Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Helpful Hints in the Kitchen

Sometimes when I am cooking I have a problem with leftovers.  The problem is not with the finished product, but with the ingredients themselves.  I have tried to save things like chicken broth or wine or tomato paste in the fridge, telling myself that I will use them.  But I don't.  Ever.  My fridge becomes the graveyard of half-used products and opened cans.  This was really brought home after Superstorm Sandy knocked out my power for several days, causing me to throw out the entire contents of my refrigerator and freezer.  I decided at that point that I would keep my fridge spotless from now on (haha) and also find a different method of saving leftover ingredients.

Sitting pretty in my (basically empty) freezer.
So the other day I was maximizing the Thanksgiving leftovers by making Shepherd's Pie with the mashed potatoes and I only needed 2 Tablespoons of tomato paste and 1 cup of chicken broth. Which meant that I had 1 cup of chicken broth left over and a whole can, minus 2 TBSP, of tomato paste.  I decided to freeze the broth in my ice cube trays.  We always buy a large bag of ice because we use so much of it.  I only had the trays from when I made baby food for Lilly, and, well, those days are long over.  Then I was hit by genius and decided to measure out and freeze the tomato paste, too.
Frozen chicken broth

Frozen Tomato Paste

My theory is that it can just be popped into the pan, as needed.  I froze mostly 1 teaspoon and some 2 teaspoon portions of the paste and once they were frozen I popped them into a freezer bag.  I was not very exact with the broth.  I simply filled the ice trays and once frozen  popped them into a freezer bag.  I even double bagged them to be safe.  I then labeled the outsides with the date and tossed them back into the freezer.
In the labeled freezer bags, ready for my next cooking adventure!

It really took very little time to do this and I saved money both in not wasting any ingredients this time, and in having them readily available for use in the future.  Who wants to open an entire can of tomato paste for 1 or 2 teaspoons?  I am inspired now to see what else I can save and freeze!  I just have to remember to use it all!


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Leftover mashed potatoes? Shepherd's Pie for dinner

I had a delicious turkey dinner yesterday.  My hubby made me a delectable turkey sammie last night.  I had a small plate of leftovers for lunch. So I was pretty much turkey-ed out.  I was not having turkey for dinner but I did have tons of mashed leftover.  What is a girl to do with all those mashed potatoes?  Make shepherd's pie, that's what.  I substituted beef for the lamb.  I used Alton Brown's recipe as a guide.
Carrots and onions cooking

I already had mashed potatoes, so obviously I disregarded his recipe for that.  But as a little side note, has anyone ever heard of putting an egg yolk in them?  I had never heard of that and thought maybe it was more a shepherd's pie thing?  Here is the rest with my notes in italics.
The meat was browned and the sauce made.

For the meat filling:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground meat (I used beef.)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
I added a few glugs of red wine.  I figured I was drinking it so why not?
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves (I had none.)
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves (I used dried.)
1/2 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup fresh or frozen English peas
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the meat, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the corn and peas to the meat mixture and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. FYI, I took out the leftover potatoes to bring them to room temperature.  They were still a little cold so I popped them into the microwave to take the chill off.
The layer of mashed potatoes

It was a delicious and filling meal.  Hubby asked if we could put it into the rotation of favorite dinners!

Thanksgiving Deliciousness

This year my brother and sister-in-law hosted Thanksgiving.  Vin, Lilly, and I went to assist with the preparations on the evening beforehand.
Mr. Tom Turkey

We used Alton Brown's Best Gravy Ever & Perfect Roast Turkey recipes.  They came out great, though I would definitely recommend having an oven thermometer to make sure your oven does not run too hot or cold AND a probe thermometer that can stay in the oven.  The one my SIL had was not oven safe.  I hadn't even realized that they sold ones that weren't oven safe!!  We took it out at the right time but I am thinking their oven runs hot.  The great thing was that even though it cooked a little longer than it should have, because it was brined, the turkey was still delicious and moist!
He's cooked.  And delicious!

