Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Grilled Lemon Chicken

Grilled Lemon Chicken
Nutrition Facts


3-4 pounds bone in skin on chicken breasts and/or thighs

Marinade Ingredients:

2 Tbsp lemon zest
1 cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic
2 t dried thyme
1 t dried rosemary
2 T fresh parsley
½ t red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

Click here for the complete directions!

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Lemony Vinaigrette

When neighbors give you lemons, it's time to make Lemony Vinaigrette!

Lemony Vinaigrette
nutrition facts

Serves: 2


2 t lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced - or equivalent dried garlic
1/4 t dried mustard
fresh cracked black pepper to taste
a pinch of salt if you must, but do try it without the salt first


Place all ingredients in a small bowl such as a custard cup, mix well with a fork and toss with the salads right before dinner.

Don't forget to join me in the new home for Mindful Palate. While you are there, see if you can find the hidden game!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Apple and Squash Puree

Delicately delicious.

Apple and Squash Puree


3 pounds butternut squash
2 granny smith apples (or other firm apple)
S&P to taste
1 T finely grated orange zest
1/8 t ground ginger (just a pinch really)
1/8 t cinnamon
2 T butter


Peel, seed, and cut the squash into 1 inch cubes.
Peel, core, and quarter the apples
Measure the seasonings and butter

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a medium pan. Add the squash and apples to a steamer basket and steam covered about 15-20 minutes or until very soft.

Remove the steamer basket and transfer the squash and apple to a bowl. Mash a bit with a blender - or mash a lot depending on how smooth you like the puree to be. An immersion blender works just fine.

Add pepper, zest, ginger, cinnamon and butter. Stir well to melt the butter. Taste and add salt if you need to or adjust any of the other seasonings.

Serve warm. Easily made ahead of time and reheated in the microwave in just a minute or two depending on your microwave’s power. Or reheat in the oven at 350 dotted with even more butter for about 30 minutes.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Cartoccio: Fish Fillets with Olive Paste

One of the nicest and best looking chefs I know is Benny the Chef. His newest book, The Art of Cooking According to Me, sits happily in my kitchen with multiple crimped corners leading to pages covered in a variety of food splatters. I have learned so much about Italian cooking from this book and am deeply indebted to him. Like his Facebook Page! Many thanks to Benny for allowing me to share this recipe with you.


Ingredients for 4 people:

4 big fish fillets (salmon, trout, sea bream, red snapper, white fish, halibut)
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 Tbsp capers
2 Tbs bread crumbs
2 anchovy fillets
2 slices stale bread
A handful of black olives
A bunch of fresh parsley
Extra virgin olive oil
Ground white pepper


In a food processor put the olives, the bread, the capers, the bread crumbs, the anchovies, two cloves of crushed garlic, a few leaves of parsley, and a couple tablespoons of oil. Process until you have a thick paste.

Now, take the fish fillets and season with salt and pepper,. Spread the paste over the top and press firmly for it to stick to the flesh. Place the fish in the refrigerator and let it rest for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, combine a couple tablespoons of oil with the rest of the garlic.

Cut four large sheets of parchment paper; they have to be long enough to cover the length of the fish. Fold each sheet in half lengthwise and spoon the garlic oil over them.

Put a few branches of parsley on each paper. Arrange the fillets over the parsley and drizzle with oil.

Buy it here!
Fold the paper in half over the fish. You should fold the open ended part of the paper back over the top to make a pleat and then tuck the sides of the paper underneath. Make four tightly sealed packets.

Arrange the packets on a baking sheet and place in the oven at 450F. Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on the size of the fillets).

Take the packets out of the oven and place onto plates. Serve the fish inside the paper and open it in front of your guests.

(!): The steam that will be released when opening the packets will be an explosion of aromas, but be careful because it will also be very hot.

(?): Cartoccio is a classical Italian preparation for fish, seafood, vegetables, and pasta. In Central Italy it is made especially with freshwater fish; very tasty is the Cartoccio with the trout. This preparation is very good for fish with a lean flesh because the steam inside the packets will cook it gently and the flesh will be more juicy and digestible.

@: Before closing the packets, sprinkle the fish with ground hazelnuts.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Mindful Palate the Dot Com

I am so happy to announce that Mindful Palate has a new website! *drum roll* Mindful Palate

The website is already stocked with a few things that we just cannot do on a blog.

The great recipe files will grow and be in a format that is even more helpful to even the novice cook!

Our new Chef in Charge of Explaining Stuff is The Spoon Mage (tm)!

There will be games! Right now there's a link somewhere in the site just awaiting a good click or two,

Instead of just recipes, there will be musings on my two favorite other subjects: Mindfulness and Peace.

You will find two separate recommended Link areas with terrific sites to enjoy and helpful tools to bookmark.

I will continue to post recipes at this blog, some will be just for this blog, other recipes will direct you to head on over to Mindful Palate the Dot Com for the full recipe.

I very much hope you enjoy Mindful Palate so much you will bookmark it and register for the every now and then (once a week maximum) emails. I cannot wait to grow this website so that it will be of even more use to you than the blog.

Visit often, interact with the Spoon Mage (tm), find the game, enjoy the recipes and musings, and have a very mindfully wonderful rest of the day.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Leeky Mushroom Bourguignon

Would meatless Bourguignon shock the Great Julia? I hope that she would be as intrigued as I was with this variation on a Bourguignon Theme.

