Sauteed Greens, Pancetta, and Garlic Chips

>> Thursday, December 17, 2015


Sauteed Greens with Pancetta and Garlic Chips




I have to admit, Joe and I weren't always good about getting in enough veggies. After several years of following Weight Watchers, though, we're expanding our repertoire of produce recipes and trying new things. The Weight Watchers program helps you focus in getting in 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, which is a great habit, but not so fun if you're eating the same 5 veggies every day.

This recipe came out of a need to use up some kale and spinach after I used half of each bag for another recipe; it reminds me of that potluck staple, wilted-spinach salad. You can use any kind of greens you like. The idea came together after I saw somewhere an idea for making garlic chips. We love anything garlic-related! And besides, pancetta. That makes everything better.

If you want to make this as a vegetarian dish, just omit the meat and add a little extra oil.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
5 cloves garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
2 oz pancetta or 3 slices good bacon, diced
2 cups baby bok choy, cores and bottoms removed
3 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups kale, stems removed
3 tbsp red wine vinegar

Directions

Peel the garlic and slice it thinly. Place the oil, garlic, pepper flakes, salt and black pepper, and celery seed in a large cold frying pan. Heat the pan on medium until the garlic starts to sizzle; cook for a few minutes until the garlic is golden on both sides but not brown. Brown or black garlic is very bitter, and starting with a cold frying pan will allow you to crisp up the garlic slowly.

Remove the garlic to paper towels and let it drain. Add the pancetta or bacon and cook to the desired level of crispness (I like it a little chewy, not totally crisp). Toss in the bok choy and saute for 3-4 minutes, until the  thick end of the leaves start to soften. Stir in the rest of the greens and saute until just wilted. Toss with the garlic chips and vinegar before serving.

Serves 4-6.

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Pork Ribs in Smoky Pepper Sauce (Mole de Espinazo)

>> Wednesday, December 9, 2015


Pork Ribs in Smoky Pepper Sauce (Mole de Espinazo)


Some of our American friends get a little freaked out when we talk about Mole Espinazo.

"You're eating spines? A spinal cord?"

Hog farmers and Latinos might be a bit less squeamish. They often more familiar with different cuts of meat and are willing to try different parts of the animal. The espinazo, or pork spine cut, is simply a cross-section of the backbone with two sections of tenderloin attached. It's leaner than country-style ribs and cheaper than pork loin. The mole sauce in this recipe is a reddish-brown smoky pepper sauce with a tiny tingle of heat and a ton of flavor.

Ingredients

2 lbs. Pork Espinazo (Pork Spine)*
2 medium white onions
4 cloves garlic
Bunch of Cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
4 dried pasilla chilies
1 dried arbol chile
1 large tomato, quartered
3 tomatillos, husked and quartered
2 corn tortillas, finely chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds – freshly ground
¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
3 medium potatoes, scrubbed
1 cup fresh green beans
2 cups baby spinach or kale, rinsed and chopped
3 tsp sunflower oil (or grape seed oil)


*Can substitute Country Style Pork Ribs, or Rib Chops

Directions

Sear the espinazo meat in a large stockpot with a little oil. Add 2 tbsp of cilantro, salt and pepper, garlic, and one of the onions, quartered. Cover with water and boil over high heat for 15 minutes, skimming off the scum. Cover and reduce heat. Let simmer for at least 1 ½ hours or until the meat is tender. Remove the meat and reserve the broth.

In a large skillet, heat ½ to 1 teaspoon of sunflower oil over medium heat. Add the chilies to the skillet and toast them for a couple of minutes on each side until they are pliable and fragrant, then set them aside.

Roasting pasilla peppers


Chop the remaining onion and sauté until soft and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and tomatillos and sauté until tender.

Cooking tomatillos for mole espinazo


Transfer the mixture to the heatproof bowl with the heated chilies. Cover with 3 - 4 cups of the reserved broth. Let soak for about 15 minutes or until the chilies are soft and tender.


Tomatillos and pasillas soaking


Remove the stems from the chilies and cut into slices. Transfer the chilies, tomatoes, garlic, tomatillos, and tortillas to a blender, and puree the mole ingredients until smooth.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tsp sunflower or grape seed oil over medium-low heat. Strain the mole sauce through cheesecloth into the skillet. The sauce should not be too thin or too thick; it should stick to the back of a wooden spoon. If necessary, pour about 1/2 to 1 1/2 cups of water or remaining broth, 1/4 cup at a time, into the mole sauce until desired consistency.


Straining mole sauce


 Stir in the ground cumin, ground cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Cut the potatoes into 1/2" slices and rinse them in cold water. Drain. Add the sliced potatoes and green beans. Reduce heat to low, cover skillet and let simmer about 15 minutes.

Add the meat to the mole mixture in the skillet. Cover and let simmer over low heat for 25 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Add the chopped baby spinach or kale to the mole and cook 5 minutes longer.

Serve with Mexican rice, Chihuahua cheese, warm corn tortillas, and chopped cilantro.

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Gorgonzola and Olive Stuffed Mushroom Caps

>> Monday, November 30, 2015

Gorgonzola and Olive Stuffed Mushroom Caps


We made these stuffed mushroom caps for a meatless Monday when we wanted to use up some odds and ends from other meals. Eventually this recipe evolved into a rich, decadent appetizer. There are never any leftovers when we make these little guys.

The mushrooms make a fantastic holiday appetizer, especially if you can serve them on a warming tray. If you make them as a one-bite appetizer, choose a package of small bite-sized mushrooms. If you're making them for a meal, you might want to use 1 1/2" diameter mushrooms, like we did here.

