Friday, June 18, 2010


Go here, my lovelies!

Your RSS feed SHOULD transfer over to the new site, but in case it doesn't, you can click around at the new digs and re-subscribe. I know you don't want to miss a thing from The Kitchen Witch!

So come along, follow me to my new home.

Save-My-Ass Summer: Grilled Jalapeno Poppers

Ahem. In case you hadn't noticed, the weather's heating up. That means shorts. Mini-skirts. The dreaded swimsuit and the baring of post-winter backside. I don't know about you, but the first exhibition of pasty, stew-fortified winter skin makes me cringe.

So how do we cope? We cheat. We break out the razor, the pedicures. Scan the drugstore aisles for any depilatory that doesn't smell like a home perm. Self-tanner is our friend. Hey, a girl does what she's gotta do.

Gaining weight in the winter is natural right? It's biology in action--fat is nature's Snuggie, n'est ce pas? But when the days get steamy, it's time to display some backside; preferably some that you're not ashamed of.

And yet, I'm not one of those freakazoids who can pull a Paltrow and exist on veggie juice and downward dog for two weeks straight. Sorry. I sort of like food.

We're easing into things moderately here, trying to trade in mashed potatoes for sweet corn, s'mores for strawberries. And guess what? When things healthy are concerned, the grill is your best friend.

Take the other weekend, for example. We had family and friends over for an afternoon of food and water mischief, and I wanted to keep things festive but not heavy. Awesome Stepkid R. was craving something spicy and cheesy, and while his scrawny caboose might be able to handle traditional jalapeno poppers, mine certainly can't.

But thanks to the Flay-man, we didn't have to compromise much. These grilled poppers deliver all the flavor and none of the grease-coma. They're a perfect thing to break out this weekend for your favorite, spice-loving Daddy-O.

Grilled Stuffed Jalapeno Chilis
recipe slightly adapted from Bobby Flay
serves 6

4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature
2 oz. soft goat cheese
1 1/4 cup shredded reduced-fat white or yellow cheddar cheese*
2 green onions (green and pale-green part), thinly sliced
few dashes ground cumin and hot sauce
salt and black pepper
12 large jalapeno chilis, halved lengthwise, stemmed and seeded
1 heaping tablespoon ancho chili powder

Heat grill to medium.

Whisk together the cream cheese and goat cheese in a medium bowl until smooth. Fold in the cheddar, green onions, cumin and hot sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Fill each jalapeno half with about 2 tablespoons of the cheese mixture; sprinkle the top with ancho powder.

Place chilis on the grill (or use a grill basket, if preferred), filling-side up, and cook until slightly charred and tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.

**Cabot brand or Cracker Barrel reduced-fat, block cheese only, please. Otherwise, just run a few extra laps and use the full-fat stuff.


I don't bake, but if you're feeling like getting your inner Ace of Cakes on, there's some cute Father's Day cake ideas here!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Veg-Head Tuesday: The Spectacular Shroom

Hi Readers! Back from a very restful and completely unplugged visit to beautiful California! More on that after the dust settles...I'll be trying to catch up with you slowly this week, so please be patient with me. I really can't wait to hear what y'all have been up to!

Shhhh...can you hear that? That's your grill, covered in dust from a long winter, catcalling in your ear, saying, "Hey babycakes, it's been too long, don'tcha think? How 'bout going for a little spin, eh?"

Wake up, folks! Dust that dude off! It's prime grilling time--the weather is neither so steamy that you can't fathom heating ANYthing up (even a grill) nor so chilly that you crave a bowl of Guiness stew. It's sweet-spot weather!

Well, at least it is in my neck of the woods.

Don't assume that your grill discriminates, either. Sure, he loves the chicken and the cow and lunchtime weiner, but he loves veggies, too. In fact, the grill is quite the show-off where veggies are concerned.

"Think you don't like vegetables?" the grill scoffs. "Plop 'em on here, honey, and I'll work some veggie magic. I've got serious veggie mojo, Mama, so let me show you how it's done."

That grill might be a braggart, but he's not a liar. Marinate some succulent portabello mushrooms, add some toasty, gooey cheese love, a kiss of herbs, a crunchy breadcrumb topping, and Whammo! You've got an audaciously delicious concoction. With a dish so multi-layered and flavorful, the chicken in your refrigerator will shed a tear, he's so jealous.

Marinated Portabello Mushrooms with Asiago
from Weber's Way to Grill
serves 6

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

6 large portabello mushrooms, each 5 to 6 inches in diameter
3/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 cups grated Asiago cheese
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Crushed red chile flakes (optional)

In a small bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients.

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth or paper towel. Remove and discard the stems. With a teaspoon, carefully scrape out and discard the black gills from the mushroom caps. Place the mushrooms, caps sides up, on a rimmed plate and brush them with the marinade. Turn the mushrooms over and brush again with the marinade. Let stand for 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature. Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat.

In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs with the parsley and red pepper flakes, if using.

