Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Foto: Wild Uncle Johnny

If you haven't heard about my Wild Uncle Johnny, I'd encourage you to go here. Dude was something else, lemme tell ya. He was also a helluva cook.

Here's a photo from one of his weddings (an adventurous soul like Wild Uncle Johnny was, of course, too big for just one wife). This is his former wife Sheila, and they remained friends long after the marriage had run its course. Which was so very like him...a gentleman through and through. I love the little crinkles around his eyes in this shot--I'm thinking that someone just told a bawdy joke...anyways, he's having fun.

Here's his recipe for vichyssoise, which he sent to me, per my request, when I was in the third grade.

Wild Uncle Johnny's Vichyssoise
serves 4

6 medium (or 4 large) leeks, white parts only, cleaned and chopped**
28 ounces chicken stock (Johnny used to buy homemade stock from a posh food market near his house, you can use either homemade or canned)
2 medium baking potatoes, peeled and diced
coarse salt
1 cup cream
1/2 cup fresh chives, snipped or sliced scallion tops

In a large pot, combine leeks, chicken stock, potato, 1 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer until potatoes break easily, about a half an hour.

Puree soup in a blender, in batches. Do NOT fill the blender all the way with hot soup, young lady! Better yet, let the soup cool for a while before even touching the blender. Better even still, let your mother do the blender part.

Stir in the cream and the chives. Taste for salt and pepper. French people prefer to use white pepper for this soup so there aren't any black flecks in it, but that seems fussy. Throw in whatever you like.

Cover soup and chill until cold, preferably 4 hours or more. If soup seems overly thick, thin with a little milk or water.

Serve soup in chilled bowls.

**How to clean a leek: Leeks are dirty little buggers. Cut the tops and ends off the leek. Slit the leek completely down the middle. Cut the leek crosswise into shreds. Soak the shreds in a bowl of cold water--the dirt will sink to the bottom. Repeat this step 3 times (with fresh water each time) or until there's no more dirt in the bottom of the bowl.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cooking Together: Grilled Pizza

I've seen a lot of recipes in the food rags lately for pizza cooked on the grill. We're kind of obsessed with grilling right now, so I couldn't wait to try it out. Plus, pizza is a given crowd-pleaser at Chez T.

Now I could make my own dough, but I am a yeast-o-phobe. Plus, we have a couple of really good pizzerias in town that sell dough to incompetents such as myself. Alternatively, you could also just buy frozen bread dough in the grocery store and thaw according to package directions.

According to my new bible, Weber's Way to Grill, pizza should be first grilled on direct medium heat. The girls and I rolled out individual balls of dough (about the size of an orange) to 1/3 of an inch thickness while hubby fired up the grill.

Note from me: dough is really fun to play with! We got messy!

The flattened dough got a good brush with olive oil, was placed on parchment paper and allowed to rest for 10 minutes.

Hubs the placed the dough rounds on the grill (4 at a time) and grilled until the crust was firm on the bottom and had grill marks, about 3 minutes with the lid closed.

Then came the fun part! Grilled side facing up, we decked out our pizzas according to personal taste/whimsy.

I set out the following choices:
-tomato sauce
-fresh mozzarella, sliced
-grated parmesan
-canadian bacon
-artichoke hearts
-roasted red peppers
-red onion, sliced
-black olives
-diced jalapenos

Once topped, the pizzas get another spin on the grill, with the lid closed, for 2-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the bottoms are crisp.

We had a blast making grilled pizzas. I have a feeling this will be a weekly ritual around here while the nights are still warm and the stomachs greedy.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ina's Peach-Blueberry Crumble

It's a great time for a summer fruit crumble, which was the Barefoot Bloggers' mission for late July. I'm leading you to Coco is Cooking (great site) where you can see the recipe:

Sadly, all of the peaches in the store were completely rock hard, so I decided to just use frozen (thawed) peaches. Blueberries are lovely right now, so they were no problem.

I halved the recipe because we are a small family and my thighs didn't need a huge dish of crumble laying around, if you know what I mean.

