Friday, July 29, 2011

Tasty Cole Slw

Janet here: I know I made the best cole slaw in the world last summer and blogged about it here. (If you love blue cheese — and really, aren't you suspicious of people who don't? — make it NOW even before this recipe; in fact I might make it tonight since I just finished the last of this red cabbage slaw before writing this post and now that I've reminded myself of the blue cheese version, I am craving it.)

Anyway this recipe is pretty damn tasty too, and is minus any of the cheese issues for calories or lactose-intolerant types. (and let me just say you have my sympathies. I'm not sure I could live in a world without coffee yogurt or ice cream.)

This slaw is super easy to make and quite satisfying. It's the perfect summer side dish and features another of my favorite veggies: red cabbage. Hope you like it!

Red Cabbage Slaw

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small or 1/2 a large head of red cabbage, thinly shredded
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
6 scallions, chopped

Whisk together all the ingredients except the cabbage. Shred the cabbage. Add to a large bowl and toss. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours so all the seasonings can meld together.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Baked Bean Quest

Janet here: My dad was famous for his baked beans. Okay, maybe famous is a touch of an exaggeration but he was famous in our family. Anyway he baked them in some kind of large brown crockpot contraption that I'm not even sure exists anymore. They took hours of slow cooking and they were to-die-for delicious. Just the right mix of brown sugary/molasses wonderfulness tinged with a little bit of mustard and with pieces of some kind of fat — pork? — floating in there for flavor. I absolutely loved them.

I also loved eating cold baked beans in a sandwich. Yup, in between two pieces of white bread no less. The first time I saw my dad make up this concoction, I blanched and said, "Yuck." But then he said, "Try it, Jake." (His nickname for me.) So I did and I was blown away. It was that good.

Sadly, my father's recipe for baked beans died with him and I have been searching out the recipe ever since. This recipe marks my latest attempt. My inspiration comes from a recipe in the current issue of the Food Network Magazine and it's tasty. But it's not my dad's, and so the quest continues.

Baked Beans

5 slices thick-cut bacon, diced. I use turkey bacon.
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced peeled ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed
3 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon mustard powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can navy beans, undrained
2 hamburger buns or 2 slices of bread, torn into pieces

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook about 2/3 of the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a bowl, leaving behind the drippings. Add the onion to the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and gold, about 8 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and chili powder and cook, stirring about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and the molasses, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, mustard powder, some salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium high, bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the pinto beans, then the navy beans and their liquid. Return to a simmer. Stir in the bacon. Transfer it all to a 2-quart baking dish.

Pulse the buns with the remaining uncooked bacon in a food processor until finely ground. Strew the crumbs over the bean mixture. Cover and bake 45 minutes. Then uncover and bake until the crumbs are golden brown, about 20 more minutes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Potato Salad (Yes, Again)

Rachel here.

The other day my mom posted about potato salad here. Unbeknownst to me before reading her post, she expected me to whip up a version of my own.

Gauntlet thrown? Check.

Challenge accepted? Instantly.

So, this weekend I made this insanely easy and fantastically flavorful potato salad. I've got a bit of a thing against mayonnaise (it's not a hard, fast rule but more of a general resistance) and so I was excited to find a recipe (in that marvelous pull-out pamphlet my mom referenced from the Food Network Magazine) that went without. It was so good, in fact, that as we speak I have potatoes boiling for another batch. I'll put some in a tupperware for a soiree we're attending this evening and leave the rest in the refrigerator for my mother-in-law when she gets in to visit later this week.

And once it's all gone? Yeah, I'll be making it again. STAT.

I made the Herb-Vinegar version (#23), but here's the total recipe list from the FNM for your mouth-watering perusal.

My only modification was using more potatoes (I think you could go up to a whole pound more. There's a ton of dressing). John and I are thinking that sometime we'd like to throw some crumbled bacon into the mix, too.

Friday, July 22, 2011

"The Family Dinner" by Laurie David and Kirsten Uhrendoldt

Rachel here.

