Monday, December 22, 2008

And the Winner is....

Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing for this lovely crockpot cookbook. Sounds like there are quite a few crockpots out there getting some serious use. But a question - those of you that have 3-4 crockpots, are you using them all at the same time? I can barely use my one enough!

But onto the winner. Thanks to, the winner of this cookbook is:

Kits54, who sounds like she could use this book to help feed her family of 8! Her comment was:

As the Mother of 8, 2 vegetarians...I need all the help I can get. I use the crock pot lots, but need to use it even more.

Congratulations, Kits!
And thanks to all who entered!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another Cookbook Giveaway!

So yesterday dumped a nice little batch of wintry mix here on the East Coast. I think I've said it before, but I am not a huge fan of winter. I would much prefer my winter weather to be around the 60-degree mark.

But with that wintery weather comes a desire for warm and filling foods. This is also the time of year when people start digging out those crockpots and cooking hearty warm meals.


That's why this book is perfect. It's loaded with recipes for your crockpot, many of which sound quite tasty. It covers the full range, starting with appetizers and running straight through to desserts. There are plenty of whole grain and bean variations too, so vegetarians also have plenty of options of things to make.

Go ahead, leave me a comment saying you'd like to win this book by midnite on December 20th. I'll pick a winner at random on December 21st. Good Luck!!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Braid

So finals are finally done and thankfully, I'm back in the kitchen. Thanks for all of the birthday wishes last week. And now, the holiday crunch is on. I haven't started any of my Christmas shopping, so I really need to get on the ball.

But with the holiday crunch time comes plenty of holiday parties, which I think is the best part. And when having a party, there is nothing better than having some delicious foods to serve your guests. I think you can file this recipe under "Ace in the Hole" category, as it's super simple to make and throw in the oven, and with the exception of the mushrooms, you can have most ingredients on hand in your kitchen at all times.

The puff pastry did take 40 minutes to thaw, which is perfect time for doing the rest of the prep. The mushroom mixture is really just my 5-Minute Mushroom Sauce, so you know that part is easy. By the time the pastry is ready, the rest of the ingredients are assembled and ready to go. This could also be made in puff pastry shells, adding a small amount of goat cheese and mushroom to each cup. Talk about an elegant finger food!

I think you'll really like this one....

Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Braid

Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Puff Pastry Braid
Serves 6-8, appetizer size

2 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups mushrooms, chopped (I used a combination of crimini, shiitake, and oyster)
a pinch of salt
1 tsp butter
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 pkg puff pastry sheets
1 (3.5 oz) pkg goat cheese, sliced

Allow puff pastry to thaw at room temperature for 40 minutes. In the meantime, heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms and salt, cover, and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. Add butter, thyme, and balsamic vinegar, and cook for an additional minute or two. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 400. Unroll thawed pastry sheet and lightly roll to get rid of creases. On each side, cut 1" slits into the first crease mark. (Here's an excellent quick video to watch that explains it much better than I ever could.) On center of pastry, layer goat cheese slices down center. Spoon mushroom mixture on top of cheese, then braid pastry over filling. Place into preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until puffy and golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


Cranberry Cuppie I

Hey ya'll! I'll be taking off the rest of the week as I am celebrating my birthday today! Please enjoy this recipe for some lovely cranberry cupcakes with dulce de leche frosting that was posted for a blog anniversary awhile back.

Have a great rest of the week!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Thai Coconut Curry Stirfy

I absolutely love curry paste. The Vietnamese grocery store by my house sells cans of it for .75 ea, and I always pick up at least 2 every time I go, just in case. The combination of coconut milk and curry paste is one of my favorite tastes, and I wanted to create a stirfry with this delicious sauce. I also added some peanut butter and fresh lime juice for a little twist.

I made this with some very tasty baked tofu, but you could easily substitute chicken if you're a carnivore, or skip the protein all together. Regardless of what you do, I think you'll find this to be a tasty main dish!

Thai Coconut Curry Stirfry

Thai Coconut Curry Stirfry
Serves 4

1 (15 oz) can coconut milk
1/2 c vegetable broth
1 tbsp red curry paste
1/3 c creamy peanut butter
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp asian garlic chili sauce

2 tbsp sesame oil
1 red bell pepper, cut into slivers
1 c red onion, cut into slivers
1 (1/2 lb) box of baby bella mushrooms, chopped
1 pkg baked tofu, cut into pieces

Combine all sauce ingredients in a food processor and process until well combined. In a large wok, add 2 tbsp sesame oil. Add bell pepper and onion, and saute for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute for an additional 4-5 minutes, until all vegetables are starting to become tender. Add baked tofu and sauce ingredients, stirring well. Bring sauce to a boil, lower heat, then simmer for 3-4 minutes. Serve over rice and enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie and A Happy Thanksgiving

So before we get into the Holiday wishin' and the deliciousness of the pie I made for my family dinner, we have a winner to announce. The winner of the cookbook, picked with, is Lynn from the blog "Nutrition.Health.Life!" Congratulations! I hope you'll enjoy this cookbook!

Now onto the pie. Let me tell you - this pie is absolutely delicious. I'm not a huge pumpkin pie fan, but it's just one of those things that must be eaten on Thanksgiving. This year, I was commissioned with the making of the pie, so I thought I'd switch it up a bit and try a recipe that I saw in Bon Appetit. The spices in this pie are very tasty, and the addition of the lemon zest and juice add a certain "brightness" to it. Of course, the real fun comes in with the addition of the mascarpone cheese, which gives the pie a nice custardy feel. I definitely recommend giving this pie a try!

And before we get onto the recipe, I'd like to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving! I feel very blessed this year and am very thankful for the friends and family that I have. I'm also very thankful for my wonderful job and the role that I'm able to play, helping to keep kids safe. I hope that wherever you are and whoever you're with, that you enjoy the day and have a very lovely Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie

Pumpkin Mascarpone Pie
Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe

1 (15 oz) can pure pumpkin
1 c packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 (8 oz) container mascarpone cheese (or make your own)

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare a pie crust and transfer to a 9-inch glass pie dish. For filling, using an electric mixer, beat pumpkin and sugar together in a large bowl until well combined. Add eggs and next 8 ingredients. Beat until well blended. Add mascarpone cheese and beat just until mixture is smooth. Transfer filling to prepared pie crust. Bake until custard is set, about 55 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool. Enjoy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wanna Get a Jump on your Holiday Cooking??

Then win this cookbook!


I was pleasantly surprised when I flipped through "Pillsbury Best of the Bake-Off Cookbook: Recipes from America's Favorite Cooking Contest" to find out it was much more than cookies and pies. It has all sorts of salads and soups, main dishes and side dishes, and some really yummy appetizer ideas!

There's over 410 recipes, and at least half of the recipes have pictures, which is always a good thing in a cookbook. Even if this book isn't up your alley, I'm sure there is someone on your gift list who would love a copy of this great book.

