16 July 2008

Summer Vegetables and Eggs...

Recently while I was at the Farmer's Market, I met a lovely woman who raises a variety of vegetables and plants. She has also taken on the responsibility of "sponsoring" an 11 year old boy with an interest in farming. I don't know the name of her farm, but she was very nice to talk to and very enthusiastic about her craft. She talked to me at length about the 11 year old boy and how painstakingly he works at gardening. She was selling some lovely rainbow chard that he grew (and washed). I couldn't resist purchasing a little baggy of the chard when I heard about the effort the boy put into caring for it.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the chard was also absolutely delicious. I am embarrassed to admit that I can't remember ever trying rainbow chard. I followed my gut and used it to make a frittata. It was simple and delicious, and completely hit the spot on a nice summer evening. I gently wilted the chopped chard in some of my delicious homemade butter, added some left-over roasted new potatoes and some sliced roasted red peppers. Then I poured well-whisked eggs over the whole mess, sprinkled it with a bit of mozzarella cheese and stuck it under the broiler to finish cooking. While the eggs were browning, I mixed low-fat sour cream with some tomato paste, fresh basil from my porch and chopped kalamata olives to create a sauce. It was a perfect dinner using many locally grown ingredients.

14 July 2008

Crisp Triple Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

I had a strange day where I decided I needed to like oatmeal. As in, I needed to be one of those people who can eat oatmeal for breakfast and feel full and happy. Oatmeal eaters seem like they are ready to face the day and climb a mountain. Guess what? I am still not an oatmeal eater. I bought a box of Silver Palate's Thick and Chewy Oatmeal (I think I found it on clearance and figured I could use it for granola if nothing else), and whipped up a batch of creamy oatmeal for breakfast. I sprinkled it with brown sugar and a dab of salt. I took maybe 4 bites and I was done. I couldn't make myself swallow the thick glop. I think I am just not an oatmeal girl.

I am, on the other hand, an oatmeal cookie girl. So when I noticed that the entire oatmeal box was covered in original Silver Palate recipes, I figured I owed it to myself and the oatmeal to turn it into something delicious. I almost succeeded in following the Silver Palate's Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe perfectly - until I realized I had no chocolate chips. Whoops. I went through my cookie drawer (where all the chips, sprinkles, candies are stored) and discovered a few odds and ends that I figured would work. I had about 3 ounces of white chocolate chips, 2 ounces of a 60% cacao chocolate bar, and maybe 3 ounces of a 70-something% chocolate bar. I chopped the chocolate bars into mini-chunks and mixed them into the batter. Poof - a triple chocolate chip cookie!

These cookies are pretty good. I don't think they are the perfect Oatmeal Cookie for me - they are a tad too thin. They also have a very strong butter flavor that worked nicely with the three chocolates, but was a little overwhelming. Of course these came with me to work - and the co-workers declared them winners! I am pretty sure I could bake frozen cookie dough and they would be thrilled to have a "homemade" dessert! If I used this recipe again, I think I would use all white chocolate chips and maybe add some cherries or cranberries. I am not a huge fan of fruit in my cookies, but I think it would pair nicely with the buttery flavor.

Silver Palate's Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup unsifted flour
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp milk
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup butter
1 3/4 cup Thick & Rough Silver Palate Oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate morsels (here is where I added my other chocolates)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Mix together butter, sugars, egg, milk and vanilla until well blended. Add flour mixture and mix well. Stir in oatmeal and chocolate pieces. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake in 375 F oven 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 4 dozen 2 1/2" cookies.

07 July 2008

Delicious Blueberry Lime Bars

As many of you know, it is officially berry season in the Midwest. Everywhere I turn there are blackberries, blueberries, currants and cherries waiting to be used. In fact, I happen to have some of each of them in my refrigerator awaiting a starring role in a dish. I hope to make jam this week; although, it will be challenging with our upcoming family Hog Roast. The blueberries have tasted especially good to me lately, so I keep buying them and eating them out of hand. This weekend, however, I saw a sign up at the farmer's market that said "ask us about our overripe blueberries". Since I am so adept at following instructions, I did ask them about their overripe blueberries - and bought an overflowing quart of them. The blueberries are soft and definitely overripe, but they are perfectly tasty for baking if you ask me (and much cheaper than firm berries). I knew I had several recipes in mind for berry-baking, so I was excited to find them.

