Tabbouleh

I am making cold salads to eat all week since it is hot, humid, and hazy. First was the standard and ever popular tuna noodle salad, and now Mediterranean Tabbouleh. This is an adaptation from the recipe on the back of the grains package.

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What you do not see in the picture above are the fresh herbs I added: 3-4 sprigs parsley and leaves from two large Greek oregano sprig.

The package recipe was for Bulgur but I only had enough for 1/2 cup so I used 1/2 cup of the barley mix as well. Cook the grains as directed on the package. I doubled the vegetables and added the feta and olives.

  • 1 cup Bulgur wheat or mixed grains, cook as per package; these quick cooking grains from Aldi cook in 10 minutes.
  • 1/2 English cucumber, sliced and diced
  • 1 large plum tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1 large green onion, greens and white parts, chopped
  • 8-12 roughly chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup crumbles feta cheese
  • zest and juice of one lemon
  • fresh herbs, about 1/4 cup minced, I used parsley and oregano.
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

After the grains are cooked, stir in the chopped vegetables, herbs, zest and juice. Add the olives and feta cheese and drizzle with the olive oil. Stir together and serve. I served this over a bowl of torn romaine leaves.

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The whole grains make this nice and filling. I was going to serve sliced avocado with it as well, but we saved that for dessert and mixed it with a bit of sour cream, more diced tomato, garlic powder, lime juice and ate it with tortilla chips!

 

Fresh Fruit Tart, Revisited

This is the same basic recipe from Fresh Fruit Tart. I made a few slight changes and I used farm fresh strawberries.

We went camping and the campground is just down the road from a farm market. This farm makes the best jams and jellies, and also makes fruit wines. Those are surprisingly interesting and rather good. No grapes allowed. Last year was cherry, this year is blueberries and apple. And it is not at all the Boone’s Farm Apple Wine from high school!

20170618_232216046_iOSI am thrilled! I made the perfect pre-baked tart shell. I thought the previous crust was a bit greasy with 10 Tablespoons of melted butter. So this time I used 8 Tablespoons and melted it in a small skillet. Even though it did not brown it was more cooked than simply melting it in the microwave. I made sure I pressed the sides to the top rim of the Pyrex pie pan and again baked it on a rack in a rimmed baking sheet, 30 minutes at 350 F.

The most labor intensive part of this dessert is cutting the fruit. I cut about 1/2 quart of strawberries in halves. These strawberries are sweet and very red. None of those white cores to cut out like supermarket strawberries.

For the custard I used a combination of lemon and lime zest and the juices from one each. The original recipe calls for 7 teaspoons but I did not bother to measure. I also used 1 cup mascarpone cheese instead of the 3/4 cup in the recipe. This carton of cheese was firmer than the first one I used.

Letting the crust cool completely takes patience. I wanted to go ahead and make the cream filling but patience is a good thing. The no-cook custard-y filling must be poured into a completely cool crust.

I did not artfully arrange the berries. I put them in concentric circles just the way the Cook’s Illustrated article said made it difficult to cut the tart without cutting the berries too. Oh well! As I was putting the berries on the tart I remembered one is supposed to glaze the tart with apricot jam mixed with a teaspoon of the lime juice. I still don’t have apricot jam. But I do have this fabulous Black and Blue from the farm market made with blueberries and blackberries with crushed fruit in it. Yum! I put about 1/4 cup into a Pyrex ramekin with a bit of the citrus juice and nuke it for 30 seconds. I brush this on quite heavily and the top now looked darker than the bright red berries. I also brushed a bit around the crust. This goes into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to chill.

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Hubby declares this the best tart ever (or yet); I don’t remember exactly.

  • crust is crisp and slightly sweet
  • the custard-y filling is not too sweet; it is creamy yet set
  • the farm fresh berries were fabulous
  • the heavy glazing with the other berry jam added flavors to the fruit topping

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Fresh Fruit Tart

Okay, folks, I really, really, intended to follow the recipe to the “t” but just didn’t. What can I say?

