Monday, September 30, 2013

kale pesto

I just wanted to share this quick pesto recipe as a segue to a baked pasta I had made earlier this past summer.  As October brings us cooler weather and the sun rests to slumber earlier and earlier each day, kitchens are sputtering with rich soups and luscious stews; braised meats; pumpkin treats and rich and hearty baked pastas.  The aforementioned baked pasta will be featured in a few days, but for today I will be featuring a key ingredient to the dish, kale pesto.

Pesto is rather simple to make.  It is a raw sauce traditionally containing basil, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil, Parmesan and/or Pecorino cheese.  The marriage of these ingredients are whirled up in a blender within seconds to create a bold, brightly colored and versatile sauce.  Pesto can be spread on bread, mixed with vegetables and salads, swirled in soup, combined to make a party dip, or tossed with pasta.  It is a great staple to have in your kitchen and you can freeze pesto for later use.

This recipe is an especially tasty way to enjoy kale.  Kale Pesto has a garden fresh, garlicky and cheesy flavor that is quite reminiscent to the traditional basil pesto, it is just the high fiber cousin to our beloved herbed favorite.  This recipe makes a small batch of pesto but can easily be doubled.

Kale Pesto
yield:   4-6 ounces
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts & walnuts (I used 75% pine nuts to 25% walnuts) or just pick your favorite nut out of the two and not combine them.
  • 1 cup packed fresh kale
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  1. Place pine nuts and walnuts in a dry skillet and toast over medium low heat until fragrant.  Remove and set aside.
  2. Add kale, garlic, salt and toasted nuts into a bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Blitz it until kale is coarsely chopped.  Add cheese and pulse until incorporated.
  3. Slowly pour olive oil into the food processor and whirl the ingredients together until the desired consistency is met.
  4. Adjust the seasonings and store in the refrigerator sealed in an airtight container for a week. You may also freeze it up to 6 months.  To maintain a fresh green looking color, drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on top before storing.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

hive five: goodbye summer, hello fall

1.  Are You Ready For Some Futbol?
We are trying something new, well new to me and the little one.  The Hubs grew up in a soccer driven family and I am a bit out of my element.  It is fun to watch six six year olds (and younger) scurry about in a wild, unorganized frenzy.  The little one just runs up and down the field making faces, waving his arms about and not worrying about a ball at all. 
photo credit:
2.  The Season of Love
I had read someone call the season of Fall "the season of love."  It was the season when this person and his wife had their first date and the season in which they were married in.  If this is the case, Fall is our "season of love" as well.  September marked our 17th year as a couple, so we went out for some hearty Italian, bellinis and gelato.
3.  Rainy Days
The change in seasons have brought us spotty storms and one full day of windy, honest autumnal weather.  We all welcome rain here in the drought stricken hill country.  One afternoon we had a decent, steady shower and the little one and I rushed outside and sat on the porch swing listening to distant thunder, smelling the dust being kicked up by the rain, and licking the last of summer's Popsicles.
 4.  Crafty Bee
And where there is rain, crafts are soon to follow.  These fuzzy little beasts paid us a visit one rainy afternoon.  Tutorial soon?  Maybe so.
5.  Blog Love
While blog stalking hopping the other day I came across this little beauty of a blog.  Bluebird Baby is a lifestyle/art inspired blog written by a photographer/mother/artist from coastal Maine.  Wonderful photographs, little glimpses of life living in a renovated church, yes church, can all be found here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

pen to paper

A few years ago I came across a woman purchasing several boxes of correspondence cards.  She had either noticed my curious expression or she herself was feeling self conscious of the mounds of note cards hauled to the cash register.  She sheepishly explained that she writes her grandmother once a week and loads up on note cards every chance she gets.  I thought it was a brilliant idea and though my life isn't too interesting to write once a week, I decided to write both my grandmothers once a month.