Leeky Mushroom Bourguignon
nutrition facts were set as a topping not a main dish.

This is the part you eat.
What to assemble:

2 pounds mushrooms
3 medium or 2 large leeks
3 T garlic
2 T butter
2 T grapeseed oil
3 T flour
1 1/2 t thyme
fresh cracked black pepper
2 T Worcestershire Sauce
2 cups good Burgundy wine
2 T fresh parsley

How to prep:

Set out one very large wide skillet to which is added 1 T oil and 1 T butter. In a larger heavy pot with a lid, place the other T each of oil and butter.

sliced clean leeks
Rinse and dry the mushrooms. Cut them into chunks - ie small mushrooms are cut in half, medium sized shrooms quartered, and large shrooms cut in half and then into thirds.

Trim the dark green woody leaves and roots off the leeks - add them to your compost pile. Rinse the remaining white and light green part of the leek.

Slice into rings, separate them and swish around in a bowl of cool water, drain, and repeat until all the grit is removed and the rings have separated. Drain and dry on a tea towel.

Mince garlic. Measure flour, thyme and black pepper into a small bowl. Set out Worcestershire Sauce, measure wine, and chop the parsley.

How to Bourguignon:
Caramelized mushrooms

Heat the large wide skillet over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until well caramelized. This will take as long as 25 minutes. Don't over stir as that will keep the mushrooms from browning and you need the brown for flavor. When they are nice and brown, deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine, stir to scrap up the bits, and set the skillet aside.

Heat the larger heavy pot on the same medium high heat and add the leeks. Saute for about five minutes stirring frequently. Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic. Saute for two more minutes. Add the flour and thyme and pepper and continue to saute for another couple minutes or until the flour has become incorporated. Pour in the browned mushrooms, Worcestershire Sauce and wine. Stir constantly until the mixture becomes incorporated. Continue to cook, bringing the sauce to a simmer.

Not the most attractive dish in the world, but
it sure is the tastiest!
Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 40-45 minutes until the color begins to deepen. Taste and adjust seasonings. You may need to add salt. I am not used to it and so did not include it here except in the form of Worcestershire. If the sauce seems thin, simmer it uncovered and let it reduce a bit. You want to achieve a juicy thick consistency.

This is particularly delicious on a baked potato. It would make a terrific Vegetarian entree when served with brown rice. If you are calorie counting you will need to adjust the numbers for the nutrition facts as those are set for use as a topping only.

Baked Leeky Tortellini

If you prefer, sub in a jar of your favorite pasta sauce. Marinara is an excellent choice. The combination of prepared foods and home cooking makes this a wonderfully satisfying weekday meal - with left overs to take to work for lunch!

Baked Leeky Tortellini
nutrition facts for 8 servings

What to assemble:

27 oz packages tortellini (I used three 9 oz spinach tortellini packs)
2 large leeks (or 3 medium)
2 T olive oil
6 cloves garlic
1/4 t black pepper or to taste
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
45 oz canned or boxed chopped tomatoes (or fresh if it is tomato season)
1/4 cup red wine
2 T tomato paste
1 large handful fresh picked basil leaves
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
4 oz fresh Mozzarella

Add 1 cup peas to the boiling water with the toretllini
Add sliced mushrooms or spinach when sauteing the leek
1/4 cup cream mixed into the sauce before baking

How to prep:

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Set out a large pan or casserole (9x12 works great) and spray with your favorite cookery spray, or line with foil and spray the foil. Set out a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to cover the pan when it is cooking.

Clean and slice the leeks. The white and light green parts are to be used in the dish and the rest added to your compost bin. Rinse the root end of the leek to remove the external dirt. Slice the roots off the bulb, then cut off the dark green woody leaves. I like to remove the outer layer as I would an onion. This is easy to do if you make a thin slit in the layer. It then peels right off. Slice the leeks into thin ringlets. Add to a large bowl of cool water and separate the rings. Swish a bit, drain into a fine mesh colander. Return to the bowl with more cool water and rinse again. Repeat until all the dirt is removed. Drain well, lay in a tea towel and pat dry. Return to the dried bowl.

Set out the tortellini, measure the oil, mince the garlic, and open the container of tomatoes. Rinse and tear the basil leaves. They don't have to be small, just 2 or three pieces for each leaf. Dry in the tea towel and place in a bowl.

Measure the black and red pepper into a small bowl. Measure wine and set out tomato paste. Grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano, and make thin slices off the block of mozzarella.

The Cookery:

Do not over cheese, this is just right.
Turn the burner on to medium and bring the olive oil to a shimmer. Add the leek rings and saute for a couple minutes, lower the heat to medium low and continue to simmer about five minutes (or until softened). Stir every now and then. During the last two minutes, add the minced garlic, black, and red pepper.  Add the chopped tomatoes and stir. Heat until the sauce is simmering. Add the basil.

Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference. I've given you starter amounts. You may love more garlic. If so - add it! You might like it with a more peppery kick - add more crushed red pepper flakes! I do not salt. But if you need it, go ahead... just not too much, ok?

Once the sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the tortellini and boil for just two minutes. Drain in a colander and set aside.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano to the finished sauce and stir. Drain the tortellini and return them to the pasta pot. Mix the sauce with the tortellini  Pour into the baking pan and spread smooth. Dot with circles of mozzarella.

