Category Archives: Main Dishes

The Reckless Abandon of Sunshine on Easter

Growing up in Southern California, our Easter egg hunts were always outside in the gloriously warm sunshine.  In fact, there was often a bit of hurriedness to our egg collecting fueled by concern over finding all of the chocolate eggs before they melted in the sun.  Here on Vancouver Island we’ve learned that early Spring time might be cool and sunny, or it might be dreary and wet, or it could be any number of different temperatures and dampness factors changing every quarter hour or so.  It’s best to be prepared for anything, and simply to enjoy whatever weather comes your way.

While Easter dawned sunny, it was still quite frosty in the shade and a good jacket was required.

While Easter dawned sunny, it was still quite frosty in the shade and a good jacket was required.

We all enjoyed bunny bum pancakes.  The tail is made from a dollop of butter topped with shredded coconut.

We all enjoyed bunny bum pancakes. The tail is made from a dollop of butter topped with shredded coconut.

Little Man decided that his bunny heeded eyes and a nose as well.  I think he was just lobbying for more chocolate chips, but it worked.

Little Man decided that his bunny needed eyes and a nose as well. I think he was just lobbying for more chocolate chips.

We were mentally prepared for just about any kind of weather for this Easter, while having all fingers and toes crossed for sunshine since we were having five families over for a lunchtime potluck and egg hunt.  We knew that we could all crush into the house and have the egg hunt downstairs if need be, but it would be so much nicer outside! In the end, we were blessed with one of the most beautiful Easter afternoons that we’ve had in years.  While it wasn’t So Cal warm, we could be outside without jackets, sunglasses were needed to not be squinting into the dazzling light, and the grass was dry enough for the kiddos to roll around with reckless abandon.  It was fantastic, and we hadn’t even gotten to the food yet.

The kiddos are diving into their Easter potluck feast.  Ears and sunglasses abound.

The kiddos are diving into their Easter potluck feast. Bunny ears and sunglasses abound.

After the kiddos got to run around a bit, we gathered them together on the back deck to get them started eating and then the adults joined in.  Our table was overflowing with food.  We provided pulled pork sandwiches, a green tea punch, and a chocolate cake for dessert.  Our friends also contributed a seven layer dip with chips (they did it as a five plus two layer dip, thoughtfully leaving the two dairy items on the side for those with dairy intolerances), a sun dried tomato pasta salad, Easter Bunny white chocolate bark, stuffed potato skins with cheese and bacon (some graciously set aside for vegan cheese), black bean dip with veges, a Thai peanut broccoli salad, and other Easter treats.  To say the least, no one left hungry and even the adults looked like we could all use an Easter nap.

Our amazing Easter spread!  Pulled Pork sandwiches, coleslaw, dips, chips, salads, Easter treats, it was a wonderful lunch.  See below for recipes for the things that we brought to the table.

Our amazing Easter spread! Pulled Pork sandwiches, coleslaw, dips, chips, salads, Easter treats, it was a wonderful lunch. See below for recipes for the things that we brought to the table.

Please ignore the messy kitchen, and focus instead on the handsome pastry chef and the amazing cake he is decorating.

Please ignore the messy kitchen, and focus instead on the handsome pastry chef and the amazing cake he is decorating.

Yes, indeed...  A chocolate cake layered with homemade chocolate rice crispies and topped with a chocolate coconut frosting that tastes better than chocolate mousse.  Life is tough.

Yes, indeed… A chocolate cake layered with homemade chocolate rice crispies and topped with a chocolate coconut frosting that tastes better than chocolate mousse. Life is tough.

Before we could get to napping, however, we had the Easter egg hunt.  After the adults finished eating, we sequestered the kiddos in our living room with the curtains drawn while half of the adults went outside to the front yard to hide the loot.  Each family brought filled eggs to share, so the front yard glittering with plastic eggs.  Then we released the hounds… I mean the kids… to fill their baskets.  Since some of the kiddos were older and faster than the others, we had a parent-led redistribution after the egg hunt to be sure that everyone had a good collection of booty.

Release the hounds... I mean the kids!

IMG_3736

Then the kiddos and adults got to play in the sunshine or wander over to meet the pigs, sheep and chickens at our landlords’ farm.  The trees were blossoming, the kids were laughing, the sheep were bleating, and it was one of the best Easter moments I’ve had in a long time.

