Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lobster Salad Anyone?

Janet here: Rachel and I had a whole debate about whether or not Meatless Mondays should be solely vegetarian or if we could include seafood. I clearly lost. Killing is killing, the new mother said to me even though I thought our point about Meatless Mondays was about eating in a smaller footprint, ie not supporting large beef industries and long travel time for food. (See post here if you're interested in how this got started.)

Anyway, Rachel is annoyingly right dammit so I put off the lobster salad post to today. I think you'll find it worth the wait. I actually served it as an appetizer with endive when friends came for dinner over the weekend. But the next day, I plopped it on my salad greens and had myself a delicious lunch. It would also make a lovely summer meal on a hot day on a toasted hot dog bun with some greenery. Enjoy!

Lobster Salad
serves 2 or 3 if a salad
makes about 12 appetizers if an appetizer

3/4 pound of cooked lobster (I'm lazy and I have a thing about killing lobsters myself so I bought mine cooked. If you're a hunter, go for it.)
1/2 cup or so diced celery
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon capers to taste
pepper to taste
1 plus tablespoons dill weed (less if you're using dried)

Dice up the lobster and celery. Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Chill and serve.

Rachel here: So, obviously one of the best things about this post is the fact that a dominant theme in it is that I'm right. While my mom and I are certainly bffs, we also share a propensity for loving to prove the other one wrong. I've never made anything with lobster, though I've certainly eaten my fair share. A few years ago John brought two live lobsters home and cooked them up for dinner. It was delicious and I bragged to all my friends about how awesome my boyfriend was. Though my mom (understandably!) opted not to kill her own lobsters, this salad still looks scrumptious. I will definitely have to make it sometime and, when I do, I'm thinking I'll pursue the appetizer route with it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Blogs That Make Us Hungry:

Janet here: What Katie Ate is a visual feast that will have you salivating as soon as you click on the page. Katie is a food photographer and blogger who writes about her life in Australia experimenting with food. And just about every post I read made me want to make what she was talking about right away. Seriously. If you are doubtful, check out the photos and recipe for individual chocolate mud cakes.

In addition to writing about recipes, Katie writes about and photographs general foodie info from the Land Down Under and just makes me more and more sure that I have to spend some time in this lovely place before I die. Check out her blog. It's an easy way to visit Australia without the long long flight.

Rachel here: Ok, so I'm a little delirious (deliriously tired and deliriously in love with John and our lovely baby M), and Katie's blog has done nothing to help this state. I think this might be my new favorite blog. It's so pretty and so yummy looking that I can't imagine my brief bouts of sleep won't be filled with delicious dreams. Anyway, check it out. It will make you smile.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Beans and Corn Anyone?

Janet here: I got this recipe from my friend Betsy, who got it from her friend Julie who got it who knows where. I just love that about recipes — that they're about nourishing your stomach but that they're about nourishing so much more. In this case, I can remember when Betsy made this for me and when she gave me the recipe. It's just one of many shared moments we have together and I love that I can't ever serve this salad without thinking of her.

While not a meal unto itself, you could easily add a green salad, a little bread and maybe some cheese, and have a lovely cold summer dinner for a hot day. Here's hoping you will share this with someone you love. Enjoy!

Corn and Bean Salad

serves a bunch

2 cans corn
2 cans black beans, rinsed
1 red pepper, diced
1 red onion, peeled and diced
3 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste

for dressing

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
chopped cilantro to taste


In a small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients and let sit.

In a large bowl mix the other ingredients. Then add the dressing and toss well. Check seasonings. I often add chili powder or some hot sauce because that's how we roll in our family. Refrigerate. The longer this sits, the better it tastes.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Caramel + Brownies = Delicious!

Janet here: When Rachel was in labor last week and I was 3,000 miles away and hadn't been able to get anyone to answer their damn phone to tell me what was going on, I did what I often do to relax or try to make life seem normal: I baked. Specifically I baked these unbelievably tasty caramel brownies. If you like chocolate turtles — you know, those gooey, chocolate-covered nuts and caramel concoctions — you're going to love these.

brownie ingredients
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

caramel ingredients

1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon whipping cream

Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease an 8X8-inch baking pan.

Melt the chocolate and 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan, stirring regularly. Remove from heat but keep warm.

Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the sugar and beat. Add the vanilla and mix. Add the chocolate-butter mixture and stir. Add the flour and blend but don't overmix.

Pour half the brownie mix into the pan. Bake 15-20 minutes until the top is firm.

While that's cooking, make the caramel by heating the 1/4 cup butter, dark sugar and corn syrup. Stir until the sugar is melted. Then increase heat until the mixture boils. Let it boil for 2 minutes. REmove from heat and add the whipping cream. Stir.