Growing up, I ate dinner with my brothers nearly every night. When we were young, my mom fed us before my dad came home but sat with us while we ate. It was before the days of smart phones and ipods, of constant access and inundation. The rules were this: no reading and no answering the phone. We didn't have to talk, per say, but conversation inevitably flowed. Sometimes we'd talk about our days or ideas with our mom; others we'd slip into that language that only siblings share, continuing imagined adventures begun in the backyard that afternoon or debates lingering from the evening before. As we got older, dinner became an affair that all five of us met over most nights of the week. We learned to communicate--to talk and to listen--and how to behave at the table. More than that, though, we knew where to find each other as our lives became increasingly individualized.

Laurie David (of "An Inconvenient Truth" fame) has recently published a book called The Family Dinner: Great Ways to Connect with Your Kids, One Meal at a Time. It is a beautiful book, one that I've been savoring as I pick my way through. Brimming with recipes (most offered by her friend and family chef Kirstin Uhrenholdt), David's book goes into great detail about the importance of coming together as a family for a meal. While the book focuses on dinner, David repeatedly points out that you can come together with those you love over breakfast or snack or pre-bed tea with the same results. The benefits are myriad, no matter the meal. Kids perform better in school who eat with their families. They have lower teen pregnancy rates and lower rates of disordered eating. Consciousness around eating is fostered, whether take-out is being served up or a completely homemade meal. Everyone slows down for a while, and the end result is healthier, happier people.

In addition to recipes, David offers up interviews with famous chefs. She offers music suggestions to accompany cooking and eating. There are pages upon pages about simple ways to make the table feel special (light a candle, make place settings with Scrabble letters, etc). It is the rare page that doesn't include information about ways that kids can help, too, whether it's setting the table or scrubbing the potatoes. The more hands involved in making the meal, the more appreciation felt for the food once it arrives at the table.

We have been trying to eat dinner as a family more these days. We want M to grow up knowing where to find us. I've found it keeps me accountable, too. Quite simply, I want her to see me eat, to grow up watching me nourish my body in hopes it will help her know how to do the same. The thing about David's book, though, is that while it's focused on families with kids, her points apply to all of us. In our hustle bustle go-go-go society, we far too often eat standing up in the kitchen or shove food in our mouths while we drive. Eating is one of the most basic and essential human functions and it's time that we get back to basics. So let's all try to do like David more often. Light a candle, put your food on a plate (even if it's a frozen pizza or delivery), and sit down. Our minds and bodies will thank us.

And, really. If you only own one cookbook, I suggest this one. It is truly excellent.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Potato Salad No. ??

Janet here:

While there is no real reason potato salad is a hot-weather food only, the reality in our house at least is that summer is when it's served. A lot. I have been a fan of potato salad since I first stuck a big spoon in a massive bowl in my grandmother's kitchen and ate it before dinner was even served. Not that surprising when you think about because it does start with potatoes and what's not to like about potatoes. (If you want my version of that recipe, just click here.)

So I was personally thrilled when my latest Food Network Magazine arrived and stuck right there in the middle of about hundred other fabulous recipes (no joke, this was one of the better issues for recipes) was a mini-book of 50! potato salad recipes. I decided then and there I would cook my way through them this summer. Rachel is going to join in too. We'll give you an update on Facebook on how that's going (and if you're not a fan, please consider joining the fun here.)

It was a no-brainer to start with the bacon-ranch version. First Ranch dressing is as ubiquitous as a dinner table condiment as salt and pepper when our sons are home, and second because, well, I use any excuse I can to include bacon in a meal. While I haven't eaten red meat in over 30 years, bacon, as regular readers know, is my downfall. I often made my kids order bacon as a side for breakfast in a restaurant just so I could have a piece. I used turkey bacon here to, you know, make me feel better but you obviously can use the real thing. Either way, it's one tasty potato salad.

While Rachel and I cook our way through potato salad heaven this summer, we'd love to know your favorite variation. Are you a red potato salad purist? Mayo-free fan? Let us know.

Bacon Ranch Potato Salad
serves a lot

2 pounds red potatoes
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chopped celery (I like crunch in my salad so I added more)
1 teaspoon sugar
6 slices of bacon, diced or crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes until just done. Rinse under cool water and when cool enough to handle, cut into cubes. (You can peel if you want; I'm a skin fan.)

While the potatoes are boiling, cook the bacon and crumble when cool. In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Toss with the potatoes and serve.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Folks and Fish Tacos

Rachel here.