So simply leave me a comment letting me know you'd like to win this book by Wednesday, November 26th, by midnite EST. A winner will be randomly selected on Thanskgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A lof of the food blogs and message boards I read lately all seem to have the same themes - homemade holiday gifts. With the economy putting a crunch on everyone's finances, it seems as though people are trying to find cheap, yet personal, gifts to give this holiday season. Hopefully this list will come in handy for your holiday gift giving.

Now onto the second part of the Top 10:

Ginger Beer

6. Who doesn't love a nice tasty beverage? Shown here is Ginger Beer, which would be lovely for sipping over the winter. The syrup can be bottled in a tall bottle with instructions for mixing with soda water. Another great holiday beverage is Coquito, which is a lovely eggnog-ish type beverage perfect for this time of year.

Super Bars

7. Breakfast goodies - I'm one of those who rarely have time for making breakfast in the morning, so I love things that can be put into a baggie and can be eaten on the run. Shown here are my absolute favorite breakfast bars - full of protein and whole grains. They are also hearty and guaranteed to keep you full for a few hours. A nice batch of these would be a unique gift for a food basket. A lovely loaf of this Chai Pumpkin Bread would also be great, or add in a batch of these Morning Bran Muffins. Or even better, throw in some homemade granola. Here's a list of some wonderful options:
*Lemon Green Tea Granola
*Pina Colada Granola
*Gingersnap Granola

7 Pepper Hot Sauce

8. Hot Sauce - As you know, I'm a huge fan of hot sauce. So a gift of homemade hot sauce would be right up my alley. Shown here is my 7 Pepper Hot Sauce, which is delightfully hot. Or try this Harissa or Red Chile Sauce.

Gingered 3-Seed Dressing

9. Another unique gift for those holiday gift baskets would be a bottle homemade salad dressing. Shown here is one of my favorites, the Gingered 3-Seed Dressing. This Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette would also be tasty, as well as this Asian Pear Dressing. And if you're worried about putting a refrigerated item in a basket, the perfect solution is tucking in a ice pack from the Dollar Store. That way, items will be kept cold.

Cardamom Coconut Macaroons

10. And finally, the traditional gift of baked sweets. This Cardamom Coconut Macaroons are some of my favorite Holiday cookies. Rosemary Shortbread is also a lovely little treat to have a with a cuppa tea. I think I would love to get a batch of Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies as a gift. Of course, these Fleur De Sel Caramels would be lovely sprinkled in the basket as well.

Hopefully you have some great ideas for your gift baskets. I'd love to hear what you're including in yours. Leave me a comment and let me know what your loved ones will be receiving from you this year!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Top 10 Gifts for your Homemade Holiday Gift Giving

The holiday seasons are upon us and nothing is more personal than giving a basket of homemade goodies from your own kitchen. Here are the first 5 in a list of 10 of treats to get your gift-giving underway.

Lemon Pepper Glazed Cashews
1. Looking for a quick and easy Christmas gift? Nothing is quicker and tastier than spiced nuts. And the best part - most of these recipes can be made in about 20 minutes. Shown here are Lemon Pepper Cashews, but here are plenty more variations for your holiday gift giving:

*Jasmine Tea Glazed Almonds
*Chili Chai Walnuts
*Sweet and Spicy Walnuts
*Green Tea Wasabi Almonds
*Chili Lime Peanuts
*Spiced Mixed Nuts

Roasted Tomatillo Chipolte Salsa
2. Tasty salsas are also a great gift. Although most of these recipes must be refrigerated, they would be perfect for your holiday gift baskets. This is the Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa, but here's a few more variations:

*Bueno Fresh Salsa
*Black Bean Salsa
*Pineapple Cilantro Salsa
*Habanero Garlic Salsa
*Caribbean Habanero Pineapple Salsa

Cracked Pepper Seasoning Blend I

3. Seasoning Blends are also an excellent gift. Not only can you whip up huge quantities in a short amount of time, but they are also a personalized and tasty gift that everyone can use. Shown above is the Cracked Pepper Seasoning blend, which is my favorite for fish, seafood, and vegetables. The Dukkha blend would also be perfect for those who have a flair for something different.

Basil Wine Jelly

4. Jams and Jellies are a great gift to make, especially since you can make them ahead of time to have on hand for last-minute gifting. This is the Basil Wine Jelly, which is one of my favorites. It's tasty and perfect for serving with cheese and crackers. The Hot Pepper and Garlic Jelly would also be a welcome addition to any cheese plate at your next holiday party.

Green Peppercorn Asiago Biscuits II

5. Savory Biscuits, biscotti, and crackers are another great gift to make ahead of time and tuck into gift baskets. These Green Peppercorn Asiago Biscuits are rather tasty and are the perfect little nibble. Sundried Tomato Peppercorn biscotti are perfect for a quick savory snack, and these Polenta Crackers are a dip's dream.

Check back on Friday for the rest of the Top 10!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Caribbean Habanero Pineapple Salsa

So since the Habenero Garlic Salsa was such a success, I decided I wanted to try another variation to use up more of the habaneros I was gifted with recently. I had some leftover jerk paste from the Jerk-roasted Sweet Potatoes, and I thought it may go perfectly in a salsa. Since I was giving the double whammy of heat, both from the habaneros and the jerk paste, I threw in some crushed pineapple for a lighter sweeter taste.

It was a match made in heaven. Now don't get me wrong - the pineapple does add a sweet component to balance out some of the heat, but this salsa is hot! Of course, it may have something to do with the full cup of habaneros and the hot jerk seasoning paste, but this is a fire sauce. Yet, it has such a great flavor that it's almost addictive.

This would also be a perfect holiday gift for those chili-heads on your gift list. Check back on Wednesday for my Top 10 recipes for holiday gift giving.

Caribbean Habanero Pineapple Salsa

Caribbean Habanero Pineapple Salsa

4 cups tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
1 cup fresh habanero peppers, destemmed
1 cup onion, roughly chopped
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
2 tbsp jerk seasoning paste
1/2 c crushed pineapple

In blender, combine tomatoes, habaneros, onion, tomato sauce, and jerk seasoning paste. Process until chunky yet well blended. Pour into a medium sized saucepan and simmer over low heat for 35-45 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in crushed pineapple and simmer for another 4-5 minutes. This can be placed in canning jars and refrigerated.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chipotle Potato and Soyrizo Chowdah

I have a confession. It's literally been a week or two since I've actually made anything in my kitchen. Crazy, huh?? And when I actually made this, it felt incredible to be back behind the stove creating and cooking.

I wanted something hearty and filling, yet something with some kick. I was walking through the grocery store and my eyes lit on soyrizo, which is something I've never worked with. I also threw some potatoes in there and a can of chipotle peppers, hoping it would all flow together well.

I'm pleased to report that they did. The chipotles provide just the right amount of heat, and the potatoes add a nice hearty feel to it that is sure to leave you satisfied on a cold winter's night. For those carnivores, you could totally substitute chorizo. And since this recipe only has 6 ingredients, not including salt or pepper, it's a cinch to make! This is one of those hearty winter soups to be enjoyed all season long!