Tightly cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the foil, raise the temperature to 425 F and bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes - or until the cheese begins to brown a bit.

Remove from the oven and allow to set five minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mama D's Olive and Eggplant Salad

My husband's Aunt got the Minneapolis St. Paul area cooking and eating lots of Italian-American food! This recipe is not one I'd eat because I am against olives - unless they have been rendered into submission and made into oil. But, I don't want to deprive those odd folks out there that eat black olives of a Mama D classic, so... enjoy!

Mama D's Olive and Eggplant Salad
nutrition facts


1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, chopped
pinch of salt
1/2 t pepper
1/3 t oregano
1 clove garlic minced (were I to make this I would increase the garlic dramatically)
1/4 pound black Italian olives
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
black olives
3 sprigs parsley, chopped
2 T olive oil (she actually called for 1/4 cup but I don't think that much is necessary. You can always go oup from 2 T but you can't back off from 1/4 cup)
1 T plus 1 t wine vinegar


Cut the eggplant slices into bite sized pieces. Cook in boiling salted water until tender. Drain and squeeze dry. Combine with the remaining ingredients and toss gently.

Easy and olivey.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Eggplant and Zucchini Casserole

A beautiful Vegetarian dish that will rock the socks off a carnivore. Serve as a side or main dish.

Eggplant and Zucchini Casserole
nutrition facts set for side dish serving

Things to assemble:

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
2 (15 oz) cans or two pounds tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 T parsley
1/4 t black pepper
1 large eggplant
2 T grapeseed oil
2 zucchini
12 oz fresh mozzarella
2 T Parmesan

What to do first:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spray cooking spray in a casserole dish.

Mince the garlic, rinse and chop the tomatoes or open the two cans, rinse and tear the basil, rinse and chop the parsley. Slice the mozzarella and measure the Parmesan. Set everything aside in bowls or on plates so they are ready to use without fussing about.

Making the sauce:

Place the 1 T olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the onions and saute for about 4-5 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and saute another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, half the basil, and season to your taste. Simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. Correct seasonings and set aside in a bowl. Clean the skillet for the next step.

What to do next:

Rinse and cut off the zucchini ends. Then cut them in half so you have two fully round but short zucchini sticks. Repeat with the other zucchini. I'll wait here..... Now cut the zucchini lengthwise in half, then cut each half in half. You will end up with 16 slices of zucchini.

Return the skillet to the stove medium high heat and add the grapeseed oil. Make sure the oil is very hot as this is critical for making non-oily eggplant.

While that is heating up, rinse and cut the ends off the eggplant. Stand it up and make vertical slices about 1/2 inch thick. You should be done with this by the time the oil is hot. Quickly fry the eggplant in the oil. If the eggplant gets soggy, your oil was not hot enough. Fry in batches, turning to brown each side. Drain on paper towels.

Add more oil if necessary and fry the zucchini in the same manner. Set aside on paper towels.

How to Assemble and Bake:

Layer half the eggplant and zucchini in the casserole. Top with half the sauce, half the mozzarella, and a bit of the remaining parsley and basil. Repeat. Top the whole with the Parmesan. A few more basil leaves here are makes a very pretty presentation.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until nice and bubbly. Allow to set for 10 minutes out of the oven and then serve.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Butternut Squash and Onion Sauté

Beautifully elegant and simple to make. Serve in a bowl that will contrast well with the bright orange flesh of the butternut squash.

Butternut Squash and Onion Sauté

Stuff to Assemble:

1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 onion
Pinch of salt
3 garlic cloves, or three heaping teaspoons from a jar
1 butternut squash
A few twists of fresh cracked black pepper
1/3 cup walnuts
2 T parsley
I peel and chop with a great big knife!
How to Prep:

Peel, deseed, and chop the butternut squash into little cubes – approximately an inch in diameter.

Peel and chop the onion.

Mince the garlic cloves or measure from a jar

Put the walnuts in a zip lock bag and whack a few times with a kitchen mallet to “chop”.
Rinse and chop the parsley.

How to Sauté:

Heat the oil and butter in skillet over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add onion, a pinch of salt, and sauté until the onion starts to brown – anywhere from 10-15 minutes. Add garlic, and cook 1 minute more to release the wonderful fragrance.

Raise the temp to medium-high, add squash, and cook - stirring every now and then - for about 10-12 minutes, or until the cubes softened and start to brown. If they are browning before softening, add a tablespoon of water and cover with a lid for a few minutes at a time, then stir. Repeat as needed.

Place in a pretty serving bowl like this one and toss with black pepper, walnuts, and parsley.

Easy to do (once you've cubed the squash) and delicious.

Enjoy mindfully.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Butternut Squash Casserole

Make sure your knife is sharpened when you prep the squash. Then bake up some home cookery goodness.

Butternut Squash
Butternut Squash Casserole

Things to Assemble:

1 large or 2 medium butternut squashes
1/3 cup onion
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup cheddar cheese
1/4 cup butter
Fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 cup cream or whole milk (2% works but do not use skim, nutrition facts set on whole milk)
Paprika to taste

How to Prep:

Cut a slice off the large bulb end of the squash - exposing the seeds and threads. Scoop those out with a large spoon and discard (or save for roasting if you love roasted seeds). Carefully cut round slices working from the large end to the stem end. The slices should be about 1/4 inch thick, but don't fuss it too much.