Brush the cooking grates clean. Grill the mushrooms, gill side down, over direct medium heat, with the lid closed, until the mushrooms begin to soften, 4 to 6 minutes. Brush the cap sides with some of the remaining marinade from the plate, turn over, add 1/4 cup of cheese on top of each mushroom, close the lid, and cook until tender when pierced with a knife, 4 to 6 minutes. During the last minute of cooking time, place the bread crumb mixture evenly on top of each mushroom. Remove from the grill, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


For a few brief months, between the move from North Dakota to the Rocky Mountains, we lived in Kansas. Alas, I didn't fit in any better in Kansas than I did in North Dakota. My parents chose a suburb with a concentrated Jewish population--a rather wealthy suburb, at that. We weren't rich. Or Jewish.

As per her usual, my sister made friends within days. Her best friend, Julie Schwartzman, was a smart, pale-skinned girl with jet black hair. Julie was popular and had a bowling alley in the basement of her home, along with pinball machines and skee-ball. I found Julie fascinating, particularly the carpet of black hair that covered her pale arms. I'd never seen a person that hairy in my life. Luckily, Julie's arm hair didn't phase her in the slightest; she even let me play with it sometimes. Nice girl, Julie.

The only friend I was able to wrangle up was a skinny Filipino girl named Maria Vergara who was just as out of place in that school district as I was. Maria had four older brothers who, evidently, thought it important to school her in the finer points in life: whacking the heck out of a tetherball, cheating at cards, and cursing like an old sea dog.

I remember one spring recess, while playing on the teeter-totter with Maria, I did something that apparently vexed her. She spit out a choice epithet and raised her middle finger at me, defiant. I'll never forget that moment, Maria ascending above me on the cracked red seat, finger waving in the air, stunning me into silence.

I came home that afternoon, wide-eyed. "Maria gave me the finger," I told Mama. I think I even whispered the word, I was so shocked. "I didn't know second graders could give the finger."

Mama promptly explained to me that ladies--particularly ladies in the second grade--did not give people the finger, and that Maria's brothers were obviously working overtime on Maria's education.

Luckily, Maria forgave me, and she was my only friend for the brief months I lived in Kansas. Maria's parents were both doctors, and worked long hours, but the one meal I did eat at the Vergara home, I was introduced to pancit. Pancit is a Filipino dish with Chinese influences, and it's delicious and quick. Silky rice noodles, cooked meat, and fresh vegetables are tossed with a savory sauce and stir-fried for just a few minutes. It's perfect for a quick weeknight meal.

Maria and I kept in touch for years--she was a stellar pen pal--and Maria now is a mother of two, living just outside of Boston. I only hear from her once a year now, at Christmas, but her letters are always full of vivid detail, written in her impeccable and beautiful cursive. I look forward to them.

Interestingly, Maria remembers neither giving me the finger nor what it was I did that raised her ire. She assures me that nowadays, she keeps her middle finger to herself.

serves 4

1 (6.75 ounce) package thin, Pad-Thai style rice noodles
4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced/crushed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced/crushed
3 cups diced cooked chicken, shrimp, pork or beef (or any combination)
3 cups shredded bok choy or napa cabbage
1 cup bean sprouts or carrots
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 green onions, chopped, green parts only
Lime wedges and peanuts, for garnish*

Soak the rice noodles in warm water for 20 minutes or until pliable; drain.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in a heavy large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Saute noodles for 1 minute. Remove and keep warm. Heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons oil in skillet. Saute onion, garlic, ginger, and meat for 1 minute. Add bok choy, bean sprouts, oyster sauce, fish sauce, chicken broth, and red pepper flakes. Cover and cook for about a minute or until bok choy is slightly wilted. Toss with noodles. If desired, squeeze lime over noodles and sprinkle with peanuts.

* The lime and peanuts are my addition; I don't remember them in the original version, but I like the tang and crunch they lend to the dish.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Minted Watermelon and Lemon Ice Pops

We recently enjoyed the first really balmy weekend of the season, and the girls were thrilled. It took them no time at all to rustle up some friends, break out the sprinkler and proceed to pummel each other with water guns. With all of the shrieking and bellowing going on, the neighbors probably wished for earplugs, but kids will be kids.

Late in the afternoon, the gaggle of water warriors heard the quintessential sound of summer: the tinny tinkle of The Little Red Wing. "Ice Cream Man!" they hooted, slamming the screen door behind them and hounding my husband for cash.

Notice that I said husband. There is good reason for this.

Reason 1: I never, ever, have cash on my person. Whenever I open my wallet, I always half expect moths to fly out of it, like in that wizard scene from Fantasia.

Reason 2: I am The Person in the House Who Says No.

If you want a Yes in my house, you go to Daddy.

Now of course, we couldn't just give money to our own offspring. This was the first ice cream man encounter of the summer; you can't just let other kids sit by and watch, long-faced, as Miss M. and Miss D. tuck into their Bomb Pops. We also couldn't expect the other kids to, you know, run to their own homes and beg for bucks. Inconceivable!