Chipotle Potato and Soyrizo Chowdah

Chipotle Potato and Soyrizo Chowdah
Serves 6-8

1 (12 oz) pkg soyrizo (or regular chorizo)
6 cups diced potatoes
2 (32 oz) pkgs of vegetable broth
2-3 chipotle peppers with 1 tbsp Adobo sauce
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 c soy creamer (or regular half & half)

In a large pot, crumble soyrizo and cook for 5 minutes over medium high heat. Remove from pot and set aside. Add potatoes and saute for a minute or two. Add broth and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, process chipotle peppers and adobo sauce in food processor until minced well. Add to soup, along with cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue to boil until potatoes are tender. Process for a few seconds with an immersion blender, leaving some chunks of potato. (Alternately, you can pour half of the soup into a blender and process until smooth). Add in cooked chorizo and soy creamer. Stir well and simmer soup for an additional 5 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, November 07, 2008

I know. I KNOW! I've been a very bad blogger. It's been a few weeks since I've posted.

I wish I could regale you with stories of fun adventures I've been having, but in all honesty, it's just been the overwhelming pace of school, 2 jobs, and some other issues that have kept me away from here.

I do promise i'll be back next week with some new recipes.

Until then,
Enjoy your weekend!!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Garlic Parmesan Edamame

So the other night I was at Checker's (yes, again) with some old friends of mine. Someone ordered the Garlic Parmesan Wings. Now I obviously am not a chicken eater, but the sauce smelled so good that I immediately wanted to try and use it with something.

I kicked around a few ideas in my head and had a list of things to try. Yet it wasn't until I picked up some edamame (which I always try to keep on hand in my freezer for a quick delicious snack) that it hit me - it would be perfect together.

Seriously - WOW! No, really. This is absolutely fantastic. It literally takes about 15 minutes to make and is amazingly tasty. I think this may have just become my absolute favorite way to eat it.

Go ahead - give it a try!

Garlic Parmesan Edamame

Garlic Parmesan Edamame
Serves 4

1 (16 oz) pkg frozen edamame in shell
1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Steam edamame in microwave until slightly warm and not frozen. (You can do this one of 2 ways - I have a microwave steamer that I use, or even easier is throwing the edamame in a ziploc bag with about a tbsp of water, sealing it, leaving a small opening for steam, and heating it on high for 2 minutes) Drain and set aside.

In a small food processor, combine olive oil and garlic. Process until well-combined. Heat a wok over medium high heat. Add edamame and toss for a few seconds. Add garlic oil and saute for a minute or two, stirring constantly. Add breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and salt and toss until well coated. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Stuffed Artichokes

Part of what I really love about cooking is the constant desire to know more about it. There's nothing I love more than reading through cookbooks and jotting down recipe ideas and flavor combinations. I guess that makes me a food dork, but I don't care.

One of my favorite things to do is to randomly pick out something at the grocery store that I either have no idea what it is or have never prepared it before in my life. And that's where these artichokes came in. Although I've had them a few times, I've never actually prepared them. And not only have I never prepared them, but I actually had no idea what to do with them. But that didn't scare me. I immediately threw 2 in my bag and vowed to hit up both Google and my go-to cookbook when I got home. (Seriously, if you do not have either Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" or "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian," then you must get thee straight to your bookstore).

Anyway, I came home, threw these on the counter and stared at them for a bit before I tackled them. First off, watch this video. It will absolutely give you the tools you need to prepare them. Secondly, I caution you - artichokes are dangerous little things and have sharp little spiky points, so use caution when preparing them. And finally, I won't lie when I say these are sort of a high-maintenance vegetable to prepare. You peel, core, and prepare them, and then it's 25 minutes in the steamer, followed by 20 minutes in a hot oven. The good part, though, is that most of this time is non-active time, so it's not like you're slaving over a hot stove endlessly.

For the stuffing, I used panko, but only because I love the light flaky texture of it. You can easily substitute regular bread crumbs. I also used fresh thyme, but only because I had it on hand. Feel free to use whatever fresh herb floats your boat. I also used a truffle olive oil, but only because I could.

No matter how you make these, I can guarantee they will be surprisingly delicious and well worth the prep time.

Food 007

Stuffed Artichokes
Serves 2

2 large artichokes
1/2 c Italian Seasoned panko crumbs
1/4 c freshly shaved Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp fresh thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp olive oil

Destem, de-choke, and remove the tough outer leaves from the artichokes. (the video is very helpful for this). Bring a steamer with water to a boil. Add artichokes, bottoms up, to steamer and steam for 20 minutes. While they are steaming, combine remaining ingredients in bowl. Remove artichokes from steamer and place bottom down in a baking dish. Preheat oven to 375. Drizzle artichokes with a small amount of olive oil. Place spoonfulls of stuffing mix in center, as well as packed in between the leaves. Place into oven and bake for 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Indian-Spiced Nuts

So obviously, if you peek through my "snacks" recipes, you'll see that I have a slight obsession with salty snacks, especially nuts. Not only are spiced nuts extremely easy to make, but you can essentially use any blend of spices to suit any purpose. And everyone usually likes nibblies, so these are perfect to put out at parties or when you have unexpected guests.

The Indian-Spiced Peanut Brittle was such a hit with my friends and family, but it's something you can only eat every so often, due to the high sugar content. I decided to use those spices, yet just make a mixed nut batch. And quite frankly, I think they came out perfectly. I also added some black sesame seeds for a nice little twist, but feel free to use regular sesame seeds in their place. And although I've used pine nuts, walnuts, cashews, and almonds, feel free to substitute whatever nuts you like best.

Indian-Spiced Nuts I

Indian-Spiced Nuts

1/4 heaping tsp coriander seed
1/4 heaping tsp fennel seed
1/4 heaping tsp yellow mustard seed
1/4 heaping tsp white peppercorns
1/4 heaping tsp cumin seed
1/2 tsp black sesame seeds
1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground chipotle chile powder (optional)

1/4 c raw pinenuts
1/2 c raw walnuts
1/2 c raw almonds
3/4 c raw cashews
1/2 c sugar

In a small skillet, toast coriander, fennel, mustard seed, peppercorns, and cumin seeds for a few minutes, or until they start to pop. Shake continuously throughout this process. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Place in mortar and pestle (or spice grinder) and process until coarsely ground. Place in a small container and add sesame seeds, salt, and chipotle powder.

In large pan, combine nuts and sugar over medium high heat. Stir frequently until sugar starts to melt. Lower heat, and stir continuously for 10 minutes, or until sugar starts to fully melt and cover nuts. Add spice mixture and continue to cook for an additional 30 seconds, until nuts are well glazed and pepper is well mixed in. Pour onto sheet of wax paper on a cooling rack and spread out. Allow to cool. Store in tightly-sealed container.

