Monday, August 22, 2016

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and Disaster

We built the house fourteen years ago.  I would have never dreamed that we would have to remove all of the tile and redo the floors.  But, that is what has happened.  Over the last year, we have watched the grout loosen and, as the dominoes fell, the tiles loosened.  Of course there was no way to repair it. Of course the same tile was no longer made.  And no, it hadn't been installed properly.

To make a long story short.  What a mess!  Oh the dust!  I can only be thankful that instead of 110° it was 99°.  Every ray of sunshine helped.

I worried my tile selection silly.  After weeks of trying to match what I had, it finally dawned on me to wipe the old tile and color out of my mind and start with a clean slate.  So, I selected something totally different. I worried and worried.  But, it is finished and I love it!

Now you know what I have been doing.  But that isn't the disaster that was waiting for me.

Story number two:  I bought a take and bake pizza.  I set the oven to preheat and went about my business.  Then, there was an awful smell.  I thought that was odd as I hadn't been cooking and I had definitely not been using my oven.  Upon deciding that something was burning, I opened the oven. And, there all lined up neatly were the items from the pantry that I couldn't find!  (I am either stressed or of that age...)  Center stage was the mayonnaise that was bubbling out of the container and all over the oven.  What a mess.  We worked quickly with tongs and a trash can to remove all of the baked pantry items!  Thank goodness I have two ovens!  Dinner happened and with an icy glass of beer!

Thank goodness I had made this Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp a few weeks earlier!

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
adapted slightly from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That? by Ina Garten

Yield: 6 servings

4 cups fresh rhubarb (4 to 5 stalks) 1-inch dice
4 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 cup orange juice, fresh squeezed
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant)
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, diced

Vanilla ice cream for serving.

Preheat oven 350° F.

Place an 8 X 11-inch baking dish on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and set aside.

Fruit:  In a large bowl, toss the rhubarb and strawberries, with 3/4 cup of the granulated sugar and the orange zest.  Dissolve the cornstarch in the orange juice and then stir it into the fruit mixture.  Pout the mixture into the baking dish.

Topping:  Using your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, brown sugar, salt and oatmeal.  At low speed, add the butter.  Mix until the dry ingredients are moist and resemble crumbles.  Sprinkle the topping over the fruit.

Cover the baking dish completely.  Bake for 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is a golden brown.

Serve the crisp warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


This was delightful...a crispy topping covering sweet and tart yumminess!  (If that is a word!)  This is a keeper recipe..quick, easy and certain to please.

I am sharing today at Full  Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's County Cottage.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Blueberry Muffins for the Road!

Vacation!  I am still thinking about it.  I love cool mornings, a bit of fog, crabbing, fishing, exploring, reading, sitting!  What's not to like?  I know we really liked the Blueberry Muffins that I made for the road.  They weren't too sweet and had just the right amount of blueberries to keep me smiling.

I had never made muffins for the road before and I can't imagine why I never thought of doing it.  It was so nice to be able to bite into a moist muffin and enjoy coffee, while listening to our audio book as we rolled north...thirteen hours.  It was a long drive but made enjoyable by blueberry muffins and our book and a few sandwiches and stops along the way.

There is a story behind the blueberry muffins and it has to do with the Secret Recipe Club and my blog assignment, WHYIAMNOTSKINNY and metric measure.  When I got my assignment I knew that I had to get cooking immediately as we were going to be leaving.  The urgency, needing a recipe for something that could "travel" and having frozen blueberries and very ripe bananas all pointed me to the muffin section of Maxine's recipe index.

But wait, before I go on, let me talk about Maxine.  She is a South African blogger who now lives in Brussels.  She has a love for good food and enjoying it.  Her blog is her outlet for reminiscing over meals, recipes, restaurants and general food gathering experiences...and sharing with her readers! She has a one year old daughter who I am certain keeps the food experiences interesting!

There is quite a variety of recipes on Maxine's blog. And, she has a special place in her heart for desserts and sweet treats.  As I explored, I found a number of recipes that I would like to prepare, such as the Cheese, Leek and Potato Pasties or Cottage.  But being sensible about my situation, I
determined that the Blueberry MuffinsBanana Raspberry Muffins or the Orange and Poppyseed Muffins would be good choices....with the Blueberry Muffins being the winner of the day!

But....metric measure.....?  Many years ago, when I was in the classroom, I always taught a unit on metric measure.  Of course, the big no-no was to try to convert.  So, I never went there....converting just didn't come out "equal".  And, you know, that is so true.

On baking day, I found myself looking at the metric measure, looking at the tools on hand, and the biggest mistake...the internet.  I must have found three or four conversion charts and each was different.  So, I did the best I could.  I looked at a standard recipe I had on hand and the ratio of sugar to flour, the ratio of wet ingredients to dry...I over analyzed it.  But, I made a determination and dove in!  (It was actually fun to step up to the challenge!)

