Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon With Tarragon Herbs

One of the biggest perks of working for a public high school is having one month of summer vacation.  I can turn off my alarm clock, spend a little bit of time with some neglected areas of our home.  I look forward to swimming every day, going to movies and meeting girlfriend for lunch, and doing whatever I pleased. I eagerly counted down the days until my summer vacation would begin...

What was I thinking?   I finally convinced my husband that our living area carpets had seen better days, and that it was time to upgrade our home with fresh paint and new flooring.   My husband decided to take on the challenge job of  installing laminate flooring in our house all by himself.  What we both thought would take "a couple of days work, turned out to be a couple of weeks.   Swimming, cooking and baking flew out the window, as I did my best to deal with the chaos of furniture being moved into our backyard, and packing up breakables.  Whew!

Slowly, but surely, our living area is almost back to normal-- and I am thrilled with how fresh and new our home looks. Yay!

Before I knew it, my summer vacation was over, and coincidentally, my last day of vacation was on my birthday.   I usually like to invite friends and family over for a birthday BBQ.  I couldn't muster the energy for it.

I did, however, find the energy to bake my own birthday cake.  Trust me, this is the perfect excuse for me to bake a new cake recipe-- and this one has been on my mind for months.  (I'll share this recipe on my next post.) 

On a whim, I invited two of my dearest friends, who were anxious to see how the new floors and paint turned out. I bought a beautiful piece of salmon, and I had a cedar plank that I had forgotten about.     While chatting with my friends,I "winged" preparing the salmon to be grilled on a wooden plank. I didn't even think of blogging this dinner, so I didn't photograph my usual step-by-step photos.  The salmon turned out so delicious, that I wanted to share it with you.

You can find food-safe planks at most any kitchen store, and I've even seen them in the grilling displays at grocery stores, at Target or Costco.  They average about $5.00 each.  It's important to buy planks that haven't been treated with chemicals, so I don't recommend buying them from Home Depot!  Soak the plank in a dish of water, weighted down with something heavy, for at least four hours.

This makes a beautiful presentation, without a lot of hard work.  I'm going to buy a few more planks because this was a fun way to prepare fresh fish on the grill.

A recipe card is at the end of this post.

I'm back at work, and it's one of the most hectic times of the school year-- registration!  I have so many recipes I'm anxious to share with you, but it'll have to wait for the weekend.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Potato Chip Cookies (hey, don't judge until you try it!)

Potato chips are one of our guilty pleasures, at home. I'm pretty good about doling out (and limiting myself) to eating a  small handful of chips, with a burger or a sandwich.

My husband, on the other hand, is a potato chip addict. The brand that he loves most is "Lay's" potato chips.  If they're in plain sight, they're gone in no time at all.

When the June/July 2012 issue of Cook's Country Magazine arrived, I began to eagerly read through all the of the recipes.  I paused at the Potato Chip Cookie recipe, and read the article, and it didn't tickle my visual taste buds.  Potato chips?  I then passed on to reading the rest of the recipes looking for something else to make.  My husband spotted the recipe, and exclaimed that they sounded "terrific"!

Moi: "Really?  You want me to make those?"
Husband: "Yes!"  "Please?"

How can I say no?

I had to buy baked potato chips, though.  I don't buy them otherwise, because I don't like the way they taste.  I mean, if I'm going to indulge in chips, I'm going to buy the real deal.  I figured that Cook's Country had a reason for listing reduced-fat chips, so I added that ingredient to my shopping list.   Cook's Country says, "It's a tough job, but somebody has to do it: We fearlessly ate many batches of cookies baked with potato chips of every sort. In the end, we preferred reduced-fat chips in this recipe. Because of the extra oil, the edges of cookies made with ordinary fried chips get too dark before the cookie is fully baked. Also, some testers detected a disagreeable fried taste in cookies that were made with fried potato chips. "

The ingredients listing also includes flour, confectioners sugar, granulated sugar, butter, egg, vanilla and pecans.

The dough is rolled into balls, then flatted with a floured glass-- actually, I found that spraying the bottom of a glass with non-stick spray works best. 

Bake at 350F for 10-13 minutes; cool and enjoy.