Once the bottom half is baked, spread the caramel over the baked part. Then pour remaining batter over the caramel. Smooth the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean (although it may have some caramel on it).

Cool, cut into squares and try to eat just one.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: The College Grad Cooks for Mom

Janet here:
As a young feminist, I vowed I would teach my sons to do their own laundry, clean a bathroom, sew, iron and cook. No sons of mine I vowed, not unlike Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, would think of this as woman's work. Now, as the mother of a 22-(almost 23-)year-old and 18-year-old, I am a little chagrined to report I am two for five. My sons have done their own laundry since they were 10 (each of my children received a laundry basket and a lesson in how to do laundry as part of their 10th birthday present) and they can clean a bathroom, but the others remain elusive. While they have been taught how to sew and iron, they generally refuse — but Mom you can do it so much faster! — and the cooking lessons, well, those fell by the wayside.

So I was shocked last week when G, the college grad, asked me if I wanted him to cook dinner. No one else was home and I feel fairly certain he thought I'd say no, but I jumped at the offer. And I stay committed even after I learned that basically we were going to have chicken nachos for dinner, a meal that he described as his "Mexican dinner specialty" but was absolutely nachos, as this picture will illustrate.

The meal began with G making me a gin and tonic, which was also a first. Then, as I relaxed in the family room, he got busy in the kitchen, which basically meant cutting up the chicken into strips and looking for "the hottest spices in the cupboard" to create, as he put it, "a history mystery mixture of all the hot red stuff." From there he grated some cheese, threw the whole mixture onto a plate with some tortilla chips, and plopped it in the oven for about 10 minutes. He proudly proclaimed dinner ready, and we sat down to eat. I'm not sure I've ever had a tastier plate of nachos.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hot Summer, Cool Dinner

Janet here: I'm holding down the blog fort on my own this week as Rachel recovers from having a baby — Maxine! — and gets used to life with an infant. It's hotter than hell here in the Northeast where I'm based, so the idea of standing in front of a hot stove and oven is not that appealing. I also find myself less hungry in general when it's really hot.

The joy of summer is that you can whip up a salad with just about anything you've got in the fridge and voila! Instant dinner. That's often a harder sell for the young men in my house. What? Just cold veggies for dinner? Adding this buffalo chicken — which was cooked on the grill, keeping the kitchen cool — made this an easy sell. Basically I could add buffalo chicken to arsenic and they would be willing to try it. Happily, this salad was declared anything but poisonous. I served this with my homemade onion rings and it was a major hit. Son G declared that he would ask for this as his last meal if he could. Now that made me feel great.

Buffalo Chicken Salad

serves 4

1 pound boneless chicken breasts or chicken tenders if you're in a rush
2-3 tablespoons hot sauce (We're a Frank's family but whatever is your favorite will work)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Romaine lettuce, ripped into bite-size pieces
4 stalks celery, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 scallions, green and white part, thinly sliced

Blue Cheese Dressing
from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave

1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the oil and hot sauce in a bowl. If you've got tenders, put them in and toss with the sauce until coated. If you've got breasts, pound them into thinner slab and cut into strips. Then toss with the sauce.

Make up the salad plates with the ingredients above.

Make the blue cheese dressing. If you make Ellie's be aware that you should strain the yogurt for 30 minutes (put a paper towel over a small bowl to act as a strainer and then spoon the yogurt on top to get rid of the excess liquid). I did not do this and my dressing while tasty was a little more liquidy than I like my blue cheese dressing. After the yogurt is strained, whisk all the ingredients together.

When you're ready to eat, grill the chicken, place on top of the salad, add the dressing and you're good to go.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Books That Make Us Hungry: Food Rules

Janet here: If you're confused by the many mixed messages sent our way about food and nutrition science — ie. the nutritional plan du jour — then you should pick up a copy of Michael Pollan's new (very short) book, Food Rules. Pollan, in case you don't know, is the author of the very thorough In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma. He's basically spent the better part of his most recent journalism career investigating food and how/why we eat the way we do. But where those books are for people who really want to know all the details about this engrossing subject, Food Rules is for the folks who just want a down-and-dirty guide on to how to eat healthier. It's kind of the Readers' Digest version of healthier eating.

Pollan sets up his premise with a little food history in which he reminds us that nutrition science is really a fairly young science. As he so aptly puts it, as a science it's just about where surgery was in 1650. Would you want to be operated on in 1650? I thought not. So why, er, swallow without question what nutrition scientists say (and change) today?

After a ton of interviewing and research, Pollan boils down his own rules to this: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." In other words, bag that Western diet.

The 64 rules that follow are just variations on Pollan's theme with a little more depth or specificity. Rule 2, for instance: Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize. Rule 7: Avoid food products containing ingredients that a third-grader cannot pronounce. Rule 11: Avoid foods you see advertised on television. And my personal favorite: It's not food if it arrived through the window of your car. Common sense we all could use.

