Friday, March 18, 2011

a fresh start

This will be my last post on this blog. But I promise, I'm not done blogging about food! I'm just starting over at with a new blog called scratch.

Switching blogs has been an idea a long time coming. I've been contemplating the thought for about six months now, and I finally decided to do it. So, don't give up on me! And thank you for supporting me all this time. I felt like my creativity was lacking and I didn't like my voice on this blog anymore. I needed a new reason to post recipes and food ideas for you. And for me.

Recently I was watching food network and a certain cook I sometimes enjoy watching (no need to mention names, right?) was making pancakes. And used a mix. Now, don't get me wrong, I love an easy breakfast just as much as the next person, but I was frustrated with the idea that this person was getting paid to tell me to go buy a mix. Especially for something as simple as pancakes. And I decided I can do better for my readers and for my family.

So here I am, and this time, I know what I'm doing. I've been at this food blogging for over 3 years now, can you believe it? It's a little sad to let something so precious and personal to me come to an end, but it's an exciting new adventure. I look forward to seeing where this takes me. There will be a few changes from the old blog. Mainly, that I will be cooking from scratch only. This is something I learned to do while living in Elkhart. There wasn't much around, so if I wanted to eat it, I had to make it. I wanted Indian Tikka Masala with naan, I had to make it. From scratch. I wanted real European bakery style crusty bread, I had to make it. From scratch. If I wanted Japanese panko crusted pork cutlets (とんかつ), I had to make it. From scratch. Hence the new title, new feel. And I'm loving where that experience has taken me. I've learned to make my own cheese, bread, pasta, yogurt, all sorts of things I never thought I'd learn to do. So now, I'm sharing it all with you. You'll be amazed at how simple it can be, and how much better everything tastes when you treat the food you eat with respect. I think over these 3.5 years I've been writing this blog, I've learned so much about myself and learned to have a healthier relationship with food. No over-indulgences, no deprivation. Just appreciation and respect. I know I sound like a bit of a hippie, but I'll take that over gluttonous or fake.

I hope you enjoy taking this new journey with me. Thanks for the support until now, and thanks for sticking with me. So hop on over to SCRATCH.


love to Japan

I haven't been around my blogs lately, mainly because I've been overwhelmed by what has happened in Japan. My mother's family lives in the Sendai area, where the biggest impact of the earthquake happened, and I've been so focused on that.

photos from

I have been so touched by all of the reports by American journalists who have expressed their astoniment at how peaceful the people are considering what they are going through. They line up in an orderly fashion to get any sort of aid and are so grateful. They help each other. There is absolutely not looting. There is such a sense of community and compassion among victims. I love these people. I am so grateful to be a part of such a beautiful culture, and I pray that they will be relieved soon. 

Please pray for Japan.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


My baby turned 1!  And for her big day, we had steak fajitas and a big, fat chocolate ganache cake.  It was so ridiculously rich that I felt a little weird the rest of the day, but boy was it worth it!  It was so fun to have just a few of our dear friends (some of whom traveled all the way from Northern Indiana for the occasion!!!--Thank you!!!) with us to celebrate such a special day for our family.

Steak Fajitas + the fixins
yes, I like my steak fairly rare ... so cook it to your desired doneness when you make it.
I usually make salsa that my Mexican roommate back in college taught me, which includes avocados.  But just in case, I separated them.  I should have known everyone would love it either way, though.  I had a very non-picky eater crowd.
the steak:
1 flank steak (whatever size you think will feed your guests best, I used a pretty big one)
salt and pepper to taste
fresh limes (lots of them so you can make fresh salsa)
canola oil
  1. Let the steak rest at room temperature to take the chill off of the meat.  Pat the steak dry and season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Get a large skillet (preferably cast iron), heat a tablespoon of canola oil on nigh heat.  Place the steak on the hot skillet and let the meat sear on one side for 3~4 minutes.  Don't move the meat around.  You want a good sear.  Flip the steak over and cook on the second side for 3~5 minutes, depending on your desired doneness.
  3. Place the steak on a platter, drizzle with the juice of 1 lime.  Tent with foil and let rest.  Slice the steak very thin across the grain.
the peppers: (I was serving 6 adults and 8 kids, so I made a lot, adjust to your number of people)
5 red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, trimmed and sliced thin
2 large yellow onions, ends cut off, sliced in half pole to pole, then sliced thin pole to pole.
salt to taste
canola oil
  1.  In a large skillet, add a little canola oil and heat on medium high heat.  Add peppers and onions and season with salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and slightly caramelized.
the salsa: (*I added a trick I learned in San Antonio at the best Tex Mex restaurant I've ever been to ... but if it offends you to be so non-authentic, leave it out.  It's good, though!)
2 lbs good tomatoes (I used red and gold cherry tomatoes this time, but in the Summer I'd probably use Megan's garden tomatoes:) ), cut as small or coarse as you like.  With cherries, I keep them halved, I like the texture.
1/2 ~ 1 vidalia onion (or any other onion, but make sure you soak in cold water for at least 30 minutes, changing the water at least once), diced small
juice of 1 lime (or to taste)
juice of 1/2 orange*, optional
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped very fine (about 1/4 C)
2 avocados, diced, optional
salt to taste

