Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cold Supper

With hot weather returning to Southern California, cold suppers have replaced my usual rotation of soups and sandwiches.  This new version of a chicken soba noodle salad was a big hit and I wished I had made double the recipe.  It comes together super easy and hit the spot!  Ingredient note:  If you don't want the spiciness of the chili oil, you can leave it out and serve some Sriracha on the side or replace with some red pepper flakes.  You can also substitute whole wheat spaghetti or rice noodles for the soba.

Chicken Soba Noodle Salad with Hoisin Dressing (serves 2)

1 tsp. sesame oil
2 T rice wine vinegar
3 T soy sauce
1 T hoisin
1 tsp. chili oil (optional)
5 T extra virgin olive oil

12 oz soba noodles
1 cup cooked, shredded chicken
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded cabbage
1 cup broccoli slaw

2-3 T chopped cilantro

Whisk together the first 6 dressing ingredients in a large bowl.    Add the chicken, stir, and let it stand at room temperature while you cook the soba noodles and chop the vegetables.  Cook soba noodles according to package instructions, drain, and rinse with cold water.  Add the drained noodles and vegetables to the bowl.  Top with the cilantro.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Asparagus Salad

Let's start with some family news . . . 

Middle had her preschool promotion and is off to Kindergarten in the fall!
Big broke her arm (jumping off her bike) and did her last school project for the year
The girls and their cousins performed an original play in a park in Claremont
Little went to Chuck E. Cheese for the first time and LOVED it
We are on major count down mode . . . I only have ONE more day on campus and ZERO more papers to grade.  Big has 4.5 days of 2nd grade left and the little girls already started preschool summer camp.  The warm weather, a fun Memorial Day BBQ with the cousins, and lots of outside time has us super excited for the summer.

As you head into summer, here is a side dish that I love.  I posted about it a long time ago, but there are a few things buried in the blog that I wanted to share again.  My girls love asparagus and we normally just grill it or roast it in the oven, but this tangy, crunchy topping is really delicious.  It would be a great thing to bring to a summer BBQ or potluck!  

Sarah's Asparagus with Bleu Cheese (serves 6)

1 1/2 lbs fresh asparagus cut into 2 inch wedges (I used 2 bunches)
2 small tomatoes, cut in wedges or diced
1/3 c. sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 c. crumbled bleu cheese

3 T cider vinegar
3/4 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1 T sugar (more or less depending on your taste)
1 T onion, diced or grated
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/3 c. vegetable oil.

Cook asparagus in boiling water for 3-5 minutes or steam it until it's "crisp tender" (al-dente?). Add the tomatoes.

In a blender, combine the dressing ingredients and process until smooth. Toss with the asparagus/tomato combination and sprinkle the almonds and bleu cheese on top.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Bistro Jeanty Part I

It's been 7 months since our trip to Sonoma and Napa Valley for my husband's birthday and we're still thinking about the food we ate and places we visited.  A couple of weeks ago, I searched online and found the original recipe (reprinted below without changes) for the cream of tomato soup we had a Bistro Jeanty, a delicious french restaurant in Yountville.  Like many post-vacation experiments, my re-creation didn't live up to the original.  I skimped a little on the cream and I don't think my tomatoes were as fresh and flavorful as they could have been.  I may try it later this summer with farm fresh tomatoes.  The other thing that didn't work out so hot was the puff pastry top - imagine a puff pastry pot pie crust over the tomato soup.  Mine fell into the soup and I rescued it, made some puff pastry triangles to eat on the side, and was overall disappointed.  However, I believe in what I ate there and this recipe is from their chef, so I want to try it again and I hope if you try it, you have better luck!

Cream of Tomato Soup in Puff Pastry (serves 6)
From Bistro Jeanty (unedited)
½ cup butter unsalted
½ lb. Yellow onions-sliced
6 ea. Garlic cloves
1 ea. Bay leaf
½ T Whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. Dried thyme leaves
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 ½ lb. tomatoes-ripe, cored, and quartered
1 cup water (no more-use onlyif tomatoes are not ripe and juicy)
4 cups heavy cream
2- 4 Tbl. Butter
salt to taste
½ tsp. Ground white pepper
1 lb. Puff pastry-or store bought sheets
1 ea. Egg- beaten with 1 Tbl. of water

Melt the ½ cup butter in a large stockpot over medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf and peppercorns; cover and cook for about 5 minutes. Do not let the onions color. Add tomato paste and lightly “toast” the tomato paste to cook out the raw flavor the add tomatoes, and water if needed. Simmer over low heat for 30-40
minutes, until the tomatoes and onions are very soft and broken down.

