I just haven’t been posting!
But I’ve been making Salads, and Jalapeno poppers and Ice Cream and lots more.  Life gets in the way sometimes, and sometimes that’s a good thing.

Instead of sitting in front of the computer updating multiple blogs, I’ve been sitting at the table and enjoying the meals.

I’ll be back though- those cold winter nights mean a lot more cooking, and probably some more free time on the weekends.

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July is over, and I got in 7 recipes if you count the fail.  Sweet!

It doesn’t seem like July would be the kind of month you’d want to make granola in.  Granola is kind of a Fall and Winter dish.  Hearty, needs baking, full of toasted treats.  However, when my Mom talked to me about her desire to make a granola recipe she had seen in the Times, I realized taht deep down it was something I was dying to do!

She sent over this recipe: Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricot .  I was in.  I headed to Whole Foods to do the supply shopping.  I couldn’t find the sulpher dried apricots.  All they had were good old fashioned, no sulpher added apricots.  They were an ugly brown, oh well- I went with them.  The rest of the ingredients were easy to find.

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 1/2 cups raw pistachios, hulled

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled

1 cup coconut chips

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coconut chips, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.

2. Transfer granola to a large bowl and add apricots, tossing to combine.

Who knew, well most people probably know, that making granola was so easy?  The only problem I had was having to stir the granola every 10 minutes.  It make the apartment smell great, the cardamon and cinnamon make for a delicious smell, and I couldn’t resist tasting it as soon as it cooled down a bit.  Yum.  I’ve been eating it for breakfast for a week with soy milk.  Double yum.  As soon as I was done with this granola, I wanted to make another and change it up a bit too.  Add different nuts, etc.  I also wanted to get some of the lovely bright orange dried apricots and toss them in.  So I went for it!

I bought raw cashews and pecans and dried apricots.  I still had plenty of oats and the left over pumpkin seeds.  This is what creation looked like in recipe form:

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 1/2 cups raw pecans

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled

1 cup raw cashews

1 cup coconut chips

1/4 cup pure maple syrup- I ran out!

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil- To make up for the maple syrup

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom- It is a strong flavor!

1 cup chopped dried apricots

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, coconut chips, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes.  I stirred it twice, but the parchment ensures it won’t burn!

2. Transfer granola to a large bowl and add apricots, tossing to combine.

Looking back on this try- I would have chopped the nuts a little bit.  Not only would it spread them out, but they are big nuts in general.

Overall- both of these recipes are easy, and delicious.  I will definitely be making granola in my future!

My Grandma makes a mean potato salad.  It is her recipe we use as a go to one when we need a pot luck salad.  It is flavorful, easy and reminds me of how she says, Po-day-do.  Love that Quincy accent that reveals itself every now and then.

So, when I saw The Pioneer Woman’s Potato Salad recipe I was hesitant to let my true feelings express themselves.  They were dying to yell out, “I love you Grandma but this one sounds so yummy and interesting and I really really want to try it!”  So I took a deep breath and let them out, and then set to the task of making this potato salad for 17 people, which meant doubling it, which meant a lot of work, which meant with a mild cold all this cooking knocked me on my butt!  But it was worth it.  Cause, dang this was good!

Using a food mill isn’t easy, but it does produce some great results.  The potoatoes were fluffy and soft and the flavors mixed with them just exploded.  I loved the addition of eggs, I love me some hardboiled eggs.  I didn’t use pickles.  1. I don’t like sweet pickles.  2. I forgot to buy dill ones and with my Brother in Japan we didn’t have any in the house.  I could see pickles adding a lot.  Truth be told, this potato salad was packed with flavor as it was!  Lastly, I am with her on the dilemma of the skins- I wanted to fry them in a pan and eat them right up, it felt like a shame to waste them.  But I was tired, not hungry, and didn’t want to cook one more thing when all was said and done.