There are a million fabulous things about having my parents visit our little house here in California. There are outings endeavored as a multigenerational unit and breaks given to John and me, along with lots of playing and giggling and book reading with M. I feel incredibly fortunate to be friends with my parents as an adult and to have entered into a partnership with a person who equally enjoys their company. One of the highlights of each of their visits for me are the leisurely dinners at our dining room table after M has gone to bed. My mom and dad and John and I eat delicious food, share some drinks and dessert and settle into interesting (and often hilarious) conversations. Every night, I brim with warmth and delight in getting to sit back with three of the most important people in my life at once. These evenings we've forged together over the past year are some of my favorite moments of my entire life.

One of the meals we made while my folks were in town was fish tacos. John and I love fish tacos and we used to make them all the time. For some reason, they slipped out of our repertoire for a while, though. They're back, for sure, and better than ever.

We don't have a super precise method for making fish tacos, so I'm just going to detail what we did in paragraph form instead of the traditional recipe format we feature here. We bought 1 1/2 pounds of tilapia to feed four adults. John grilled the tilapia and corn on the cob (which we ate separately). We warmed corn tortillas in the oven and these served as the base for the tacos. The fish was placed on top of the tortilla and then black beans were placed on top (due to a shortage of time these were canned black beans which we rinsed very well before simmering them in chicken stock with bay leaves, diced onion and chile powder) . On top of the beans we scooped cabbage that had marinated in lime juice, sugar, vinegar and salt (John prepped the cabbage first and by the time we were serving everything up it was tender and flavorful). Completing the taco was a bit of homemade guacamole that had chopped up peach, tomato, and white onion in it along with lime juice, salt, and a few dashes of hot sauce. A wedge of lime was placed on each plate along with an ear of corn and sour cream was offered at the table. DEEEE-LICIOUS!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Best Cookie Cookbook EVER!

Janet here:

Rachel and I are going to take a week off while we actually visit each in person — and the Divine Miss M!!! — instead of virtually through this blog. We'll come back July 18 with new recipes, new ideas for the blog (lots of good things coming folks), and plenty of M squeezes and hugs for me.

But before we sign off, I leave you with this note. I have got my cookie baking mojo back and I can entirely thank Tina Casaceli from Milk + Cookies Bakery and her fabulous new cookie cookbook called Milk + Cookies, published by Chronicle Books.

I originally reviewed it here and included a recipe for chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies.

Since then I've made four different recipes from the book (including the fabulous scotchies pictured here) and they have all taken my cookie baking to a meteoric level. If you only buy one cookbook for cookies, this should be the one. And in the meantime, Rachel, consider yourself warned: I'm back in the cookie baking business and I'm taking no prisoners. Your day in the sun is over.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Chicken and Peaches. Yes Peaches. Oh and Bacon

Janet here:

I was looking for something to make that said summer but didn't involve grilling. I also didn't want to spend all afternoon making it. It was too darn hot.

So I started thumbing through my cookbooks and found what I wanted in Rachael Ray's Look + Cook. (I reviewed it here if you want to more about it.) I had never made anything that combined fruit with chicken so I was intrigued. We grilled some green beans (okay, so we grilled one thing), and mixed them up with some diced shallots, olive oil and mustard. I'm here to say, it was a damn fine meal, I'm not going to lie.

Glazed Chicken and Peaches
with cheese and bacon biscuits

serves 4



Jiffy biscuit mix. Yup a box of biscuit mix. You can certainly make them from scratch but these were just fine.
one cup of grated sharp cheddar
about 2 tablespoons bacon bits

Mix the biscuits according to the box, and then mix in the cheese and bacon.
Bake in oven following the box directions.


2 tablespoons butter
2-3 large peaches, halved or thickly sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
1 shallot choppped
1 tablespoon dried ginger or 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
3/4 cups chicken stock
a little more than 1/3 cup peach preserves
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Melt the butter with the lemon juice. Add the peaches to the skillet. Cook about 10 minutes until peaches are tender.

While peaches are cooking, put some EVOO in a pan and add the chicken. Cook about 10 minutes each side until tender. Take off the heat, put on a plate and cover.

