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Recipes and food musings for the global home cook.

Pudding mix makes these chocolate chunk cookies extra moist and soft. (The Pastry Chef's Baking)

Chocolate chip pudding cookies

By The Pastry Chef's Baking / 04.15.14

Whenever I search Pinterest and I see a picture of chubby, moist, yummy-looking cookies, even before I see the source site, I always think it's from Averie Cooks – and 99 percent of the time I'm right. I've come to think of it as her baking signature and it's always the kind of cookies I like best: thick, chewy, moist, and delicious. And I don't think I've ever gone wrong whenever I make one of her cookie recipes. I'm not wrong on this one either.

Pudding cookies, aka cookies with pudding mix in them, are almost always soft in texture and moist. Because this one is chocolate, you can add "fudgy" to the description as well. I thought this would pack more of a chocolate punch but it doesn't. Don't get me wrong, it's plenty chocolatey but it's not super, stop-your-molars-in-their-tracks chocolatey. That's not a bad thing because then you can eat more. Oh wait, that's just me.

For optimal taste and texture, let these cool almost completely to room temperature. If you eat them when they're too warm, you'll miss out on the fudgy texture and instead just get gooey mush. But if you really can't wait, just top it off with ice cream and eat like a decadent hot fudge sundae.

Quadruple chocolate soft fudgy pudding cookies 
From Averie Cooks

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 4-ounce package chocolate instant pudding mix (not sugar-free or cook 'n serve)

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Pinch salt, optional and to taste

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla; beat on medium-high speed until creamed and well combined, about 4 minutes.

2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the pudding mix and cocoa powder; beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.

3. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour, baking soda, and salt if using; beat on low speed until just combined, about 1 minute.

4. Add the chocolate chips and chocolate chunks. Beat on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Reserve a handful of the chips and chunks to add to the last of the dough after you make into dough balls to make sure the chips are evenly distributed.

5. Using a large cookie scoop or a 1/4-cup measure, form dough into golf-ball-size dough balls. Place in refrigerator or freezer until thoroughly chilled, at least 2 hours.

6. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and place dough balls on baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges have set and tops are just set. Do not over-bake. Cookies will firm up as they cool.

Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking: Butterscotch Toffee Shortbread Cookies

Matzo is used for Passover, the eight-day festival of spring and of slavery remembrance that calls for Jews to stay away from leavened grain. (Naga Bakehouse/AP)

An ancient matzo sandwich for Passover

By Menachem WeckerGuest blogger / 04.14.14

Undoubtedly, matzo is the culinary star of the Passover Seder, or meal, with supporting actor roles doled out to bitter herbs, shank bones, salt water, charoset, and a few other dishes. But there's an unlikely recipe that also surfaces in the Passover ritual – a kosher-for-Passover sandwich made of paschal lamb and bitter herbs set between two pieces of matzo.

That sandwich, according to rabbinic tradition, dates back to the first century (BCE) sage, Hillel. If Hillel truly pioneered such a delectable configuration, he would have done so some 18 centuries before the fourth Earl of Sandwich (John Montagu), who is often credited with inventing the sandwich in 1762 to avoid leaving the gambling table.

The reference in the Haggadah (the guide to the Passover Seder) to Hillel’s sandwich is both a reflection on past ritual as well as an aspirational anticipation of a future Messianic era when the paschal lamb can again be consumed, according to Rabbi Josh Yuter, of the Stanton Street Shul (Orthodox) on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. (In modern Seders, there is no sacrifice of the lamb, since sacrifices are banned without a Temple.)

“It’s really impossible to know with historical accuracy what Hillel actually did,” Rabbi Yuter says. “It’s certainly tradition that this is what he used to do.”

Even if there is no evidence of Hillel’s sandwich, a Hebrew manuscript currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which dates back to 1454, features the liturgy that is credited to Hillel, and calls for observers of the Passover Seder to eat the sandwich. (The manuscript hasn't been on view publicly for a decade.)