TASTING NOTES:  The cookies are crispy, with a subtle balance of sweet and salty.  These reminded me of "Pecan Sandies", because the pecan flavor is in the foreground of this cookie.  I nibbled on one or two, but I wasn't as over-the-moon about them as my husband was.  So, there you have it-- a cookie with an unusual ingredient, that got enthusiastic thumbs up. My husband is hinting around that he wouldn't mind my making them again, so I'd say that if you love potato chips, then these are the cookie for you.

A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.

BALL CANNING GIVEAWAY WINNER:   A big thank you to all of you who entered to win a Ball Canning Discovery Kit.  The winner is: Larry of "Big Dude's Eclectic Ramblings".   Email me at foodiewife (at) gmail.com with your mailing address, so that Ball Canning can ship this off to you.  Thanks, Ball, for sponsoring this giveaway!

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

National Can-It-Forward Day with Ball and a Giveaway!

The Summer of 2009 was a very good year.  I had just started my fledgling food blog (which is why some of these photos are a little "fuzzy" from my former point-and-shoot camera).  I had finally scratched something off my lengthy Recipe Bucket List.

I taught myself how to can my own jam, and I was hooked.  The first jam I ever made was my husband's very favorite-- Olallieberry Jam.   I bought a comprehensive Ball Jam Kit, read the Ball Blue Book of Preserving and meticulously washed my jars and equipment.  It was easier than I thought it would be, and I was on a roll. That summer, I made all kinds of summer fruit jams-- including a fig jam.

I made my personal favorite-- Apricot-Pineapple Jam.  

 My newest flavor, this year, is this Easy Pineapple Jam.

Then, I started to venture into more savory jams/condiments, like this Peach Chutney.

 I got really brave and made my first Bread & Butter pickles. Love!

Preserving is something that I really enjoy, and I have plenty of future recipes that I want to make. Who doesn't love to receive a jar of homemade jam, pickles or salsa as a gift?   I won't lie-- canning isn't hard to do at all! I can bring home fresh fruit, from the farm, and be filling jars of fresh jam in 90 minutes....yes, start to finish. I almost feel like a pioneer woman, when I stack and organize my different jars of goodies.   Store bought jam? Forget about it!
Ball is sponsoring their  National Can-It Forward Day, on Saturday July 14, 2012.  Set aside some time to learn simple ways to preserve the fresh food you love and share your canning knowledge with friends and family. Whether you watch us on-line, host a home canning party or join us in person, we hope you’ll share your stories. Like us on Facebook then post your Can-It-Forward Day stories and photos on our page and in your status updates. And, join the conversation on Twitter with #CanItForward. No matter how you participate, we want you to enjoy fresh preserving and Can-It-Forward Day.

There will be  live canning demonstrations and recipes featuring home canned foods including Mixed Berry Jam, Kosher Dill Pickles, Pepper Jelly, preserving fresh tomatoes and making and preserving Italian-Style pasta sauce.

Ball is offering one of my readers a change to win a Ball Canning Discovery Kit.  The Ball® Canning Discovery™ Kit provides an easy and affordable way to start canning in just three simple steps. This kit is designed to demystify the home canning process and make fresh preserving accessible, for even the most novice canner. Whether a person has limited kitchen space or looks to preserve a handful of fresh produce from the farmer’s market, the kit offers a beginner’s approach to small-batch canning.

(If you're already a seasoned "canner" you can opt for one case of Ball jars, instead.)

If you'd like to be entered to win, here's how (sorry, but this is for US Residents only):


Leave a comment and share with me what your favorite recipe is that you like to can. If you've never tried canning, then what would you like to make?

You can earn additional entries by:

Entries will close  on Sunday, July 15th at midnight. I will announce the winner within a day or two, after entries close.

Pssssssssssssssst.   I am a self-proclaimed gadgetaholic.  I want  Ball's new Automatic Jam & Jelly Maker.  Too cool!

 Good luck!

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Poblanos Stuffed with Cheddar and Chicken

You say Poblano, I say Pasilla (Pah-SEE-YA).   They are one in the same, I recently discovered--at least, in California grocery stores.  (I found a blogger who clears up the confusion here.)  I love Mexican food, but I can't handle really a lot of spicy heat.  Poblano peppers are perfect, because they are rather mild once they are cooked.