We have stuffed mushrooms with all kinds of things, so I assure you that more recipes will be posted on this yummy fungus!

Ingredients

24 mushrooms (you can use ordinary white, baby portabellas, crimini, or any others with a large pocket under the cap)
1/4 cup white onion, minced
1 small clove garlic
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
3 oz. gorgonzola cheese, finely crumbled
6 kalamata olives, pitted and minced
1 tbsp chives, minced
2 tbsp Italian flat-leaved parsley, minced
2 cups finely crumbled fresh bread (or 1 1/2 cups dried fine breadcrumbs)
1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese

Stuffed mushrooms recipe

Instructions

Snap off the stems of the mushrooms, or cut them off. Coarsely chop the mushroom stems and onion.

Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium saucepan until melted and bubbly. Saute onions, mushrooms and garlic in the olive oil.

Remove from heat. Stir in breadcrumbs, parsley, chives, gorgonzola, and olives. Toss mushroom caps in 1/2 tsp olive oil.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil cookie sheet and place the mushrooms upside down on the pan. Fill the well in each mushroom with a spoonful of the breadcrumb mixture. There should be enough filling to stuff each one until the mixture reaches the edges of the cap, with a big mound in the center. Sprinkle the tops with the parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked and the tops are browned.

Serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as a side dish.

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Replay: Apple-Cranberry-Currant relish

>> Monday, November 23, 2015


cranberry and apple sauce


We're delighted every time the family asks us to bring cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving. While the can of cranberry sauce is part of our tradition - and my brother-in-law's father once carved one into the shape of a turkey - this recipe from my friend Becky is the best I've ever tasted. I know it sounds weird to add an onion and curry powder, but trust me, it is amazing once it's cooked!

We're headed to the Toledo area to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, and this aromatic relish of cranberries, apples, and dried currants is going with us.

Check out the best cranberry sauce ever: Apple-Cranberry-Currant relish

Hint: if you're looking for currants and don't find them with the other dried fruits, look for a store with a Polish/Ukrainian/Russian food section. Or a Scandinavian section. Look for an aisle for people who live in cold places, basically.

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Creamy Baked Leeks

>> Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Creamy Baked Leeks


This baked leek casserole reminds me of the creamed onions that were always on my grandma's table at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Joe is sensitive to large amounts of onions, so he enjoys the milder onion-asparagus taste of leeks much better. This is a quick and easy side dish, that comes together in about half an hour.

Ingredients

2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp ground mustard
Dash hot sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 medium leeks, tough green leaves removed and halved lengthwise

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with oil.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then whisk in the flour. Gradually stir in the milk and then the cheese until melted. Season with garlic powder, mustard, hot sauce, salt, and pepper.

trimmed leeks in casserole dish


Arrange the leeks in a single layer on the pan. Pour the cheese sauce over the leeks. Bake for 25-30 minutes in the preheated oven, until leeks are tender and sauce is bubbly.

Serves 4.

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Crock Pot Carnitas

>> Friday, November 13, 2015


Crock pot carnitas


Life has changed, friends. My commute is now 40 minutes instead of 30 seconds, and both of us hungry lovers are back in graduate-level night classes. The days are gone when we could spend three hours on a recipe on a Wednesday night, then stage and photograph the leftovers on the next day between client calls. In fact, now that winter is coming, it's rarely bright enough to take a food picture for this blog when we're at home.


carnitas cooked in a crock pot
"I didn't choose the cube life, the cube life chose me."

Like most of the rest of the world, we're now on a quest for fast and cheap meals. We also want to do it with a little style, too.

But even though Joe's glorious recipe for carnitas, shredded pork simmered with full of Mexican spices, turned out to be amazing and easy in the crock pot, it didn't photograph well. So I took it for lunch and tried to set up a photo at my desk. When I sliced into an avocado to top the plate, the pit flew out and ping-ponged around my desk and I had to crawl underneath to get it out.

runaway avocado pit
Rogue avocado pit. So much for "style".

Anyway, a great sale on boneless pork butt and a clean crock pot were the inspiration for this plug-in morning, eat-at-night version of his usual recipe. It's about as simple as you can get. Though the recipe looks long, a lot of the ingredients are optional toppings so that you can choose what you like.

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs pork butt roast or pork shoulder, cut into 2" cubes
1 bay leaf
2 tsp lime zest
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp oregano (we used fresh oregano from our windowsill plant)
1 medium onion, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
12-16 tortillas

Toppings:
Sliced avocado
Shredded lettuce or cabbage
Chopped tomato
Chopped cilantro
Chopped onions
Salsa (if you were lucky enough to make jalapeno-peach salsa this summer, then by all means use it here)

Instructions

Place the meat cubes in the crock pot, then add all the rest of the main ingredients. Cover with water. We did this step on Sunday afternoon while we were working on that night's dinner, then put the slow cooker in the fridge for the next day.


pork butt in slow cooker


Cook on high heat for 8-10 hours, depending on how your cooker works. If it tends to run hot, you might want to cook this on low heat all day. When we came home that night, the meat was perfectly shredded, but we like some crispy chunks of meat, so we fried it up a bit on the stove before eating.


roasted pork carnitas


When ready to serve, heat up the tortilla on a hot griddle, then serve with your favorite toppings. 

Serves 4-6.

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Sicilian Lemon Chicken

>> Monday, November 9, 2015




We’ve made this savory lemon chicken dish for a lot of dinner parties, because it’s simple and delicious and serves a crowd well. The original recipe was from Rao’s Restaurant, a famous old Italian place in New York’s East Harlem.