If you want to share in some of the food we had for Easter, here are recipes for those items that we brought to the party.  The recipes for this post are a bit different since I was “in the party prep zone” when cooking and completely forgot to take any pictures while I was making the food.  Doh!  If there are any steps in the recipes that are hard to follow since there aren’t any pictures, or you simply aren’t sure about something, please send me a comment at the end of this post and I’ll get back to you asap.  Have fun!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

Fluffy Whole Wheat Rolls

Gluten Free Rolls – this recipe is not my own.  I followed the directions for soft rolls made with a Challah dough from the Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  If you are getting into gluten-free baking, I highly recommend this book.  It makes the best tasting gluten-free bread that I’ve found to date.  Their bread has great texture and mouth feel without being grainy, and without using an obscene amount of corn starch.  Love it!  Click here for a link to recipes for rolls from their book.

Carolina Style Coleslaw

Chocolate Celebration Cake – This recipe is also not my own, but came from Jamie Oliver’s excellent Comfort Food cookbook.  The main differences for what I did was that I used spelt flour instead of all purpose, and I used an organic, puffed brown rice for the home made chocolate crispies.  I also used the same Chocolate Coconut frosting that I wrote about with Little Man’s birthday cupcakes from school.  Next time I think I’ll triple the frosting batch so that I can have some between the layers as well.

Any of these items (or all of them) would make for a fantastic outdoor picnic.  In fact, we will likely do a smoked version of a pulled pork sandwich for an outdoor party later this August.  I’m also toying with making cupcake versions of the chocolate celebration cake…  Stay tuned.  I hope you all are enjoying sunshine!  Our sunshine just went away for a couple of days, but I’m already plotting more outdoor fun as soon as the sun is back.  Or we’ll likely go outside to play in the wet anyway.  We’ve been cooped up inside for too long as it is.

IMG_3729

cake 4

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Oh, for the love of garlic

Up until a few weeks ago if you had mentioned the words “low FODMAP” to me, I would likely have thought that I’d misheard you or that perhaps you were referring to some form of low weather pressure zone.  Maybe that’s what’s been dropping all that snow back east?  Alas, no.  It is something far more troublesome…  a huge dietary change.

For over a year now we’ve been struggling to figure out some dietary issues for Little Man.  After a year of tests and tweaks and a complete lack of progress our pediatric dietician suggested that we might want to try a low FODMAP diet to see if that helps.  Let me state right from the beginning that I am not a low FODMAP specialist, and everything that I’ve read states that you should never start a low FODMAP diet without first consulting your doctor.  This is not a weight loss or fad diet, it’s a change in the way of eating for people who struggle with IBS, Celiac disease, or other gastric issues.  In short, this whole thing revolves around the fact that there are certain foods that contain short chain sugars (FODMAP is an abbreviation for the scientific names of these foods, and can be checked out online for specifics) that when they get to the gut can ferment and create unfortunate symptoms in some people.

When the dietician first mentioned the low FODMAP diet to us, I was interested… until she mentioned that two of the high FODMAP foods that we would have to give up were garlic and onion.  Seriously?  How does one live, let alone cook, without garlic and onion?  So I pushed the low FODMAP diet out of my mind and acted like it didn’t exist… until Little Man was still not healthy and nothing seemed to help.  So on board we got, and thus began our saga of a dairy-free, wheat/barley/rye free, garlic and onion free, etc-free diet.  Sigh…  For 6-8 weeks we need to stick this out hard core, then after that we should be able to start one by one reintroducing restricted foods, seeing what does or does not react negatively, and keep on going.  And, yes, I do know that low-lactose foods are allowed on the low FODMAP diet.  Unfortunately Little Man reacts badly to those, so they are persona non grata (or victus non grata?) to us at this time.  Heavy sigh…

With the print out of “foods to be avoided” in hand, I went through our pantry, fridge and freezer with a vengeance.  Shelf stable foods that we could no longer eat were given to a local food bank, while the perishables were “donated” to the pigs.  The pigs, by the way, are huge fans of this and welcome any such donations.  Then I made dinner, and while the flavor was fine, overall the food just tasted bland.  I wasn’t sure what to do to replace garlic and onion since it was banned in all forms, fresh or dried.

Since then I’ve learned a couple of tricks to add the lacking depth of flavor to our garlic-less and onion-less meals.  The first thing I did was to use more spice in just about everything.  While I cannot use garlic or onion powder, I’ve been digging deep into my stores of cumin, coriander, paprika, and just about anything else I can get my hands on. I’ve also been using colored peppers with reckless abandon.  Normally I don’t splurge for those in the produce aisle, but in times such as these I’ve been looking for more flavors to add and some brightness to the dishes.  The colored peppers fit the bill nicely, and as soon as the weather warms up a bit out here I’ll be planting some in our garden.