I find it easiest to peel the squash whole, but you may find it easier to handle once the squash is cut in half. Technique is up to you, but take care so you don't peel You! Use a very sharp peeler or knife. This is the hardest part, so once you are done, congratulate yourself! 

Mince and measure the onion. Measure the bread crumbs (you can sub in saltines if you like). Grate and measure the cheese. Set out the butter and the pepper grinder. Measure the cream or milk. Set out the paprika.

Layering the Casserole:

Rub a large casserole with butter or spray with your favorite cooking spray. Place a layer of squash on the bottom of the casserole. Sprinkle with onion, bread crumbs, cheese, sprinkle with pepper, and dot with butter. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used (likely about three layers so portion your ingredients appropriately). If you have too much squash, you can cut it into small chunks and stuff it in the pockets. 

If you love cheese, add a bit more on the top, but do not fill too closely to the top so it does not over flow while it bakes. Leave about 1/4 inch free. 

Drizzle the casserole with cream or milk and sprinkle with paprika. 

Bake it:

Cover with a lid and bake in a 375 oven for about 45 minutes. Test the squash for tenderness. If the squashes are not tender, re-cover and bake a little longer. Thick slices will take longer to cook.

Allow the casserole to "set" uncovered for about 10 minute and then serve.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Moo Shu of Peace

I had to have Moo Shu. Things would not be peaceful within until I was rolling up a delicious mixture of veggies in a thin wrapper – but I’ve never moo shu’d before and it all looked so complicated. Fortunately I found out that with a little organization making a vegetarian Moo Shu is no more difficult than any other stir fry. The important thing is to do some mindful prep and assembly before beginning to cook.

I've made a convenient shopping list for you to print off and use at the end of the recipe!

Ready to roll up and eat!
The Moo Shu of Peace
Nutrition facts for one Moo Shu Wrap

Ingredients to Assemble

Stir Fry Sauce (a delicious basic sauce for any stir fry, just whisk in a small bowl until all the ingredients are well blended)

½ c vegetable stock, low sodium
2 T soy sauce, low sodium
2 T sesame oil
1 T rice wine vinegar
3 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp honey

Filling Groups to Prep Prior to Stir Fry

Mixture One (whisk in a bowl):
3 eggs
1 t soy sauce, low sodium
1 t sesame oil

Mixture Two (place in bowl):
1 red onion, small, sliced thinly
2 T fresh ginger, grated or finely minced

Mixture Three (in separate bowl):
1 ½ cup shitake mushrooms, rinsed, patted dry and sliced into strips
3 t garlic, minced

Mixture Four (in separate bowl):
4 cups cabbage, rinsed, cored, sliced (about half a large head of cabbage)
2 cups snow peas, rinsed and cut lengthwise in half
2 cups carrots, shredded (I just buy a bag)
2-3 green onions, rinsed, outer peel removed, and sliced

Wok Oil (divided by use):
1 ½ t vegetable oil for use with Mixture One (the egg mixture). You can use peanut oil, vegetable, or grape seed, or any oil labeled for use with a wok. You need an oil that has a very high smoking point. Do not ever try to stir fry in olive oil.

1 ½ t vegetable oil for all other Mixtures

For Serving:
1 jar Hoisin sauce (a most excellent sauce indeed and available anywhere that has an Asian food aisle.)

Lettuce leaves – rinse and pat dry with a tea towel or paper towel. Clean enough so that each tortilla will have a piece of lettuce to fit the tortilla.

20 thin flour tortillas - If you live next to one of those terrific Asian stores like Ranch 99, you can pick up some Moo Shu wrappers from the frozen section. But my Thai friend says that thin fresh made tortillas (like we got from the HEB) are just as delicious.

Wok Directions:

Wokking Made Easy:

Before starting, the great thing to learn about wokking is that you need to keep the food moving. Don’t let it sit ever. That means go to the bathroom now. I’ll wait here….... Good, now we can begin. The wokkery takes about 14 minutes. 

Mixture One:

Heat the wok over medium heat. Add the vegetable oil and swirl in the pan to coat. Give the eggs another whisking and add to the pan. Turn the pan so the egg is thinly spread – lift on the sides and tilt the pan so that egg runs from the top to the side. Cook for about 1-2 minutes or til almost set. Flip (don’t worry about being perfect as you will slice it later) and cook for another minute. Remove to a plate. Wipe out the wok with a paper towel.

Slice the eggs into thin strips.

Return the wok to the stove only this time turn the temperature to high. Not medium high, high heat. When you add ingredients, the temperature will drop. If you begin at medium high, the temp will drop so low that the veggies will not cook quickly and get that lovely crisp tender texture. So, let it get hot – almost, but not quite to the point of smoking oil.

Add the oil and swirl. Hold your hand over the wok – close, but do not touch. Remember, you have the thing on high. You just want to make sure the wok is dratted hot.

Add Mixture Two – the onion and ginger. Use two large wooden spoons as if you are continually folding from the outside in all around the wok. Never stop stirring, if you are concerned about this have someone stir while you put ingredients in the wok. It will take 2-3 minutes for the onions to start to soften. Do not over-cook. It does no good and you’ll only end up with a soggy veggie mess instead of crispy Moo Shu.