Ingredients

For the Lemon Sauce

2 cups fresh lemon juice (we squeeze from 10-12 fresh lemons, but we'll look the other way if you want to use bottled lemon juice)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

2 1/2 to 3-pound broiling chickens, halved
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
1/4 cup warm water
1 tbsp cornstarch

Whisk together the lemon juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

Preheat broiler for 15 minutes. Place chicken halves on a baking pan and broil, turning once, for about 30 minutes until chicken is browned and fully cooked.

Remove chicken and cut each half into about 6 portions. Shake the lemon sauce and pour it over the chicken. Return to the broiler and cook an additional 3 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook the other sides for 3 more minutes.

Remove from oven and place chicken pieces on a warm serving platter. Pour the lemon juice into a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Stir in parsley and cook for 1 minute. Whisk the cornstarch into the warm water and stir into the lemon sauce. Simmer 1-2 more minutes, until slightly thickened. Pour some of the sauce over the chicken and serve the rest in a bowl.

Rao's Lemon Chicken


Make sure you serve this with lots of good crusty bread for sopping up all the lemon sauce!

Serves 6-8.

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Mushroom and Caramelized Onion White Pizza (Schiacciata con Funghi)

>> Monday, November 2, 2015

Mushroom and Caramelized Onion White Pizza

Our daughter's boyfriend, affectionately known as The Boy, maintains that pizza is not pizza without the sauce. Maybe you're in the same camp. Well, call it Italian flat bread if you want, or schiacciata (SKYET-cha-ta) like Italians do. Whatever you call it, this is flat-out delicious.

We first tasted the crust for this pizza when we were in Rome. We had driven down from Tuscany that afternoon, and our travel agent arranged our reservations for dinner in a quiet restaurant where all the locals ate. We didn't order from the menu - the agent, who knew the chef, told him to show off all his specialties to us. He served us seven courses, and this dish was the first, with a glass of Prosecco. 

After dinner, one of the families at a nearby table took our photo. Wouldn't it have been great if my eyes were open?

Angela and Joe Duea in Rome

Ingredients

For the crust

1 envelope (2 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 to 120 degrees)
1/2 tsp sugar
2 1/2 cups flour, plus a little more for kneading
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 cup cold water
2 tbsp coarse cornmeal

For the topping

2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups white mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 cups white onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp sugar
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups shredded mozzarella or provolone
1 tsp dry oregano, crushed

Directions

Pour the yeast into a small bowl, and slowly add the warm water, stirring constantly. Stir in the sugar. Allow the yeast to work into small bubbles for about 5 minutes. Stir in the oil.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together half the flour and salt. Make a hollow in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture. Stir until well mixed. Stir in the cold water. Gradually add the rest of the flour while stirring constantly, until the dough forms a ball.

Sprinkle a flat surface with flour, and put flour on your hands. Knead the dough on the surface until smooth and elastic and no longer sticky, about 15 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and place in a large greased bowl. Turn the dough over and cover it with a damp kitchen towel. Allow it to rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and place it on the floured surface. Knead it for several minutes until elastic again.  Roll it out into a circle of about 1/4 inch thickness. Grease a round pan and sprinkle it with the cornmeal. Place the dough in the pan and cover it with the kitchen towel. Allow it to rise for 30 more minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a large frying pan, saute the mushrooms in a tbsp of oil on medium heat until browned and soft, about 15 minutes. Set aside. Add another tbsp of oil and saute the onions on high heat until they start to brown. Reduce heat to medium and sprinkle with the sugar and garlic. Cook for 15 minutes more, until evenly browned and caramelized. Stir together the mushrooms and onion mixture.

Drizzle the dough with the last 2 tbsp of olive oil and place in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the mushroom mixture and then the cheese. Sprinkle the oregano over the cheese. 

Bake for 20-25 more minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and the edges are browned. 

Serves 4-6.

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Replay: Pumpkin Patch Cheese Bites

>> Monday, October 26, 2015


pumpkin patch cheese balls - appetizer

This is one of my favorite appetizers ever - and they're not all that difficult to make! Once I made these during a cooking demonstration, and the whole group loved them. They taste a little bit like Merkt's cheese spread...did you eat that as a kid like we did in our family?

These are perfect for a Halloween party, or any occasion in the fall. Yum!

Get the recipe here: Pumpkin Patch Cheese Bites

Pumpkin Patch Cheese Bites - Appetizer

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Buffalo Chicken Mini-Meatballs

>> Wednesday, October 21, 2015


Buffalo Chicken Mini-Meatballs


There's a restaurant chain in New York City called The Meatball Shop and they specialize in -- you guessed it -- meatballs. They grind their own meat and they can even name the farms that sourced each of their ingredients. And yes, they have all the fun they can have on this side of tasteful with the word "balls". 

One of their best-sellers is Buffalo Chicken Meatballs, which was a revelation to both of us. Just when we thought the Buffalo Wings phenomenon had gone as far as it could, here is something new. Bonus: it's a lot healthier than wings fried with their skin on. 

These nuggets make great party appetizers or a mid-week dinner, like the one Joe and I enjoyed last week after we found a great sale on ground chicken. 

Adjust the amount of hot sauce to your own temperament - and you can always add cayenne pepper if you need an extra kick. This version of the recipe is a compromise between Angela's wimpiness and Joe's immunity to spicy foods.