In the pan that held the chicken, add a little more EVOO, chicken stock, peach preserves, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce. Cook until thickened. Put the chicken on a plate and cover with the glaze. Serve with biscuits and dig in.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Rice Pudding-ish Breakfast

Rachel here.

Back in the day (because we've been blogging for a while now so, you know, we can say things like that) we used to write about breakfast here with some regularity. My mom had S in the house still and M hadn't risen to her benevolent dictatorship yet and we had breakfast on the brain. Since S left for college, though, and M arrived, breakfast has received short shrift around these parts. Today, I rectify this problem by offering up this little recipe I concocted this morning.

There are days when M eats whatever we put in front of her and then there are days where she rejects the very same food she inhaled two days prior. The only real constant that we've found is brown rice. The kid, quite simply, loves it. Handfuls at a time, she smacks it to her gaping mouth, delighting in munching on the pieces that get in and marveling at gravity's work on the pieces that don't. Brilliantly, John thought to make a ton of brown rice over the weekend. We, quite literally, have tupperware after tupperware brimming with the stuff in our refrigerator. It's made life that much simpler and, you know, simple can be spectacular.

We've been instructed to help M pack on the pounds which has led us towards whole milk yogurt. Ugh--it's so creamy and so tangy and so, so delicious.

So here's what I whipped up today for M. Much to my delight, she rejected it and I got to eat the whole plate. I'm officially adding it to my breakfast/lunch/snack/whenever repertoire because it was absolutely delicious in addition to being super healthy.

I mashed 4 super ripe blackberries and half a banana together before sprinkling a tablespoon or so of flax meal over the fruit and then tossing in a handful of cold, cooked brown rice. I covered everything with yogurt, mixed until it was the fabulous pink that blackberries stain things and then, as soon as M refused it, devoured every last drop.


And that, my friends, is a rice pudding-ish breakfast for you.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Thinking Ahead to Fall....And Beer

Mike the Gay Beer Guy is obviously more forward-thinking than we are. He's thinking ahead to fall and what would be best served with an IPA or a bourbon barrel porter, while we're wondering what we'll make for dinner ... tonight. Anyway, it's good to have people like Mike on this Earth. Thanks to him, everyone is better prepared. :)

Here are Mike's thoughts.

Hi Janet, Hi Rachel -

My tastes in the beer I drink change according to the seasons, which means that now is the time for a big, flavorful IPA or a fantastic Belgian Saison, Tripel, or Witbier. As a brewer, I often forcing myself to think a month, two months, or ever 4-5 months into the future. Thus, this month’s posting is dedicated to the food and beer of the colder winter months. Why would I talk about stewing meat (and heating up my entire kitchen) in July when it’s more than 90 outside? Well, that’s simple ... so I can brew my Bourbon Barrel Porter, of course. And what goes well with my Bourbon Barrel Porter? Beef Stew...

Beef Stew feeds 6-8 people, or 2 people for a few days of lunches and dinners. Stew is my boyfriend’s specialty. We were at the farmers’ market the other day and bought all sorts of fresh ingredients. That’s the beauty of stews: You can almost toss anything in! Stews are best, in our opinions, are best cooked one night and eaten the next, or even later in the week. As you’ll see, we cook the stew and leave it on the stove overnight to cool.

We also like using thick-cut beef chuck steaks rather than the stew meat available at most supermarket butcher counters. The fat content is higher (which means more flavor), it’s more cost effective, and the meat looks so rustic as it falls apart after cooking for a few hours. Enjoy!

Salt/Pepper to taste
3 ½ pounds thick-cut beef chuck
½ bottle of red wine (we used merlot because it was open)
2 medium onions (or 1 large onion)
1 pound carrots
1 pound celery
1 fennel bulb
5 cloves garlic
Water (or beef stock)
2 bay leaves
Small palmful of dried thyme
Roux (to thicken the stew... if you want)

Start by cutting your veggies into chunks. Leave the garlic cloves relatively whole (there’s nothing left to do if you crush them with your knife to get the paper off) and leave the beef in its steak form.

