Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Clementine Cake

I pride myself on being a good friend. If your car breaks down, I will come and get you. If you need a cup of sugar, I will give you one (note that I said “give,” not “lend” … you don’t even need to pay me back). And, if you confess your deepest, darkest secret to me, I promise to not post it as my Facebook status. See? Good friend. I will also peel almonds for you until my fingers bleed. I do this only because I have a recipe I know you’ll love and it requires this most tedious of tasks. But it makes me happy to see you happy, so I carry on ... (My fingers didn’t really bleed on the almonds, don’t worry. That would be gross.)

I found this fantastic and unique recipe for clementine cake on a great new blog I’ve been frequenting, “La Bella Cook.” Check it out sometime!
The cake is flourless and uses ground almonds or almond meal (which I highly recommend buying if you can find it in your grocery store) instead of flour. The texture is unlike anything I’ve had and put me off a bit at first with its subtle graininess, but I really enjoyed it the next day. I think the fine bits softened a little more and the citrus flavor came through increasingly well with time. It also seemed more moist after sitting for a day, if that's possible.

Making the Cake
  • I poured boiling water over my bowl of almonds and let them steep for about five minutes before attempting to peel. This wasn’t enough to loosen the skins as much as I wanted, so I threw them in the microwave, covered with hot water for three minutes longer. Perfect — the skins popped off easily. Once they were peeled, I threw them in a shallow, wide frying pan and toasted them for about a minute over low heat to make sure they were dry before grinding them in the food processor (about 30 to 45 seconds).

  • For the clementines, yes, you use the whole fruit; pith, peel and all. I weighed mine and used about a pound, which came out to five clementines (they were pretty small). After they're cooked, throwing them in a bowl to cut and pick out the seeds works well, too, so you can capture all the juice. They will be H-O-T when you take them out of the pot, though, so be careful and make sure to let them cool. If you combine them with the eggs too soon, you’ll end up with a scrambled mess.

  • Don't skip the parchment paper, even if your pan is nonstick. This is super-sticky batter and you'll need all the help you can get removing it from the pan.

This recipe is otherwise pretty straightforward. It's a delightful holiday dessert, especially if you have gluten-free guests at your table.

Enjoy and Merry Christmas!

Clementime Cake
Adapted from Nigella Lawson and La Bella Cook

Cake Ingredients
4 to 5 clementines (about 1 pound total weight)
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups ground almonds, (remove the skins prior to grinding, or use store-bought almond meal)
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
2 tsp. real vanilla extract

Topping
Whipping cream (for serving)
Powdered sugar (to taste)
Triple Sec or Grand Marnier (to taste)

Directions
Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. Drain and place in a large bowl, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the seeds. Then process the skins, pith, and fruit in a food processor until a creamy, smooth texture is achieved. Remove puree from processor and set aside in a separate bowl.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter and line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Add the eggs to the food processor and blend until scrambled-egg consistency is achieved.

One at a time, add the sugar, almonds, vanilla and baking powder. When this mixture is fully incorporated, add the Clementine puree and fully incorporate, as well.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean; cover the cake with foil after about 40 minutes to stop the top from burning.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool, in the pan on a rack. When the cake is cold, remove it from pan.

Whip cream with powdered sugar and spiked with triple-sec or Grand Marnier to taste. (Don’t use too much liquor, or your cream won’t whip. I use about 2 Tbsp. per pint.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding

Emily and Curtis joined us for a comfort food-themed dinner on Saturday night and WOW!, did we feast. She made fantastic Sloppy Joe's, which I haven't had in years, and forgot what I was missing; salty, sweet and spicy, who could ask for anything more? Not me ... But more is exactly what I got ... Buttery-salty-creamy-OMG-delicious scalloped potatoes; oatmeal cream cheese butterscotch bars, and gluehwein (warm, German spiced wine). And, for our part, I made butternut squash bread pudding and clementine cake with triple sec-whipped cream. The cake recipe is forthcoming.

The original bread pudding recipe called for a 1 and 1/2-pound loaf of bread, but I weighed my loaf after coming home from the grocery store and it was only one pound, so I reduced the eggs and half-and-half by a third, as well. Everything else (the squash, leeks, spices, etc.), I left the same, since they weren't too extreme / potent in proportion. I actually think the original recipe would have been overflowing in the called-for dish size, so it really worked out perfectly.

Mmmm ... this was so yummy and definitely falls in the comfort food category. One of my favorite things I've made in awhile -- it's a perfect option for any vegetarian guests you may have during the holidays, too.

Enjoy!

Butternut Squash Bread Pudding

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, halved lengthwise and seeded
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
One 1-pound loaf of sourdough bread, ends trimmed, loaf cut into 1-inch cubes (do not remove crusts)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
10 large eggs
4 cups half-and-half
2 teaspoons chopped thyme
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400°.

Butter a 10-by-15-inch (four-quart oblong)baking dish. Peel and seed the squash, then cut the flesh in 1/2-inch dice. Season the squash liberally with olive oil, salt and pepper and place in a covered casserole dish. Bake the squash for 35 minutes, or until just tender, stirring / turning once halfway through roasing. Set aside and let cool.