Ingredients

Hungry Lovers Hot Wing Sauce

1/3 cup butter 
3 cloves garlic – crushed 
1 tsp cornstarch in 1 tsp cold water
1 cup Louisiana hot pepper sauce 
1/2 tsp sugar 
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper 


Directions

Heat a medium sauce pan on medium low heat, and then add in the butter melting it until bubbling stops. Add the crushed garlic and sauté for about a minute. Whisk in the cornstarch mixed with cold water until it is smooth.

Pour the Louisiana hot sauce into the pan, and mix well. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a slight boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes to blend all the flavors and thicken the sauce.

If making hot wings or chicken tenders, drizzle enough sauce onto the meat to coat, then toss and serve. Otherwise let the sauce cool and store in a jar in the refrigerator. You can also can the sauce. Canning instructions can be found at Hungry Lovers Canning Basics.

For the meatballs

2/3 cup Hungry Lovers Hot Wing Sauce, divided
1 lb ground chicken
1 large egg
1/4 cup onion, minced
1/4 cup celery, minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Spray a cookie sheet or baking dish with oil.

Stir together half of the hot sauce and all other ingredients until well mixed. With your hands, scoop up enough meat mixture to make a 1" meatball (about the size of a walnut). Roll into a firm ball. Place the meatballs on the baking pan in rows, keeping the meatballs close together.

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes, or until they are browned and cooked through. Toss them with the remaining hot sauce before serving. We like these with a variety of fresh crisp vegetables and blue cheese or Green Goddess dressing for dipping.

Makes 30-40 1" meatballs.

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Pork Chops in Adobo Sauce

>> Monday, October 12, 2015

Pork chops in adobo sauce

Have you ever been shopping and you couldn't remember if you had a certain ingredient for a meal, so you buy some more, and then find when you get home that you already had plenty?

Joe and I kept forgetting whether we had ancho chilies, which are dried or smoked poblano peppers. So we ended up with three packages of anchos, and let me tell you, a little of these smoky-sweet peppers goes a long way.

Luckily, we were also looking for new ways to cook porkchops, so the adobo sauce Joe whipped up was perfect for the meat. Since then we've tweaked our recipe and I'm sure it would also be excellent on rabbit, chicken, or duck.

Adobo is not a spicy-hot sauce; Mexicans call such chiles "sweet". We served the pork chops with sweet potatoes poached in orange juice, butter, and a little garlic. Yum!

Note: start this recipe the day before and let the meat marinate overnight. The sauce can be made well ahead of time and then refrigerated. It will last up to a month in the fridge after it is made.

Ingredients

 Adobo Sauce
2 tbsp canola oil
4 large dried ancho chiles (about the size of your palm)
5 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 cup white vinegar

Directions

For the Adobo sauce
Remove the seeds from the anchos and tear them into large pieces. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the anchos when the oil is shimmering. Fry until they begin to darken and blister, then place them in a bowl. Pour hot water over the peppers and let them soak for about 15 minutes. It helps if you weigh them down with a plate or something heavy.

Put the chiles in a blender along with 1/2 cup of the soaking water. Add all other ingredients and blend until it is a smooth paste.

For the Chops

1/2 cup adobo sauce
6 1-inch thick pork chops, bone removed
1/2 cup white onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves

Spread the adobo sauce on both sides of each chop and allow to marinate for at least 4 hours. I would recommend marinating overnight. Grill the chops or fry them in vegetable oil until just done - if you overcook them, they will be dry.

If you use a meat thermometer, take them off the heat when the thermometer reads 145 degrees in the center of the chop, and cover them with foil for a few minutes, until the temperature reaches 150 degrees. This makes them warm and juicy.

Garnish with sliced onion and fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

Serves 6 with plenty of sauce for another night. If you're following Weight Watchers, a 4 oz. portion is only 6 points.

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Spaetzle with Swiss Cheese

>> Monday, October 5, 2015


Spaetzle dumplings


After eating spaetzle my whole life, a favorite recipe of my grandmother's, I was startled to find that the culinary world is now into spaetzle. It's popping up on menus and in food magazines all over the place.

If you haven't heard of spaetzle before, they are little noodles or dumplings made of flour, milk, and egg pressed through a colander or spaeztle press. My sister brought me an authentic Kull metal press from Germany 30 years ago. We also use it for juicing lemons and limes.

Kull Spaetzle Press

People pronounce it either SHPET-zul or SHPET-zlah or SHPET-zlee (regional differences, maybe?). They can be fluffy or a little chewy, depending on the cook and the recipe. Spaetzle can be used in place of any starch like pasta, polenta, egg noodles, dumplings, mashed potatoes, or rice. I loved it when my mom or my grandma made a savory pork roast with plenty of gravy poured over all those little noodles.

But spaetzle with Swiss cheese is a long-time family favorite which is also a main dish that's cheap and quick to make. It's a German version of mac and cheese, really. Like all family recipes that are passed along for years, people in my family make it slightly differently. My mom makes a very simple version; my Aunt Monica browns butter very darkly before tossing with the noodles, and we like to add pepper and garlic and a bit of seasoned bread crumbs because, well, you know we love more flavor.

At the famous Mader's Restaurant in Milwaukee, and the Chicago Brauhaus, I've had spaetzle that was pan-fried as a side dish. I've tried pan-frying the noodles in butter after boiling them, and it works particularly well with the grated cheese. You might want to try it both ways and see what you like best.

This basic spaetzle recipe is just a start. Try adding chopped herbs or spices, or some mustard, or sour cream, for extra flavor, as it suggests in this Chicago Tribune article on spaetzle.