Looking for more?? Try these:
*Chili Lime Peanuts
*Lemon Pepper Cashews
*Jasmine Tea and Ginger Almonds
*Chili Chai Walnuts
*Sweet and Spicy Walnuts
*Green Tea Wasabi Almonds

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Mushroom and Smoked Garlic Cream Sauce

So I've got this smoker now, right? And I must admit, I'm slightly obsessed with it. It's a lot of fun to play around with, and I've been researching all sorts of things to throw in there and try.

This week, it was garlic. I used hickory wood and smoked a few heads of fresh local garlic. And let me tell you - FANTASTIC! I just tossed them in some olive oil, some kosher salt, and freshly cracked pepper, threw it in the smoker, and smoked it for about 45 minutes. It came out perfectly!

Smoked Garlic II

So I wanted a dish to highlight this great ingredient, so I decided to try a cream sauce with pasta. Boy, is this a great dish. The smoked garlic sits center stage, yet it has the hearty flavor of the fresh baby bella mushrooms, as well as the shiitakes, to back it up.

But don't worry - if you don't have access to any smoked garlic, go ahead and substitute your standard roasted garlic. The flavor will be much different, but will still be delicious. Either way you make this, I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

Smoked Garlic and Mushroom Sauce I

Mushroom and Smoked Garlic Cream Sauce
Serves 4

1/4 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
3/4 c hot water
2 cups chopped baby bella mushrooms
1 entire head smoked garlic (or roasted garlic)
1 cup heavy cream (or soy creamer)
Salt and pepper
8 oz dried pasta, prepared according to directions (I used Campanelle)

In a small bowl, cover dried shiitake mushrooms with hot water. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes. While those are soaking, clean and chop the baby bella mushrooms. Drain reconstituted mushrooms, saving the soaking water. Finely chop reconstituted mushrooms and set aside. Peel head of garlic and place cloves into food processor. Add heavy cream and process for about 30 seconds. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add baby bella and shiitake mushrooms, and saute for 2-3 minutes until they start to soften up. Add the mushroom soaking water and the garlic-cream mixture, and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer until mixture reduces and coats the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. (If you are inpatient, whisk 1 tsp of cornstarch into a tbsp or two of additional heavy cream, add to sauce, and simmer a minute or two until thickened). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve sauce over prepared pasta.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Jerk-roasted Sweet Potatoes

One of the things I love about fall is the necessity for warm and hearty meals. Fall is the perfect time for roasting things, and since I obviously don't roast much in the way of meat, vegetables get my full attention. There are so many fall vegetables that lend themselves to a nice slow roast in the oven. And the best part about it is that you can throw them in the oven while you prepare the rest of the meal, having an effortless side dish in a matter of time.

I recently picked up some tasty jerk seasoning paste at the grocery store and wanted to try it in a few ways. I have some other ideas up my sleeve, but I wanted to try it with sweet potatoes first. What a delicious and easy combination! There are only 3 ingredients and in a matter of 30 minutes, you have yourself a delicious side dish, perfect for any fall meal.

Jerk-roasted Sweet Potatoes

Jerk-roasted Sweet Potatoes
Serves 4

4 cups peeled sweet potatoes, diced into 1/2" cubes
1/8 c olive oil
1/4-1/3 c jerk seasoning paste*

Preheat oven to 425. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients. Place in a lightly-oiled baking dish. Put into the heated oven and roast for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve immediately.

If you can't find jerk seasoning paste in your grocery store, here are some recipes for making your own.

Looking for more roasted vegetable ideas??
*Roasted Vegetables 101
*Roasted Potatoes with Green Olives and Caper Vinaigrette
*Harissa-roasted Potatoes
*Lemon Feta Roasted Beets
*Not-your-Mama's Brussel Sprouts

Monday, September 22, 2008

And the Winner is...

Wow - thanks for all of the comments and ideas! It was great to read all of the comments of those of you who are just becoming vegetarian or those who cook for vegetarians. there were also some great ideas in there. A special thanks to Penny who contributed this great idea:

I put the light coconut milk in an icecube tray, freeze it, and pop out the "cubes" into a plastic bag. It is surprising how many recipes do very well without one full can of high-cholesterol-inducing coconut milk. All the taste, less health risk. Another interesting way to serve kale is to roll the de-stemmed leaves like a cigar, finely slice --- you get thin shreds that are excellent tossed on top of boiled & buttered potatoes...yummy.

And the winner, thanks to, is Erin Murphy from What I Made Yesterday! She stated in her comment that they are starting to eat more vegetarian, so I'm sure this recipe will be perfect for ideas and recipes.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Smokin' Saturday

Smoked Salmon

So on my most recent trip to the Italian Market, I stopped at one of my favorite kitchen stores, Fantes. It's absolutely fantastic. It's tiny and it's got this treacherous ramp inside that is terrifying to walk up/down in heels, but it's also extremely well-stocked.

I've been wanting a smoker for a long time, so when I saw one on sale, I immediately picked it up. It sat around for a few weeks before I could devote the time to try and use it, but I finally got the chance to do so this afternoon.

Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind with a smoker (at least for me) is salmon, so I immediately went and picked up a filet of salmon. I lightly seasoned it with salt and pepper and threw it in for about 20 minutes.

It came out absolutely perfect. Smoky, tender, and delicious! I can't wait to see what else I can smoke.

Have a great rest of the weekend and don't forget to throw your name in the hat for "Totally Vegetarian."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Potato-Kale Stew AND Another Book Giveaway!

One of the perks of having a food blog is that I often get copies of cookbooks to review. Obviously as a vegaquarian (or pescetarian, if you prefer), a lot of them are vegetarian in nature.


I recently received a copy of "Totally Vegetarian" in the mail and I must say I'm impressed. Now i'm sure the meat eaters are tuning out here, but stay with me. This cookbook has plenty of solid vegetarian fare that is sure to please any die-hard carnivore. The book is also chock-full of all sorts of information about ingredients and cooking tips and is definitely a very informative read. Scroll down to the bottom for how you can win a copy of this book for your collection!

I decided to try one of the recipes and wanted to try a soup in anticipation of the fall weather that's headed our way. The Potato-Chard Stew sounded absolutely fantastic, so I immediately jotted down the ingredients and headed to the grocery store.

Potato Kale Stew I

Wow - very very tasty. I did make a few changes, such as using kale instead of chard, but wow, is this good! It's very hearty, so it'd be perfect for a chillier night when all you want is something warm and filling.

Potato-Kale Stew
Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups diced onion
1/4 tsp salt
1 medium sweet potato, cut into 2" pieces
1 yukon gold potato, cut into 2" pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2" dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 (14 oz) can coconut milk
2 cups sliced fresh kale leaves

In large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion and salt, and saute 3-4 minutes until it starts to soften. Add potatoes, bell pepper, garlic, ginger, and spices, and saute for a minute or two. Add coconut milk and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Add kale leaves, remove from heat, and allow to sit for a minute or two for kale to soften. Serve and enjoy!