I mixed the filling ingredients together and set them aside. I went into the pantry, searching for flour, and then...BAM! Just like that, I was struck down by the Vomiting Virus from Hell. I barely had the presence of mind to put plastic wrap over the filling ingredients and refrigerate, but I managed. And then crawled into bed and begged for death for 24 hours.

When I finally felt well enough to finish the recipe, my filling looked, well, blue. The blueberries had completely colored the peaches, and they weren't very attractive, frankly. I wasn't about to make the filling again, so I just proceeded with the recipe.

I set it out to cool after baking and whipped up some fresh cream, which my grandmother Henrietta insisted makes ALL the difference in a dessert. I hadn't had real whipped cream in a while, and boy, was she right. I'd forgotten how delicious it was.

It might not have been pretty, but it tasted delicious. And the whole house smelled like summer--so I urge you to make the best of summer's bounty and whip this up.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

White Trash Food: The MotherLode!

I spent the weekend at my parents' house a couple of weeks ago, and it was great to relax and talk without the constant din of small children. After a while, though, I started to get restless because it was so quiet inside the house. My house hasn't seen quiet in 7 1/2 years.

So I decided to amuse myself by doing what any sane, normal adult would do: I snooped through my parents' shit.

Now before you get all schoolteacher on me, I will clarify that I didn't open Mom's brassiere drawer or riffle through the jewelry box. I am a snooper with principles. I only snoop through stuff that's in plain sight, like bookshelves, photo albums, magazine racks. In my mind, that's "open snooping," which I will only be going to maybe the 2nd ring of hell for. Totally worth it.

I got to snooping through the kitchen, and I spied something that almost made me do that Tom Cruise thing on Oprah's couch. It's that good.

I spied, with my little eyes, a cookbook. An extensive collection of recipes. From a North Dakota church/ladies club. Circa 1967 (first priniting:1963). I grabbed it, flipped through it, and then flipped out. White Trash Food Nirvana, friends and neighbors!

I got home, burst into hubby's study, waved the book around wildly, and let out a whoop. "Look! Look what mom let me borrow! Dude! It's the White Trash Motherlode! This shit is so good, you couldn't make it up. Listen: Hot Deviled Weiner Sandwich, Toasted Tuna Loaf, Peas Royale, Avocado Jello Mold! This is AWESOME!"

He turned around from the computer to face me and raised an eyebrow. "Only you would be that excited about this."

"Yeah, I know, but still! Listen to this! They even have a recipe for Homemade Head Cheese!"

"Are you trying to make me vomit so hard that my coffee comes through my nose?"

Hmmph. Killjoy. In my opinion this is a great historical relic! Casseroles-R-Us, if you will.

I giggled and snorted through the book and have decided that I am going to do a White Trash MotherLode recipe fortnightly.

We will start with an oddity that appears not once but twice in the book, submitted by different churchgoers. The recipe is for: African Chop Suey.

Okay, oddity #1: Chop Suey is not from Africa. It's probably not even from China, either, but Africa? Oddity #2: There's no ingredient that's remotely African in the recipe. Oddity #3: In Grand Forks North Dakota in the 60's, you couldn't throw a hunk of Krumkake in the street without hitting a Scandinavian. Never did see an African. Or a Chinese person, for that matter.

Still, that's what makes this so interesting to me. So without further ado, I give you:

African Chop Suey
serves about 8

1 1/2 lbs pork, cubed
1/2 cup wild rice
1/2 white rice
3 cups celery
1 large onion, chopped
4 tablespoons soy sauce
5 cups boiling water

Brown pork in some butter very well. Remove from pan and add water, celery, onions, rice and soy sauce. Simmer for 1/2 hour. Add meat and put in a casserole dish in a 350 degree oven. Bake 1 hour covered and 45 minutes uncovered.

Note: I am assuming that you know that you try this at your own peril.

Look in 2 weeks for the next episode of White Trash Motherlode...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Foto Friday

I have been gone since yesterday morning, off for a very short weekend with some generous, wonderful, feisty friends. We met on a pregnancy board almost 8 years ago, and have spoken almost daily. We all have 7 year olds now, and it's been so lovely to share your highs/lows/super-downs with honest women who aren't fluent in the language of Bullshit.