Write.  Not text a hello or send a typed message through email or social media, I write.  Pen to paper, my chicken scratch, slacking cursive penmanship, my words, my personal touch to connecting with people I love.  I take the time to sit down, whether it be in a lobby, parking lot, a work table or my dining room table, I take the time to jot down the current happenings in my family's life.

I don't know if many actually correspond through letters anymore, maybe it is old fashioned or possibly a lost art (much like cursive writing these days).  I wish we would stop for a moment and add that personal touch back into our conversations; whether it be face to face so one can see and feel the expression and animation on anothers face, or the inflection in a voice traveling through the lines (or waves) of a telephone.  Where we can hear the softness of a smitten voice or the melancholy drum of a friend in need; the personal touch of penning a letter and the happiness of receiving one knowing someone was especially thinking of you.  It seems wild to think that our thumbs are doing most of the talking these days.  And it seems like those stumpy little digits are a little impersonal as well.

One of the absolute, most impersonal pieces of correspondence I've seen lately was given to a co-worker of mine.  She was invited to attend a Dean's List luncheon in celebration of her scholarly accomplishments.  The invitation was sent to her phone.  By a mass text.  Upon reading the text (which was posted on social media) I felt a slight disappointment in the process of acknowledging the student's accomplishments.  Where was the official letter with the letterhead and embossed stamp?  With the signature (even if it is stamped) of the dean him or herself?  There was nothing personal about inviting this student, a real in the flesh human being to a dinner.  Is there any connection at all or is it lost forever?  I suppose my age is a tell all preferring to use ink and voice rather than thumbs.  I'd want the paper.  I'd want that penned signature (real or not).  I'd appreciate the effort.

As I finish typing this post, I will meander to the table and pull out my yellow paisley note cards and write my September letters to both of my grandmothers.  Will you do the same?  Or will you rely on your thumbs being connected to a device and possibly miss out on actually connecting?  Grab that pen and put it to paper.  Surprise someone with a letter and connect.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

zucchini and carrot ribbons

While the rest of the food blogging world is jamming pumpkin everything down our throats (btw, try this) I am still living on the cusp of summer squash.  I found mounds of zucchini squash at the market for a very good price, most likely being pushed through to make room for autumn's bounty of apples, pears, squash and of course pumpkins.

Zucchini and carrots are two vegetables that the little one will eat. I julienne the zucchini and use a vegetable peeler to make long carrot ribbons.  Then I saute the long strips and ribbons in olive oil and butter until they soften and transform into a fantastical vegetable "pasta".  It is so simple, colorful and fun for the little one to twirl and swirl around the tines of a fork.  Zucchini and carrot ribbons are one of my go-to vegetables and are guaranteed to be eaten at our family table without hesitation.  So if you come across a plethora of summer squash this late in the season, give them a saute in butter and bid them farewell until the next.

Zucchini and Carrot Ribbons
servings 4

Yellow Crookneck Squash can be substituted for the zucchini or you can use a combination of both zucchini and crookneck.  Thinly sliced yellow onion works well in this recipe too.  Play with the flavors and textures and find a combination that suits your family's taste.

2 zucchini squash
4 small carrots
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of butter
salt & pepper
  1. Julienne the zucchini making long, thin matchsticks using a knife (like me-old school) or a mandolin (fancy, schmancy.)  Set aside.  With a hand held vegetable peeler, peel long, curly ribbon-like strips from the carrots.
  2. Place a saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil to pan once it is hot.  Swirl the oil around the pan until it is heated.  Add the vegetables.  Stir and allow them to sweat a bit, about 2 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.  Cook for 2-5 minutes longer, depending on the preferred texture. (the little one prefers them limp like noodles, so I acquiesce.  I'm more of an al dente girl myself )
  3. Finish with a dot of butter and a final seasoning of salt and pepper.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

oh you may stray...(recipe: honey roasted peanut butter cups)

but you'll always return to your dark master, the cocoa bean.
 ~Cosmo Kramer, Seinfeld episode The Secret Code
Made these little beauties in honor of International Chocolate Day!
Pour a teaspoon of melted chocolate into paper lined cups
Place peanut butter filling onto the center
Top with one teaspoon of melted chocolate and sprinkle with sea salt
I came across a peanut butter cup recipe in Good Things (Best of Martha Stewart) during my college years. I admired the little morsels on the page but never took the time to make them.  And now, after all these years (time undisclosed) I finally gave homemade peanut butter cups a try.  They are so simple to make!

