Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Patience. The key ingredient to making ketchup is patience. Other than that, it is a breeze to make. The recipe can be found in Curtis Stone's book What's for Dinner, or here.  You may note that the recipe is part of a meat loaf and mashed potatoes meal, but with the temperatures hitting triple digits, I'm not about to turn on the oven or make a heavy meal. We'll just have to use the ketchup on grilled hamburgers or hot dogs. 

Frankly, I was a bit skeptical about the value of making home-made ketchup. Perfectly fine brands of ketchup are available for purchase at reasonable prices, so is it worth it to make your own?   
At first, I was doubtful, but a quick glance at the ingredient list convinced me that if I didn't like the result as ketchup, it would make a terrific base for barbecue sauce, so I had nothing to lose. 

The main ingredient is fresh tomatoes. They are cut into quarters and pureed in a blender. No need to peel or seed them. Saute minced onions, mix in the readily available ingredients, bring to a boil, then simmer.  Next, the waiting. Except for the occasional stirring, you wait...and wait...and wait. 

The only deviation I made from the instructions was to use an immersion mixer at the end to get a smoother texture. 

The finished result is very tasty, but I won't be using it in place of ketchup. Maybe I'm a creature of habit and too used to Heinz. As I mentioned before, it seemed like a good base for a great barbecue sauce and it would be a wonderful sauce for the meatloaf. As a ketchup, it was too sweet for my tastes and it might have benefited from even more simmering to thicken it up a bit.  

It's potluck week over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. This means that member bloggers will be posting their tasty recipes from Curtis Stone and other chefs featured at IHCC. Check it out. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Grilled Ginger-Sesame Chicken Salad

Aaaaaaah, Summer. How I love you. Endless lazy days with time to plan and cook those meals that somehow rarely get made during the busy school year. On today's menu is Curtis Stone's Grilled Ginger-Sesame Chicken Salad from What's for Dinner by Curtis Stone. If you don't have the book, you can use this link from a 2013 Redbook magazine article that calls Mr. Stone "gratuitously handsome."  Hmm, not even sure what that means.

The article did describe this recipe as "no-hassle".  I might have said "a little hassle," but I would also describe this as a perfect summer dish; lots of fresh veggies and no oven required. While the chicken marinated, I chopped the veggies. I grilled the chicken on the gas grill outdoors, so no heating up the house.  It had been a while since I had grilled outside. I forgot to oil the grate and regretted it when I had trouble turning the chicken. Even though I had preheated the grill and let the chicken cook undisturbed 4 minutes, it still stuck. Oh well. You cut the chicken into 1/4" slices for the salad so it didn't look bad.

The salad has wonderful flavor and crunch.  And more importantly, it was a hit with the family. Everyone enjoyed it, even the youngest who rarely eats vegetable, especially in a salad. 
 Summer means salads and Tides baseball
I'll be sharing this post with all the other avid cooks at I Heart Cooking Clubs. The theme this week? Grilling on the barbie. Head over to their web site to check out other tasty recipes. 

I haven't posted in quite a while. I didn't think my hiatus would be that long. I figured I wouldn't post over the Passover holiday, but then I was busy with my older daughter's college graduation, job negotiation and other life events. I'm looking forward to rejoining IHCC.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Snow Peas with Toasted Sesame Seeds

I Heart Cooking Clubs is featuring a new chef. After a fond farewell to Ellie Krieger, we are cooking from the recipes of Australian chef Curtis Stone. I didn't really know a lot about Mr. Stone, but after looking at his website Curtis Stone, I was intrigued. I don't own any of his books, but his web site is very generous....lots of recipes are available. 

It's been a couple of very busy weeks. I didn't think I would have time to post this week, but there are a lot of fresh, tasty and easy recipes available. I chose a side dish. The recipe is found here: Snow Peas with Toasted Sesame Seeds.  This is the second time I have ever cooked with snow peas. They are a new favorite of mine. I already had most of the ingredients on hand. All I needed to do was purchase the snow peas and shallots. The most time consuming part of the dish is stringing the snow peas. Otherwise, it comes together quickly as a stir-fry. 
I served this yummy dish with Jane Brody's Stovestop BBQ Chicken, one of our favorite chicken dinners. 
Go to IHCC to see all the other tasty ways other cooks are welcoming Curtis Stone to I Heart Cooking Clubs. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds

We lived in Jerusalem for 8 1/2 wonderful years. We ate really well from a wide variety of foods. And yet, we never ate many of the foods found in Jerusalem, the cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.  When this book first came out, I was very excited. Although I've had it for three years, this is the first time I have cooked from it.  Thanks to I Heart Cooking Clubs for that.  Without the incentive of joining my fellow cooking bloggers, I would probably have enjoyed reading this book without ever actually making any of the dishes.