the avocados: (if you're not adding avocados to the salsa
2 avocadoes, diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped very fine
juice of 1/2 lime (or to taste)
salt to taste

serve with warm small flour tortillas and sour cream.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

another old favorite

I've been really craving eggs lately.  And since it was Saturday morning, I decided it was time for a big, hearty, rustic frittata.  I love these things.  You can pretty much do whatever the heck you want with them.  This time I used orange bell peppers, purple fingerling potatoes, onions, manchego and ricotta cheeses, and spinach.  With salted yellow and red cherry tomatoes and fresh parsley leaves for garnish.

5~6 purple fingerling potatoes, cleaned and sliced thin
1 Spanish onion, cut in half and sliced thin (pole-to-pole)
1 orange bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced small
handful of fresh baby spinach, chopped
6 eggs
2 egg whites
splash of milk
1/2 freshly grated Manchego cheese
1/4 c (ish) ricotta cheese
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
  1.  In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, egg whites, milk, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large, oven-safe (preferably nonstick) skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and potatoes, and cook until almost tender, 5~8 minutes.  Add peppers, and cook until tender.
  3. Once peppers, potatoes, and onions are tender and starting to caramelize a little, add another 1/2 tablespoon of oil to prevent sticking, and add spinach and eggs.  Drop heat to medium-low, and periodically pull the sides into the middle as they cook.  Once the eggs are about halfway cooked, turn on the broiler.  Dollop a few spoonfuls for ricotta on top of the eggs and evenly sprinkle the manchego.  Place skillet under the broiler until eggs are set and the cheese is golden and bubbly.  The time will depend on your broiler.
  4. Pull out from under the broiler and let cool for a few minutes.  Serve warm, cut into wedges.

Monday, January 31, 2011

my lunch

I made 2 roasted chickens for Saturday night's dinner.  One for dinner and one for leftovers.  So Sunday, when I got home from church, I sliced up some of my everyday crusty bread, avocados, tomatoes, and mmmmmmmmmmmmm chicken.  With a little Japanese mayo.  Heaven.
What's your favorite sandwich?

it's cold outside

It's supposed to freezing rain all night.  All day tomorrow.  All through Wednesday.

And it's weather like this that calls for a good, warm soup.  I was inspired by Throw Down with Bobby Flay where they had a salmon chowder throw down (in the Pacific Northwest, yeah!) and this food blog that I LOVE.  I had salmon in the freezer and a bunch of beautiful root vegetables in my vegetable basket, so I thought I'd make my own version ... and yes, fresh salmon is better, but we're in the Midwest here.  Definitely miss the Northwest when it comes to seafood.  Particularly the salmon.

Anyway, this soup was perfect for a cold, wintry day.  I kept it pretty brothy, but still creamy.  I love a good, thick clam chowder.  But once in a while, I like a cleaner taste and texture.  So there you go.  My attempt at salmon chowder.

Creamy Salmon soup with root vegetables
1 rutabaga, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1.5 lbs fingerling potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped fine
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
6 C stock (if you have seafood stock, use it.  If not, do what I did.  Whatever is in your freezer/pantry--other than beef.  This is not the time for beef stock)
1 C cream
salt and pepper to taste
3 large salmon fillets, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
minced parsley, for garnish
  1. In a large dutch oven, cook the bacon until crisp.  Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat, add the onions and cook until softened.  Add the garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add all of the rutabaga, turnip, potatoes, stock, and salt and pepper to taste.  Throw in the thyme and rosemary whole and put the lid on top.  Turn the heat to medium-low and let simmer until vegetables are tender.
  2. Remove thyme and rosemary (most of the leaves should have fallen off in the soup) and discard.  Add the salmon and cream.  Let gently simmer until Salmon is just cooked through.  Remove from heat and serve.  Garnish with parsley, if you want.  (obviously, I didn't have any fresh parsley in my fridge ... so sad!)

get. the. book.

