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caprese skewers

plate o' caprese skewers

Want an easy, colorful, summery, fancy-schmancy looking appetizer to serve guests? These little fellas fit the bill, the bright crunch of juicy tomato mingling with sweet basil and fresh mozzarella, all drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

There. The food porn description is out of the way.

tomato, basil, mozzarella, together at last. just like nuts and gum.

We threw a surprise party for Mom Saturday. As I apparently noted several times near the end of the night, it was a smashing success. Why several times? Seems I got drunk off my ass by the end. As planned. It wasn’t an accident ffs.

Look at that awesome cake Stacy’s mom made for the surprise party

Mom's birthday cake

People kept asking ahead of time how surprisey it was going to be. I briefly wondered at the wisdom of shocking someone with a history of heart problems, and laconically waved those concerns aside. “Not much, I think,” I told them. “We’re doing family pictures right before the party, and we expect people will begin showing up and we’ll be setting up right in front of her.”

Thanks to the big ass house, though, we were able to pull off a complete surprise. While the final pictures were being shot in the living room, Jennifer and I rushed off to the family room to get tables and chairs out and set out the cake. By the time we led Mom to the family room, most of the partygoers had arrived, and wound up giving her a proper “Surprise!” shout.

They're like little tomato soldiers, aren't they?

Oh, my point? One of the things I made was caprese skewers. I also made corn and crab dip. Crap. It’s gone. I didn’t get pics of it. Oh well, caprese skewers will do for now.

P.S. two to three of these is a 100-calorie snack. Believe me, you won’t have a chance to get your hands on more. Go for three. The calorie listing includes all of the balsamic vinaigrette, and I only wound up using about half of it. Read more on caprese skewers…

October 21, 2009 in 100 calorie snack, desserts2 comments

caramelized Italian plums

italian prune plums, halved

Here’s a great way to use up Italian prune plums you may have lingering in the fridge. Sweetened just a bit and roasted in the oven, their flavor is intensified, and the plums create a rich, tart sauce. Caramelized Italian plums make a great topping — spoon them on ice cream, pound cake, or rice pudding. Read more on caramelized Italian plums…

currant sorbet

currant sorbet

Check out this awesome bowl Dad found under the house.

Under the house, you say? Why yes, under the house. Why do you ask?

Oh, you didn’t know. My house got a new foundation this spring.

Wow, those plum blossoms in the background sure look pretty.

So yesterday Dad, his cousin, and the guy who works with him were putting new beams under the house. At one point I was out in garden, valiantly hacking at the giant weeds with a hoe, when Dad called out, “Amy…I found something for you!”

the moat and gangplank, er, the foundation

Great, I said to myself. Probably a burlap sack he wants me to turn into a dress. Sorry, family joke.

It was actually the little white bowl above, caked in dirt. It had no chips and cleaned up nicely.

get to the currant sorbet already

Isn’t that currant sorbet a lovely shade of pink? It’s super refreshing on a hot summer day, and a whiff of summer in the dead of winter. If you can get your hands on some red currants, make some currant juice and get this sorbet into your freezer posthaste.

The inherent sweetness of the berries can vary. The main liquid/sweetening agent in this sorbet is a simple syrup. Simple syrup is traditionally just a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar, heated until it forms a clear liquid. In fact, simple syrup can be used in all sorts of sorbets. If you find the sorbet a little tart, try increasing the simple syrup to 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup granulated sugar. Read more on currant sorbet…

daring bakers: halloween boo-burgers

halloween boo-burgers! that doesn't sound too much like boogers, does it?

okay, fine, “macarons”

Well, en français they’re called macarons. Silly Frenchies. Macarons were October’s Daring Bakers Challenge. I filled them with lime-colored peppermint buttercream, and decided they looked like little hamburgers, and since it’s that time of the year, they’re now officially Halloween Boo-Burgers. Yay!

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I must be a real hick, because I’ve participated in Daring Bakers challenges two months now, and I’d never heard of either month’s baked good. Vols-au-vent? Macarons? Double-you-tee-eff, mate?