Ingredients

Basic spaeztle noodles

4 eggs (my mom estimates 1 egg per person)
1/2 cup of milk, plus extra for consistency
3 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper (optional)
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)

For the topping

4 cups grated Swiss cheese (measure after grating)
4 tbsp butter
1 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs (optional)

Directions

Whisk together the eggs and milk. In a separate bowl, stir together the rest of the ingredients. Slowly add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, stirring constantly. The batter or dough should be similar to a very thick, slightly sticky bread dough, depending on how tender or chewy you like the dumplings. After you make it a few times, you'll figure out the consistency you want. Add more milk or water if you want to adjust the texture.

Spaetzel dough


If you want light, fluffy noodles, stop stirring as soon as the ingredients are combined; for firmer noodles, stir for five minutes before cooking.

Heat a pot of water to boiling. Place a large scoop of the dough in the colander or spaetzle maker and press the dough through the holes. They should fall through in a solid stream; you may have to cut off the noodles to free them from the holes. Stir the noodles immediately to keep them from sticking together.

Kull Spetzle Press

Boil for 5 minutes, then drain well. Repeat with the rest of the dough, while keeping the finished noodles warm.

If you want to pan-fry the noodles after they are cooked, heat up the butter in a frying pan until the foaming stops. Dump in the noodles and stir them around so they're coated with butter. Cook until golden brown on one side, then flip over and brown the other side.

Otherwise, melt the butter and stir into the noodles. Toss the noodles with the Swiss cheese, then sprinkle with the breadcrumbs before serving.

My mom always serves Spaeztle With Swiss along with homegrown peaches she canned herself, and I can't improve on that combo.

Serves 4-6 as a main dish, 8 as a side dish. 


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Crock Pot Apple Butter

>> Thursday, September 24, 2015



I guarantee that when you make apple butter, the entire house will smell like every holiday rolled into one day. This recipe comes form my mother, Kathleen Tarr Helbling, and my sweet German friend, Talea Bloom. If you are not blessed with the gift of a bushel of their gnarled, flavorful organic apples, there are plenty of other varieties to try.

Apple butter doesn't actually contain any butter, and is completely fat-free, and I think the name comes from its smooth, rich consistency. This sweet-sour and spicy recipe doesn't take all the fussing and hovering that a lot of jam recipes demand. You just cut up the apples and let them simmer all day in a crock pot, stirring and mushing once in a while, then boil the puree until thick and can them at the end.

This tastes fabulous on whole-wheat honey bread. Yum.


Ingredients

4 lbs of firm-fleshed, tart apples (McIntosh, Jonathan, or Granny Smith are my favorites)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
1 lemon, quartered (note: old lemons have bitter peels; try to find a fresh, plump-skinned one)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp salt
White granulated sugar or Splenda (about 2 cups, see cooking instructions)
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp allspice


Directions

Cut the apples into quarters, cutting out damaged parts. Don't peel or core them, or pick out the apple seeds. Put the apple pieces into a large crock pot, add the lemon, vinegar, water, and brown sugar, and cover. Turn the crock pot on high and allow to simmer for 6- 8 hours, stirring occasionally and crushing the fruit with a spoon. It is ready when the consistency is similar to applesauce. You can also let the mixture simmer overnight in a crock pot on low, but increase the time to 10 hours and stir it if you get up in the night to use the bathroom or get a snack.

Strain out the solids through a colander. Measure the apple puree. Stir in 1/3 cup of white sugar for each cup of apple pulp. Stir in the salt, cinnamon, ginger, ground cloves, and allspice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Pour into a heavy, wide-bottomed saucepan. Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until thickened and reduced, about 1 hour. Test if it is ready to jell by pouring a spoonful on a plate and letting it sit in the refrigerator until cool. It should be thick as jam.

Pour into sterilized pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, and wipe the rims. Screw on lids hand-tight and lower into a hot water bath canner. Boil 15 minutes once the pot reaches a full rolling boil. Remove from the canner and allow to cool. Test the seals before storing.

Makes 3-4 pint jars.

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Chicken and Dumplings: American Comfort Food

>> Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chicken and Dumplings - American Comfort Food

American food gets a bad rap sometimes - unfairly, I think. We're unimaginative, we make unhealthy foods and ridiculous proportions, all we want is fast food.

This is American comfort food. Every tradition has some of these. Chicken and dumplings is a healthy, hearty, and inexpensive dinner that brings my childhood back with every after-dinner burp.

Many Americans have their own version of Chicken and Dumplings, some with light, fluffy bread-like dumplings, but this one makes hearty, egg noodle-like dumplings. It was given to me by my sister-in-law Carolyn Coe, a talented cook who used to work for a restaurant in Clear Lake, Iowa. She's used to cooking for a crowd. She cooks for church events and 4H meetings, and bakes dozens of pies for the County Fair each summer. Watching her wield a paring knife without even looking is like watching a master sculptor.

The original recipe proportions would have fed an entire 4-H troop, so we cut it down to an average family portion. This is especially good in the fall or winter. When the recipe fell out of my cookbook, I was seized with comfort food mania and made it at once.

Chicken and Dumplings

Ingredients

Dumplings
2 eggs
1//3 cup milk
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups flour

Chicken
6 cups chicken stock
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cups cooked diced chicken

Directions

Beat together all dumpling ingredients except flour. Add flour slowly, stirring until smooth and very stiff. Roll out 1/4" thick on a floured surface. Allow to dry one hour. Cut into one inch squares.

