July 6th, 2012

Blueberry Cornmeal Shortcakes with Lemon Cream

Blueberry Cornmeal Shortcake with Lemon Cream

There's something so rustically pretty about shortcake

I love strawberry shortcake.  It and tiramisu tie for first place in the race for the title of my favorite dessert.  I love it so much that last summer I began experimenting with different types of shortcake + fruit combinations.  I got to thinking, “Why isn’t there a shortcake shop like there are ice cream parlors and cupcake boutiques?” There are so many ways to make fruit shortcakes, it can be really mind-boggling!

So last week when I got some truly fantastic blueberries from the farmer’s market, I got the idea for these blueberry cornmeal shortcakes with lemon cream.  We ended up eating the whole pint of blueberries in two days, with the exception of a small handful I saved for The Sprout since she loves blueberries! I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of them, but these were just so good I couldn’t stay away!

So this week I bought another pint of blueberries specifically with these shortcakes in mind.  I thought blueberries and lemon go really well together, and blueberries are also good with cornmeal, so this seemed like a natural combination.  And you know what? cornmeal shortcakes are one of the most successful culinary experiments I’ve ever tried (another being hazelnut shortcakes but that’s a different story for a different day).

If you like blueberries as much as our four-year-old does, you’ll love these shortcakes.  She got so excited watching me whip the cream and assemble that she was nearly squealing.  And as far as desserts go, it’s not too unhealthy.  So get yourself a freshly-picked pint and enjoy these blueberry cornmeal shortcakes this summer!

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May 31st, 2012

Spicy Peanut Butter Napa

Spicy Peanut Butter Napa

Another unphotogenic dish...

I am not really a cabbage kind of girl.  I do like the [very] occasional coleslaw as a necessary topping for pulled pork sandwiches and recently I have gotten into brussels sprouts or baby bok choy sautéed with various sauces, especially Spicy Peanut Butter Sauce.

But napa cabbage is one cabbage I really enjoy, and have for a couple years.  I like to put napa in my udon noodles, yakisoba, stir fries, and miso soup.  I have even used it to make Colcannon, which I preferred to Colcannon made with regular cabbage (as opposed to kale).

The Grump is an anti-cabbage kind of guy.  Whenever I make brussels sprouts or baby bok choy he refuses to touch them.  Even though he likes spicy peanut sauce, he wouldn’t go near this Spicy Peanut Butter Napa.  As much as he teases me about the foods I don’t like, he’s very truculent about cabbage! But then, he does have the nickname for a reason…

Grumpy husband aside, I really liked this side dish.  It has a nice combination of flavors, which makes it interesting, and it can be as spicy or mild as you want it to be.  I had it along side Soba Noodles in Toasted Sesame Sauce, but I think it would be good with any Asian-inspired meal.

It was so good, in fact, I just might have some Spicy Peanut Butter Napa with lunch tomorrow! :grin:

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May 4th, 2012

More fish: Salmon with Cilantro & Pepita Pesto

Some food, no matter how delicious it is, just refuses to be pretty.  It’s like those girls who refuse to wear makeup because they want you to be attracted to their brains instead of their bodies and at first you think they’re one of those stuck-up feminists but then they turn out to be pretty cool when you get to know them.

This cilantro-pepita pesto is like that.  No matter how I styled it or photographed it, I just couldn’t get it to look…appetizing.  At first it looks kind of like something that would come out of a baby, but once you look past its icky green gloopiness and take a bite, you’ll find that it has a bright freshness from the cilantro, and a slight toasty richness from the pepitas.

Salmon with Cilantro and Pepita Pesto

Cilantro pesto is not photogenic. Neither is black rice.

Hiding underneath that green glop is a perfectly tender, juicy, seared salmon fillet.  I do love me some salmon pretty much any way I can get it, so I easily overlooked the crazy coloring of the cilantro pesto and dug in.  It really works well with the nuttiness of forbidden (black) rice, but I bet it would go well with my other fish side dish-standby: cous cous.  Or maybe some bruschetta on the side? At any rate, if you can get ahold of some pepitas (also known as hulled or shelled pumpkin seeds), I highly recommend you give this a try.