On 2 large rimmed baking sheets, toast the bread until dry and just crisp, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet. Add the leeks and garlic and cook over moderately high heat for 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs. Whisk in the milk, cream, thyme, nutmeg and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Add the bread cubes and let stand for 15 minutes.

Gently fold in the squash and leeks and transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Bake for 1 hour, or until browned on top and just set. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Make Ahead
The bread pudding can be prepared earlier in the day and reheated.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

O Tannenbaum

The holidays are in full swing at Team O headquarters!

Our Christmas decorations, including the tree, went up last weekend. I love the festivities and can even tolerate the dark and cold for the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, but after that, I would pay good money to teleport to mid-April (not a huge winter fan, here). For the past five years or so, we've taken a "Christmas tree hunting" day trip near Mount Rainier with a large group of friends. The trip, once we're deep into the woods and have safely parked the car, is so much fun. The drive up the un-guard railed, very narrow and slick logging road, however, leaves a bit to be desired. I was almost in tears a few years ago, convinced we would plummet to our deaths before day's end. Thankfully, everything has always ended safely.

We unfortunately missed out on the tradition this year, though, due to Nutcracker and Seahawks tickets purchased several months ago. Instead, we ventured to Point Valdimar Tree Farm in Stanwood, Wash., where Morgan's parents cut their tree every year. The trees are gorgeous and very fairly priced. And, also on the upside, we had become so accustomed to the Charlie Brown Christmas trees from the forest, that we were pleasantly reminded of the much stronger branches on farmed trees -- fantastic for those heavy ornaments.We did have a little bit of a hiccup, though ...

I pictured myself married to Clark Griswold when Morgan brought the tree in the house -- it is SO huge, i.e., fat. It sticks out more than a quarter of the way into our living room. Our mistake, since we only measured for height. It's one of the most beautiful trees we've ever had, but this year's lesson is to think about width, too!!

(You can't quite tell how rotund this tree is from the picture, so you'll have to take my word for it ...)Hope you're all enjoying the Christmas season and are able to spend quality time with your loved ones!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Quinoa, Mango & Black Bean Salad

I've told you many times about my beloved Eating Well magazine. I think it's the best health-inspired food magazine out there, taking down Cooking Light in a round-one k.o. (Sorry, Cooking Light enthusiasts, I'm just not a big fan.)

I really appreciate that Eating Well doesn't try to mimic the flavors of richer, worse-for-you foods, but instead focuses on enjoying the real food you're actually eating. E.g., they don't suggest that fat-free Cool Whip and blended cottage cheese make a great mascarpone substitute for "tiramisu." If you're going to eat tiramisu, eat tiramisu. But if you're going to eat clean, why not have some grilled peaches and save the good stuff for a special occasion? That is my humble of humblest opinion, anyway.

OK, enough of my rant. Here's an Eating Well recipe I really enjoy. I'm always looking for interesting lunch / brown bag options and this keeps well for a couple days, so it's perfect for that purpose.

Make some on Sunday, have it for dinner and take the leftovers to work for lunch on Monday and Tuesday. I like it in pita bread. If you do use a pita, though, make sure to pack it separately and stuff it right before you eat. Otherwise, you'll end up with a soggy mess.

Enjoy!

Eating Well's Quinoa, Mango & Black Bean Salad

Serves Two
Active Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients
1/2 cup quinoa (see note below)
1 cup water
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 small mango, diced (see tip below)
1 small red bell pepper, diced
1 cup canned black beans, (see tips for two below), rinsed
2 scallions, thinly sliced

Preparation

  1. Toast quinoa in a small dry saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until it crackles and becomes aromatic, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a fine sieve and rinse thoroughly. Return the quinoa to the pot and add water. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook until the quinoa is tender and the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, whisk orange juice, cilantro, vinegar, oil, ginger, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl. Add mango, bell pepper, beans and scallions; toss to coat.

  3. When the quinoa is finished cooking, add to the mango mixture and toss to combine.

Tips & Notes

Make Ahead Tip
This salad can be made up to two days in advance (cover and refrigerate). Serve chilled.

Note
Quinoa, a delicately flavored grain, was a staple in the ancient Incas' diet. Toasting it before cooking enhances its flavor, and rinsing removes any residue of saponin, quinoa's natural, bitter protective covering.

Tip
To dice a mango:

  1. Slice both ends off the mango, revealing the long, slender seed inside. Set the fruit upright on a work surface and remove the skin with a sharp knife.

  2. With the seed perpendicular to you, slice the fruit from both sides of the seed, yielding two large pieces.

  3. Turn the seed parallel to you and slice the two smaller pieces of fruit from each side.

  4. Cut the fruit into the desired shape.

Tips for Two
Refrigerate leftover canned beans for up to 3 days. Add to green salads and soups; mash with garlic powder and chopped fresh herbs for a quick dip; make spiced pinto beans.

Nutrition
Per serving: 422 calories; 9 g fat (1 g sat, 2 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 74 g carbohydrates; 15 g protein; 19 g fiber; 258 mg sodium; 642 mg potassium.