Another trick that I’ve been using is garlic-infused olive oil.  While garlic itself (dried or fresh) is to be avoided (sob!), you are allowed to use garlic infused oil.  For the first couple of tries, I would heat a little bit of oil in a pan and toss in a whole peeled clove.  Once the clove browned, I would remove it and proceed as normal.  Would I toss out that lovely browned clove?  As Pete the Cat would say, goodness no!  This was sliced up and given as a treat to Dave and myself since we are not fodMAP restricted.  While Little Man didn’t get the actual garlic, he did get the flavor in the meal itself.

While this infusing of oil with garlic in the pan each night allowed us to have some garlic flavor, it became cumbersome. Most nights I don’t cook with much oil at all, and it was difficult to even coat the clove with oil let alone infuse any flavor.  There’s also the fact that during the week I’m generally trying to get dinner going fast, and any steps that I can take to make dinner prep quicker are golden. Enter the glory of garlic infused olive oil.  You can, in fact, infuse any type of oil that you generally cook with, including canola, grape seed or peanut oil.  We cook mainly with olive oil, as well as using that in marinades, salad dressings, etc. so that is the oil that I chose.

A quick word of caution before we get to the recipe.  During my research into garlic infused oil, I came across a number of cautions about simply dropping raw garlic into oil and letting it sit.  This can lead to a rapid development of botulism and should not be done.  Here’s a link where they discuss this problem (Garlicster).

It should also be noted that garlic infused olive oil only has a shelf life of about one week in the refrigerator.  So if you aren’t sure that you will use two cups of olive oil over the course of one week, then simply cut the oil amount in half.  I started with the two cups of oil since I knew that there were a number of recipes that I would be making that first week that required olive oil, including a couple of salad dressings, a marinade, and a low FODMAP version of garlic bread.  If that didn’t use up the oil along with my regular cooking, then I had plans for a hummus type dip that would be amazing with that garlic infused olive oil.

Oh, for the love of garlic.

Oh, for the love of garlic.

Garlic Infused Olive Oil Recipe
This is an intensely flavored garlic infused oil specifically designed for use in cooking when you cannot use actual garlic. If you want a lighter flavored oil, simply reduce the cooking time to 5 minutes. This infused oil is great to use in vinaigrettes, to flavor pastas, make marinades, for dipping bread, or in any of your regular cooking where you would use olive oil. Just be aware that it has a relatively short shelf life of about 1 week, so only make as much as you think you will use within that time frame.

Ingredients:
1 head of garlic
2 cups of olive oil

Directions:

  1. Dismember the head of garlic, disposing of any loose, papery skins that come off. Don’t be too finicky here, since you will have plenty of garlic skin to get rid of soon.

    The dismembered head of garlic ready for bashing.

    The dismembered head of garlic ready for bashing.

  2. Place the whole garlic cloves into a small metal bowl and cover with another similarly sized bowl. The bowls must be metal; glass, ceramics and plastic are not hard enough to properly bash the garlic and will not work. It is fine if one of the metal bowls fits into the other, as long as the garlic can’t come flying out the sides.
    The reflection of the camera flash in the metal bowl makes the skins of the garlic look shiny, but they haven't been peeled yet.  That comes next...

    The reflection of the camera flash in the metal bowl makes the skins of the garlic look shiny, but they haven’t been peeled yet. That comes next…

    The bowls don't have to be the same size.  In fact, having the smaller bowl fit into the larger bowl made it easier for me to hold on to them both while I shook their skins off.  Just be sure that both bowls are metal, or this won't work.

    The bowls don’t have to be the same size. In fact, having the smaller bowl fit into the larger bowl made it easier for me to hold on to them both while I shook their skins off. Just be sure that both bowls are metal, or this won’t work.

  3. Shake the bowls hard for a good 15 seconds, then open them up to see if you need to shake them some more. This is a great task for little kitchen helpers, but gauge your child’s skill level. You know what s/he is capable of, and what could create a lovely mess. Little Man is not quite ready for this task, but he’s getting there.  After being shaken for 15 seconds or so the garlic should have bashed itself right out of the skins. If any are still clothed, simply pull off the skins, since they are likely cracked and easy to peel.
    Oh yeah...  After a good 15 seconds of shaking the cloves literally fell out of their skins.  Two weren't completely undressed yet, but I just needed to pull off the already cracked skin and they were done.

    Oh yeah… After a good 15 seconds of shaking the cloves literally fell out of their skins. Two weren’t completely undressed yet, but I just needed to pull off the already cracked skin and they were done.

    Your fingers still get a bit sticky removing the cloves from the pile of skins, but when trying to peel an entire head of garlic... I've never had it go so quickly and with so little mess.