We made the stuffings (a regular and one with apples and dried cranberries) and the mashed potatoes the night before.  My brother made his famous sweet potatoes with marshmallows ahead of time, as well.  The stuffings and the potatoes went into slowcooker crocks and then into the fridge.  In the morning Laurie took them out of the fridge, brought them to room temperature and then set them into the slowcookers to be heated.  By dinner time they were perfectly heated!  

Laurie made all the stuffings and this particularly amazing green bean casserole dish (recipe courtesy of her mom) that I hope she makes for all future events.  It was not your typical green bean and mushroom soup recipe.  Let's just say it involved bacon, wine, and cheese.  Yes.  Bacon in the green beans.  You can stop drooling now!  And p.s. they were even better today.

I used Martha Stewart's mashed potatoes recipe to make 10 pounds of potatoes, though I tend to eyeball all the ingredients.  Mashing 10 pounds of potatoes was more challenging than I had anticipated.  I did it in batches but it was still really hard to do.  We eventually broke out the kitchenaid stand mixer for its inaugural use and that is what did the trick.  My Aunt Pam brought her famous twice baked potatoes.  Why yes, we did have 2 stuffings, 2 white potatoes, and oh yes, 2 sweet potatoes.
Did you know that 1 large slow cooker holds 10 pounds of mashed potatoes?

All along I had intended on baking the sea salt browned butter chocolate chip cookies, but I ran out of time.  On Thanksgiving morning I did make the pumpkin crunch cake I found through Pinterest.  I am only slightly obsessed with that site.  So, here is the recipe.  I will tell you that mine does not look like the picture on the website.  I also used walnuts instead of pecans and probably only a cup because that is what I had in the house.  I left a small portion without nuts since Lilly is anti-nut.
I left a small portion without nuts.

Pumpkin Crunch Cake
1 box yellow cake mix
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
I added a tsp of vanilla
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (the original recipe called for 1/2 cup)
1 cup butter, melted
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease bottom of 9 x 13″ pan.  Mix pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Pour mixture into greased pan.  Sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture and top with pecans.  Drizzle melted butter over pecans.  Bake 50-55 minutes. It is puddingish or custardy so it is done when it looks set when you jiggle it a bit, not when a knife comes out dry.

It was a huge hit, but I don't think it will ever replace the pumpkin gingerbread trifle I make every year.  This is a Paula Deen recipe that was given to me by a parent of one of my students.  I have been making it for years. This year Laurie made all the ingredients and I assembled it.  I always think of tinkering with the recipe, but I never have.
the famous trifle

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle


  • 2 (14-ounce) packages gingerbread mix (I only use 1 because I use a trifle bowl, not a punch bowl.)
  • 1 (5.1-ounce) box cook-and-serve vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 (30-ounce) can pumpkin pie filling
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 teaspoon ground cardamom or cinnamon
  • 1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping (I usually have more on hand.)
  • 1/2 cup gingersnaps, optional


Bake the gingerbread according to the package directions; cool completely. Meanwhile, prepare the pudding and set aside to cool. Stir the pumpkin pie filling, sugar, and cardamom into the pudding. Crumble 1 batch of gingerbread into the bottom of a large, pretty bowl. Pour 1/2 of the pudding mixture over the gingerbread, then add a layer of whipped topping. Repeat with the remaining gingerbread, pudding, and whipped topping. Sprinkle of the top with crushed gingersnaps, if desired. Refrigerate overnight. Trifle can be layered in a punch bowl, or as I mentioned above, in a trifle bowl.  
My other sister-in-law Kelly's pilgrim cupcakes.  How cute are they!!

I really love that we have some family traditions but also that we welcome some new ones as our family expands!  It was a great Thanksgiving feast!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Browned Butter (and cookies to make with it)

My lovely mixer in action.  

In the few weeks since camp I have been making rather regular and kind of ho-hum dinners.  Nothing to write home, or here, about.   However, I did discover extraordinary chocolate chip cookies.  What makes these cookies so extraordinary?  Three things...bread flour, sea salt, and browned butter.  What is bread flour?  I wasn't sure but when I looked it up I discovered it has more gluten than all-purpose flour.  More gluten = chewier.  Chewier cookies are a plus in my book.  Sea salt, I know and love, especially with chocolate.  But I had never browned butter before.  I thought I had done so before when I was trying to make a browned butter and sage sauce for pumpkin ravioli last fall.  Apparently I was wrong.  I had only made melted butter and sage sauce I guess.

