Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Revamped Hot and Sour Soup with Salmon - serves 4

I'm a huge fan of Top Chef.  In fact, my kids are convinced I should not only try out but would no doubt win, hands down.  Hmmmmm, I'm touched however, I will save myself and them the humiliation of being eliminated on the first show.  Contests aside, I decided, after watching the latest episode, that I would "revamp" a traditional dish.  In comes Hot and Sour Soup.  I love this soup for many reasons, partly for the simplicity and partly for the vast flavor it provides that pretty much makes my taste buds sing.

Hot and Sour Soup has four components; pork, mushrooms, tofu and egg.  Everything else is just flavor.  In this experiment, (and the pizza guy was on speed dial should it be a flop) I substituted the pork for salmon, the mushrooms for mushroom ravioli's (courtesy of Lucido's, Dallas), ditch the egg and Napa cabbage for the tofu.  Broth is the same.

After serving, sitting at the dinner table, praying over our food (to which my son lovingly asked that we not have to call the pizza guy), we closed our eyes and dug in.  Surprise!  Wow.... quite impressive.  I may not be the next Top Chef, but in this house, I rule.


1 small head Napa cabbage, sliced
4 tbs soy sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
3 tbs plus 1 1/2  tsp cornstarch
4 6oz salmon fillets, skin removed
3 tbs plus 1 tsp cool water
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 pound of mushroom ravioli's (can get at Central Market or Whole Foods.  If you can't find, 4oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced 1/2 inch thick, about 1 cup)
1 tbs red wine vinegar plus 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 tsp chili oil
1 tsp ground white pepper
3 medium scallions, sliced

In a small Pyrex, whisk 4 tbs soy sauce, sesame oil, and 1 tsp cornstarch. Toss salmon fillets with marinade and set aside for at least 10 minutes, but no more than 20.

Combine 3 tbs cornstarch with 3 tbs water in a small bowl and mix thoroughly; set aside, leaving spoon in bowl. 

Bring broth to a boil in a large saucepan set over medium high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium low; add Napa cabbage and ravioli's and simmer until the ravioli's are al dente, about 4 minutes.  Add the salmon, with marinade and cook for additional 2 minutes.

Stir cornstarch to recombine and add to soup.  Increase heat to medium high, cook and additional 1 minute, stirring occasionally, until soup begins to thicken.  Stir in vinegars, chili oi and pepper.  Turn off heat.  Ladle into bowls and top with sliced scallions.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Rigatoni with Mushrooms and Spinach - serves 4 with leftovers

I had a dinner party I catered over the weekend and ended up with extra bechamel sauce. Now, don't get all in a tizzy thinking that you're not going to make this if it has bechamel sauce in it.  It's actually quite easy to make and doesn't take any time at all.  It's a great substitute for cream sauce and half the fat.

This dish can be made with penne pasta if you'd like.  Funny thing about penne.... when we were in Italy it was explained to our group (to those of us who had not had appropriate Italian etiquette) that Americans pronounce "penne" incorrectly.  The way we say it (and once you know this, watching cooking channels will never be the same) we are calling it the (I won't use the correct word but, ) the part of the male anatomy women don't have.  You get my gist.  Rather comical when you think about it.  The correct pronunciation is accentuating the "pen" and a short "ne".  So, next time you grab a box, think of what you're getting.  I was told an abundance of times not to say it the wrong way.  Think of going to the market and asking for male parts.  Really?   I actually enjoyed embarrassing my "knows more about Italy" friend (and she does) as well as any Italian I could order penne from.  Think of the fun.

Moving on.... this is a quick dish using two of my favorite veggies, mushrooms and spinach.  I great marriage of ingredients that includes a simple anatomy to a great meal.


1 pd Rigatoni
12 oz spinach
8 oz baby bella mushrooms, washed and sliced
1/4 cup red wine
1 cup bechamel sauce (recipe to follow)
Olive oil
Sea salt and pepper
3 tbs chopped fresh parsley

Boil rigatoni according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, heat large enameled skillet on medium heat.  Add about 4 tbs olive oil.  Once shimmering, add mushrooms.  Saute about 6 minutes.  Add wine and simmer until wine has almost evaporated.  Add spinach, in batches, and stir until wilted, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat.  Drain pasta and return to the pot you boiled it in.  Add olive oil to coat and mushroom mixture.  Add bechamel sauce and toss to coat, mixing well.  Serve in pasta bowls and dig in.