Puree by passing through a food mill. A food mill works best however you may use a blender in batches or a handheld immersion blender until finished, the strain. Return the soup o the pot. Add the cream, salt, white pepper and remaining butter to taste. Bring soup to a simmer the remove from heat. Allow the soup to cool for two hours or overnight - in the refrigerator.

Divide the soup among six 8-ounce soup cups or bowls. Roll out the puff pastry to 1/4 inch. Cut into 6 rounds slightly larger than your cups. Paint the dough with the egg wash and turn the circles, egg wash side down, over the tops of the cups, pulling lightly on the sides to make the dough somewhat tight like a drum. Try not to allow the dough to touch the soup. These may be made up to 24 hours in advance and covered with plastic in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly paint the top of the dough rounds with egg wash with out pushing the dough down. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until the dough is golden brown. Do not open the oven in the first several minutes as the dough may fall.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Baby Shower Food

I recently got to visit my new nephew in Oregon for 24 hours - it was so much fun to meet him and to see my sister and brother in law.  Afterwards, I realized that I never posted about the shower we gave my sister before the baby was born.  The shower had a camping / outdoor adventure theme and it was a group effort which made it a lot of fun.   

I made two food items that were fun and I thought they'd work for all kinds of other occasions / parties (A classroom party for harvest/fall, brunch, holiday gatherings).

First, Donut Hole Acorns:

I bought glazed donut holes and spread some nutella on the top, rolled them in chocolate sprinkles, and put half of a pretzel stick in the top to be the stem.  Easy, yummy, and cute!

Second, Trail Mix Bar:
I bought different kinds of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit and put them in individual buckets with labels.  Guests could mix their own trail mix in small plastic cups and snack on it.  My one tip is to make sure you have a variety of sweet, savory, and spicy.  I ended up with lots of leftovers and have been making my own trail mix variations and taking it to work in little containers.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Saying "yes"

Sometimes, I feel like the "no lady" around our house.

"Can we play in the sprinklers" (60 degree weather) - No
"Can I go knock on the neighbor's door?" (again.  poor guy.)  - No
"Can we invite friends over to play right now?" (6pm and dinner time) - No
"Can we go to Disneyland / the beach / on an airplane?" - Not right now
"Can I sleep in the living room?" (school night) - No
"Can we roast marshmallows right now?" - No
"Can I have ice cream for breakfast?" - No

So the other afternoon when Little was napping and Middle asked me, "Can I bake a cake?" I said, "yes."  I'm trying to find opportunities to say "yes" when they ask me about some idea they have.  Even if it's not super convenient for me or will make a mess that I have to clean up, I don't want their childhood memories to be "and then, mom said no."

We baked this chocolate cake and I picked the recipe from a few I looked at online because the method was perfect for her to do this herself.  We talked about how to use measuring cups and that we should lower the measuring cup down in the bowl before dumping the contents (as opposed to dumping it about 6 inches above the bowl).  I let her do almost all of it herself and she was thrilled with the outcome and even took a piece to our neighbor.  I had a random can of white frosting in teh pantry and we used that to frost it when it cooled.

When I asked to take a photo with her and her piece after supper, the other two wanted their pictures taken also.

Middle's Chocolate Cake (makes 1 nine-inch round)

1.5 cups all purpose flour
3 T cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
6 T vegetable oil
1 T white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 inch round cake pan (an 8x8 pan will work as well).  Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk.  Make 3 wells in the top of the dry mixture.  Pour vegetable oil into one, vinegar into the other, and vanilla in the third.  Pour the cup of water over the top and mix again with a whisk until smooth and combined.  Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Loaded Baked Potatoes

While my mom was visiting my sister and new nephew, I had my dad over for dinner.  My husband was working late that night, so I decided to make something he doesn't enjoy:  baked potatoes.  I made bbq shredded chicken quite a bit and I usually serve it on little slider buns with melted cheese (and those pickled onions!  and jalapenos!) so this is a variation on that idea.  It was warm, yummy comfort food at its best!  I now want to try this with a buffalo chicken sauce and bleu cheese!