Recently I received an email from my sweet Aunt Carolyn (the genius behind these rolls) informing me that she bought the book.  Yeah, THE book.  You know, the one I can't stop talking about?  The one that made me, a non-bread baker into a pretty much daily fancy shmancy bread baker?  The one that changed my life?  The one that makes 100% from scratch pizza a last minute dinner?  Yup, that one.  I'm excited to hear what her very skilled and experienced hands will create!

Go out and get the book, people!

Come on, you want this coming out of your oven.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

old favorite revisited

I haven't made this dish in a while because it's really a Summer dish.  But at Sam's club they had these beautiful little yellow cherry tomatoes that were so juicy and sweet, so I just had to give it a shot.  And I'm so glad I did!  It was a little weird eating something so fresh and bright when there's snow on everything outside of my window, but I liked pretending I was in some kind of an orchard.  It's so fun to eat good food that takes you to a different place, isn't it?

Summer Garden Pasta
serves 6
1 lb thin long pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine
extra virgin olive oil (this is the center of flavor for this dish, so get the best you can afford)
1.5 lbs cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bunch basil, sliced into thin strips (with a sharp knife to prevent bruising)
1~2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 C freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I like the bite this cheese has, but Parmiggiano Reggiano would be a great substitute)
1/4 teaspoon (more or less, depending on how much heat you want)
salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, garlic, basil, herbs, crushed red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.  Pour enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes half way.  Toss to coat, cover and set aside.  Let sit on the counter for up to 4 hours.
  2. Right before serving, toss tomato and oil mixture with the cheese and set aside.  Cook pasta to al dente, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Drain and add directly into the tomato mixture.  Toss to coat, adding cooking liquid to loosen the sauce as needed.  Season with salt to taste.  Serve immediately alongside a slice of hearty, crusty bread to sop up the sauce.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

new year's resolution

It's actually been almost 3 months since my last post.  Unbelievable!  I don't really know what the problem was, but for a while I wasn't feeling very creative in the kitchen.  I didn't have a ton of motivation to try new recipes, experiment with new ideas or techniques, and so this blog has suffered.  Well, one of my New Year's Resolutions is to b more diligent in the kitchen.  Remember to enjoy the creative process of cooking, not just try to get to the end result as fast and easily as possible.  I got a few cherished cookbooks for Christmas, and became a lot closer to a new foodie friend, and now I feel this renewed passion for cooking.  I've missed it!

So the other day, I made a simple ham and cheese tart for dinner.  We had so much cheese in our fridge, so I had to think of a way to use some of it up.  I think it turned out perfectly.  I love the thyme and black forest ham with the complex flavors of the different cheeses.  It was a fun and successful experiment.

Cheese and Black Forest Ham Tart
serves 6
1/4 C grated Gruyere cheese
1/4 C grated Manchego cheese
1/4 C grated smoked Gouda cheese
1/4 C grated Irish cheese
(or use any combination of any cheese you think will go well together.  I liked these because each had it's own very distinct and unique, deep flavor that complimented each other really well)
1 sheet frozed puff pastry, thawed in the fridge
1/2 C caramelized onions*
4~5 super thin slices of Black Forest Ham
1/4 t fresh thyme leaves
  1. Preheat the over to 400°F.  On a floured surface, roll out the puff pastry to a 16x10 inch rectangle.  Trim the uneven edges.  Place the pastry on a baking sheet.  Lightly score a 1 inch border around the edge of the puff pastry, and prick the inside of border every 1/2 inch with a fork.  Bake until light brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Place the slices of ham over the pastry, followed by the onions, and evenly sprinkle the cheese and thyme over the top.  Place back in the oven until the cheese is lightly browned, about 15 minutes.
I served it with a simple green salad with a lemon vinaigrette.  Helped to balance out the cheese:)

Caramelized Onions (America's Test Kitchen Recipe)

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 lbs onions (about 4 medium), halved and sliced thin
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 teaspoon water
  1. Melt the butter with the oil in a 12 inch non-stick skillet over high heat.  Stir in the onions, brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are deeply browned, about 40 minutes.
  3. Off the heat, stir in the water and season with salt and pepper to taste.