Thai Chicken Salad

Thai Chicken Salad

Gorgeous photo found here, along with the recipe.

On a lighter note, thankfully, after the sadness of last week, I think it’s time for a recipe.

One item I like to order when we go out to eat is either a Chinese Chicken Salad or a Thai Chicken Salad. I like the crispy crunchiness of it, the sweet and tangy and (sometimes) hot of it. Delicious.  The other day it was 102 degrees, so the idea of a salad for dinner appealed to me.

I’ve tried to make an Asian chicken salad once before, but it sucked. It was too sweet, kind of gloppy, all around wrong. I’m not a good enough cook to figure out a recipe on my own, so I rely on folks who are so inclined. So I looked online, and found this recipe.

The best thing about online recipes (and sometimes an annoying thing about them), is that they have reviews. The reviews can warn you if a recipe is truly crap, or if there are revisions that you might like. Too sweet, too gloppy, too whatever. This recipe received an average rating of 5/5 stars, and the 200 comments were all of the “this is SO GOOD” variety, that I decided to trust it.

I’m so glad I did. When I serve a salad for dinner, I feel like Ted and Maya are disappointed. They both like salad just fine, but generally prefer it as a side dish. Tonight was no different, at least at first. But once they had had a few bites, Maya said she really liked this dish, and it’s a keeper. Ted agreed. I don’t think he was quite as enthusiastic as she was, but he was OK with it. That’s a win when it comes to serving a salad for dinner.

I followed the recipe as is, except that I added roasted chicken breast and roasted peanuts, and I omitted the edamame she had. Chicken for protein, peanuts for crunch. The sauce is delicious, and the only ingredients I didn’t have on hand beforehand were rice wine vinegar and ginger.

I liked the blog where I got the recipe, Once Upon a Chef. I think I might try her Peruvian chicken next, in honor of our yummy neighborhood Peruvian restaurant.

Thai Crunch Salad with Peanut Dressing
Slightly revised from a recipe by Jennifer Segal
Servings: 4
Total Time: 30 Minutes

For the Thai Peanut Dressing

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, from one lime
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1-inch square piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (J’s note, I forgot the red pepper flakes, so I put them on the table for those that wanted heat, aka, Ted)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

For the Salad
2 bone-in chicken breasts, skin on (J’s note, this is not part of the original recipe. I added the chicken.)
4 cups chopped Napa cabbage or shredded coleslaw mix (J’s note, I’m not terribly fond of regular green cabbage, though I do like Napa Cabbage, so I used that)
1/2 head red cabbage, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
2 medium scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup roasted salted peanuts

For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients except for the cilantro in a blender and process until completely smooth. Add the cilantro and blend for a few seconds until the cilantro is finely chopped. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the chicken, preheat oven to 375F. I use my toaster oven for this, so it won’t heat up the kitchen. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until it’s done to your liking. Let cool, and shred the meat. Discard the skin (or eat the crispy skin while hot, if that’s your thing. That’s sometimes my thing.)

For the salad, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. If serving right away, drizzle the peanut dressing over top and toss; otherwise, serve the dressing on the side so the salad doesn’t get soggy.

Hopping on the Band Wagon

ice cream

I’ve seen this ‘recipe’ around the internet, and there’s even a device you can buy if you want, rather than using a food processor.  I decided to give it a try, as I had some very ripe bananas, Ted is cutting back on his dairy, and we have some vegan friends who might enjoy this.  So here goes…One Ingredient Ice Cream, or, more truthfully, frozen banana puree.

  1. Slice a very ripe (but not TOO far gone) banana into 1 inch or less coins.
  2. Put sliced banana in a freezer bag or other airtight container, and freeze overnight, or at least four hours.
  3. Put frozen banana slices into food processor, and blend away.  At first it will look like frozen shards of banana, but if you stick with it, they will smooth out into a creamy batch of banana, the same consistency as soft serve ice cream.  If you want to add other ingredients, now is the time.  Peanut butter, cocoa powder, Nutella, whatever floats your boat.  Clearly, this will make it two ingredient ice cream, or however many things you add, but that’s between you and your brain to figure out.
  4. Pour into airtight containers and freeze to set.  You can skip this step and just eat it creamy and soft if you so choose.

Guess what?  It doesn’t taste like ice cream.  It tastes like bananas.  But it’s sweet and creamy and cold.  I made mine with chocolate syrup added in the mix, then more chocolate syrup and some nuts to serve.  It tasted like a banana split.  I don’t think anyone would say, “Ice cream?  No, I’d rather have a frozen banana.”  But if you have some really ripe bananas you want to do something with, or if you are making dessert for a vegan, this could work. Give it a try if you’re into such things.