I chose to make a salad of baby spinach with dates and almonds. Looking through the list of ingredients, it wouldn't have occurred to me that these flavors would work together. The featured spice is sumac. Sumac? What's that? Apparently, it's a Middle Eastern spice that I never used before and is not commonly found in American grocery stores.  I did a quick internet search while standing in the spice aisle to find a suitable substitute. As sumac is often described as lemony and tart, some suggest using lemon zest, others suggest lemon zest with salt, or oregano or just using za'atar alone. I am sure these are all great suggestions, but in the end I remembered that I pass a Mediterranean deli on my way home from work. Problem solved. They had two kinds of sumac, Turkish and Lebanese. I chose the Lebanese. It has a tangy kick to it and it adds a deep red color to your food.

The recipe can be found in the book, Jerusalem, or here. You marinate dates and onions, sauté almonds and pita, and mix it all with baby spinach and other spices. I like that you use a variety of techniques and seasonings to end up with a beautiful salad layered with sweet and tart flavors.
We really enjoyed this salad. My spouse declared it tasty in a strange way, which I believe he meant as a complement. Both of us did finish the whole salad between us and it was only part of the whole dinner.

This week is potluck week at IHCC, so if you head over to here, you will find a wonderful variety of recipes by great chefs.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Aromatic Noodles with Lime-Peanut Sauce

In honor of St. Paddy's Day, it's Green Eating week at I Heart Cooking Clubs.  For this Irish holiday, I chose a dish featuring Asian flavors. Lots of green veggies and pasta are flavored with peanut sauce.  Originally, I was going to make this dish in February for our pasta themed week, but the snow peas and sugar snaps looked rather sad. 
So I waited. One month later, the veggies are green and crisp.  Ellie describes the vegetables as a "refreshing yin to the yang of the rich, spicy peanut sauce." Very true.
I've made many versions of peanut noodles, but this version is really good. The use of natural peanut butter and roasted peanuts give the sauce a deep, nutty flavor that is not too sweet. The addition of veggies make this a meal in a bowl.
The recipe can be found in The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger or on the Food Network website.  You can also find more green eating at IHCC.  

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Roast Chicken with Cumin, Honey and Orange

The first time I made whole roast chicken I made one chicken for four adults and two little children. I watched nervously as we cut the chicken and worried there would not be enough chicken to go around. Luckily, we had enough. I suppose having grown up eating chicken every week that I figured a chicken would be similar to turkey; endless amounts of meat with lots left over...or maybe chickens were just larger in the sixties.  Lesson learned.

I've probably roasted more whole chickens over the years, but not that many. I prefer chicken cut up into pieces; it's easier to cook and to keep track of how much I really have. However, a Mark Bittman recipe popped up on my Facebook page and it looked too delicious to resist. It features citrus and cumin. I was cooking for two this weekend so having enough was not a problem. I had all the ingredients at home.  And it's potluck week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, so I guess this was meant to be.

The very easy recipe can be found here.  Because I am trying to use up items that have been sitting in my pantry, I used some old honey that was halfway crystallized. I was worried that it would burn, but it turned out fine.

The chicken comes out moist, but as Bittman points out, this is not because of frequent basting. The basting adds flavor. Keeping an eye on the chicken and turning it every ten minutes, keeps it moist. The chicken was really good. Although next time, I may make it using chicken pieces instead of whole chicken.

Go to IHCC to discover a variety of other wonderful recipes this week.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Beef and Mushroom Barley Soup or Stew

We've been having a warmer than usual winter here in southeastern Virginia.  There have been patches of cold here and there, but the temperature is near the 70 degree mark this weekend.  Not exactly perfect weather for enjoying a hearty bowl of stew, but it is Bowled Over! week at I Heart Cooking Clubs and because I haven't made stew in over a year, I figured it was as good a time as any.

Ellie Krieger's recipe is really a soup, but I used about half the liquid and made it more of a stew. It was tasty, filling and very easy to make.  You brown the beef, chop up and sauté a lot of veggies, pour in the liquids, spice and barley. Let it cook on the stove top and voila.

I used Trader Joe's 10 Minute Barley. Apparently, our local branch doesn't carry regular barley. No matter. I put it in 15 minutes before the stew was finished (instead of 50 minutes) and it came out fine. 
The recipe can be found in The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger. I couldn't find the recipe on-line although this one from foodnetwork.com is similar. Other warming, delicious options for soup/stew/chili can be found here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Asian Noodle Bowl with Peanut Dressing

This is "Oodles of Noodles" week at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC) . This means any pasta, noodle or noodle-like dish.  As I looked through Ellie Krieger recipes both in The Food You Crave and www.elliekrieger.com  I thought the peanut noodles looked the tastiest and most likely to please. Peanut noodles are my favorite pasta dish and I've made many variations through the years, but I'm always game to try a new recipe for the dish.  Clearly, the dish appealed to some of my fellow cooks at IHCC, because there are already two postings for this same dish. 

