Tag Archives: recipes

strawberry-olive oil muffins recipe

By the time I remembered to go strawberry picking in 2012, it was almost too late. We spent two hours scouring a picked-over field to collect a basket of microscopic berries. This year, I vowed, I would go early. We did, and it was so worth it.

Xavier picking berries

Xavier picking berries

There were so many ripe red strawberries in that field! You can see them in the photo. Our challenge this year wasn’t finding enough berries to fill a bucket. It was stopping! After we’d picked enough, we had to walk back through the rows towards the farm stand. It was literally impossible not to pause, lean over, and pluck a perfect ripe berry.


Strawberries in various stages

We managed to stop after each of us had filled much of a large bucket.


Buckets of strawberries

photo 4

Fifteen pounds of strawberries

We picked about fifteen pounds total, and that left me with a dilemma: what to do with three people and fifteen pounds of fruit?

Well, quite a few were eaten plain. The rest were rinsed, hulled, and put to good use.

cleaned strawberries

There was a strawberry tart (with chocolate ganache and creme patisserie). There was jam. And then there were muffins.

You may remember from my last post that 37 Cooks is doing a challenge with Sciabica Oil of the Olive this month: I wrote about the awesome hash browns that I made with their jalapeno oil. Well, flavored oils aren’t all that this company makes. They have some awesome seasonal varietals of “plain” olive oils – and I use quotations because their oil is anything but plain. Although their fall-harvest selections were intriguing and promised bold flavors, I chose their buttery spring variety because… well, it’s spring right now. Since strawberries are almost the official fruit of spring, and the oil is mild, I thought it would be perfect to bake with these two ingredients. And what’s better than muffins?

The olive oil really adds an incredible flavor to these, so I’d recommend using it if you can. I made a batch on Sunday. They were delicious and gone almost immediately – a rarity in my household, because we’re usually very slow to eat baked goods. I made another batch on Monday using canola oil in place of the olive. Big mistake. The difference in taste is obvious and disappointing.

Strawberry-Olive Oil Muffins

Strawberry-Olive Oil Muffins

Strawberry-Olive Oil Muffins

8 ounces flour
4 ounces sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 ounces Sciabica Mission Spring Harvest olive oil
2 large eggs
8 ounces milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup strawberries, chopped
Small handful coarse sugar (such as Turbinado), to taste (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk together the olive oil, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and whisk until just barely moistened. Stir in the strawberries. Dollop the batter into a greased muffin tin. If you’re using coarse sugar, sprinkle it on now. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

popcorn, and an ode to my puppy on her birthday

Riley, as captured by the talented Marisa Rebecca

Riley, as captured by the talented Marisa Rebecca

For the last five years, I have shared my home with a West Highland White Terrier named Riley. I would say I’m her owner, but in all honesty, she owns me.

Riley weighs about sixteen pounds. She has white fur (unless she’s been rolling in garbage or dead animals), a black nose, and bright eyes. She’s a small dog to begin with, but when she curls into a ball, she becomes impossibly and adorably tiny.

For the first few weeks of our relationship, Riley was a four-pound puppy.

Adorable sleeping Westie

Adorable sleeping Westie

Things were awkward between us from the start. When I met her, she was sleeping in a pile of urine-soaked shredded newspaper with a bunch of other puppies. That night, I brought her to sleep in my warm and soft bed, which was not soaked in urine.

Yes, my floor used to look like this. Don't judge.

Yes, my floor used to look like this. Don’t judge.

Riley would have none of it. After I fell asleep, she tumbled out of the bed – three feet high, no less than ten times her height – and nested in a pile of textbooks and not-yet-laundered clothing. Within the coming weeks, she would use her needlelike puppy teeth to shred all of those things. And for all of her distaste for sleeping in my bed, she developed a fondness for burrowing into the space underneath the bed. She lay on her back and clawed viciously at my box spring until she’d cleared an opening. Then she burrowed into the mattress, bringing with her all of the scavenged underwear she could carry. I couldn’t reach her under there. Many sleepless nights passed with me tossing and turning as I vibrated with the scratching and clawing of my little puppy destroying my bed from the inside.

Needless to say, it took approximately one year for me to love her. In that year, almost all of my belongings were chewed to pieces. Although Riley was crated when I couldn’t keep an eye on her, she managed to act like a ninja in plain sight. The destruction didn’t sit well with me. I contemplated opening my front door and letting her run away. I contemplated no-kill shelters. I contemplated finding her another happy home on Craigslist. But then I’d melt looking at her little face and change my mind.

We’re friends now. I adore her. She’s the best little four-legged furry thing to come into my life. And although she’s not allowed in the bed, she loves to cuddle on the couch.

Riley and I having a Lion King moment

Riley and I having a Lion King moment

She’s still a little crazy, and a little murderous. She can’t help it. Her breed was originally used as “ratters,” or rather, dogs who viciously murder rodents. She barks at every squirrel and chipmunk. When we had mice in our old Philadelphia apartment, she faithfully slaughtered them whenever possible. But underneath the homicidal maniac is a little sweetheart who would do anything for you to play fetch with her tennis ball, or toss over a handful of popcorn. She loves popcorn.