The inspiration for the Blueberry Lime Bars came from a lovely blog I recently discovered called Eggs on Sunday. The photographs on this blog are breathtaking. I wish I could master the art of food photography like Amy. Instead I will just be jealous of her skills and continue to read up on her experiences in the kitchen. The post where she featured her Strawberry Lemon Bars was especially beautiful - it was an entry in honor of cancer survivors. I haven't been affected nearly as much as Amy or other people, but cancer has definitely touched my life. It was a beautiful post - and had a delicious recipe included as a bonus. Thank you Amy for inspiring these Blueberry Lime Bars!

(As an aside - this was my first experience making a custard based dessert. It was much easier than I anticipated! I plan on experimenting with more custard desserts in the future since I always have so many left over egg yolks from my egg white scrambles!)

Strawberry Lemon Bars (Adapted to create Blueberry Lime Bars)

From Delicious Fruit Desserts by Dot Vartan


For the crust
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened

For the filling
3 egg yolks
zest of 1 lemon (I used the zest of 2 limes)
1/4 cup lemon juice (I used lime juice)
1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup fresh diced strawberries (I used 1 cup fresh blueberries)

DirectionsPreheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using an electric mixer), use the paddle attachment to beat the flour, confectioner’s sugar, and butter together at medium speed until blended. Press the dough firmly into the bottom and 1/2-inch up the sides of an 8×8 baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or just until turning golden brown. Remove and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and milk. In a separate small bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Add the flour mixture to the egg yolk mixture and whisk until combined. Pour into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until it gets thick and the whisk leaves a trail, about 5 minutes. (This part took longer for me - probably because I was using an electric stove... maybe more like 10-12 minutes.) Remove the lemon custard from the heat; if you like, you can cool it down a little by placing it in a bowl and placing that bowl in an ice-water bath.

Add the diced strawberries to the lemon custard and stir gently just to combine. Pour the custard onto the crust, spread it out evenly in the pan with a silicone spatula, and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the filling is set.

Cool completely before cutting into squares. You can dust them with confectioner’s sugar if you like, but I like to leave them as is so you can see the pretty ruby red bursts of strawberry.

Makes 16.

02 July 2008

I made butter!

I know, I know, I disappeared again. I haven't been baking or cooking much - after going out of town with J and being constantly over-heated in my house, I just haven't been in the mood. I was, however, recently inspired by a post written by Lisa over at Restaurant Widow to go buy some of our delicious local Whipping Cream and make butter! Yep, I made butter! How cool is that? It was shockingly easy (Lisa wasn't lying in her post!).

I followed Lisa's instructions and basically whipped the cream until it fully separated. I used my KitchenAid stand mixer which got a tad messy - the fat totally separates from the liquid (buttermilk) and it can splatter a bit. I covered my mixer with a kitchen towel to keep the mess to a minimum. After it seemed like the fat and liquid had completely separated, I strained the whole mess through a fine mesh sieve. Be sure to save all that yummy liquid - it is fresh buttermilk that will make the best pancakes or salad dressing imaginable! After I allowed the fat to sit in the sieve for 10 or so minutes to finish draining, I added it to a clean dish. I noticed that as I stirred to break up the fat curds, more liquid came out. It was very easy to just spill the buttermilk off into the tub I had already set aside for it. I basically stopped stirring the butter when it all came together into one creamy mass, and it stopped giving off anymore liquid. At this point, I took Lisa's advice and added plenty of flaky Maldon Sea Salt. And I took my first taste. It was pure bliss. I literally licked the spoon clean. The butter was incredibly creamy and instantly melted against my tongue, leaving behind delicious little flakes of salt.

I am so happy I made homemade butter! I am annoyed at how easy it is and how much money I have wasted on fancy butter. I don't think I will buy butter for spreading ever again - just for baking. I was so inspired by the butter that I baked Strawberry Sour Cream Muffins so my co-workers could try it. The muffins were a perfect conduit for the pale yellow butter, which has a subtle sweetness. I didn't take pictures of the muffins because I didn't really love them, but if you are interested, I can find the recipe for you. Everyone at work adored the muffins and the butter - the muffins were gobbled up in two days, along with all the butter.

If you have access to a great, local creamery - go forth and make butter!