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an old friend

June 23, 2014

fried rice

Days turn in to weeks; weeks turn in to months; then the calendar rolls over to a new year.   We’ve hit the summer solstice and this is my first post of 2014.  For those of you keeping track, it’s actually my first post in 8 months.  What’s happened in that time you ask?  We’ve moved, gotten a puppy, survived a very long cold winter, Mike changed jobs, and now it’s June 23.  There, just like an old friend, we’re all caught up.

Mike spent all of last week in South Carolina in on-boarding and training  with his new employer and was flying home on Friday.  Usually he just hops the Blue line train from the airport back downtown where I pick him up because it’s much easier than fighting the traffic back and forth.  But after weather related delays his flight didn’t arrive back in Chicago until after 7:00 so I drove out and picked him up.   By the time we were back in the city it was after 8:00 and we picked up a couple of containers of fried rice for an easy dinner.  Usually we whip up fried rice at home so I had forgotten how salty it can be when you get carry out.

We usually make this without any meat or shrimp, but it would easily adapt to having chicken or shrimp added.

Fried Rice
adapted from Homemade with Love by Jennifer Perillo

For the sauce:
4 T soy sauce, reduced sodium
1 T oyster sauce
1 T sesame oil

For the rice:
2 T canola oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
1-1/3 cup frozen peas and carrot mixture, thawed
1/2 cup broccoli florets, cut to about the same size as the peas or carrots
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups leftover cold rice (long grain white or brown rice)

In a small bowl, whisk together the sauce ingredients and set aside.

Heat 1 T canola oil in a wok over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook until golden, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the broccoli, peas and carrots, stirring to keep everything moving around the wok, and cook an additional 2 to 3 minutes.  Push all of the ingredients to the side of the wok and add the eggs, scrambling with a fork while it cooks.  Add the rice and remaining oil to the wok.  Break up the rice as it heats and mix with the onion, carrot, peas and egg, continuing to cook until the rice is heated through.  Just before serving pour the sauce mixture over the rice and stir well to combine.

When we plate this we like to add a sprinkling of chopped peanuts over the top.



the star of the show (post 23 of a 52 recipe challenge)

October 2, 2013


I’ve spent the last month or so trying a few new recipes and taking a few pictures along the way, but for the most part I’ve gotten by eating meals that were haphazardly put together with whatever was in the pantry, refrigerator or on the counter from the farmers market.  We all have those recipes that we know by heart, that we turn to over and over again.  Now that fall has officially arrived and we’re all open to the idea of turning ovens back on (I really do that even in the heat of summer because that’s what air conditioning is for, right?), I bring you the Hasselback.  I’ve seen this in magazines and on other blogs but it wasn’t until it popped up in my September issue of Cooking Light that something sparked and I knew I had to make it.  It delivered everything I wanted with crispy edges, a creamy center and a nice little garlic finish.  We ate them with a little grilled fish and a veggie side, but honestly I don’t even remember what they were because this potato was the star that night.

This is one of those recipes that isn’t really.  Consider this a guideline on making Hasselback potatoes.

Preheat oven to 450F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, being sure to build a rim to catch the butter that drips from the potatoes during baking and to make clean up easier.

Cut most of the way through a potato, at 1/8-inch intervals so that it looks like an accordion.  I put chopsticks on each side of the potato so my knife wouldn’t go all the way through.  Lacking those a small pen or pencil would work perfectly.  Combine melted butter or olive oil, salt (or sea salt), pepper and garlic in a small dish.  Brush over the potato making sure to drizzle a little between each slice.  Bake uncovered for 45 – 60 minutes, depending on the size of the potato.  I basted the potatoes a couple of times during the baking with some of the butter that pooled in the pan to keep the goodness from getting away.


last gasp (recipe 22 of a 52 recipe challenge)

September 4, 2013

corn tomatoe salad

Back from vacation, settling back into a regular routine, and grasping for the tastes of summer.  I can tell you from our Vermont vacation, if you get far enough north the trees are already starting to turn.  I’m using fresh tomatoes, heirloom when I can, and corn (on and off the cobb) at almost every meal.  For the last couple of days this corn and tomato salad has made an appearance at lunch or dinner and sometimes both.

Fresh summer vegetables don’t need much to make them taste great.  For this salad I removed the husk and silk from the corn and lacking an outdoor grill, gave each ear a light char on over the stovetop flame.  Once cool enough to handle I cut the kernals from the cobb, married them with some diced tomato and fresh basil, added a splash of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper and called it done.

Run to your local farmer or farmers market and get corn and tomatoes while they’re still available and just like us, eat them at every meal.  We’ll be longing for them soon enough.

No recipe here.  I’ll just say that generally 2 ears of corn and one large tomato make salad enough for two meals as a main dish or four meals as a side.