Nutrition Bonus
Vitamin C (210% daily value), Vitamin A (50% dv), Magnesium (22% dv), Vitamin E (20% dv).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Back of the Box'

This past weekend, Emily and Curtis hosted a great getaway at her parents’ amazing house overlooking Hood Canal in Silverdale, Wash. The boys golfed on Saturday while the girls (and our token male, Paul) took in the new Christmas Carol movie, courtesy of Far Away Entertainment, Emily’s gracious employer. We also tooled around Bainbridge Island and poked our heads into the fun boutiques that dot the downtown area, so fun! Saturday night, each of the six couples contributed to a terrific potluck and we all left a little fatter and happier than when we arrived. My friends, aside from being wonderful cooks, also are ardent bloggers. Here are some of the other recipes from the weekend:

Our contribution comes courtesy of Hershey’s Chocolate, another winning “back of the box” recipe. I’ve discovered that you can rarely go wrong with these types of recipes — Toll House Cookies, Bisquick Waffles and Knorr Spinach Dip are some of my other favorites — all awesome.

I say “our contribution” instead of “my contribution” because even though Morgan didn’t actually help make anything, he kept my wine glass full while I baked and came up with a brilliant idea …

I’ve made this cake a few times in the past, always topped with shaved dark chocolate. Morgan suggested we top it with a crushed Heath bar this time, so we went that route this weekend. It ruled. He is secretly a culinary genius and that’s why I married him. Plus, he’s really handsome.

This is a no-fail recipe and the most moist chocolate cake I’ve ever eaten. I will never again use a chocolate cake mix.

Enjoy!

Hershey’s “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Cake
with
“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

Prep Time: 15 min Cook Time: 30 min
Ingredients:2 cups sugar

1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost with "PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING. 10 to 12 servings.

VARIATIONS:
ONE-PAN CAKE: Grease and flour 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Heat oven to 350° F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely. Frost.

THREE LAYER CAKE: Grease and flour three 8-inch round baking pans. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost.

BUNDT CAKE: Grease and flour 12-cup Bundt pan. Heat oven to 350°F. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack. Cool completely. Frost.

CUPCAKES: Line muffin cups (2-1/2 inches in diameter) with paper bake cups. Heat oven to 350°F. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. About 30 cupcakes.

"PERFECTLY CHOCOLATE" CHOCOLATE FROSTING

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk (I have used at least 2/3 cup milk each time I’ve made this; depends on your consistency preference)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

In Your Face, Second Place!

I did it. I finally won a contest … Like, first place won! Our friends, Missy and Kelly, hosted the second annual Taps 'n' Apps Challenge (beer and appetizer pairing) and Morgan and I took home the big prize!

You may recall last year’s string of second-place finishes; gougeres (from the first Taps 'n' Apps Challenge), crabaroni and cheese, and caprese burgers. Frankly, it was getting a little ridiculous and to that streak, I say good riddance.

When we were driving home from the party, Morgan said, “Honey, I know what it is … the key to winning is inspiration. We just need to continually be inspired.”

After I almost spit out my coffee upon realizing that I’m married to Joe Paterno, I decided he was right. All we needed to do was travel halfway across the world to find and “experience” a first-place worthy recipe.

Our friend Natalie first introduced us to Obatzda in Munich this summer. It’s a super decadent cheese spread, very popular in Bavaria, served with big soft pretzels at all the beer gardens. While we were gobbling it down in Hofbräuhaus München, we were actually chatting about this party and hoping Missy and Kelly would host round two, knowing (or at least really, really hoping) we had found a winner.

Now, even just reading the ingredient list might give you a mild heart attack, but don’t freak out. It’s not “everyday” food and if you’re already chugging beer, who’s counting calories? So mash up your cheese, butter and beer, and go to town. My friend Emily pointed out that it’s perfect football food, and I totally agree. Our other piece of luck — aside from finding the inspiration — came in the form of living close to the best grocery store in the world, Central Market. Special props to their beer buyer, a very wise man who chose to import Hofbräu hefeweizen. When I saw it on the shelf, I suddenly heard angels singing and knew God was smiling on us. I think our outfits helped the cause, too.

We did have some serious competition (you can read all about it here), especially the mini carne asada, green chili, spicy caramelized onion and feta paninis — my personal favorite — and the tough game made the win that much sweeter. The paninis won best stand-alone appetizer, the other category, and rightfully so. Droooool. Missy also whipped up some terrific pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. So cute!
So without further ado, I give you Obatzda, which we paired with the oh-so-great Hofrbräu hefeweizen. I recommend using a food scale to make Obatzda, since I don't have the volume measurements. It's truly a "to taste" mixture. This is as accurate as I can come to what we entered. It's a lot of adding, tasting, mixing, adding some more, etc. ...

Pair this with Hofrbräu hefeweizen for a true winning combination.

Obatzda

  • 500g ripe Camembert (Cambozola is the commonly-found imported Bavarian Camembert)
  • 40g soft butter
  • 200g cream cheese (e.g., Philadelphia)
  • ½ red onion, finely diced
  • Salt, black pepper to taste (Cambozola is already super salty, but some American Camembert needs extra salt)
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 6-8 Tbsp. wheat beer (or to taste)
  • Caraway seeds
  • Soft pretzels for serving (in Munich, they always serve Obatzda with thinly sliced red onion rounds, too, but I wasn’t sure how to eat them)
Let the butter and cheese come to room temperature, mash the first seven ingredients together and top with caraway seeds. Best if it rests for a day in the fridge so the flavors can meld.