In the exhibit, the manuscript, illuminated by Joel ben Simeon, who was born in Germany in 1420, is open to a page upon which the central text is circumscribed by twisted columns supporting a castle with three figures (perhaps three of the four sons?) peering out of circular windows. A man sits at the base of the central column supporting the pillar (Atlas like), while an elephant and a lion support the other two.

The animal and human supports for architectural forms are part of a larger tradition, which appears in goldsmith-work, stone pulpits, Christian manuscripts, and buildings, according to Barbara Boehm and Melanie Holcomb, both curators at the Metropolitan Museum and The Cloisers.

The central text on the page, in large red letters, refers to Hillel’s sandwich: “A remembrance to [the time of] the Temple like Hillel, who said, ‘On matzo and bitter herbs he shall eat it [the paschal lamb].’ ”

Hillel, then, was hoping to fulfil the charge of Numbers 9:11 to eat the Paschal lamb “on matzos and bitter herbs.” Yuter’s father has made a “big deal” over matzo that can fulfill the Numbers verse even before a “resurgence” in recent years of soft, floppy matzo, he says.

Yuter’s brother-in-law soaks his matzo at the beginning of the Seder, so that it will be more malleable when it’s time to compose the sandwich. The reference in the Haggadah, Yuter says, is to Hillel literally “folding” the meat in matzo. “You cannot fold our matzo.”

Hillel’s sandwich, then, is more like a present-day shawarma sandwich in laffa, or Taboon bread, according to Yuter. (There are references in the Talmud, which was compiled up to the sixth century, to fish sandwiches, according to Yuter, which require a less important blessing since the bread was merely an accessory to the fish.)

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink, the rabbi of the Pacific Jewish Center (Orthodox) in Los Angeles, agrees that Hillel’s meal was more like a shawarma wrapped in a laffa.

“Clearly, he [Hillel] had a soft kind of matzah and it was a proto-shawarma on laffa,” he says. “It's called korech, which means to wrap. So it's really more of a wrap than a sandwich. We do it today without the pesach (meat) part as a remembrance of the way Hillel would do it.”

Even without definitive proof from the first century BCE, then, the Haggadah at the Metropolitan Museum clearly codifies the ritual more than 300 years before the Earl of Sandwich, and if Hillel did in fact do as the text says he did, he had the earl beat by 18 centuries.

That's food for thought for those observing this ancient rite this Passover, although Yuter isn’t advocating too much patting on the back. “It would be a source of pride if we still had in our historical memory soft matzo,” he says. “When people think of matzo, they think of the wafers.”

Menachem Wecker is a freelance writer based in Chicago and the former education reporter at U.S. News & World Report.

A modern Hillel sandwich
From “The Jewish Holiday Kitchen” by Joan Nathan

Yield: 3 cups

6 peeled apples, coarsely chopped

2/3 cup chopped almonds [or walnuts]

3 tablespoons sugar, or to taste [or use honey]

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Zest of 1 lemon

4 tablespoons sweet red wine

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing thoroughly. Add additional wine as needed. Blend to desired texture. Chill, then serve by spooning between two pieces of matzo.

Top your guac with a sprinkle of cilantro and red pepper flakes. (In Praise of Leftovers)

A new crunch for guacamole

By In Praise of Leftovers / 04.14.14

If you're around me for more than an hour, you'll see that the conversation turns to avocados. And I'll say (knowing I'll get a laugh, of course), "I can't sleep if there are ripe avocados in the house."

They have to be perfect (no strings, no big bruises). If they are not ripe, forget it. I have the best luck with Costco, though Dandelion Organics has been putting an occasional ambrosial avocado in my weekly veggie delivery. And the only reason I'd ever consider moving to California is the possibility that me or someone on my block might have an avocado tree. Can you imagine? Heaven!

I read a tidbit recently (Bon Appetit, maybe?) where a chef talked about putting celery in his guacamole. I tried it, and now it's a must. It adds a fresh, neutral crunch that complements the avocado. I've tried guacamole many different ways – with or without garlic, with or without onion. If your avocados are good and your don't skimp on the lime and salt, you can hardly go wrong. But here's how I do mine these days.