    Your fingers still get a bit sticky removing the cloves from the pile of skins, but when trying to peel an entire head of garlic… I’ve never had it go so quickly and with so little mess.

  4. Cut the cloves in half the long way and place them in a small sauce pan, just large enough to hold them and 2 cups of olive oil. Pour the olive oil over the sliced cloves and heat the mixture over medium heat until it just starts to bubble. Cook the garlic in the oil for 10 minutes. If the garlic begins to brown quickly, carefully remove the pan from the heat and let it cool briefly before returning it to the stove. Monitor it regularly to make sure nothing is burning. After 10 minutes carefully remove the pan from the heat, cover it and let the garlic steep in the oil for one hour.
    I halved the garlic cloves since I greedily want as much garlic flavor in the oil as I can.  If you want a milder flavor, then omit that step.

    I halved the garlic cloves since I greedily want as much garlic flavor in the oil as I can. If you want a milder flavor, then omit that step.

    The garlic cloves in the bath before heating.

    The garlic cloves in the bath before heating.

    The garlic should just start to bubble in the oil over medium heat.  If it starts to brown too quickly, carefully remove it from the heat for a minute or two and then put it back on.  No burnt garlic here, please, or your whole batch will taste burnt.

    The garlic should just start to bubble in the oil over medium heat. If it starts to brown too quickly, carefully remove it from the heat for a minute or two and then put it back on. No burnt garlic here, please, or your whole batch will taste burnt.

    This is the garlic after 10 minutes simmering in the oil.  They are lightly brown all over, but still look like they have some moisture left inside.  Take them off the heat, cover them, and let them steep.

    This is the garlic after 10 minutes simmering in the oil. They are lightly brown all over, but still look like they have some moisture left inside. Take them off the heat, cover them, and let them steep.

    This is the garlic after steeping in the oil and cooling to room temperature for an hour.  Most of the moisture is gone, and they've given all of their awesome garlic-iness to the oil.  Spell check doesn't like that one.

    This is the garlic after steeping in the oil and cooling to room temperature for an hour. Most of the moisture is gone, and they’ve given all of their awesome garlic-iness to the oil. Spell check doesn’t like that one.

  5. Once it has cooled to room temperature, pour the oil through a strainer into a clean glass jar with a lid. The oil can be used immediately, or it can be stored in the refrigerator in a glass jar for up to a week. If you think that you won’t use two cups of oil over the course of a week, simply cut the quantity of oil in half and make the same thing with 1 cup of oil.
    I didn't want to spill the oil as I strained it into the glass jar, so first strained it into my measuring glass that had held the olive oil for this recipe.  Then I poured from the spout of the measuring glass into my storage jar.

    I didn’t want to spill the oil as I strained it into the glass jar, so first strained it into my measuring glass that had held the olive oil for this recipe. Then I poured from the spout of the measuring glass into my storage jar.

    Lovely dessicated garlic and beautifully infused garlic olive oil.

    Lovely dessicated garlic and beautifully infused garlic olive oil.

    With a tight fitting lid this garlic infused olive oil will last for up to one week in the refrigerator.  I already have many plans for my oil, including a low FODMAP garlic bread, so stay tuned.

    With a tight fitting lid this garlic infused olive oil will last for up to one week in the refrigerator. I already have many plans for my oil, including a low FODMAP garlic bread, so stay tuned.

Click here for a printable version of the Garlic Infused Olive Oil recipe.

P.S.

Since originally writing this blog post (it sat around a bit until I could take the pictures) we have found that as restrictive as it is, the low FODMAP diet has had a tremendously positive effect on Little Man.  We are looking forward to being able to try reintroducing some of the high FODMAP foods back into his diet eventually, but for now the sacrifice of the dietary change has been well worth it.

“Sort of” Migas: A Fast Meal for Busy Days

This dish is one of those “go to” meals for an evening when there just isn’t enough time or energy to do something from the regular routine.  The inspiration for my “Sort of” Migas came from reading one of my favorite blogs, Smitten Kitchen.  In the post I was reading, Deb Perelman described a dish of Migas and from her description I knew I had to try it.  At its most basic form, Migas are scrambled eggs with spicy ground meat and tortilla chips all cooked together.  Deb’s Smitten Kitchen version was an amazing Migas with a Spicy Tomato Chipotle Coulis.

