Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Picnic pasta

After a few picnics at the Hollywood Bowl, this pasta proved to be a success. So easy to make - use whatever quantities you want!

Pasta of your choice (I like fusilli)
Sun dried tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Fresh basil, torn
Garbanzo beans
Grilled boneless chicken breast
Your fave Italian dressing

1. Cook the pasta as package instructs.
2. Make sure chicken, if using, is thoroughly cooked. Once cooked and cooled, chop into small pieces.
3. Combine all ingredients together and serve!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Tomato & Pepper Salad

The other day I was stuck inside, trapped by the miserable heat, with very little to eat. So I had to make up something and I ended up surprising myself with a nice Tomato and Pepper Salad.

1 can drained, diced tomatoes ("Mexican" style)
1 grated carrot
1 cup drained, marinated red and yellow peppers
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

Simply combine the ingredients in a bowl and you're set! I enjoyed mine with some seasoned wild rice and vegetarian refried beans for a Tex-Mex inspired dinner.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Wine of the Week - Lucas & Lewellen 2005 Pinot Noir Hilltop


A delicious wine. Rich and crisp, full-bodied. Cherry flavors, with a bit of a burnt match quality. This was one of my prize bottles from my trip to Solvang. Highly recommended.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Not Your Mama's Bruschetta...

Tomatillo is taking the lead for this unconventional, and yet still fabulously delish bruschetta, and since it's summer, try grilling the bread in the backyard. It's a great way to freshen up an old favorite.

1 french baguette, cut into 1/2 slices
1/4 cup diced organic red onion
4 sprigs fresh organic genovese basil
2 large diced organic tomatillos (green variety, de-husked)
9 medium-sized quartered homegrown cherry tomatoes
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 dash sea salt
1 dash black pepper

In medium frying pan, combine onion, garlic, tomatillo, and 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Stir until onion, garlic, and tomatillo are lightly coated in olive oil. Heat until tomatillo flesh has turned from white to light green, or is softer in texture. Remove from heat and cool.

Finely mince basil. In a medium bowl mix basil, salt, and pepper with tomatoes. Add the remaining olive oil and balsamic vinegar until mixture is evenly coated.

Combine all ingredients in the frying pan that was used to cook the tomatillos, onion, and garlic (making sure that the heat is off).

Cool mixture in the fridge for 30 minutes, and heat up your grill.

Brush baguette slices lightly with olive oil and place on the grill until lightly toasted. Cover with bruschetta mixture and serve. :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fruity pancakes

One week left of August! You know what that means? Time to kick the kids back into school. And what better way to send them on their way than a hearty and delicious breakfast?

Altered from The Veganomicon:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp veggie oil
1 1/4 milk
1/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup fresh berries (I used blueberries and strawberries)

1. Sift together dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine wet ingredients. Add wet to dry and mix until just combined. Fold in the berries.
2. Spray a pan with cooking spray. Use 1/4 cup measuring cup, or an ice cream scoop, to pour the batter into the pan. Cook until brown on the bottom, ~4 minutes. Flip and cook until the bottoms are brown.
3. Smother with more maple syrup and enjoy!

On this day, I also cooked up some bacon (fake of course) and fried up some tofu seasoned with cinnamon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Red & Yellow Pepper Sandwich

I don't know about you, but the heat and humidity here in the Midwest is making me want to keep my eating nice and simple, with as much sweat-free preparation as possible! This was an easy lunch that was nice and cool.

I made this sandwich using wheat bread, mayo & mustard, marinated red & yellow peppers, baby spinach and Colby cheese. Some pickles and salt & peppered tomatoes were the perfect compliment!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wine of the Week - Lucas & Lewellen 2005 Sauvignon Blanc


This late harvest dessert wine comes from our Solvang haul. For people like me who enjoy rich, saturated flavors, this comes off a tad bit watery. But for those who appreciate a bit of subtlety, this is spot-on, with spicy mellon flavors and a hint of maple syrup. Definitely recommended.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Homemade Cherry Pie

An exceptionally ugly pie, thanks to haste and carelessness. Delicious, though.

Baking a pie is a deeply satisfying experience. The process, while time-consuming, is so easy and almost foolproof that it's hard for me to justify buying a pie at a store. Unless that store is The Upper Crust, in the bottom floor of Pryde's of Old Westport here in Kansas City.


Preheat oven to 425° F

1 cup flour plus 3 tbsp, with exra for rolling
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, sliced into about 8 pieces
3 tbsp ice cold water

Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together. Now the fun part: making sure the butter's cold, start tossing it into the flour. You can use a spoon to mix the butter in, or even easier, a food processor. However, the fun of pie crust is mooshing the butter into the flour with your hands. That's right: wash your hands up good, run them under some cold, cold water, dry 'em off, and get in there! Mix the butter and the flour together, stopping at some point mid-mix to pour in the ice water and blend it in.