082 a

friends (post 21 of a 52 recipe challenge)

August 16, 2013

I’m writing this as the sun comes up looking forward to heading out of town on vacation later today. Actually by the time you read this we’ll be in New Hampshire, spending the night in a B & B before heading up to Vermont for a weeks worth of rest and relaxation. We’re staying in the second, or is it third home, of Mike’s friend Barry and his wife Ciel. Going from our home in the heart of Chicago with all of its hustle, bustle and noise to a lakeside retreat is going to be a bit of a shock to the senses I’m guessing. But look at this…..this is where we’ll be resting our heads this coming week.

Barry's camp

I know, right!? How lucky are we?

What started out as work colleagues has turned into a 27 or 28 year friendship between Mike and Barry. Friends like that don’t come along every day, especially when you consider that we live in Chicago and Barry lives in Connecticut. They don’t have the advantage of seeing each other on a regular basis. I can’t even remember the last time Mike and Barry saw each other but I’ll bet it’s at least two years. We’re both really looking forward to catching up in person with Barry and Ciel over these next couple of days.

We’ll have only sporadic cell phone and internet access over the next couple of days, but follow me on twitter and I’ll post pictures when I can. Because I plan to spend most of my time outside over the next week, and not doing a lot of cooking, I’m going to leave you with a simple recipe for roasted broccoli that we’ve enjoyed this summer and that you should make friends with. I’ve started putting the sheet pan into the cold oven and letting it heat up as the oven pre-heats. Then when the vegetables hit the pan they get a quick sear.

This broccoli is just as good hot of the oven as it is served at room temperature.

Roasted Broccoli

Pre-heat oven to 450F with the roasting pan in the oven.

Clean and trim several large stalks of broccoli, cutting them into bite size pieces. I usually just roast the crowns. Toss the trimmed crowns with 1 or 2 tbsp. of olive oil and a pinch of salt. When the oven comes to temperature carefully remove the hot sheet pan and pour on the broccoli. Arrange the crowns cut side down, with the largest surface area possible on the pan to take advantage of that sear.

Return the pan to the oven and roast for 12 – 15 minutes, turning the broccoli over about half way through the cooking time. Remove from the oven and enjoy hot or let cool to room temperature.

roasted broccoli


summers best (post 20 of a 52 recipe resolution)

August 13, 2013

barley corn salad

I love going to the farmers market because aside from being fresh and locally grown, everything looks beautiful with bright, vibrant colors.  There are two problems that come from this.  The first is that I over purchase and the second is that everything doesn’t all fit in the basket on my bike for the ride home.  Before leaving the house last Saturday I wrote a list of what recipes I wanted make during the week and then a corresponding list of what I needed to purchase from the farmers market.  Then I promptly left the list at home.  Aghh.  I did well and didn’t forget anything on the list, but of course I added a couple of things because they just looked so pretty.  Here’s my treasure trove from last Saturday (hard to believe I’m feeding just two adults):

– 5 ears of corn
– 1 red/orange sweet pepper
– 1 head of garlic
– 1 sweet onion
– 3 golden beets
– 1 bunch of chives
– 1 bunch of basil
– 3 tomatoes
– 1 pint of various cherry/sun gold/grape tomatoes
– 5 peaches
– 1 pint blueberries

Now remember the part about my purchases needing to fit in the basket of my bike?  It was like trying to put 18 clowns into a Volkswagon.  I actually laid all the purchases out on the grass and then piece by piece put them into the basket.  When the basket was full I still had 5 peaches without a home.  I ended up with the peaches in a plastic bag tied to the handlebars of my bike.  Because the basket is on the front of the bike, secured to the handlebars, the weight of everything left me a little unbalanced riding home.  Thankfully all of the produce survived the trip, although a peach or two had a couple of bruises when the bag swung a little wildly and hit the bike.

Here’s one of the recipes that I made for lunch on Sunday.

Barley and Corn Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette
slightly adapted from Food 52

1/2 cup dried pearl barley
3 ears of corn (shucked)
1 pint grape tomatoes
1 – 14.5 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 vine ripened tomato
1-1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 bunch of chives, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup basil cut into ribbons

Cook barley according to package directions (generally 1 part barley to 3 parts water brought to a boil then covered, heat reduced to simmer for about 25-30 minutes).   Remove the cooked barley from the pot to a large bowl to cool.

While the barley is cooking, remove husks and silk from corn, wrap each ear in a damp paper towel and microwave individually for about 60 seconds.  Remove paper towel and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Cut the kernels off the cobb and use the back of your knife to scrape the “milk” from the cob into the bowl with the kernels.  Combine the corn with the cooled barley.

Halve the grape tomatoes and add to the bowl with the barley and corn.  Mix in the drained and rinsed cannellini beans.

To make the vinaigrette, cut the large tomato in half and grate with a box grater over a dish or wide bowl, discarding the skins, and collecting the juice and pulp.  To the tomato juice add the vinegar, minced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and chives.  Slowly add the olive oil, mixing to create an emulsion.  (I transferred the tomato juice and pulp to a Ball jar and add the rest of the ingredients, including the olive oil and shook vigorously to create the emulsion).

