Tag Archives: easy recipes

Blueberry-Strawberry Mini-Muffins

25 Mar

Another Perfect Mom Moment gone astray. I had the blueberries. I had the jam. I had the flour, the sugar, the butter, the cinnamon, the eggs. I had the kindergartener signed on to the project. But oops (oops being a euphemism for the words I actually used when I realized), I did not have the yogurt for our favorite blueberry-lingonberry mini-muffins.

A favorite for tea, lunchbox or thoughtful treat for neighbors, caregivers and friends

Usually we do blueberry-lingonberry muffins with yogurt – light and lifty

.

But, snow falling on the first day of Spring told me that baking had to be. So Iron Mom took over from Perfect Mom (who I don’t like very much anyway) and made from lemons lemonade. Or in this case, a different muffin. As Temple Grandin’s mom used to say, “Different, but not less.”

Sweet and petite blueberry mini-muffins

Sweet and petite blueberry mini-muffins

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I will NOT screw up the gravy this year; luscious turkey stock in progress

22 Nov

Regular readers will know that I disgraced myself last Thanksgiving by ruining the stock for the gravy; I put the liver in and rendered the stock (and the air in my kitchen) utterly disgusting. My mom triumphantly saved the day with a jar of gravy and I was mortified on many levels.

Leandro shows off as he pounds the turkey spice rub

That is not going to happen this year, thus this real time post to give you my stock recipe and let you know things are progressing fine! Continue reading

Apple Crisp (and the answer to the contraption challenge)

15 Oct

Yesterday I asked if you knew what this was:

Peel Away Peeler, Corer, and Slicer, courtesy Hatti Langsford.

And I got numerous responses, most of them correct! The hair removal comment was pretty funny! (Thanks Conor from One Man’s Meat)

It is indeed an apple corer, which can be set to peel and slice as well. Want one? Click here to shop around….

My dear friend from college (The New School, if you’d like to know), Hatti Langsford, whose recent “sustainable” wedding  to Chris Moratz, was covered in these pages, gave it to Leandro when we were visiting them in the New Paltz area last fall. It has since traveled, not just home to us, but to Leandro’s school during Apple Week last year! The kids (and teachers) loved it! And it is a terrific way to get kids eating fruit and involved in the kitchen!

It is a marvelous contraption, that Hatti wants me to remind you can also be used for peeling potatoes, and it can be used for pears as well. It came in particularly handy for this simple apple crisp recipe, as the spiral slice was the perfect thickness for the dish (1/4 inch); all I had to do was slice each apple once in half from top to bottom after Ashley and Leandro had peeled, cored and spiral sliced them.

Make sure the butter is well-distributed through the dry ingredients or you’ll have dry patches. I eliminated the dry patches by covering with foil; the heat finished the topping!

I made it in two 8×8 baking dishes so that I had one to take to this month’s Single Mother’s By Choice meet-up (where it met with general approval and most people took seconds), and one to keep! You could also do one large baking dish.

Yum!

Apple Crisp (adapted very slightly from Betty Crocker!)

10 small-medium cooking apples (we used Gala this time), cored and sliced (peeling is optional)

1.5 Cups mixed brown and white sugar, packed

1 Cup all-purpose flour

1 Cup quick-cooking oats (old-fashioned can also be used)

2/3 Cups butter, softened

1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

1.5 tsp ground nutmeg

Whipped cream or ice cream, if desired

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease bottom and sides of two 8×8 or one 8×13 rimmed baking dish with shortening.

Spread apple slices in pan(s). In a large bowl, stir remaining ingredients except cream, wetting thoroughly with the butter. Spread over the apples.

Bake 30 minutes (add five minutes for glass baking dish), or until top is golden and apples are fork-tender. Serve warm with cream.

Zucchini Fritters, with Manchego, Rosemary, and Thyme

1 Oct

What am I gonna do with this!?! Basta, ya! As enormous bats of zucchini continue to be a big part of our C.S.A. pick-up this summer-into-fall, we start to get desperate for different ways to prepare them. I generally grate them into salads (I dislike raw zucchini, but grated into a salad makes it much more texturally appealing for me!), my dad grills them with just a bit of oil, or we roast them.

Grated zucchini

As much as I adore absolute simplicity in food — from both a preparation and a consumption standpoint — enough is enough. One does need to mix it up a bit, and try new techniques, too. So it was time to be inspired by a recipe for zucchini fritters I saw recently at Emmy Cooks, and another one for zucchini latkes at Deborah Rivera Pittorino’s chef’s blog, Seasoned Fork (full disclosure – you will find book reviews I have written there; The Big Oyster is my favorite). Both recipes seemed simple enough, a lovely change for us over here, and as they are pan-fried, I thought I was in with a chance at getting Leandro to try veggies this way. Continue reading

Kid’s Party Snack Alternative: Bagel Buffet, Starring Cream Cheese Two Ways!