It was hard to double this recipe and not run out of bowl space.  I can’t remember if I resorted to mixing with my hands, I think I stuck with my spooon and got the job done- but I’m not confident that the mustards, mayos and eggs got everywhere they needed to go.  It was a lot of potatoes!  But it was a good thing I made that much, people were going back for 2nds and 3rds. Seriously, it is that good.

You know what the worst part of this recipe was?  Looking at the amount of mayo that is about to get mixed in.  That scared me.  But I did it.  And thank god I did, potatoes need dressings to be their tastiest selves.  Trust me.

Okay, now that I’m sitting here day dreaming about July 4th weekend again, read on for the recipe and then help me decide what to make for my last 2 July recipes!

Pioneer Woman’s (PDubs) Perfect Potato Salad

5 pounds russet potatoes (about 8 medium russets)
1 1/2 cups real mayonnaise (NOT Miracle Whip)
4 tablespoons prepared mustard (regular, Dijon, or a mixture of both) I used a mixture, YUM I love me some yellow mustard!
5 green onions, sliced up to the darkest green part
8 small sweet pickles (may use dill if that’s more up your alley) Again, didn’t use ’em- would next time.
1 teaspoon kosher salt (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
4 hard boiled eggs, coarsely chopped

Cut potatoes in halves or thirds, then boil until fork tender. Drain.
Mash potatoes or run them through a ricer or food mill to make them extra fluffy.
Fold potatoes together with mayonnaise, mustard, green onions, salt, pepper, and other seasonings you like. Fold in pickles and eggs, then taste for seasonings, adding more salt, mustard, or mayo as needed. You may also splash in juice from the pickle jar if salad needs a little moisture.

So after the fail of my Dimply Plum Cake, I was a little scared about the Raspberry Buttermilk Cake I’d be baking the next morning, so scared I cooked it a little longer than necessary- but let me tell you, it was delish!

This dough is easy to make, and the buttermilk was easy to make too- I highly recommend making your own- you need very little and unless you’re planning on using it for something else, it will probably be a waste of buttermilk.

I got scared when I looked at the amount of batter and the size of the pan (I used a 10inch pan as that’s all we had).  I thought it would be too thin and the cake would dry out and crumble.  But I went with it, and I’m happy I did.  Although Smitten is a little anal and places her raspberries perfectly, I just let loose and threw those suckers all over the top- using more than the listed amount too, my Husband said, “What can go wrong, more raspberry taste is good!”

My cake wouldn’t come out of the pan, so I just served it straight from there and people ate it so quickly they didn’t care how it was served.

To make up for the Dimply Plum cake I whipped up another batch of these oh so easy and oh so yummy Blueberry Crumb Bars.  Now is the time to make them- blueberries galore.  Go do it!  (Hint, you don’t need the zest, and you can swab in any other citrus juice, I used Orange this time since all the lemons had been snatched for the lemonade!)

In addition, I made a batch of the Watermelon Lemonade.  What a perfect summertime treat!  I setthe husband to work juicing the lemons and I cut up some watermelon, made simple syrup and mixed it all up.  Easy and delicious.  This a tart drink that is not weighed down by the watermelon. so have no fear.  (We thought it might be too watery).

Now I want to have July 4th all  over again!

You can head over to Smitten Kitchen for the recipes and photos, but I realized I like listing them out here too- so here you go!

Raspberry Buttermilk Cake

Makes one thin 9-inch cake (or 10-inch), Serves about 8, or 4 with seconds.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened(I’m pretty sure I used salted, didn’t make a lick of difference)
2/3 cup  plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (optional)
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh raspberries- or a few more, if you’re feeling reckless!

Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9 or 10-inch round cake pan.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside. In a larger bowl, beat butter and 2/3 cup  sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about two minutes, then beat in vanilla and zest, if using. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in three batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.  This felt like a lot of sugar, but go with it, it works!

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.  I let mine stay in for about 30, not only because of the plum fiasco, but also I had added in a few more raspberries so I want to make sure it was cooked evenly.  In addition, I didn’t cool mine this way and it was still gobbled down!