My muffins were really tasty....not overly sweet...very moist.  What they did, was lose the beautiful puffy raise that they had. So, I did something with the leavening or some other proportion, but I am not certain what it was.  Good thing it didn't effect the taste!

Blueberry Muffins

Yield:  12 muffins

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp milk
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup blueberries

Preheat the oven:  350° F.

Prepare the muffin tin.  Place the muffin liners in the muffin tin or grease the tin.

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream. milk, sugar, butter and vanilla.

Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture. Stir.  Gently fold in the blueberries. (Be careful to not over mix.)

Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin cases.

Bake for 25-30 minutes.  Test the muffins at 25 minutes to see if tester comes out dry.


They may not have a cute little domed top but they had a great taste.  Everybody loved them....and what they mentioned was that they were moist, not overly sweet and had a great flavor.

If you are a pro at converting metric to standard measure.....and can see what I did incorrectly, please share!!

In the meantime, I will be thinking about Oregon and looking forward to our next trip!

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Very Best Banana Bread

Apologies...I am so far behind in posting, but there is a good reason.  Our annual trip to Oregon was in July.  We have traveled to the lake every year since 1987.  That tells you how much we enjoy going.  When we are at the lake, for the most part, we do not have cable, internet or cell reception. Twice though, a random connection happened and we actually got two phone calls!

The day before we left I did some baking.  One of the items I made was this wonderful banana bread. I happened on the recipe while visiting my oldest daughter in Seattle.  She requested that I make a banana bread.  After much searching and comparing, I decided that Martha would be my friend.

We were not disappointed.  In fact, this recipe has officially replaced my old banana nut recipe.  It is very moist and flavorful.  And, as we drove North at dark-thirty in the morning, with our coffee in hand, it certainly hit the spot!

The Very Best Banana Bread
adapted from Martha Stewart

Yield:  1 loaf pan
Preheat oven:  350° F.

1/2 cup butter, room temperature (1 stick), plus additional for the pan
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup mashed bananas (very ripe, about 3)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Prepare a loaf pan (9 X 5 X 3) with butter and set aside.  

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time beating after each to incorporate.

Mix together the flour, soda and salt in a separate bowl.  Add this to the butter mixture.  Mix until combined.  Stir in the bananas, vanilla, and sour cream.  Stir in the nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake the cake until a tester, inserted in the center of the loaf, comes out clean, approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Allow the bread to rest for 10 minutes and turn out onto a rack to cool.

Note:  I have made the recipe four times, using different ovens.  Each time I have removed the bread after about 58 minutes.  I would recommend checking the bread after 55 minutes and then watch closely as it finishes up quickly!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Watermelon-Tequila Granita - SRC

Timing is everything!  That is exactly the feeling I had when I got my Secret Recipe Club assignment for couldn't have been more perfect.  You might ask, "Why?"  Let me tell you why. First, it was 111 degrees outside.  There was a touch of humidity.  It was miserable.  Second, I was not budging from the house.  Third, I had guests coming for dinner.  And fourth, I had watermelon.

But, fifth, and most importantly, I was assigned Camilla's lovely blog, Culinary Adventures with Camilla!  I have been in group B for over a year and have been waiting for this assignment.  Camilla is a sweetheart!  She has an unending amount of energy.  She is the mother of three boys and describes herself as "a tree-hugging, veggie-crunching, jewelry-designing mean mommy who loves to cook but hates to clean."  She has spent time as a florist, waitress, SCUBA dive master, stock photo agency manager, stroller fitness teacher, writer, editor, and au pair. She also lived and worked in Rome where she learned to cook.  Camilla visited the markets, talked to farmers and fishmongers, and pestered them to learn how to prepare various dishes that are now part of her repertoire. I should be that lucky! 

On this day, I immediately started looking for an appetizer or dessert.  Company was coming. The Champiñones al Ajillo and Prawn Ceviche with Avocados sounded heavenly.  We would have enjoyed either one with a glass of wine.  We would have enjoyed both....but on another day.  My search led me to desserts.  I was looking for something refreshing and light and I found it: Watermelon -Tequila Granita!

Watermelon-Tequila was like finding gold!  Or, was my tequila gold?  Hmmm...I think it was both.  This was super easy, super refreshing, super tasty and just all around wonderful!  With or without the tequila it was wonderful....  

It is an adult snowcone....and the syrup is tequila!

Watermelon-Tequila Granita

6 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Juice from one Meyer lemon
One shot of tequila per serving

Place the watermelon cubes, sugar and lemon juice in a blender. Purée until smooth.  

Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish (or any flat container).  Freeze the mixture for 1 hour. Run a fork across the surface of the mixture to break up any large frozen parts.  Repeat the process every hour until frozen.  It will take 3-4 hours to freeze.

Prior to serving let the granita soften just a bit on the counter.  Drag the fork through the granita to create ice flakes.  