It almost didn't happen, because I got the Vomiting Virus From Hell Tuesday, but luckily, I just barely made it in time.

There's so many of you I'd love to meet, share a big old Mojito with, and throw some things on the Barbie. I'm new to the blogging stuff, but I've met so many amazing, brilliant, razor-sharp-wit women since I've started.

Someday, you are all invited to my house to hang out in the kiddie pool, eat a few delicacies, and I'll pop the champagne cork.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Grilled Chile Rellenos

My husband grew up in Texas and went to medical school in San Antonio, so he's had the privilege of sampling some dang-golly-good Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine.

Me, not so much. North Dakota didn't have much to offer growing up; I don't think we even had a Taco John's. And you'd think Colorado would have at least some decent offerings--I mean, we're not that far from Texas and Mexico, but I've eaten some incredibly shitty food here. When I get down to Denver (which is, actually, never) I have maybe a 5% chance of finding authentic and edible Mexican food.

Okay, rant about lack of good Mexican cuisine in the Rockies over. Sorry.

Anyways, my husband loves nothing more than a good chile rellenos. When he heads back to the Lone Star State, that's always one of the first things on his mind. Note that I said good chile rellenos. When done properly (which apparently darn few people know how to do) chile rellenos makes you groan and roll your eyes in ecstasy. Shitty chile rellenos? You'll groan and you'll roll your eyes, but it's not 'cause you're blissed out, lemme tell ya. Shitty chile rellenos=colon bomb.

I'd love to make chile rellenos for my husband, but I don't fry. Hot oil scares the heck out of me. I don't know how my grandmother Henrietta fried chicken almost every day of her married life, but I applaud her bravery.

Plus, my dear husband has high cholesterol, and I really, really, want him to stay on this planet for a long time. So where fried food is concerned, I'm kind of the Food Gestapo. He probably sneaks it behind my back, but when I'm present, he's allowed to eat it maybe twice a year. And yeah, I know I'm no fun, so shut up.

I made a great discovery the other day. The cool folks at Weber make a cookbook! A pretty darn good one! It's called Weber's Way to Grill, by Jamie Purviance, and it tells you how to grill just about anything. Sorry Bobby Flay, I am now two-timing your ass.

The Weber Grill Cookbook has a recipe for Grilled Chile Rellenos. Genius! Of course, I had to mess with the recipe and alter the heck out of it, because I cannot leave well enough alone, but we were all quite pleased.

Here's the recipe (with my modifications):
Grilled Chile Rellenos
modified from Weber's Way to Grill by Jamie Purviance
serves 6

6 large poblano chile peppers
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese
2 idaho potatoes, scrubbed and pricked with a fork
1/3 cup salsa
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for an hour; cool and scoop out potato from shells, reserve. Discard potato skins.

Heat the grill to medium. Place poblano chile peppers directly on the grill with the lid open until the skins are blackened and blistered all over, 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally. (The goal is to char the skins quickly so that you can peel them without the chiles collapsing. You will need chiles with enough structure, even when roasted, to hold the filling).

They'll look something like this--although I think I'd even blacken them some more next time.

Place charred chiles in a large bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow chiles to steam, about 10 minutes.

Gently peel and discard the skin from the chiles. Leaving the stems intact, carefully cut a slit down one side of each chile and remove and discard the seeds and veins.

In a medium bowl, combine the potato, salsa, chopped jalapenos, cheeses, ancho chile powder, salt and pepper.

Carefully stuff the chiles with the filling mixture. Brush chiles with olive oil.

Grill the stuffed chiles, seam side up, over indirect medium heat, with the lid closed, until the cheese melts, about 6-8 minutes. Alternatively, you can just pop them under the broiler until the cheese melts.

The original recipe didn't call for potato in the filling, but I wanted a dish that was more substantial. Read: Dana's ass is too lazy to make more than one thing, so she's trying to turn these into a heartier, more entree-like dish.