Ten minutes and twenty three dollars later, we had some sticky-faced, happy customers.

And truly? I wouldn't trade that first Bomb Pop of the summer for anything, even though that ice cream dude has a Helluva racket going on.

I decided that since summer was officially in swing, it was time to dig out the popsicle molds and get to work. The ice cream maker got a dusting off as well. It's Official: The Frugal Ice Cream Mama is open for business.

Minted Watermelon and Lemon Ice Pops
from Cooking Light Magazine
makes 8

Watermelon Layer:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
2 cups packed cubed and seeded watermelon
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Lemon Layer:
6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 teaspoons orange extract

To prepare watermelon layer, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil; cook 30 seconds, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in mint; cover and let stand 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl.

Place watermelon in a blender; process until smooth. Strain puree through a sieve into bowl with mint syrup; press with the back of a spoon until extract juice. Discard solids. Stir in lime juice; cover and chill for 1 hour.

Pour about 2 1/2 tablespoons watermelon mixture into each of 8 ice pop molds. Freeze 1 1/2 hours or until almost set. Arrange 1 wooden stick into mixture, being careful not to push through the bottom of mold. Return to freezer. Freeze 1 hour or until frozen.

To prepare lemon layer, combine 6 tablespoons sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil; cook 30 seconds, stirring until sugar dissolves. Pour into a bowl; stir in lemon juice, orange juice and extract. Cool 15 minutes; cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Remove molds from freezer. Pour about 3 tablespoons lemon mixture over frozen watermelon mixture in each mold. Freeze 2 hours or until completely frozen.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ceviche for Miss Sunshine

Admittedly, there has been some not-awesome stuff clinging, like a bitchy barnacle, to the four walls of our house. However, we are weathering through and thank-you all so much for your kind words and well-wishes. Your support has been wonderful.

Today I'm happy to share some super-awesome with you. Yep, it's not all thunder and storm clouds over here--we've got serious sunshine, too. Her name is Daniela and she's a student from Torreon, Mexico. She's staying with us until July, touring the state and helping me keep The Minxes entertained. Her twin, Alejandra, is staying nearby, so oftentimes, we're lucky enough to get a double dose of sunshine in our house. The Minxes are over the moon, they're so in love.

Dani and Ale have been craving a few foods from their hometown, and I've been having a lot of fun trying to re-create those dishes. One of their desires has been for ceviche, a salad of raw or barely cooked seafood that's marinated in a spicy citrus dressing. We ordered it for lunch a few days ago at a sunny Boulder cafe; as soon as we took our first bites, we knew it wasn't going to suffice.

"There's too much filler in there," Dani said, squinting at the plate. "You can hardly find the fish."

"Where's the lime?" Ale asked. "It's supposed to taste like lime."

"This isn't spicy at all!" I said. "Aren't there supposed to be chiles in there?"

Hrumph. Clearly, in order to get this right at all, we were going to have to make it ourselves. But, ummm...I've never made ceviche and raw fish kind of skeebs me out.

Not that the fish is really raw once it gets to your plate; the lemon-lime dressing actually "cooks" the fish, so it's really quite safe to eat, honest.

When searching for a go-to recipe for ceviche, I decided that I really couldn't go wrong with Reichl. The woman in charge of Gourmet magazine (may it rest in peace) certainly isn't a hack; she knows good food. I found this recipe for Shellfish Watermelon Ceviche in The Gourmet Cookbook, and it sounded like a winner.

Juicy watermelon, sharp chiles, lightly poached seafood, and a bright kick from orange and ginger? What's not to like?

We scooped up bites of that lusciousness with sturdy, salty tortilla chips and basked in the accomplishment of getting it right. Sometimes, there's nothing finer.

Shellfish Watermelon Ceviche
serves 6 as a first course

1 navel orange
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup diced (1/4-inch) seeded watermelon
1/2 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
2-3 teaspoons finely chopped jalapeno or serrano chile (to taste), including seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound sea scallops, tough side muscle removed from each if necessary, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 pound large shrimp in shells, peeled, deveined, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 pound cooked lobster, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3 small heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated (optional)

Cut and peel white pith from orange with a sharp paring knife, then cut segments free from membranes. Chop enough segments to measure 1/4 cup; discard remainder or save for another use. Combine chopped orange, orange juice, lime juice, watermelon, ginger, onion, jalapeno and salt in a large bowl and stir until combined.

Bring a 1-quart saucepan of well-salted water to a boil, then add scallops and poach at a bare simmer until just cooked through, about 1 minute. With a slotted spoon, transfer scallops to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Return water to a boil and add shrimp; poach at a bare simmer until just cooked through, about 1 minute. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water.

Drain scallops and shrimp well and pat dry.

Add scallops, shrimp, lobster, and mint to watermelon mixture and toss to combine, then season with salt. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 1 hour and up to 3 hours.

Serve ceviche with lettuce leaves on the side, if desired (use a slotted spoon for transferring ceviche to leaves).