I followed some directions I found but I still was not sure if I was doing it correctly until Ta-Da! browned butter it was!  A few people have asked me about the process so I decided to take some pictures the next time.  Sure, you can find plenty of recipes and blogs that give you browned butter tutorials, but since you are reading this blog, you can find it here, too!  See?  I aim to please.

This is the link to the recipe I used to bake the cookies.  They are quite delicious as is, but I think next time I will use dark brown sugar versus light brown, just to see.  According to Alton Brown, the darker the sugar, the chewier the cookie.  There are actually TONS of recipes out there in blog land for sea salt browned butter cookies.  I kind of randomly found this one after not being able to re-find the original recipe I had planned to use.  Plus, I had all the ingredients, so, you know, that's a bonus.

I have made the cookies several times now.  I really like the dark brown sugar because of the depth of flavor it gives, plus they get nice and chewy.  The first few times I made them they got pretty crispy.  They were delicious but not chewy.  So I had to play around with the time and really look at them a few times until I figured out what worked to make them chewy and still a little crispy on the outside.  I found that when they look almost done....like they still might be almost runny on the inside...I pull them out.  I let them sit on the cookie sheet on the top of the stove for a few minutes, until set.  If you try to move them now they will fall apart.  Then let them cool on a cooling rack.  To me, these are perfect with a cup of coffee.  Enjoy!
You can see the few sprinkles of coarse sea salt.

Up close and personal

Here we go...
For some reason it is sideways, but for this recipe use unsalted butter.

Cut the butter into tablespoon-sized pieces for more even melting and put into a small pot over medium heat.

Whisk it occasionally.  

It gets nice and frothy and still smells buttery.

Then it boils.  Like serious boiling!!!

At this point I was wondering when this so-called browning would occur.  Had I missed it?  This had been on the stove for almost 10 minutes already!  Eventually, it keeps boiling, you keep whisking once in a while, and around then you start to smell the MOST amazing nutty smell.  At the same time you will see brown bits at the bottom of the pot.  That's how you know it's now browned butter.  I was going to let it go a little further to see how brown I could take it, but I was afraid to burn it and I needed this butter to make the cookies!  

Do not be afraid of the browned butter.  I want to use it in everything now because it gives such a depth of flavor to whatever you are putting it in.  I would love if you make it, if you would come back here and leave me a comment to let me know!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Popcorn Balls

Stove top popcorn
For the last week of camp I decided to have fun with the campers and piggyback onto the Carnival Day that was being held on that Thursday.  We made popcorn balls which I had never made before, but I will most definitely be making again!

We started out with making popcorn on the stove, which is the only way I make it.  If I had an air popper I would use it.  But I do not eat microwave popcorn. In my opinion, if you are eating popcorn there should only be ingredients that you can read and pronounce:  oil, popcorn kernels, butter and salt. Back to the recipe... We made the popcorn and did not salt or butter it.
Kernels and canola oil before the lid went on.

For the sauce that allows you to make the popcorn into balls:
Melt 1/2 stick of butter in a large pan.

Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and a 10 oz bag of mini marshmallows.  Interesting note about the mini versus regular sized marshmallows is that the mini melted faster and more evenly.  But the regular sized got more caramel-y because they had to cook longer.  I kind of preferred the larger ones for that reason but it was hard to balance the melting and not burning it.  

Stir constantly over medium heat until it is all melted.  Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan because that is where it will start to caramelize and eventually burn.  I started off the week having the campers stir this, but their last week giddyness was making me nervous so I put an end to that.  If you are doing it with your children, just make sure they are safe because sticky and boiling is not a good combination if it gets on skin.  

Pour the goodness over the popcorn.  I transferred the popcorn to a different bowl so that I could try to keep as many unpopped kernels from going in as possible.  Also, a plastic bowl is a better choice than a metal one, just saying.  Not that I burned myself on the metal bowl that was filled with molten marshmallows or anything.

It tastes as amazing as it looks.