Cook’s Illustrated July/August edition has a test-kitchened version of the fruit tart, you know, the kind you see in the bakeries each summer when the berries come into season. The kind on a layer of pastry cream or pudding. This new and improved version is supposed to stay together when cut in filling and crust. Hubby thinks this type of fruit tart is a great thing so I intend to make this. It has a pat-in-the-pan crust and a no-cook filling. Sounds easy to me.

I traipse off to the store to buy mascarpone cheese and white baking chips. Yes that’s what is in this, along with lime juice and zest. I’m cheap and just was at my local chain grocery so bought blueberries and strawberries which were less expensive (by a lot!) than raspberries and blackberries. No fresh peaches so I didn’t use those either. I forgot that kiwi makes a nice edition too, so just blueberries and strawberries for us.

The recipe is simple enough. It calls for using freshly sliced peaches to make an edible slicing guide. Good idea. It added lime to the filling to give it oomph. And the white baking chips hold the cheese filling together without cooking.

  • 1 1/3 cups flour (I read this wrong and used 1 1/2 cups.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter (can be browned in a skillet, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes. Watch carefully as it can burn.)
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons water (apparently browning the butter cooks off a lot of liquid which is needed for the flour to hold the crust together.)

So I make the crust, almost exactly. I did not brown the butter to give it a nutty taste. I melted the butter, added the water, the flour mixture, and patted it into a 9 inch Pyrex pie pan. The tart pan I have does not have a removable bottom and is about 12 inches in diameter. I thought that would be too big. Now, thinking about it, it might have worked anyway. And I may not have needed to add the whole 2 Tablespoons of water.

The crust gets baked in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes, turning half way through. It is also baked on a wire rack placed in a rimmed baking sheet. Let cool completely. Note to self: this may be the way to bake pies in the future.

I cored then cut supermarket strawberries in half and washed 1/2 pint of blueberries. The glaze is supposed to be made from apricot preserves but when I opened the jar, I found that the little bit left was not fit for human consumption. Into the compost bucket with it! All I have now is dark jellies. I consult with Hubby and we agree that I can use the dark jelly for a glaze since I am using berries anyway. We have a wonderful berry preserve from a local farm and it is made from blackberries and blueberries. Cook’s calls for 1/3 cup. I use about 1/4th.

Meanwhile for the filling.

  • 1/3 cup white baking chips
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (I bought and used whipping cream because I would have more uses for the remainder in the pint carton.)
  • 1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 7 teaspoons juice (This supposedly needs two limes. Well, the zest from one lime was a tablespoon and the juice was a few teaspoons at best. I figured the extra zest would make up for the juice and only used one lime. After all, one needs them for Lime Rickeys and G&Ts!)
  • 6 ounces mascarpone cheese at room temperature. (I used 8 ounces because that was the size of the small tub that I found at the grocery store.)

I really did have every intention of following the recipe exactly. But as you can see from my notations above I did not.

Melt the baking chips with the zest, a pinch of salt, and the cream. Do this in the microwave for ease. It took less than a minute to melt it to a smooth consistency. Now add 1/3 of the mascarpone and whisk. Then add the 6 teaspoons of lime juice and the rest of the cheese. Whisk til smooth and pour into the completely cooled crust. Arrange fruit as desired.

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Melt the preserves with a little lime juice (this teaspoon came from a jar) and carefully glaze the fruit avoiding the crust. Well, this is easier said than done. As mentioned above I had a dark glaze and there were gaps between the fruit. This is to be put in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

 

So did this new improved tart meet its goals? Yes it did. Life is too short not to eat dessert when it looks like this. I admit it is not as pretty as the ones in the bakery or the picture in Cook’s Illustrated. But it is in my kitchen ready to eat. And the crust and filling did not break apart or ooze out when cut. Yay! I see no need to let it sit out for 15 minutes before cutting, either. Also farm fresh strawberries will be tastier than supermarket berries. I will have to look out for some next time I pass a farm market or stand.