Friday, October 9, 2009

I left my heart at the farmer's market

Farmer's market season is winding to a close in the Seattle area, which makes me very sad because I didn't visit nearly as many (make that none, to be exact) as I intended this summer. Since last weekend marked the second to last at the Woodinville, Wash. location, I decided to spend some time there with my friend Rebecca on Saturday.
The weather was gorgeous and the woman working the Classic Kettle Korn booth couldn't have been nicer. She invited me to take some close-ups of the corn when she found out I was just there to have fun with my camera. I also picked up some phenomenal $5 flowers (I still can't get over the amazingly low price) and the last pint of fresh blueberries I will probably enjoy for many, many chilly months. That's OK, though, onto the squash and root vegetables!

Crazy about Kladdkaka

While Morgan’s Swedish cousins were visiting this summer, they made a really simple and incredibly delicious dessert. Imagine two thin and perfectly chewy fudge brownies, filled with fresh whipped cream and blueberries. I have made it several times since they left — it’s so fun to discover a new, easy and tasty recipe that everyone loves. One of the best parts is how well the leftovers hold up in the refrigerator. This also makes it really dangerous because it tends to stick around and tempt you night after night. We took it up to our family cabin on Fourth of July and unfortunately, the refrigerator was turned up a bit high and the whipped cream began freezing. It thawed when we took it out, which left a bit of a runny and grainy texture, but that didn’t stop anyone from going to town! The cake is good enough to eat on its own without the filling, too.
I hope you like it as much as we do!

Kladdkaka (Swedish sticky chocolate cake)

Ingredients
Cake (this makes one cake — to make the “sandwich” you will need two cakes)
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 “good pinch” of salt
2/3 cup plain flour
100 grams melted butter (about 1 Tbsp. less than a full stick of butter)

Filling and topping (this fills two cakes and makes one “sandwich”)
1 cup heavy cream
1 pint fresh blueberries
Powdered sugar for whipped cream and dusting cake

Directions
Preheat the oven to 395 degrees F.

Mix all the cake ingredients in a bowl until moistened, make sure to not whisk / add air! Place a Silpat mat or parchment paper on a large baking sheet and pour (or "plop," rather, it's quite thick ...) the mixture into a round. Literally, just put the batter directly onto the mat and it will form a circle on its own. Don’t use a pan, or it will get too thick. Bake for 15 minutes.

The cake should seem very soft when you take it out; the outside edge will harden as it cools down. The center should be very gooey, but not to the point of being wet / raw.

Set cake(s) on wire racks to cool.

Once cakes are fully cooled, whip the cream to desired thickness and sweeten to taste with powdered sugar. Fold-in washed blueberries.

Spread whipped cream and blueberries on one cake, layering the second cake on top, making a “sandwich.” Dust with powdered sugar.

Slice into wedges and serve.

Store any leftovers (what a novel thought …) in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hillary's Pasta Salad

Pasta salad is Morgan's absolute favorite "thing" in my regular repertoire. We usually have it at home as a main course, but it's also our side dish go-to for pot lucks and barbecues.

I love it, too, but it's so easy that I feel a little disappointed when he says it's his favorite. I put so much more effort into other dishes, but I guess the upside is that he's easy to please. I've tweaked this over the years to get it just right and it gets rave reviews. (Didn't have an avocado the day the photo was taken, so that's missing in this shot).

This is a staple in our house and the leftovers are perfect for lunches.

Hillary's Pasta Salad

Salad Ingredients:
1 16 oz. box tri-colored rotini pasta
8 oz. light Italian dry salami, diced
8 oz. pepper jack cheese, cubed to 1/4" (small cubes)
1/2 red onion, finely diced (optional)
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1 (2.25 oz.) can sliced black olives, drained
1 12 oz. package whole grape tomatoes (Do NOT cut these up, or they will get slimy and gross and your leftovers will be contaminated with mushy tomatoes.)
3 Tbsp. chives, minced
1 jar (6 oz.) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped

Dressing:
12 oz. balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (I like Good Seasons Italian, made with olive oil and balsamic vinegar)

Add the following to the bottle of salad dressing and mix well (the Good Seasons cruet makes this step especially easy, since you can just add and shake):

2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. white pepper
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. dried oregano

Topping:
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 avocado, diced

Directions:

  • Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil.

  • Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain and rinse twice in cold water.

  • While pasta is cooking, whisk together dressing ingredients in separate bowl until well-blended, or shake up your Good Seasons cruet. Set aside.

  • In a large bowl, combine cooked pasta, salami, pepper jack cheese, red onion, cucumber, red bell pepper, olives, whole tomatoes, chives, artichoke hearts and dressing.

  • Toss well to evenly distribute the dressing.

  • Top with diced avocado and Parmesan cheese.