Bring chicken stock to a boil. Stir in all vegetables and cook for ten minutes. Add dumplings and cook until tender, approximately 12 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. Add chicken and cook for ten more minutes.

Serve in bowls with a side of fruit or a salad.

Serves 4-6.


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Cheesy Sweet Pea Spread with Bacon Dust

>> Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Cheesy Sweet Pea Spread with Bacon Dust


We made this crostini spread for our big Labor Day family BBQ in Iowa and it was a hit! Out in Clear Lake and Ventura IA, they take their holidays seriously (Clear Lake's fourth of July celebration makes many lists of  "-- Things to do Before You Die").

Summer in Iowa. Peaceful.


We spent part of the weekend at a picnic in an old maple grove next to Joe's family's cattle ranch. The rest of the time we boated around Clear Lake and watched the weekend sailboat Regatta. What a wonderful way to relax!


Regatta, Clear Lake IA


We tried a first version of this pea spread before making some tweaks. It's wonderfully different with the sweetness of the green peas and the garlic/parmesan combination. If you're fortunate enough to have fresh green peas - say, if you grow them yourself - it will be even better!

Ingredients

4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp
1 loaf baguette bread
2 tbsp oil

For the crostini spread
10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup ricotta
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 stalk green onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp chopped basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the baguette into 1/2 inch thick rounds and place on a baking sheet. Brush oil on the crostini slices, then bake 15 minutes, or until slightly crisp. Finely chop the bacon slices.

In a blender or food processor, process the sweet pea crostini spread until smooth. Spread onto the bread slices, then top with a sprinkle of bacon crumbs.

We liked this best at room temperature. We made it a day ahead of time since we were traveling to Iowa, and it tasted better the second day.

Serves 10 as an appetizer.

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Chickpea and Feta Salad

>> Thursday, September 3, 2015


Chickpea and Feta Salad


After a cooler and wetter than usual summer, Chicago is experiencing a hot and muggy Indian Summer. I was on a conference call with a contractor in Seattle last week, and she said she had heard that summer in Chicago is extremely hot and humid.

"It's extremely hot and humid, then it's hot and bone-dry, then it gets extremely cold," I said. "In fact, the weather here is just extreme." I LOVE the city of Chicago, but I need to move some place without these kinds of temperature mood swings!

This chickpea and feta salad is good for a hot weather dinner. It's hearty enough for lunch or a  a substantial side dish, too. Because it's so flavorful, we like it with a simple grilled fish or chicken. Try sprinkling the meats with Joe's Greek Meat Rub before cooking, for a Mediterranean-style dinner.

Ingredients

2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup sweet red pepper, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1/4 cup green onions, chopped
1/3 cup cucumber, chopped
1/3 cup chopped Kalamata olives
1/2 cup feta cheese
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground fennel

Directions

In a large bowl, stir together the chickpeas, garlic, pepper, parsley, onions, cucumber, olives, and feta cheese. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, pepper, and fennel. Drizzle over the salad and stir until well combined. Allow to marinate for an hour at room temperature before serving.

Makes about 4 cups.
One cup is 4 points + in the Weight Watchers system.

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Replay: Hazelnut-Asparagus Risotto

>> Thursday, August 27, 2015



Hazelnut-Asparagus Risotto


This risotto is so good I had to replay it again. I'm in perfect agreement with the 'eat local' movement, but at the same time I'm thankful we live in an era where we can get asparagus out of season when we're really craving it. So here's what I wrote back in June 2012:

So sad that the fresh asparagus season is almost over for the year. We just received two gifts of fresh asparagus in the last week: some came from my dear friend Ardy, and a big bundle came from my mom's garden in Ohio. Risotto was on our minds, slowly stirred into creaminess.

This recipe from Bocca Cookbook, by Jacob Kennedy, made a perfect meatless Monday main dish. It would be just as good as a side dish. We found our shelled hazelnuts (also called filberts) in the baking section and were pleased - whole hazelnuts look hard to crack.

The bright and slightly crunchy asparagus was a revelation paired with the earthy hazelnuts. We were too hungry to fully appreciate the combination at first, but once we slowed down and savored the flavors, it was exquisite.

I think I say food is exquisite too often, but my goodness, this is tasty, even if your friend didn't just snap off the last of her asparagus right out of her backyard for you.

Ingredients

½ medium onion, chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup arborio rice
2/3 cup white wine
1 1/4 cups water
1 large bunch (3/4 pound) thin asparagus, cut into 1-inch sections
1/3 cup Gorgonzola, crumbled
½ cup shelled hazelnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Directions

Melt the oil and butter together in a large saucepan. Saute the onion until tender. Add the rice and salt and cook for two minutes. Add the wine and 1/2 cup water and bring to a simmer. Continue stirring and simmering and add the rest of the water in small batches as the arborio rice absorbs it - about 20 minutes total.

When the rice is just a little too al dente, sprinkle in the cheese and stir until it is the texture that you like. Serve sprinkled with the rest of the cheese and the hazelnuts.

Makes 2-3 main dishes, or 4-5 side dishes.

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Cajun Bay Scallops with Zucchini Noodles and Potato puree

>> Friday, August 21, 2015


Cajun Bay Scallops with Zucchini-Noodles and Potato puree



2 pounds small (5-inch-long) zucchini
1 pound russet potatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups chicken broth
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp Creole seasoning (we like Emeril's Essence)
2 cups bay scallops
1/2 cup half-and-half
2/3 cup corn kernels
1 tsp parsley (optional)


PREPARATION

If you have one of those gadgets that turns vegetables into noodles, use it on this zucchini. Otherwise, use your vegetable peeler to make thick linguini-like ribbons, or use a mandoline to cut the vegetable into julienne strips.