26 Jun

My pizza party days are over. I used to like the occasional slice, but once you have a kid and start attending kids’ parties with alarming frequency, the whole pizza thing becomes tedious (and hard on the waistline), except for the part about not having to figure out lunch for your kid for a day. I like that part a whole lot.

Mind you, I have served pizza at a number of Leandro’s parties. Three regular pies, sliced in 16ths, for the kids. Another one or two pies for the parents. Guilty as charged.

Cream cheese with chives

By the time they get served, the waxy cheese is getting hard, the crust is soft, and chewy and the sauce, whatever it was, is gone. Besides, regular slices bore the hell out of me. Call me a snob, but if you lived in Italy for a couple of years and ate wood stove-crispy thin pies (slice? Cosa e? Ma scherzi.…) topped with seasonal veggies and homemade sausage with a carafe of the charming local plonk most Friday nights out with your charming boyfriend who didn’t mind your bit of flirting with the charming Italians who owned the place….well, a leaden slice of regular from a box choked down to the soundtrack of overexcited preschoolers and bounce-house kiddie-pop might also feel somewhat wrong to you.

Maple-Walnut Cream Cheese

Anyhoo, I wanted to change it up just a little this time around. It’s not just the pizza thing; it’s that I like to cook and entertain and this seemed to me to be an chance to manifest my own self in a more public forum than usual. It is all well and good to set yourself up as a food blogger because your child has been indoctrinated to believe that what you are making him is good stuff. It’s quite another thing to lay it out there for public tasting and scrutiny.

And of course, the other reason is that in my universe, you honor your guests by serving them nice food.

We celebrated Leandro’s birthday at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach. The time was from 10 am-noon on a Sunday. If you have ever been in downstate New York on a Sunday morning, you will understand that bagels are the only appropriate response. It’s like the venerable five o’clock cocktail, only heavier on the carbs. So I went with pre-sliced mini-bagels from Seaford Bagel – convenient, but with ample opportunities to prepare a few spreads of your own.

Buffet table note: cheese and ham slices and mustard and mayo rounded out the buffet. Not one of my 50 Shades of Martha moments on the decor, but it worked well enough. A Box of Joe, juice boxes, and bottles of water completed the spread.

In my own defense, I am not completely bonkers and did not bake the main event: The “birthday cake” was cupcakes, ordered from Stop & Shop. Yes. A chain grocery store. Did you really think I was going to bake an effen cake!?! They were, by all accounts, delicious, topped with butter cream and decorated with Spiderman, Hello Kitty and other rings. Eternal thanks to the wisdom of Marianne/Madrina, for her bagel shop and cupcake source recommendations.

Among the spreads were tuna salad and egg salad (click to get those recipes from earlier posts), and the following two easy cream cheese variations. The maple-walnut spread was especially popular (and so easy it’s almost embarrassing). The kids mostly ate straight-up butter or cream cheese. But the parents and big kids who came to show solidarity were All Over the buffet table and even made a few to-go bagels. (Hector and Sean, I am naming names!!!). We also had plenty of bagels left over to pack in the cooler for our glorious, post-party beach afternoon.

I hope you’ll try them next time you want to bring up your bagel buffet game without killing yourself. Don’t pay for store-made. These are too simple and the praise too gratifying.

Thanks to all of you who came and made this day one of Leandro’s best and most memorable ever. I will eat your party pizza every time and enjoy your company, so don’t fret or hesitate to invite us to the next one. Leandro needs the break from his mom’s obsessiveness!

Cucumber slices are an easy dress-up for cream cheese and chives or tuna salad

Cream Cheese with Chives

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbs chives, chopped

1 tsp green onion, chopped fine (including white part!)

In a bowl, mix all ingredients thoroughly. Chill at least a half hour for flavors to incorporate.

Maple Walnut Cream Cheese

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

2 Tbs real maple syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract (if you actually have maple extract, you can use it here)

½ cup chopped walnuts, plus walnuts for garnish

In a bowl, mix the cream cheese, syrup and extract. Stir in the walnuts and chill for at least 30 minutes. Turn the cream cheese into your serving dish and garnish with whole walnuts.

Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Chipotle-Spiked Vinaigrette

29 Feb

I have been very, very busy these days with several projects (a culinary dictionary is one!), so deserved a grown-up meal made by my own loving hands. But it also had to be something not very involved that I could sling together fast, because  just don’t have enough time for everything I’d like to do!

Whether you are doing the Lenten fish on Friday thing or just happen to have some extra cooked shrimp from a buffet table or recipe, or just defrosted some shrimp that you didn’t get a chance to use and want to do something fun with (and that you have absolutely no intentions of sharing with your spoiled little son for whom you do too much anyway and whose leftovers you are sick of picking at instead of making something proper for yourself)….this is a very simple recipe that looks and tastes like a million bucks.