  • Refrigerate at least one hour before serving.
  • Saturday, September 26, 2009

    Summer Leftovers

    I was sorting through our summer photos and came across the main course from my brother’s birthday dinner that I haven’t yet shared with you. Since there will be a few more weeks of warm-ish weather, I figure it’s not too late to give this one last whirl in at attempt to stretch out the last few days of sun.

    Ethan specifically requested something healthy, so I instinctively turned to my summer issue of Eating Well. We enjoyed this dish, but I felt the watermelon made for too “wet” a salsa. It ran all over our plates and was super messy, even with serving it in the butter lettuce leaves. Next time I’ll make it with mango, or a firmer melon, like honeydew. The watermelon lent nice color, but that’s about it. Definitely had to eat the salsa right away, too, as the watermelon turned to mush by the next day and I had to throw it out. And, it made a ton, so I was sad to see it go to waste. I’m guessing Mango would hold up for at least two days.

    So, yes, I recommend this recipe, but with some modifications.

    Grilled Shrimp with Melon & Pineapple Salsa

    4 servings

    Active Time: 45 minutes

    Total Time: 1 1/4 hours (plus marinating time — 4 to 24 hours)

    Equipment
    Four 8- to 10-inch skewers

    Ingredients
    1 pound raw shrimp, (16-20 per pound), peeled and deveined (see Note)
    2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
    2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger, divided
    2 teaspoons minced seeded jalapeño, divided
    2 cups finely diced firm ripe melon (note: the print edition of the magazine recommends watermelon — too watery! I think mango or a firmer melon, like honeydew, would work and taste better)
    1 cup finely diced fresh pineapple
    1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
    1/4 cup finely diced green bell pepper
    1/4 cup finely diced red onion
    3 tablespoons rice vinegar
    2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, plus 4 sprigs for garnish
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    4 large lettuce leaves, such as Boston, romaine or iceberg (I used butter lettuce)
    4 lime wedges

    Preparation
    Combine shrimp, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon ginger and 1 teaspoon jalapeño in a medium bowl.

    Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

    Combine melon, pineapple, red and green bell pepper, onion, vinegar, chopped mint and salt in a large bowl with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teaspoon ginger and 1 teaspoon jalapeño.

    Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

    About 20 minutes before serving, preheat grill to high.

    Thread the shrimp onto skewers, piercing each twice, once through the tail end and once near the head end.

    Grill the shrimp until pink and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. When cool enough to handle, slide the shrimp off the skewers.

    To serve, arrange one large lettuce leaf on each dinner plate. Spoon salsa onto the lettuce and top with shrimp. Garnish each serving with a lime wedge and a mint sprig, if using.

    Tips & Notes

    Make Ahead Tip
    Marinate the shrimp (Step 1) for up to 24 hours. Cover and refrigerate the salsa (Step 2) for up to 4 hours.

    Note
    To devein shrimp, use a paring knife to make a slit along the length of the shrimp. Under running water, remove the tract with the knife tip.

    Nutrition
    Per serving: 211 calories; 8 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 168 mg cholesterol; 16 g carbohydrates; 19 g protein; 2 g fiber; 352 mg sodium; 501 mg potassium.

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    Tour d’Omdal 2009

    We went to Europe for two weeks at the end of August, starting with Morgan’s cousin Helena’s wedding in Sweden (we spent most of our time in Stockholm, but the wedding and reception took place in Vaxholm and Finnhamn); followed by stops in Paris, Brussels and Munich. It could not have been a better vacation and I'm so excited to tell you all about it!