My inspiration to make this recipe comes from "Fine Cooking."  The original recipe boasts that it's a quick (and great) way to use leftover chicken.  I didn't have any, and so I decided to make my own shredded chicken.  I chose chicken thighs, because they are a good price.  For flavor I added bay leaves, whole peppercorns and my homemade Mexican spice (you could use taco seasoning).  If you have a Trader Joe's near you, I like these reduced-sodium chicken flavor concentrates (no MSG).  You could use plain water, though.
I let the chicken simmer for about an hour, let it cook enough to pull apart and shred.  I saved the cooking broth. Done.

I cooked one cup of brown rice, using the chicken broth.  Mmmm, good.  (Set aside.)

Slit the chiles from stem to tip and set on the baking sheet. Broil, turning every few minutes, until blackened all over, 5 to 8 minutes. Let cool slightly, peel off the skins, and cut out the seed cores, leaving the stems on. Rather than turning the chiles inside out, a spoon cleaned out any remaining seeds.

The fresh tomato sauce was the best part of this recipe, IMO. It was so good, that I wish I had doubled it-- so, take my advice!

You need fresh cilantro.  If you hate cilantro, leave it out (or use parsley). 

I used fresh Roma  tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and 1/2 tsp. salt ...

..and pureed it in a food processor. 

Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the chicken and rice, and then 1 cup of the cheese, the cilantro, and the lime juice.
Season to taste with salt.  Delicious! 

Divide the filling among the peppers, wrapping the sides of the peppers up and around the filling, some of which will still be exposed.

Broil the peppers until the cheese is melting and the top is beginning to brown, about 4 minutes.
Top with the remaining 1 cup cheese and broil until the cheese is completely melted, about 2 minutes.

TASTING NOTES:  Because I made my own shredded chicken, this took about 2 hours to prepare.  Using leftover chicken and/or rice would definitely be a time saver. On the other hand, the shredded chicken was moist and flavorful.  The leftover filling for the stuffed peppers can be used to make burritos or even enchiladas.  As for the tomato sauce, I would make this part of the recipe again and again.  It was fresh tasting, and perfectly seasoned. The cinnamon was subtle, and the peppers weren't over-the-top hot. Love.  I served this recipe with black beans.  Muy Bueno.  I can see making this as a vegetarian dinner, by omitting the  chicken, and using black beans and rice as the stuffing.   I will, definitely, make this again.

 A printable recipe card is at the end of this post.


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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

California Peach Caprese Salad

Happy 4th of July, Fellow Americans!  It's a perfect day to have an outdoor barbecue-- invite a few friends and family, doing some grilling and to relax.

This year, is a little different at our house. It's in shambles, because my husband is replacing our tired and worn out living room/dining room carpet with new wood flooring.  So, I'm holed up in our Master Bedroom with my laptop and an elderly Feline (who is feeling a little out of sorts with all the banging and dust).

 Navigating to the kitchen is a little tricky, but we still have to eat!  I've been following Sam's blog for some time, and when she shared her twist on a classic Italian-- as Georgia Caprese Salad -- I became obsessed with wanting to make it.

It's been a very long time since I've had a Georgia Peach.  Fortunately, California does grow sweet and juicy peaches, and the season is in full swing.

If you've never had a classic Italian Caprese Salad, it's made with sun-ripened tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and  fresh basil.  The flavors of summer!

Sam's recipe uses fresh sliced peaches, mozzarella and basil, with a vinaigrette that includes fresh lime juice and honey.  It took less than 10 minutes to make this for a lunch/snack.

In a bowl, I squeeze the juice of one lime, then added some white balsamic vinegar (you could use white vinegar), a little honey and olive oil.  I added a little coarse salt & pepper, to taste.

Gently combine.  I chose not to use mint with this, because Craig isn't crazy about fresh mint. We both love basil, though. This took less than 10 minutes to make. Easy peasy.

TASTING NOTES:  This would be a lovely side dish at a barbecue, and would pair well with either pork or chicken.  We ate ours as a very light lunch, and loved it.  I adore white balsamic vinegar, because it's the perfect balance of sweet and sour.  My son loved it, too.   I need to grab some more fresh peaches, before the season is over.  It's a refreshing salad and a fun twist on Italian Caprese salad.  Recipe slightly adapted from here.   Thanks, Sam!