Potato and Onion Gratin

photo and recipe found here

Trudy, the lovely 99-year-old lady on my Meals on Wheels route, sometimes enjoys perusing the weekly insert that comes in her paper, Relish, with me. We also get a daily paper, but ours is a San Francisco paper, while Trudy’s is local, so we don’t get the insert. A while ago, I came across this recipe, and liked the look of it so much, I made it for dinner that week. I made it with a roast chicken, and it was delicious. It was enough of a hit that Ted requested that I make it for Christmas dinner. Christmas is a bit of a pot luck in our family, and while the main dish was to be rack of lamb (YUM), I was in charge of side dishes. The gratin was a big hit, enjoyed by all. I opted for thyme rather than rosemary, though either would be delicious. You should likely give this one a try.

Potato and Onion Gratin
Yield: 8 servings


1/3cup olive oil
2large onions, cut into halves and thinly sliced
1teaspoon chopped thyme or rosemary leaves
2pounds waxy potatoes (such as Yukon Golds), thinly sliced
1teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1cup reduced-sodium chicken broth


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a shallow 6-cup baking dish.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until soft and golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in thyme.
Arrange one-third of the potatoes in prepared pan. Top with one-third of the onions and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Repeat layers twice, ending with onions. Pour broth over top. Cover with foil and bake 1 hour. Remove foil and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Recipe reprinted with permission from The Monday Morning Cooking Club’s The Feast Goes On (Harper Collins, 2014).

KISS and Brussels Sprouts

Back when Ted was a kid, he was a fan of rock divas, KISS. How appropriate then, that this long lost Folgers commercial appears online, at around the same time that Ted decides to make me Brussels sprouts for my birthday dinner. Watch the video, it’s too funny. I guess it was filmed in 2000, but never aired. I like how into the song he is.

Ted and Maya are not fans of Brussels sprouts, and Ted hates dried fruit in general, but for some reason even he really liked this recipe. Maya ate 1/2 of one Brussels sprout, and declared it not bad, but not something that she would actually order on purpose. If you’re at all a fan of Brussels sprouts, give this a try. It’s delicious. For my birthday, it was served with a wonderful roast duck, mashed potatoes, and delicious tarts that Ted purchased at our local store.


Serves: 6

Brussels sprouts
Prosciutto, cut into half-inch pieces
Dried cherries
Hot pepper flakes
Aged balsamic vinegar
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt to taste
Zest of one lemon


First of all, don’t measure out the ingredients. I don’t stress about that kind of thing. Cut a nice amount of Brussels sprouts in half and set aside, whether or not you even like Brussels sprouts. These are off-the-hook delicious. Steam until a little soft.
Next, fry the prosciutto in olive oil until soft. Remove for later.

Put the steamed Brussels sprouts into the pan and brown, turning frequently.

Add dried cherries (I use Mariani) into the pan and cook with the Brussels sprouts. Add the cooked prosciutto and hot pepper flakes.

Stir in high-quality, aged balsamic vinegar. Add enough to coat all ingredients. Don’t be shy.

Add cheese and salt to taste.

Serve in a large bowl and top with lemon zest.

Eggplant Involtini

picture found here. Isn’t it gorgeous? Mine looked nothing like this, as you’ll see below.

Just in time for ‘Meatless Monday’, I bring you a delicious recipe for Eggplant Involtini, which I found in my July/August issue of Cook’s Illustrated. I swear, I don’t know why I subscribe to this magazine. I find one recipe maybe every 4 issues that I want to try, and then only half of those turn out. So I subscribe for a year, then blow it of for a couple of years, then I get sucked in again. Somehow I got sucked in again this year, and my results have not been great. Mostly the recipes I’ve tried haven’t been stellar. And really, I like my cookbooks to have beautiful glossy photos, which Cook’s Illustrated does not.

Anyway, enough bashing of the magazine. Yesterday, while I was deciding what to make for dinner, I thought I’ll pull out a couple of issues and see if anything looked good. This recipe for eggplant looked pretty good, and I remember when it first came in the mail, thinking that I’d like to try it in late summer, when eggplants are at their best. (Are eggplants at their best in late summer? I don’t even know. It just seems like it, like they’re similar to tomatoes in that way.) I’ve never heard of Eggplant Involtini before, but it looks a lot like Eggplant Parmesan, and this recipe looks to be a little lighter, as it is not fried nor breaded. Results? Delicious. It was indeed a little lighter than Eggplant Parmesan, though still hearty enough for a delicious dinner. I’m going to put in my vote here, again, for Pomi brand tomatoes. I used them in the sauce, and I find them far superior to the canned brands. Get them if you can find them. They’re in a red and white box, and the ingredients are: tomatoes. Nice, yeah? Because the tomatoes are not treated with calcium chloride or salt, they don’t keep their shape very well. The box has a picture of diced tomatoes, but they come out looking almost like a puree. That’s OK. Give this one a try, you won’t regret it.

Eggplant Involtini

  • 2 large eggplants (1 1/2 lbs each), peeled
  • 6 tblsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved, chopped course (no, use the box of Pomi)
  • 1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 oz (1 cup) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 ounces grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tblsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tblsp lemon juice

Pre-heat your oven to 375 F Degrees.

