Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dulce De Leche

I shared this recipe on the Cooking From My Heart(h) Facebook page the other day, and thought it would be good to get it up on the ole blog. We made dulce de leche every Christmas at my house. Spread it on toast, use it as an ice cream topping, eat it straight off the spoon... it tastes like caramel. Endless possibilities await! Without further adieu, I give you dulce de leche in six easy steps:

How To Make It
1) Buy as many cans of sweetened condensed milk as you want.
2) Peel the labels off the cans, but leave them sealed.
3) Put sealed cans in a large pot and fill with water.
4) Bring water to a boil and "cook" cans for 2.5-3 hours. Keep the cans covered with ample water or they will EXPLODE.
5) When time is up, put cans in cold water by pouring or using tongs. When cool, put the cans in your 'fridge overnight.6) Open cans, and enjoy freshly made dulce de leche!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Vegetable Wellington

This one is all thanks to the folks over at the Vegetarian Times. Who says that vegetarians can't enjoy a good Wellington every now and then?

1 TBSP olive oil
1 pound asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1 medium onion, thinly sliced (1 1/2 cups)
1 5 ounce. package baby spinach leaves
1 10 ounce log goat cheese (I successfully -and deliciously- used ricotta instead)
1 4 ounce jar prepared pesto sauce
1 large egg
1 17.3 ounce package frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 16 ounce jar prepared tomato sauce

How To Cook It
1) Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add asparagus, bell peppers, and onion, and sauté 5 to 10 minutes, or until vegetables begin to soften. Add spinach, remove from heat, and stir until spinach wilts. Stir in pesto. Cool.
2) Whisk egg in bowl, and set aside. Cut 15 x 10 inch piece of parchment paper, and set on work surface. Place 1 sheet puff pastry on parchment paper. Lift parchment with puff pastry, and place parchment side down in 9-inch loaf pan. Press pastry into pan, being careful not to let folds get caught in parchment and allowing excess parchment and pastry to hang over sides. Cut squares from second puff pastry sheet, and press onto short sides of parchment-covered pan to make dough shell. Prick bottom of puff pastry all over with fork.
3) Spread cheese over bottom of puff pastry. Top with asparagus mixture. Fold excess puff pastry over vegetables, and brush edges with egg.
4) Cut 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch piece of puff pastry from remaining sheet. Set on top of asparagus mixture, pressing to seal edges. Refrigerate 30 minutes, along with unused pastry scraps and egg.
5) Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and place oven rack on second lowest level. Brush top of Wellington with egg, and poke 2 or 3 holes in top. Cut decorative pieces (leaves and stems, etc.) from remaining pastry, press onto top of Wellington, and brush with egg. Use tip of small knife to score top and decorations with additional touches.
6) Bake Wellington 15 minutes. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and bake 45 minutes more. Cool 15 minutes.
7) Use parchment to lift Wellington from loaf pan. Remove parchment, and transfer Wellington to flat serving plate. Slice, and serve with tomato sauce.

Note: I didn't have parchment paper on hand, so I used foil instead without any issues.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Making homemade tortillas can be time consuming and messy, but trust me-- they're "oh so worth it"-good. Have I mentioned that they're great for dipping in soup?  This recipe is used by family and friends of mine living in Chicago, and I've recently started using it in my own kitchen. Hope you enjoy using it in yours!

- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- about 1 cup hot water
- additional vegetable oil for cooking

How To Make Them
1) Using hands/spoon/stand mixer: Mix the dry ingredients.
2) Make a well, and pour the oil in the middle.
3) Knead in the hot water a little at a time. Mix until the dough no longer sticks to your fingers, but isn't too breakable.
4) Thoroughly flour your counter top, and form dough into small, round patties. Roll them out as thin as possible using a rolling pin.
5) Preheat a skillet and add a little oil.
6) Cook tortillas one at a time, flipping when a bubble occurs or the first side is just starting to brown.
7) Repeat steps 5 and 6 until your dough is gone. If flour/oil accumulates and chars in the skillet, take a wet paper towel and gently wipe the excess, being very careful not to burn your fingers.
8) Serve warm, and for an extra treat brush with butter.

Spicy Corn Bisque

Cool weather soups were meant to be hearty and creamy. This one adds an extra kick (or three) to the mix with chili, ancho chili, and chipotle chili powders. Don't have that variety? Just use the same total amount of regular chili powder to replace what you don't keep on hand.

- 3-4 carrots, sliced
- 6 ribs celery, sliced
- 2 leeks (white parts), sliced
- 1 jalapeño, de-seeded and diced small
- 3 TBSP butter
- 28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 TBSP chili powder
- 1 tsp ancho chili powder
- 1 tsp chipotle chili powder
- 4 1/2 - 5 cups corn
- 4 cups whole milk

How To Make It
1) Melt butter in a pot and sauté carrots, celery, leeks, and jalapeño for about 15 minutes, or until celery is translucent and tender.
2) Pour in the can of tomatoes in their liquid, vegetable broth, and spices. Stir.
3) Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until carrots are tender- about one hour.
4) Add milk and corn. Stir and heat the soup once more. Simmer for about 5-10 minutes.
5) Using a blender or an immersion blender, blend the contents of your soup pot.
6) Serve your soup garnished with cilantro and a side of homemade flour tortillas.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Making and sharing family recipes is one of my favorite things to do! Flan and I go way back too... My Nana used to make it on special occasions, and I'm currently kicking myself for not making it sooner. I remember thinking as a little girl that the caremelized sugar had a taste reminiscent of maple syrup.

The ingredients list is short and inexpensive. Eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla are pretty standard items in my kitchen. What about yours? Just add a little heat on the stove and in the oven, followed by some chill time in your 'fridge, and you'll be greeted by deliciousness when your flan evacuates the pan.

- 2 cups sugar
- 4 cups whole milk
- 6 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla

How To Make It
1) Melt one cup of the sugar over low heat in a small pan/saucepan. Don't stir, as stirring promotes the formation of sugar crystals.
2) Remove the sugar from the heat when it is just turning golden brown. Use the hot sugar (careful!!) to coat the bottom and sides of a tube or bundt pan. It will sugar will continue to cook even after you remove it from the heat, so remove sooner rather than later to avoid burning.
3) Heat your milk until the boiling point, then remove from the stove. This is known as "scalding" milk. Add the second cup of sugar and stir until both are mixed.
4) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
5) Take two eggs, separate out the yolks, and toss the whites and shells.
6) Whisk the remaining for (whole) eggs with the two yolks.
7) Gradually pour the hot milk/sugar mixture into the eggs in a slow stream, whisking all the while so that the eggs don't cook.
8) Stir in the vanilla.
9) Pour the egg mixture through a fine mesh strainer for a nice silky custard base, then pour into the bundt pan to cover the sugar.
10) Put the bundt pan in a larger baking pan/casserole dish. Pour hot/boiling water into the outer dish until it is at a level that's at least halfway up the flan.
11) Bake until flan is set in the center, about 45 minutes to an hour, keeping the water level up the whole time.
12) Cool all day or overnight in the refrigerator before sliding a knife around the edges and turning upside down onto a plate or platter.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mushroom Potpie

Sometimes I see a recipe in a magazine and just have to try it. I literally feel compelled to make sure I have all the ingredients on hand so that I can prepare and try it out as soon as possible. When I read over the Mushroom Potpie recipe in the November 2011 issue of Real Simple, I knew it would become a favorite.

- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds mushrooms (such as cremini or button), halved, or quartered if large
- 4 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 celery stalks, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 sheet puff pastry (half of a 17.3 ounce package), thawed

How To Make It
1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
3) Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the broth and peas; bring to a boil.
4) Transfer the mushroom mixture into an 8-inch square baking dish. Lay the pastry on top and cut several vents in it.
5) Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until crust is golden, 25-30 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Your Oven: A Story Of The People's Cinnamon Bread And Kitchen Activism

I love being a stay at home mama! My son is almost two years old, and I'm in that phase of life where my daily schedule still revolves around Gavin's sleep. When he naps, we're home. A couple hours before bedtime, we're home.

So, when the Occupy Wall Street movement was born I was feeling somewhat limited. In my college days, I would have frequented Zuccotti Park when I wasn't in class. Activism with a toddler in tow-- a little more subtle in my case. I can't see taping a sign on my son; I'd rather wait until Gavin is old enough to decide to come with me (and bring his own sign) or stay home.

When you find a cause, there are ways to get involved. Even if you're not at the heart of it all, you can do anything from stuff envelopes, to make phone calls, to knit warm clothing, to deliver supplies.

In this case, I decided to add raisins to my Cinnamon Bread recipe and deliver four freshly baked loaves to the folks camped out in downtown NYC. To make your own Cinnamon Raisin Bread simply soak 1 cup raisins in water after you feed your starter, then drain, pat dry, and add to bread dough when mixing. If your dough is too wet as a result, add more flour until you reach your desired dough consistency. Go forth and feed the people who need feeding! I've come to call myself a kitchen activist. When I see a need, I cook, I bake, and I deliver. You can do the same! Get out there and feed your movement!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Glazed Lemon Cookies

My brother-in-law is getting married next weekend and having a cookie reception after the ceremony. Family from across the country are bringing dozens of cookies to share. Tasty variety will abound! I baked up a batch of Glazed Lemon Cookies (recipe from Real Simple magazine). The cookie itself has a taste similar to a sugar cookie with a satisfying snap, and the lemon glaze adds a refreshing tang to the mix.

- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups all purpose flour (The cookie dough should be about the consistency of play-dough, add a little flour at a time until it's at this consistency when you press a couple pieces together.)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 TBSP fresh lemon juice, plus more if necessary
- 1 tsp grated lemon zest

How To Bake Them
1) With an electric mixer, beat the butter and granulated sugar until fluffy. Add the egg yolks, vanilla, and salt and beat to combine. Gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated.
2) Divide the dough in half and shape into 1 1/4-inch-diameter logs. Wrap in wax paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.
3) Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the logs into 3/8-inch-thick pieces and space them 1 1/2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
4) Bake until lightly golden, 16 to 20 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
5) In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners' sugar, lemon juice, and zest until it forms a thick but pourable glaze (add more lemon juice if necessary). Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze and let set, about 15 minutes.

Note: Instead of refrigerating the dough, you can freeze the logs from Step 2 for up to two months. To bake, follow the recipe instructions, cutting and baking the dough from frozen, and use the upper end of the time range.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Nana's Refrigerator Rolls Version 2.0

I have fond memories of eating dinner rolls (probably too many for my own good) around the table at Nana's home. The original recipe used only white flour and called for margarine, but I've altered it to include whole grains and butter. That doesn't make this side a health food, but it adds nutritional value and additional depth to the flavor. Happy baking!

- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 TBSP yeast
- 1 TBSP salt
- 1 1/2 cups wheat flour
- 4 1/2 cups white flour
- 1/2 cup flax seed meal
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
- 2 cups water
- 1 egg

How To Make Them
  • You'll need to make the dough for these at least 4 1/2 hours before serving, but it can keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days.
  • You can make this dough by hand, but I prefer to use a stand mixer with a dough hook so the instructions are written with that in mind.
1) Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl on a stand mixer.
2) On your stove, heat the water in a saucepan and melt the butter in the water.
3) Whip the egg and mix into the flour.
4) Add the warm liquid (not too hot, or you'll kill the yeast to the bowl and scramble your egg) and set your mixer on low speed until you have a smooth and elastic dough.
5) Move dough to an oiled bowl, lightly brush the top of the dough with oil, cover and let rise until doubled. The time this takes is dependent on the temperature and draftiness of your home, but it typically takes me about 1 1/2 hours.
6) Punch dough down. Now, you can shape the dough into rolls or cover tightly and put in the 'fridge.
7) If you've chosen the latter, remove the dough about 2 1/2 - 3 hours before serving. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
8) Form dough into any desired shape and drop into greased muffin pans. I like rolling three little balls and pressing them together like my Nana did; after baking they pull apart wonderfully for easy dipping. Cover and let raise until doubled.
9) Bake your rolls 15-20 minutes until golden.
10) Melt a little additional butter to brush on top of the baked rolls before serving if desired.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Potato Parsley Soup

You can't beat a hearty soup in the cool weather months! Enjoy this one with some freshly baked bread or rolls, and you've got yourself a meal. I wrote the recipe including higher fat ingredients like butter, cheese, and whole milk. These obviously aren't so great for your cholesterol, but sometimes you've got to cook with them if you want to make a meal that's over-the-top delicious. This one is, so enjoy!

- 8 medium red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and diced small (Skins on! They'll add a little color to your soup pot.)
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 medium-large onion, diced
- 6 ribs celery, diced
- 4-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tsp salt
- 3 TBSP butter
- 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar, freshly grated
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2-3 TBSP fresh parsley, minced or torn

How To Cook It
1) Melt butter in a pan and sauté celery, onions, and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add salt.
2) Meanwhile, heat your diced potatoes and vegetable broth to boiling in a stock pot.
3) Add your sautéed veggies to the pot, reduce heat, and simmer for about 15-30 minutes, until potatoes are soft and give easily to a fork.
4) Add cheese and milk. Simmer for a few minutes longer and stir in the parsley.
5) Serve.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tip From The Hearth: Slice 'N Dice

Knife skills aren't just for professional chefs! They're helpful in home kitchens too. As different cuts are learned and mastered, our food gets better too. If you've ever went to make a batch of mashed potatoes and found that some potato chunks were cooked and others weren't, then this tip is for you. Knife cuts can truly mean the difference between food that looks appealing and is cooked evenly and, well... calling out for pizza.

First things first. Make sure you're holding your knife correctly, and you'll save yourself frustration and trips to the ER for stitches. Ideally, hospitals are not the place "where everybody knows your name." Yes, my inner 80s child is showing.

Onto a few of the basic cuts! You'll see a lot of references to chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing in my recipes. I've been known to julienne from time to time, but with a toddler exploring during meal prep I usually don't have the extra bandwidth if I'm not using my mandoline slicer.You can definitely find more varieties of knife cuts online, but I'll be sticking with the ones I typically use in my everyday household cooking.

Here are the basics:
Chop/Large Dice: 3/4-inch cube
Medium Dice: 1/2-inch cube
Small Dice: 1/4-inch cube
Julienne: 1/8-inch square by 2 inches long. This cut looks so pretty in a salad or stir fry!
Mince: Smaller than a dice, and more irregular in shape. Using a rocking motion, take the heel of your knife and move it along an ingredient that you've already cut into thin strips. Or, when in doubt, use a food processor.