At this point you butter your hands and get to work very quickly and carefully forming balls.  For the campers, I put a large spoonful in front of them on a clean table top and had them wait a minute or so before touching it.  I experimented with packing them tightly or keeping them looser.  I enjoyed them a little looser because it made it a little easier to bite into.  I have no pictures of the balls because my hands were a sticky mess.  The campers had a blast making and eating them.  All different shapes were made: hearts, flowers, squares.

I can definitely see myself experimenting with add-ins, like pecans in the near future.  I was even thinking I could break it into clumps and let it cool on a silpat.  That would be a fun gift if you put it in decorative bags or tins.  My first plan?  Make them small and dip them into melted dark chocolate.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Indian Basmati Rice

Holy cow was this delicious!  I must preface this by saying that I was never a rice fan until recent years, when I learned how to make rice tasty.   Rice to me was always something of a bland side dish, only gaining flavor if I smothered it in some kind of sauce.  My Columbian co-workers taught me how they made rice and once I adopted their techniques, I never looked at rice the same way again.

Back to the post at hand...
For camp last week we made Indian Basmati Rice.  I had never made a rice that was as seasoned as this, but I have eaten it at restaurants and loved it.  Basically, once you have the spices, it is super easy.

the spices used

The first thing you MUST do is soak the rice to get rid of the starchiness.  The recipe called for soaking it once, but I had heard while watching Food Network's Aarti Party that you should do so a few times until the water is no longer cloudy.  (Or perhaps I imagined this, but I am pretty sure she said that.)
soaking rice
Add oil to the pot with the spices and let heat for a minute or two.  Add the thinly sliced onions and cook until lightly browned.  This takes several minutes, but it is so worth being patient.  The browned onions give such depth to the flavor.
Not yet browned.

Add the rice and cook until toasted, just a few minutes.  Add the salt and water, bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer.  Seriously, it is that easy and so delicious!  At camp we topped it with curried vegetables (which I did not love, hence no recipe) and when I made it at home I topped it with my slow cooker pulled chicken.  Lilly loved it so much she did not even notice the cumin seeds or the onions!

After cooking, before fluffing with a fork.

Indian Basmati Rice recipe from All Recipes
  • 1 1/2 cups basmati rice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 (2 inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 pods green cardamom
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced

  • Directions
Place rice into a bowl with enough water to cover. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, and cumin seed. Cook and stir for about a minute, then add the onion to the pot. Saute the onion until a rich golden brown, about 10 minutes. Drain the water from the rice, and stir into the pot. Cook and stir the rice for a few minutes, until lightly toasted. Add salt and water to the pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Baked samosas

No, not Mimosas or even Samoas, but tasty treats, nonetheless.  If you don't know what they are, samosas are an Indian food, like a little pastry pocket of goodness.  Traditionally they are fried, and deliciously so, but I chose a baked version wrapped in phyllo dough.

It was an interesting introduction for me this week into the world of fragile doughs.  I had never used phyllo before due to the fear factor.  And frankly, I don't find it to be very tasty on its own.  It was fun to hear what the kids thought it was: tissues, paper, napkins.  I was having a difficult time with handling it until one of the counselors, who was a chef before he became a teacher, showed me what to do.  Thank you!!!!

We made a baked vegetarian samosa using potatoes and peas.  Baking instead of frying makes them a lot healthier and tasted just as god.  I was happily surprised at how many campers really liked them, especially since most said they had never had Indian food before.

The spices added
The mixture before being added to the dough.

Baked vegetarian samosas 


2 onions, minced
1 tbsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 pound potatoes, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 10 ounce package frozen peas, thawed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
9 sheets phyllo pastry, thawed
olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large skillet over medium high heat, sautee the onions in a bit of oil until they are soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. 
Add the coriander, cumin and cayenne, and cook for another minute.  Add the potatoes and cook for an additional 6-8 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the peas and cilantro, stirring to mix well. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
Stack 3 or 4 sheets of phyllo together, and slice into 4 even rectangles with a pair of kitchen shears. Or a very sharp chef knife. Continue with the rest of the phyllo, then cover with plastic wrap or a lightly damp towel.  Place a tablespoon or two of the potato and peas mix in a corner of the dough, then roll the corner towards the center. Fold in the left and right corners, then roll up again.
Place each samosa on a baking sheet, and lightly brush the tops with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
Recipe was adapted from one I found on About.com.  
About a tablespoon of mixture on the dough
Fold over into a triangle
Brush lightly with olive oil to seal and to brown.