To serve, spoon the granita into individual bowls or glasses and pour a shot of tequila over the top.

Garnish with a few mint leaves.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers with Cucumber and Feta Salad

I mentioned the recipe for Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers in my earlier post for Ras El Hanout. What I didn't discuss is that we served the chicken on flatbread topped with this wonderful Cucumber and Feta Salad.

All together it was a very flavorful and light meal!  We have used the spice mixture a number of times and find it to be a winner!

Cucumber and Feta Salad
adapted from David Lebovitz

1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Kosher salt
8 oz feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp water
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/2 red onion, peeled, finely diced
1 Tbsp chopped dill
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped mint

In a colander, mix the cucumber with a light sprinkle of salt.  Allow it to drain 30 minutes to an hour. Shake the colander and/or lightly squeeze the mixture a few times.

Crumble the feta into a medium-size bowl and mash it together with the olive oil, lemon juice, water, and a few twists of fresh ground pepper.

Add the cucumbers, onion, and herbs to the feta mixture and stir.  Taste and add additional salt, if desired.

NOTE:  This mixture may be served as a topping for Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers or served as a appetizer with crackers or with soft or toasted pita triangles.


Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers
adapted from David Lebovitz

Mix up the Ras el Hanout.

3/4 cup whole milk, Greek-style yogurt
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion peeled
3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
5 tsp. Ras el Hanout
1-2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika, sweet smoked or spicy smoked paprika
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/2 to 2 pound mixture of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts, trimmed and cut into small chunks for skewering.

Chop the garlic and onion into small pieces and finely chop in a mini-chopper.  Put the mixture into a large zip-top freezer bag. (A medium-size bowl works fine, if you prefer.)

In a bowl, mix the yogurt, lemon juice, ras el hanout, black pepper, paprika, red pepper, and the pieces of chicken.  Pour the mixture into the bag with the garlic-onion mixture.  Remove excess air and seal the bag.  Massage the chicken pieces to assure that they are well covered by the marinade. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or over night.

Thread the chicken onto skewers.  Light the grill until very hot.  Brush the grill with oil.  Grill the skewers on one side until seared with grill marks, 4-5 minutes.  Turn and grill until cooked through. Total cooking time is 8-9 minutes.

Serve the chicken on flatbread or pita with a dollop of the cucumber and feta salad.

PRINTABLE RECIPE (both chicken and salad)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

"Head of the Shop" Spice Mixture: Ras el Hanout

Sometimes I think I am in a rut when I go into the kitchen.  Have you ever felt that way?  Some days nothing sounds good and the summer heat makes it hard to even think about eating.  I can be inspired though, and that is what happened when I saw a recent post by David Lebovitz for Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers.  There was no question what was going to be for dinner.

First, though, I had to make the spice mixture.  The mixture known as Ras el Hanout is common in the Moroccan spice cabinet.  Translated, Ras el Hanout means "head of the shop" and is a mixture of the very best spices that the shop has to offer.  It can be 20-40 spices put together by the shop owner. The blend of spices can include:  cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, coriander to name a few.  The mixture will vary from shop to shop as each owner selects his very best and creates his own unique Ras el Hanout.

The mixture can be very complex or simple. Since I am the owner of this shop, it was a simple mixture of great flavors!  I followed David's link to a recipe from Epicurious and that is what I used.

Ras el Hanout
adapted from Epicurious

1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Combine all of the spices together in a small bowl.  The spice blend may be kept in an airtight container for one month.

This aromatic spice blend is a familiar mix in Moroccan cuisine. It can readily be used as a rub, in a marinade or as a seasoning in tagines or stews.

I chose to use it as part of a marinade for chicken will be in an upcoming post!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sparkling Rosé Spritzer

It looks as though there is going to be another  early heat wave.  Temps reaching 111° F.  sound oppressive, but, they aren't as bad as what the folks in Arizona are experiencing.  So, I share not complain.  Instead, I am going to share a nice, refreshing drink!

When I first saw this recipe from Bon Appétit, I was sold.  The only thing I disagree with is their lead in...."...the kind of thing that you can drink all afternoon."  While drinking all afternoon may have appealed to me forty years ago, today, I am happy to enjoy this refreshing drink in the evening, while sitting on a the patio and watching the dogs check out the yard for any critters that may be visiting!

Of course, if we had a pool, I might just enjoy a glass or two while dangling my feet in the water!

Sparkling Rosé Spritzer
adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield:  1 serving

2 lemon slices
4 dashes of bitters
1/2 oz St. Germain (elderflower liqueur)
4 oz sparkling rosé

In a rocks glass (short tumbler), place the lemon slices, bitters, and St. Germain.  Add ice and then top off with the sparkling rosé.

That's it.  Pretty refreshing and quite tasty!


This has become my fun drink in the evening.  It really is refreshing...but I think it could be too easy to drink!

I am sharing to day at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.