Turns out macarons aren’t those coconut cookie things. They’re simple-looking cookies made of almond flour and powdered sugar folded into egg whites that have been beaten into a meringue and slightly sweetened with granulated sugar. As a result, they’re kind of nutty and kind of sweet, but not overly so. A perfect macaron will have a thin crunchy outside, chewy inside, and crunchy “feet” at the base.

so close...must eat...

It’s quite easy to become obsessed with achieving the perfect feet.

macarons, first try

Word among the Daring Bakers was that this particular macaron recipe was a bit finicky. My first attempt, plain macarons, came out pretty well…. Read more on daring bakers: halloween boo-burgers…

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

Ignore the “gluten-free” in the title. These are not some saintly cardboardy cookie things.

And I’m really not trying to be All About Baking here. Honestly.

And I’m not trying to be all health nut vegetarian gluten-free, either. FSM knows I’m a crappy vegetarian and an even more piss-poor health nut.

But you know what? These cookies are really good. I don’t even care that as far as cookies go, they are on the saintly side. They’re vegan. They’re whole grain. They even have ground flax seed.

These cookies have no right to be as yummy as they are. They should taste like nice healthy cardboard, but instead they have some kind of awesome nutty oaty crunchy thing going on.

I ran across them a while back when I didn’t have eggs, and I didn’t have the time or the patience to wait for butter to soften, but wanted chocolate chip cookies. You know when that is. At night, in winter, when some horrid wind is howling outside and PMS is prodding you to find something sweet and chocolate now or it’s going to get really cranky and take you along with it.

my little helper and some cookie dough

Oh, look. I had a helper. This is why these cookies happened today. Little voices.

“AUNT AMY, CAN WE MAKE COOKIES? I WANT TO MAKE COOKIES. LET’S MAKE COOKIES. I WANT TO HELP. I CAN HELP. LET ME POUR THAT IN. I DIDN’T SPILL IT ON PURPOSE. I DON’T KNOW HOW THE DOUGH GOT ON THE FLOOR. THIS LOOKS FUNNY. HOW CAN YOU MAKE COOKIES WITHOUT BUTTER?”

Let’s see. These chocolate chip cookies bake pretty flat. They aren’t fluffsters. They are also better crunchy; when you bake them til they are medium brown. They’re good with nuts but I also think they’re good without nuts, which is rare — I tend to prefer nuts in my chocolate chip cookies. The recipe only makes about 18 cookies, so double it up if you want lots.

To be sure about the gluten-free-ness, make sure to use gluten-free vanilla, and check your canola oil and oats. Oats are naturally gluten-free but apparently some cross-contamination can occur or something in processing bla bla. Read more on gluten-free chocolate chip cookies…

mini palmiers: what to do with leftover puff pastry

mini palmiers

Here’s one amazing thing to do with leftover scraps of puff pastry: make mini palmiers. A good idea for snacks for a crowd. They’ll go fast, though!

Warning: drunken post ahead

My cousin Tone is in town, and he brought a big ass RV and several other modes of transportation with him. I countted five: the RV, the pickup, motorcycle, 4-wheeler and…kayak.

He’s set up house across the driveway. Yay.

He’s from Texas, like his mom —my aunt — who paradoxically was originally from right here. Like, right in this house. The oldest of my paternal triumvirant, Geriann, is his mom, and okay, this is getting both involved and a bit pedantic.

obliterating my ass at 500 rummy

He came over tonight and we played 500 rummy. Four times. He completely, totally obliterated my ass the first two times. He played it a bit gin rummy style, holding things back to kick my ass, playing mind games, and so forth.

I fixed that right quick

no, mini palmiers are not eyeglasses

Here, have some Wal-Mart wine, Tone.

Did you know that Wal-Mart, like Trader Joe’s, has a house brand of wine that will blow you away? In fact, I think the Wal-Mart brand is even better. It must be, because I’m having to spell-check this very carefully, and I don’t get this buzzed unless the alcohol is very good.

Wal-Mart markets two (at least) wonderful varieties under the Oak Leaf label: cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. Since I’m partial to reds, I buy the cabernet quite often. It used to be $2.97, and therefore comparable to two-buck chuck. I think it’s better. They just raised it — today— to $3.49, but I still think it’s a steal.