Peel the eggplants. Cut them lengthwise into 6 slices. Each slice should be about ½ inch thick. Trim the rounded ends so that they will lay flat.

Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray them generously with cooking spray. Place 6 eggplant slices on each baking sheet.

Start with the first baking sheet. Brush each eggplant slice with two and a half tablespoons of olive oil (you use the 2.5 tbs olive oil to brush all of the slices) and season it with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Flip each slice and do the same thing for the other side. Repeat the same process for the second baking sheet.

Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until they are tender and lightly browned. To ensure even baking, switch and rotate sheets half way through the baking process.

In the mean time, make the filling. Place 1 cup of ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir until they are all combined. Set aside.

To make the tomato sauce, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet. Add the garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, oregano, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir them with a wooden spatula and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook in medium low heat, until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside.

When eggplants are baked, let them cool for 5 minutes. Do not turn the oven off. Heat the broiler.

Using a spatula, flip each slice over. With the widest side of the eggplant slices facing you, evenly distribute the ricotta mixture onto each slice. Starting from the widest end, gently roll each piece and place it, seamed side down, in the pan with the tomato sauce.

Bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Allow it to cook for 5 minutes.Place it in the oven and broil for 5 minutes for the eggplants to be browned and the cheese to cook thoroughly.

I wanted mine more saucy than was shown in the pictures I found, so I made a bit more sauce, and then covered the eggplant bundles with sauce before broiling.
See? Saucy. Not nearly as pretty as the more defined looking recipe from ‘Cook’s Illustrated’, but I don’t regret it. I love sauce. I do notice the difference between a professional photographer and me, with the vibrant colors and all.

This was a delicious recipe, and I look forward to having it again. I guess I’ll stop slamming the magazine for awhile.

Kefta Dog with Roasted Tomatoes

A few weeks ago, a shocking thing happened around here. I turned on the TV to the Food Network, and there was an actual cooking show being aired! I know you’re thinking, “No J, you’re confused. That was a cooking COMPETITION, or else it was a show where Guy F guy drives around and takes HUGE bites out of greasy food”. It wasn’t. It was an actual cooking show, where the host makes a recipe, and you decide for yourself whether you might like to try the recipe at home. I was in so much shock that I ended up watching an episode of ‘Sandwich King‘, a show I of which I had previously been unaware. I’m glad I watched, though, because amongst other items, he made a delicious looking ‘hot dog’ on the grill that I wanted to try. 1st, I like hot dogs. 2nd, this was made from lamb, and is really closer to a kabob than a hot dog. 3rd, it had slow roasted tomatoes, which I love. 4th, at the end of the episode, he and his family ate all of the various sandwiches he had prepared, and his wife said this was her favorite. So I added it to my menu, and a few days later, I made the dish. It was a hit, so I went ahead and made it again for the 4th of July.

The lamb is more the texture of a burger than a hotdog, so it’s very easy to eat. You could skip the bun if you were so inclined, but I would caution you NOT to skip the roasted tomatoes, because they’re killer. And the sauce is good as well. The other day, Ted took some of the leftover roasted tomatoes, some leftover sauce, some roasted chicken, and some kick ass cheese we had sitting around and made himself a delicious sandwich. So keep that in mind…the recipe makes more tomatoes and sauce than you’ll need, and that’s not a bad thing. Also, I saw no need for the skewers. Seemed like taking the dogs off of the skewers would just be an opportunity for them to fall apart. So I merely shaped into the right shape and length for my hot dog buns, and grilled as is. Worked perfectly.

Kefta Dog with Roasted Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes:
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kefta Dog:
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 shallot, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground lamb
Olive oil

Infused Greek Yogurt:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 packed tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon tahini paste
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Special equipment: 6 wooden skewers

For the tomatoes: Preheat an oven 325 degrees F. Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them evenly in a roasting pan with a rack inside if possible (the rack helps allow the tomatoes to evaporate water). Let them roast for about 1 1/2 hours checking for hotspots in your oven (rotate the entire pan if needed).

For the kefta dog: Preheat a grill pan. Combine the coriander, cumin, paprika, allspice, cayenne, garlic, shallots and some salt and pepper, and mix. Mix in the lamb in small pieces so the seasoning distributes evenly.

Mold lamb into 5 1/2-inch-long hot dog shapes onto your skewers. Drizzle each with olive oil. Place on the grill pan, and cook on each side for about 4 minutes, for a total of 7 to 8 minutes.

For the yogurt: Add yogurt, parsley, tahini, garlic powder, lemon zest and juice into a mixing bowl and incorporate well. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the kefta dogs with the infused yogurt and roasted tomatoes.