Want a copy of this cookbook for your very own??
Simply leave me a comment by midnite on Sunday, September 21st. I'll pick a winner at random on Monday, September 22nd.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Okra Curry

So this weekend I finally made it to Eastern Market here in Lancaster. Wow - I was very impressed. Although it was fairly small, it had such a "grass roots" feel to it that was very warm and welcoming. There were some produce stands, as well as some great ethnic food stands. There is an Ethiopian stand that I absolutely must return to, and the Moroccan stand is also next on my list. There were also some great jewelry vendors.

I stopped at one of the produce stands and saw some lovely fresh okra. I love okra, but I've actually never prepared it. I immediately grabbed some and brought it home to brainstorm. I've already made a jambalaya with okra, but I wanted the okra at center stage.

This is a great recipe. Not only is it amazingly tasty, but it is quick and easy to make. You can have this on the table in about 25-30 minutes. It's also very hearty, and if served over rice, this would make the perfect vegetarian entree.

Okra Curry I

Okra Curry
Serves 3-4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
3 cups fresh (or frozen) okra, sliced
2/3 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp salt
1 (8 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water

In medium saucepan, heat olive oil. Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute or two. Add okra, red pepper, curry powder, coriander, and salt, and saute another minute. Add tomatoes and water and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes, until okra is tender. Serve over rice.

Looking for more curry??

*Mushroom Curry
*Coconut Lentil Curry
*Curried Lo Mein

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Thai Curry Seafood Bruschetta

One of my favorite local restaurants is Checkers, a lovely little bistro. The food is usually excellent, the service and staff are exceptional, and the atmosphere is cozy and unpretentious. They have a portion of their menu dedicated to small plates, and that's usually what I pick from. One of my favorites is their Seafood Bruschetta. It's clams, mussels, scallops, and shrimp, poached in a lovely buttery broth, and served over grilled bread. It's absolutely fantastic! What's ironic about this dish is that it's the first dish I ever had at the restaurant when it first opened, and I absolutely did not like it. I think part of it was the fact that I was expecting more of a traditional bruschetta, and secondly, the dish was overcooked.

Obviously, it wasn't enough to keep me away, from either the dish or the establishment. I've ordered it since quite a few times, and it seems to get better and better.

For this dish, I wanted to try and recreate the seafood mixture part, but kick up the flavor of the broth. This time, I've used a mixture of flounder, scallops, shrimp, and mussels, but you can easily mix and match any seafood you want. I added some coconut milk and red curry paste for a serious dose of taste. The fresh cilantro tossed in at the end adds just the right kick.

The best part of this dish?? It's one of those "Ace In the Hole" recipes. I've talked about this before, but every cook needs an arsenal of recipes that can be whipped up in the least amount of time possible, uses ingredients that are usually stocked in your kitchen, yet looks like you spent hours slaving over the stove. This recipe has some serious "Impress" factor, and is perfect to whip up when you are serving guests, or better yet, that special someone.

Thai Curry Seafood Bruschetta V

Thai Curry Seafood Bruschetta
Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced plum tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15 oz) cans coconut milk
1 1/2 tbsp red curry paste
3 lb assorted seafood
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
salt to taste

In large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add tomatoes, ginger, and garlic, and saute for 1 minute. Add coconut milk and curry paste, stir well, and bring to a boil. Add seafood and lower heat to a simmer. (It may be necessary to add seafood in stages, judging by how fast it cooks - please see chart at the end) Simmer until seafood is done. Add cilantro, stir well, and served with crusty bread.

The following are guidelines on roughly how long my seafood took to cook:

5-7 minutes
Large clams
Large scallops
Large shrimp

3-5 minutes
Fish (flounder, tilapia, etc), cut into 1-2" pieces
Smaller shrimp
Bay scallops

Monday, September 08, 2008

Exotic Mushroom Pate

I'll be the first to admit that this isn't the most appetizing thing I've ever photographed. But I will also tell you that the flavor of this pate is absolutely delicious.

I used a combination of shiitake, straw, oyster, and baby bella mushrooms, but you could easily substitute whatever you happen to have. Not only is this recipe extremely delicious, but it's also extremely easy to make. From start to finish, it took me about 15 minutes. That's some quick work!

Serve with bagel crips, crackers, or everything flatbread(as seen here). This would also make a great sandwich filling or would be a fantastic little spread to tuck in the center of an omelet.

Exotic Mushroom Pate

Exotic Mushroom Pate

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp diced shallot
2 cups chopped mushrooms
pinch of salt
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 oz cream cheese

In a saucepan, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add shallots and saute for 30 seconds. Add mushrooms, sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt, and saute for 4-5 minutes, until almost soft. Add thyme leaves and saute for an additional minute. Remove from heat and spoon mushroom mixture into a small food processor. Add cream cheese and process until smooth. Add balsamic vinegar, salt to taste, and pulse until mixed in. Chill, serve, and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Chipotle-Coriander Grilled Peaches

So it's definitely the end days of the summer growing season, which means gardens and orchards are bursting with fresh produce and fruits that are simply amazing. I'm especially excited about the orchards as this is the first year I'm actually enjoying stone fruit.

My parents picked up some fabulous peaches last week and sent a few juicy ones over to my house to enjoy. Wow - I had completely forgotten how fantastic they were! I wanted to do something fun with them and thought grilling them might be good.

Seriously, these are amazing. There are only 4 ingredients and it literally takes about 5 minutes to throw together and grill. These would be a wonderful dessert and fabulous ending to a end-of-summer cookout or dinner. Although I've topped them with a bit of creme fraiche whipped with a tiny bit of honey, these would be fantastic served with vanilla ice cream. The ground chipotle chili adds just *touch* of heat, so don't be afraid to give it a try.

Grilled Peaches III

Chipotle-Coriander Grilled Peaches

4 large peaches, washed
1/4 c light brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground chipotle powder
1/4 tsp ground coriander

Slice peaches into 1/4" thick slices. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, chipotle, and coriander. Sprinkle a substantial amount of brown sugar mixture on peaches and pat onto slices until coated. Repeat with remaining slices. Heat grill or grill pan to medium-high heat and grill peaches, 2-3 minutes each side. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The End of Summer

It's Labor Day, which is the last "official" day of summer. It's hard to believe that summer is over and fall is right around the corner. So in the spirit of the last "official summer picnic" day, I thought I'd do a quick post with some last-minute ideas to make and take to your gatherings.


This Edamole is a perfect dip to take, for a few reasons. First off, it's a much lower-fat option to the full-fat guacamole. Secondly, this is a great way to introduce people to edamame, since there are still a few out there who haven't tried it yet. Thirdly and most importantly, it's super easy to whip up!

Red Pepper and Feta Spread

If you're looking for something a little more elegant, try this Red Pepper and Feta Spread. Pipe it into cucumber cups or endive for an elegant appetizer, or spread it on a tortilla, roll it up, and slice into pinwheels for a quick and easy nosh.