Fortunately for Riley, so do her humans. When she hears popping, she runs to the stove and will faithfully follow her person from cabinet to couch. Then she sits expectantly and patiently, completely alert, just waiting for a kernel to come flying. Her lightning-fast reflexes know it’s coming before she does. She snatches popcorn from seemingly thin air, crunches it with glee, and then leans back to wait for the next one. She’s adorable, and it’s fun to watch her catch popcorn, so the next one always comes.

RIley gettin' some lovin'

RIley gettin’ some lovin’

If you’ve only made popcorn from microwave bags, I’d recommend you branch out and try stovetop. It’s healthier – no unknown chemicals – and even more delicious. And perhaps you could try feeding it to your dog (in small quantities, of course). She might love it just as much as Riley does.

Recipe: Popcorn for Riley
2 tablespoons of oil with high smoke point (canola, coconut, peanut, grapeseed, etc)
1/2 cup whole popcorn, plus three separate kernels

In a large pot with tight-fitting lid, heat the oil over medium-high. Place three unpopped kernels inside and close the lid. Listen carefully until you hear three pops. Then add the rest of the popcorn. Replace the lid, give the pot a good shake to coat the kernels in oil, and step back.

Soon, you should hear some serious popping. Feel free to shake the pot occasionally; it helps unpopped kernels fall down and get popped.

When the popping starts to slow, turn off the heat. Move the pot off the burner and wait for the popping to stop.

Pour into a big bowl and enjoy. Remember to toss a few kernels to your pup!

Serves two humans, or one popcorn lover and their canine companion.
Recipe: Truffled Parmesan Popcorn for the Humans
2 tablespoons oil (canola, coconut, peanut, grapeseed, etc)
1/2 cup whole popcorn, plus three separate kernels
2 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated fine (ideal is zested on Microplane)
2 tsp truffle salt
1 tsp black pepper

Follow instructions above to make Popcorn for Riley: add oil and three kernels to pot on medium high. When kernels pop, add the rest of popcorn and shake occasionally.

After all the popping has stopped, open the lid and melted butter, Parmesan, truffle salt, and black pepper.
Close it and toss vigorously.

Enjoy with a fine film and a canine companion at your side.

shrimp and grits with smoked sausage recipe

This photo makes me hungry…

Now, y’all know that I live in Atlanta. I’m still a Northerner at heart – you’d be hard-pressed to find a Southerner who loves hockey as much as me. But after more than two years here, I’ve adapted quite well to my new home. Let’s just say I recently attended a country concert in cowboy boots, and it felt completely natural.

One thing that the South is known for is a down-home dish called shrimp and grits. You can find it on the brunch menu of many restaurants down here. I’m not the biggest fan of grits, as a rule, but shrimp are one of my favorite things. And for some reason, when I was out to brunch a few weeks ago, shrimp and grits kept calling to me from the menu. Its voice was louder than that of the crabcake benedict, so I acquiesced. Man, was it good. The shrimp were perfectly tender and flavorful, but the grits almost stole the show. Studded with bacon and cheddar cheese, they were so much more than a foundation for seafood.

When I came across some yummy Georgia shrimp at the butcher shop, the idea to make my own shrimp and grits popped into my head. But instead of bacon, I wanted to use sausage. Some of y’all (yeah, I said y’all! This is a Southern post, after all) know about 37 Cooks, a fun group I was lucky enough to join a few months ago. Well, that group was recently sponsored by Teet’s Food Store down in Louisiana. They sent us a whole bunch of delicious sausage. My family has enjoyed it so much that was a no-brainer to incorporate that. And while many recipes call for cheddar cheese in the grits and green onions on the shrimp, I used Emmenthaler and chives. It worked so well that I just have to recommend that combination.

Grits are incredibly fast and easy to prepare, and so are shrimp. Be sure to cook them quickly over high heat; that’ll keep them tender. This brunch comes together so fast that you’ll want to have the mise en place set up before you even turn on the stove.

Shrimp and Grits with Smoked Sausage
serves two
1/2 cup grits
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup Emmenthaler cheese, shredded
4 ounces smoked pork sausage, sliced into coins (Teet’s is very good)
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about eight big ones)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 small clove of garlic, minced fine
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
Salt to taste
In a small saucepan, prepare 1/2 cup of grits as directed on package.
Meanwhile, in a small saute pan over medium heat, cook sausage slices until crisp and fat has rendered. Remove and reserve, keeping as much fat as possible in the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp. Be careful to cook until just done – a couple of minutes per side until they curl and are opaque. When the shrimp are finished, add all at once the parsley, chives, garlic, lemon juice, and salt to taste. Stir a couple of times to coat the shrimp, then take the pan off the heat.
When the grits are finished, stir in the butter, cheese, and sausage.
Serve by plating the grits and arranging shrimp on top.

pancake bread pudding

pancake bread pudding

For whatever reason, over the years, I’ve never abided by the taboo about only eating eggs, bacon, or cereal for breakfast. I wake up starving, and if there’s curry in the fridge, I’d much rather grab that then make an omelet. During the week, I sleep until the last possible second and usually wind up eating last night’s leftovers for breakfast. It gives my coworkers great pleasure to tease me about our office smelling like stuffed peppers at 8:30am.