Sarah's guacamole

1. Finely chop 1/4 of a white onion, a big handful of cilantro, 1/2 of a seeded jalapeno (if you like) and one stalk of celery, leaves and all.

2. Scoop out the flesh of 3 avocados, and mash everything together in a bowl or with a mortar and pestle. Add plenty of kosher salt (tasting along the way) and juice of one lime (if it's small) and 1/2 a lime (if it's big).

3. Top with a little more chopped cilantro and maybe some red pepper flakes.

Related post on In Praise of Leftovers: Peanut Butter Hummus

These cupcakes are made with Mochiko, or sweet rice flour. You can find it at Asian markets, and some Whole Foods. (The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook)

How to prepare a bento box and matcha mochi cupcakes

By The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook / 04.11.14

"Bento" in Japanese cuisine means means a one-serving meal attractively packed into a box. A traditional bento box holds a combination of rice or pasta, fish or meat, and cooked or pickled vegetables.

A few weeks ago, my food writer friend Debra Samuels (co-author of "The Korean Table" and author of "My Japanese Table," both by Tuttle Publishing) came to Washington, D.C., to do a bento box demonstration with the Smithsonian Associates. Deb and I have only communicated via e-mail and social media, but when I heard she was coming to town, I eagerly volunteered to help. I was delighted to discover that Deb is every bit as lovely in person!

We spent the day of the event (we were expecting 150 people!) prepping, prepping, and prepping.

RECOMMENDED: 28 cookbooks from 2013

I’m sure many of you are eager to try your hand at bento boxing so I asked Debra to give us some guidance on putting one together. Her focus here is on preparing bento boxes for kids.

1. What are the most important elements of a bento box?

  • It’s all about balance and using foods that span five different colors: red, black/brown, white, green, yellow. These colors are good indicator that you have put together a balanced meal.
  • Have a variety of foods, whether in texture, cooking methods (boiled, stir-fry, fried) as well as types of food.
  • Make it visually pleasing.
  • Pay attention to nutritional value and portion sizes. Have smaller amounts of each food but a greater variety (see above, they are closely linked).
  • Usually rice or a carbohydrate (bread or pasta are fine, too!) takes up to at least 1/3 of the box for a girl and up to half for a boy.
  • Protein is also important. Sometimes boys will get 2 kinds of protein.
  • Otherwise, meat, fish, and chicken are often seen as okazu – side dishes – so they share equally in portion size with vegetables, fruit, etc.
  • My Japanese friends say, pack the box with love!

2. What tips can you share with us newbies?

  • Look at a bento box as a food sampler of sorts.
  • Concentrate on the colors.
  • Have a few neat picks so that you can create a kabob, for example: skewer a turkey meatball, steamed broccoli, and a cherry tomato and brush all with a glaze of teriyaki sauce (find cute picks and more bento accessories on Amazon.com).
  • View this as a good opportunity to give your child some new foods in smaller amounts.
  • Stock up on silicon cups and put mini salads in them: pasta, leafy greens.
  • Prepare ahead of time: Have several (see-through) containers of pre-cut cooked veggies and fruit, corkscrew pasta, and mini-meatballs.
  • Good leftovers equal a good lunch so make more than you need for dinner. The point is to refashion it creatively.
  • Definitely add a small treat (see matcha mochi cupcakes below).
  • You can hardly go wrong!

The Asian Grandmother's Cookbook

3. What’s the difference between an adult and a kid bento box?

Mainly the difference is volume. There are also differences in volume between bento boxes for men and women. Men’s boxes have an interior space that can contain about 30 percent more food. Also the types of food that go into the box could be heavier on protein and carbs for men, and more fried foods as well.