Chili Lime Peanuts

Salty snacks are always good to have on hand for guests to nibble on. These Chili Lime Peanuts are perfect as they give a perfect salty/sweet combination. Or try one of the other flavors.

Cucumber Salad II

Looking for something more substantial, yet still easy to make? Whip up this Cucumber Salad in minutes. Not only is it super quick and super tasty, but it also uses up some of that end-of-summer produce bounty.

Gingered 3-Seed Dressing

This is absolutely one of my favorite dishes to make to take to picnics and cookouts. This Slaw with 3-Seed Dressing is very tasty and loaded with flavor.

Potato Salad with Chili-Cumin Vinaigrette

Although this was posted on Memorial Day, it is definitely tasty for Labor Day too! This Potato Salad with Chili-Cumin Dressing is extremely tasty. It's full of flavor and provides just enough spiciness to warm you up. Go ahead, give it a try!

Chai-spiced Roasted Bananas

Looking for something sweet?? These Chai-roasted Bananas would be perfect to serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. They are quick, easy, and extremely tasty.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Now this is a fun game!

So I saw this on Very Good Taste and thought it looked like fun, so I'm playing a long. It's a list of 100 food items that this blogger feels should be eaten by everyone. I was surprised by how much I've eaten off of this list.

If you'd like to play along:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold or Italicize all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

I put my answers in bold and italics, and since I believe in trying everything at least once, I didn't feel the need to cross anything off. Obviously, some of these things I've eaten were in pre-vegaquarian years...

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue

8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari

12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart

16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes

19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl

33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects

43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini

73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail

79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky

84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Monday, August 25, 2008

Habanero Garlic Salsa

Although I'm definitely a lover of summer, there is something I love about the end of the season. See, I'm a city dweller, which means I have no space for a garden. Thankfully, I have enough friends who love to garden so I'm always standing with open arms for any handouts from their land.

There's a friend of the family who is an excellent gardener and he always supplies us with fresh hot peppers. There are some of your general habaneros and jalapenos, but he always has quite a few other varieties growing. My mother and I, who both love hot stuff, are always ready for part of his garden's bounty. This year, he supplied us with some lovely lovely habaneros, as well as some blood-red and juicy tomatoes. I knew I wanted to make some sort of hot sauce, incorporating both things.

My inspiration came from a jar of habanero garlic sauce I randomly picked up in the grocery store. It was one of those gourmet brands, and oh what a flavor! I immediately came home and tried to recreate it. Not only did I hit the flavor points right on the head, but I think this version is even better! I will warn you this is one of the hottest hot sauces in the 28 Cooks' repertoire, but if you're a hot lover, you will adore this. Although I used 2 cups of mostly chopped habaneros, which I didn't seed, please feel free to substitute peppers that are milder if you want a sauce that won't scorch your face off! This salsa is excellent with tortilla chips and would be perfect served with burritos and fish tacos.

Habanero Garlic Salsa

Habanero Garlic Salsa
Makes 6 cups

2 cups chopped habanero peppers
8 cups chopped and seeded tomatoes
2 cups chopped yellow onion
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp Adobo seasoning
1 (15.9 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until an almost-smooth texture. Pour into a large pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer uncovered for 1-2 hours, stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened.

Looking for more hot stuff??
*Basil Habanero Pesto
*7-Pepper Hot Sauce*Red Chili Sauce
*Hot Pepper and Garlic Jelly
*Cranberry Jalapeno Spread

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Big Winner!

Wow - it sounds like you guys have had a great summer! There were babies being born all over the place, fresh produce being snapped up from CSA's and farmer's markets all over the world, and plenty of good-sounding road trips! There were even a few trips to Knoebels, one of my absolute favorite places. Even those of you who stayed at home had some adventures of your own growing your own produce in your backyard and just spending time with the people that mean the most to you. Isn't that what summer is supposed to be about anyway?

Anyway, enough chatter. Onto what you're really waiting for - the Winner. Thanks to who selected the 29th comment, which was:

JennyWenny from Foray Into Food! Her fondest summer memory was spent biking through the Elfin Forest in San Diego County. What a great sounding trip!

Thanks to everyone who participated and congratulations to our winner!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Another Giveaway!

So I looked at the calendar the other day and realized that summer is almost over. Sure, there's a few good weeks left in August and September and October haven't been as cold as previous years, but we're getting too close to the end of one of my favorite seasons. And it makes me sad.

But I know that not everyone is dreading the end of summer and are ready for kids to go back to school and the air to turn a bit chillier. And there is nothing more perfect during those cooler fall days than comfort food. That's why this book would be absolutely perfect.

Bake Until Bubbly

Bake Until Bubbly is a cookbook dedicated to one of the most popular comfort foods, The Casserole. And it's not just about your normal Tuna Noodle Casserole or Baked Mac and Cheese. This book runs the gamet from Breakfast casseroles, such as Blueberry Brunch or Stuffed French Toast all the way to dessert casseroles, such as Blackberry and Cream Cheese Crepes Casserole and Cranberry-Apple-Walnut Crisp. There's even some great vegetarian options thrown in there. Probably my favorite section is the "Casseroles from Other Countries" section, which includes casseroles from Greece, France, and Brazil.

For your chance to win, simply leave me a comment with your name and one of your favorite things you did this summer. Leave a comment by midnite on Tuesday, August 19th. Winner will be announced on Wednesday, August 20th.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Community Sponsored Agriculture


I know that Community Sponsored Agriculture has been around for years, especially in places with longer growing seasons and more metropolitan areas. It’s even been around for a few years here in Amish Country on the East Coast. But for some reason, this is the first year that my family has gotten involved.

This has to be one of the greatest things of all times. Seriously. Let me break it down for those who are unaware of the glory of CSA. Community Sponsored Agriculture is pretty much what the name implies - you purchase “shares” and through your funds, farmers are able to provide organic produce. Here in Lancaster, the CSA season runs from the beginning of May to the end of October. That’s 24 weeks of fresh produce. The cost for a full share, which is a box every week, is $500. 24 weeks divided by $500 equals roughly $20 per week. And what does that $20 get you? Here was this past week’s share:

5 small red slicing tomatoes
5 large red slicing tomatoes
4 green bell peppers
12 ears of sweet corn
2 onions
1 large eggplant
1 sweet dumpling squash
2 yellow straight neck squash
1 bag of fresh lima beans

All organic, all locally grown produce, which is usually picked less than 24 hours before it’s in your hot little hands. You simply can’t beat that, even if you bought all of this at a farmer’s market. And if a weekly delivery is too much for you, you can do a half-share, which is a delivery every other week. Each week is different and is dictated by the growing season. So far this year, we’ve seen plenty of heirloom lettuce and tomatoes, fresh herbs, bok choy, plenty of gourmet mushrooms, and all sorts of onions and leeks.
And not only do they offer vegetables, but during the year, they offer organic and hormone free eggs, milk, cheeses, and honeys, at very reasonable prices.