I actually thought of this because another of my hubby's favorite things are samosa and dosa, which are Indian dishes using spiced mashed potatoes.

Prepping the chiles really isn't as hard as it sounds. Just make sure you sufficiently blacken and char the skins and steam for enough time. In retrospect, I think I would have let mine steam another 5 minutes because they were a leeetle tricky to peel. In fact, I only got about half the skin off the peppers. It didn't really matter, though. Honestly, next time I might not peel them at all.

Wham-o! I hit this out of the ballpark! Everyone loved them (except for the little girls, who do not like spice in their food). Very delicious vegetarian chile rellenos. Not Texas-fried-good, mind you, but reasonably healthy and quite flavorful. Not bad for a North Dakota girl!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gramma Rhetta's Lemon Bars

My maternal grandmother, Henrietta, has been on my mind lately, probably because of the letter my mother shared with me here.

I was stunned when she died, because I never thought she would. She had more energy at 80 than I did at 13. She zipped around from task to task, shooing errant children outside NOW, because dang it, she had stuff to get done.

She didn't like anyone bothering her in the kitchen, which is why when my mother married my father, she knew how to make one thing. Salad.

My mother never held it against her though, because Henrietta taught her something far more important: the art of femme fatale.

Gramma could charm a man like nobody's business. Normally, she was a trouser-wearing, all-business, bossy bit of baggage. But when a man walked into the room...Viola! Suddenly the drawl got thicker, the eyelashes batted heavier and the smile got absolutely vixen-like.

Gramma had three husbands, and was probably well onto collecting her fourth when she died, quickly and unexpectedly. She died like she lived, in a flash of bright light and perfume and a little bit of fairy dust.

Besides her fried chicken (and her cornbread), which are recipes that, alas, died with her, she left this lemon bar cookie recipe. I don't bake much, and I don't really like sweets, but I love all things lemon. She always had a batch of these in the freezer when we visited. Yeah, that's right, the freezer. For some reason, we loved them best that way.

So Gramma Rhetta, here's to you. I miss you, Sassybritches.

Lemon Bars


1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour

Combine and press into a 8x8-inch square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Sift together the sugar, baking powder and flour. Add 2 beaten eggs, lemon juice and lemon zeat Pour over baked crust and bake 25 minutes.


Dust top with powdered sugar, cut into squares and, if you are a Ludlam, freeze and sneak several throughout the day.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Fudge Ripple Ice Cream

We only have two more weeks with our Lore, which breaks everyone's hearts. I've been glum for days, moping in the laundry room and looking at the world through slitted eyes. Even the kittycat doesn't want to be in the same room as me.

I decided that we'd better let Lore choose the ice cream this week, so we can enjoy it before our beautiful butterfly flaps her wings home.

We tossed around some really good ideas: blueberry, cherry-vanilla, Oreo, lemon. But when I mentioned Fudge Ripple, those sea green eyes lit up like Christmas.

I both envy and fear for the man who wins Lorelei's heart. I envy him because the lucky devil gets to watch those eyes come alive, and it's one of the most glorious sights on Earth. I also fear for the poor dude, because once he figures out how to do it, he's going to spend the rest of his days trying to make it happen again and again. That sucker isn't gonna have time for anything else. It's that rewarding.

I made a simple vanilla ice cream base:
1 cup milk
2 cups whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
pinch of salt

Whisk all ingredients together and toss in your ice cream machine.

Now after you pour this into the ice cream maker and freeze it, you could just swirl in some jarred hot fudge sauce, re-freeze and call it done. But this ice cream was for our Lore, and hot fudge sauce is wicked easy to make anyways, so this wasn't a day for scrimping.

Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce

8 ounces of the best bittersweet chocolate you can find (I used Lindt)
1 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon strong coffee
1 teaspoon vanilla

Chop the chocolate into small bits. Heat chocolate and cream in a small saucepan over low heat until smooth and silky. Remove from heat; stir in coffee and vanilla.

