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.

Tip From The Hearth: Say Farewell To Wilted Greens

Not a fan of wilted and mushy green leafy vegetables? Add a napkin or a piece of paper towel to the bag or container you're storing them in. It will absorb excess moisture, allowing your spinach, romaine, or leafy vegetable of choice to stay fresh longer. Mine usually well outlast the expiration date on the bag or wrapping.

Paper towel getting too soggy? Just replace it with a fresh one and you're good to go. It's obviously not a permanent fix, but you'll definitely find yourself tossing more salads and less wasted food.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Frothy Maple Frappe

Like many things in life, figuring out the recipe for a frappe took a couple tries. I wanted to make a blended iced coffee drink like you can get at a coffee shop, but without $5.00 leaving your wallet. The basic ingredients are in most kitchens, so you can make this treat any time! You'll need milk, coffee, ice cubes, and a sweetener. You can even put in additional flavors to suit your taste.

I opted to use maple syrup in my frappe this morning. It's sugaring season in New England and  Merck Forest and Farmland Center, one of my favorite places to visit, is tapping their maples trees and producing fresh, organic maple syrup. Maple syrup makes the perfect addition to a frappe, since it serves as both sweetener (no sugar necessary!) and flavoring.

- 1/3 cup whole milk (Use reduced fat milk for a lighter drink, or half and half or heavy cream for a richer one.)
- 3/4 cup coffee, cooled
- 7-8 ice cubes
- 1/8 cup maple syrup

How to Cook It
1) Place all ingredients in your blender.
2) Blend until fully combined. It's that simple!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Little Extra Sugar From Penzeys Spices

Have you ever looked at a quotation, took a step back from a painting, or listened to a song and realized that even though someone else had thought it up it was oh... so you. That happened to me today when I opened a box of spices I had ordered from Penzeys and found the nicely worded bumper sticker in the above photo.

We have a Penzeys in the market at Grand Central Station where I usually stop to get my herbs, spices, and miscellaneous seasonings, but my son Gavin has been sick so I placed an order online. Mmmmm... Vietnamese Cinnamon and Crystallized Ginger...

Now, being a city-dweller, I don't have a car to stick this piece of "Laura flair" upon, but you can rest assured that it's hanging by some decorative magnets on my 'fridge. And while Penzeys trademarked the phrase, it definitely resonates with this cook!

Tip From The Hearth: Don't Let Your Coffee Beans Breathe

It sounds cruel, but it's a fact of life. Air and moisture are the enemy of your coffee beans, so if you're looking to make that perfect cup of coffee:
  • Store your coffee beans in an airtight container. I'm a fan of canning jars.
  • Grind the beans only as you need them.
  • Don't freeze your coffee if you want it to keep it's maximum flavor.
  • Buy only what you'll use within a week or two; coffee goes stale quickly.
Don't forget, you can use coffee for more than just a morning pick-me-up: It's a great ingredient too, and pairs especially well with chocolate.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Zinny Peaches

Well, I was originally going to be cooking with fresh pineapple today, but I  was too slow. The pineapple was starting to mold, and mold is not delicious (Hush, blue cheese fans!). As a yummy substitute, I thought I'd use up a few frozen peach slices. Peaches aren't in season right now in New York, and frozen gets you closer to the taste I look for with this recipe than the syrupy canned variety. If peaches are in season where you are, use those!

- 1 large peach, peeled, pitted, and sliced into wedges (or equivalent of frozen, no sugar added peach slices)
- 6 whole cloves
- 1.5 cups White Zinfandel
- 1/8 cup sugar

How to Cook It
1) Put the peach slices in a bowl and prick lightly with a fork.
2) Add the whole cloves to the bowl and cover all with the White Zinfandel.
3) Allow the peaches and cloves to soak up the wine for 2-3 hours.
4) Preheat your grill. I use a griddle on top of my stove since we don't have a grill.
5) Meanwhile, strain the peach bits out of the wine and pour it and the whole cloves into a pot. Stir in the sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil.
6) Use a spoon or strainer to remove the cloves from the simmering wine after about 5 minutes. Continue to cook the wine down, stirring frequently, until it reduces to a sauce consistency.
7) Grill peaches for a few minutes on each side until tender.
8) Plate the peaches and drizzle lightly with the wine sauce. It's sweet, so a little goes a long way.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Spicy Mushroom and Pea Farrotto

Here's a winning recipe for the history geeks like me! Farro, also known as spelt or emmer, is the oldest cultivated grain in the world and one of the most nutritious. It fed the Roman Legion. A serving of farro is packed with protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals.

For a twist on your favorite risotto recipe, replace the rice with farro for a more nutritious and equally delicious meal.

- 3 cups dry pearled farro, soaked overnight
- 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, chopped to your desired size
- 2 shallots, diced
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 3 cups frozen peas
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 TBSP red pepper flakes (optional)

How To Cook It
1) Bring the vegetable broth to a boil in pot.
2) Sauté the shallots and mushrooms until the shallots are translucent.
3) Add the salt, pepper, and (if using) red pepper flakes.
4) Stir in the farro and continue to sauté all for another 3-5 minutes or so. Stir constantly to avoid burning or sticking until you're done with step nine.
5) Add the wine and cook until the liquid is gone.
6) Scoop in a couple ladles (approximately a cup) of the boiling broth and cook until the liquid is gone.
7) Repeat step six until the farro is cooked al dente. I had no more vegetable broth in the second pot when my farro was done.
8) Stir in the parmesan cheese until it melts and combines with the other ingredients. The mixture should look wonderfully creamy.
9) Lastly, stir in the peas and continue to cook on low heat until the peas defrost (1-2 minutes).