Friday, April 30, 2010

365 Photo and Five Senses Friday

My collection of corks from the wine I drink

Mac supervising me making his dinner
Police horse trailer

Wildflower blooms from seeds we found in Chris' dad's shed

My new desk area set-up. I'm nosy, what does your house look like?

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Five Senses Friday is a nice way to reflect upon the previous week. Want more? Pay Abby Try Again a visit.
Hearing: Jazz on the last jazz radio station available out here, 91.1
Tasting: Peppermint tea
Smelling: Lemongrass ginger lotion from Williams Sonoma
Seeing: Endless Summer II on Netflix
Feeling: Warm, soft kitty fur on my ankles

Happy Friday!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More Squash

I wanted spaghetti squash, Chris wanted cheesy (as usual), and combined you get Nicole of Pinch My Salt's Spaghetti Squash Gratin. I usually eat spaghetti squash topped with marinara, when I want to feel more virtuous and forgo pasta. This recipe may not be virtuous, but it is good!

Spaghetti Squash Gratin
adapted from Pinch My Salt

1 spaghetti squash, baked until tender
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. fresh basil, sliced
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. plain yogurt
1/2 c. shredded sharp white cheddar
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

* To cook spaghetti squash, pierce all over with a fork and then microwave about 5-10 minutes, until the skin is soft. Let rest  5 minutes, then cut in half, remove seeds, and pull strands out with a fork. *

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place spaghetti squash strands in a large bowl, and discard shell.
2. Cook onion in butter over medium-low heat until softened.  Stir in garlic, cook for a minute longer.  Add onions and garlic to bowl with squash.  Add basil, heavy cream, yogurt, and cheddar.  Toss together well until ingredients are evenly distributed.  Pour into a greased casserole and top with Parmesan.
3. Bake uncovered in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned on top.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Buckwheat Scones with Fig Butter

Black Mission Figs

I don't often eat figs. I do have a fondness for Fig Newtons, and figs sliced in half, topped with mascarpone cheese, and drizzled with honey is definitely a little slice of heaven. However, when I saw Heidi of 101 Cookbooks' Figgy Buckwheat Scones I knew I would be making them, post haste. And, oh, am I glad I did! These scones are light and nutty - the raw batter is so very good, sneak a taste when you make these. And the fig butter, rich with red wine and port, is to die for. And the swirly appearance of the scones make it such a decadent treat with coffee or tea.

I took half the batch in to work so I wouldn't eat them all, and my coworkers used adjectives like heavenly and amazing. One coworker even brought me flowers the next day, four giant, beautiful calla lilies cut from his yard, in appreciation. If you're looking to wow someone, try these.

Buckwheat Scones with Fig Butter

Fig Butter:
1/2 c. sugar
2 whole cloves
1 star anise
1 c. red wine
1/2 c. port
12 oz. dried Black Mission figs, stems removed
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
4 oz. unsalted butter, softened
Pinch of salt
1. To poach the figs, measure 1/4 cup water and the sugar into a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir the mixture together with a wooden spoon, incorporating the sugar without splashing it up the sides. If crystals do get on the sides of the pot, use a clean pastry brush dipped in water to wipe them off. (The goal is to prevent the syrup from crystallizing.) Add the cloves and star anise.
2. Bring the mixture to a boil over a medium flame and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the syrup is amber-colored. For even coloring, the flame should not come up around the outside of the pot.
3. Add the red wine, port, figs, and cinnamon, standing back a bit, as the syrup is hot. Don't panic when the syrup hardens; this is the normal reaction when liquids are added to hot sugar. Continue cooking the mixture over a medium flame for 2 minutes, until the sugar and wine blend.
4. Reduce the flame to low and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The figs will burble quietly as they are jostled together by the flame; they are ready when the wine has reduced by half. Remove the pan from the stove and cool to room temperature.
5. Fish out the star anise and cloves. Pour the cooled figs, with their liquid, into a food processor and purée until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the softened butter to the fig paste and process until smooth.

The fig butter can be spread right onto the buckwheat scone dough or stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. If it is refrigerated, bring it to room temperature before using. Makes 2 cups.