Bechamel Sauce with Parmesan Cheese

1 tbs butter
1 tbs flour
1 cup milk
1/2 grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinsh of Kosher salt

In a small sauce pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add flour and whisk constantly until mixture turns a light sandy brown, about 5 minutes.  Add milk, gradually, whisking constantly for about 6 minutes or until slightly thick.  Add parmesan and stir until thickened.  Add nutmeg and salt, stirring to incorporate.

(Can be made in advance, refrigerated, then reheated s-l-o-w-l-y.)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vegetable Couscous with Your Favorite Fish - serves 4

In this case for us, it's trout.  Yes, we still have half an oceans worth in our freezer so any time we have fish, it's going to be trout.  Until December.

We don't eat a lot of couscous partly because my husband complains that it's like eating nothing.  As he puts it, "who wants to eat specks for dinner".  Well.........,  if you "beef it up" with some veggies it turns out pretty good and compliments just about any protien you want.  You can also eat it all by itself and get rather full.

Any vegetables will work here so be the creative person you are and come up with your own, or feel free to prepare the following recipe.  One quick note for your fish, season with olive oil, Kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and the juice of 1 lemon. Place on a lined baking sheet. For every 1 inch thickness of your fish (and preparing in oven), cook at 350 for 3.5 minutes.  You'll have perfect fish everytime with a side of "specks".


12 oz package of couscous prepared to package directions
16-20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pitted and sliced Kalamata olives
1/2 cup frozen (then thawed), organic lima beans
1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese or 1/2 cup quartered mozzarella balls
3 tbs chopped basil
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Fresh ground pepper

Once couscous is prepared, place in large bowl and add the remaining ingredients, through the basil.  Mix well, incorporating olive oil until dish is wetted through.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Can be kept up to 5 days in refrigerator.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Blueberry Waffles - serves 4, comfortably

In a previous blog, I admitted to a sweating issue while picking blueberries.  I'm still sweating, thanks to this heat but no doubt have enjoyed the mass quantities of blueberries I picked after enduring such ferocious heat.  The heat is still upon us Texans with a vengeance and I'm beginning to think that Mother Nature has it in for us.  That all aside, we've come up with some pretty interesting recipes using these glorious berries that have even included salsa.  Yes, salsa and another blog post to come.

While I have time to make my kids breakfast before the chaotic school year begins, I chose to make them waffles with blueberries.  The one thing you won't get with this recipe is that I topped our waffles with a delectable Acacia honey I brought home from Italy.  You can use good 'ole Texas honey for yours or if your like my husband, Log Cabin, because I think he wishes we lived in one.

I like to double this recipe and freeze, once cooled, for those busy school morning breakfasts and again, our fruits of the summer are always nice in the cold months.

I guess that is one of the things mother nature can't take away from us, thankfully.


(Preheat waffle griddle)

Whisk together in a large bowl:

1 3/4 wheat flour (or white or 1/2 and half)
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Whisk together in another bowl:

3 large eggs, beaten
6 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 cups milk

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.  Gently whisk them together with a few swift strokes.  (Batter should have a pebbled look, similar to a muffin batter).  Add:

1/2 cup (or more!) fresh blueberries

Spoon 1/2 cup batter onto waffle griddle and bake until golden brown.  Serve with additional blueberries and your favorite topping.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Tribute to Lettuce with Dressing to Coat

As some of you may know, my landscaper husband built me a magnificent garden where I could experiment all summer long.  I started with seedlings in starter kits and nurtured them all as if they were 298 children waiting to be fed and loved, all in my tiny home.  Although I lost a few, I was blessed with numerous amounts of lettuces let alone vegetables.  My kids took great joy in caring for our leafy family and together we watched them take over their designated plot of land, producing a variety of edible goodness ranging from arugula, micro greens, red leaf, sorrel and chard.  Topped with homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers and watermelon radishes, we indulged in what may be our last homegrown salad of the summer.  Sure, we have the arugula to get us through these remaining summer months, but nothing puts a smile on your face to walk in your own backyard and whip up a salad to accommodate the evenings meal.  And, the kids now know the true meaning of "farm to table".  In these parts of Texas, even city folk need a little appreciation to such a gift.