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April 10th, 2012

Whole Wheat Puff Pastry

Closeup of the Salmon and Rice in Puff Pastry - demonstrating the flaky pastry layers!

Would you look at that buttery flakiness??

Hello, dear ones! How did your Spring Holiday Time go? Between the Equinox, Easter, Passover, and forgive me for not knowing what else, the last few weeks have been busy for everyone, right? Full of family and the joy of new life.

I’ve been doing some necessary Spring cleaning in my home, and working on promoting my freelance business and finding work.  We have also had The Sprout at our house a lot more often lately, and while that’s pretty much the joy of my life, it’s very draining and time-consuming.  I still have to figure out how to balance work and home while working from home! :eek:

Because life is always so busy, you know how much I love my time savers.  However, this is not one of them.  Puff pastry is not something you make when you want a quick meal.  I suppose you could make it and freeze it, but I’ve never tried that.  Most I’ve done is make it a day ahead.

That being said, most of the time spent is inactive time, but it does require you to be nearby.  There’s the cutting, the rolling, and the surprisingly cathartic folding, but then there’s the waiting before you do it all over again.  And again.  And again.  You see, in order to have those beautiful, buttery layers, you have to actually make them by folding it over itself and rolling it out – multiple times.

But it is worth it.  Oh, is it worth it to have homemade puff pastry instead of paying an arm and a leg for store-bought which frankly, can’t even compare in taste.  Please throw out right now any notions you have of whole wheat things being more dense or tough than those made with white flour.  This puff pastry is made with slightly more whole wheat pastry flour than half all-purpose flour, keeping it tender, flaky, and still full of whole grains and that subtle nutty flavor.  If you prefer, you can switch the amounts of the flours.

There are so many things you could make with this!  You could make the previously-mentioned Salmon and Rice in Puff Pastry, or you could use it to cover a Chicken Pot Pie, or even make a rich dessert with it.

What are your favorite uses for puff pastry?

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April 5th, 2012

Naturally-Dyed Easter/Eostre Eggs

Eggs colored with turmeric, beet juice, and blueberries

Turmeric, beet juice, and blueberries give eggs a soft color and beautiful watercolor texture.

Decorating eggs was always one of my favorite Easter traditions as a kid.  I was never a huge fan of Easter baskets because they invariably had a huge chocolate bunny and lots of other chocolate-covered or filled concoctions, those mediocre colored marshmallow eggs, and a couple marshmallow Peeps.  The only part I liked were the Peeps.  In later years, a Reese’s egg was added which I liked because they have more peanut butter than chocolate.

But the egg decorating, oh that was fun.  What with those tricksey plastic wrappers, the paper stands that never stayed together, the vinegar-scented dyes, and don’t get me started on the flimsy wire dippers with hard-boiled eggs precariously balanced on top.  Egg decorating was serious business! I enjoyed it, but even as a kid my little hippie-brain I wondered about natural dyes, created from food and plant materials.  I never got to try it until last year, however.

Eggs blown out and dyed with onion skins

Onion skins give eggs a beautiful brown marbling

I never got around to posting about it, but those colored eggs up there? The Sprout and I made them last year.  This year we experimented with wrapping the egg shells (I blew out the eggs beforehand) in onion skins, then boiling them for 15 minutes.  It created that lovely marbling.  I have to say, I am completely enamored of these earthy eggs.

Why dye/color eggs with food rather than coloring kits or food coloring? Well one reason is to avoid the chemicals.  This appeals to me because I try to keep as few chemicals as possible in our home.  Another reason, and my main attraction is to do things as they’ve been done for hundreds of years.  Why use chemicals when you don’t have to? I like to create the things I use, and egg decorating is no exception! I guess you could say I just find it fun! :wink:

Closer shot of onion skin-dyed eggs

The instructions for dying eggs with onion skins can be found over at Instructables, along with instructions for other naturally-dyed eggs.  Boulder Locavore also has a great tutorial on naturally-dying eggs.  Wikihow taught me how to blow out eggs.

Now tell me: have you already decorated your Easter eggs this year? If not, are you going to, and how do you plan to do it?

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