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Your Standard Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Greetings! I am always so happy and surprised that you read what I write. I was going to be a poet when I was a teen, but I guess it was not my calling. I do love to write, so I am happy to have readers. Thank you! 🙂

So it was a gloomy summer day. And in my effort to suck all the joy out of life…oops! I mean in my renewed effort to breathe in all the joy that life has to offer…I thought I should make myself write a blog post weekly.

(Now that I have said “weekly” don’t hold me to it because…life happens, along with moods, and I don’t always like to make commitments!)

20170530_220846485_iOSA week or so ago I made a coffee cake for work. I did not have sour cream (or did not look for it in my fridge) so I browsed through cookbooks to come up with something. I made a blueberry buckle with blueberries and cranberries without the buckle. It had the fruit but it also had the streusel topping. I baked it in a tube pan so it really did not buckle. I think “buckle” is the way the fruit indents the top of the cake. The people at work loved it and here is a picture. This is basically 1/2 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 cup milk, and one egg and 1 cup fruit.

So on this gloomy summer’s eve, I figure it is a good baking day. I will make a sour cream coffee cake because I recently spied sour cream in my fridge. Where’s the recipe? I go to my Settlement Cookbook because it is full of standard baking fare from kitchens of generations of women gone by.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup sour cream

preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray or grease a 10 inch tube pan. Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla. Add eggs one at at time. Sift dry ingredients together and add to butter mixture alternately with the sour cream.

Topping: mix 6 Tab. of softened butter (I accidentally melted mine) with 1 cup packed brown sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 cup chopped nuts.

Put half the batter in the pan. Sprinkle (or glob) on 1/2 the topping, layer the other half of the batter and the rest of the topping. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes before removing.

So the cake is in the oven, Hubby is at the dentist, and I am putting the dog out in the yard, going out to un-loop him from the various patio furniture and bushes at least three times, and thinking that this is a standard sour cream coffee cake that is probably found in all those cookbook collections that various churches and other organizations put together as fundraisers. So I peruse a few of those.

The first one I look through has Sour Cream Coffee Cake and the streusel is just sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Cool! Because I knew that the streusel topping for my first coffee cake has flour in it and I thought that was pretty standard. So I continue reading this recipe and get to the end and see who submitted it. My sister! Gave me a little joy to see her name at the bottom of the recipe!

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Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Ordinary cooking!

If you are like me, you, and mostly it is the woman—not to negate the men who do so, just go about fixing dinner without thought to innovation and creativity. Those of us who rarely use processed or prepared foods or take out fast-food, there is a general routine and rotation from pantry and freezer staples. What are yours?

In my kitchen pantry I usually have canned tomatoes, several types of canned beans, sometimes canned fruit, pasta of a variety of shapes, rice and grains, vinegar, oils, etc. in the freezer there is a variety of meats (fish filet, chicken breasts and thighs, small pork roast, the occasional rack of ribs, and burger patties) along with the various packages of frozen vegetables. Sometimes there are pie crusts or pie dough, frozen pirogi or ravioli, and the occasional pizza. We like the cheap but tasty pizzas available at the Aldi discount grocery store. Actually in my freezer I still have some venison sausage from the deer my son-in-law shot earlier this year. Breakfast strata anyone?

I don’t know how some of you are so creative all the time. I get tired, tired, tired! So I just make things up to cook, or to liven up the ordinary food. So browsing on Facebook I saw one of those videos on quickly preparing ginger chicken. I rarely pay attention to all the ingredients or the amounts or the directions.

So I try it on fish. Why not?

There is garlic (yes, I bought the jarred kind. My fresh garlic kind of got old and decrepit on me), fresh ginger root (this keeps in the freezer for millennia), soy sauce, and mixed vegetables on the side. I minced a nub of ginger root, added a pinch of garlic, and dumped that in the ramekin with some soy sauce. Trust me, I used those “exact” amounts! 🙂 I baked the four fish filet and brushed on the juice toward the end of the baking time. It smelled very good. I may have added a squeeze of honey as well.