In an avocado shell or on a tostada...this salad looks as good as it tastes!

Shrimp and Avocado Salad Spiked with Chipotle Vinaigrette

(can be double or tripled or more to accommodate a crowd!)

Dressing:

3 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs fresh lime juice

1 tsp chipotle in adobo – you can use the sauce and skip the peppers themselves, or include peppers, seeded and minced

Pinch salt

Salad

1 Cup cooked shrimp, cut into small chunks

1Tbs red onion, minced

10 grape tomatoes, quartered

1 ripe avocado, sliced in half. Scoop out flesh (discard stone) carefully and cut into small chunks. Reserve shells.

Salt to taste

Extra squeeze of lime to finish

Whisk dressing ingredients in a small bowl until incorporated.

Place shrimp, onion, and tomatoes in a medium bowl. Cover with dressing and stir gently. Then add avocado chunks and stir once again, very gently. Scoop salad into reserved avocado shells (or onto tostadas. Finish with lime and salt and serve.

Alubias con Chorizo (Cannellini with Hot Spanish Sausage)

19 Feb

When I first moved to Puerto Rico as a grown-up and got a job in San Juan, I lived several weeks with my godparents (from Confirmation, if you’re Catholic) in Ocean Park, in their art-filled, book-lined, sun-drenched house on the beach. When I found an apartment, I didn’t go far; for the next six years — más o menos — I lived around the corner, five houses away, and I spent almost as many dinnertimes there as in my own little house.

Carmen and I assembled lots of meals together, inventing pasta dishes, reviving old family recipes, experimenting with local ingredients from the farmer’s market, trying out exotic ingredients from whatever new specialty shop opened nearby and talking, talking, talking, to a soundtrack of the classical music station (Schumann, Schubert, Bach, come to mind) or old boleros from a more refined past (Trío Los Panchos, Rafael Hernández).

Those are some of my favorite memories from that time. So it’s always a pleasure to visit Carmen and Efrén when we are back in Puerto Rico — now I bring my son! — and, of course, get back into the kitchen. Over the holidays, Leandro, my parents and I stayed a few delicious days with them in Ocean Park (my parents and they have been friends for about 50 years now!), including visits from Carmen’s best friend, the noted playwright and director, Myrna Casas, and Baby Llenza, another notable chef!

Carmen made this as part of one lovely dinner and I couldn’t wait to try it myself. She recently sent me the recipe via email. It really is better with giant Spanish-style alubias in a jar, but cannellini from a can are a very tasty substitute if that’s what you have on hand. Just cook gently so they don’t fall apart!

Carmen’s Alubias con Chorizo

2-3 Tbs olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped fine

3 (or more!) cloves garlic, minced

15 oz can crushed tomatoes, drained (reserve liquid) or 1 ripe tomato, chopped or 2 Tbs tomato paste (you can add a handful of chopped grape tomatoes, if you’ve got, to freshen the flavor)

4 oz spicy Spanish chorizo (the hard, continental kind, similar to Italian hot dry sausage), peeled and chopped

19 oz jar of alubias from Viter – do NOT drain (or, 28 oz can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed)

Heat the oil in a pot until fragrant. Add onions and garlic, reduce to medium and soften. Add tomato and cook down a few minutes. Add chorizo and sauté briefly, just until it is releasing its oil. Add beans and cook until flavors incorporate (canned cannellini will soften very quickly, so do not overcook!). Use reserved tomato water, or just water, for a more liquid pot of beans.

According to Carmen, the Spanish eat this with sautéed Swiss Chard. In Puerto Rico, we accompany it with rice.

Asian-Inflected Steak and Asparagus Bites

6 Feb

I was looking for organic steak at Fairway Market in Plainview – one of my favorite places to shop for higher-end yet still reasonably-priced staples like Spanish chorizo, olive oils, tomato in cans, organic eggs — but instead found an irresistible deal:  U.S.D.A. prime hanger steak for $6.99 a pound. The prime designation means a higher quality of steak with loads of marbling (yes, fat) and virtuous me didn’t stand a chance against cheapskate bloodthirsty carnivorous me, so I bought 1.5 lbs and started to plan.

My friend Ashley was coming over, so I knew I’d have some support staff for child care AND prep, so I chose to do something I’ve been hankering after for weeks: Asian-flavored steak with asparagus. It is just slightly labor-intensive, but a show-stopper and I really should have given it to you earlier as a Super Bowl option, but better late than never.

We did half the meat that night, after the little guy was down (with a belly full of pizza and a promise of steak the next day). Must confess, once the pretty pictures were taken, we heaped all of the bites haphazardly on a plate, each grabbed a fork, and fell in like starving raptors from the Cretaceous Period.