I think that I will write a separate post for the rice I made with my older campers.  It was so delicious that it deserves its own post!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

A little bit of everything on the spoon: mini meatball, tomato, carrot, orzo and spinach in a savory broth.

Don't ask me why, because I don't know the answer, but I have always been just the littlest bit nervous about Italian Wedding soup.  Maybe it is the fear of OPM or other people's meatballs.  I am super picky about my meatballs, and meatballs play an integral part of this soup.  Whatever the reason, I had never really been a fan.  My talented mother-in-law makes a soup with a beef-based broth and meatballs (and her meatballs are delicious) that is similar but not really Italian Wedding.

While planning for this past week of camp I knew I wanted to do food from Italy.  For the main recipe we made lemony white bean bruschetta.  It was a hit with most campers and gave an idea of the different tastes of Italian food other than pasta and tomato sauce.  As usual, for my oldest campers who chose to come 3 times a week I had to pick 2 additional recipes.  We made cauliflower and broccoli fritters, which I thought were more than a little blah.  And as you may have guessed by now, for the last day we made soup.

The recipe itself is rather simple, the meatballs being the most involved part about it.  Most of the recipes I found called for cooking the meatballs, and the orzo for that matter, within the broth.  Because I was doing this at camp during a 30-40 minute time frame I opted to cook the meatballs and orzo separately and add them into the hot broth as we dished it out.  I also used my own meatball recipe, mostly because I think they are delicious.  Why mess with a good thing? 

The campers loved the soup.  They were asking for seconds, then thirds and some to take home.  When that happens, my heart swells a bit.  I am so thrilled that these children are learning about how to prepare food that is healthy and delicious and at the same time, expanding their food boundaries.  I unfortunately forgot my camera this week so I have no pictures of the wonderfulness of this soup in the making.

The broth did not have that much time to fully develop before they had to eat it, but it was still very tasty.  I took the leftover soup home since I did not want to waste it.  (Most of the time I bring the leftovers to the office for the staff directors to enjoy but soup is a little awkward to share around an office!)  I immediately put it in my stock pot and let it simmer with the meatballs and the little bit of orzo that remained.  The flavors came together so nicely that I was almost a little surprised.  I dare say it was one of the best soups I have tasted.  Vinnie and I had it for dinner tonight topped with grated parmesan and fresh cracked pepper.  I think we both agree that this soup is going to be made again and again!

The smell was so enticing that we started eating it before I remembered to  take a picture.

Italian Wedding Soup (recipe from the Whole Foods website with my added notes)
There are endless variations on this soup, but the main elements are meatballs and greens. While the name indicates that the soup might be served at an Italian wedding, it is actually a mistranslation of minestra maritata, which refers to the "marriage" of greens and meat in the soup.

1/2 pound ground beef
1/4 pound ground pork
1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 tablespoons chopped oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg, beaten
As I mentioned above, I made my own meatball recipe, but this one looks good, too.  I omitted pork because many people do not eat pork.  I will probably cook them in the broth next time I make this.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter I used olive oil
3/4 cup chopped white onions
3/4 cup chopped carrots
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper to taste
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and halved
1 cup uncooked orzo 
2 cups shredded kale (I used fresh baby spinach)

For the meatballs, put beef, pork, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, egg, nutmeg, and paprika into a large bowl and use your hands to mix well. Use a teaspoon to measure out meat for even sized meatballs. With damp hands, shape them into 1-inch balls and transfer them to a large plate. Cover and refrigerate until ready to cook.  Due to time constraints and food safety concerns for a camp, I baked them in the oven an hour before I needed them.  They had cooled to just about room temperature by the time we needed them and we added them to the cooked broth.

For the soup, melt butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add onions, carrots, garlic, salt and pepper and cook until translucent and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Stir in broth, tomatoes, and 2 cups water. Cover and cook 10 minutes over medium heat or until soup comes to a boil.