Add Mixture Three – the mushroom and garlic and continue with that folding method of stirring for another 3-4 minutes. After about a minute of this you can reduce the heat to medium-high. The mushrooms will start to brown a bit.

Add Mixture Four – the cabbage, snow peas, carrots, and green onions. Continue with the folding sort of stir, but take care as at first that wok is very full. The cabbage will reduce shortly. Keep this up for about two minutes.

Finally, add the Sauce! And you thought I had forgotten the sauce; give it another whisk before adding to the wok. Simmer and stir until the sauce starts to thicken and coat the veggies. This won’t take long, maybe two or three minutes.

Stir the egg strips into the hot veggie mixture.

How do I serve this thing?

Put the wok on the table (on a very good hot pad) – no need to dirty up another bowl. Just use the two wok spoons to serve.

Set out the jar of Hoisin sauce with a spoon and make sure there are spreading knives at each place setting.

Set out a plate of rinsed and paper towel dried leaf lettuces.

Set out the tortillas.

What to do:

Spread a good amount of sauce on the tortilla, top with a section of leaf lettuce big enough to mostly cover the tortilla. The lettuce serves as a means of keeping the sauce from running straight through the tortilla creating a very soggy mess.

Use the two wooden spoons and place a nice row of stir fry mixture on the lettuce. Roll like you would a burrito or a soft taco and enjoy.

Moo Shu is very good left over, so don’t fuss that the recipe makes a lot. Just take a tortilla, lettuce, and a container of Moo Shu with a dollop of Hoisin to work, heat, and eat.

----------------cut here ------------------------------------------------------------------------------
to print JUST the shopping list, click on the print button, then click to delete all the other sections of the recipe. Then print the list!


3 t garlic (from a jar is fine)
10 large or 20 small lettuce leaves
4 cups cabbage (pre-shredded is fine)
2 cups snow peas
2 cups carrots (pre-shredded in a bag is fine)
2-3 green onions
1 red onion
2 T fresh ginger
1 ½ cup shitake mushrooms
1 tsp honey
3 eggs
20 thin flour tortillas
½ c vegetable stock, low sodium
1 jar Hoisin sauce
2 T plus 1 t soy sauce, low sodium
2 T plus 1 t sesame oil
3 t vegetable or wok oil (peanut oil, vegetable, or grapeseed)
1 T rice wine vinegar
3 tsp cornstarch

Friday, September 7, 2012

Browned Onions and Broccoli

Broccoli is one of those vegetables I tend to serve up in a rather ho-hum way. Nuke or steam with garlic and serve with a few twists of fresh grated cheese. It's what I make when I need an easy green veggie.

Then I saw this fantastic Food and Wine recipe for "caramelized" broccoli. My first thought was "oh yum!", but my second thought was "why didn't they put onions in that?" My third thought was - but that's not really caramelized, it's just browned. This sort of alternative view thinking is why I never just make a recipe as written. Gets me in trouble sometimes, but usually all is well. This was one time when things did not just turn out well, they turned out awesome!

pic taken through steam. :(
Browned Onions and Broccoli

Things to assemble:

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large onion (your favorite: yellow or sweet, but not red)
1 twist of fresh ground sea salt
2 broccoli crowns selected for beautiful color and nice tight buds
1/2 cup water
3 t garlic, chopped (you can use pre-chopped from a jar or chop it yourself)
1/4 t crushed red pepper flakes
fresh cracked black pepper
Optional: lemon slices

How to Prep Ingredients:

Peel and slice the onion into long strips. Clean and separate the small heads from the crowns of broccoli. Trim off a bit of the stalk, but not all. Leave about an inch or two. Carefully peel off the outer darker green layer of the stalk. Peeling makes the tasty stalk quicker to cook. Slice the broccoli spears in half lengthwise. 

Chop the garlic, and measure all other ingredients. You can put the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in the same bowl.


In a large skillet (one with a nice tight fitting lid), heat the olive oil over medium heat. I used #6 on my electric burner. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the onion and a twist of sea salt. Browned or caramelized onions are just about the only thing I salt and then, only just a bit. Allow to saute with minimal stirring until they onions begin to brown. 

Served as a side dish for pasta
Add the broccoli slices and give the whole thing a stir. Then spread out the broccoli so as much as possible sits on the floor of the pan. You might want to smoosh some of the onion off to the side. Cover with the lid and cook for about eight minutes until the parts of the broccoli that touches the skillet turn a lovely dark brown.

Remove the lid and stir. Add the water, garlic, and crushed red pepper flakes. Recover the skillet and steam for approximately five minutes - just til the broccoli is fork tender. If you like softer broccoli, cook it up to seven minutes. Beyond that it will get mooshy, which is similar to smooshy but not so appetizing.

Remove the lid, give the mix a few twists of fresh cracked black pepper and a brief stir. Simmer until the rest of the liquid evaporates.

Serve immediately in a beautiful deeply colored bowl that sets off the lovely colors and textures of the veggies. Set out a plate of quartered lemons on the table - guests may want to squish on a bit of juice. I love the dish with lemon, my husband - not so much. If everyone loves it lemony, add the juice of one lemon to the mixture right before serving.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Roasted Garlic and Basil Pasta Sauce

This is a very flexible sauce. I've included a vegetarian variation for you within the recipe and a few carnivorous suggestions at the end. Use fresh tomatoes whenever possible. If none are available, I like a brand of tomatoes that come in a box from Italy. Beautiful and just the right consistency without any of the BPA you would get in cans. BPA is still not one of my preferred seasonings. 