You can make the bbq chicken ahead in the crockpot.  I usually place breasts and thighs in the crockpot and pour about a cup of beer or chicken broth over it.  I cook it on low for 5-6 hours and then shred it with a fork.  At this point, drain off most of the liquid.  Then, add 1-2 cups of your favorite bbq sauce.  Keep it on warm in the crockpot until heated through (or remove and refrigerate until you're going to use it).  Alternately, you could cook the chicken on the stove until shreddable or you can use a rotisserie chicken (shredded and heated up with bbq sauce) or you can buy it all ready to go. 

Loaded Baked Potatoes (makes 4)

4 potatoes
2 cups shredded bbq chicken
shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream
chopped green onions
bbq sauce
olive oil

Scrub the potatoes, pierce them with a fork, brush with a light layer of olive oil, and sprinkle salt on them.  Place them on a piece of foil in a 400 degree oven for 40-55 minutes, or until they are have some give when you squeeze them (with an oven mit!).

Slice the top of the potato and squeeze the ends.  Scoop about 2-3 tablespoons of the potato filling and discard.  Place a heaping mound of bbq chicken in the potato and sprinkle with cheddar cheese.  The chicken and potato should be hot enough to melt the cheese, but if not, you can place them back in the warm oven for a few minutes. 

Serve immediately with a drizzle of bbq sauce, sour cream, and green onions.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New Green Soup

It must be April!  We have California Golden Poppies in bloom, pictures of the caterpillars, chrysalis, and butterflies from Middle's classroom, Derby Days 5K (in the rain!), picking out plants for our garden, and library story time about rain and insects.  April showers have made for some cozy family time this past week.  

Our kitchen is the center of our house and when both big girls had a playdate last weekend, I found my kitchen taken over by a pretend cafe and lots of food preparation and serving.  I'm hoping this glimpse of life with older kids is accurate - I love having a house full of girls, being the house where friends come to play, and lots of action in the kitchen!

One of the other reasons I've been enjoying our cooler weather is soup!  I make my regular green soup recipe often, but my Aunt Sue sent me a link to this recipe because she had tried it at the Kettle and enjoyed it.  It's similar in the base (sauteed and blended kale) but a little sweeter with the apple and I liked the pancetta and creme fraiche quite a bit.  I didn't add quite the whole amount of kale called for in the recipe, and next time would increase it to make the soup not quite as thin.  Little and Middle ate it up . . . Big, not so much.

Kale and Apple Soup (serves 6)
Original recipe from The Kitchn

10-12 oz kale, chopped and thick stems removed
1/4 cup (2 oz) cubed pancetta (Trader Joes sells it diced like this)
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock, divided
2 T olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1/4 tsp. salt
1 medium apple, cored and chopped (I used a Granny Smith)
Creme fraiche (or mascarpone or plain yogurt) for serving

In a large skillet over medium heat, saute pancetta for 1 minute or until just barely beginning to brown.  Add the kale and stir to coat with rendered fat.  Add a little olive oil if the pancetta didn't render enough fat to keep the kale from sticking to the pan.  Cook, stirring, until kale wilts, about 5 minutes.  Add 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock and lower heat to medium low, stirring occasionally, for about 5-10 minutes.

Puree in a blender or with an immersion blender, pour into a separate bowl, and set aside.

In the same skillet, over medium heat, heat the olive oil and cook onions and salt until the onions just start to soften up, about 3 minutes.  Add the chopped apple and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until the apples soften and the onions are translucent.  Stir in remaining broth.  Puree this mixture in a blender or blend with an immersion blender.  Combine the pureed apple/onion mixture and the kale mixture and stir to combine.  If it seems too thick (mine wasn't), you could add more stock or water.

Reheat if necessary, taste for salt and pepper, and serve garished with a dollop of creme fraiche.