They also make it very easy for those cooks who aren’t familiar with all the produce and send out emails with recipes and ideas for using each week’s share. It’s a great excuse to try different vegetables and herbs that you normally wouldn’t grab at the grocery store.

Although it’s too late for most places to sign-up, I highly recommend you put this on your list for next year’s offerings. And if you’ve participated in your area’s CSA, I’d love to hear how you are enjoying it and what’s been your favorite part of it.

Friday, August 08, 2008

So Guess What?

I actually started my annual detox on Monday. Those readers who were around last year may remember my "Midsummer's Cleanse" that I did in mid-July. I decided to take advantage of all the lovely produce stands that are all around my town and try it again. I've been doing it for the past 5 days and thankfully made it over the first few "Why did I decide to do this??" days where all I wanted was Mexican food or sushi or Indian or anything salty and crunchy.

Don't worry - I'm only doing this for the next week, but I already have a few posts lined up and ready to go so that you won't be lonely.

And if you'd like to follow along, please feel free to check out 28 Detoxifies, my companion blog.

See you on the flip side!

Monday, August 04, 2008

Behind the Apron

First, the entries for Behind the Apron 2008:

Joy the Baker's post includes a fantastic looking recipe for Raspberry Almond Bread, so you'll want to definitely check her blog out.

Show Me Vegan has a tasty looking beverage on her post and has a beautiful picture of herself in Negril, Jamaica. Definitely makes me wish I was there!

This is a new blog to me, but definitely one to bookmark - Ward Street Bistro. The Crab, Asparagus, and Orange Salad immediately caught my eye!

Head over to Small Space Sweets and check out her beautiful little daughter who already has developed a taste for spinach - I love it!

As a vegetarian (occasionally vegaquarian), I love to hear about how others made the transition to this eating style. Ginger Beat tells us how she made the choice to eat vegetarian and why she started her Denver-based blog.

Although I don't eat turkey, I do love the looks of this recipe for the potstickers included in The Practical Gourmet's Behind the Apron post. I'll have to try and vegetarianize it!

Just the name "Yo Soy" cracks me up and I love it for a food blog. The picture taken by a paparazo is definitely unique.

Shortcut to Mushrooms sums herself up in 5 words for her Behind the Apron post. She also has some great recipes on her site, including one for Eggplant Caviar, which sounds amazing.

Although it was sort of a smaller round-up this year, there are definitely some really good and tasty-looking blogs included. I love getting to know the cooks and chefs behind the blogs.

Since I introduced myself last year, I thought I'd just post a recent picture and give a little intro to some of my new readers. Here I am at a friend's house, right after enjoying some very tasty wild salmon. (Which, seriously, if you've never had it, you really must try it. It is completely different than the farmed stuff.)

Behind the Apron

Since last year, my occupation has changed. I am 2 classes shy of completing my degree and just recently started working for my county's Children and Youth Agency. I am in the abuse unit and spend much of my time going to interview children that have been either physically or sexually abused. It's extremely tough and emotional work, but I absolutely love what I do. There are days that I come home and immediately burst into tears, but there are also days when I see kids that just crack me up and still maintain a sense of humor, despite their horrible lives.

Other than that, I keep myself busy reading and cooking, and am always on the search for more food ideas.

Thanks for joining me in this year's Behind The Apron round-up!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

And the Winner is.....

So although it's a bit overdue, the winner of this great book is.....


Lekkercraft is a new blog to me, but I certainly bookmarked it as soon as I saw it. Congratulations and I hope you enjoy the book!

And the posting of the "Behind the Apron" roundup will happen tomorrow. There were a few scragglers who wanted to be included so I held open the deadline just a bit longer so I could include them. I already added quite a few of these new blogs to my bloglines, so be sure to stay tuned for the posting!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Giveaway and a Fun New Site!

I was recently contacted by an associate from the foodie site, Yummr, about a promotion they are having this month. During their "Hot July Foodie Reads Giveaway," they are giving away copies of some wonderful books, which are being given away courtesy of Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt Books.


The one I have reserved for my readers is "Serve the People," which is a fantastic book to read. I have already devoured quite a bit of the copy they sent for my reading pleasure and it's a great book. It's essentially a story that follows a journalist as she eats and cooks her way through authentic Chinese cuisine. And even though it's a great story, it's loaded with recipes, liberally sprinkled all throughout the book.

All you have to do is simply leave me a comment by midnight on July 31st. One will be picked at random on August 1st.

But even if you don't want a copy of this book, or if you aren't the lucky winner, you'll want to be sure to stop by Yummr. It's a great website loaded with all sorts of things any foodie would love. There's all kinds of giveaways, recipes, and surveys to take, all in the midst of a great community of other food lovers. You can even upload videos and pictures of your own creations!

So go ahead, give Yummr a try.

Don't forget to leave your comment for a chance to add this great read to your library!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Cilantro Zucchini Hummus

I love to talk food. I will talk about it anytime with anyone. And it's usually a great inspiration for recipe creation. This recipe came from a conversation I had with Theresa, an old friend of mine yesterday afternoon. We were discussing the vegetarian, vegan, and raw diets. Both of us have a desire to try a raw diet so we were talking about ways to incorporate more raw food into our daily diets. We then started taking about some healthy treats to make and of course the conversation turned to hummus.

It was only natural that my mind immediately went to trying to make a raw hummus. I was on my way to the grocery store, mentally kicking around a few ideas. It wasn't until I passed a table on someone's driveway with a huge table of zucchini that said "Free - Please take it all!" that made me think of using this often over-abundant vegetable.

This recipe is fantastic. I absolutely love it. It's fresh-tasting and is simply fantastic. Serve with fresh vegetables or pita chips. You could also use it as a sauce or a dressing by decreasing the amount of zucchini to 4 cups, as shown here. Or add some fresh jalapeno for a nice little kick! And the best part is that it only takes a few moments to chop everything up and throw it in the blender or food processor. So go ahead - give it a try.

Cilantro Zucchini Hummus

Cilantro Zucchini Hummus

6 cups zucchini, peeled and chopped
1/4 c tahini
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1/4 c fresh lime juice
1/4 c olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped

Add all ingredients, except cilantro, into a blender or food processor. Process until creamy and smooth. Stir in cilantro. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Just Because It's Vegan - Spicy Italian Sauzage

It's been quite some time since we've had a "Just Because It's Vegan" recipe. The premise of the JBIV recipes is that vegan food is quite delicious, despite the stereotype that all vegans and vegetarians eat is cardboard and salad.

So this is a recipe that's been floating around the Internet for quite some time, sort of like Susan V's Ribz. I've had a few recipes and variations printed out to try for quite some time, but I just never got around to it.