If you're more of a visual learner, check out the videos on knife skills over at Epicurious.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chili Pie

The start of football season coincides with the beginning of chili season in our home. It doesn't get better than crusty, homemade bread or freshly baked cornbread on the side. This recipe combines the two for a quick and easy dinner that makes a great meal whether you're having guests over, a casual game day, or a combination of the two. It's based on the recipe found in the 2002 edition of Practical Vegetarian Cookery. If you're lacking fresh tomatoes, corn, and dried beans, simply substitute one drained and rinsed can of each for the filling ingredients listed below.


For The Filling You'll Need...
- 1 TBSP vegetable oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bell peppers (one red, one green), seeded and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1-2 tomatoes, diced
- 1 1/2 cups corn
- 1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans
- 2 TBSP fresh cilantro, chopped + plus a little extra to garnish
- salt and pepper, to taste

For The Cornbread Topping You'll Need...
- 2/3 cup cornmeal
- 1 TBSP all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 egg, beaten
- 6 TBSP whole milk
- 1 TBSP vegetable oil
- 1 cup of your favorite sharp cheese, shredded

How To Cook It
1) Heat 1 TBSP of oil in a large skillet and gently fry the garlic, peppers, and celery for about five minutes until they're just softened.
2) Stir in the spices (salt, pepper, and chili pepper), tomatoes, corn, and beans. Bring all to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for ten minutes. Add the cilantro.
3) Spoon all into an ovenproof dish and set aside.
4) Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
5) Mix the dry topping ingredients (cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt). Once well combined, add the egg, milk, and oil. Stir until just moistened.
6) Use a spatula to evenly cover your chili filling with the cornbread batter.
7) Bake the Chili Pie for about 30 minutes, or until golden and firm.
8) Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


I found this great recipe in The New Moosewood Cookbook. If you're baking it for a child, you might consider sitting a toy person with a little toothpick or mini flag "paddle" on top. Hope you enjoy baking (and eating) up this tasty zucchini dish as much as I did!

- 1 1/2 cups cooked rice
- 4 medium-sized zucchini (about 2 pounds)
- 1-2 TBSP olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups onion, minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 pound mushrooms, minced
- 6 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 cups almonds or pecans, minced and lightly toasted
- 3 TBSP fresh lemon juice (about 1 small lemon)
- black pepper, to taste
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- a few pinches of freshly minced or dried herbs: any combination of parsley, basil, dill, thyme, or marjoram
- 1 cup packed and grated swiss or cheddar cheese

How To Cook It
1) Cut the zucchini lengthwise down the middle. Use a smallish spoon to scoop out the insides, leaving a canoe with a 1/4 inch shell. Mince the insides, and set everything aside.
2) Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the onions and salt and saute over medium heat until the onion is soft (5 to 8 minutes).
3) Add the minced zucchini innards and the mushrooms. Turn up the heat and cook for about 8 minutes, stirring, letting the liquid evaporate. Stir in the garlic and remove from heat.
4) Stir in the rice and nuts, along with the lemon juice, and season to taste with black pepper, cayenne, and the herbs of your choice.
5) Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill the zucchini shells, top with cheese, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until heated through. Serve hot.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms have long been one of my favorite appetizers. Depending on how much stuffing you like, you find that either the mushroom either shines on it's own or serves as more of a tasty carb delivery system. Strike the balance of both and you might very well achieve hors d'oeuvres nirvana.

- 20-40 ounces mushrooms, washed with stems removed. Use less mushrooms if you want a "Would you like some mushrooms with your stuffing?" dish, and more if you prefer to highlight your mushrooms.
- 4 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs. Put your favorite bread through a food processor or to a cheese grater to achieve this.
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 TBSP dried parsley
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 TBSP butter
- 2 eggs, whipped
- Splash of red wine
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

How To Make Them
1) Splash a little wine into a pan and warm.
2) Add onion and garlic, sauté until translucent.
3) Combine breadcrumbs, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper, and cheese in a large mixing bowl. Add the onion/garlic mixture and the egg.
4) Melt the butter and stir into all. You should be able to pick up a bit of the stuffing and press it together to form a little ball. If the mixture seems too dry, add a bit more wine.
5) Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
6) Lay out your mushrooms on a baking sheet and fill with the stuffing.
7) Bake for 30-45 minutes. When the mushrooms are done they'll be golden brown, and you'll have to fight the urge to pop one in your mouth fresh out of the oven.
8) Make sure you eat a mushroom or two yourself before putting them out for friends and family. These little beauties disappear quickly!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Creative Deserts

Yes, you read that correctly: Creative deserts, not creative desserts. And you can consider this one over. Don't worry though, if I ever decide to wrap up this blog, I promise to be upfront with ya'll and not breakup on the sly.

After a few weeks pause, I'm reclaiming my cooking mojo, and I'm looking forward to writing again. In fact, I already have a freshly created and tested recipe to share! Here's to the process, and to the the breaths that make it possible.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Home Cook's Legacy

We all want to create something that lasts, something that outlives us and can be passed on from generation to generation. The ingredients we use in our day-to-day cooking can't fit that bill because food is impermanent. Meals are eaten, and life goes on. For the man or woman who loves to create meals for their loved ones, this causes a conundrum. Creating lacquered versions of each of every meal we cook just isn't practical.

Two important women in my life opted to put together cookbooks instead. My Nana Vidal authored one called Everything But... Filet Mignon. My Grandma Shook wrote Recipes: Remember These?. I cherish both; they contain recipes that were (and are) family favorites. Even if you didn't personally know either woman, reading her cookbook would tell you a lot about her. When I look for inspiration, I need go no further.

One day, I'll write my own cookbook for the up and coming cooks in my own little family. It might never be published, and that's okay. I put a lot of myself into my cooking. All I'm looking to do is share the love. In the meantime, I'll do that by cooking yummy food for the people I care about.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Marinated Bean Salad

Simple to assemble, and easily keeps in your 'fridge for a week-- This salad has it all. Use it as a dip for chips, a zippy topping for your leafy greens, and more!

- 1 pound of cooked black beans
- 1 pound of cooked black eyed peas
- 1 jalapeño, diced
- 1 pound of cooked corn
- 1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup sugar

How To Make It
1) Combine sugar in a pot with oil and vinegar, and bring to a boil.
2) After dissolving the sugar, let the mixture cool. 
3) Put the beans, black eyed peas, celery, onion, jalapeño and corn in a container that has a good tight lid and pour the liquid over it. Give it all a stir and put in refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
4) Before serving, drain off as much needed and keep the unused salad in the oil mixture.

Note: Oil may solidify or get cloudy in the refrigerator. If this happens, simply set the on your counter and bring to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sangria O'Leib

Have you ever made sangria? It's a very versatile drink, and like most of the recipes I share here you'll find that it has layers of flavor and is simple to prepare. So, grab your prettiest pitcher, some summer spirit, and get stirring!