    Stockholm
    It was great to see Sweden first-hand and experience some of Morgan’s heritage. I failed to meet one Swede who didn’t speak near-perfect English, which amazed me and made it much easier on my end — props to that socialist education system. Although, I have to say I choked a bit on the 25 percent tax. At least my money is helping contribute to an easy English-speaking tourist experience, though, right? Morgan was able to speak / practice quite a bit of Swedish in restaurants and asking for directions, too, which was nice and the Swedes were all very patient and helpful. One waiter even taught us how to be “cool” and ask for another beer without sounding like we were ordering from a 1960s Swedish grammar manual. Don’t ask me how, because I already forgot. I think maybe we ordered too many.
    Helena and Daniels’s wedding was absolutely gorgeous and the reception was held on an island in the Stockholm archipelago. We took a chartered ferry to the site and spent the night in a large youth hostel. Dinner was held in an old, rustic barn that was decorated so beautifully — like something out of a magazine. We feasted on crayfish, a summer delicacy that as far as I can tell every citizen is required to love, lest they be deported. Now, don’t get me wrong, crayfish are tasty. They are similar to mini lobsters, but man, (and please pardon me in advance for sounding like a gluttonous American), it is a seriously long journey to satiety. You have to work very, very hard to get a full belly on these little guys and slurping on claws so energetically that your eyeballs may pop out just really isn’t my thing. After three, I moved onto the roast beef option, which was delicious and filled me up enough to continue throwing back the obligatory schnapps and attempting to sing traditional Swedish drinking songs in my best Greta Garbo-inspired accent. It. Was. Awesome. (And by “it,” I mean everything.) Paris
    Next up was Paris, which we arrived in the afternoon following the wedding. A little more of a language barrier, but I was able to bust-out enough of my now anciently-learned French to get by. We took a taxi to our hotel from the airport and the sight of the sparkling Eiffel Tower literally brought tears to my eyes when we rounded the corner into the city (it’s rigged with lights that make it shimmer for 10 minutes twice each evening). I can't fully describe the magic, but Paris is every bit as romantic as fabled. We only had three days there, unfortunately, which was way, way too short. I’m already longing to return and immerse myself in food — and by food, I mean wine and cheese — history and ambiance. It’s truly a dreamy place and I think everyone should go there at least once. Brussels
    Paris was followed by Brussels; a quick one-day stop via the Thalys train. Morgan’s cousin Helena and her new husband, Daniel, were gracious enough to let us stay in their flat (they’re currently living in Belgium), since they were still away for the wedding and associated activities. Brussels was filled with eating, drinking, more eating and then a little more drinking. The food here is good, folks. The scenery is just OK and can be done in a day (someone told us the Mannequin Pis, along with the Glockenspiel in Munich, were only famous because of Rick Steves and I now tend to agree), but it was definitely a good thing we didn’t stay longer or none of my pants would have fit for the trip home. Street waffles, chocolate, beer, lambic, more beer … you get the picture. A foodie heaven, for sure. I discovered stoemp served with Belgian beer-beef stew and my quest is to find and master a good recipe this winter.
    Munich
    Our final stop was in Munich to visit Morgan’s friend, Natalie, who lived with his family in the early 2000s while completing an internship in Redmond, Wash. She has a terrific flat near downtown and was nice enough to put us up for four nights in her bed, while sleeping on the couch. We owe her in a big way and hope she will visit us in Seattle so we can repay the favor. Although Paris was the most “romantic” stop on our trip, Munich wins the most fun award without so much as a challenge. Natalie was a great host and kicked off our time in Munich with an authentic beer garden stop on our first night. The next morning, we went on a really entertaining bike tour — mostly entertaining because my bike didn’t fit during the first half of the ride and I almost crashed into a delivery truck. It is really hard to get started on and skillfully ride a bike when your feet can’t reach the ground. FYI. Thank God, a very kind and generous woman whose bike didn’t have a high cross-bar traded me and the rest of the afternoon was much more successful. The tour also included Morgan jumping into the Isar River (wearing his shorts) with a bunch of naked locals watching from the shore (those Munichians really like to take their clothes off), trying to ride the bikes through traffic after yes, you guessed it, another beer garden stop and making friends with some Americans from Florida over more beer. We also bought some stylish European clothing (I'm in the process of getting my items hemmed since no European women are apparently shorter than 5'9") and finished off the trip with an afternoon at Hofbräuhaus (more beer).

    No self-respecting local will set foot in Hofbräuhaus, so Natalie didn’t join us there. She is very proud of the fact that she has never once visited and didn’t want to break her streak. That’s OK. More beer for us (like we needed any more at this point)! There is a lot of beer in Munich if you haven’t already gathered. They need help drinking it, so we obliged. Don’t judge. When in Rome … or Munich … or Belgium … or Paris … or Stockholm.
    Europe, I ♥ you.

    Wednesday, July 29, 2009

    America, the land of Corny McFatterson

    I watched a funny, disturbing and occasionally nauseating documentary a few weeks ago, “King Corn.” The film traces the invasive nature of corn into America’s food system — mainly via high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) — its role in the obesity epidemic and the seemingly backwards and frankly, upsetting government-subsidized program that fuels the growth of trillions of bushels of “non-edible” corn in Iowa each year. The mountains — literally — of excess corn go on for days because the silos are so full … Why isn’t the government subsidizing the growth of heirloom tomatoes, radicchio, and kumquats? I am convinced they are afraid we would wither away to mere shadows of our former corn-fed selves. Especially disconcerting is the revelation that the average American’s biological makeup is about 40 percent corn-based. That is, the amount of your body made from corn, a.k.a. your corn carbon count. “You are what you eat” is right on. Corn is in everything — even Tylenol!

    I like to think I eat fairly well; watching what I put in my mouth and reading ingredient lists, but this film set-off screeching alarm bells and has caused me to become especially cautious / conscious as of late — issues such as buying local and eating non-processed foods are becoming more of a priority. The film also profiles the slow extinction of the American family homestead and it’s terribly, terribly depressing. I encourage you to support your local family farms — even if your pocketbook and/or your husband complain! On the upside, however, some corn has its place. We just need to steer farther away from the variety that finds its way into our food via the HFCS highway and stick to the unprocessed stuff. Here’s a great recipe that I’ve made a few times this summer (including for my brother's birthday dinner) — thanks to my friend, Jen, a fabulous cook, who introduced me to it. The salad is crisp, tangy and refreshing and pairs perfectly with just about anything else you throw on the grill. It may be the most perfect summer side dish I’ve ever encountered. Bobby Flay definitely moved up a notch in my book with this one.