Thankfully I gave it a try. I'm not kidding you when I say these are absolutely delicious. The flavor is good, the texture is pretty spot on, and they are simply fantastic. I served this to a few of my omnivore coworkers as well as my meat-eating roommate, and most agreed that they would never have been able to tell that it wasn't real sausage if I wouldn't have told them. Seriously - it's that good. Here they are served in marinara sauce with sauteed baby bella mushrooms and onions. However, you could probably serve them a million ways!

This variation came from "Don't Eat Off the Sidewalk," and it's pretty much true to the way she made it. I didn't add red peppers however, and added some garlic powder just for fun. True credit, of course, goes to the recipe creator, Julie of Everyday Dish.

Spicy Italian Sauzage II

Spicy Italian Sauzage
Makes 8 links

2 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/2 c nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 c chickpea flour
2 tbsp vegetarian chicken broth powder*
1 tbsp fennel seed, crushed
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp garlic powder
Pepper to taste

2 cups water
2 tbsp soy sauce (or Worcestershire sauce)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp hot sauce

Mix together all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together all wet ingredients. Using a fork, gently stir into dry ingredients. Stir just until mixed. Scoop 1/2 cup of the dough mixture and shape into a log. Place each log on a sheet of aluminum foil and wrap up, twisting the ends. (Logs do not need to be perfect - they swell and fill out during cooking). Place sausages into steamer and steam for 30 minutes. Once they have cooled, remove from foil and refrigerate. These also freeze well. Serve and enjoy!

*I think this is a key ingredient. I used Frontier brand, and the powder provides a nice fullness and juiciness to the sauzage.

Check out the rest of the "Just Because It's Vegan" recipes:
*Thai Curry Tempeh Salad
*Raw Brownies

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Simple Thyme Vinaigrette

It's summer time, so the last thing you want to do is be a slave to the kitchen. Everyone has their grills out for the season, and it's nice to be able to cook your entire meal out there.

This vinaigrette is not only perfect for salads, but it's very tasty tossed with grilled vegetables. The best part about it is that it only takes about 3 minutes to whip up, so you can easily throw this together in a matter of time. Feel free to substitute any other fresh herbs in place of the thyme.

Food 009

Simple Thyme Vinaigrette
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves, minced
salt/pepper to taste

Pour vinegar into a small food processor. Slowly drizzle olive oil while processing until it's emulsified. (Or stop and add small amounts of oil each time, processing between each addition) Add thyme leaves, salt and pepper, and pulse. Serve over salad or roasted vegetables.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Announcing "Behind the Apron 2!"


I'm always amazed at the number of new food blogs that appear on a weekly basis. And we're talking about some serious food blogs with some serious talent! It was realizing that there were so many new players to the game that made me think back to last year's Behind the Apron.

What a great event that was! We got a chance to see the cooks behind some really great food blogs and it gave us the chance to put a face to the blog names we've become familiar with.

So I thought it would be a great idea to do another year's round-up and see who's cooking. If you're a new blogger, or you didn't participate last year, or you just want to participate again and give us an update on what you've done since last year, I'd love to have you join!

Starting today, and ending July 31st, post a picture of yourself on your blog, revealing as much (tastefully, of course) or as little as you want. Introduce yourself, show us your family, do whatever you want.

Send a link to your post to 28cooks AT gmail DOT com, and I will round them all up, posting the final tally on August 4th. Please make sure you place a link to this post in your entry. You can also feel free to snag the handy button up at the top.

So go ahead and come out from behind those aprons!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Summer Vegetable Cacciatore

There's nothing like the fresh bounty of summer that has you scrambling to find ways to use up all of the fresh produce available. One of the running jokes for summer produce is always what can be done with the 97,000 zucchinis that are in your garden.

Thankfully, I love zucchini. I don't think there's a way it's prepared that I don't like. It's easy to prepare, it's tasty, and it's healthy. I was in desperate need of a quick dinner the other night and wanted to use up the 2 zucchini I had sitting on the counter from my CSA box.

Enter this delicious recipe. It's quick, easy, and can be changed to suit your needs. I used mushrooms and zucchini, but you can easily add onion, asparagus, peppers, or any other vegetable that suits your fancy. You can also feel free to add tofu or seitan to make it a full meal, and carnivores would have no problem dropping a little chicken into the mix. No matter how you make it, this is definitely a quick and easy recipe you'll want to keep on hand to use up all of that delicious summer produce.

Vegetable Cacciatore I

Summer Vegetable Cacciatore
Serves 4

1 lb baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 zucchini, washed and diced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp paprika (use hot if desired)
1/2 tsp crushed fennel seed
1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (6 oz) can tomato paste
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar

Heat olive oil over medium high heat. Add zucchini and saute for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Add paprika, fennel seed, and Italian seasoning and stir well to combine. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and sugar and simmer an additional 2-3 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Red Letter Day

It was a Red Letter Day for me on Saturday! I can't even begin to describe just how excited I was. Let me walk you through it...

During my pre-teen years, my family lived in Kenya for 2 years. Up until that point, I could pretty much eat whatever I wanted. However, it only took 1 fateful night for that all to change. My family and I were on a much needed vacation on the coast of Mombasa. Per normal, we had picked up a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables for the day. Right before I went to bed, I snacked on a juicy and tasty mango. I promptly went to bed, not knowing that my entire world had changed. I woke up almost an hour later with a panic I've never known. I couldn't breathe, my face and eyes were completely swollen, and my throat was completely closed. I rushed into my parent's room in a panic. Thankfully, my mother, a trained RN, leapt into action. Although we had no Benadryl or anti-histamines, she knew enough to throw me into a hot shower with steam to try and ease my labored breathing. I spent almost an hour in there, gasping for breath. Finally, my breathing returned almost to normal, but my face was a different story. It took almost 2 days before my eyes and face returned to their normal state.

After that, any stone fruit I touched was pure Kryptonite for me. Pears, peaches, plums, cherries - all off limits to me. The fall apple harvest meant nothing to me. And being a vegetarian only made it more ironic.

But even though I'm severely allergic to them, I've always felt I would outgrow the allergy. About 5 years ago, I started trying a tiny bite of stone fruit every summer, just to see if it was over. Sadly, it was not. However, since I've been a vegetarian for the past few years, and trying to eat more vegan in the past year, I just knew this was the year for a breakthrough.

Food 016

And guess what? I was right. I purchased some local cherries from the farmer's market this weekend and gave them a tentative taste. I tried 3 and felt barely a tickle in the back of my throat. I then moved on to a plum and felt nothing. So I kept going. And in the space of 24 hours, I consumed almost a pound of cherries, 4 pluots, and about 8 plums with nary a tingle.

You want to talk about excited?? I went to the grocery store and for the first time, gave my attention to the 3 rows of fruits I have been avoiding for 17 years. It's like a whole new world has opened up. I didn't want to push it too much on my first couple of days, so I stuck to the cherry/plum thing. But tomorrow I plan to add peaches and eventually pears and possibly some apricots.

I'm crazy excited. So don't worry if you don't hear from me for a few days - I'll be stuck somewhere in a bowl full of cherries....