If you grow tomatoes, you can save them for the sauce by rinsing, coring, chopping, and putting them into freezer bags. Measure 1 - 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes into each bag and you won't need to buy canned tomatoes.

Roasted Garlic and Basil Pasta Sauce


2 full heads of garlic, separated, roasted*, and peeled - do not chop the cloves they must be left whole
3 1/2 pounds tomatoes
1 T pure olive oil
1 onion
A good cup or more of fresh basil, rinsed and torn
6 oz (or more if necessary) of good imported Italian tomato paste
1 cup of beef stock (**vegetarian variation below)
1 cup of good red wine
1 bay leaf
I do not use salt. If you do, don't tell me.
1/2 t or so of fresh ground black pepper
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried crushed rosemary
if you are a true fan of garlic, add a few teaspoons of powdered garlic too. I do and it's delicious. Granulated garlic has a distinctly different flavor from fresh whole roasted cloves and add a terrific depth to the flavors.
1 Tablespoon or so of brown sugar (depends on the acidity of your tomatoes, you may not need any sugar)

What to do:

*roast the garlic on a pan in the oven (a toaster oven is fantastic for this). 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 12-15 minutes. Let them roast until the papery part starts to brown and they feel softened when you poke them. Allow to cool naturally on the pan while you start the rest of the sauce. I find it easiest for my arthritic hands to peel them if I chop off one end. This is another of my favorite rather messy jobs that make the house and your hands smell simply wonderful!

Rinse, core, and rough chop the tomatoes (see Note). Put them in a bowl and dig in with your hands and squish them a bit.

Note: If you like your sauce smooth, you will want to peel the tomatoes. Unfortunately, if you do that you pitch a great lot of vitamins and fiber, which is not very mindful. This sauce will take a couple hours to cook and much of the peel will break down. I prefer a rather “lumpy bumpy” sauce instead of smooth and love the peel. Give it a try, you may be like me and never peel again!

Rough chop the onion and put it in a bowl. Rinse, pat dry, and tear the basil into pieces; place in a bowl. Measure the stock and wine. Measure and place all seasonings in a bowl.

**you can skip the beef stock if you are a vegetarian. Replace the cup of stock with more tomato and wine in the proportion you prefer.

How to cook the sauce:

In a very large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. When the oil begins to shimmer and dance, add the chopped onion. Sauté until the onion has softened. You can brown the onions or not. Browned onions add a wonderful savory element to the sauce, but it is not absolutely required by law.

Add all the remaining ingredients to the pot and bring to a nice simmer. The sauce will be a bit thin. That’s ok. Let it simmer at least two hours to reduce a bit. If at that time it is not thick enough for you, add a few more squishes of tomato paste (I love the tomato paste that comes from Italy and is in a tube just like toothpaste!). Stir frequently. As you near the two hour point, taste and adjust the seasonings. When the sauce is as thick as you like cover it with a lid and keep it simmering on low until the pasta is ready. I usually cook this sauce at least three hours, but it has also gone on a simmering quite a bit longer.

You may “need” to check the taste a few times. A nice piece of chewy bread is good for dipping into the sauce…. as often as you like. A cook cannot be too sure, after all, your reputation is on the line…


If you are a meat eater, this is a wonderful sauce for adding ribs, meatballs, or your favorite sausage. Make sure you brown the meats well first. Depending on the meat, you may want to extend the cookery time another hour or so. Meatballs will be fine with an hour or two of cookery, but ribs will enjoy a longer simmer until they are tender.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Corn and Hatch Chili Quesadilla

I went to the HEB the other day and was greeted with the awesome aroma of roasting Hatch chili peppers. What can you do? You buy them, of course and make as many things as possible with them.

Last night I mixed up a nice pyrex container of corn, Hatch chilis and parsley. The plan, to stuff it all inside tortillas and make quesadillas!

Corn and Hatch Chili Quesadilla
nutrition facts, Serves six


1 1/2 cup whole kernel corn - your choice of thawed from frozen or fresh scraped from the cob
1/2 cup roasted and peeled Hatch chilis (hot or mild as you prefer), rough chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 t smokey paprika
8 oz Monterrey Jack Cheese
6 large flour tortillas
1 can fat free black bean frijoles
1 1/2 cups salsa
non-stick spray


Measure and chop the corn, chilis, and cilantro. Mix in a Pyrex dish if you want or the bowl of your preference.

Put the black bean frijoles in a small casserole with a lid (you can use regular frijoles if you like).

Assemble all the other ingredients on the counter.

Lay out three of the tortillas on a work surface (I used two cutting boards).

Sprinkle half the cheese on the tortillas. Divide the chili mixture among the tortillas spreading the filling out to about half an inch from the edges.

Sprinkle the other half of the cheese on top of the chilis mix.

Top each with paprika and then place the remaining three tortillas on top sandwich style.

Heat a large non-stick skillet to medium. Hover your hand over it and when it is very hot, remove from the burner and give a spritz with the non-stick spray. Carefully lift one of the quesadillas and place in the pan.

This is a good time to nuke the frijoles.

