whip together the eggs and 1/4 cup sugar until the mixture is light and creates a ribbon, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the chocolate mixture and the almond-flour mixture.

Place the dough into the refrigerator and chill to firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fill one small bowl with granulated sugar and another with the sifted powdered sugar.

Roll the cookie dough into 1-inch balls. Place them into the granulated sugar and roll until coated, and then repeat the process in the powdered sugar. Place the coated balls onto the baking sheets 1 inch apart. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking process, until the cookies have cracked on top, are firm around the edges, but still soft in the middle. Be careful not to overbake.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Grown-up “Instant” Mac and Cheese

Sometimes you just need a little comfort, and what is more comforting than homemade macaroni and cheese. The only problem is it takes time to make a batch of creamy, rich, cheesy goodness. Of course, there’s the boxed instant stuff, but that just doesn’t bring the comfort that comes with homemade. Beside, didn’t we love that as kids? Maybe it’s time for a mac and cheese that is both fast and grown-up.

I first got the idea for this recipe from another food blog. That recipe called for 1-percent milk and shredded cheddar cheese. I decided to give it a try.

Epic fail!

It was watery and the cheese stuck together in one big goopy mass. We won’t even discuss the taste.

So I decided to try it again, but this time with cheese that likes to melt into a smooth creamy sauce. It just so happened I had some gruyere and goat cheese in the fridge. This recipe could be made with just about any cheese as long as it’s one of the good melting kinds such as provolone, Monterrey jack, fontina, or even cream cheese. But I liked the sophisticated taste of the gruyere and goat cheeses.

To make the mac and cheese even creamier, I swapped the milk for cream. And I sprinkled in a pinch of cayenne pepper for heat and nutmeg because it pairs well with the nuttiness of the gruyere.

The end result was a rich, creamy bowl full of cheesy pasta perfect for a mid-day respite or a warming dinner with a glass of wine.  

Grown-up “Instant” Mac and Cheese
Serves 1

1/3 cup elbow macaroni
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup shredded gruyere and goat cheese
Pinch each of cayenne pepper, nutmeg, salt and pepper

Put the pasta and water into a microwave-safe bowl. Place into the microwave and heat on high 2 minutes. (Water may boil over the sides of the bowl, so place a paper towel underneath, just in case.) Stir and heat another 2 minutes. The water will absorb into the pasta. If the water hasn’t completely absorbed, heat at additional 1-minute intervals until done, stirring after each minute. If the pasta isn’t to your liking and the water as completely absorbed, add an additional tablespoon of water. (Mine took 6 minutes total, but the time will depend on the strength of your microwave.)

Add the cream, cheese, and seasonings. Microwave for another 1 minute, stirring after each 30 seconds, until the cheese has melted. Let stand for 1 minute, stir, and eat!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tomato Inspiration

Inspiration has left the building. We’ve all been there. You stand in front of an open pantry or refrigerator faced with another meal to prepare. Hungry people are counting on you. Not to mention your own stomach is growling its displeasure.

Lately my lack of inspiration is directed towards tomatoes. My husband, The Picky Eater, loves them, so we always have them in the kitchen. He even buys the mushy, flavorless ones in the grocery store during the winter. (He cuts them up and smothers the chunks with Dorothy Lynch or Ott’s French-style salad dressings, so I guess the actual tomato flavor doesn’t really matter.) However, in the summer we buy them fresh from the farmers market at least once and sometimes twice a week. And after eating them sliced with salt, on sandwiches, made into sauce, and cut up in a salad over and over again, I was in need of new tomato insight.

Where do you turn when you’re on the hunt for a recipe brainstorm? If you’re like me, the first stop on the meal-time inspiration express is the internet. Perhaps you grab a cookbook off the shelf. Or you start flipping through the recipe file.

There is one recipe treasure trove you need to explore if you haven’t discovered it already—the public library. Seriously!

Libraries can be a food lover’s dream escape. Mine is! The Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library has a huge cookbook section that covers every food topic. I was able to find cookbooks for just about everyone except the most obscure on the Gourmet Live 50 Women Game-Changers list. It is also a great resource for local and regional cookbooks that don’t make the national radar. My library also has a small farmers market on Mondays and a coffee shop. Heaven!

The only drawback: I often find myself buying a copy of a cookbook discovered at the library because I must have one of my own.

Yes, my name is Linda and I’m a cookbookaholic.

Today’s recipe comes from one of those books. The Rolling Prairie Cookbook was published in 1998 as a way to help Kansans know what to do with the produce that arrived in their weekly Community Supported Agriculture box. It is not only filled with inspiring vegetable, fruit, and herb recipes, but it also give tips on how to handle and store each tasty item.

The tomato section was full of simple idea and recipes.

This was what I had for lunch today: leftover French bread and goat cheese from the #CookForJulia #SundaySupper recipe topped with thin slices of tomato and sprinkled with a little dried oregano, kosher salt, and extra-virgin olive oil. Toasted in the toaster oven until warm, this simple sandwich was heavenly!

This was the side dish for tonight’s dinner: Herbed Garden-Fresh Tomatoes. I was a little nervous because I knew my Picky Eater isn't fond of balsamic vinegar, but I didn’t need to worry. He loved it! The flavors were refreshing and the ingredients brought out the wonderful taste of the fresh summer tomatoes.

It would be easy to play with this recipe and try different ingredient combinations, such as adding cucumbers or celery, or perhaps some mozzarella or feta cheese. The book also suggests avocado or Greek olives.

But I will keep it simple, both for my wonderful Picky Eater and to make sure the tomatoes stay center stage.

Herbed Garden-Fresh Tomatoes
Adapted from Rolling Prairie Cookbook by Nancy O’Connor
Serves 6

6 to 8 ripe tomatoes, chopped in large chunks
4 tablespoons finely minced onion
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh minced basil
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Place all of the ingredients except the olive oil and vinegar into a bowl. Stir gently to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar, then drizzle it over the top of the tomato mixture. Stir once more to coat the tomatoes with the dressing.

Serve this dish at room temperature soon after making.