Ellie Krieger has two recipes based on peanut noodles that are similar. I almost made the one found in The Food You Crave. It features broccoli, snow peas and sugar snaps. The problem is that February is a difficult month in which to find sugar snaps. This dish is probably wonderful, but better suited to late spring and summer cooking.

Asian Noodle Bowl with Peanut Dressing is better suited to year round cooking, at least in southern Virginia. As it turns out, I had all but three of the ingredients in my pantry already. The recipe can be found here. Although I only made two changes, it is a versatile recipe. The changes I made (regular pasta in place of whole wheat and crunchy, not creamy, peanut butter) were the result of what I already had on hand and could use up.

Basically, the recipe features many of my favorite flavors.
I added carrots, red pepper, snow peas and spring onion as written in the recipe. This recipe was a winner in my house. Usually, I don't add veggies or roasted peanuts to peanut noodles, but my  husband said they really added a nice crunch. The sauce on its own was a winner, too.
If you head over to IHCC this week, you'll find the other two variations, both of which look delicious.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sweet and Spicy Peanut Soup

You can always count on an Ellie Krieger recipe to be healthy. In fact, her cookbooks have the nutritional breakdown of each recipe which is a bonus. This is especially helpful when I have spent the morning celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of a friend and the feast after the services was just too tempting. My husband insists that calories consumed on the Shabbat, the Sabbath, don't count. I'll hedge my bets on that one.

So, after a morning of indulging, I went easy in the evening. I made Sweet and Spicy Soup, also known as Nutty Sweet Potato Soup.  The recipe can be found in The Food You Crave (p. 77) or here.  It's a lovely, filling, but mildly flavored soup. Maybe the ginger I added was beyond it's freshest and fullest flavor. Next time, I'll use fresher ginger.
I don't always add garnishes to soups, but I would recommend adding the scallions at the end. They added a lovely crunch and piquancy that enhanced the soup. 

This week is I Heart Cooking Clubs' monthly pot luck. Which means, if you go here, you will find a treasure of different recipes and blogs.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Roast Vegetable Salad

Our featured chef this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Jamie Oliver, a famous chef, cookbook author and food activist. That said, this is the first time I have made one of his recipes.  I chose roast vegetable salad.  Ten years ago, I learned that roasting or grilling any vegetable was a sure way to cooking success.  So what could go wrong with a roast salad, especially one that features tomatoes, peppers, red onion and garlic?  The dressing itself is a delicious mix of paprika, lemon and capers and will work with any number of vegetable dishes.
The prep is really simple. You don't even have to peel the onions. Sprinkle with a little olive oil and sea salt. (Lucky me, a friend had just sent me a gift of sea salt) You place the tray of veggies in the oven and roast them until they are blackened.
Once the veggies are ready, all that's left to do is add the dressing. As it turns out, I had mixed success. This was not because the recipe is bad; it is really good. It was because I had a surplus of baby bell peppers at home and no regular sized ones. The baby peppers blackened rather too thoroughly as it turns out. Once I scraped away the blackened parts there were only seeds and stems left...well, maybe there was a nibble or two left out of all the peppers. The garlic cloves were also mostly hardened. Obviously, next time I will pay more attention keeping every ingredient a uniform size and add the garlic cloves later.
The other change that I made was not to add any additional olive oil to the dressing. That worked out fine as there was enough oil left over from the roasting. Despite, my faux pas I will be making this again. It was full of bright flavor and a snap to make. 

I found this recipe at jamieoliver.com. It is a very generous site loaded with tempting recipes. I liked his rating system; Super Easy, Not Too Tricky and Showing Off. The roasted salad was rated Not Too Tricky.  Actually, if you pay attention to how you cut the veggies, it is really quite easy.

There are quite a few delicious-looking Jamie Oliver recipes at IHCC. Why don't you check them out?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Maple Glazed Walnuts

"It's In Your Hands" is this week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs (IHCC).  Any food that doesn't require a fork, spoon, chopstick or other implement is fair game.  Because it's the last day of my winter break and our girls are home, I've decided to go really easy this week. 

Maple Glazed Walnuts require only 3 ingredients, easily found if not already in your cupboard. My only hesitation was pouring maple syrup into an unoiled skillet. I was afraid it might be impossible to wash off.  Turns out that frequent stirring while cooking and quickly soaking the pan once you're finished cooking makes for easy cleaning.

The recipe can be found in The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger or here.  The walnuts are crunchy and sweet, but not too sweet. They are also addictive.
 To see other tasty hand-held treats look here.