**You can omit the coffee, but it really does improve the taste of the sauce for some reason.

I chilled the sauce a little and then stirred it into the softened ice cream, which I'd gotten a little too soft, so I didn't get those starkly contrasting ripples I wanted. But to Hell with aesthetics. It was scrumptious.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

With Drops of Jupiter in Her Hair...

Genuine excerpt from a letter written by my maternal grandmother (Henrietta, of fried-chicken-fame) to her sister, Sarah. Exact date unknown; my mother and I estimate it's about circa 1941.

Monday afternoon

Dearest Sarah,

...I wish Mary Ellen had someone to set a good example for her! today she has been into mischief all day long--what with painting the back steps with stale grease I had thrown in the garbage and getting it all in her hair, to pestering other children until she has been bodily thrown out of every yard in the neighborhood--she was waiting for John when he got home to go and buy her more sand for her own sandbox; then she stands on the back steps and shouts loud defiance and yaa-yaa at all the world in general because her daddy will do just as she wants and the heck with them... I just refuse to squelch her very much because an assurred [sic] personality is too rare and she is so lovable in spite of her escapades...

Ahem. If you haven't guessed, Mary Ellen is my mother. My mother's cousin Juana (Sarah's daughter) stumbled across this letter a few weeks ago and sent it our way.

It makes me laugh for a number of reasons: a) my mother, in the past, has insisted that she was a very good girl. b) my grandmother, rest her soul, always insisted that my mother was a huge pain in the ass to raise. c) the above description reminds me so much of Miss D. that my sides hurt.

My husband and I have always insisted that Miss D. came from Mars. Or somewhere out in the galaxy, farfar away. There's no other explanation. Both my husband and I were socially awkward, painfully shy, nose-in-a-book, rule-follower kids. Growing up, people always looked stunned when I spoke even a word. He read the Webster's dictionary for fun. And as painful as it is for him to admit that, it's even more painful for me, because I did it too. But he's worse because he also read the entire set of Encyclopedia Brittanica's.

How did two such oddballs produce Miss D? She is the Empress of Outside Voice, the Neighborhood Dilettante, the Hurricane-Strength Force of Nature.

In the past, we've blamed my sister-in-law, and for good reason. She's spunk personified. She could make friends with a fire hose; she's that dynamic. When she was in high school, my FIL actually resorted to nailing her bedroom windows shut because Little Miss Social Butterfly kept...escaping... during the night.

When my mom showed me the letter this past week, I thought it was the most awesome historical relic ever.

My husband and I also decided that we're sending her elsewhere to be raised--desperate times.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For Veg-Heads: Grilled Portobello Parmesan

My friend Kim, who also happens to be a personal trainer and fitness fanatic, is a Veg-Head. In the fitness-obsessed part of the Rocky Mountains in which we live, this is no big deal. Almost every good restaurant has a few--if not a lot--of vegetarian items on the menu. And we get spoiled pretty fast around here; we expect that a menu will have meat-free, gluten-free, dairy-free options. After all, it's our health right?

Poor Kim went camping over the 4th of July holiday; camping in South Dakota, to be exact. Now I grew up in North Dakota, and I had a small inkling of the difficulties she'd face being a Veg-Head in the Dakotas. Not that things haven't improved, because they have, but let's just say that her options near Mount Rushmore were limited, to say the least. Fun choice: salad or straight carbs? Poor sweetie lived on PowerBars and Kashi cereal.

When I saw this recipe for Grilled Portobello Parmesan in the August 2009 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine, I thought of her. Actually, I thought of a lot of poor Veg-Heads I know who suffer dearly at summer cookouts, sheepishly toting their own Boca burger to the party, praying it doesn't touch the chicken or the steak next to it.

Portobello mushrooms are great on the grill, and this dish is delicious and hearty enough to please meat eaters, too. And don't you think it would be a lovely gesture to be able to assure the Veg-Head in your life that never fear, she can leave her tofu dogs at home this next weekend?