P.S. As a parent, I know firsthand how tough it can be to sell kids on "healthy" eating. If you need a little help, Pollan has created a young reader's version of his omnivore book. You can read a review here at Ohdeedoh.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Bun in the Oven is Done!

Janet here: You'll have to forgive me for interrupting today's regular programming, but the news is too exciting! Rachel and John's bun in the oven, M, has arrived! She was born late last week, a healthy, beautiful, 7 pounds, 1 ounce, 21 inches long. Here's to many happy family memories and meals for her, her mom and her dad — oh and with her grandmother and grandfather naturally.

Friday, June 18, 2010

So Smoothie

Janet here:
I don't remember exactly when I personally fell in love with smoothies, but I remember clearly my Mom Moment when I realized I could get nutrition into my small children by pureeing stuff in a blender and serving it as if it was a milkshake. Hello!

Anytime my children said they didn't want any fruit, I would casually ask if they would like a smoothie, and then smile behind their backs as they said an enthusiastic "Yes!" Mission accomplished. Added bonus? It's a way to use up fruit that's on the edge of going bad.

I know there are a ton of recipes out there for smoothies, but I see smoothies as the perfect place to experiment. I've put everything from blueberries and bananas to strawberries, nectarines, peaches and prunes into smoothies and have yet to make a bad one. Consider the recipe below a guideline for your own smoothie journey. What's your favorite smoothie combination?

Strawberry Banana Smoothie
yields three tall glasses


1 cup vanilla yogurt (you can use plain too if you're trying to avoid all sugar)
1/3-1/2 cup orange juice (this prevents it from being too thick; you can use any kind of juice from cranberry to apple and others)
4-5 ice cubes (these make the smoothie cold like a milkshake)
1 cup diced berries (in this case strawberries)
1 banana (helps to thicken; I add this to most smoothies for this reason)
dash of flaxseed if you want to add a little surprise fiber :)

Add them all to a blender and puree. You might have to stop it and stir things around and then puree again to make sure you get all the ingredients. Pour and enjoy!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: a Visual Feast

Rachel here: My dad is one of my favorite people. EVER. While my mom and I share a love for cooking (amongst other things), the appetites my dad and I have in common are a little different. One of my favorites is our mutual love of a midday break to peruse an art museum and share a little lunch.

I can't recall when this little art and lunch tradition of ours first started, though I know it was when I was in high school. At a time when-at best!-I was reticent, invitations to meet my dad at his office on Wednesdays (we had half-days at my high school) or over school breaks were a surefire way to bring us together. He would either pick me up or, once I could, I would drive in to his office to meet him. We'd make our way over to the Atheneum (a seriously, seriously awesome and accessible art museum in Hartford, Connecticut that you should check out if you're in the area) and peruse the galleries together. With my dad at my side, I discovered Calder and the Hudson River School, learned the difference between Monet and Manet, and spent an afternoon stifling chuckles at Grandma Moses (to this day, neither one of us really "gets it" when it comes to her) name just a few. In an era when I was loathe to converse much with my parents (except to argue about why I should be allowed to go to various parties or, absent a party, to just loudly list my grievances against them), these excursions with my dad offered neutral territory for us to meet on. With neither of us an expert on what we were feasting our eyes upon, we were free to postulate and interpret as equals. I don't know if my dad had considered this all when he first initiated these little adventures of ours, but regardless, it was brilliant parenting. It was a point of access to him for me, a door that was always ajar even if I had been slamming the one on my bedroom ferociously for days. Often, though we'd start out talking about art, we'd end up discussing the issues I was grappling with at the time.

Sometimes we'd eat in the museum cafe (very yummy), but my favorite was when we'd have sushi together. Sushi wasn't something that we ate growing up. Instead, at least in my teenage mind, it was something that my dad and I ate together. It felt so sophisticated and decadent to me, and a little bit adventurous. I felt like we had this little club-the art and sushi club-that nobody else in my family even desired to join (clearly indicating irreparable shortcomings on their parts). Even if we didn't get sushi, remaining at the museum to nibble in the cafe instead, I felt like my dad and I were sharing a mutual love of finer things, dining surrounded by art.

Every time I go to Connecticut to visit my family (ok, almost every time), my dad and I get in a trip to an art museum. These days he's quite fond of the New Britain Museum of American Art and I've enjoyed the shows he's taken me to there. Though it's rarely just the two of us on these outings these days, I hold this little feeling that everyone else is just peripheral, that really these visual feasts are for my dad and me, that our club is in session even if we haven't formally announced it.