Easy Salad Dressing You Can Whip Up in a Flash

Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Juice of one Lemon

Drizzle and season to taste your salad with the above ingredients ad toss.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fettucine with Corn Pesto - serves 4 with extra pesto

I decided to go out on a whim and create a pesto that is different from the norm.  Pesto can be made with a variety of ingredients that don't include basil and pine nuts.  I've mentioned this before on previous blogs however who would have thought of corn?  Corn season is on the verge of being over and believe me when I tell you, you can't get anything better than sweet summer corn.  It's so good here in Texas during the summer months that you don't have to put a thing on it, it's so sweet. 
I mentioned to my husband that I was going to venture and try this out and he looked at me like I had flown the coup.  Worse case scenario, I would have lost about $8 had the meal gone south so he had nothing to lose, nor did I.
When I prepared the pesto and made my way upstairs with a spoonful of the golden goodness, he closed his eyes expecting, to what I assume, to spitting it out.  After taking his sample, his eyes popped open in amazement and admitted it was the most wonderful thing he had ever eaten.  He then proceeded to sneak behind my back as I was outside clipping basil to eat right out of the food processor to eat more.
So, before you doubt the wonder of this delightful dish, go spend your $8 and see for yourself.


6 ears of fresh corn, hulled and kernels removed from the cob
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs olive oil, plus more for pesto
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
3/4 cup walnuts
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 pd fettuccine cooked to package instructions

Heat a large skillet with 3 tablespoons olive oil.  Add minced garlic and saute 30 seconds.  Add kernels and saute an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, prepare food processor.  Add, corn, cheese and walnuts.  Pulse mixture about 4 times. Add olive oil and continue pulsing until mixture becomes course.

Prepare pasta.  Drain in colander and replace back in pot.  Add spoonfuls of pesto and basil to pasta tossing to incorporate.  Serve in bowls and enjoy!

*Tip for removing kernels from cob: place cob on a baking sheet while cutting and your kernels won't fly all over your kitchen.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bean Tostadas with Mango Avocado Salsa - serves 4

This summer will be gone before you know it and the seasons best fruits are close to being out of season.  I highly recommend taking advantage of this years mango crop before they're gone.  They're unbelievable with avocados, which only have about 3 months left.  Don't be scared on not knowing how to cut them... that's being a coward and you know it.  You're really missing out if you don't at least try and if you're one of the lazy ones out there that has to have your fruit cut up for you, then go to your local supermarket and have them do so.  You can create a great salsa with these two gems and its a great alternative to the typical pico de gallo.  It's great all by itself, on fish, chicken, or for this recipe.  Our summer's bounty will be gone before you know it and we'll all be missing these wonderful treats come fall.  And, if you do get them during that time, they won't taste anywhere close to how they taste now.  So chow down, my friends, and get your fill before time runs out. 


8 Tostada shells
2 cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 mangoes, peeled, cored and cut to a 1/4 inch dice or bigger
2 avocados, peeled, seeded and diced as above
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 large tomato, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbs cilantro, plus extra leaves for garnish
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs lime juice
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Queso Fresco cheese, crumbled, for serving

Preheat oven to 325.  Place tostadas on cookie sheet.  Warm in oven about 8-10 minutes.

Heat beans over medium heat until ready to serve. Meanwhile, place remaining prepped ingredients, through lime juice, in large bowl and mix well.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Remove tostadas from oven and set 2 on each plate.  Top with beans, salsa, cheese and cilantro and serve.  You can add shredded rotisserie chicken or shrimp to this dish as well.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Granola Bars - makes about 16 (2 inch) squares

I came upon this recipe about 2 years ago when I started a running group.  My trainer would pocket these granola bars and eat them during and after her run.  Thinking that it might make me run as long and strong as her, I inquired as to where I could get such a treat.  I was shocked to find out that these are homemade, organic and super easy to make.  Not only are they great for a pre-run/after-run snack, they're great for sustaining the grumbling between meals.  They're super healthy and can even pass with kids.  I sent my daughter with a Ziplock bag of two bars for rock climbing camp and she returned with promising her coaches that I'd make them a batch.  They loved it so much I think they ate all 16 bars within 10 minutes.  I've given them as snack for teachers, friends and family and they're inhaled in one bite.  If you're asking if they've made me endure longer during my runs, well, no. But, if there where a race to see who could polish off their bar the fastest, I'd win, (as would those who try them) hands down.