Grilled Portobello Parmesan
from Bon Appetit Magazine, August 2009
serves 6

6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 large garlic clove, pressed
6 large portobello mushrooms, stemmed, gills scraped out*
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, divided
6 1/2-inch-thick heirloom tomato slices (from 2 very large tomatoes)
7 to 8 ounces Fontina cheese, thinly sliced **

(optional) warm tomato sauce for dunking.

Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Whisk extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and pressed garlic clove in a small bowl. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange portobello mushrooms on a rimmed baking sheet, gill side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spoon generous tablespoon of dressing into each mushroom; swirl to coat.

Stir ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil in a small bowl to blend. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange tomato slices on plate; sprinkle with salt and pepper. ***

Place mushrooms on the grill, gill side down. Grill until edges begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes, depending on thickness of mushrooms. Transfer mushrooms to same baking sheet, gill side up. Nestle 1 tomato slice into each mushroom. Divide ricotta cheese mixture atop sliced tomatoes, spreading to cover, about 3 tablespoons per mushroom. Top with fontina slices, dividing equally. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon parmesan over each. Carefully return mushrooms to grill.

Cover barbecue and cook until mushrooms are soft and cheese is melted, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle remaining basil over. Place mushrooms on plates. Drizzle remaining dressing around mushrooms and serve.

*Note from me: the only portobellos I could find at the store were Titanic-sized, so this recipe only yielded 2 huge-ass stuffed dudes. I just cut them in half :)

**Fontina cheese ain't cheap. Splurge. It's worth it here. It's slightly nutty and melts like a dream.

***As per my usual bent, I riffed with the recipe. I had 2/3 cup leftover jarred artichoke hearts, so I chopped them up and added them to the ricotta filling. I also added a clove of chopped garlic and a smidge of crushed red pepper to the filling.


If you don't make these, you are nuts. They were so incredibly delicious. Everyone at the table kept saying, "Wow. Oh Wow." I loved the additions to the filling, and nobody, I mean nobody, is going to miss the meat. Adults, that is.

The girls were dubious about the mushrooms (as you might be when the thing you're about to eat is almost the size of your own head). They loved the gooey cheese on the top and took a few spoonfuls of the filling. But actually ingesting a mushroom? My kids are SO not there yet. But that's okay.

These are winners, gentle readers! And eating less meat is good for you and the eh, when something's as yummy as this, you'll be too busy eating to remember.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mommy's Turn: Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt

Mama won the ice cream Lotto this week, and while she contemplated peach ice cream (usually a summer favorite), Rocky Mountain peaches aren't good this year due to a spring cold snap. I am crying for a Palisade peach just thinking about it.

Ice cream is great, but sometimes my thighs cry for mercy and something lighter is necessary. I took a snoop around the bookstore, spied David Lebovitz's book The Perfect Scoop and found a vanilla frozen yogurt recipe. For those of you who aren't foodies, David Lebovitz is pastry chef, cookbook author and blogger extraordinaire. He wrote the aforementioned cookbook, The Perfect Scoop, which celebrates all things sweet and frozen. My fellow food blogger Phoo-d says it's her favorite ice-cream cookbook by far, and I believe it, because David knows food. His basic frozen yogurt recipe looks like this:

I loved that David used Greek-style yogurt, which is rich and delicious and good for you. I wanted something a little more exotic than vanilla, though. I went shopping in my refrigerator (like mother, like daughter) and pantry and found mango, coconut extract and a lonely little 1/2 cup of sweetened flaked coconut.

Here's the recipe, adapted from David Lebovitz's Vanilla Frozen Yogurt.

Coconut-Mango Frozen Yogurt
makes about a quart

3 cups Greek-style yogurt, such as Fage
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon coconut extract
2/3 cup chopped ripe mango
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Whisk the yogurt, sugar and coconut extract together, allowing sugar to dissolve. Chill 1 hour. Add mixture to ice cream maker and run per manufacturer's directions. Add the mango and coconut the last 5 minutes of churning time.

I liked it a lot. The mixture wasn't overpowered by coconut flavor, and the mango added a burst of freshness.