Use a spatula and press the quesadilla while it cooks. Not all the time, just every now and then. When the cheese starts to melt you will be able to tell by how it feels when you press. This is a good time to check the bottom of the tortilla to see if it is getting nicely browned.

When it is brown on the bottom, spray the top tortilla with non-stick spray and flip it over. Continue to cook until that tortilla is browned. Remove to a plate and cover to keep warm while you cook the remaining two quesadillas.

Divide the frijoles over the top of each quesadilla and top with salsa and, if you like, more cheese.

Slice in half to serve. Only my 23 year old son can eat an entire quesadilla and I do not suggest that the rest of you even try. Half is good. Enjoy it with a large side salad.

Taco Salad

When you want some great Tex-Mex food but you don't want all the calories of a tortilla, just put all the insides together on your plate in salad form!

Taco Salad
nutrition facts, serves four

Excellent Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey, extra lean
1/2 t olive oil
1 T chili powder
1 t cumin
1 1/2 C Salsa 
1 1/2 C black beans, canned
6 C lettuce, torn
15 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 C onion, chopped

1 avocado, diced
1 lime, juiced
Optional: Cheese, sweet red pepper, jalapenos, serranos, Hatch chilis, more Salsa, or Tabasco

What to do:

Drain and rinse the black beans. Prepare the lettuce, tomatoes, and onion. Dice the avocado and squish the lime over the pieces.  Prep the optional ingredients of your choice.

Put the olive oil in a large skillet or pan. Heat over medium heat until the oil shimmers. Add the turkey, stir and cook until the turkey is fully cooked. Drain any excess oil and broth from the turkey.

Return pan with turkey to the stove and stir in the chili powder and cumin. Saute about a minute - do you notice a change in the fragrance of the seasonings? Delicious.

Add the salsa - do not pre-measure the salsa and dump it all in at once. Add a little at a time until you get to the point where the turkey is well sauced but not excessively so. You want to be able to push the meat to one side and not have rivers of juice running all over. If that happens you may want to add a tablespoon of tomato paste to thicken it up a bit. Allow to simmer on low while you start the salad.

Divide the lettuce among four dinner plates. If it looks skimpy on the lettuce, feel free to add more. Lettuce has so few calories you should eat as much as you want.

After the meat has simmered 10 minutes, divide the mixture on top of the lettuce, mounding it in the center of the plate. Leave plenty of lettuce around the edge, this is where you will put most of the other ingredients.

Divide the tomatoes, onion, and avocado around the mounds of meat. If you are using peppers, arrange them over the entire plate, including the meat mountain. Top with cheese, but remember there's a lot of fat and calories in there so be very mindful as to the amount. If your day has room for a little cheese, you can use either Monterrey Jack or Sharp Cheddar... or a mix. If you love Queso Fresco, cut a few chunks and spread them around. 

If you would like to eat the salad with chips, arrange them in a pattern on the lettuce or stick one in the meat as if it were a sail on a boat.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fragrant Fungi

oyster mushrooms, aren't they pretty!
If you love mushrooms, you are probably familiar with button, crimini, and portobello mushrooms. The big three mushrooms are easy to find, inexpensive, and a snap to prepare.

It's time to step up your fungus appreciation and try something new. In this recipe, you will learn to cook with dried porcini, oyster, and shitake mushrooms.

Fragrant Fungi
nutrition facts


1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (see pic)
soaking water
1/4 cup olive oil
8 oz crimini mushrooms
4 oz oyster mushrooms (see pic)
4 oz shitake mushrooms (see pic)
dried porcini mushrooms

4 garlic cloves
1 t cumin seeds
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh cilantro

What to do:

Place the porcini in a bowl and cover with water. Allow to soak for about 20-30 minutes. Drain on paper towel and set aside.

Either rinse or brush the crimini, oyster, and shitake mushrooms. I'm a rinser, but if you brush that's ok, just make sure you get all the crud. Slice the crimini in half and cut the oyster and shitake into pieces of approximately the same size as the cremini.

Mince the garlic. In separate bowls, measure the cumin and black pepper. (Hint, the amount of cumin is on the low side for those that are not familiar with it. If you love it already, measure two teaspoons instead of one)
shitake mushrooms

Rinse and rough chop the cilantro.

In a large pot that has a good tight fitting lid, heat the oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the garlic. Stir for a minute or two until the garlic releases its wonderful aroma throughout the kitchen. Raise the heat to medium high and add the cumin seeds. Let them cook until they start to pop and bounce. It's rather fun. Like popcorn.

Add the porcini, crimini, oyster, and shitake mushrooms and stir. Cover with the lid and allow to cook for another five minutes.

Ad the black pepper and stir. The mushrooms will have exuded a bit of liquid. Simmer and stir for another five minutes or until most of the liquid evaporates. Gently stir in the chopped cilantro and serve.

Excellent topped with a bit of dried hot red pepper flakes. Wonderful served as part of a vegetarian or carnivorous meal.


If you don't have cumin seeds and just have ground cumin, that is fine to use. It's just not as fun.

Mindful Mushroom Saute

These mushrooms are happy anywhere on your plate. They make a terrific side dish, a wonderful accompaniment to grilled steak, or a terrific addition to rice or quinoa as part of a Vegetarian meal. Enjoy the goodness made by you.