- 1 bottle red wine
- 1 cup orange juice
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 cups of sliced, chopped, or chunked fruit (no peel or seeds): Take your pick-- Oranges, tangerines, strawberries, peaches, mango, blueberries, raspberries, kiwi, pineapple, or watermelon.
- 2 TBSP sugar, white or brown
- 1 shot brandy, triple sec, gin, or rum
- 2 cups ginger ale or sparkling juice

How To Make It
1) Pour wine, orange juice, and lime juice into your pitcher.
2) Toss it the fruit.
3) Add the sugar and spirits and stir all together.
4) Chill overnight.
5) Add ginger ale or sparkling juice just before serving. Salud!

Panna Cotta With Raspberry Coulis

I've been meaning to make panna cotta for months now. "Panna cotta" literally translates to "cooked cream" in Italian. Doesn't that sound divine? Add a little sugar, vanilla, et cetera, and you have yourself a dessert. If you're a vegetarian, you might find yourself in a bit of a pinch, however, when you find that gelatin is also on the traditional ingredient list. But, have no fear: Agar agar is here!

Agar agar is a 100% vegetarian gelatin made of seaweed. It's odorless, tasteless, and perfect for thickening desserts without using animal bones. I use the product at this link, and more information about using agar agar in cooking can be found here.

For the panna cotta you'll need...
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 TBSP agar agar flakes
- 2 tsp vanilla

For the raspberry coulis you'll need...
- 6 ounces raspberries
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 TBSP water

How To Cook It
The panna cotta...
1) Combine the panna cotta ingredients in a pot on your stove over low heat.
2) Stir frequently and bring to a simmer.
3) Cook on low (do not allow the liquid to boil!) as the agar agar dissolves and remove from heat.
4) Rinse four small bowls under cold water. Don't dry if you're planning on unmolding your dessert later.
5) Spoon your panna cotta into the bowls. They'll each need to hold about a half cup serving.
6) Allow to cool and set in the refrigerator for three or more hours, and serve.

The raspberry coulis...
1) Rinse the berries, and drain well.
2) Put in a pot with the water and sugar. Stir to combine.
3) Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently.
4) Remove from heat and blend using an immersion blender, food processor, or blender.
5) Allow your coulis to cool to room temperature and refrigerate until ready to drizzle over your panna cotta.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tip From The Hearth: Chilly Grapes

Don't you just love frozen treats during the hot days  of summer? They can make you feel cool and refreshed on the stickiest of afternoons. Ice cream, popsicles, gelato, frozen yogurt, mmmmmm.... Who needs dinner?

If I could, I'd eat large quantities of ice cream every day. But when I'm of a mind to eat well and nourish my body, I reach for my stash of frozen grapes.

If you haven't already discovered this tip on your own, I urge you to try it for yourself. Grapes contain a lot of water. When frozen, their insides turn into a delicious juice sorbet. And, little round containers of fruity sorbet I can eat without a spoon? Right up my alley!

How To Freeze 'Em
1) Wash grapes and pat dry.
2) Lay out in a single layer on a freezer safe baking sheet or casserole dish.
3) Allow to freeze overnight and store in a container of your choice.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Strawberry Mango Frozen Yogurt

It's definitely the season of the ice cream maker around our home. Last week I shared a recipe for chocolate ice cream; this week I bring you another recipe from the Cuisinart recipe booklet that came with my machine. The original ingredient list called for strawberries only, but I like my frozen desserts with a little tropical flair during the warmer months. Chunks of mango did just the trick!

- 48 ounces of plain low-fat yogurt, strained
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 2 TBSP light corn syrup
- 3/4 pound strawberries, tops removed and sliced
- 3/4 pound mango chunks
- 2 TBSP honey
- 2 TBSP lemon juice, freshly squeezed

How To Strain Yogurt
1) You'll need cheese cloth, a berry strainer, and a bowl to catch liquid that keeps the bottom of the strainer off the bottom of the bowl.
2) Line the strainer with the cheese cloth.
3) Scoop the yogurt into the cheese cloth and twist together at the top. Give the bundle a couple gentle squeezes to get the water moving through your cloth.
4) Place the bundle and strainer over a bowl and put in your refrigerator. Allow to drain for 2-4 hours.
5) The yogurt will have a consistency closer to greek yogurt/cream cheese when finished straining, and can then be used in this recipe.

How To Make It
1) Ready your ice cream maker according to package instructions. Older units usually require rock salt and ice; modern ones tend to have double-walled bowls that must be placed in a freezer for 24-hours.
2) In a large bowl, whisk the strained yogurt with the sugar, salt, vanilla, and corn syrup; reserve.
3) In a medium saucepan, heat the fruit, honey, and lemon juice on low for about 5 minutes, or until just softened.
4) Strain, discard liquid, and cool.
5) Once the strawberries and mangoes have cooled, stir into the yogurt mixture. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight.
6) Turn your ice cream maker on; pour mixture into the machine let mix until thickened, typically 25 to 35 minutes with a modern ice cream maker (pay attention to your unit's instructions).
7) The yogurt will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the yogurt to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Veggielicious Enchiladas

Try adding some nutritional value to your baked enchiladas using this recipe. From the shallots in the sauce to the peas and peppers in the filling, you'll find plenty of ingredients that make this dinner a knockout! Kick the health factor up a notch by using wheat or whole grain tortillas instead of the white flour variety.


- 6 large tortillas
- 1.5 cups of your favorite shredded cheese (a cheddar-monterey jack blend tends to work well)

For the sauce you'll need...
- 2 1/2 cups tomatoes, chopped
- 3 shallots, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (Cayenne tends to add heat more than flavor, so if you like your enchiladas on the mild side, leave this spice out.)

For the filling you'll need...
- 2 cups black beans, cooked
- 4 TBSP peas
- 2 cups bell pepper (any color), chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, minced (leave out if you want a mild enchilada filling)
- 1/2 of a large Vidalia onion, minced
- 15 baby corn-on-the-cobs (approximately one can), sliced
- 4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste

How To Cook It

The Sauce...
1) Add all ingredients to a pot. Bring to a boil.
2) Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes (stirring constantly), or until the mixture is reduced by half.

The Whole Enchilada...
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add all filling ingredients except for the beans and peas. Sauté on medium heat for about 5-10 minutes, until vegetables begin to brown just a little bit.
3) Stir the beans and peas into the pan and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
4) Divide the enchilada filling equally between the six tortillas. Roll up and lay seam side down in a glass baking dish.
5) Pour the sauce you've made over the top of the tortillas, and sprinkle the cheese over all.
6) Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is golden brown and bubbly.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Simple Chocolate Ice Cream

Ice cream is so pricey in New York City that I decided to start making my own. When you pay upwards of six dollars for a half gallon of run of the mill ice cream, making your own starts to look more appealing. So, I bought an ice cream maker by Cuisinart and made my first batch on Friday morning using the recipe booklet included with my new favorite kitchen toy. And, yes, it tastes as good as it looks.