As far as presentation is concerned, it still has to be pleasing to the eye. The Japanese say “me de taberu,” meaning they eat with their eyes. The same care is given to a 5-year-old’s lunch as is to a 15- or 50-year-old. A bento box for an adult may be less cute, but it will still be attractive.

For more info and tips, visit Deb’s site: Cookingatdebras.com

Matcha mochi cupcakes
From 'My Japanese Table,' by Debra Samuels
Makes about 16 cupcakes

“Thai sweet rice (glutinous) flour doesn’t work in this recipe. The best results are with Koda Farms Mochiko. I first learned about mochi cupcakes when a Boston friend who is married to a Japanese-American man. She got the recipe from her mother-in-law’s Buddhist Temple Community cookbook from Los Angeles. It has since been tweaked several times by other cooks.”

3 cups (one 1-pound box) Koda Farms Mochiko (sweet rice flour, available at Asian markets and some Whole Foods Markets)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons matcha (green tea powder)

3/4 cup canola oil

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1-1/2 cups milk

1 can (15 ounces) sweet adzuki beans (optional)

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with paper or foil cups.

2. In a bowl, combine the rice flour, baking powder, salt, and green tea. Whisk well.

3. In another larger bowl, mix the oil and sugar. Add the eggs and milk and whisk vigorously. Add the rice flour mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until completely blended.

4. Fill the cupcake papers half full with the batter. Add a scant tablespoon of the adzuki beans. Spoon a little more batter over the beans. This should come just below the tops of the papers.

5. Bake the cupcakes for 20 to 25 minutes or until they begin to crack. Set on a wire rack to cool.

RECOMMENDED: 28 cookbooks from 2013

Related post on The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook: 5 “Why Didn’t I think of That?” Ideas For Your Memorial Day BBQ

Vietnamese cinnamon pork pate (chả quế) can be served as an afternoon treat. (Ravenous Couple)

Chả Quế, Vietnamese cinnamon pork pate

By Ravenous Couple / 04.10.14

My parents visited recently over the holidays and did some baking. But to Mom, baking is much more savory endeavor. She doesn’t have a sweet tooth and I don’t think she ever baked a cake or cookie before. Not even for our birthdays.

We didn’t enjoy a glass of milk and cookies for after-school snacks like our American counterparts, in fact, our typical after school snack would be a warm banh day (sticky rice cake) with a slab of freshly baked chả quế, a baked cinnamon laced pork roll. I would come home to a house smelling of freshly baked pork and cinnamon. Totally weird sounding, right? But I didn’t care back then, because the chả quế she made was absolutely delicious to come home to and I don’t think I missed out on chocolate chip cookies.

The process for making chả quế is almost identical to chả lua (sausage roll). It starts with slurry of water, potato starch, and baking powder, add to that finely ground pork. Mix, chill, and grind some more with plenty of cinnamon and bake. Whereas chả lua is wrapped and steamed, chả quế is baked which results in a golden brown, crinkly, chewy crust.

Slice it up and stuff in baguettes for banh mi, sandwiched in banh day, with sticky rice, or snack on it alone. The combination of pork and cinnamon is a special treat. When making something specialized like chả, we always make plenty of it because it’s easy to freeze but also very easy to give away to friends and family so don’t be daunted by the large portion size. 

Chả Quế, Vietnamese cinnamon pork pate

Feel free to divide the recipe in half. The ratio of ingredients is important but unlike baking a cake, not as crucial. Also, you can adjust the level of saltiness as well strength of cinnamon to your taste. Also, use a good fresh quality cinnamon. If it's been sitting in your pantry for years, it's most likely have lost much of it's aroma and flavor.

10 lbs. ground pork loin

12 ounces potato starch

2 tablespoons salt

3 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons fish sauce

7 cups water

10 packets of Alsa baking powder

5 teaspoons of ground cinnamon (adjust to taste)

Multiple cookie sheets

Pam or neutral oil

1. Have your local butcher grind the pork loin at least 2-3 times. Add the ground pork, potato starch, salt, sugar, fish sauce in large mixing bowl. Add about 6 cups of water to the mixture, save the remaining 1 cup. To that, dissolve the Alsa baking powder and combine with the pork mixture and mix well. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night, and not more than one day.