    Grilled Corn and Tomato-Sweet Onion Salad with Fresh Basil Dressing and Crumbled Blue Cheese

    Ingredients
    1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
    1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
    1 teaspoon sugar
    Salt
    Freshly ground black pepper
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    8 ears corn, grilled in the husk, kernels removed
    1 sweet onion (such as Vidalia or Walla Walla), halved and thinly sliced
    1 pint Sweet 100 tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, halved
    8 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
    Fresh basil sprigs, for garnish

    Directions
    Combine the vinegar, basil, sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of pepper and oil in a blender and blend until smooth. Can be made two hours in advance and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before using.

    Combine the corn kernels, onion and tomato in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss to coat, season with salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Top with crumbled blue cheese and garnish with basil sprigs just before serving. Salad can be made one day in advance and served cold or at room temperature.

    Sunday, July 19, 2009

    Summer Rundown

    A lot has happened since we last chatted. Some of it actually before we last chatted — things I just haven’t shared yet. Sorry I've been so absent. Summer = sun in Seattle = as little time in front of the computer as possible. So here's my quick and dirty list, recapping summer 2009 so far ...

    1. I acquired one sister.
    Morgan’s brother, Peter, found an excellent candidate for the sister I’ve been patiently awaiting for 30 years. And, like the wise man he is, asked her to marry him. She said, “Yes!” So they got all dressed up, exchanged rings and said their “I dos” at a lovely country church in Bow, Wash., followed by a fantastic reception on Samish Island. Welcome to Omdalhood, Emily! And thank you, Peter, for my new sister. Excellent choice.
    Photo credit: Jean-Marcus Strole Photography and Design
    2. I met my “new” Swedish relatives.
    They’ve technically been my “family” for nearly two years, but I hadn’t yet met most of Morgan’s extended Swedish family on his mom’s side. They bundled up and traversed the north pole to attend the wedding and we were thrilled to have them stay with us for two weeks. It was incredibly fascinating learning more about their culture and customs (especially Jantelagen) — I could have talked to them for days on end. They even taught me table manners so I don’t embarrass myself when we visit them in Stockholm next month. I hope they were real table manners and the whole lesson wasn’t some cruel joke. I don’t want to get 86’d from the wedding for not toasting in the correct order (Very important. Can’t mess up.). 3. We spent Fourth of July on Samish Island. Classic Americana at its best.
    I love the old-time parade on the island each year. Anyone can participate, which makes for a fun, festive and varied celebration. The parade participants throw treats at the kids and I’ve officially decided there’s nothing better than watching a two-year-old scramble for candy.
    4. We’re crossing the pond.
    Yes, I am horribly cliché and said "crossing the pond." Sue me. As I mentioned above, we’re off to Europe next month, with planned stops in Stockholm, Paris, Brussels and Munich. I may die of anticipation before boarding the plane. I’ve been waiting for this trip nearly as long as I had been waiting for a sister. My biggest plans are to eat and drink copious amounts of cheese, chocolate and schnapps. When I’m done with that, I’ll probably eat and drink some more.

    I also plan to take my bazillion years of rusty French language education on a serious test drive. Unfortunately, the only things I can say in Swedish are, “Bork, bork, bork,” a la the Swedish Chef, my favorite Muppets character; and Jag älskar dig (I love you). Between those two phrases, I will probably end up in a mental institution, or find myself fleeing for the embassy, lest I get arrested for an indecent proposal. I am completely reliant on Morgan for that leg of our journey.

    If you have traveling tips for any of our planned stops, please share.

    5. My name is Hillary, but you can call me Nebuchadnezzar.
    The hanging gardens are coming along quite nicely. It’s probably an exaggeration (probably, however, not certainly) to claim they rival those of Babylon, but who am I to say? We enjoyed a delicious cucumber last week and the tomatoes look like they’re well on their way to gracing our plates. The squash took off like maniacs, but many started to rot while still very small, before we learned they were not being properly pollinated by the male flowers. Hopefully we will still get a few good ones out of the crop, now that we know how to "mate" them by hand. We will definitely be hanging the bags higher next year, too, as the tomato vines are already brushing the ground. 6. I made an awesome dinner for my brother's 26th birthday, but I'm going to spread the recipes out over several posts. We'll start with dessert, because I know that's what everyone really wants to do, anyway.

    Blueberry-Nectarine Crisp

    INGREDIENTS
    Topping
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    3/4 cup rolled oats
    1 cup brown sugar
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 cup butter, melted

    Filling
    2 pounds large nectarines (about 6), pitted and diced
    4 cups fresh blueberries
    1/4 cup granulated sugar
    3 Tbsp. cornstarch
    1/4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

    PREPARATION
    Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish.

    For topping:
    In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Mix until crumbly. Set aside.

    For filling:
    In a large bowl, toss the blueberries and nectarines. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar with the cornstarch, nutmeg, and the remaining 1/8 tsp. salt and toss this mixture with the fruit.
    Transfer filling to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle topping evenly over filling. Bake crisp until nectarines are tender, filling bubbles thickly, and topping is crisp and brown, about 40 minutes. Cool 15 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

    Note: I was in a huge hurry when I made this and forgot to toss the fruit with the cornstarch, etc., but it was still awesome.

    And that's that.

    Monday, June 8, 2009

    Nebraska Crack!