Make your own buttermilk: No need to buy buttermilk especially for this or any recipe. Add one teaspoon tablespoon [updated, as an astute reader pointed out that the larger amount is more common] of vinegar or lemon juice to one cup of milk and let it sit until it clabbers, about 10 minutes. Voila, buttermilk!  DO IT!

Watermelon Lemonade

Makes enough to fill two glasses with ice cubes; I think we did this recipe by 5 to bring to a party.  It was the perfect amount with other drinks on offer.

1/4 cup (2 ounces) fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup (4 ounces) fresh watermelon puree, strained through a coarse strainer to remove seeds
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) simple syrup*
3/4 cup (6 ounces) cold water or seltzer

Cube watermelon and put in to blender to puree.  After straining, don’t just throw out what’s left, it is still watermelon and is yummy!

Stir it all together and serve over ice. Garnish it with a thin watermelon or lemon wedge, if you’re feeling fancy.

Spritzy variation: I have never met a beverage I didn’t think would taste better bubbly, thus, if you’re looking for a spritzier version of this, swap one-third (1/4 cup) or more of the water with seltzer or sparkling water.

Boozy variation: My husband thinks this would taste even better with a splash of vodka. I am not one to argue.  I tried it, it is good, dangerously good.

* Make your own simple syrup: Please. I see it sold in stores and it just boggles my mind. Simmer one part water with one part sugar (I did a cup of each and ended up with more than I needed for a quadruple batch) until sugar has dissolved. Let cool. Or, you can use my speedier method where you simmer one part sugar with half as much water and once it has dissolved, add the second half of the water, cold, which cools the mixture down faster (when you like nothing to slow your pace to the nearest mocktail).  I have to agree with her here, I don’t see why anyone would pay for simple syrup- it has simple in it for a reason.

So, my first real fail of a recipe.  I should be happy it took 7 months to get there, however it means more baking for me today, and it thankfully it is a beautiful day!

Anyway, to get to it, since I want to get back outside!

I decided to cook a Smitten Kitchen cake for a 4th bbq and when I was told I was actually “doing dessert” for 17+ people I figured, I should probably making another cake too.  I had seen the Dimply Plum cake linked on her Raspberry Buttermilk cake recipe and figured, they’ll be perfect together!  So I tucked in to it.  The batter is really easy, but pretty sticky, be ready for a lot of banging your spatula against the bowl, and using multiple ones just to get it all out of the mixing bowl and in to the cake pan.  Then I started cutting the plums, and then I started looking at the small pan and the large amount of plums and I got confused.  So I just stuck as many plums as fit, which was about 6 halves total, and these were big halves, these were big plums.  I stuck it in the oven and went upstairs to read the comments on her post.  I finally found one that confirmed that her plums were tiny and most people hadn’t been able to fit 16 halves in the cake.  Okay- that made me feel better.  The cake became brown on the edges, puffed up around the plums and the knife I stuck in came out clean.  The cake was done!  I let it cool for the required 15 minutes and then I went to take it out of the pan to cool.

I tipped the pan, to get the cake to slide out- and then it happened.  The middle which wasn’t really all the way cooked broke, and the cake fell apart.  “I ruined the cake!” I yelled upstairs.  I got it all back in the pan and realized there was no going back, I couldn’t fix this.  The middle wasn’t cooked.  So, I took the cooked plums out to be used in something else (maybe a salsa!) and brought the ruined cake upstairs.  We ate the cooked parts quickly.  YUM.  This cake is delicious.  However, I realized while enjoying it immensley that it is more of a fall cake.  The cinnamon and orange flavor that prevails is perfect for an October evening, not so much a middle of summer finally it is sunny BBQ.

So, all in all the fail was probably okay since it was a little wrong for the occasion.  So what made it not work?  The plums.  Those suckers were way too big and the juices didn’t let the cake cook properly.  Next time, much smaller slices will go on and the cake will come out perfectly.  I hope!