2. The following day, you will need to combine cinnamon to the mixture and bake. We also process the mixture with a food processor one more time to make sure it has a smooth consistency.

3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F., and grease cookie sheets with Pam or neutral oil. Working in batches (depending on the capacity of your food processor) add approximately 1 teaspoon of cinnamon for every 2 cups of pork mixture and give a few quick pulses to thoroughly combine the cinnamon. At this point, take a teaspoon or so of the mixture and microwave for about 30 seconds and taste. Adjust seasoning such as cinnamon or salt if needed. Continue until all the ground pork has been processed with cinnamon.

4. Using a wet rubber spatula, spoon onto the greased cookie sheet from edge to edge and make an even layer of pork paste about 3/4-inch thick. Use multiple baking sheets as necessary. Don't worry about going up to the edges because when it bakes, it will pull away. When baking sheet is covered entirely, use a wet spatula or wet hand, smooth out the top layer of the pork mixture.

5. Bake for 10 or 15 minutes until the top layer of the pork will start to form a dull, light brown skin. At this point, open the oven and carefully pierce the surface of the pork randomly with a fork to allow some of the trapped air to escape. Continue to cook until it has a golden brown crust. Remove and allow to cool before slicing.

Related post on Ravenous Couple: Nem Chua Recipe Vietnamese Fermented/Cured Pork

Tasty, savory, spicy, and piquant, this chicken piccata is far too good to be so easy. (Blue Kitchen)

Chicken piccata, buttery and lemon bright

By Blue Kitchen / 04.09.14

It’s week three of Butterfest at Blue Kitchen. Last week, my Hake with Lentils and Sage Mustard Butter had 5-1/2 tablespoons of butter. And while Marion’s Chevre Cheesecake with Hazelnut Crust two weeks ago only used two tablespoons, dairy was otherwise well represented, with cream cheese, goat cheese, and sour cream.

Based on the classic Italian dish veal piccata, this chicken piccata recipe requires a rather modest half stick of butter, four tablespoons. And requires is the operative term here – the buttery richness plays beautifully against the tart brightness of the capers and lemons. 

The lemons in question are Meyer lemons grown by fellow blogger Christina, whose A Thinking Stomach is loaded with useful information and thoughtful observations on gardening and food. These are not armchair tales. The stories all come from her own experiences in her bountiful Southern California garden. What comes through in Christina’s eloquent writings is her love of growing things as well as a clear-eyed recounting of just how much hard work is involved.

We’ve “known” Christina for at least seven years now, although we’ve never actually met or even spoken on the phone. This is the second time she’s generously shared her harvest with us, shipping us beautiful Meyer lemons she picked from her own trees. 

Meyer lemons are a hybrid of true lemons (either Lisbon or Eureka) and mandarin oranges. They’re popular as ornamental trees in California, having a compact shape, fragrant flowers and shiny, dark green leaves. Increasingly, though, chefs and home cooks are bringing their fruit into the kitchen. It is sweeter and less acidic than standard issue lemons, with a slight floral quality. The skins are thinner and may have a hint of orange color when ripe.

For this recipe, you can substitute regular lemons. But if at all possible, track down some Meyer lemons. They’ll deliver loads of bright, tangy kick with less mouth-puckering sourness.

The term piccata, when referring to Italian cooking, specifically means cooked, sauced, or served with lemon and parsley (and often capers). Descriptively, it means “tasty, savory, spicy, piquant.” Veal piccata is probably the best known version, but chicken piccata is popular, too. You can also use turkey or pork cutlets.

In all cases, the meat is sliced and/or pounded very thin, then dredged in flour and sautéed in butter or a mix of butter and oil. It is then topped with a lemon butter parsley caper sauce. Variations can include shallots, garlic, wine, and paprika. However your piccata dish comes together, you’ll end up with something that tastes far too good to be so easy. When you serve it, be sure to eat the lemon slices – and encourage others to do so. You will be rewarded with citrusy bursts of wonderfulness. (Here is where the Meyer lemon’s thinner skin is a definite advantage.)