    Our friends, the Korbs, up and left us last year for what I affectionately refer to as Corn Land, U.S.A., a.k.a., Omaha, Nebraska. Michelle also refers to this as “the middle coast,” to make herself feel better about living in the Midwest. Were I her, I would do the same. I kid, I kid …
    As much as I enjoy making fun of Nebraska, it actually holds a very special spot in my heart. My mom was born and raised in Corn Land and I “vacationed” there quite a bit as a child. We would pack up our 1984 Chevrolet Caprice Classic station wagon, “Big Blue,” and hit the road, stopping at every monument and national park along the way. And oh my, the education! I was well-versed in the history of each battlefield between the Pacific Ocean and Chimney Rock by the time I was six-years-old. Not everyone gets the opportunity to drink a handmade sarsaparilla while gazing over the field where the Battle of Little Big Horn was fought, or see the Crazy Horse Memorial when it was just a nose. Gotta say, Disney World was a little more up my alley in those days.

    I do have really fond memories of Nebraska, though, once we finally arrived. Hosing down the trampoline with my cousin Lynn to lay out in the scorching sun, riding the four-wheeler up to the neighboring farm and having the farmer force me to attempt milking the cow, driving my aunt’s car through the cornfield with a newly-minted driver’s permit and being allowed to walk to the corner store all by myself as a nine-year-old because it was a classic, small town, American main street where nothing bad could ever happen. Ahhh, I miss that place.

    We miss the Korbs terribly, too, but thankfully they left behind one of my all-time favorite appetizer recipes which originated in their new home, aptly named “Nebraska Crack.” It’s sweet, it’s salty, it’s tangy and it’s — you guessed it — as addictive as crack. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


    Nebraska Crack

    “Salsa” ingredients
    1 can yellow sweet corn, drained
    1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    8 oz. (one small package) crumbled feta
    1 red pepper, chopped
    1 bunch green onions, chopped

    Dressing
    ¼ cup light olive oil
    ¼ cup sugar
    ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
    Garlic powder, salt & cayenne pepper to taste

    Tortilla chips for serving (Tostitos Scoops work best)

    Directions
    Mix oil, vinegar and sugar in a bowl. Dissolve sugar well by stirring. Add black beans, corn, onions and red pepper. Crumbled feta into bowl. Mix all ingredients together. Serve with tortilla chips.

    (Note: I made a few modifications. The original recipe calls for a half cup each of olive oil, sugar and vinegar, but I like mine a bit drier -- make it however you like! I also added the green onion and used cayenne instead of black pepper.)

    Tuesday, May 26, 2009

    Burpless cucumbers and new knees

    Bonjour! I’m back from extended hiatus. The unforeseen long break can — for the most part — be blamed on my archaic laptop. Well, that and my serious lack of patience. The poor, old girl was taking upwards of five minutes (I kid you not) to open a photo. And that was only when she didn’t completely freeze in the process. I decided to simply walk away until I had time to perform a clean install of XP, hoping that everything would return to sunshine and rainbows. Luckily, it did the trick and I’m back in business. The last two months have been fairly docile, however, so you haven’t missed much. I survived my 30th birthday and have been enjoying the foray into my fourth decade, including a weekend trip to Los Angeles to celebrate with my college friend, Melanie — a little birthday gift to myself. We had a fabulous time and I even had two celebrity sightings; Nicole Richie, eating (!) at a Mexican restaurant (she struck me as surprising normal — I always knew Lionel couldn’t completely fail as a father) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan, just hanging out at a bar, having a beer, surrounded by fawning, skinny blondes. OK, I fawned a little, too, but from across the room … and since I’m a brunette it doesn’t count.

    In news from the home front, Morgan had his ACL reconstructed at the beginning of May as the result of a several-month-old soccer injury, so we’ve been sticking around the house for the past few weeks. Physical therapy starts next week and I’m very much looking forward to having a good-as-new husband within the coming months. Seeing him endure surgery and the beginnings of what is foretold to be fairly long recovery (six full months for sports; a full year to 100 percent) has made me incredibly appreciative of my knees. I’ve been taking two or three spinning classes at my gym each week and long walks after work. Good knees are a blessing and should be used to their fullest! It has finally thawed a bit, too, since my report of snow on the tulips; we’ve actually hit the low-70s a couple times in the past few weeks. And with the fear of frost passing, we have decided to try our hands as vegetable gardeners / “As Seen on TV” testers for the Topsy Turvy Tomato Planter. The bags were on sale for $9.99 at Walgreens and because we already planted a failed trough of asparagus shortly before Easter, an attempt at growing things above ground seems like an excellent idea. We picked up starts of cherry tomatoes, yellow summer squash and burpless cucumbers at the most awesome nursery in the entire universe, Flower World. It’s 15 gorgeous acres of every plant, tree, shrub and any other type of foliage you can possibly imagine. If you live within 500 miles, I strongly suggest making the trip. I found the “burpless” cucumber name quite amusing and looked up its origin. Apparently they have less of the bitter compound found in traditional American cucumbers and are actually supposed to produce fewer burps. I’ve never found the standard variety cucumber to be particularly belch-inducing, but perhaps some people have this issue. Who knows. Anyway, I’ll keep you updated on the vegetable progress. Hopefully there won’t be terrible disappointment to follow … please send good veggie wishes my way!