Friday Randomness (belated…)

Graduation Invitation
Isn’t that a cute Graduation Invite, for a proud parent to send out to invite her friends and family to show off her daughter, and celebrate said daughter’s accomplishment in school? Yes, it is. See how cute, the picture of her Kindergarten graduation? Her official Senior photo (in my great aunt’s pearls), her other, casual Senior photos? Sigh. The thing is, Maya doesn’t want a graduation party. She doesn’t want to hang out with a bunch of Ted and my friends, feeling self-conscious because everyone is looking at her. She and her friends will have been partying at the ‘All Knighter’ (They’re the Knights), and she’d rather go from party to party at her friend’s houses. I don’t blame her. But still, I’m a little disappointed. I have attended parties for several of my friends’ kids, and I enjoyed them. I enjoyed admiring the graduating senior, hearing about their plans going forward, all of that. I want my friends to enjoy that coming to see my child. So here I am, letting it go. LETTING IT GO. It’s her graduation, not mine. I’ll have a party later in the summer with my friends, and we will have a lovely time. They will admire my child, not because it is her graduation, but because they love her, and they love me. So there.

Friday afternoon, our front door lock broke. Always on a Friday, right? Of a holiday weekend? That’s when the kid comes down with a fever (though generally they wait until the doctor’s office is closed), the stove/air conditioner/hot water heater goes out, that kind of thing. All things you want fixed NOW, and you will have to wait until Monday. I’ve heard that what duct tape doesn’t fix, WD-40 will, I tried oiling the dead bolt. No help. (The issue was that the dead bolt would only come out about 1/5 of the way, not the full extended way.) So I took the door knob thing apart (two little screws were all that was needed), figured out what was wrong, then went to look in my ‘fix everything around the house’ book that my Grandmother gave us years ago. No help at all. None. So I took the pieces to my local Ace hardware store, hoping that they could either tell me how to fix it, or sell me a replacement. Nope. However, at 4:40 in the afternoon, they gave me a recommendation to a local locksmith. Across town. So I called them and asked them if they could maybe stay open until I got there. They helpfully said yes. Across town I sped, thankfully against the afternoon traffic. I got there at 4:55, before they even had to stay late. The locksmith took one look and said, “Nope, can’t fix it. The part that’s broken, they don’t sell just that part.” So we looked at the several options. One was $15, but very temporary. One was $300, and required us installing the new door stuff ourselves. The fact that I call it ‘door stuff’ should inform you about how good I am at this stuff. Ted is better at it than I am, but he’s not a handyman, he’s an academic. The third option was to pick a different brand of hardware (aka, door stuff), which would be cheaper on the parts, but would mean drilling and painting our stupid door. Blech. So here I am, it’s 5:05 on Friday of a three-day weekend, and I’m frustrated. Finally, the locksmith said, “There’s another option. I can remove the broken part, which isn’t necessary. The broken part, being broken, is getting in the way of the rest of the mechanism. It will certainly get you through the weekend, and it may even work long term.” OK, I’m in. Why couldn’t he have suggested this to begin with, I wondered. However, all I said was, “How much?” Free. I love that price. I said no, he should be paid for his time and expertise, and he said no. So he took out the broken part (which required some expertise to do), and I took it home and put it back together. The door knob is looser, doesn’t fit just the same anymore, but it works. It works well, locks properly, and was free. So I went on FB and yelp and gave full props to the locksmith, hoping maybe I could pay them back in some way. If the solution falls apart and it turns out that we need something more, they’ve earned my business and I’ll go back to get a long term solution.

This morning, Maya had a job working for one of her teachers (who has a successful side business, Pinot Days, very wine related), so while she went and took care of that, Ted and I went and ran errands. We went and picked up the badges earned by Maya’s Girl Scout troop, then to breakfast at a place we haven’t been to before. It was tasty. It was a little expensive for a semi-fast food breakfast place, but the quality of the food was good. We liked it. Then we went to the farmers’ market and got the essentials…strawberries, nectarines, and eggs. We ran a few more errands, then came home, and I took a delicious nap. Saturdays can be lovely indeed.

The other day I went to the video store…we still have a video store we love to try to keep open. I picked up a DVD, ‘Labor Day’, with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. For some reason, I knew nothing about the film, and thought it might be a romantic comedy. It wasn’t. It was closer to a love story. Josh Brolin is an escaped convict, convicted of murdering his wife and child, who forces his way into the home of Kate Winslet and her young teen son. He’s camping out for a few days. The pace is slow, the acting superb, the story not quite as dramatic as you might want, but at the same time, because of that, it seems more real. We really liked it a lot.

I’m reading the new ‘David Sedaris’ book, borrowed from our library. I like it a lot, though I can’t plow through it as quickly as needed for the online rental. We’ll see how I do, if I finish in time.

In other news, I tried a new quinoa recipe. YUM. So good. I’ll post it here soon. It had pickled onions, nectarines, and arugula. Really good.

Enjoy your weekend.