Dimply Plum Cake

Here we are- recipes 7 & 8!  This makes up for my miss/fail in May and April, right?  No pictures in this write up either, as both the blogs I got these recipes from have way better photos then I could have taken, and I was too busy cooking up a storm to pick up my camera!  These recipes served as a great Birthday Dinner with family and friends on a Saturday night.  Sure I spent a good portion in the kitchen with the Tikka Masala, but sitting down at the table to hear their sounds of enjoyment made it worth it.

First the easy one- Cheese Straws.  I found this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and knew I had to make it while I was home with time on my hands and people who were happy to eat what I was making.

Wow this recipe was easy.  Grate some cheese, cut up some butter, throw it in a food processor and you’re in action.  The hardest part was cutting up the straws.  I used a knife at first, but wasn’t pleased with the results- so I pulled out my Mom’s pastry cutter, or maybe it was a ravioli cutter, and the process was much much easier.  As she explains these will/can break- don’t let it discourage you- people like mini ones too because then it doesn’t feel like what they’re eating is so bad.  They took a little longer in the oven than stated in the recipe- so be ready for that.  I doubled the recipe and a good thing too, because as a Jew you don’t have enough unless there are leftovers- and there were a few left.  Phew.

These were a huge hit.  Like, seriously huge.  People couldn’t believe that I had made them, and that I was cooking dinner too.  But they are that easy!  Finish reading this post and go make some.

On to the main course.  This recipe is easy, really it is, but it does take some prep.  Again, I doubled (kind of) the recipe (I didn’t double the rice, that’s a lot of rice Pastor Ryan!)  First, here’s the link on Pioneer Woman’s site.

The chicken was a piece of cake- coat it in yogurt and stick it under a broiler- beautiful.  I had never used his method of the cooling rack on a pan- but it worked brilliantly.  I wasn’t afraid of the chicken being undercooked since I’d be tossing it in a hot sauce later, so don’t be a wuss and overcook it- dry chicken is no good!  It will sit for a few minutes anyway, and cook during that time.

Now the hard part.  Get your cutting board and knife ready.  I chopped the onion, I garlic pressed the garlic (leaving the skin on, who knew, this has changed my cooking life), I chopped some cilantro, I chopped some hot pepper, I chopped some ginger and I waited to put it all together.  I used two pans since I didn’t have one big enough to accomodate double this saucy recipe- that made things a little harder since I was guessing on splitting the ingredients between the two (they weren’t evenly split).  Luckily my Mom had some old Indian spices, including Tumeric for the rice, so I didn’t have to search NH for any, or make my own.  Because of their age, I wasn’t as exact in the measurements.

Overall- this is a lot of prep, to stir and let sit a deliciously smelling sauce.  Seriously, your whole house will smell great and people will ooh and ahh over it.

And then it was done, and it was darker than Pastor Ryan’s, so I was a little worried.  People loved it, I mean LOVED it.  They kept going on and on about it.  I didn’t love it.  I think over spicing this to make up for the age of the spice mixture meant a lot more cumin than I like (I don’t like any).  I kind of thought people were just being nice with their praise- but they seem to love Cumin, thank God.  I will make this again, it was delicious besides the Cumin and the rice was great too (and easy even if you don’t have a rice cooker).  I will use less of the spices next time.  I was kind of disappointed that my color was so much darker, but it also meant this didn’t taste overly creamy or oily like some Tikka Masala from a restaurant can.

So, give it a whirl if you’re feeling adventurous.  It is a crowd pleaser, and pretty easy to make for a large dinner party.

So NH+No Work+Mom’s Money=Lots o’ cooking!

Two more recipes for you- and they’re my own, yay!

Turkey Burgers- There was thawed Turkey meat in the fridge and the Gazpacho needed some protein to make it a meal, so Mozzarella Turkey Burgers it was.  I took the turkey meat and mixed it with worcestersire sauce, bread crumbs, salt, and pepper.  Made nice juicy balls and stuck em on the grill. After a few minutes on one side, I flipped them and only pressed a little- you don’t want to lose the moistness.  They flipped once more and then a nice hunk of fresh mozzarella went on top to melt and surround the little guys.  They were moist and yummy- a great accompaniment to a cold soup for a summer meal.