In a large Dutch oven (or the large stainless pan Theo used the night we cooked), heat a few tablespoons of EVOO over medium/high heat. While the EVOO is heating up, wash and dry your steaks and season them liberally with salt and pepper. (It is very important that the steaks are dry. A dry steak will sear nicely, creating all sorts of fond on the bottom of your pan, which means more flavor... if the steaks are wet, the meat will steam and not sear... not so much flavor)

Once the pan is hot and the EVOO is smoking, sear the steaks one at a time if you have a pan that won’t fit them all. Each steak should be a nice shade of brown, not burnt but not too brown ... and of course, we’re not worried if the steak cooks all the way through, since it will be cooking for a few hours!

When the steaks are seared and resting, it’s time to build the base of the stew. Deglaze the Dutch oven with the wine... almost any wine will do, as long as it’s not too sweet. Return the Dutch oven to the heat (you remembered, of course, that when deglazing with alcohol to do it off the flame) and scrape up the fond from the bottom. Return the steaks to the Dutch oven, adding the juices that have accumulated and add the veggies and garlic. Cover this with water (when we made it, I guess technically it was a braise, since water only came up half-way to the meat and veggies) or beef stock and bring to a boil; when the stew comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover with the lid, and add the bay leaves and thyme. Adjust your seasoning (we’ve found that a healthy punch of salt and 4-5 grinds from the pepper mill work well). Simmer the stew for about two hours, or until the steaks fall apart. When time is up, turn off the flame and let the stew rest overnight on the stove (keep it covered).

The next day, fish out your bay leaves ... we do it first, so that we don’t forget! Next, take out the beef steaks and cut them into pieces resembling your veggies ... the meat should be tender, so if it just falls apart. Return the stew to a simmer and enjoy. If you like, use a roux to thicken, but it’s not necessary (we covered a roux on one of my previous posts ... but if you’ve forgotten, here’s a quick recap: equal parts fat and flour ... heat the fat, stir in the flour, cook stirring often until the mixture is about the shade of light peanut butter and then go for an extra minute, mix this into the stew ... start with 4 tablespoons each butter or EVOO and 4 tablespoons flour, add 1 tablespoons of the roux to the stew at a time until it’s to your desired thickness). Enjoy the stew with the Bourbon Barrel Porter. (I actually drank an Oaked Arrogant Bastard from Stone Brewery when we ate the stew; this certainly got me in the mood!)

Bourbon Barrel Porter
On to the main event ... there’s a lot of waiting involved in this recipe, so I suggest leaving yourself a good five months to get all the tastes in order! This recipe is based on celebrated homebrewer Denny Conn’s Imperial Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Porter, which also sounds just as good!! Cheers!

OG - 1.075 (before adding the bourbon)
FG - 1.017
IBU - 35
ABV - about 7.5% before Bourbon

13 lbs American Two Row Malt
2 ½ lbs Munich Malt
1 ½ lbs Brown Malt
¾ lbs Crystal 120
¾ lbs Crystal 40
¾ lbs Chocolate Malt

Mash at 152* and Sparge as usual (I plan my recipes for 6 gallons at the end of the boil)

Denny uses an addition of Magnum hops, but I prefer East Kent Goldings in my Porters... I usually go for a 60 min addition, and a 20 or 10 minute addition. It works out to be 1 ½ to 2 oz at 60 minutes, and ½ oz at 20 or 10 minutes, depending on how much hop flavor you like in your beer.

Denny usually ferments with his own proprietary strain (buy it commercially from Wyeast as WY1450), but I prefer my house strain, Pacman. You could also use WLP001/WY1056/US-05 which is essentially the same Chico strain (Sierra Nevada), but a nice English strain, such as WLP013/WY1028, both named London Ale, could be nice as well. I ferment Pacman pretty low... like 60-63. I suggest Chico around 65-68, and I would ferment any English strain with restraint, since you want to restrict the ester profiles somewhat ... just my suggestion, do what you want!

When you pitch the yeast, soak 1-2 oz of American Oak Chips in about 2 cups of Bourbon. As the beer ferments, the oak flavors will be released into the bourbon; it will smell fantastic! Let the beer finish fermenting completely, and then let it sit another week. When you’re ready to keg, add half of the bourbon (leave the oak behind!) and store the rest in a clean bottle; it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sanitize the bottle, but there’s probably enough alcohol in the bourbon. Let the beer age for a few months and taste every now and then. If you think it needs some more bourbon, of course add more! I carbonate this beer lightly, so as not to drive off the subtle flavors.