*** I urge you to take David's advice and use a whole milk, good quality, Greek yogurt. Or, if you live in Paris like David, he says French yogurt works brilliantly.

I liked the tang that the yogurt lended; the girls, not so much. This wasn't as sweet as the commercial kinds of frozen yogurt (eg: TCBY) that the girls are used to. But I liked that it wasn't too sweet. And I think my thighs appreciate the brief repreive from cream this week.

PS: If you want a stunning set of photos and a recipe for Coconut-Mango Ice Cream from The Perfect Scoop, pop into sometime in the next week or two. She tells me that it's coming up!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ina's Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Barefoot Bloggers picked a great Ina recipe for the 4th of July weekend. I've made her Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes many times, and it's always a crowd pleaser. It can be made ahead and served either at room temperature or chilled.

And I like this recipe because you can totally riff with it and not mess it up. I tossed in some grilled zucchini this time, but I've also tossed in cooked chicken. If you don't have mozzarella on hand, throw in some feta. Marinated artichokes? Absolutely. Parsley instead of basil? Sure.

The only thing you need to remember is that if you make it ahead of time, stir in the fresh herbs right before serving it. Oh, and re-taste for seasonings right before serving. If the salad seems dry, add a glug or two of extra-virgin olive oil.

Another bonus: if you have leftovers, they'll be good for a couple of days.

Ina Garten's Pasta with Sun-Dried Tomatoes from Barefoot Contessa Family-Style
serves 6-8

1/2 pound fusilli (spirals) pasta
kosher salt
olive oil
1 pound ripe tomatoes, medium diced
3/4 cup good black olives, such as kalamata, pitted and diced
1 pound fresh mozzarella, medium-diced
6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

For The Dressing

5 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons good olive oil
1 garlic clove, diced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup packed basil leaves, julienned

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water with a splash of oil to keep it from sticking together. Boil for 12 minutes or according to package directions. Drain well and allow to cool. Place the pasta in a bowl and add the tomatoes, olives, mozzarella and chopped sun-dried tomatoes.

For the dressing, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt and pepper in a food processor until almost smooth.

Pour the dressing over the pasta, sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and basil, and toss well.

**Note from me: I have made the dressing, just by itself, and brushed it on grilled fish and grilled vegetables. It packs a lot of flavor and is terrific that way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cooking Together: Strawberry Applesauce

I'm not a big fan of applesauce. Whenever I had the Spewing Stomach Virus From Hell as a kid--which was often--the first thing back in my temperamental tummy was applesauce. Sometimes the old gut was ready, and sometimes it was not, and applesauce out the nose is not a pretty thing.

And I don't like applesauce on my pork chops, thank you very much. I like savory food savory. Slap a good pan gravy on that sucker, not a pile of mushy sweet stuff. I always roll my eyes in Autumn when the pork+apple recipes dominate the food glossies. It's just not my thing. Small digression: don't even think about putting prunes or raisins or apricots on my pork either, even in chutney form. Barf.

The other day I was cursing and sweating up a storm on the treadmill at the gym, and the t.v. was (of course!) on the Food Network. Don't those folks at the gym know that food is what forced me to the gym in the first place? No wonder they never suffer for membership at that joint.

Sunny Anderson was whipping up grown-up childhood classics on her show Cooking for Real. She ended the meal with homemade Strawberry Applesauce. It looked gorgeously pink and Sunny said she didn't even need to add any sugar to hers, and I thought...maybe.

Let's be clear: Miss D. does not let applesauce pass her lips. I've tried. However, this applesauce was pink and Miss D., in typical diva fashion, thinks pink things are the cat's pajamas. **Strange idiom pondering here--cat's pajamas? What in tarnation does that mean and why do we say it?

Anyways, the recipe is very simple.

Strawberry Applesauce
from Cooking for Real with Sunny Anderson

5 McIntosh or Cortland apples, peeled, cored and diced into small chunks
1/2 cup water
8-10 strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1/4-1/2 cup sugar, or to taste.

Put apples, water and cinnamon stick in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Cover, turn down the heat until apples are tender when pierced with a fork, about 15 minutes. Add the strawberries and cook 5 more minutes.