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Heat half the oil in a large pot, then saute the onion until tender. Add the garlic,and  potatoes and cook 2 minutes more. Pour the broth over it all. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes or until tender.

Pour half of the vegetable mixture into a food processor or blender (more or less, depending on your appliance size) and puree until smooth. Pour back into the pot and stir in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Keep hot. You can make this part ahead of time if you like.

Bring a pot of water to boiling and then add the zucchini "noodles" and corn. Cook for about 30 seconds or until al dente. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.

Sear the Creole seasoning, scallops, zucchini noodles, and corn in the rest of the oil, shaking regularly for 2 minutes, or until the scallops are just cooked through. To serve, pour the vegetable puree into individual dishes and top with zucchini noodles, corn, and scallops. Drizzle with the half-and-half, then sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Serves 6.

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Jalapeno Popper Stuffed Chicken

>> Wednesday, August 19, 2015






Jessie, you're going to love this chicken - it is fast, easy, and just a little spicy. It's pretty healthy, too, if you use low fat cheese and bake the chicken rather than fry it.

Ingredients

2 large chicken breasts
2 small jalapenos, seeded and diced
1/3 of a small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
2 oz. low fat cream cheese
1 tbsp milk
1/2 cup low fat cheddar or pepper jack cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
2 slices of bacon

Directions

Place each chicken breast on a cutting board and put your (non-cutting) hand on top of it. Cut through the edge nearly through to the other edge, then open it wide like butterfly wings (this is called "butterflying" the meat). Using a mallet, pound out the butterflied meat until it is thinner. Sprinkle with the garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and oil a cooking pan.

Closing stuffed chicken breast

Stir together the cream cheese, milk, cheddar, and jalapenos. Spread half of the mixture onto one side of each chicken breast. Place half of the pepper strips on each breast. Fold it in half and pound the edges together with a mallet so that it holds together better.


Putting toothpicks in stuffed chicken breast


Stick a few toothpicks through the edges of the meat so it stays together while cooking, and the filling doesn't leak out. Wrap a slice of bacon around each breast. Heat a frying pan to medium heat, and brown the chicken for 2-3 minutes on each side.





Place in the oiled pan and pour 2 tbsp of water over the chicken. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is firm and no longer pink. We ate this with mashed potatoes and steamed zucchini, and it was great!

Serves 4.

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Roast Duck with Sweet Cherry Reduction

>> Monday, July 27, 2015

Roast Duck with Sweet Cherry sauce


I'm always thrilled when a food I love suddenly becomes so trendy that I can find it anywhere! I have had a longtime love affair with duck, and luckily so does Joe, so he understands my desire to eat it early and often. Now duck fat fries and duck breast are on lots of menus, and "duck confit" is something I hear coming out of the mouths of ordinary people. Woo hoo!

Sweet cherries seem a little late this year because the Great Lakes region, unlike the rest of America, is having the coldest, rainiest summer I can ever remember. It's fabulous mosquito weather. If you are having trouble finding (and pitting) sweet cherries, frozen ones are good, too.

Fruit is always good to pair with duck because the meat is rather oily and a little tartness sets it off perfectly. The first time we made this roasted duck recipe, I wished I had made about twice as much sweet cherry sauce to freeze for later. I can think of about ten other things I'd like to pour this sauce over.


Ingredients


1 4 lb. duck
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce
1 tsp olive oil
1 small shallot, finely diced
1/2 cup Merlot
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup chicken stock
1 cup pitted and halved sweet cherries
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp butter

Instructions


Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put roasting pan on lower oven rack and fill with 2-3 inches of water. Oil a poultry rack and place in the pan with the bird on top, breast side down. Rub with the remaining oil, then sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast duck for 1 hour, basting occasionally.

Turn duck breast-side up and roast until dark brown, about 25 minutes per pound in total. The internal temperature should be at least 140 degrees when finished. Let it set for 15 minutes before carving it.


While the duck is roasting, make the cherry sauce.  Heat the oil in a small pot and then add the shallot. Saute until tender. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half. Put half of the sauce into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, then stir into the sauce.

Serve the duck with sauce drizzled over it, and pass the remaining sauce.

Serves 4-6.

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Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)

>> Monday, July 20, 2015


Thai Drunken Noodles (Pad Kee Mao)
The leftovers on my desk the following day. Yum - but yet again I apologize for photo quality.

Last Friday, I went to a Thai restaurant for lunch with my friend Peg - the first time I've seen her since school let out and the teachers let down their hair. With acclimating to my new job, prepping work for my July art show, and getting some new social justice initiatives going at our church, I haven't had any girlfriend time in a LONG time. It refreshed my heart like always.

I admit that I love sticking to favorites in Thai restaurants, even more so when the menu is longer than two pages and I can't make up my mind. I was certain there was Tom Kha Gai (chicken and coconut soup) in my future until the waiter set down bowls of clear mushroom soup. My script was rewritten and the "Drunken Noodles" description sounded wonderful.

It was so good that I went home and looked up recipes immediately. I learned that it got its name from the spicy umami that goes well with lots of beer or probably any other drink you like. Some people also say it's good for a hangover, but I didn't test that theory.

Thai birds-eye chiles for Pad Kee Mao
Thai birds-eye chiles. Tiny little pepper torpedoes.