Simple Chocolate Ice Cream
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 3/4 cups whole milk
- 3 3/4 cups heavy cream
- 1 TBSP vanilla extract

How To Make It
1) Ready your ice cream maker according to package instructions. Older units usually require rock salt and ice; modern ones tend to have double-walled bowls that must be placed in a freezer for 24-hours.
2) Place the cocoa and sugars in a medium mixing bowl; stir to combine.
3) Add the whole milk and use a hand mixer or immersion blender on low speed or whisk to combine until the cocoa and sugars are dissolved. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla.Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours, or overnight.
4) Turn your ice cream machine on; pour mixture into the machine let mix until thickened, typically 25 to 35 minutes with a modern ice cream maker (pay attention to your unit's instructions).
5) The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tip From The Hearth: Add A Little Color To Your Life

Whoever tells you that eating vegetables is boring hasn't ever encountered rainbow veggies. I used these colorful carrots in a dinner salad tonight. They're local, they're pretty, and I eat another serving of vegetables. Win, win, and win.

We're often told my nutritionists and doctors to Eat The Rainbow to help ensure that we get our daily servings of fruit and vegetables (check out the Fruit and Veggies Matter site to learn how many servings you should be eating). Vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and tomatoes all come in colors beyond the expected orange, white, and red, so seek out a little variety at your local farmer's market or grocery store this summer. You might be surprised how beautiful a veggies can be!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chilled Tortellini Salad

On a hot summer day, there are times when a warm meal just won't do. This cold, hearty salad is perfect for when you're looking for a meal that'll fill you up without turning your home into an oven. Make it the night before you plan to eat it so that the tortellini can marinate and all of the flavors can meld.

- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 8 ounces tortellini, cooked according to package instructions
- 8 ounces of your favorite hard cheese (I love using sharp cheddar!), cut into small cubes
- 1 large bell pepper, diced (I like using red, orange, or yellow)
- 1/3 cup olives, pitted and sliced
- 3 cups of your favorite salad greens (spinach, lettuce, arugula, etc.)

How To Make It
1) Put olive oil, vinegar, dry mustard, oregano, basil, and minced garlic in a bowl. Blend well using an emersion blender. Set aside.
2) Place hot pasta in a lidded container, pour your marinade over it, and invert/gently shake container
several times to coat well.
3) Cool the mixture to room temperature.
4) Add cheese cubes, pepper pieces, and the olives.
5) Invert/shake again to coat all ingredients.
6) Chill for several hours, ideally overnight.
7) Right before serving add your fresh greens.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grilled Corn

Corn on the cob is a real summer treat.Celebrate the season by using a grill or griddle to cook the ears instead of using the traditional stockpot on the stove.

- Corn, desired number of ears

How To Grill It
1) Soak corn (in the husk) in a large pot of water for at least one hour. The water absorbed by the husk will essentially steam the corn while it cooks on your grill.
2) Preheat your grill or griddle and place corn ears on top. No oiling necessary.
3) Grill the corn for 15-20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so for even cooking.
4) Husk the corn, de-silk, and serve with your favorite toppings.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Midsummer Night's Soup

You've got a 'fridge full of summer produce but are running short on recipe ideas? This quick and easy soup is a great way to use up those veggies! A couple adjustments can easily make this a vegan-friendly soup as well, so rev up your stock pot and favorite chopping knife, and you'll have dinner done in less than an hour.

- kernels from four ears of corn, freshly sliced from the cob
- 1 green zucchini, pealed and chopped
- 1 yellow zucchini, pealed and chopped
- 3 small/medium potatoes (skins on), diced
- 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1 cup of your favorite salsa
- 2 TBSP butter
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

How To Cook It
1) Sauté zucchini in butter until softened. Add ginger and cook a little longer.
2) Add in corn, potatoes, salsa, broth, salt, and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are soft.
3) Stir in the milk, cook 5 minutes longer, and serve!

Note: Vegan in the house? Use olive oil instead of butter and use an additional cup of broth instead of the milk.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rainbow Angel Food Cake

Our church celebrates NYC Pride every year. This year I offered to contribute a cake for the festivities and came up with the idea of dressing up a plain angel food cake with the colors of the rainbow. For the cake, I used a tried and true recipe from The All New Good Housekeeping Cook Book. The rest was just putting together a pretty design with colorful fruits.

For The Cake You'll Need...
- 1 cup cake flour
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 2/3 cups egg whites (12-14 large eggs)
- 1 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp almond extract

Get at least five fruits: a variety of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple. If you have other shade of fruit to add into the mix do so, but I used the following fruits and assembled the leftovers into a tasty salad.
- strawberries
- mandarin oranges
- pineapple
- green grapes
- blueberries
- blackberries

How To Make It
1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Sift flour and powdered sugar together over a small bowl.
3) In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until foamy. Increase speed to high. Beat until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until whites stand in stiff, glossy peaks when beaters are lifted. Beat in vanilla and almond extracts.
4) Sift flour mixture, one-third at a time, over beaten egg whites. Fold in with rubber spatula just until flour mixture is no longer visible. Do not overmix.
5) Scrape batter into an ungreased 9-10 inch tube pan; spread evenly. Bake until cake springs back when lightly pressed, 35-40 minutes. Invert cake in pan onto a baking sheet and allow to cool completely. Run a thin knife or spatula around the cake to loosen from side and center of tube pan. Remove from pan and place on cake plate/platter.
6) Slice fruit into bite size pieces and arrange around finished cake.
7) Serve with additional dusted powdered sugar or fresh whipped cream.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Tip From The Hearth: Make Stromboli

Looking to mix up your pizza night? Make stromboli instead of pizza for a change. Sounds kinda fancy and difficult, right? Well, I seek to make my kitchen a no-intimidation zone, so no! Only an extra step or two and longer baking time required. Stromboli is essentially just a pizza in jellyroll form.

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Prepare your pizza dough.
3) Using your hands and/or a rolling pin, roll the dough out on a rectangular cookie sheet until it looks like it would be ready to turn into a regular pizza.
4) Add your favorite toppings (think red sauce, cheese, broccoli, mushrooms, garlic, onions, meat for the omnivores if you're making a couple of these at a time, etc.). Use a little more sparingly than you would with pizza to avoid the a mess of stromboli filling on your baking sheet.
5) Roll up as you would a jelly roll (or a loaf of cinnamon bread) and pinch the ends together. Use a little water if the dough is difficult to stick together.Place seam down on your baking sheet.
6) Lightly brush the top of the stromboli with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with a little bit of cheese.
7) Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until thoroughly browned.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Sugared Tomatoes

I know plenty of folks who sprinkle sugar on their morning grapefruit, but tomatoes?!? It's true that tomatoes are usually savory fare, but they can also be transformed into an easy summer dessert.

When I was a girl, I was introduced to the idea of "tomatoes as dessert" by an elderly friend of the family. He and his wife both told me that when they grew up on their respective family farms, their parents would pluck tomatoes from the garden, add sugar, are serve to the kids for dessert. I was skeptical, but tried and fell in love with the idea.

So, how do you make a light summery dessert and use up excess tomatoes in the process? Very, very simple...

- tomatoes, thickly sliced
- sugar, to taste (I'd recommend just using less sugar over an artificial sweetener any day.)

How To Prepare
1) Lightly sprinkle your tomato slices with sugar and serve. That's it. Done. Yum!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Tip From The Hearth: Fuss-Free Dinner Parties

Have you always wanted to have friends and family over for dinner, but don't like cooking big, involved meals? I try to host weekly gatherings of friends in our homes, but some times I go through phases where I want nothing to do with long-winded prep work or standing over a stove.