As I'm sitting here writing this, I'm realizing that I don't think I've ever thanked my dad for this tradition of ours that he's gifted me with or expressed to him how much it has meant to me for a decade or more now. And so, thank you, Dad-for art, for lunch, for creating this space for me to find you in (as a tumultuous teen, but also forever). Happy (early) Father's Day; I love you now and I will love you always.

PS: If you're looking to bake a cake for a favorite father of yours this weekend, click here for inspiration!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Best Leftovers Problem Ever: Fried Chicken and Waffles

Rachel here: Our super amazing friends just threw us a baby shower the other night. There were many amazing things about the evening, but one of the unexpected ones was our fridge being stocked with a bounty of leftover fried chicken once the guests had cleared out. I honestly never would've thought it was possible for people not to consume all the fried chicken. Anyway, these leftovers posed an awesome problem.

One of John's and my all-time favorite things to eat is fried chicken and waffles. It's a staple where we live and can be found everywhere from chicken and waffle houses to upscale eateries. Somehow, though, we'd never made this meal at home. I guess that's probably due to the fact that we've never made fried chicken at home. Anyway, the morning after the baby shower when John was leaving for work in the wee hours of the morning, he kissed my sleeping head goodbye and whispered "Let's have chicken and waffles for dinner." I woke up grinning.

The magic of chicken and waffles is that you get a little bit of everything on one plate. You get something savory (fried chicken) and something sweet (maple syrup), a bit of kick (because fried chicken necessitates hot sauce) and a good neutral background (the waffle). Seriously, it's perfection on a plate. To get our waffle recipe click here. I neglected to take a photo of our chicken and waffle extravaganza, unable to restrain myself from diving in immediately. I include a photograph from my previous waffle post below, though, to whet your appetite.

I'm pretty sure that if I was asked what I wanted for my final meal I would choose fried chicken and waffles. What would you pick?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blogs That Make Us Hungry: Pictures and Pancakes

Rachel here: We make so many decisions about things visually before we engage our other senses and food is no exception. I can't tell you how many meals I've decided I love based simply on how pleasing they look on the plate before me. Sure, they don't always quite measure up once my taste buds get involved, but I remain confident that I still enjoy these foods more thanI would if they didn't delight my eyes first. It is this visual enticement that has inspired us to start revamping our own presentation of this blog during the past few days. We would love feedback from you guys about the changes we've made and suggestions for others that would whet your appetite.

But anyway, I have a point in here somewhere. My point, I suppose, is the pictures and pancakes blog. The work of the Purcells--a food stylist and photographer duo--this site looks nothing short of delicious. Stark and modern, the vibe this blog emanates is still somehow yummy and inviting. I love their choice to feature dual photographs (I'm sure there's a technical name for this...) and there are several recipes I've bookmarked to try my hand at sometime soon.

Anyway, take a look. Your eyes will be pleased and your appetite is sure to swell accordingly.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Easy as (Pizza) Pie

Janet here: When I want to make a fast guilt-free dinner that's nutritious, I make my favorite kind of pizza: broccoli pizza with cheese. I prefer my pizza without red sauce and love making up different concoctions of goodies to put on top. The options are as vast as your imagination. As I've noted before, broccoli is my absolute favorite vegetable; I only allow myself to serve it twice a week so there isn't a family mutiny, but if I lived on my own (and cooked, which is another story), I would eat broccoli all the time.

Anyway this pizza makes use of pre-made pizza dough from the store — I said this was an easy meatless meal, remember? — but if you prefer to make your own, go for it. I have done it, but with pre-made dough (I like Trader Joe's) so ubiquitous these days, I'd rather put my time into something else. Anyway, this meal literally takes minutes, which means your Monday can be meat-free and easy.

Broccoli Pizza
serves 2 with a little left over

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium head of broccoli cut up into bite-size pieces
1 medium onion, diced but not too finely
2-3 cloves garlic, minced (or more if you like garlic)
spices: I use everything from red pepper flakes to oregano, basil, salt and pepper, all to taste
3/4 cup crumbled feta
1 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar

Let the dough sit out for 20 minutes to reach room temperature. While that's happening, saute the onions until they are translucent, about 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minutes. Add the broccoli and seasonings. Saute, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is just cooked (I like my veggies crunchy and remember you will be baking this so it will be cooked further). Put aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the pizza dough on a floured surface to roughly a 12-inch diameter. Place the dough onto your sprayed cookie sheet or pizza stone. Add the broccoli saute. Top with the cheeses. Bake for about 10 minutes, depending on how crisp you like your pizza crust.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Biscotti: A Semi-Happy Ending

Janet here: The biscotti saga began yesterday when I wrote about my issue meticulously following recipe instructions and the ways in which the biscotti bake-off began to go horribly, horribly wrong. (You can check it out here to catch up if you want.) As you can see from the photo above, I did end up with biscotti bits, which were very tasty. What I did not end up with were biscotti I could actually serve to guests on a lovely plate to go with their fresh coffee. Fortunately, my family is forgiving and are eating the bits nonetheless and I have time to try this recipe again, actually following the directions, once I recover from my humbling experience. Anyway, hope you have better luck!