Spanish Spaghetti with Olives

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Speaking of cooking, check out this recipe Ted found yesterday. I mainly cook during the week, and Ted mainly cooks on weekends, a habit leftover from when he had a more 9-5 schedule and didn’t get home until late. Now he sometimes works on weekends, sometimes works very early mornings, so I guess it doesn’t matter when we cook what, but we’ve stuck with the schedule, and it works for us.

One thing Ted likes to do when he’s trying to decide what to make is to ask his phone. He says, “What’s for dinner?” and google gives him some ideas. I’m not tech savvy like that, so I don’t know whether that’s an app, or whether it’s because he follows food stuff on google+, but anyway, it works. Last night he asked, and this recipe came up, after artichoke dip. Artichoke dip for dinner doesn’t sound so great, does it? (Oh hell, it does sound good, who am I kidding?)

So he whipped this up for dinner last night, while I was watching a badly edited ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ on TV. Wow, really tasty. Maybe not if you don’t like olives and capers, but we like both quite a bit, so it was a winner for us. This one will be printed and put in my recipe book. I liked the mellow flavor of the sauce, with the bit of heat from the red pepper flakes, and the saltiness from the olives and capers. Give it a try, it’s good.

Spanish Spaghetti with Olives

  • 8 ounces thin spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt*
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads (optional)**
  • 8 ounces extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 2/3 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce (such as Amy’s)
  • 2 ounces pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in oregano, celery salt, red pepper, black pepper, and saffron, if desired. Crumble beef into pan; cook 5 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in marinara sauce, olives, sherry, capers, and 3 tablespoons parsley. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

3. Add spaghetti to sauce mixture. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley.

* We didn’t have any celery salt, and it seemed a small difference and not worth purchasing just for one recipe, so Ted ignored this.

** We did have a bit of saffron, but Ted omitted it from the recipe, and I’m glad, because saffron is expensive, and I doubt you’d taste it with the red pepper flakes, capers, olives, and marinara sauce. I’m more a fan of saffron when I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.

Jacques’s Pommes de Terre mont d’Or

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Last night was the season premier of season 4 of Downton Abbey. I’d spent the last few days getting caught up and ready, re-watching season 3. Gah, the stories, the clothes, the scenery, and…the food. The food is oftentimes gorgeous. So Ted decided that in honor of our season premier, we should have a somewhat extravagant dinner. He chose roast beef, caramelized carrots, and Pommes de Terre Mont d’Or, which he found in our cookbook, ‘Julia and Jacques’. I made the Pommes de Terre Mont d’Or (mountain of gold potatoes). It’s made of potatoes, eggs, and cheese, and is light and fluffy, much like a souffle. Truly elegant, and truly delicious. Not difficult at all, and worth a bit of time.
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Jacques’s Pommes de Terre Mont d’Or

  • 4 cups Mashed Potatoes, left over or fresh
  • 3 large eggs*
  • 2/3 cups grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese**
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Butter a shallow baking dish or casserole. Put the potatoes in the work bowl of a food processor, then add the eggs, about 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, and salt and pepper. Process briefly, about 10 seconds, to whip all the ingredients together.

Scoop the potatoes into the prepared gratin dish and smooth with a rubber spatula. Scatter the remaining cheese over the top and place on a baking dish (in case of spills) in the lower part of the oven.

Bake about 30 to 35 minutes, until the top of the gratin is crusty and golden***.

* Jacques says that to make the dish raise extra high, use an extra egg. So I used 4 instead of 3. Delicious and very fluffy.
** We went Gruyere, which is, in my opinion, nicer than Swiss.
*** This step took more like 40 to 45 minutes, but that may be my baking dish, as I don’t have a smaller one.

Nance’s Pasta with Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Spinach


(kinda blurry picture of delicious pasta)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I made a pasta recipe that was basically a mac and cheese recipe with some sausage and butternut squash, and my bloggy friend Nance commented about her own sausage and butternut squash recipe.  I wasn’t in love with my recipe, as it was too much like mac & cheese, and I love my own mac & cheese recipe.  But Nance’s recipe sounded lovely, so I decided to try it.  And boy, I’m so very glad I did.  It’s a winner.  Maya’s first bite, she said, “make sure you try a bite with butternut squash and sausage, because they’re delicious together!”  I agree.  Fie to Rachel Ray and her recipe.  I’ll take either mac & cheese, or Nance’s pasta.  It’s so darned good, you’ll thank me for posting it, I mean it.

Nance’s Pasta with Butternut Squash and Sausage
1 butternut squash
1 lb sausage (whatever your favorite is)
1 lb farfalle pasta
1 package, bunch, whatever of fresh spinach
olive oil
salt & pepper

Dice squash, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake for approx 35 minutes at 425 degrees (until soft and maybe a bit caramelized).

Brown sausage, and cook farfalle until it’s cooked as you like.

In a big bowl, first put spinach (so it will wilt when you add hot ingredients), then browned sausage, then roasted butternut squash, then hot cooked pasta. Add freshly ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese. (Nance says Asiago, but we didn’t have any, and I pink puffy heart good Italian Parm, so that’s what we used.)

