Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

Pea Tendrils: Regular Peas’ Sexy Mom

Saturday, August 27th, 2011

There are a lot of bloggers out there waxing poetic about their local farmers markets. And you know what? They are right. Your local farmers market is magic and supports your local growers and smaller businesses. Yes, yes, local is good and important. But rather than wasting time on an issue that countless others have written about far better than I could, let’s take a different spin and focus on the yummy.

There are several farmers markets in my area, but the one I frequent the most is right on the campus of my workplace. They have a rotating list of vendors, but when Flats Mentor Farm is there, I always make it a priority to stop by their stall. Not only do they have a wonderful mission (you can read about them at their website) but they have a really wonderful variety of produce. Yes, they have the regular seasonal stuff, but they also grow and sell things that other stands don’t. I’m talking about things like squash flowers, pumpkin vines, and the ultimate in yummy-osity: pea tendrils.

Oh baby… Seriously, check out how sexy these little babies are:

pea sprigs

And yes, they are exactly what you think they are, tendrils and newer growth from the pea plant. Usually they are only available in the early spring, but Flats Mentor Farm has them quite regulatory throughout the market’s season. My guess is that they grow them in a green house. Regardless, I am so very glad they have them because they are now one of my favorite veggies.

Pea tendrils are very easy to cook and require very little to really bring out their sweetness. Imagine if you will a tender green that tastes like a pea only with a slight bitterness you can sometimes find in leafy greens. I know this is a terrible way to describe it, but they taste very green and fresh.

Pea tendrils can be eaten raw (like in a salad or sandwich) but I prefer to saute them with a bunch of chopped garlic. In fact, this is how you can sometimes find them at Chinese restaurants. But seriously, keep an eye out for these. You’ll thank me. And if not, well…there’s always tater-tots. Everyone likes tater-tots, right?

Super Easy Soup

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

I cook a lot on the weekends. It helps me prepare the for the upcoming week so that I won’t default to take-out when I find myself short on time (which is more often than I’d like to admit). Another thing I tend to do, is buy in bulk. I can get really weak on my trips to Costco and it isn’t uncommon that I find myself with a 5lb bag of spinach and a great need for some creativity.

One solution that I came up with recently was a very simple spinach soup. I really wanted to keep things low fat and still preserve the color of the spinach. Here’s what I came up with:

Spinach Soup

Spinach Soup

1 bag of baby or regular spinach (or half of one of those Costco bags)
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
2-3 cups good broth, either chicken or veggie

Saute onion in olive oil until just starts to brown, add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add spinach to pan and let wilt. Add broth and cook down until spinach is soft but still green. Blend in blender or with immersion blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with grated cheese.

Walnut Tea Loaf

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

From time to time I am taking over by a baking madness. I will dig through all my cookbooks, search the web like a maniac, and totally trash the kitchen just because I want my kitchen to be all warm and toasty and smell like butter and flour.

When this madness comes over me, I will often just make something easy like a beer bread because I already have most of those ingredients in my house. But what happens on a Sunday after a rather festive Saturday and poor me has come to the horrifying realization that there is NO BEER IN THE HOUSE?! A very rare occasion in my household, but it has been known to happen. I blame The Boy.

Thankfully, I was able to find this recipe for Walnut Tea Loaf.

Walnut Bread

The recipe itself is in metrics, but it is easy enough to follow if you have a scale and a good liquid measuring cup. I did replace the golden syrup with agave nectar because I couldn’t find anything else in my kitchen and used natural brown demerara sugar to make the top look pretty and sparkly. The bread itself was on the dense side, a bit chewy (in a good way), and really satisfying.

Yummy on its own, I like my Walnut Loaf toasted and then drenched in butter and honey or marmalade. Nom!

Pizza Success!

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

After barely surviving the holidays and a rather nasty sinus infection, I had decided that it was time to return to my blog with something I am rather successful at.  Yes, I know that reading about my shameful candy corn disaster is certainly entertaining, but did we learn anything from it?  Well, other than hot sugar plus Smalerie’s sensitive baby skin makes her a very sad panda?

So here it is, something that is very easy and that I should more often but I don’t: pizza.  Really, I have a strong belief that everyone should know how to make their own pizza on occasion because it is really inexpensive and the results are really rewarding.

I don’t use a recipe really, but I am more than happy to share a few tips that I have learned from my mother and NaNa when it comes to making something tasty and extremely comforting.

Pizza corner

Tip #1: Use real dough.  While I’m not demanding that you make your own dough, I am saying that the stuff you can get refrigerated at the supermarket is a pretty good bang for your buck.  Best of all, it freezes really well.  Just remember to let it rise before using it.  This means finding a nice warm place to let it get all puffy so that you can squish it down again before making your pizza.