During my research I also discovered the mouth-watering blog High Heel Gourmet, where the author shares stories about life in Thailand and California along with authentic recipes and lots of wit. She also gave me the most wonderful tip about scrambling eggs in a wok so they don't soak up all the sauce. You'll see it below.

While I toned down the heat and changed the recipe toward my own tastes, it's pretty close to several recipes written by Thai cooks. We made it without meat one night, but of course you can add whatever you like!

Remember, anytime you're cooking something in a wok or with a stir-fry method, the whole process goes quickly. Have everything ready to go and lined up next to the pan so you can toss it in when it's time.

Ingredients

For the sauce
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp white pepper

For the stir fry
1/2 lb chicken, shrimp, beef or pork, thinly sliced against the grain (substitute firm tofu if you like)
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 tbsp canola or peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 Thai birds eye chili
2 jalapenos, sliced (2 peppers tasted just hot enough for me, but I like spicy)
1 tomato, sliced into thin wedges
1 onion, sliced into thin wedges
2 cups mixed vegetables, like carrots, broccoli, green beans (try the Asian foot-long beans!), bok choy, sliced green onions, or anything else you like
4 cups thick rice noodles
3 eggs
1 cup Thai basil leaves, coarsely chopped

Instructions

Dust the meat with the cornstarch to tenderize it and seal the surface. The cornstarch will also thicken the stir-fry sauce. Set aside. Whisk together all the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Soften the noodles according to the package directions. If the directions are in a language you can't read, soak the noodles in hot water until soft, stirring occasionally so they don't stick together. Drain and use right away.

Crack the eggs in a bowl and whisk them.

Heat a large wok and high heat, and then add the oil. When the oil shimmers toss in the garlic and cook until tender - about 30 seconds. Add the vegetables and cook until they are starting to get tender. Then add the meat. Stir and cook until all edges are seared. 

Stir in the noodles and toss the ingredients together. Pour on the sauce and toss some more until the food is well-coated.

Turn the heat down to slightly. Move some of the noodle-veg mix away from the side, then pour in the eggs. Flip the noodles on top of the eggs and count to fifteen. The noodles are holding the heat over your eggs until they are somewhat cooked.
High Heel Gourmet says: "The counting is the time the eggs need to set a little. If you crack the egg and start to stir-fry right away, the egg will just disappear and leave the fishy smell and fishy taste behind…yuckkkkk! This is how I get the eggs to look like I just scrambled them and added them to the wok."
Toss the egg with the noodles. Finally, throw in the basil leaves and toss until they are slightly wilted. Serve in bowls, with lime wedges if desired.

Serves 4.

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Replay: Salsa Verde and Spicy Black Bean Dip

>> Thursday, July 16, 2015



Tomatillo-Jalapeno salsa (salsa verde)


One of the very first recipes we blogged, and one of the first Mexican foods I learned to make, was salsa verde. And last weekend, when we were preparing for the opening night of my artist show in Wisconsin, Joe decided to cook up a big batch of this green tomatillo salso for the guests. They ate it all, and practically licked the bowl!

Lemon Street Gallery WI, Angela Duea and Becky Stahr, artists
With my friend Becky, and my art behind us on the wall!

I'm thrilled that nearly 200 people came to Lemon Street Gallery for the reception. Two other artists were featured - a sculptor and an acrylic painter. I'm also thrilled that I sold three pieces!

Angela Williams Duea Art
These two pieces are still for sale.

For the show, Joe also made his Light and Spicy Black Bean Dip. It was devoured, too. I only got a taste while he was making it!

Light and Spicy Black Bean Dip


Joe left out cards for our Hungry Lovers food blog so that people could try the recipes for themselves if they liked it. While I'm very last re-posting these recipes, I'm hoping the art lovers aren't too disappointed. Here, then, is how to make Salsa Verde.



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Savory Zucchini Fritters

>> Sunday, July 5, 2015


Savory Zucchini Fritters

These zucchini fritters are so tasty we ate them all up for dinner the other night. Super-fresh zucchini has flooded the stores - it's a glorious time of year for vegetable lovers.

One year we had a perfect storm of conditions to grow tons of zucchini and cucumbers. Every Friday night we had "Drinks on the Drive" with our neighbors, and we got to begging them to take some more zucchini home. Eventually they didn't even look at the baskets we pulled out, but we still had piles to give away. One night after everyone had gone home, we walked around the 'hood and dropped off veggies on everyone's front steps. No one ever mentioned it, lol!

Marjoram is one of my favorite herbs. It tastes like a blend of mild oregano and sweet lavender. It adds a nice subtle extra flavor to these zucchini patties.

Ingredients

2 medium zucchini, grated
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup chives, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 large egg, beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
About 1/3 cup vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

Toss the zucchini with the salt and let it sit for about 10 minutes. This will draw the water out of the zucchini, which will make the fritters crisp rather than soggy. Place the zucchini in a towel or cheesecloth and wring out any remaining water. You'll probably be surprised how much water you'll get out of it. We squeezed about a half cup out of ours.

Stir the rest of the ingredients, except the oil, into the zucchini. If you want to fry the fritters in a skillet, heat some of the oil in a pan, then dip several spoonfuls of fritter batter into the pan. Don't crowd them while cooking them on each side until crisp.

If you want to bake the fritters, you will need less oil and you can cook them all at once. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and brush a baking sheet with oil. Spoon the batter onto the pan, then brush the tops of each fritter patty with oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the bottom side is browned and crispy, then flip over and brown the other side until done.

These are really tasty topped with a bit of sour cream, but just as good on their own.

Serves 4-6.

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