Honey Roasted  Peanut Butter Cups
yield:  12-15 pieces

7 oz. semi sweet chocolate
1/2 cup honey roasted peanut butter, natural
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
pinch of kosher salt

grey sea salt, for garnish

12-15 paper lined candy or mini muffin cups
  1. Place chocolate in a bowl over a double boiler and melt until smooth.
  2. Spoon a teaspoon of chocolate into the bottom of a paper liner, roll and tilt the chocolate up the sides of the liners until covered.  Repeat with remaining liners.  Place in the refrigerator to harden, about 5-10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, combine peanut butter, sugar, honey, vanilla bean paste and salt together in a small bowl.  Scoop out a teaspoon amount of filling (approx. 1/2 ounce) and roll between your hands forming small spheres.  Press to flatten.  Repeat.  Set aside.
  4. Remove the liners from the refrigerator and place peanut butter filling onto the center of each chocolate candy cup.  Spoon melted chocolate into each cup until filled.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Chill in the refrigerator to set.

Monday, September 9, 2013

joy of a songbird

I hope your heart is filled with the joy of a songbird
And you dance in the spotlight of the sun

Happy Monday!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Grammie Crackers

As a youngster, after school snacks consisted of the usual fruit roll ups, granola bars and the like.  On special days we would have "banana time," sliced banana with tubed icing drizzled on top. It was delicious and I think it may have been my sister's favorite.  On even more special days my mom would make graham cracker sandwiches, two graham cracker squares sandwiched together by a simple confectioner's sugar icing, sometimes she would color the icing to make it extra special.  They might have been my favorite snack.
Ages ago I introduced these little treats to my son and shared with him the nostalgia of my childhood past.  He loved them and the fact that I ate these as a child too.  We decided to call them Grammie Crackers, named after my mom, who is indeed known as "Grammie" to my son.
So here is a little recipe from my mom to me, from me to my son and you.  For all of those Grammies out there who keep snack time special.  Happy Grandparents Day.

Grammie Crackers
makes 6
12 Graham Cracker squares
2 heaping soup spoonfuls Confectioner's Sugar
1 soup spoonful of Milk
food coloring, optional
  1. Place 6 graham cracker flat side up on the counter top, these will be your sandwich bottoms.  Set aside the other 6 squares (your tops)
  2. In a bowl mix confectioner's sugar and milk together to make an icing.  Icing should fall in a steady stream off the spoon but will resist a little when stirred.  Adjust with more sugar or milk to achieve proper consistency.
  3. Dollop a spoonful onto the squares reserved as the bottoms.  Top with the reserved tops, flat side down.
  4. Snack 'em high and watch them fly!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

skillet fajitas with hatch rajas con crema & sopa de papas y rajas con crema

I sit here with my belly full.  Taking in the moment of eating such a simple and absolutely delicious lunch; pure elation and fulfillment.  I enjoy experiencing eating moments such as these.  Especially when I prepare it, sit down at my own will, in my own chair and enjoy the simple pleasure of nourishment.  But then again I'd be as big as this house if I felt so gushingly toward every meal.