Dry mix:
1 c. buckwheat flour
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Wet mix:
4 oz. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
1 c. Fig Butter
1. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.
2. Add the butter to the dry mixture. Rub the butter between your fingers, breaking it into smaller bits. Continue rubbing until the butter is coarsely ground and feels like grains of rice. The faster you do this, the more the butter will stay solid, which is important for the success of the recipe. (I used my food processor to do this, rather than by hand).
3. Add the cream and gently mix it into the flour with a spatula until the dough is just combined.
4. Use a pastry scraper or a spatula to transfer the dough onto a well-floured surface. It will be sticky, so flour your hands and pat the dough into a rectangle. Grab a rolling pin and roll the dough into a rectangle that is 8 inches wide, 16 inches long, and 3/4 inch thick. If at any time the dough rolls off in a different direction, use your hands to square the corners and pat it back into shape. As you're rolling, periodically run a pastry scraper or spatula underneath to loosen the dough, flour the surface, and continue rolling. This keeps the dough from sticking. Flour the top of the dough if the rolling pin is sticking.
5. Spread the fig butter over the dough. Roll the long edge of the dough up, patting the dough as you roll so that it forms a neat log 16 inches long. Roll the finished log so that the seam is on the bottom and the weight of the roll seals the edge.
6. Use a sharp knife to slice the log in half. Put the halves on a baking sheet or plate, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. (The dough can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 days.) While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
7. After 30 minutes, take both logs out of the refrigerator and cut each half into 6 equal pieces about 11/4 inches wide. Place each scone flat, with the spiral of the fig butter facing up, on a baking sheet, 6 to a sheet. Give the scones a squeeze to shape them into rounds.
8. Bake for 38 to 42 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. The scones are ready to come out when their undersides are golden brown. They are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day.
Makes 12 scones.

Friday, April 23, 2010

365 Photo and Five Senses Friday

Candy striped petunia
Princess lilies and mint that were neglected all winter
My grapevine is going crazy
The petunias too, which were also neglected all winter
Birthday banana split sundae for me :)
A little fun

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Fine Senses Friday is a nice way to reflect upon the previous week. Want more? Pay Abby Try Again a visit.
Hearing: Squirrels scolding Chris while he was working the patio
Tasting: Banana split sundaes yesterday for my birthday
Smelling: Fresh, clean laundry that I finally got around to doing
Seeing: A new arrangement of picture frames on my wall that I need to fill, and cut lilies from a friend's yard
Feeling: The cushy comfort of my new memory foam mattress topper... so nice

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This is Not Breakfast

But it sure does look like it, doesn't it? It's actually...



I can't recall where in the blogosphere I saw this concept recently, but it sounded like fun to me. I picked up a couple of packages of pizza dough from Whole Foods (though you can certainly use homemade), separated them into six smaller balls of dough, and let them rest on the counter for a little while. Then I heated up my Belgian waffle maker, pulled the dough balls into rough squares to fit the waffle maker, and cooked them, easy peasy. After that I topped them with some of my favorite things (pizza sauce, mozzarella, mushrooms, peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, fresh basil, and Parmesan) and threw them under the broiler briefly to melt the cheeses.

I would definitely suggest easting these right away because the toppings will make the top of the waffle base a bit soggy. I also think this would be a fun dinner to make with kids if you have 'em. Then again, I don't have kids so what do I know?

I any case, I'm always in favor of playing with your food.

Friday, April 16, 2010

365 Photo and Five Senses Friday

I can't not throw the ball for this face
Dual feeder
Playing fetch... more like chewing on balls in the grass
This little guy was guarding our mail boxes
Pretty pretty

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Fine Senses Friday is a nice way to reflect upon the previous week. Want more? Pay Abby Try Again a visit.
Hearing: Ayla panting while chasing after the laser bug, her favorite game
Tasting: Coffee that tastes good again after cleaning my coffee maker
Smelling: A sample of Beyonce's "Heat" perfume in a magazine, I really like it
Seeing: A Woody doll (from Toy Story), with the top of his head missing, and immediately thinking zombies!
Feeling: A bit run down

Happy Friday! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Zu - Zu - Zu- cchini!

Is it just me, or is zucchini an awesome word? Say it out loud a few times and tell me differently. This summer squash cooks up fast and is quite versatile. I've been wanting pasta lately, but often feel like pasta can be a waste of calories. And Chris is back to limiting the amount of carbohydrates in his diet (he vacillates between eating them and not eating them, but notes that he just feels better overall when he avoids most carbs), which can be a bit of a challenge for a vegetarian cook. There's only so many meat and salad dishes I can make without losing interest, since I'm not eating the meat I make for Chris. And I prefer cooking something that we can enjoy together. Right in the nick of time, I saw zucchini noodles mentioned somewhere and couldn't wait to give them a try. Its really just a simple, quick method of preparing zucchini, and the "noodles" make for a healthy bed for a sauce of some sort.

So grab some zucchini and let's go! Two zucchini make a Chris-sized portion, so if you're cooking for a couple of people get three or four. Lop off the ends and use a mandoline slicer, zester, julienne peeler, or a knife to make julienne strips the length of the squash. There's no need to peel the zucchini first, and the variation in color makes the finished dish look nice anyway.

