Saturday, June 25, 2011

Loaded Baked Potato & Grilled Veggies

A few nights ago we fired up the grill and had a delicious meal of grilled fish; red peppers, zucchini, and yellow summer squash right on the grill; and potatoes with onions and green peppers cooked in foil.  It was an incedibly refreshing supper.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about.  I'm here to talk about what we did with the leftovers.  We didn't have any fish leftover (my 2-year-olds ate 2 fillets each! Who knew?!).  For lunch we fried up the potatoes and added some chili powder, cumin and cilantro and threw in a few eggs.  Great - but here's where it goes from great to...?...super great?

I should start by saying that this was all my husband's doing, I didn't have any part in this except the photos and the eating (and now the writing).  I should say that because he'd want me to.  And, of course, because it's true.

Anyway, in a skillet he mixed the leftover red bell peppers, zucchini, and yellow squash (cut into bite-sized pieces), a can of petite cut diced tomatoes, a half a can of tomato sauce, and about half a cup of red wine.  He cooked these together for somewhere around 5 - 8 minutes.  Then we put them on top of our baked potatoes and it was fantastic.

We are trying to go meatless with a few more of our meals, and this was a great way to do it...quite filling and it tasted great.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lemon Drizzle Cake with Blueberry Sauce

Elegant sounding, isn't it?  "Lemon Drizzle Cake with Blueberry Sauce."  Saying that makes me feel a bit like Julia Child.  Fortunately, however, this cake was easy.  Not nearly as elegant as it sounds.  This cake is light, breezy (as much as a cake can be breezy, I suppose), fruity...perfect for a summer's evening.  The tangy tartness of the "drizzle" pairs fantastically with the fruity sweetness of the blueberries. 

Formal or informal, this cake could go either way.  I highly encourage you to make this for your next summer get together.  Or, if get-togethers aren't your thing...make this for your next summer supper.

Lemon Drizzle Cake with Blueberry Sauce
*adapted from a book called "Gorgeous Cakes" (no author listed, and not able to be found on

1 3/4 C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 C. sugar
4 eggs
2/3 C. sour cream
grated zest of 1 large lemon
juice from 1 large lemon (about 1/4 cup)
2/3 C. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350, grease an 8-inch round pan (preferable one with a removable bottom), and line the bottom of the pan with waxed or parchment paper.

Sift the flour and baking powder together, then add the sugar and stir until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, lemon rind, lemon juice and oil.  Add to the dry ingredients and mix well until everything is smooth and evenly combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 45 - 60 minutes - until top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean.  As soon as it comes out of the oven, poke holes all over the top with a skewer or toothpick and immediately brush syrup (recipe below) over the top.  Let cake cool completely in the pan.  Serve with chilled blueberry sauce (recipe below).

Lemon Syrup
Mix 1/4 C. powdered sugar with 3 Tbsp. lemon juice in a small pan.  Keep stirring over low heat until it begins to bubble and turns syrupy.  Brush over cake.

Blueberry Sauce
Puree 1 pint of blueberries in a food processor or blender until mostly smooth (some skins will still be there).  In a medium saucepan, mix together 1/2 cup sugar with 1 tsp. cornstarch.  Add pureed blueberries.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil and stir for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Quick Hint: Beat the Heat

Ahhhh.  The long, lazy days of summer.  This is what we've waited for all winter, right?  Relaxing on the front porch swing.  Running barefoot through the grass.  Stopping, for just a minute, to smell the roses, or daylilies, or hydrangeas, or whatever happens to be growing in your yard, the yard down the street, or perhaps the nearby park.

But...summer also brings the heat.  Great - if you are at the pool, lake or beach.  Not so great if you are wanting to whip up a batch of brownies, strawberry shortcake, or homemade bread.

Here's my solution - you really can have your heat and bake a cake, too!

A couple years ago my in-laws gave my husband and me a roaster oven for Christmas.  This thing is fantastic.  And the perfect solution for freshly baked summer-time treats that won't heat up the whole house or make your AC work double-time.

Not only does the thing roast meats (duh), but it also doubles as an oven.  Fantastic for putting out in the mudroom and baking...whatever.  I haven't tried cookies, but cakes, bars and bread - all turned out great.  Last fall I took my roaster to work and cooked up a fresh-from-the-oven apple crisp for our Friday "Lunch Club".

This evening we set it up in our mudroom and closed the door to keep the heat out of the house:

Don't have a mudroom?  A basement would work.  Or a garage.  Or even a back porch.  All you need is an outlet.  And, of course, a roaster oven.

*Credit where it is due: I learned this hint from my Grandparent-in-laws.  A couple summers ago I brought an apple crisp over to their house for dessert...and we baked it in an antique roaster oven in their basement.  This was the event that made my husband and I want the roaster oven in the first place.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Leftover Beef and Barley Soup

I've been remiss.  I've been neglecting my blog.  I've been grading papers.  I've been moving from a closet (as a teacher who traveled to a different room each period with a closet as home-base) to a real room...a real room in the corner of a basement with a leaky air-conditioner and no windows...but a real room none-the-less.  I've been attending graduation, and graduation parties.  I've been celebrating the end of the school year with a week long trip to the breathtaking mountains of Montana - with my husband, but without my kids.

And now I am back.  It is summer and I have eight glorious weeks before I go back to real life.  I have eight weeks to spend with my wonderful family (my husband is a teacher's that for luck?!), piddling around in the yard, tending to my make-shift garden of old kitty-litter containers filled with tomato, pepper and zucchini plants - and a trash can full of potato plants, and best of all...exploring with new recipes.  I'm reading a book right now - I'll share it with you when I'm finished - that is slowly (or quickly...depending, I guess, on your sense of time) changing the way I'm thinking about food, eating, health and nutrition.  I may need to change the title of the blog (I probably should anyway...before I started this I made WAY more sweets than I do now). 

I have some good summer-y recipes to share with you...but I'll get to those a little later this week.  Right now you have to have this recipe for Beef and Barley Soup.   I wanted to get this posted when I made it...back in May when the temperatures were still in the low sixties.  But, for whatever reason, I didn't.  So you get it now.  Crank up the air conditioner (or take a trip to the movies - the theaters are always freezing!), and get yourself in the mood for some soup.  Whenever we make a roast, I always buy one that I know is way to big for our family to eat - and then use the leftovers to make this soup.  As with most soups, it is really a "throw-together" sort of deal.  All values are approximate.  Adjust it to your taste, or what you have in your fridge.

Leftover Beef and Barley Soup

Carrots, diced (about 2 whole, peeled carrots; or about half of a small bag of baby carrots)
Onion, diced (1/2 - 1 medium onion)
Celery, diced (2-3 stalks)

** Saute these in olive oil with about 2 tsp. minced garlic, 1/2 tsp. dried thyme, 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, and 1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper.  Saute just until tender (or onions start to turn translucent).

Roast beef, cooked and diced (at least 7 ounces, but add as much as you like)
Barley, cooked according to packed directions (use 1 C. dry barley -- for better flavor cook in a stock/water mixture mixed with some dried onion flakes)
4 C. Beef stock
6 C. Water
tops of the celery stalks
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. garlic
1/4. tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt.

** Simmer on low for 30 - 40 minutes.

1/2 bag frozen peas in the last 10 minutes of cooking.