8 oz old-fashioned organic rolled oats, about 2 cups
1 1/2 ounces organic raw sunflower seeds, about 1/2 cup
3 oz sliced orgainc almonds, about 1 cup
1 1/2 ounces organic wheat germ, about 1/2 cup
6 oz organic honey, about 1/2 cup
1 3/4 oz organic dark brown sugar, about 1/4 cup packed
1 tbs olive oil, plus more for pan
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
6 1/2 oz chopped dried fruit, any combination of apricots, cherries, blueberrys
1/2 organic chocolate chips (optional)

Lightly dampen a paper towel with olive oil and grease a 9-inch glass backing dish and set aside.  Preheat the oven to 350.

Spread the oats, sunflower seeds, almonds and wheat germ onto a half-sheet pan.  Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, combine the honey, brown sugar, extract and salt in a medium saucepan and place over medium heat.  Cook until the brown sugar has completely dissolved.

Once the mixture is done, remove it from the oven and reduce the heat to 300 degrees.  Immediately add the oat mixture to the liquid mixture, add the dried fruit and stir to combine.  Add chocolate chips and mix well.  Turn the mixture out into the prepared baking dish and press down, evenly distributing the mixture in the dish and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.  Cut into squares and store in an airtight container for up to a week.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Summer Sides... Spicy Slaw with Red Bell Pepper & Corn, serves 4

I get a lot of requests for sides.  Sides make or break the dish and when summer is here, particularly in Dallas, Texas, at this very precise moment when it's 105 degrees outside, the last thing you want as a side is something heavy.  And, what better way to make use of the farmer's market, gardens or your local grocery store with the seasons freshest vegetables. And, you don't have to cook one thing to make it, and yes, you can eat raw corn when it's this sweet and SO much in season. (But hurry, it's almost over!)

We like our slaw spicy, particularly my son, but you can make yours any way you wish.  You can use the following ingredients and toss with 4 tbs olive oil,  2 tbs cider or red wine vinegar, 1 tbs Dijon mustard, Kosher salt and pepper.  However, if you get a chance to go to Whole Foods, go to the marinade section and get Earth & Vine Pineapple Chipotle Marinade.  I promise that you'll go back and grab a few bottles more to put on everything you eat.  It's summer in a bottle with a kick and will have your friends either asking for the recipe or you'll be known as the one who brings the side at your next summer gathering.


1 small head of green cabbage, core removed and thinly sliced
1  medium red bell pepper, diced
2 ears of fresh corn, shucked and kernels removed from cob
2 Anaheim peppers, seeds removed (optional) and thinly sliced
1/4 - 1/2 cup of Earth to Vine Pineapple Chipotle Marinade

Place all ingredients in medium bowl and toss with marinade.  Serve cold or at room temperature. 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sweet and Spicy Pickled Cucumbers

My garden has become one of my greatest accomplishments.  This summer I have grown an abundance of herbs, arugula, sorrel, chard, fennel, green beans, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, watermelon radishes and cucumbers.  The cucumbers have taken over and have begun to tiptoe themselves across our driveway.  With such a bountiful crop, I have no choice than to take a stab at pickling.  My harvest has given me sweet tasting cukes, not bitter, with light green skins.  I have so many, I could actually have a facial party.  Think of all the dark cirlcles I could help fix.  My family has become quite intrigued as to how many ways I can prepare/cook a cucumber.  So, today I pickle.  A perfect Sunday afternoon experiment for the 104 degree weather that my cucumbers thrive in.  Maybe I can work on my husbands dark cirlces while I'm at it.


2 Mason jars with lids
2 cucumbers, peeled
1 cup distilled vinegar
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 bay leaves (divided)
1 tsp celery seed (divided)
2 tsp red pepper flakes (divided)
1 tsp cumin seed (divided)
1 tsp dill seed (divided)
1 tsp mustard seed (divided)
1 tsp pickling spice (divided)
1 tsp turmeric (divided)

Brine:    Combine vinegar, water and suger in medium saucepan over high heat.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Boil for 2 minutes and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil.  Blanch cucumbers for 2 minutes in boiling water.  Drain over ice until cooled.

Place sliced cucumbers in cleaned Mason jars.  Add spices equally to jars.  Carefully fill jars with brine to within 1/2 inch of the top of the rim, covering cucumbers completely.  Place lids on jars and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving.  Will keep for up to 1 month.