Chicken piccata
Serves 2

2 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 pound total)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Flour

4 tablespoons butter, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 cup white wine [optional, may substitute cooking wine]

3/4 cup chicken broth

1 Meyer lemon, thinly sliced (or a regular lemon)

1/4 cup capers, drained

1/4 cup coarsely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon Meyer lemon juice (or, again, regular lemon)

1. Butterfly chicken breast halves (you’ll find a step-by-step guide here) and divide each into two thin fillets. Place fillets between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to 1/4-inch thickness. You can use the flat side of a meat tenderizer or the bottom of a skillet (work on top of a cutting board to protect your counter surface).

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper and dredge in flour, shaking off excess. Heat a large skillet over medium flame and melt 2 tablespoons of butter with the olive oil, swirling to combine. Working in batches, brown chicken fillets, turning once, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter and tent with foil to keep warm (you can also place it in a warm oven).

3. Add wine to pan and cook until reduced by half, scraping up any browned bits, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add stock and lemon slices to pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced, 4 to 7 minutes. Add remaining butter, capers, parsley and lemon juice. Stir until butter is just melted and everything is combined. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve immediately.

Related post on Blue Kitchen: Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables

Try in this fantastic smoothie which has the taste of a delicious slice of apple pie à la mode! (The Gourmand Mom)

Apple pie à la mode smoothie

By The Gourmand Mom / 04.08.14

As you know, I love food. Food is so much more to me than just sustenance and nutrition. It’s more than just putting a meal on the table and feeding my family. It’s an experience. It’s a pleasure-inducing event. It satisfies me in a manner much deeper than just quenching my hunger. But this love of food comes at a great cost, not only to our waistlines, but also to our piggy banks.

I admit that, in the past, I have never been very conscious of shopping grocery sales or monitoring the prices of individual ingredients. I typically plan our grocery trips based on what we feel like eating or what looks fresh and delicious in the store, rather than basing our meals on sales or what we have in the pantry. This approach is deliciously satisfying, but puts our normal grocery spending off the charts. Lately though, I’ve been trying to become more conscious about our grocery spending; buying meats in bulk, planning a few less expensive meals each week, and even using coupons!

Now, using coupons is something I’ve attempted in the past and never had much success with. I’d diligently clip my coupons, only to arrive at the store with a stack of savings on things I wouldn’t normally purchase anyway or things which would end up costing me more than other similar items, even after the coupon was applied. But, this time has been different. This time, I’ve started following a few coupon-using blogs, which have made things so much clearer. I get it now. Not sure why I didn’t get it before, but I get it now!

I’ve learned about sale cycles, stocking up on items at their lowest prices, and matching up manufacturer coupons with store coupons and sales to get things for mere pennies or even for free. Yes, free! Why in the world have I been paying full price for toothpaste and toothbrushes when stores are giving away my preferred brands for free almost every week? Silly, silly me!

I’ve become a little obsessed. I’ve even set up a binder to neatly organize my coupon collection. I refuse to sacrifice the quality of the foods we eat for savings, but why wouldn’t I try to save money on the things I’d normally buy anyway … money which I can put in my vacation fund for some grand, luxurious trip to a tropical locale, where I’ll overindulge in food, drink, and naps. I’ve already picked the place.

Now, on to the a recipe! One of my family’s favorite ways to enjoy yogurt, aside from straight out of the container, is mixed into smoothies. And this smoothie is a good one. So, use a coupon to pick up some yogurt and then give it a try in this fantastic smoothie which has the taste of a delicious slice of apple pie à la mode!