One more time, this is DELICIOUS. So good. If you’re vegetarian, I have a friend who says there’s a wonderful vegan sausage at Whole Foods, though I can’t remember the name. Though if you’re vegan, that means no cheese, which makes my heart hurt a little.

Friday Randomness

I’m thinking perhaps it may be time for NaBloPoMo around here. Maybe a good idea to try to challenge myself to post every day, because crap, I feel less inclined than ever to do so. It’s not that I don’t get any pleasure from it…it’s that when I post all of the time, my brain works that way, and little things in my life inspire me. However, when I don’t post often, my brain doesn’t work that way, so I forget my blog is even here for days at a time. Not what I want from this space. So, let’s see what happens, shall we?

So, what can I tell you? Well, Maya is taking Journalism this year, and had her first byline in the school paper. An excellent review of the Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes concert she saw in September. I’ll admit to you that I was a bit nervous about her going into San Francisco with a friend to see the concert, with no adults. She’s a good kid. Her friend is a good kid. I don’t really worry about them doing something dangerous or wrong (though of course good kids do those things, too, but you can’t think about that when you’re deciding whether to let your 17 year old go out with her friends). But I do worry about some idiot doing something evil and her not being ready to deal with it, or perhaps her getting into a situation where no one would know what to do. These things happen once in awhile. But they took BART, they had a GREAT time, and her picture was even in a local newspaper. Whew.

I tried a new recipe that I’ll call ‘Mimi Bars’. My friend Cherry told me about them, so even though it’s not HER recipe, I’m tempted to call them ‘Cherry Bars’, but for obvious reasons, that might lead one to believe there are actual cherries involved, which in this case, there are not. I’ll share the recipe, if you promise to take your insulin first, because O.M.Gosh*, these things are SWEET. The sweetest thing I’ve ever had, perhaps. Yummy, though.

Mimi bars

9×13 glass baking dish.
1 & 1/2 cubes butter,
1 Duncan Heinz butter cake,
1 package kraft caramels (unwrapped)
1/3 cup milk
1 & 1/2 cups chocolate chips.

Preheat oven 350°.
melt butter in pot on stove, turn off stove.
Add cake mix.
Stir til stiff.

Press half of this mixture onto baking dish, bake 8 minutes.
Melt caramels & milk on stove.
Sprinkle choc chips on top of cake as soon as removed from oven, drizzle caramel.
Crumble remaining cake mixture on top.
Bake 11-13 minutes.
Let cool overnight and cut!

A few tips.

1st, maybe try lining your pan with foil or parchment or something, because when that caramel gets cold in the fridge overnight, it’s difficult to cut from the pan. Might be easier to remove it from the pan, and THEN cut it.

2nd, Cherry said if you eat these BEFORE cooling overnight, they just don’t rock for some reason. Conversely, I can tell you if you try them right out of the fridge, they’re so-so. However, if you cool them overnight in the fridge (wait, the recipe doesn’t actually say they have to go in the fridge…perhaps I made that part up?), and then bring them back to room temp, they’re amazing. Really good. But you only need one. One is enough. You will very likely not go back for more.

What else…I’m writing this on Halloween, and it’s 8:00pm, and we have had a total of ZERO trick-or-treaters. Living in a townhouse/condo complex sucks. There are 4 kids in our complex who are of age (though young), yet they do what we did…pack the kids up and take them to a neighborhood with sidewalks and houses. What goes around comes around. We didn’t take Maya trick-or-treating here, and so we don’t get any. Sigh. I want to see a cute pre-schooler in a lion costume or something.

Anyone trying out the new TV season? Since we have free cable right now, I’ve been giving it a shot. My favorite shows are not new…Parenthood and The Good Wife, but I’ve also tested The Crazy Ones, The Michael J. Fox Show, and Mom. Meh all around. If I’m bored and in the mood to watch TV over reading a book, I’ll watch any of them, in this order:

  1. Mom ~ Allison Janney is great, and so far I’ve gotten a few laughs out of it.
  2. The Crazy Ones ~ A show with Buffy is going to be good, right? And Mork? But it’s just OK. I kind of like it, but if I miss it, I don’t care.
  3. The Michael J. Fox Show ~ So far, I’ve seen 3 or 4 episodes, but the only reason to watch is being bored, not wanting to read your book (happens sometimes when I’m tired), and the only other thing to watch is stupid reality TV. I like Michael J. Fox. He was really good on The Good Wife. I’m not convinced the writing is that great.

Maybe I have something else to say, I’m not sure. But it just occurred to me that if I’m going to try to write every day in November, I’d better save a little something for tomorrow, right?