The rest – two small steaks — I cooked whole the following evening on the broiler at our friend, Pam’s, without the asparagus (Yes, Leandro got his!). They were just as tasty, but almost 24 hours in the marinade did leave them almost too tender. The following recipe can be jiggled; use the greater amount of asparagus if you want to do all of the steak in wraps.

Anyhooo, I will be doing these the next time I entertain. I hope you will too!

Asian steak and asparagus bites

(factor in minimum marinating time of 30 minutes)

3 cloves garlic, minced fine

2 inch of ginger, peeled indifferently, and grated (about 1.5 packed Tbs; add more to taste)

2 tsp sesame oil

2 Tbs rice vinegar

4 Tbs soy sauce

1 – 1.5 lbs hanger steak (or other fairly thin, tender boneless cut)

1 – 2 lbs asparagus spears, washed, woody stems snapped off, and chopped into 2-inch pieces

Mix all ingredients except meat in a plastic freezer bag or a bowl. Add steak, coat thoroughly and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Reserving marinade, slice marinated steak ACROSS THE GRAIN* into thin slices and then cut the slices into strips suitable for wrapping artfully or not so artfully around asparagus spears. Lay steak and asparagus bites onto an oven rack with a catch dish underneath. Pour remaining marinade over and salt to taste. Cook for 5 minutes on each side (7-8 for well done) and serve.

*Cutting steaks across the grain cuts through the fibers that hold the muscles together and shortens them so the meat can barely hold together, thus, tenderness. This is especially necessary with my favorite muscle-y cuts: skirt steak (churrasco), flank steak and hanger steak. When raw, you will see natural lines across the meat. Slice against them (at a 90° angle, if I have understood Kenji at Food Lab (Serious Eats) correctly).

Feta, Avocado and Sun-Dried Tomato Snacks — Use ‘Em While Ya Got ‘Em!

30 Jan

I’m in a Use-It-Up frenzy at the moment; bought more fresh food than Leandro and I could consume during a week in which we were unexpectedly invited to dinner at other people’s houses and even if I could afford the waste, I have a really hard time throwing out food.

(For more on the food we throw away  visit Jonathan Bloom at Wasted Food; or the E.P.A. — where you’ll find out that Americans generate 34 million tons of food waste each year; or this NYTimes article from 2008 which says “As it turns out, Americans waste an astounding amount of food — an estimated 27 percent of the food available for consumption, according to a government study” ).

So, no real recipe today, but a serving suggestion of flavors and textures that worked well in a “scrappy” snack…horrid pun intended.

I took half an avocado left over from the previous day, some slices of feta that needed using up, and some sun-dried tomatoes in oil that have been lurking in my fridge. I just sliced fairly thin, laid them on woven wheat crackers and called it a light lunch.

It was delicious and satisfying and effectively utilized my natural resources! Pretty too, don’tcha think?

 

We Be Yammin’: Seasoned Yam/Sweet Potato Oven Fries

18 Sep

Leandro recently fell in love with some oven fried sweet potato waffle fries we had at our friend Pam’s house.

I was tempted to get a bag at the store, but since I prefer organic and I like making my own food, I figured I’d give it a go.

I found beautiful organic garnet yams at the supermarket and decided for a curry flavor, which harmonizes nicely with the sweetness of the tubers. Leandro thought the final product was a bit too strong on seasonings, but my mom and I couldn’t stop eating them. Considering the beta-carotene punch they pack, there’s nothing wrong with that!

And O.M.G. it couldn’t be easier. I may tone down the seastoning next time to please my napoleonic offspring, but for myself I would do it exactly the same way next time!

A note on sweet potatoes and yams: The orange fleshed tuber often called “yam” you see in the average American supermarket is actually a sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), unrelated to regular white potatoes and unrelated to true “yams” which originated in Africa. The name “yam” comes from one of the African words for this sweet, white-fleshed and denser tuber, “nyami.” Puerto Ricans will recognize them as ñame but I am going farther afield than I want to right now…so back to sweet potatoes. If it’s orange, it’s a sweet potato, regardless of what the supermarket wants to call it.

You could certainly increase this recipe to make a bigger batch; this amount was what fit in my toaster oven.

Seasoned Oven Fried Yams (or Sweet Potatoes)

1.5-2 lbs yams/sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into spears

Scant ¼ Cup vegetable oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp mild curry (or other spice blend of your choice: chipotle, pumpkin spice)

Pinch (scant 1/8 tsp) cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Place yam spears in a bowl and add olive oil, stirring until spears are thoroughly coated. Add remaining ingredients and stir to evenly coat the spears. Lay flat on a baking sheet and cook for 30 minutes, turning once. For added crispness, do an additional broil to brown the spears for 3-4 minutes. Let sit for five minutes before serving.

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