Cool mixture slightly, discard cinnamon stick and then press through a sieve. Taste for sweetness, adding sugar to taste while still warm, if necessary.

**A few notes from me: I didn't have anything but a very fine mesh sieve, so I just whizzed the apple/strawberry mixture with my immersion blender. Worked great, although the girls were upset with me because I wouldn't let them use the "Whizzer Wand Thingy" by themselves.

I thought it was delicious and perfectly sweet without additional sugar. Both girls insisted it was too tart that way. I compromised and added 1/4 cup sugar.

It's beautiful to look at, easy, and--when gilded with a little dollop of whipped cream--child approved.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Mommy-time: Watermelon Margarita Ice Pops

Why should kids have all of the stinkin' fun, huh? It's hotter than Hades' butt outside, and I think popsicles are in order. Adult popsicles. Mommysicles, if you will.

In the July issue of Gourmet magazine, the entire back page is dedicated to Boozy Ice Pops. I want to marry Gourmet magazine.

All of the ice pops sounded enticing (except for the Bloody Mary Ice Pops--just too close to my gazpacho experience for comfort). This time, I chose Watermelon Margarita Ice Pops. Expect more Boozy Ice Pops this summer.

Only problem is, my kids want them. Not. Sharing.

Watermelon Margarita Ice Pops
makes 6-10

5 cups chopped seedless watermelon (1 1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons superfine granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup silver tequila

Puree all ingredients in a blender until smooth, then strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup (I used a pitcher). Press down and then discard solids. Skim off any foam, then pour into molds. Freeze 30 minutes, then insert sticks. Freeze until firm, about 24 hours.

*Note: Gourmet magazine notes that Boozy Ice Pops are not particularly potent, so feel free to have seconds. Thank you, I think I will.

**Because I'm an ADD dork, I forgot the part about freezing 30 minutes, then inserting the sticks. I don't think it made a difference?

*** Happy Hour with Popsicles Rocks!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Good Day for a Parade

This year, the neighborhood kids thought a 4th of July parade was a smashing idea. We agreed.

Lore and the girls worked for hours in the garage, giggling in secrecy. Knowing my girls, I suspected there would be bling involved.

Naturally, Miss D. opted for head gear. Screw safety y'all, it's about looking like royalty.

There's a great thing about small towns. Friends are always hanging around, ready to join you for a ride.

We pimped out our rides and declared the day a huge success. Happy Independence Day!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Friday Foto (s)

It's been a rough couple of weeks around here at the T house. Without going into the rotten little details, let's just say that there's been a lot of saltwater flowing around here.

The crazy thing with families is that one little leak in the boat drags you all down. Moods spread like a congtagion, infecting even the smallest members. Joy, sorrow, anger, despair, fear--it's a match striking flint.

If we didn't live in the Rocky Mountains, I'd swear the Santa Ana winds were blowing--people are acting that loony. Miss D. sleepwalks, wanders into our room, makes a new bed on the cold tile of the bathroom. Miss M. has 2,3,4 a.m. terrors, shreiking into the night, remembering none of it the next day.

Even our little Lore is feeling the sting, and I wouldn't have her happiness blighted for the world. When the sparkle goes out of those pale green eyes, something needs fixing. Our family is slowly re-trenching, trying to take great care with each other, because that's what you do with raw wounds.

When the going gets tough, I make food. I'm not particularly good with people. I always feel like I'm in pitch black, fumbling for the lightswitch. But feeding people, I can do.

We're thirsty here, but boy, we're coming up dry. Nobody's got much of an appetite, so I'm focusing on simple pleasures that might lighten us up and catapult us out of this mood. I decided that nobody can feel bad eating a cool, succulent wedge of watermelon, so that's what I cut into yesterday afternoon. And this is the first thing I saw.

The world works in nutty ways. Sometimes it flings us completely on our ass, but we soldier through and prop each other up. We hold on and straighten shoulders and whisper quietly that it really is okay. And it is.

Happy 4th of July to you and yours. Hug them tight.