Good Advice

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Many years ago, I received what I consider to be very good advice. I was talking to my boss. Ted and I had been together for 7 years…it was the anniversary of our first date, which we had always celebrated. But now we were married…so should we still celebrate our first date? So I mentioned to my boss that we had always celebrated our date-a-versary, but it felt strange now that we were married. He said something like, “Life can be hard, and sometimes is very difficult. We should celebrate life’s joys whenever we can.” I liked that advise. I still like that advise. Life is indeed sometimes very difficult. It can throw things at you that are not fair. Life is also, at the same time, wonderful and full of many happy times and moments, and these should be celebrated.

In the spirit of celebrating the joys in life, we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. Ted was born in Ontario, and his family moved to our little city when he was 1, maybe 18 months. According to Canadian Law, he is a citizen, even though he hasn’t lived there in many a decade, and relinquished his citizenship as a child.

In years past, I’ve tried making several different recipes for roast turkey breast. They were all good, but somehow, seemed just a bit dry. This year, Ted mentioned that he actually prefers dark meat, which somehow I never knew before. So I did a search, and found this recipe for stuffed turkey legs. I went to the store, where they had turkey thighs and drumsticks, but only separately, not still connected. So I bought the thighs, which the butcher said would be much better than the drumsticks. Then there’s the sausage. We don’t have boudin sausage around here (I think it’s a Louisiana thing), and the butcher at the grocery store didn’t know which of what they have might be the same. I decided to use calabrese sausage, based on the color, which was closer to white than the red of the other sausages in the case. I had read that some boudin sausage is white. Also, the butcher said he thought it was the best tasting sausage they sold, which reaffirmed my decision.

Confession, I’ve never made homemade stuffing before. There are many restrictions in the family (some vegetarian, some who don’t eat pork), which means no sausage, no bacon, etc. So we generally go with something similar to Stove Top, which is actually pretty good, though perhaps sometimes a little gloppy. This stuffing, however, is not gloppy, and is full of flavor and really delicious.

Boudin Stuffed Turkey Leg
Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 boneless turkey legs
  • 10 feet butcher’s twine

Boudin Stuffing

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, cut in small dice
  • ½ cup celery, cut in small dice
  • ½ cup carrots. cut in small dice
  • ½ cup chopped toasted pecans (or candied pecans)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 pound spicy boudin, removed from casing
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 6 slices white sandwich bread, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a large saucepan over medium heat with the cooking oil. Add vegetables, pecans, garlic and dry spices in the cooking oil, and cook until vegetables are just translucent. Add boudin and stir. Once boudin begins to stick to the pan, add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.When stock simmers, adjust seasoning and add diced bread. Allow to cool. (At this point, mixture can be stored up to 4 days.)

To stuff the legs: Lay the de-boned leg quarters out flat, skin side down. Divide the boudin stuffing into two portions, and spread the portions evenly onto each leg. Roll the meat up jelly-roll style, keeping as much stuffing inside as possible.

Cut the butchers twine into 12-inch pieces. Tie the pieces of twine around the stuffed turkey legs every few inches to keep them rolled tight. Once the turkey legs have been tied, season them with salt and coarse black pepper.

Roast the legs in a pre-heated 375-degree oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

The result? I think this is the best Canadian Thanksgiving yet. The sausage was delicious, the turkey moist and flavorful. Really, really good.

Meatless Monday – Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilada Skillet

Not my photo…it came with the recipe.

I saw this recipe online a week or so ago, and it appealed to me…I love Mexican food, and any chance to put a dollop of sour cream and another of guacamole on top of something warm and cheesy is OK by me. We all enjoy butternut squash, and I saw some beautiful and huge ones at the Farmers’ Market yesterday, so I decided to base my recipe on that. It was so huge, I think I only used 1/4 of it for this recipe. I cubed the rest and will use it to make curried pumpkin, for next time Ted makes lamb curry. Mmmm. Lamb Curry.

The result was a delicious and surprisingly light meal. I think this recipe is a keeper. We all got to use our favorite toppings…Ted used hot sauce, Maya sour cream, and me sour cream and guacamole. Yum. I forgot to buy the cilantro. Oh well.

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilada Skillet

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 3 cups 1/2 inch diced, peeled butternut squash
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 can (15 Ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 yellow corn tortillas (taco size), cut into thick strips
  • 1 can (15 Ounce) red enchilada sauce*
  • 1 cup reduced-fat Colby Jack or Mexican cheese, divided**
  • cilantro, guacamole, hot sauce, and/or sour cream, for serving

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large oven-proof skillet. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno and cook 2-3 minutes until onions become translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add cubed squash, cumin and chili powder and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is slightly tender, 8 to 10 minutes. You want the squash to be fork tender, but not so tender that it starts to fall apart and become mush.

Next add the black beans, corn tortilla pieces, and can of enchilada sauce and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle in ½ cup of cheese. Stir again and simmer for a few minutes until everything is nice and melted.

Turn your oven broiler to high. Sprinkle an additional ½ cup of cheese over the top of the enchilada mixture and place in the oven under broiler for 3-5 minutes until cheese melts and tortilla edges become a bit golden brown. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Serve with sour cream, cilantro, guacamole, or hot sauce!