So, what to do? You want the fun of a dinner without the same level of fuss. Ordering pizza and wings is fun, but can't happen on a regular basis. Instead of investing more time than you'd like in the kitchen, have a "Make Your Own (Insert Customizable Food Here) Night."

This week I'm having Make Your Own Quesadilla Night. Provided by me:
  • tortillas
  • shredded cheese
  • salsa
  • black beans
  • sautéed onions
  • sautéed bell peppers
Anyone coming has been asked to bring an additional fun filling, topping, or side of their choice. A few years ago, I plunked down $30 one of those unnecessary indispensable small appliances, a quesadilla maker, to make quesadilla nights even more fuss-free. Folks can personalize the meal to their hearts' content.

Not a fan of quesadillas? No problem! You can have your own "Make Your Own" dinner party with other foods including, but not limited to:
  • baked potatoes (just add sour cream, cheese, broccoli, bacon, etc.)
  • salad (you provide a base of greens and dressing, friends bring add-ins)
  • tacos
  • veggie burgers/burgers
Have fun, be creative, and let dinner take care of itself for a change!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Grandma's Cinnamon Bread: Part Two

When it comes to breakfast, noot much tops a fresh, warm loaf of cinnamon bread. Beware! This bread has a history of disappearing quickly.

You'll need a starter to make this cinnamon bread, so don't forget to check out Part One of this recipe for easy instructions.

- 1/3 cup sugar (in the original recipe as optional, so I don't use it)
- 1/2 cup corn/canola/vegetable oil
- 1 cup cinnamon bread starter
- 1 1/2 cups warm water
- 6 cups bread flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt

How To Bake It
1) Combine your liquid ingredients (oil, water, starter), then add it sugar and salt so that it has a little time to dissolve.
2) Slowly mix in the flour using either a spoon/hands or a stand mixer to form a stiff dough.
3) Lightly spray the top of the dough with oil and cover with plastic wrap or a towel that you don't mind getting dough on.
4) When the dough has doubled in volume (usually 8-12 hours depending on the temperature of your home), punch down. Knead on a floured surface until no longer sticky and divide into three equal parts.
5) Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease three loaf pans. I like using stoneware pans; Grandma used metal. Choose what works for you.
6) Stretch each section of dough into a long piece.
7) Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon onto the dough and roll up as you would a jelly roll.
8) Pinch the ends of the loaves together with your fingers and place in the greased loaf pans.
9) Spray a little oil on the tops of the bread. Sprinkle a little extra cinnamon and sugar on top for an extra dose of YUM!
10) Cover the pans with plastic wrap/a towel. Let stand for 4-5 hours, or until the dough rises a little above the top of the pans.
11) Bake for 30 minutes until the bread is nicely browned.
12) This bread freezes nicely, but don't forget to share! If bread starts to get stale before you can eat it, it also makes fantastic french toast.

NOTE: Don't like cinnamon bread? Just form the dough into loaves right away without rolling up with the cinnamon and sugar. Instant white bread, which is also delicious.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grandma's Cinnamon Bread: Part One

My Grandma Shook used this recipe to bake bread for her family and friends; it makes three loaves. She started the tradition of keeping a loaf or two for the family as a breakfast treat and giving the rest away. I ask that you continue the tradition: Remember, your mama always taught you to share...

The Starter
Starters are living, breathing yeast colonies. You'll need one to bake this bread, but don't worry-- their care and feeding is simple.

- 2 1/4 tsp yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 TBSP instant mashed potato flakes

How To Make Your Starter
1) Dissolve yeast in warm water
2) Add sugar and potato flakes
3) Refrigerate for three days in a container with a lid loosely on top. I use a mason jar.
4) For extra fun, give your starter a name!

Feeding Your Starter
Whether you bake on a regular basis or not, you'll need to feed your starter about once a week.

- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 TSBP instant mashed potato flakes

Feed Your Yeast!
1) Add the ingredients to your starter, mix well, and let stand out of the refrigerator for 8-12 hours. Keep free from drafts and in your original container. Starter will be slightly bubbly after being out of the refrigerator.

If you're not baking bread...
2a) Set aside 1 cup of your starter and either discard the rest or give some to a friend so that they can have a starter of their own.
3a) Pour the cup of starter into the original container and return it to the 'fridge. Feed again within 5-8 days.

Baking day...
2b) Set aside 1 cup of your starter for baking and another cup to return to the 'fridge in the original container. Discard the rest.
3b) Feed the starter you return to the refrigerator within 5-8 days.
4b) Use the remaining cup of starter to bake your bread.

To be continued...

Budding New Yorker

I've been working from home part time since last November. Recently, I was offered another work-from-home opportunity, took on the challenge, and found myself with later nights and significantly less free time. Mamahood plus two additional jobs? I'm finally a real New Yorker!!

I'm sure you've long since picked up the pieces and moved on with your lives... but I missed you! I missed my kitchen! There's been far too much eating things out of packages and my supply of leftovers is beginning to dwindle. That, and I've found that Gavin has entered the dreaded picky toddler eating phase. He only eats vegetables when they're cooked into tasty things like soup and curries. Smart boy. Looking forward to sharing good food with all of you!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sunshine and Popsicles

Did your Mom ever make you popsicles when you were little? Bring a little sweet chill to your warm weather fun by making your own. The process is so simple I won't even call it a recipe...

- Popsicle molds. I have a set from my childhood, but you can find your own online.
- Take your pick! I used peach and pineapple yogurts from Chobani in this batch, but you can use any kind of yogurt you have on hand, juice, pudding, or even make a smoothie and pour it into your molds.

How To "Cook" It
1) Pour your chosen ingredients into the popsicle molds.
2) Put in the freezer for the same amount of time as it takes your ice cubes to freeze, ideally overnight.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Asparagus Soup

I looooooove asparagus in spring. Heck, I love asparagus any time of year, but enjoying a vegetable in season is where it's at. If you have a half hour and want to use the extra asparagus you have laying around, try out this recipe. Not only are we using one seasonal vegetable, but I've thrown in spring-only fresh garlic and green garlic stalks for good measure. If you're not reading this in the spring, then just replace the garlic stalks with leeks or any other vegetable that has a mild onion flavor.

- 2 TBSP butter
- 1 1/2 TBSP flour
- 1 head garlic, chopped
- 1/2 cup green garlic stalks, cleaned and sliced thin
- 1 bunch asparagus, with dry ends snapped off and snipped into small pieces
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup white wine
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- salt and pepper to taste

How To Cook It
1) Using a dutch oven or stock pot, melt the butter. Add the garlic and sliced garlic stalks. Sauté until both are tender.
2) Stir in the flour (make sure to blend it in well), and cook for an additional few minutes.
3) Pour in the wine and use the liquid to remove the browned garlic and garlic stalk pieces from the bottom of the pan so that they can add flavor to your soup.
4) Add the vegetable broth, asparagus, rosemary, ginger, salt, and pepper.
5) Simmer until the asparagus is tender, about 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the color of your asparagus. When it turns bright green, it's pretty close to being done. Going from that nice green to a browner color means that you've overcooked it.
6) Remove the soup from the heat and purée until smooth using an immersion blender, food processor, blender, etc.
7) Place your pot back on the stove and add your milk. Cook for an additional five minutes and serve.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Pasta Lentil Bolognese

This recipe became what I like to call... accidentally vegan. Translation: Laura forgot to add milk. It was delicious though, and it is nice to have a recipe that can be good with or without animal products.