Put the zucchini noodles in a colander over a bowl, sprinkle with salt, toss, and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes. This softens the noodles a bit. Then toss the noodles in boiling water for a minute (that's right, one minute), drain, and serve.

I served these noodles topped with a mushroom chicken bake - pretty much the same as you'll find on the back of a can of Campbell's condensed mushroom soup. Mmm... comfort food. I made it in two pans, one with chicken for Chris and the other with a Quorn Naked Chik'n Fillet for me. If you go the vegetarian route, do not cook it in the oven for a full 30 minutes. The Quorn fillet will be fine, but the sauce will dry up and then you'll look longing over at your husbands bowl with creamy mushroom sauce over a bed of vibrant green zucchini noodles, wondering if it tastes as good as you had hoped it would while said husband declares it is fantastic and praises the invention of the zucchini. Not that that happened, or anything.

Here's the recipe for the chicken version.

Mushroom Chicken Bake
from Campbell's

4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves  (about 1 pound)
Lemon pepper seasoning
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 can (4 ounces) sliced mushrooms, drained (I used fresh sliced mushrooms)
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, crushed (I used 4 cloves, and my garlic press)
Ground black pepper

1. Season the chicken with the lemon pepper seasoning.  Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet.  Add the chicken and cook for 10 minutes or until well browned on both sides.  Place the chicken into a 2-quart baking dish.

2. Stir the soup, mushrooms, milk, cheese and garlic in a small bowl.  Season with the black pepper.  Pour the soup mixture over the chicken.

3. Bake at 350°F. for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.  Serve the chicken and sauce with pasta, rice, or zucchini noodles!

Psst: Want a chance to win a gorgeous baking pan or pitcher? Then head on over to Cherry on a Cake and enter! I'm partial to the baking pan, myself...

Related Recipes:

Friday, April 9, 2010

365 Photo and Five Senses Friday

Me and my shadow

Gretel likes to sleep on the dog bed

Ayla prefers the comfy couch

Gimme a kiss

Ayla thought she could fly, and leaped off the top of this wall. Luckily she landed on her head, so she walked away unharmed. I had a small heart attack though.

More turkeys - I had to shoo these away from my car so I could get to work the other morning

Ayla looks happiest when she's running

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Fine Senses Friday is a nice way to reflect upon the previous week. Want more? Pay Abby Try Again a visit.
Hearing: "Stuff You Should Know" podcasts on my commute
Tasting: Tofu marinated in sriracha, then coated in seasoned pankow and baked
Smelling: Three different kinds of canned dog and cat foods... ick
Seeing: Leaves taking over buds on trees
Feeling: Tired after a long, crazy, stressful week

Happy Friday!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Roasted Broccoli

I recently had a big bag of broccoli from Costco in the fridge, slowly losing its color. I needed a way to use a lot of it, and I could have gone with soup, but then I came across this post by honey & jam, literally beseeching me to make it. She asked so ardently, how could I say no?

It is very simple, and so very, very tasty. In fact, Chris told me to never make broccoli any other way again. Try it, you'll like it!

Oven Roasted Broccoli
from Epicurious

1 1/4 pounds broccoli crowns, cut into florets (about 8 cups)
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
Large pinch of dried crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss broccoli and 3 tablespoons oil in large bowl to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to rimmed baking sheet and roast 15 minutes. Stir remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil, garlic, and red pepper in small bowl. Drizzle garlic mixture over broccoli and toss to coat. Roast until broccoli is beginning to brown, about 8 minutes more. Season and serve!
Related Recipes:

Friday, April 2, 2010

365 Photo and Five Senses Friday

My dogs are strange. See Mac on his back up there? He sleeps like that sometimes, and it always makes me want to lightly slap his pink belly. Its a good thing he doesn't care, and barely deigns to register my presence at all. On the other hand, Ayla likes to tuck her nose under her foreleg when she sleeps. I imagine that since her muzzle is so long it gets rather cold. Ayla also likes to be covered with a blanket when she sleeps; as soon as I throw it over her when we're all going to bed she lets out a long, satisfied sigh and settles in for the night. Mac, on the other hand, starts snoring before he's even lying down. I told you, they're weird.

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Want more Five Sense Friday? Pay Abby Try Again a visit.
Hearing: Debussy, Chopin, Stravinsky and more (concert band rehearsal last night)
Tasting: PB&J sandwich, in honor of National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day
Smelling: The air freshener in my car that disturbing reminds me of Raid
Seeing: Wet everywhere because of the rain we've had off and on this week
Feeling: Relief that my daredevil dog didn't hurt herself (more on this later)

Happy Friday!