Chocolate Cherry Almond Biscotti
from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour--she used 1 1/4 cups all-purpose and 1 1/4 whole wheat pastry or regular whole wheat
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup dried tart cherries, finely chopped
1/2 cup raw almonds, finely chopped
2 ounces dark chocolate, the better quality the better

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl beat together the sugar, eggs, orange zest and vanilla until well combined. In batches, add the flour mixture until it forms a dough. (I did not do this; consider yourself forwarned.) Stir in cherries, almonds and chocolate

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead several times. Shape into a log about 10 inches long and 3 inches wide. Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet and back for 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack and cool.

With a serrated knife, cut the log across at a diagonal in 1/2-inch slices. Arrange on the baking sheet, cut side down, and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the cookies over and bake until golden, 5-10 minutes longer. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: Fear of Failure

Janet here:
I had a moment of cooking panic this week. I had decided to make biscotti, something I'd never attempted before, but no biggie, right? I make new things all the time. And then it all began to go horribly wrong.

I followed the recipe the way I follow all recipes: I take the overall idea of mixing a bunch of stuff together but completely ignore all those little niggly details — aren't they really for people who are afraid to cook? — about sifting, mixing certain dry ingredients together first, using certain equipment etc. I mean, they all end up in the bowl and then in a baking pan anyway so what's the point?

With biscotti, the point, apparently, is that you end up with biscotti that actually looks something like biscotti instead of little biscotti pieces that look as if they aren't full grown yet.

I began to get concerned after I happily dumped all the wet ingredients into the bowl in one fell swoop rather than in batches as suggested. What I had after mixing was just a bunch of dough pieces. Nothing was holding together. The recipe said to take the dough out of the bowl and place it on the counter for kneading. Maybe, I reasoned, kneading would pull my dough together. Nope. After kneading and kneading and kneading and getting nothing to hold together in a way that was supposed to yield a 10" log about 3 inches in diameter, I gave up and just made balls of dough at whatever size I could force to hold together. It looked like this.

Now the story has a (mostly) happy ending, which I will share with you tomorrow when I reveal the full recipe and the final product. But in the meantime, I learned something about myself and about cooking. First, I am not used to having anything turn out other than fabulous, and I was not happy when things began to spin out of control. How would I explain this to the family — okay, Rachel, because of course there is a competitive streak to this little collaboration of ours. And, finally, it turns out instructions are there for a reason and that, yes, they do apply to me. Seems like this little baking adventure stirred up more than just flour and eggs.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Onion Ring Goodness

Janet here: I can pass on fries with hardly a second thought in a restaurant, but a place known for its onion rings — i.e. crisp, not too battery onion rings that retain some of the sweetness of the onion — are a downfall of mine. Now that I've made a batch of my own, I could be in real trouble because A) they're not as hard to make as I thought, B) they're baked, making them appear to be semi-healthy for you and C) they are freaking amazing.

I adapted a recipe from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave. I don't have a food processor (I know, I know, I'm a cooking Luddite) so my rings weren't quite as crumb-covered as they might have been if I'd been able to make finer crumbs, but trust me, this was not an issue. The plateful lasted only a few minutes at our family table, with S and G splitting the last one rather than fighting over it. I can tell this is the beginning of a beautiful recipe relationship.

Homemade Onion Rings
makes about 14 rings, depending on how you cut your onions


2 large Vidalia onions
4 cups potato chips (obviously there's room for lots of experimentation here on chip flavoring to make unique onion rings; I went for your basic potato chip this time since it was my first but I'm going to change it up for sure going forward)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I threw in some red pepper flakes too since we tend to like our food spicier)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup flour, plus two tablespoons flour
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Get out cooking sheets and spray lightly with cooking oil.

Smoosh up your potato chips. If you've got a food processor, that's obviously the easiest route. I don't so I put mine in a plastic bag and pounded away. Add in your spices, stir and the place in a shallow bowl.

In another bowl, mix up the buttermilk, two tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper.

Peel the onions and then slice into 1/2 inch slices and break apart into individual peels. I used the mostly inner ones, i.e. the largest peels, but it's up to you. I saved the rest of the onions for other food. Place the peels into a plastic bag with the 1/2 cup flour and shake it up to cover the slices.

Take each flour-dredged peel and drop into the buttermilk mixture. Then drop into the chip crumbs and cover thoroughly. Place on cooking sheet with no overlapping of onion rings.

Bake 20 minutes until golden brown. If you have two cooking sheets, they may not both fit on one shelf. (Mine didn't.) I switched sheets after 10 minutes and it all came out fine.