The recipe comes from the April/May 2011 issue of Clean Eating Magazine. My in-laws gave us a subscription as a gift, and there's a lot of inspiration to be had by looking at all of their culinary creations. They describe what a bolognese sauce is with the recipe too, which is nice: Bolognese sauce is a rich ragout that simmers for hours, coaxing flavor from aromatic vegetables and texture from at least one form of meat. Our plant-based version honors it's roots with steady preparation (thankfully quicker than several hours!) that persuades sweet notes from caramelized vegetables and soft yet sturdy chew from meaty lentils. A splash of milk (OOPS) towards the end of an hour-long stovetop stay rounds out the zip of the tomato-based sauce.

Now, without further adieu, I give you Pasta Lentil Bolognese...

- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced small
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
- 2 small celery stalks, diced small
- 1 small fennel bulb, diced smal
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (I used one head of garlic instead)
- 2 TBSP white wine vinegar
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup lentils
- 28 ounces canned, diced/chopped tomatos
- 2 tsp oregano
- 2 tsp parsley
- 1 tsp basil
- 8 ounces pasta
- 1/2 cup low-fat milk
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

How To Cook It
1) In a large Dutch oven or saucepot, heat oil on medium-high. Add onion, carrot, celery, fennel, and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until released water evaporates and brown bits begin to form on bottom of pot, about 15 minutes. Add vinegar and scrape any brown bits from bottom of pot as liquid evaporates. Stir in broth, 1 cup water, lentils, tomatoes, oregano, parsley, and basil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2) Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and set aside.
3) Add milk to bolognese and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

So, my friend Shannon is biking 300 miles this week to raise awareness about climate change. She's titled her journey: Will Bike For Change (Or Pie!), and since she's joining us for dinner tonight before her ride kicks off in New York I thought it only fitting that we have pie for dessert. Strawberry-Rhubarb is a classic spring pie, and while rhubarb is bitter on it's own it pairs nicely with the sweetness of the strawberries. You'll find yourself headed back to your 'fridge for seconds.

A tip from me: Strawberries and rhubarb are both juicy ingredients. This pie will most likely turn out to have some extra liquid. Rather than drowning your filling with too much more flour than the recipe calls for, embrace a little juice! You can always serve your pie over ice cream, where juice is an advantage. Now, wouldn't that be a shame?


For the crust you'll need...
- 3 cups flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup vegetable shortening
- 1.5 TBSP vinegar
- 10-12 TBSP water

For the filling you'll need...
- 6 cups strawberries, de-stemmed and sliced
- 2 cups rhubarb stalks, sliced
- 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
- 1 tsp lemon juice, ideally freshly squeezed
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup flour

How To Cook It

The crust...
1) Blend flour and salt.
2) Cut in shortening with a pastry cutter until the pieces are the size of small peas.
3) Sprinkle the water/vinegar into the flour mixture while gently tossing the mixture with a fork. Form into two balls. Try to handle the dough as little as possible, but add a little more water if the dough is too dry.
4) Put the dough balls into the refrigerator to chill.
5) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit while you prepare the filling.

Assembling and baking your pie...
1) After you've combined your filling ingredients in a large bowl, grease a pie plate.
2) Place the dough on a floured surface and roll from the center to the edges to make a round flat dough that is a little bigger than your pie plate.
3) Gently fold it in half to pick it up and place it on the pie plate. Pat down and add your filling.
4) Repeat step two to make the top crust.
5) Crimp the edges together, using a little water if necessary.
6) Using a knife, cut some openings in the top of the pie. Be creative! You could do anything from a couple simple lines on up. Think of it like carving a jack-o-lantern if it helps you to have a little more fun.
7) Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet (to catch any drips) and bake for 50 minutes, or until the crust is nice and golden.
8) Allow your pie to rest for at least an hour before serving.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Baking Class: Butter Lane Cupcakes

I had the pleasure of joining a group of ladies from the Urban Girl Squad at Butter Lane Cupcakes last night for a baking class. I don't journey downtown often, but let me tell you: The cupcakes and baking/decorating classes at Butter Lane are officially added to my list of excuses to hop on the subway. All ingredients are fresh, natural, and ideally local as well. Best of all, not a glimpse of fondant in sight!

We learned some tricks of the trade to help us improve our baking techniques:
  • Use cake flour when making cupcakes. It has less gluten than all purpose flour, and will make for a lighter cake.
  • When mixing your flour into the wet ingredients in your recipe, less is more. Don't mix the batter too much, or you'll develop more gluten in the flour. Translation: Chewy cupcakes. Stop your mixer (or your spoon) when the flour just disappears.
  • On the other hand, it's the opposite when making a good butter cream frosting. For nice fluffy, light frosting, mix for a longer period of time.
  • Even when you're not making cream cheese frosting, add some to frosting recipe. It's not exactly intuitive, but it cuts down on the amount of sugar you need in your cupcake topping. 
  • Move beyond the basic vanilla, chocolate, and cream cheese frosting flavors. Feeling adventurous? Mix a scoop of peanut butter into your chocolate frosting! Add some fresh fruit preserves into your vanilla frosting! Shake some cinnamon into that cream cheese!
  • Use an ice cream scoop when you add the cupcake batter to your liners. It will ensure that you have an equal amount of cupcake mix in each cup.
Disclaimer: I am in no way a skilled cupcake decorator, as you can see from the above photo. The other women and I did our best, but we were no match for our teacher... who had attended pastry school! This was a delicious treat though, and I truly enjoyed my experience at Butter Lane. I look forward to developing my decorating skills in the coming years.

If you're in New York City, stop by the bakery on East 7th Street for a dessert to remember. Whether you're a local or some distance from Manhattan, you'll definitely enjoy the recipes posted on the Butter Lane Cupcakes page on Facebook (like the page, then look under PDFs). Happy baking!

Tip From The Hearth: Make Your Own Vanilla Sugar

Coffee drinkers and sugar aficionados rejoice! Did you know you can make your own flavored sugar? All you need: One used vanilla bean and two cups of sugar. Once you've cut open the bean and used it's yummy goodness in a batch of frosting, ice cream, cookies, etc, bury the pod in two cups of sugar. Allow the mixture to rest for a week. When the week is up and you remove the bean, you'll have two cups of vanilla-flavored sugar to use as you see fit.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Baked Meatballs

Do you have omnivores in your life? I do, and I cook meat for them. Where my son is concerned, it's a matter of choice: When Gavin is an adult, he'll choose what diet he wants to follow. In order for it to be a real decision, he'll need to be able to digest meat. Sure, he could get all of the nutrition he needs from an octo-lavo vegetarian diet like I do, but as anyone who has eaten a big hamburger after giving up red meat for a significant period of time can tell you: It's not going to be a picnic digesting the thing. So, Gavin will eat meat as a little boy. If he trends like his mama he'll get sick of it by the time he's in middle school, and he can learn how to have a healthy diet without it. If he follows in his daddy's footsteps, I'll need to invest in a good set of steak knives. Either way, it'll be his choice.