So then I tried it on chicken…two chicken breasts, one onion, peas and carrots, and quick cooking mixed grains (from Aldi). This worked out well too.

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Directions: dice chicken and cook through in a bit of olive oil. Mince the ginger root, bit of garlic, add soy sauce, a bit of honey, and add to the skillet with the chicken. The amounts depend on your taste. Separately I saute the onion in a bit of olive oil for a few minutes, then add the peas and carrots. Remove to a bowl. Cook the grains as per the package. I had planned to have a “rice pilaf” type dish as a side, but at the last minute dumped the almost cooked grains and the peas and carrots into the big skillet with the chicken. This I covered and let simmer a bit more until Hubby came home and dinner was served.

 

Another Loaf: Apricot

I have not written nor baked in a while. We have been eating ordinary meals. You know, baked frozen fish, grilled chicken or burgers, frozen vegetables, scrambled eggs with onion and peppers, and open-faced grilled cheese with tomatoes. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in a pinch! Sometimes I just do not feel like cooking, so when Hubby comes home he throws something together. The open-face grilled cheese with tomatoes are one of his specialties.

At my last camping weekend I brought along the Settlement Cookbook to look through. There are some bread recipes that looked good. Simple and straightforward breads, quick and raised. My mother had given me a paperback Settlement Cookbook when I got my first apartment. I knew how to bake but not how to cook. This book was my guide to cooking meat and vegetables. I remember making biscuit dough cinnamon rolls from this book. Unfortunately like most well-used cookbooks it fell apart and eventually I could not justify saving the torn thing. 😦

At a tag sale (yard sale, garage sale, depending on what region of the country you hail from) there was this newly revised Settlement Cookbook. So I bought it for sentimental reasons. This edition was published in 1965, 1976.

I was originally looking at the banana bread since I had extra ripe bananas in the house. But I froze those so the pressure was lessened. I had some dried apricots so the apricot bread was my choice for the afternoon. I figure I have to bake while the weather allows.

Alterations to the recipe as pictured above are as follows:

  • why would one grind the dried apricots? I roughly chopped them.
  • I used 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour; to be healthy.
  • I did not have to strain the orange juice because the juice I like does not have pulp.

The batter smelled quite orange-y. The loaf came out very nicely colored and crunchy on the outside. The inside is quite nice with the squares of apricots and nuts throughout. For the future I might add a teaspoon of ginger and/or cinnamon for added kick!

I suppose spreading it with apricot preserves might be a bit too much!

Roasted vegetables

We went camping this past weekend and I disconnected myself from the internet for two days. How freeing! But I am concerned that the world may go to hell in a hand basket while I’m not watching, and then what would I do?

Camping weekends are usually rainy and cold. That is just our luck. This one was no exception but the sun did come out for a spell on Sunday morning. We sat around reading real books, the ones where you actually turn the pages. We acted like the old people we are by hitting the sack by 9:00 each night. No time for a campfire!

We did not eat our steaks while camping so we fixed them for our Sunday supper. I roasted the vegetables that I had taken along and added Brussels sprouts. Hubby does not particularly care for Brussels sprouts but I figured roasting them would make them okay.

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This concoction is 4 red potatoes, 2 carrots, 1 onion, and 1/2 package steam-able baby Brussels sprouts. This is dressed with 1/8 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 3 fresh sage leaves, one sprig of fresh rosemary, one sprig of fresh thyme, and a few snips of fresh parsley. I roasted this at 425 degrees F for one hour, stirring twice during that time.

Hubby grilled the bacon wrapped beef (an Aldi product that is fabulous!) and we had our dinner. Yum! A lovely dinner for the winter-ish spring day!20170507_204434264_iOS