Tip #2:  Making your own sauce can be really quick and easy.  I’m sure this doesn’t surprise you, but as a 3rd generation Italian-American, I can be very leery of jarred or canned sauces.  I’d rather just get some plain stuff and add my own garlic, oregano, and such.  Though, I will admit to using the pre-made stuff in a pinch, when my pockets are a bit more bare than usual, I will scour the “must-go” produce section for tomatoes.  It can feel really great to leave the market with a bunch of plum or heirloom tomatoes for $1.  Also, fresh sauce on your pizza makes a HUGE difference.

Tip #3: I apply grated Parmesan to the pizza before I add the mozzarella.  Thanks for the tip NaNa!

Tip #4: I sometimes splurge for fresh mozzarella at Costco.  I prefer the milky taste it has and the way it browns.  If you’ve never tried this before, you should try treating yourself.  It’s so so so good!

Tip #5:  Cook your pizza it a hot oven.  Think 400 to 450 degrees hot.  This helps make things nice and crunchy.  There is nothing more satisfying than a slice of pizza that is so crispy it will stand up on it’s own when you lift it off the pan.

And in case this quick blog didn’t interest or entice you, let me show you this:


That’s right, extreme close-up food porn of my porcini mushroom pizza.  Oh baby!

Ginger Limeade

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Ginger Limeade

Okay, okay, I admit to getting a little carried away with my phone app on this one, but at the time I took this picture, it just felt so right. I was home alone on a sweltering day and wasn’t feeling too hot. I had a whole bunch of limes left over from a party and a huge piece of ginger I had picked up at an Asian market. I wanted something cold, sweet, and with a bit of a kick to it. Answer: ginger limeade.

Making this delightful nectar is extremely easy. First you need to make a simple syrup which is nothing more than water and sugar. Add one part sugar to one part water in a pot on the stove and slowly bring it to a boil until all the sugar dissolves. However, instead of stopping here, I added slices of peeled ginger to the mix. Since I like things nice and strong, I added all the ginger I had (a piece about the size of my hand). Once everything was boiled to my liking, I let the mixture cool before straining it into a bottle.

To make the limeade itself, you might need to practice a bit before you find the combination that best suits your taste. Start by squeezing two limes into a glass filled with ice. Next add the syrup. For a more tart drink, I only use about an ounce (think of a shot glass for reference). For friends, I will often be a bit more heavy handed with the syrup. Lastly, fill the rest of the glass with water (still or carbonated) and either use a shaker or stir to combine.

I think all in all I drank 3 of these that day. That picture you see up there is of my second one because the first one didn’t even make it out of the kitchen!

A Little Lunch Luxury

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Sometimes when work is throwing me for a loop and I want to spend my lunch hours hiding from the world, I will use my bento as a way of a little pick-me-up. I’ll pack something extra special and it makes me remember that small moments and treats can have a really large effect.

And so I present, Shrimp Cocktail Bento…complete with the semi-homemade (with recipe posted at the end) cocktail sauce. Trust me, it’s hard not to feel awesome about your lunch when everyone else in the lunch room is eating boring sandwiches and brown/red smoosh in Gladware containers. You can start to feel the sophistication oozing out of your pores and creating an aura of kick-ass all around you.


shrimp and cocktail sauce
sauteed spinach with garlic
wasabi peas
chickpeas with parsley, olive oil, and vinegar
raspberry gummies

Homemade cocktail sauce:
horseradish to taste (I like mine pretty spicy)
squeeze of lemon juice
hot sauce to taste

Pig Skin

Sunday, May 9th, 2010

I wish there were a prettier way of saying this, but this post is about pig skin, and no I’m not talking about football.

Growing up in an Italian-American household, this meant that we had a lot of pasta dinners and the sauce of choice was tomato. My mother would cook her sauce for hours, slowly working out the acidity of the tomatoes without adding onions or sugar. Then towards the end, she would add her pan fried homemade meatballs, sausage made by my grandfather at his shop, and rolls of pig skin.

Pig Skin

I know that this might sound horrible to some people, but I can’t explain how delicious this can be. And since pig skin can be kinda hard to find these days, I got really excited when my mother told me that she had some that she didn’t want.

The preparation is simple. Cut the skin into large rectangles so they can be rolled up nicely. Then just chop up some parsley, garlic, and add some good Parmesan cheese. Since I’m lazy, I like to do this in my food processor. Spread this mixture onto the rough side of the skin and roll the whole thing up. Tie the roll together so it won’t come apart later when you cook it. Lastly, quickly pan fry the whole roll quickly before adding it to the sauce. At this point, it will need to cook a long time. We are talking hours here, and as it cooks it will plump up and shrink. Once the roll is soft and kinda translucent, it should be done. Cut it into little wheels and serve with pasta and sauce.