Now, where others (including my husband) are concerned, it comes down to this: I do not feel that my status as a vegetarian means that others around me should/must follow the same path. You'll encounter some "Vegan-gelicals" out there, but I am not one of them. Vegetarian food is tasty and nutritious, and you're missing out on a great meal if you poo-poo food when it doesn't have cow, pig, chicken, fish, etc. in it, but if you feel you want to eat meat-- eat it. My only request to my omnivore friends is to look into where your meat and animal products come from. Purchase them from local, responsible, humane, and (ideally) organic farmers; do not support the factory farming industry.

Phew! Quite a soapbox speech that was. On to the recipe. These meatballs have been endorsed by Gavin, who cleaned his plate, and Greg, who said that they were "tasty".

- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 TBSP red wine, plus a little extra
- 1 egg
- 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (either from a container, or made with stale bread you've got laying around)
- 1 tsp parsley
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp oregano

How To Cook It
1)  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2) Get a big bowl, and mix together all of your non-meat ingredients until well-blended.
3) Using your hands (or gloved hands), knead the beef into the mixture.
4) Roll meat into balls (this recipe should make about 15-20) and leave in the bowl.
5) Heat up a little olive oil in a large oven-safe pan with a lid.
6) Once the pan is hot (but not scorching... olive oil has a low smoke point), add the meatballs and brown for a couple minutes.
7) Add a splash of red wine to the pan, immediately cover with the lid, and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes.
8) Serve over pasta and red sauce, sliced up on a pizza, on a salad... be creative!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spring Leek and Farro Soup

I've never been one for wimpy, wispy soups, and that shows with this recipe. You'll find the flavors to be both easy on the taste buds and robust. Pull up a chair and enjoy some hearty soup, with seasonal leeks at the heart of the recipe.

The leek a lighter, milder version of the same family onions and garlic belong to. It doesn't get nearly as much praise as it deserves. Break out some leeks when adding onions would take things over the top, and you don't want to overpower your other ingredients. They're subtle, yet flavorful.

- 3 leeks, sliced thin (Never cooked with leeks? Check out this tutorial.)
- 1 cup corn
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- 2 TBSP butter
- 2 cups pearled farro
- Salt, to taste
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 2 TBSP cayenne pepper-based hot sauce (optional)
- Pomegranate seeds (optional)

How To Cook It
1) Sauté leeks and celery in butter until translucent, but not browned. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the top and cook just a minute or so more.
2) Add 4 cups of the vegetable broth, corn, rosemary, hot sauce, and salt. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
3) Remove from heat, add the other 4 cups vegetable broth, and blend together using either (my favorite) an immersion blender, and a bit at a time in a regular blender.
4) Bring the mixture back up to a boil, stir in farro, and simmer for 30 minutes or until farro is cooked al dente.
5) Stir in the milk (I used skim; you can add a higher-fat milk for a richer soup) and cheese. Cook a few minutes more.
6) Garnish with pomegranate seeds and serve.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Salem Oatmeal

I know I said I wasn't going to do any cooking this trip, but this healthy breakfast was too easy not to share! Plug in your microwave, and get ready to make yourself a hearty bowl of oatmeal. Not much measuring going on here; just throw it all in the bowl and press "go."

- 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats
- 1/2 cup water
- cinnamon, to taste
- chopped walnuts, to taste
- dried cranberries, to taste
- sweetener (maple syrup, brown sugar, etc.), optional

How To Cook It
1) Add all ingredients to a microwavable bowl.
2) Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, depending on the power of your appliance.
3) Remove from the microwave and stir everything together.
4) Top with fresh fruit of your choice.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

From Other Homes and Hearths: The Cook Is On Vacation

I'll be traveling until the end of the month, but you can still stop by the Cooking From My Hearth Facebook page and see photos of the yummy food and drink I'm encountering as I visit family on my way from Upstate New York to the Carolinas.

First Installment: A Cheddar and Jarlsburg Quiche baked by my wonderful inlaws last weekend. Curious about the pretty edges? They used a tart pan to get a quiche with curves. It looks a little bit like a sunflower, doesn't it?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


In my early twenties, I lived in Ithaca, New York, home to great vegan and vegetarian fare... along with some awesome waterfalls! Unfortunately, I wasn't a vegetarian then, and I had no idea what I was missing when I walked by the original Moosewood Restaurant. I once stopped in for an Italian Soda on a hot afternoon, but that was about it. Little did I know that eating without meat could be not only manageable, but delicious! I've been meat-free for a few years now, and I've cooked and baked regularly using the wonderful cookbooks published by Moosewood.

This recipe for Samosas from The New Moosewood Cookbook is a favorite of mine. If you have some time to put in to the prep work, I promise you'll reap the rewards!

For the dough you'll need...
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup buttermilk or yogurt
- extra flour as needed

For the filling you'll need...
- 2 large potatoes
- 1 TBSP butter
- 1 cup onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced (I usually double the garlic)
- 1 TBSP freshly grated ginger (If you don't have fresh ginger, use 1 TBSP powdered ginger)
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp dried coriander
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked green peas (Thawed frozen peas work just fine)
- 2 TBSP lemon juice
- Cayenne pepper, to taste

For the dipping sauce you'll need...
- 1/2 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 TBSP brown sugar
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp salt

How To Cook It

The Dough...
1) Place the flour in a medium-sized bowl. Mix in the salt.
2) Make a well in the center, and add the buttermilk or yogurt. Mix first with a spoon and then with your hand, to make a smooth dough. (or use a stand mixer)
3) Add extra flour, as needed, to keep the dough from being sticky. The dough will be quite soft. Knead in the bowl for about 5 minutes. Cover tightly and refrigerate until you are ready to assemble the pastries.

The Filling...
1) Peel the potatoes and chop them into 1-inch pieces.
2) Place in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil until very soft. Drain and transfer to a medium-sized bowl. Mash and set aside.
3) Melt the butter in a heavy skillet. Add onion, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, coriander, and salt. Sauté over medium heat 8-10 minutes, or until onions are quite soft. 
4) Add this to the mashed potatoes, along with the remaining ingredients. Mix well, but try not to smash the peas. Cool for at least 15 minutes before filling the pastries.

To Assemble and Bake...
1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Generously oil a baking sheet.
2) Keep a small container of flour, a fork, a small bowl of water, and a pastry brush close at hand. Flour a clean surface, and, one by one, roll 1-inch balls of dough into 5-inch circles, using a rolling pin.
3) Place approximately 1 1/2 TBSP filling in the center of each circle, and fold over, just like a turnover. Brush the inside edges of each circle with a little water, and fold the edges together to make a small hem. Crimp the edges firmly with a fork. Note: If you are storing the samosas to bake later on, place them on a heavily floured plate or tray, dust the tops with more flour, and cover tightly. Store in the refrigerator or freezer until baking time.
4) To bake: Place the samosas on the oiled baking sheet. Brush the tops with oil. Bake 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 10 minutes more. For maximum crispness, turn the samosas over when you turn the oven down.
5) Serve with dipping sauce within 5 minutes of baking. A nice way to serve the sauce is in individual saucers or tiny bowls, so each person can hold both samosa and sauce directly under his or her face while eating, and the sauce bowl can catch drips.

The Dipping Sauce...
1) Place all dipping sauce ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
2) Heat to boiling, then let simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. The mixture will reduce slightly.
3) Serve warm or at room temperature with hot samosas.