This whole mixing process should take about five minutes, tops. Don't mix the flour and butter too much, or you'll start to produce more gluten, which will make your pie crust less flaky and more chewy. I would go with undermixing over overmixing on this one; leave some flour bits crumbled at the bottom. Any inconsistencies will either roll out or bake out.

Form the dough into two equal-sized balls. Roll them out with a rolling pin/bottle o' wine until they're about two inches wider than your pie tin. Lay one of the flats gently into your pie tin, pressing down into the corners.

To pre-bake your crust: Stab the bottom of your crust 5-10 times with a fork, then put it in the preheated oven. Alternately, you can butter a piece of foil, lay it butter-side-down in your pie crust, and weigh it down with uncooked rice or beans. This will prevent your pie crust from shrinking, but I don't know what it does to the usability of the beans, so I usually just skip it. IF you don't weigh your crust down, be sure to check it for bubbles every couple of minutes.

Bake your crust for about five or ten minutes, then open the oven door and reduce the temperature to 375°. Close the oven and let the crust bake for another five or six minutes, then remove it. Toss the foil.

As for your top crust, keep it rolled out and covered with a towel. If you want a lattice-top pie, slice it into inch-wide strips. If you want a more traditional pie, be sure to cut a few small holes in it, preferably in a cute design (little hearts or at least symmetrical circles), to allow steam to escape.

Preheat oven to 375°.

4 cups berries or cherries, washed, chopped, pitted, and whatever you need to do.
I used frozen cherries for this pie, so I didn't have to do
1 - 1 1/2 cups sugar
6 tbsp arrowroot powder, or 4 tbsp corn starch
pinch salt

Butter for dotting

Put the cherries (or berries) in a saucepan over medium heat and cover. Cook until the cherries simmer and lose a fair amount of juice, between 7 and 10 minutes. Turn off the heat to the stove, then mix in the sugar and arrowroot powder, then turn the stove back on and bring the mixture to a low simmer. Cook until lightly thickened, stirring frequently, then turn off the heat and let the mixture sit and cool. It will thicken more as it sits.

When the cherry filling is cool, pour it into the prebaked pie crust. Cover with the other pie crust, crimp down the edges with a fork, dot with butter* and sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the top crust is golden - golden-brown.

*To dot with butter, just put a few tiny 'dots' of butter around the crust, focusing on the edges. You might even melt some butter down to wash the edges with, but that doesn't usually add much to the final

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Almond White Cake and Buttercream Frosting

Today's recipe is from guest contributor Dena...


Buttercream Frosting:
  • 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 6 to 8 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix together all ingredients except milk. Add in milk one tablespoon at a time until you reach desired consistency.

Almond White Cake:
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 tablespoons almond extract
  • 4 eggs
Combine all ingredients, mix well. Bake at 350 degrees 30-35 min for 8 inch round or square cakes, or 35 to 40 minutes for 13x9 inch cake. Cool completely before frosting.


I've been having fun making and decorating homemade cakes for the last few months. The Easter cupcakes were my first attempt; they were actually for my mom's birthday. The ladybug cake and cupcakes were for my daughter's 1st birthday. My mom used to make our birthday cakes when we were growing up. I have such fond memories of our "themed" cakes as kids. I hope my kids enjoy it too!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Apple Oat bars

My colleagues at work were raving about this treat I brought in. From my Better Homes and Gardens cookbook:

1 cup flour
1 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 cup chunky applesauce (check out my recipe for homemade sauce!)
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1. Combine the flour, oats, sugar and baking soda. Cut in butter until crumbly. Set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture.
2. For apple filling, combine applesauce, cranberries and cinnamon.
3. Press the remaining mixture into an ungreased 9"x9"x2" baking dish. Spread the apple filling on top. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture on top.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes until top is golden. Cool, then cut into bars.

Monday, August 16, 2010

May's Fruit Salad

I just happened to have just the right amount of ingredients on hand to make up this delicious fruit salad the other night. Very simple but delicious, especially after a night in the fridge. The only thing that would have made it more perfect would've been some sliced strawberries.

  • 1 lb canned peaches, drained & sliced
  • 1 apple, cored & sliced (also peeled, if you want)
  • 1 15 oz can pears, drained and sliced
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  1. Mix the peaches, apples, pears and blueberries in a bowl.
  2. Add the yogurt, sugar and juice of the lemon and lime.
  3. Enjoy right away or the next day for extra flavor!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wine of the Week - Well Red 2009 California Red

Almost every single bottle of wine you're ever going to see has these two words on the bottle: Contains Sulfites. So when I encountered a bottle at Trader Joe's with a label reading "Organic, Sulfite Free, Vegan Friendly," I had to see what that would be like.

"So, what are sulfites, anyway?"

The quick answer is that they're a preservative used in many foods to extend shelf life. In wines, they're used to exercise greater control over fermentation. Generally harmless, they can cause mild allergic reactions in some people. (Some wine drinkers blame sulfites for their headaches, but there's never been a proven link. Come on, people... it may not be a pounding headache, but it's still a hangover.)