Tomorrow, the house will be filled with the aroma of fresh paint.  Hopefully, by Sunday, the new floors will be finished and I can put the house back together again.  I owe my husband some special recipes, and I'm happy to do it as a special "thank you".  He's doing the work, pretty much, by himself.  I'm a lucky woman!

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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Cheese Burger Buns

We have just returned from a nine day trip to Montana and Wyoming.  Gorgeous. Mind boggling. Peaceful. Inspiring. A photographer's paradise.

 To say that Yellowstone National Park is huge is an understatement! Our rental car logged in over 1200 miles, touring through Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons.

My husband shot a lot of video, and my camera capture a few hundred images of geysers, lakes, mountains, wildlife and thermal pools.  It will take a while for us to edit and organize images from our trip.
Craig and I were so impressed with the friendliness of the locals. Every shopkeeper, food server, or park employee greeted us with a friendly smile.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect, averaging 75 degrees.  Those of you who live in Montana or Wyoming-- you do live in one of the most scenic areas in our country.  I'm not so sure I could handle your winters, since I've never lived in snow country.  I do thank you for your warm hospitality, and a lifetime of memories!

My vacation continues until July 22nd, and I'm looking forward to sharing with you a few recipes that I'm back logged on sharing with you.  Since July 4th is two days away, I thought I'd start with homemade hamburger buns. 

Craig and I love to grill outdoors.  Burgers are still high on my list of favorite barbecue dinners.  We finally bought a new gas grill, for the times we don't have to patience to wait for briquettes to turn that perfect temperature.

Homemade hamburger buns aren't very difficult to make.  They have a much better texture than most commercially made hamburger buns.  "Brand X" buns feel gummy, to me.  I like a bun that is dense enough to hold up against ketchup, mustard and/or barbecue sauce.  Don't you?

This recipes comes from one of my favorite recipe websites, "King Arthur Flour".  I admit that I have an addiction to shopping on this website.  I had an unopened bag of their Vermont Cheese Powder, and I was thrilled to see a recipe that I could make with this.  NOTE: It's not a requirement to use this particular cheese powder. The recipe includes how to adapt this to freshly grated cheese.

The only change I made, in their recipe, was to use Rapid-Rise Yeast instead of Instant Yeast.  I have both types of yeast (of course), but I find that Rapid-Rise yeast lives up to its name.  I wanted homemade buns in just a little over an hour.  The egg-based bread dough was super easy to make.  My bread machine broke, years ago.  I never replaced it, because my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer does a great job of mixing and kneading dough.

The dough doubled in about 45 minutes-- I helped that process to speed up, by placing the dough in a slightly pre-warmed oven.  I turned my oven to WARM for 3-4 minutes, then turn it off.

I pressed the dough into a flattened it, and cut it into eight pieces.  I then shaped them into balls...

...flatted them a bit, covered them and let them double for about 30 minutes.  I am using King Arthur Flour's hamburger pan, but you can easily shape these on top of a parchment lined baking sheet.

These rolls baked in about 15 minutes.  They smelled so good, with that aroma of cheddar cheese.

We fired up the new gas grill, and used some homemade barbecue sauce to flavor the burgers.There was no need to add cheese, since the flavor was in the buns. 

The texture of these buns were perfect-- they had a beautiful crumb, and a nice balance of fluffy and tender bread.

I'm a fan of mustard and ketchup with my burgers. Once in a while, I like a good barbecue sauce as my only sauce.  I'll share this sauce, soon, because I made it for a brisket that we slow-grilled a couple of weeks ago.

Sure, I'll still buy burger buns when I don't have 1-1/2 hours to spare, making my own.  But they won't taste nearly as good as baking your own.  If you love cheese, then you'll enjoy this Cheeseburger Bun.   The recipe comes from King Arthur Flour, so you can't go wrong.

I'm glad to be back home, and I'm ready to get back to my own cooking.  While it's a treat to take a break from cooking and washing dishes-- I got tired of eating out for nine days, and eating food that wasn't exactly memorable.  Sorry, West Yellowstone, but the choice of good eats isn't that great.  I still love you, though!

You can view a printable recipe card at the end of this post.

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