* I made my own sauce, as I don’t find the canned stuff trustworthy. For green sauce perhaps, but not for the red sauce.
** I may have used more than 1 cup. Perhaps closer to 1 ½ cups. Mmmm. Cheese.

Cockeyed Cake

I have a box of my mom’s things in my room. Letters and things like that, mostly. In amongst the letters and photos and old address books, I recently found a little paperback cookbook that I remember when I was a kid, “The I Hate to Cook Book”, which is full of really easy recipes. I think I’ve only ever made one, “Cockeyed Cake”. We received a copy of the cookbook when we got married, from our friend Joyce, who was one of our roommates in Fairbanks, Alaska. Sadly, that cookbook was destroyed when our stupid pipes from the shower leaked into our kitchen, which we’ve discussed here before.

It’s pretty much the easiest chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever made, with the possible exception of a mix. And with a mix, you usually have the risk of egg shells in your cake. This recipe is eggless, you get all of the moistness from vegetable oil. I’m not sure why it’s called “Cockeyed Cake”. When I was a kid I thought it was because you make a little cockeyed face in the pan, with two eyes and a mouth. Now I just wonder if it’s a way of saying that it’s a wacky recipe, what with the no eggs, and the use of vinegar.

The recipe makes one layer of cake. Just a little cake to pull out if you have company or something. Like if the Costanzas come over, and you know you’d better serve cake after dinner. Or perhaps you just want some chocolate in the middle of the afternoon. If you keep cocoa powder in your house, you probably have the ingredients in your pantry (Oh, to have a pantry! Townhouse living is spatially challenged). I kind of remember our elementary school making a cake that was very similar, and because it was so moist, some kids liked to smash it up into a ball and throw it at people in the cafeteria. I didn’t do that, because I’d prefer to eat my chocolate, and besides, I was always a good girl, not the one to throw things at school. When I was growing up, we didn’t frost it. We just sprinkled it with powdered sugar and ate it that way, which is how they served it at school. I don’t know if I could get away with that around here. Maya loves frosting, and while Ted isn’t as much of a frosting fan as her, he loves things to be extra chocolatey. So on Sunday I decided to make the cake, and I wanted Maya to make it with me. Relive my childhood and all of that. I’ll admit, it’s a little messy mixing the ingredients in the pan. I think perhaps I’d rather use a bowl. But I don’t remember it being messy when I was a kid. I don’t know if that’s because I was more adept, we had a bigger pan, or I just didn’t care about messes, because, duh, I was a kid.

Next time you have a craving for some chocolate cake, just know you could be eating this pretty darned quickly. And if you have some chocolate frosting laying around, this is a perfectly good way to eat that, too.

Cockeyed Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup cold water


Sift flour, then resift into greased baking pan along with the cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt. Make 3 holes in the mixture, preferably (by me) in the shape of a face.
Pour oil in one, vinegar in one, and vanilla in the third. Pour cold water over all. Beat until nearly smooth and no flour shows.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Frost or dust with powdered sugar when it’s completely cool. That may be the hardest part, waiting for it to cool so you can frost it. Maybe that’s why we didn’t bother when I was growing up.

And now, prepare yourself for the worst food pic ever. Or maybe not ever, but it’s not good. But it’s what I have, and I don’t feel like one should post a recipe without a photo, esp if that recipe is for cake, right? Here goes.

European Dinner

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Sometimes we like to have what we call “European Dinner”.  What makes it European?  We don’t know.  The mystery of that is part of the charm.  European Dinner can vary, but generally consists of cheese, bread, fruit, and sausage.
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The fruit this time was strawberries, grapes, pear, and figs, all purchased from our local farmers’ markets. I will say that I bought figs twice this week, at different farmers’ markets, and there was a difference in the taste. Perhaps because some were more ripe, I’m not sure.
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The cheese was ‘Bermuda Triangle’ from Cypress Grove, ‘Mt. Tam’ from Cowgirl Creamery, both local creameries. We had a little bit of Laura Chenel Chevre (also local), and a big hunk of Prima Donna, which is described as a Gouda/Parmesan hybrid, imported from Holland. We have some kick ass cheese in California, I gotta say. The chevre was amazing, to my palate, straight on a fig. Really, really good. Mt. Tam is a huge hit around here. The Bermuda Triangle was a bit of a disappointment. I’ve had it before and loved it, but this time, it was just too strong. A very similar cheese, also by Cypress Grove, is ‘Humboldt Fog’, and I think we’ll just stick with that next time. The Gouda? I didn’t realize it was supposed to be so dry and crumbly, so I wasn’t thrilled. There’s some left, so I think I’ll revisit, looking at their website for a bit of guidance for what to do with it.

If you’re ever in the mood for a filling meal that appears light, and makes you feel kind of sophisticated while you’re dining, I highly recommend the European Dinner. This is a good time of year for it, if fruits are still delectable where you are.