Apple pie à la mode smoothie

4 granny smith apples

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1-1/2 cups vanilla yogurt

1/4 cup apple juice

2 teaspoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ginger

Peel and core the apples. Cut the apples into small pieces, then toss in the lemon juice. Freeze for a few hours in a covered container. To prepare the smoothie, blend the frozen apple pieces with all other ingredients until smooth. Garnish with a fresh slice of apple and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Related post on The Gourmand Mom: Strawberry Spinach Smoothies

Most cheese will work wonderfully in quiche, but for this recipe try smoked gouda. (A Palatable Pastime)

Quiche with broccoli, mushrooms, and kale

By A Palatable Pastime / 04.07.14

Filled with a basic custard mixture of beaten egg, cream, and seasonings over a filling of cheese and other ingredients, quiche is the sublime and perfect French pie. It can be served warm or cold, although I prefer mine around room temperature. And although you can serve this warm, it slices best after it has had about 15 minutes to settle and cool just a bit.

And although the quiche is French, it was originally German, and evolved out of recipes for kuchen, brought over the alps in the Alsatian regions. You may have heard of Alsatian Quiche, which is similar to Quiche Lorraine. Both have a love of cheese, bacon, and shallot, although many different types of vegetables can be used, as well as different types of meats and seafood. Everyone will have their own favorite combinations.

I enjoy varying the ingredients in my quiche, especially the cheese. Most cheese will work wonderfully, especially if it is a semi-hard or semi-soft cheese. Although I don’t tend to bake with ripened cheeses, many of those are at their best alongside quiche with a platter of fresh fruit and crackers, flat bread or a baguette.

Quiche is wonderful for breakfast or brunch although I will eat it anytime. Made into a tart and sliced into manageable pieces, or alternatively baked into mini-quiche in a small muffin pan, it makes a great food for entertaining. This savory vegetable quiche can be made as a tart or more like pie, whichever you prefer. The baking time won’t be affected by that at all, so whichever pan you have or like should do just fine.

As for the saying, “real men don’t eat quiche," don’t be fooled. Some guy out there obviously has himself a plan to scare all the other men away and keep their share for himself. And it is possible that after you taste this quiche, you will be tempted to come up with a ruse of your own. Quiche is really simple to make, as well as make-ahead and reheat, so make all you want and invite your friends for a quiche party. Show them what real people eat. 

Quiche with broccoli, mushrooms, and kale
Serves 5-7

1 prepared quiche pastry or single pie crust

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1/3 cup chopped shallots or mild onion

4 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped

1 cup chopped fresh broccoli

2-1/2 ounces baby kale leaves or fresh spinach

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream

3 large pastured organic eggs, lightly beaten

5 ounces smoked gouda, shredded

1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Place pie crust into a pie plate or tart pan and crimp edges.

3. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet and cook shallots, mushrooms, and broccoli until soft, seasoning with salt and pepper during cooking.

4. Add kale and stir until it just begins to wilt.

5. Whisk together beaten eggs and heavy cream.

6. When sauteed veggies have cooled a little bit, spread them on top of the pie crust. Top that with the shredded cheese, then pour the custard mixture over all. Dot with butter.

7. Place pie pan on a cookie sheet or other supportive sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for 45 minutes or until puffed, golden, and set in the center.

8. Cool 15 minutes before slicing; can be served warm or at room temperature.

Related post on Palatable Pastime: Bacon Quiche with Spinach and Mushroom 

A quick marinade and the pressure cooker produce a savory dinner in no time. (Tastes Like Home)

Umami pork

By Tastes Like Home / 04.03.14

This pork dish is something I threw together a couple of weeks ago. I had gone to the market on a Friday after my class and the butcher brought out some fresh pork. There was a pre-cut 2-pound slab of pork flap/pork belly sitting there saying, "take me home with you." What? You didn't know meat could talk?!

There are no exacting measurements for this dish, it is all based on individual taste. Add the marinade ingredients to a bowl, whisk together and taste, adjusting to suit your taste. Don't worry if you have more marinade than you need. Save the excess in a bottle in the refrigerator for baked chicken or pork.