Pour the vinaigrette over the barley and corn mixture, add the basil ribbons and mix to combine.  If you aren’t going to serve the salad immediately, hold back some of the dressing to add just before serving.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.


feeling challenged (post 19 of a 52 recipe resolution)

July 29, 2013

Summer isn’t the time that I spend a lot of time inside preparing big meals.  Do you?  I want to be outside doing just about anything.  And honestly, I’m feeling really challenged lately to cook “real” meals for anyone, but especially on any of the nights that I’m home by myself.  Mike is generally out of town two or three nights a week and cooking for one isn’t fun plus it leaves too many left-overs.  I try to have dinner with friends once a week and a couple of weeks ago I made this Gazpacho.  I liked that I could make everything ahead and I was able to easily transport the soup in a Ball canning jar.  I packed the shrimp separately and we added them when we poured the soup.  The shrimp made a simple soup feel a bit more special.  It was my idea of a perfect summer night – a glass of wine with friends on their balcony enjoying the lake and city views and dinner upstairs on the roof deck.

Any ideas for cooking for one, without a lot of left-overs?

Gazpacho with Lemon Garlic Shrimp
slightly adapted from Cooking Light
4 servings, about 1 cup each

1 – 10 oz container grape tomatoes, divided
1 medium cucumber, peeled and seeded and sliced so you have 1-1/2 cups, divided
1 cup diced red bell pepper, divided
3/4 cup diced Vidalia onion, divided
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tbsp. champagne vinegar
5/8 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp black pepper, divided
3 cloves garlic
1 – 28 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, drained
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
20 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

For the Gazpacho:
Cut 8 grape tomatoes into quarters.  Combine quartered tomatoes, 1/4 cup sliced cucumber, 1/4 cup bell pepper and 1/4 cup onion in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine remaining grape tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper and onion in the bowl of a food processor.  Add 2 tbsp. olive oil, champagne vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, garlic cloves, canned tomatoes and 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice.  Pulse until almost smooth.  Pour into a bowl and refrigerate at least 25 minutes.

For the shrimp:
Combine remaining 1 tbsp. oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, 1/4 pepper, 1/8 tsp salt and shrimp in a medium bowl.  Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add shrimp mixture to the pan and cook three minutes, stirring occasionally and  turning shrimp about half-way through.

Place about one cup soup into each bowl, dividing shrimp evenly and top with 1/4 of the diced cucumber mixture.

city view

water views (post 18 of a 52 recipe resolution)

July 5, 2013

Last weekend Mike and I escaped the hustle, bustle and noise of city living for the quiet of Door County, Wisconsin.  Have you been there?  If you’ve gone during the high season of July 4 – Labor Day you’re probably wondering how I could consider going there an escape because apparently it gets jam-packed with visitors on those summer weekends.  It was really the luck of the draw that we went before the summer crowds and I’m glad for that.

Door County is made up of several small towns along a 75 mile long peninsula that has the waters of Green Bay on one side and Lake Michigan on the other.  We stayed in Sister Bay, toward the northern end of the peninsula.  My only criteria in choosing where to stay was that the room have a balcony with water views.  To me, that’s heaven.

038 adjusted

sunrise over Sister Bay

The Inn we stayed at served a European style breakfast each morning and while I generally don’t have toast as a part of my breakfast, the sunflower seed bread they had looked so inviting I had to try it.  It was a white bread without a high rise but still a yeast dough.  Does that make sense?  Now I suppose I could just call up to the resort and find out what brand the bread is and purchase it for home, but where would the fun be in that?  I found lots of recipes for sunflower seed bread, some quick breads, some yeast breads and one that included oatmeal.  I settled on a honey wheat and although it was a little too sweet for me and not the same texture I was looking for, it was easy to make and really quite good.  I wouldn’t hesitate to make this again but next time I won’t start a dough that requires 3 rises and 10 minutes of kneading at 6:30 in the evening.

Honey Wheat Sunflower seed Bread

1-1/4 cups lukewarm water
1 pkg (2-1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup toasted, unsalted, sunflower seeds

In a large mixing bowl (I used a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook), combine the water, yeast and sugar and let stand for 10 minutes.  Stir in the honey, buttermilk, oil and salt.  Add the wheat and white flours and mix to combine well.  The dough will be moist and sticky.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a wooden spoon, stir in the sunflower seeds.  This will help keep the seeds whole instead of being broken up by the dough hook.  Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for one hour.

Punch down and turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes.  Because the dough is sticky, I ended up adding about 1/4 cup of flour to the dough through the kneading process, just to keep it from sticking to the counter and my hands.  At the end of the kneading, form the dough into a ball.  Lightly oil the mixing bowl and return the dough to the bowl then lightly oil the top of the dough.  Cover and let rise for 45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and divide into two equal parts and form into loaves.  Place into greased 9 x 5 loaf pans.  Cover and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375F and after the last rise bake the loaves for about 30 minutes or until the are golden brown.  Remove from oven and let rest in the pans for 5 minutes before turning them out to cool on a rack.

Store baked bread in a paper bag to keep the crust crisp.

path to the bay

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