Rachel here: Ok, so while I didn't make any onion rings, I have a few things I'd like to add here. The first is that these look and sound delicious and I can't wait for my family to come and visit in a few weeks so that my mom can make them for me (I share her undying love for onion rings and most likely have her to thank for it). The second is that my mom said "Smoosh up your potato chips." If you were to type "smoosh" in a word document it would be underlined as incorrectly spelled. This would be because it is one of my mother's many faux words. We in the Reynolds family speak fluent Jake, so welcome to the fold. Stick around and you'll find yourself saying all sorts of words that leave those not in the know looking at you like you just made no sense (clearly this is their shortcoming, not ours/yours). And finally, I would like to invite you all to join me in congratulating my mother for boldly leaving her photographic comfort zone to use a camera instead of her phone for this post. Seriously, it has taken weeks (months?) to convince her to take this bold step and to assure her that is technology she can figure out. Go, Mom, go!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Books That Make Us Hungry: The Way to Cook by Julia Child

Rachel here: For several years now, I have lived in a house that has Julia Child cookbooks in it (I don't recall any in my mother's stash from growing up). In my head, though, they have always been John's. Sure, this is partly because he has bought them and received them as gifts; it is also partly due to the esteem he holds for his books and Julia in general. I think the real reason, though, is that John is hands-down, without a doubt a better cook than me. Since he loves all things Julia Child so much, I think I relegated her cookbooks to a shelf in my head reserved for cookbooks for those who can really cook. What I'd neglected to consider, though, until the other morning, is that John hates pretension and would never love a cook or cookbook that was as inaccessible as I'd preemptively decided all things Julia must be.

Anyone who's ever realized their morning slipped away while they watched old Julia Child cooking shows on PBS knows that this is a woman who cooked for the love of food and people. I knew this, and yet still considered her cookbooks off limits. The other morning, though, over a cup of coffee and my breakfast, I found myself completely ensnared by her The Way to Cook for over an hour. Like Alice B. Toklas (who I blogged about here), Child winds a narrative around food that is both sensuous and sensible, hilarious and hunger-inducing. Most importantly, though, after spending time with the book, I felt like I could actually attempt most of the recipes in it. Ingeniously organized to facilitate the acquisition of a true understanding of food (for instance, foods that cook similarly are grouped together, so instead of looking up pork chops and veal chops separately she teaches you how to cook one and then informs you that you can apply the same techniques to the other), Child even goes so far as to inform you which are the easier recipes and which are more involved, thereby also guiding you through the learning process. I really felt like I could approach her cooking, though, when I saw her note on cornbread. On page 59 she writes that for "cornbread baked in the traditional square pan...I usually use the recipe on the Quaker cornmeal box." *Swoon* While she advises elsewhere in the book to withhold the sugar in cornbread if making it as part of a stuffing, I found this little passage incredibly revealing and exciting. Whereas so many cookbook authors' egos would have necessitated their own twist on cornbread, Child possesses and displays the humbleness to say, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" Even if the rest of her book weren't so expertly concocted, this mentality alone would induce me to follow her lead.

Anyway, have any of you embarked on your own Julia Child culinary adventures? If so, we'd love to hear about them. In the meantime, though, I'd highly recommend this book for your own collection or as a gift to a burgeoning cook (I am thinking every college graduate should get a copy).

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Summer Soup

Rachel here: As we mentioned this past Thursday, Mondays are now going to feature a vegetarian and/or vegan recipe in an effort to do our small part to enact and encourage environmentally-responsible eating. I am delighted to kick this posting trend off today with a delicious, hearty and summery recipe. Since it first crossed my mind to make gazpacho a few summers ago, it has been a staple in our house in the hotter months. I think my favorite part about it is that I'm never quite sure what all will end up in the bowl, making my ingredient decisions instead at the grocery store or farmers' market as I encounter the produce. I accompanied the meal this time with garlic bread, although I've been known to forgo the oven completely (even greener!) and just put out some cheese and crackers. Either way, every time I serve it there are happy faces and full bellies around the table come dinner's end.

serves 8

1 large lemon
1 1/2 c. cannelini beans
5 small tomatoes (or equivalent)
1 medium cucumber
1 medium white onion
1 medium green bell pepper
1 ear fresh corn
salt and pepper
tomato juice
fresh mint leaves

Dice your tomatoes, cucumber, onion, bell pepper and corn. Put in a large bowl, reserving 1 1/2 cups. Puree the reserved vegetables and add to bowl. Add the beans and juice from the lemon. Season with salt and pepper and tear up just a few mint leaves. The idea with the mint at this point is to just add the subtlest hint of mint. The leaves don't hold up so well, though, so I get the bulk of my minty flavor when I garnish the soup right before serving it. Add tomato juice as needed to get a good amount of liquid. Make sure the soup is well mixed before placing in the refrigerator to chill for a few hours. During this time, the flavors will come out a bit more. Taste before serving and adjust seasoning if needed. Garnish with a few mint leaves in each bowl and enjoy.