Mindful Mushroom Saute


1 T canola oil*
2 T butter
1/4 cup onion, sliced
5 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz white Button mushrooms
8 oz Crimini mushrooms
3 T breadcrumbs**
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 lemon juiced
Dash of Tabasco Sauce
6-8 twists of the pepper grinder
drizzle of olive oil - approximately 1 teaspoon

What do do:

Slice the onion and mince the garlic. Set them aside in separate bowls. Rinse well - yes, I rinse as I don't trust brushing mushrooms - the mushrooms and pat dry with paper towels. If they are small or medium in size, leave them whole. If they are very large, cut in half. Place these in a bowl. Chop the parsley and add to a small bowl with the breadcrumbs. Juice your lemon and set the juice next to the breadcrumb parsley bowl. Set your Tabasco and pepper grinder next to that.

Put it all together:

In a large skillet (I like one with a bit of a side), melt the butter and heat the oil over medium high heat. 

Saute the onion for a few minutes, or until softened (not browned). Add the mushrooms and continue to saute over medium-high heat until they cook and exude their juices (approximately 5 minutes). When the mushrooms are cooked, add the parsley and breadcrumbs to the mushrooms. Stir well. Then add a few dashes (totally to taste and can be skipped if you hate heat) and the fresh cracked black pepper. Stir well. Remove from heat, drizzle with olive oil and toss. Serve immediately.


* Use canola oil instead of olive oil as it has a higher heat threshold. A high heat saute changes the taste of the olive oil and makes it likely to smoke. You could skip the butter, but I don't recommend that for this dish unless you are Vegan. Butter is used here as a seasoning in addition to a adding fat.

**it is possible to overdo the breadcrumbs in this recipe, so don't go overboard. Rounded Tablespoons is fine, but no matter how tempting don't dump in more. It changes the texture too much and not for the good. Experience talking here.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Artisan Treats and Petit Amuse: a Review

There's a new way to taste and buy gourmet deliciousness via the internet!

Petit Amuse explores interesting little shops around the world on a never ending quest to find and eat only the best small batch artisan treats - the kind you won't find at most groceries. You eat right along with them for a low monthly membership fee ($10) when a collection of treats arrives at your home all wrapped up in a little surprise box of deliciousness. Although you are not obligated to buy anything at all, you might find yourself very tempted to do just that.

How can one say no to the request to eat and review good food? My box came in the mail the other day.

This is was what I found inside: a jar of Ice Wine Jelly, one Garukabar, one Cha-Chas, one Salted Rosemary Shortbread, and a bag of Sun Dried Tomato & Parmesan Popcorn made by a company named Oogie's.

I assembled my most experienced Tasting Team (Husband, Son, and Daughter), set up the scientifically precise dessert plates with glasses of cold filtered water for cleansing the palate between tastes, and positioned paper and pencil in anticipation of making learned and quotable comments.

Menu Card

I very much liked the thoughtfully designed menu card.

The reverse side of the card detailed the ingredient list for each item in nice reasonably sized print.

No squinting and peering at tiny little labels required. No reading glasses needed. Nicely done.

Ice Wine Jelly

Yes, jelly made with Eiswein, the dessert wine that is made when a freeze occurs before the grapes are harvested... and before they rot on the vine. Freezing intensifies the grape's naturally sweet flavor and makes for some pretty dratted awesome wine.

If you like sweet spreads (and this was very sweet), this jelly will rock your socks. The jelly clearly tastes of wine and was delicious spread over a piece of bread.

Salted Rosemary Shortbread

This was a major hit with all four of our tasters, even the more dubious member of my staff ("Shortbread and rosemary???!!!"). The savory rosemary and salt were perfectly balanced by the not too sweet shortbread.

Well done, this is one treat we would buy.


Oh, how I wanted to add an extra Cha on to the name.

This looked so awesomely dark chocolatey that we could not wait to try it. The flavors were superb. Unfortunately, the texture did not match the standard set by the flavor or the anticipation. It was a little dry and hard, and all tasters agreed that was disappointing.

One nice thing about sampling this cookie via Petit Amuse is that we did not waste money on an entire package purchased at a store.


If nothing else, the names of these treats were great fun.

For this bar, think backpacking in Colorado Rocky Mountain National Park. You've stopped to sit on a large flat rock and enjoy the sights and sounds of rushing white water cascading over a particularly gorgeous collection of fallen boulders. You sip from your Earth friendly refillable water bottle and open a chewy Garukabar. The bar's recyclable brown paper wrapper encloses an amazing amount of hiker health with its natural grains, seeds, dried fruit, honey, and brown rices. Fortunately you also brought along a small handkerchief which you dip into the icy cold river and use to dab off the sticky gooey goodness from your fingers after carefully stowing the wrapper in your backpack so as to leave the view as you found it - unsullied by man.

Oogies, Sun Dried Tomato and Parmesan Popcorn

The was definitely the hit of the day. We finished every little kernel of the perfectly seasoned non-GMO popcorn. What's not to love here?

Would we buy more? Absolutely. Hopefully it is available in very large containers so we can stock up.

Is a monthly membership worth the cost?

Tasting Team members huddled and compared notes, debated and wrote copiously as they analyzed each experimental morsel. We then correlated value with epicurean delight in an abundance of colorful pie charts. Does Petit Amuse have what it takes? Does it deliver what it says - good value and a fun foodie experience? Absolutely. Excellent premise, reasonable price, with fun and deliciousness delivered right to your door.