As I was spooning through the velvety texture of my soup, I couldn't help but to think of my friend, "Practically Canadian Lee".  With one bite I knew this soup would hit her Tex-Mex, chile-loving soul.  A product of leftovers, I simply simmered red potatoes in chicken stock, added the rajas con crema from the previous night's fajita dinner, stirred in a little bit of half-n-half for a beautiful silky texture, added salt and pureed it with my handy immersion blender.
I added a few leftover bites of fajita meat to my bowl and ate.  I finished, then I ate a little bit more.  Then I made myself set the bowl in the sink.  But then my finger scooped a little bit of soup out of the pot just for one last tiny lick.  And then it did it again.  And again.  And again!  Until I finally gained composer and walked out of the kitchen.  What a heathen I am!
I must not leave out the origin of my lunch which was last night's dinner.  Cook's Illustrated's Skillet Chicken Fajitas is probably my favorite new recipe of the year.  This recipe is simple, the chicken is juicy, tender and flavorful and I would like to say very comparable to a fajita dinner in a restaurant.  Serve with rajas con crema, fluffy tortillas and your favorite fillings and you will provide your family a bang-up, delicious meal.

So, "Practically Canadian Lee", here is a belated birthday gift to you.  May you enjoy a fajita dinner amongst friends on a cool Michigan autumn day and then cozy up to a mug of soup the next.

Skillet Chicken Fajitas
serves 4

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed and pounded to 1/2-inch thickness

Rajas con Crema
Rajas literally means "strips" and is a traditional accompaniment hailing from the southern and central regions of Mexico.  It is traditionally made with poblanos but here it is made with the late summer seasonal favorite, hatch chiles.

3-4 hatch chile peppers, stemmed, halved, and seeded
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup half-n-half
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Flour tortillas, warmed
Pickled Vegetables
Lime Wedges

1.  FOR THE CHICKEN:  Place 3 tablespoons oil, lime juice, garlic, paprika, sugar, salt, cumin, pepper, and cayenne together in a plastic gallon bag.  Squish to combine.  Add chicken and toss to coat.  Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes or up to 60 minutes.

2.  FOR THE RAJAS CON CREMA:  Meanwhile, adjust one oven rack on the lowest position, one in the middle and the other on the highest position and heat the broiler.  Arrange chiles, skin side up, on aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and press to flatten.  Broil until skin in charred and puffed, 4-10 minutes, rotating halfway through cooking.Transfer chiles to a bowl, cover with plastic, and let steam for 10 minutes.  Rub majority of skin from poblanos and discard; slice into 1/4-inch strips.

3.  Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add onion and cook until charred and just softened, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic, thyme, and oregano and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Add half-n-half and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced and half-n-half lightly coats onion, 2 minutes.  Add chiles, lime juice, salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Transfer vegetables to bowl, cover, and place on middle oven rack.  Wipe out skillet with paper towel.

4.  Remove chicken from marinade and wipe off excess.  Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now empty skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add chicken and cook without moving it until bottom side is well charred, about 4 minutes.  Flip chicken; transfer skillet to lower oven rack.  Bake until chicken registers 160 degrees, about 10 minutes.  Transfer to cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes; do not wash out skillet.

5.  Slice chicken crosswise into 1/4-inch thick strips.  Return chicken strips to skillet and toss to coat with pan juices.  To serve, spoon few pieces of chicken into the center of warmed tortilla and top with spoonful of rajas con crema, cilantro, vegetables and other accompaniments.

Sopa De Papas Y Rajas Con Crema 
(Potato and Rajas Con Crema Soup)
 A soup made from leftover charred onions and peppers and simmered potatoes.  A true recipe made just by "eyeballing it".  Simple.  Filling.  Delicious.
serves 3-4

3/4 pound red skinned potatoes, washed, halved and sliced into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 tablespoon butter
Chicken Stock
1/3-1/2 cup leftover rajas con crema
3-4 tablespoons half-n-half
leftover chicken fajitas, optional
  1. Saute potatoes in butter until coated.  Add chicken stock until potatoes are just covered (not in total submersion).  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Cover and cook until potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add leftover rajas con crema and half-n-half and puree using a blender or immersion blender.  Add more chicken stock and/or half-n-half to achieve your preferred cream soup consistency. (Stock will thin your soup, half-n-half will add body and a velvety texture)
  3. Adjust seasonings. Ladle into bowls, add a touch of half-n-half for richness, top with chopped chicken and cilantro if desired.