Janet here: The best gazpacho, to my mind, has a bit of zing to it so when I make it, I add things like Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. (This would not go with mint FYI so I would leave that out of Rachel's recipe.) I also like to leave mine a little crunchy so I don't puree it all the way. Just some other thoughts to consider as you're experimenting with this wonderful summer day staple. Enjoy!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Homemade Pasta

Rachel here: When John and I were first together, one of our favorite things to do was cook. Prior to meeting John, I worked in restaurants and lived alone. Outside of work (where I was heartily fed), I mainly subsisted on grits and fruit. Though I would definitely relate differently to cooking for myself now than I did then, at the age of 19 or 20, my top goal in eating at home was to generate as few dirty dishes as possible. Anyway, enter John. Here was a man who not only enjoyed but excelled at cooking, who wanted to make me dishes of food I had never tried and who genuinely enjoyed eating. On our way home from work, walking our bikes instead of riding so that we could talk, we'd more often than not get to talking about dinner and stop by the grocery store en route to pick up the various ingredients we'd need to make whatever had struck our fancy. To shop and eat in this fashion felt incredibly luxurious. Fast forward five years and, as a general rule, we no longer spend our afternoons and evenings planning and generating whimsical meals. We are busy, busy bees these days and no longer live nearly across the street from a fantastic grocery as we did in our earlier days. Still, though, one of my favorite ways to spend the twilight hours of a weekend home with John is over a completely homemade meal that we have prepared together. The food tastes and feels so good and I couldn't ask for better company.

This past weekend afforded us just such a window to get into the kitchen together. A few years back, John convinced me that homemade pasta is significantly better than its store-bought counterpart and, though we usually end up eating the latter for its convenience, this weekend John taught me how to make pasta by myself. It is surprisingly easy, though it does take a little muscle, and we generated two lasagnas from our endeavors, one for dinner and one for the freezer for the days after M makes her grand debut. If you've never tried your hand at pasta making before, I highly recommend that you give it a whirl. It is simple and satisfying and really, truly the best way to eat pasta.

1 egg (supposedly the fresher the better)
1 c. all-purpose flour
semolina flour

In a large bowl, form the all-purpose flour into a well. Crack the egg into the center of the well and stir with a fork. As you stir the egg, it will gradually pull flour in. Keep at this until you are completely unable to stir anymore. At this juncture, add a teaspoon of water. Once all of your flour has been combined with another ingredient (either egg or water, or both), turn it out onto your countertop. Knead, twist and fold diligently until the dough becomes incorporated. Add more water, no more than a teaspoon at a time, whenever you are convinced that there isn't a single additional drop of moisture to be utilized towards forming a coherent ball of dough. This kneading process should take at least 15 minutes (in my experience). Once you have a ball of dough, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let rest for 45 minutes. Roll it out as thinly as you desire (either using a pasta roller or a rolling pin) and then cut into your desired shape. I folded my dough, dusting it with semolina flour between layers so the pasta wouldn't stick to itself, before cutting so I could get uniform shapes. Voila! Cook as you would normally cook pasta, though you should know that homemade pasta will cook noticeably faster than the dried store-bought stuff.

For our lasagna, we mixed chopped scallions and basil in with the ricotta (along with some salt and pepper) and sauteed spinach and mushrooms with garlic before layering everything with parmesan cheese and tomato sauce. Yum! What will you do with your delicious pasta?

Janet here: What I plan to do with the delicious lasagna I now know is waiting for me, not M, is eat it and enjoy every last bite. I know for a fact that homemade pasta is absolutely the way to go, but the likelihood that I will add this to my culinary life in the near future is, well, zero. I will, however, promise to fill the hole in the freezer that is made when I eat Rachel and John's lasagna.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Food for Thought Thursdays: We're All in This Together

By intent, Life Told in Recipes is not a political blog. But there are moments when something so cataclysmic happens that it just seems irresponsible to ignore what's going on in the world. So we decided we needed to weigh in on the horror that is happening in the Gulf Coast.

While the relationship between oil and food might not appear instantly obvious, the reality is they are intertwined in the same way that the butterfly flapping its wings in Africa creates a wind storm in Seattle. Nothing any of us does is an act without consequence, and the insatiable tastes we humans have for using up the Earth's resources without apparent thought is absolutely affecting the future of this planet and its inhabitants. The oil in the gulf is just one of the most recent and more horribly egregious examples.