And I’m not some rube. I’ve had some very good wines in my day. This compares.

The first two games of rummy he smoked my ass. However, he was drinking this lovely cabernet the whole time, and by the third game I was able to smoke him, 605 to 390. Yay! I have to say he was a good foil; I’d never played 500 rummy with someone who played so strategically.

And man that was hard to spell.

Ultimately, we went through 2 and a half bottles of Wal-Mart cabernet. He is going to go buy more tomorrow if he knows what is good for him.

remnants of the pink brandywine

As for snacks, we began by stabbing, literally, at a pink brandywine. My tomatoes just succumbed to late blight, and I’m pulling all the tomatoes off the vines. It is very sad, and let us all share a moment of silence for them. He loved it; it was nearly as flavorful as my previous crop of pink brandywines, which means very smoky and rich.

the mini palmiers are almost gone, AND I'M WINNING

A bit afterwards, in the third game actually — coincidentally, the one where I smoked him — he got peckish again. The cad.

how dare he get peckish

I had a smallish pat of scraps of homemade puff pastry in the fridge, and I whipped it out, sprinkled some cinnamon sugar on it, and made a bit over a dozen mini palmiers from it.

He snarfed them.

Granted, anything puff pastry is going to be melt-in-your-mouth delicious, but include cinnamon sugar and you have little bursts of melty spiciness.

yay, he's totally drunk and snarfing mini palmiers

P.S. Did I mention I won the third game? Yeah, the one where the mini palmiers came out.

Song for this recipe: Carrion by British Sea Power. Read more on mini palmiers: what to do with leftover puff pastry…

February 11, 2010 in 100 calorie snack, vegan, vegetarian8 comments

roasted tofu

roasted tofu

About damn time we talked about tofu here, isn’t it? I mean, right up top there, it says “vegetarian, whole foods, and local foods recipes.” And yet, it’s taken all these months for humble tofu to even get a mention. Let’s rectify that now.

You can do this tofu roasted in a sesame and soy marinade in bite-sized pieces or in planks for sandwiches. Chewy and salty, with that smoky depth sesame lends, this roasted tofu is pretty irresistible. I have to forcefully resist just snacking on it as is until it’s all gone, it’s that good. Toss the bits into salads, or fried rice, or whatever strikes your fancy.

why should i care about bean curd?

Tofu’s the much-maligned vegetarian staple, inexorably linked with dirty hippies and horribly inappropriate preparations. Let’s run down some objections to tofu and then airily explain them away. Read more on roasted tofu…

the best dill dip evar

the best dill dip evar

Oh my. The garden asplode. Zucchini, broccoli, carrots, green beans, broccoli. And the broccoli isn’t sporting those horribly invisible green worms yet. I think.

There’s still lettuce and peas, though that’s ending now that hot temps have arrived, and cucumbers coming along, and some poblanos that are looking mighty big, and swiss chard with leaves 2 feet long, I kid you not.

fresh dill, about to get snipped to a zillion little pieces

Not to mention dill.

Rather than dump it in, I sprinkled it in JUST FOR YOU

I haven’t felt much like cooking the veggies yet, so I mixed up this dill dip that I love. Did I mention there’s dill in the garden too? Oh, I did. Guess what, it’s a perennial if you let it be so. Well, it’ll die away completely in the fall. But it’ll drop a zillion seeds, all of which will come right on up the next spring. So now there’s a loosely-defined “dill section” in the garden. Get some dill seed or plants for yourself, and you too can effortlessly have fresh dill from spring to fall, every year.

ha ha, she said “dip”

now it's time to stir the whole dill dip shebang together!

This dill dip is polite, yet ruthlessly efficient at what it does — delicately seasoned with a bit of parsley and a touch of seasoned salt and onion warming the background, it’s a dip where the freshness of dill dominates. I just consumed 1 large zucchini, 2 small carrots, and a good number of broccoli florets thanks to this dip. Go veggies! Read more on the best dill dip evar…