Tuna Steaks- They looked good, so they came home with me.  I mixed up some soy sauce, garlic (3 gloves), and a handful of chopped cilantro.  The tuna steaks sat in a zip-lock with the marinade for about 4 hours before going on the grill.  I placed them on one side for 4 minutes and then flipped them for 2 or 3.  They were slightly overdone, next time lower flame- the steaks were thinner than I thought.  Still, delicious with a fresh garden salad and some oven roasted potatoes.

I love summer cooking!

Last Thursday, we had our usual dinner date with Eric and Kate.  This has been a great time for me to try new recipes since I’m cooking for 4 instead of 2.  I had just gotten in to The Pioneer Woman and was eager to try out one of her recipes- so I tackled her favorite Lasagna.  I was wary of all the meat, especially the sausage and of the cottage cheese replacing the ricotta (I know, right?).  I took her tip of making it the night before and sticking it in the fridge, and thank God because Thursday was a day from hell and I did not want to make a lasagna when I got home, throw one in the oven- sure!  It took longer to cook than the recipe stated, but once it got nice and bubbly I pulled it out and we dug in.

YUM.  Matt- who doesn’t like sausage enjoyed it (His only complaint was the sausage and I don’t think he would have noticed if he hadn’t have known it was in there) and Eric who does not like cottage cheese loved it and even kept eating it after I revealed the ingredients.  Fantastic.  I had a little bit for a snack the next day, and it was great reheated.  Next time I will probably leave out the sausage, and actually I’d love to try it with just cheese.  Overall- a great dish- and I didn’t even take pictures- because hers are way better.

So, after the great lasagna success when I saw her Gazpacho recipe come up Monday morning I knew I had to try it out.  I’m visiting my Mom for the week so I have lots of time to shop and cook and this was something I knew her and her boyfriend would enjoy.  Perfect.  The chopping is a little time consuming, but well worth it because this soup rocks.  It is a great consistency and a real crowd pleaser.  I have enough to make another batch and am going to serve it to friends on Thursday.  Fun!

I’m really enjoying not only her pictures and descriptions of steps, but her variation of dishes.  Next up, Chicken Tikka Masala, stay tuned!

I stress ate my way through April and May, so not a lot of great cooking was going on.

Moving on…

June!

This weekend was good for trying new things without a recipe.

Saturday night I defrosted some shrimp from Whole Foods I had gotten weeks ago and never used, and was determined to cook them.  I’m a little scared of cooking seafood, and shrimp too- I need shrimp to be just right for me to enjoy them.  Just right.

I tossed these little suckers in some Drew’s Italian Dressing and threw ’em on the Gridle that Matt was searing a nice peice of meat on.  They cooked up quickly, and I “patting self on back” took them off in perfect time.  I ate them up greedily with some steamed snap peas and fresh bread with olive tapenade.  YUM.  I will definitely be making shrimp again, and have a recipe I’d like to try out for them!

Tonight, we wanted something light and I needed to pick some basil (so the plants keep prospering!) and had bought a pack of mixed heirloom tomatoes from Trader Joe’s so a quick trip to the store yielded a ball of mozzerella and away we went!  I chopped up the tomatoes, mozzerella and basil, tossed it all with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar added S&P and it was done.  So easy, and so delightful.  A delicious summer treat, that could only have been made better if they were homegrown tomatoes, someday!

So we’re off and running here again with my resolution- I’ve got a week in NH coming up and some cooking should get done!

Heirloom Tomato SaladOh yeah, I made some cookies too- I’ve made this recipe before- second one on the page- so yummy and chocolatey!

summer09 013

So I cooked in April, made some great recipes- but I haven’t taken the time to type them up!  I don’t think I met the 6 requirement- might have only gotten in 4.  They’re coming, and I’ll make up for it in May- have a free weekend coming up and can’t wait to try some new recipes from a new cook book out!

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