The reality is that we all need to think about how we use natural resources and be more aware that nothing comes without a cost. With food, that means eating local food whenever possible — the energy spent getting produce from one part of this country to another is just one potential upside here — and supporting farmers, ideally local, who use organic and sustainable farming methods. Another option is eating one meatless meal a week. Scientists estimate that if every American lowered meat consumption by just 20 percent, it would lower greenhouse gasses as much as if everyone in the country switched to driving Toyota Priuses. (And it's good for your health; according to Johns Hopkins School of Public Health going meatless just one day a week can reduce consumption of saturated fat by 15 percent, thereby reducing your chances of heart disease.)

Sometimes major problems, such as global warming and the environment, can seem so large that it seems as if there's nothing we can do as individuals to stop it...and so too many of us do nothing. The reality is that most large problems are solved by lots of people taking small steps. It's time for all of us to starting walking together.

As part of our efforts, we're going to start offering one meatless meal a week here to help you get started if you're interested in taking one small step yourself. Please join us on Monday when we feature our first Meatless Mondays post. And, of course, if you're involved in clean-up oriented projects or you have ideas of your own for ways to be environmentally responsible eaters, please share them with us and your fellow readers by leaving a comment below.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bring on the Blueberries

Rachel here: When we decided to go gung-ho blueberries for this post, I immediately thought of trying to make lemonade. I've been pretty into lemons and limes as of late and with a hot weekend ahead of us, nothing seemed better than having a large cold pitcher of sweet and tart blueberry lemonade on hand. After spending most of yesterday outside, often with an ice-cold glass of this drink in hand, I can say I was totally right. Next time I'm thinking I'll try using raspberries and limes...

Blueberry Lemonade
makes 14 cups

2 c. simple syrup (1 c. sugar, 1 c. water and a little lemon zest cooked until water is clear)
2 c. blueberries, pureed
2 c. lemon juice (10-12 lemons)
8 c. water

Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher, stirring well. Let chill for a few hours. Serve over ice (if people are finicky, then strain as you serve to remove blueberry bits...I, personally, love the evidence of the fresh fruit). If you have drinkers who would like their lemonade a bit sweeter, moisten and then dip the rims of their glasses in demerara sugar. Also, John would like you all to know that this stuff tastes great with some whiskey in it. I have to say that I'm inclined to believe him.

Janet here: I went with blueberry wonderfulness as a compote. I decided to make the compote and then show you two things to do with it: warm over ice cream — fabulous! — and as a center in muffins — also very tasty.

Serving it with ice cream is obvious: Make the compote, scoop the ice cream, dig in. End of delicious story.

For the muffins, my idea was that they would be a little like jelly donuts except muffins. I have to tell you my theory didn't exactly work — the compote spread randomly throughout the muffin — but they were tasty nonetheless.

for the compote
2 1/2 cups blueberries (or obviously any berry you want)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water

Put 1 1/2 cups berries in a saucepan with the sugar and water. Cook until the berries burst, stirring occasionally. Add 1 cup of berries and cook, stirring regularly, until the spoon is coated with the sauce.

Pour over whatever you want, such as ice cream,


Blueberry Compote Muffins

the compote obviously
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/4 cups milk
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
the compote
1 1/4 cups sugar

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir with your hand until combined. Add the eggs, milk and melted butter, stirring until just combined. May be lumpy. Add the sugar and combine.

Put a large dollop (tablespoon) of batter into each muffin cup. Add about 1 tablespoon of compote. Add another dollop of muffin batter. Bake 25 minutes until a cake tester comes out clean and the tops are golden brown.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Blogs That Make Us Hungry: 80 Breakfasts

Janet here: While I love to eat out, no meal makes me feel more special, more decadent, than eating breakfast outside my house. I say this despite having eaten at some fabulous dinner spots and having eaten at a restaurant where there was basically a waiter for every person at our table — yes that would be a different waiter for each person.

I think the reason breakfast is so special for me is that A) I am not making it, B) I feel liberated to eat something I would never eat normally (and normal for me is yogurt, Stonyfield fat-free or Dannon coffee yogurt, with granola and flax seed, which is what I eat every day of the week EXCEPT when I eat breakfast out of my house and C) I am not making it. (Yes, I know I repeated A and C but it's an important point for someone who cooks most of the meals and has done so for nearly 30 years.

So I was intrigued by a blog called 80 Breakfasts for the obvious reasons: it's about my fantasy, ie that the author would come and make one of these 80 breakfasts for me at my house. While it's not just about breakfast — there's a seriously awesome recipe for chicken sauteed with cheese and milk that would work for just about any meal I can imagine — it's enough about breakfast to have me a champion. I mean there's a post about peanut butter and jelly oatmeal for God's sake. (And don't diss it until you read about this. I want to make it right. now.)

Anyway we like what we see here and hope you will check it out.