Add meatballs and orzo to the boiling soup and stir to make sure they are fully submerged. Cover and simmer for another 15 minutes over medium heat. Stir in kale. Test a meatball and a piece of orzo to ensure that they are fully cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately.  Top with grated parmesan cheese and fresh cracked black pepper.  

I made this soup last night, cooking both the meatballs and the orzo in the broth, as called for.  Epic Failure.  The orzo kept expanding and soaking up all the broth.  Plus I realized that I really like browned meatballs.  Next time I will cook both separately, as I did at camp, and then add it to the cooked broth.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Jersey Fresh Week

New Jersey blueberries
These shrunk a little after sitting in the fridge for a week.
I was eating my cereal 2 weeks ago and I was inspired by the fat, juicy blueberries which topped it.  New Jersey is 3rd on the list of top blueberry growers and they are something special.  Not only are they delicious, but they are good for you.

How tasty does this look?
Let me get back to what I was inspired to do.  I decided that instead of cooking something from another country at camp the next week (last week) I was going to use Jersey Fresh as my theme.  For my main recipe I chose Barefoot Contessa's Peach Blueberry Crumble.  A-MA-ZING!  I made it in pie pans because I was not about to make 20 individual servings.  Almost without fail it was loved by all the campers.  We even had plate licking.

I made one on the Saturday before so that there would be one for my first period campers.  Of course I had to make individual ramekin servings for Vin and I.  I can attest to the fact that this is most delicious served warm with good vanilla ice cream.

One of my little friends.
With my oldest campers, who see me 3 times a week, I chose to make a fresh corn salad and zucchini bread. Can you believe I had never even had zucchini bread before?  I loved it!  Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the corn salad and the zucchini bread.  But I did take some pictures of the peach blueberry crumble, the all peach crumble and my favorite - the all blueberry crumble.  Oh, and I took a picture of one of my little friends who came to visit me.
Peach-only crumble cooling on my railing                         

Peach Blueberry Crumble

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How easy was that?!

This week in camp I decided we were "traveling" to Greece.  I love tzatziki, to the point of ordering extra when I get a chicken souvlaki at the diner.  Whenever I have tried to buy it from the grocery store, however, I found that it just did not taste that good.  I became content with having it only when at the diner. And then....and then I decided to make it 27 times this past week with the campers.

Step one?  Drain the yogurt.  Cheesecloth would be the traditional way to do this, but I used paper towels.  I was a yogurt draining fool!  I should have taken pictures of the inside of the fridge.  I did take some of the yogurt draining.

Isn't that beautiful?  That was after about 24 hours.
This was the coconut yogurt draining.  This was also after about 24 hours.

As you can see from the pictures, the coconut yogurt did not get as thick.  The soy yogurt did get to be the same consistency as the dairy yogurt.  I was reading that you can let the yogurt drain for even longer and it ends up having an almost cheesy consistency.  Then add whatever you choose!  Yum.

The other cool thing was that I found out what whey looks like!  Apparently you can use it for many things but I haven't quite figured out what.  Anyone?  I have lots and lots of whey from above mentioned 27 groups of drained yogurt.

Okay, so for the actual making of the tzatziki, it was so easy.  Add the olive oil, salt, pepper and chopped fresh dill and garlic to a bowl and whisk together.

Add the yogurt and mix until well combined.

Add the chopped and seeded cucumbers.  Mix again.  It tastes best when you refrigerate for a few hours for all the flavors to meld together.  Voila!  We served it with carrot sticks and pieces of pita or tortilla chips for my gluten free campers.  I could just imagine it on my grilled chicken or steak, though, and cannot wait to make some for that purpose!  

Tzatziki Dip

Substitutions: dairy free yogurt as needed.  
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
2 cups greek yogurt, strained
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tsp. chopped fresh dill

Strain the yogurt by placing cheesecloth or a papertowel in a sieve or colander with small holes. Add the yogurt and place the sieve over a bowl to collect the whey.  Strain for at least 12 hours.  Dairy-free yogurts took longer to strain. Measure olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mix until well combined. Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt and mix well. Finally, add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill. Serve with pita pieces or carrot sticks.