On the weekends, there’s time to eat and prepare a real breakfast – or brunch. But weekends are also when there’s time to polish off random leftovers that have accumulated in the fridge over the week. That’s when things can get creative. Thrifty chefs will often advise you to repurpose those tidbits into a frittata or hash. That can result in an unexpectedly delicious brunch, sweetened by the success of transforming leftovers into a wonderful, good-as-new meal.

But what happens when you don’t have meats and veggies to fold into your eggs? What should you do when your only leftovers are a giant Tupperware full of past-their-prime pancakes?

When faced with that challenge recently, I didn’t want to serve leftover pancakes. As delicious as they’d been on their day of birth, I knew that a trip down Reheat Lane would only dry them out. They’d be picked at, not eaten.

Then it hit me. When you have an old, stale loaf of bread, what’s the best way to deal with it? Bread pudding. Why couldn’t I do the same thing with these pancakes?

If you follow the recipe below, you will remove from your oven a delicious treat. Whoever finds it on their plate will eat happily. You can, however, jazz it up with just a little creativity. Check out my ideas below. Oh yeah, one last thing – use a shallow, wide baking dish if you’ve got one; you’ll love the contrast between the pudding’s crunchy top and creamy interior.

Recipe: Pancake Bread Pudding
6 cups leftover pancakes, torn into chunks
1 1/2 cups half and half (substitute milk if you don’t have it)
3 eggs
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325F. Butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish (I used an 8″ round one).

In a large bowl, beat half and half, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Add pancake chunks and allow to soak in mixture for about ten minutes.

Pour pancake mix into baking dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until set and browned on top.

Spoon onto individual plates and serve with maple syrup.

Creative options:
– Make maple syrup whipped cream by mixing a few tablespoons of maple syrup with a cup of heavy cream. Beat until firm, and serve with the pudding.
– Fold a few tablespoons of maple syrup into creme fraiche and serve alongside.
– Add crumbled cooked bacon or sausage to the pancakes after the soaking time and before baking.
– Top pudding with crumbled bacon or sausage before baking.
– Bake in ramekins or individual serving dishes (just decrease the baking time by 10-20 minutes). Add a raw egg to the top about 5 minutes before finished. Bake until whites are set.
– Mix in chocolate chips, bananas, strawberries, blueberries: anything you like on your pancakes!
– Substitute or supplement smoky ancho chile powder for cinnamon and top with chocolate sauce for a Mexican chocolate-inspired breakfast.

Any more ideas? Please feel free to share.

the coconut-chicken curry recipe

Comfort food used to be your mom’s mashed potatoes, chicken soup with noodles, or maybe even macaroni and cheese from a box. It’s something traditional, familiar. It’s effortless – perhaps brought to you on the couch while you’re sick. Prepare to reboot all of your expections, because once you try this coconut-chicken curry, you will forever turn to it in times of need. Times when you need dinner ready in half an hour. Times when you need to impress a date. And of course, times when you need to indulge in something creamy and delicious that comes together fast.
This dish was inspired by traditional Sri Lankan chicken curry. We take it to the next level by making it creamy instead of dry, because extra curry sauce is a gift from the kitchen gods. You’ll start with a whole onion, sliced thin and sauteed into smoky sweet ribbons. Then you’ll add a burst of flavor in the form of aromatic ginger and garlic, coupled with garam masala, turmeric, and cayenne enough to tingle but not burn. A kaffir lime leaf, if you have one, is a great tidbit to throw into the skillet. Sliced chicken will brown in the spice mixture before simmering until cooked through. At the end, coconut milk brings everything together. The richness is tempered a bit by the addition of tomatoes, which soften enough to release their juices.
Some enjoy the dish as is, almost like a soup, but it’s also wonderful served with steamed jasmine rice.
The Coconut-Chicken Curry
Serves 2-4, depending on appetite
1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee
2 onions, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1-inch piece of ginger, minced or grated
1 tbsp garam masala
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne
1 kaffir lime leaf (optional)
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
1 cup water
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 tomatoes, quartered with seeds removed
2 tsp salt, or to taste
In a large skillet preheated over medium-high heat, sauté onion in vegetable oil or ghee. Stir frequently until brown and . Add garlic, ginger, spices, and kaffir lime leaf, stirring constantly until aromatic – thirty seconds, minimum. Add chicken and stir to blend. When the chicken pieces are beginning to brown, add one cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then turn the heat down to low and simmer until chicken is cooked through – no more than five minutes.
Add coconut milk, tomatoes, and salt. Simmer for about five more minutes. The texture will be that of a rich broth, studded with chicken and laced through with caramelized onions.
Salt to taste. Serve with white rice, if desired.