Word to the wise though, eat these little guys while they are HOT, otherwise they can get kinda sticky and unappealing. Otherwise, they are pretty incredible. The skin soaks up all the flavor from the sauce, garlic, parsley, and cheese to make a really rich treat. If you are a more adventurous kinda eater, it is definitely worth trying.

Roasting Peppers

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

Almost anyone who enjoys cooking and considers themselves a “foodie” will tell you that while taking the right shortcuts in the kitchen is not only encouraged but can be necessary due to space and time constraints, there are some things that are just not the same unless you make your own.  I would argue that roasted peppers are one of those things.  This might be because I like my peppers softer than the ones you find in the jars, but regardless, these are so easy to make that I can very rarely come up with an excuse not to do the roasting myself.

There are several methods you can use when roasting your peppers, but the overall principal remains the same. Roast the pepper until the skin turns black and can be peeled away. That’s pretty much it. I’ve roasted peppers on my bbq grill, in my toaster oven, in my conventional oven, and even directly on the burners themselves. (You can blame my mother for that one. She once told me a story where she said she and my grandmother used to roast peppers over the gas burner like marshmallows when she was a kid.)


During these colder months, the broiler can be your best friend. Wash and clean your bell peppers. I would I suggest using any color other than green. In fact, you can mix colors for a prettier presentation if you are so inclined. Place the whole pepper under the broiler and watch it as the skin starts to bubble up and turn black. Once it is black on one side, rotate the peppers until they are black all around.

Once the peppers are roasted to your liking, you can either try to peel it while it is still warm, or wait for them to cool. I personally like to wrap the peppers in some foil until they are cool enough to touch but still warm. Then, when I go to peel them and remove the core, all I need to do is pull on the stem and pretty much everything comes out of the middle. You might need to scrap the pepper a little with a knife to remove any stray seeds or patches of skin. Lastly, dress the peppers with some thinly sliced garlic, olive oil, and some salt before serving.


I prefer to slice my peppers into strips and eat them either in sandwiches or just with some great crusty bread. I always serve roasted peppers with antipasto and will sometimes add them to my bentos. But as I said in the beginning, using great fresh peppers to make your own are so much better than those you find in a jar.

Icebox Cake

Friday, December 18th, 2009

So, it’s not a bento, but at least it’s something right? I’m not really sure what happened but I haven’t had the time to spend on my blog as maybe I should. So before I even start thinking about New Year’s Resolutions and all that crap, I am instead going to focus on updating this poor blog a few time before the new year even arrives.

Here is a picture of what my mother called an Icebox Cake. She used to make this every now and then when I was a kid for dessert. The trick to making this “cake” is to put it together hours before you are going to eat it so that the pudding has time to soak into the graham crackers and make the whole thing soft and gooey. The only real effort this recipe requires is choosing what flavor of pudding to use. In my version, we used Devil’s Food chocolate pudding.

Icebox Cake

Ice Box Cake (serves 2-4)

One package instant pudding and amount of milk required to make it
one package graham crackers (each box has about 2 packages inside)

Prepare pudding according to the directions on the box. Once pudding has set, spread pudding thickly over two graham crackers and place in a dish. Add two more graham crackers on top and continue to layer until you have about 5 levels or so. The top layer should be pudding so that you can crush up an extra graham cracker as the pretty topping. Place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours before serving.

Mind you, this recipe is as simple as they come, so feel free to get creative by adding extras like whipped cream, jam, or even Heath Bar pieces to it. Just remember that if you want anything to remain crunchy, it should be added right before eating.

Pumpkin, 2 ways

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

Pumpkin All Around

This weekend my friends and I hold another one of our Iron Chef battles. Well, perhaps “battle” isn’t the best word to use here. Really they are more like themed ingredient potlucks. Each time we try to challenge ourselves with an ingredient that is going to be a stretch for us without it being something that (in the end) we realize we had no desire to eat that stuff with or without the wacky fun of the event. Trust me, we learned this the hard way with the Spam night that most of us went home hungry or nauseous from.

The ingredient this weekend was squash, any kind you like. Since I was chomping at the bit to give my KitchenAid a go, my contributions were both a pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin spice martini’s.

The cheesecake was made using a Paula Deen recipe from the Food Network website. It was one of the easiest ones I could find, and since I was new to making cheesecake, I didn’t want to push myself over the cream cheese covered cliff.

The “Pumpkin-tinis” were really like drinking candy. So unless you like things like Appletinis and booze that doesn’t take like booze, you best steer clear. But, if you are one of those people who has been wondering why you can’t find more drinks that are the color of traffic cones, then this stuff is for you.