Now onto the wine itself...


In the glass, it appears deep midnight purple. Strangely, it lacks the reflective sheen that just about every wine has, which gives it kind of a chintzy appearance.

Didn't get much out of the nose, except for hints of tomato that hit me high in the sinuses.

Up front, this wine was aggressively acidic and tart, not unlike Willy Wonka candy. This gives way to a surprisingly pleasant, breathable aftertaste which I genuinely enjoyed. But given the harshness of the initial taste, I can't recommend this one.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chickpea cutlet dinner

A super easy dinner that looks like it took a lot of effort - my fave!

Chickpea cutlets - altered from the Veganomicon
(makes 4 cutlets - the leftovers were great for lunch!)
1 can chickpeas
Olive oil
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup veggie broth
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp paprika

1. Mash up the beans. I used a food processor and then forked any remaining whole beans.
2. In a bowl, combine beans with the rest of the ingredients.
3. Split into four patties. Shape into cutlets.
4. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Cook each side of the cutlets until crisp, about 5-8 minutes each side. Add more oil as necessary.

Mashed Potatoes
3 medium-sized potatoes
Veggie broth (adds more flavor than just milk)
(one of these days I'll add mashed cauliflower)

1. Boil potatoes, chopped, until soft.
2. Drain and beat to get rid of chunks. Add as much butter and broth to make as creamy as you like.

Mixed veggies
Uh...heat up frozen veggies. Done.

Marsala sauce
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
1 cup veggie broth
1 tbsp Cornstarch
1 tbsp spaghetti sauce
Olive oil

1. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan. Add wine. Simmer for ~1 minute.
2. Whisk cornstarch with broth and sauce in a bowl.
3. Add mixture to the pan. Return to a simmer and stir until thick and glossy, about 5 minutes.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Poached Pears

I had some amazing poached pears prepared by my future sis-in-law, and I just had to share the recipe. You can find it at eHow. She left out the cloves and used vanilla extract instead of vanilla bean.

Recipe: How to Make Poached Pears

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wine of the Week - Albero 2007 Tempranillo Barrica


This is a Spanish wine, which I've never had before. The region isn't designated on the bottle, but the Tempranillo grape is purportedly indigenous to northern Spain.

The bottle notes that this wine is made with organically grown grapes, whatever that means.

On the nose, there was a peculiar funk - Limburger cheese or sweaty feet. I'm sure that sounds off-putting to most people, but I was actually thrilled to experience one of the most distinctive noses of any wine I've ever encountered. You have to remember that the nose of a wine does not necessarily predict the taste, nor does it indicate that the wine has gone bad in any way.

On the tongue, this wine was dry and high in tannins, with tastes of green olives and yellow onions. Surprising; not what I expect from red wines. A decent, enjoyable drink, but nothing I'd suggest running out to find.

13.2% alcohol

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Texas Caviar

Today's recipe comes to us from guest contributor Dena...


This has become my favorite snack of the summer. I was introduced to it at a Memorial Day picnic and have made it for every picnic since.

  • 1 can Black Eye Peas
  • 1 can Black Beans
  • 1 can Shoepeg (white) Corn
  • 1 jar Pimentos
  • 1 jar Jalapenos (chopped)
  • 1 medium red onion (chopped)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
I've started making a double batch, but only using one jar of jalapenos, as it can get quite hot.


  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Heat in sauce pan on stove until sugar is dissolved.

I've lightened the dressing recipe to suit my taste (and Weight Watchers points value).

I use:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Splenda
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
Combine all ingredients after draining and rinsing (and chopping, where instructed). Combine dressing and pour over veggie mixture. Stir well. Let sit, refrigerated, over night. Drain liquid before serving.

I've become fond of serving it with Stacy's Simply Naked Pita Chips, but have had it with Scoops, Sun Chips, well just about everything. The way I see it, the chips are just a way to get the Texas Caviar into my mouth. I have also used it as a sandwich topping, and a garnish for grilled chicken. Makes a great vegetarian snack too, although you need to watch the label of the black eye peas. I accidentally bought "prepared" black eye peas, which are made with meat stock and are not vegetarian-friendly. Sorry, mom! I'll be more careful next time.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Aunt Liz's Pasta Salad

Sorry the picture isn't great. I had to use my camera phone.

Matt and I have been having dinner with his mom and sister a lot this summer, since she's in town for the summer before moving down south for law school. We have lots of fun cooking together, and I'm enjoying being exposed to new ideas and recipes. The one I'm going to share with you today is one of their family recipes and it's a very unique take on pasta salad.

1 lb pasta
3 diced tomatoes
3 chopped green onions
1 lb diced cheese (we used Colby)
3 oz pepperoni (optional)

3/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 red wine vinegar
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp Italian seasoning

1. Mix the ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix the dressing ingredients.

2. Add the dressing to the pasta mix and chill overnight for best flavor. You can also eat it right away.