I cooked the meat in a pressure cooker so by the time I was finishing dilly-dallying around the house this was done. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can make this on the stovetop in a heavy-bottomed pan or pot with a tight lid.

2 pounds pork flap/pork belly or pork shoulder/butt

Regular soy sauce 

Oyster sauce 

Kecap Manis - Indonesian sweet soy sauce (the ABC brand I think is the best)

Chinkiang vinegar (Chinese black vinegar. Substitute with balsamic or malt vinegar or dry sherry)

Hot pepper sauce

Salt (taste the marinade before adding salt as it my not be necessary for additional salt)

2 tablespoons oil

3/4 cup hot water

1. Cut the meat into 1 to 1-1/2-inch cubes.

2. Mix together the rest of the ingredients to make a marinade. You want a little more than 1/2 cup of marinade.

3. Pour the marinade over the pork and let it marinate for about 20-30 minutes at room temperature.

4. Add the oil to your pressure pot and place on medium heat until very hot.

5. Add the meat and juices to the pot and spread in an even layer. Let it brown for about 2-3 minutes, do not turn it before. At the end of the 2-3 minutes, give it a good turn/toss and cook for another 2 minutes.

6. Pour in the hot water and using your spoon, scrape the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck bits. Cover the cooker and let it come up to pressure. When it comes up to pressure at the first whistle, reduce the heat to low and cook for 22-25 minutes.

7. Remove the cooker from the heat and release the pressure. If there is any liquid other than the oil in the pot, return the pot to the heat and let cook until the liquid has dried out.

8. Remove the meat from the pot, garnish with sliced green onions and serve with rice, mashed ground provision, buttered noodles, or make sandwiches or wraps.

Notes

  • Reserve the oil from the cooked meat to roast potatoes. So good!
  • If using a regular pot or pan, you will need 1+ 1/2 cups of hot water. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce to low and let cook for 40-45 minutes until meat is tender. Remove lid, raise heat to high and let cook until all the liquid has dried out.

Related post on Tastes Like Home: My Char Siu & Siew Yuk

Freezing a banana will give your smoothie a more creamy texture and keep it cool. (Beyond The Peel)

Smoothie recipe: Grapefruit avocado ginger smoothie

By Beyond the Peel / 04.02.14

Though I’ve always loved a good smoothie, I have to be honest, it’s only in the past six months that I’ve really gotten into them. I used to like them, but most days the thought of making a smoothie never even occurred to me.

Now I have them almost every day. Yup. Every. Single. Day. It’s the perfect lazy man’s meal in a glass. It’s like a salad without having to worry about the dressing – or chewing for that matter.

Which means it’s in my belly in just a few moments and I’m off to get on with my day. As my husband can attest, it doesn’t take me long to drink a smoothie. I would say how long, but that would be far too embarrassing.

I like changing up the flavors almost daily since it gives me a wider range of nutrients.

OK, that’s not true. I just lied.

It’s because I get bored quickly and like to try new things constantly. Getting a better variety of nutrients just happens to be the added benefit. It sounded good though, didn’t it?

Grapefruit avocado ginger smoothie

1 grapefruit, peeled

1 banana (frozen will give a creamier texture)

1/2 avocado

2 cups spinach

3 inch segment cucumber

1/2 centimeter segment ginger, peeled

1 cup water

1 tablespoon hemp seeds (optional)

1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)

Put all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

Note: If you’re using a white grapefruit you may want to add a little honey or agave to sweeten it up. I used a pink grapefruit which is plenty sweet for me. If you want to reduce calories, only use 1/4 avocado. Since I drink these as my breakfast, this amount seems to satiate me longer.

Some things I like to put in my smoothie to up my game are (but not all of them everyday):

Turmeric

Gelatinized Maca

Ground flax seeds

Chia Seeds

Hemp seeds or hemp hearts

Almond butter

Cinnamon

Lemon juice (helps take away the bitterness of kale)

Related post on Beyond the Peel: 9 Incredible Fruit Smoothies To Jump Start Your Day

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