While the Smitten Kitchen version of Migas sounded phenomenal, I didn’t have the energy to even consider making it all from scratch.  In fact, when I stumbled onto Deb’s recipe I had been quickly perusing the internet in a desperate search for inspiration for a fast meal using ingredients that I actually had at home.  Now while I love living on Vancouver Island, finding good Mexican food has proven… shall we say… difficult.  This is the first place that I have ever lived where you cannot buy corn tortillas.  Seriously.  No where on the island… Doh!  This is a long way to say that I am in constant longing for good Mexican food, and therefore have to make it at home.  When I read the Smitten Kitchen post, I knew that I wanted those Migas and that if I stripped it down to its basic ingredients I could pull it off.

That said, please know that my “Sort of” Migas are not authentic in any stretch of the imagination.  Instead of Mexican chorizo I use well-seasoned ground turkey.  And I use jarred salsa.  Need I say more?  What is missing in authenticity, however, these “Sort of” Migas make up for in great taste.  They are fast, delicious, and have been endorsed by Little Man.  Enjoy!

“Sort of” Migas
Ingredients
:
1 tsp. olive oil
½ lb. ground turkey
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
Salt and pepper
6 eggs, beaten
4 cups tortilla chips
1 small jar salsa

Directions:

  1. Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the ground turkey and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic powder, chili powder, cumin, and coriander, stirring to combine the spices with the ground turkey. Add salt and pepper to taste, continuing to stir and brown the meat until it is well cooked, about 7-10 minutes.
    It's just not easy to make raw ground turkey look nice in a photo.

    It’s just not easy to make raw ground turkey look nice in a photo.

    Since the ground turkey is taking the place of Mexican chorizo, you need to add a lot of spice.  I dialed down my spice inspirations so that it would still be Little Man safe.  If you don't have to keep spicy-timid taste buds in mind, feel free to add some cayenne or chipotle.

    Since the ground turkey is taking the place of Mexican chorizo, you need to add a lot of spice. I dialed down my spice inspirations so that it would still be Little Man safe. If you don’t have to keep spicy-timid taste buds in mind, feel free to add some cayenne or chipotle.

  2. Lower the heat to medium low and add the beaten eggs. Stir the eggs in the seasoned turkey to scramble the eggs. When the eggs just start to set add the tortilla chips and stir to coat the chips in the turkey and egg mixture, breaking some of them while stirring. When the eggs are set remove the pan from the heat.
    Add in the beaten eggs and let then sit for just a moment to start setting up.

    Add in the beaten eggs and let then sit for just a moment to start setting up.

    When the eggs start to come together, then you can add the tortilla chips.

    When the eggs start to come together, then you can add the tortilla chips.

    When you add the tortilla chips to the pan, don't be afraid to break them up a bit.  This isn't a dainty dish, so you don't need to be gentle with the ingredients.

    When you add the tortilla chips to the pan, don’t be afraid to break them up a bit. This isn’t a dainty dish, so you don’t need to be gentle with the ingredients.

    Here is Little Man's portion on one of his planet plates.  It didn't look like this for long as he dug right in.

    Here is Little Man’s portion on one of his planet plates. It didn’t look like this for long as he dug right in.

  3. Serve the “Sort of” Migas with the salsa and remaining chips.

Click here for a printable version of the “Sort of” Migas recipe.

"Sort of" Migas

A Tale of Two Parties: Utica Tomato Pie

Where to begin with Utica Pie…

Utica PieMy best friend in graduate school would speak about this thing called Tomato Pie in reverent tones and I was so excited to try it when she brought me to her house for my first Easter in New York.  Then I saw this under-dressed, plain, fluffy crust with just a little sauce and cheese, and was completely underwhelmed.  Jen’s face, on the other hand, lit up and she edged a bit closer to the plate.  I took a piece, not wanting to seem rude, and took a bite of what I only expected to be relatively tasteless cheese pizza… and was immediately hooked.  The crust had great texture, crispy on the bottom and fluffy but flavorful throughout.  It only needed a little of the intense sauce and cheese to round out the flavor profile, any more and it would have been cloying.  In future trips to what I would claim as my New York home, one of the things I always looked forward to was to be sent home with extra Tomato Pie… and Roma Bacon, but that’s a different story.

I have to say that as I am posting these recipes I am faced with a trepidation that I didn’t feel when making them for our party guests.  None of the guests at our party have every been to upstate New York, so I could have served up just about anything and stated that it was from upstate and no one would have been the wiser.  Now, however, I know that some of my readers are from upstate and they know what these things are supposed to look like and taste like.  I, however, am making these from memories and partial recipes that I’m piecing together as I go.  The final dishes that result from these recipes are delicious, but it is possible that some of my tweaks in the kitchen may have pulled them away from the real deal dishes.  For my family in New York, I hope you can look past any inaccuracies and just taste the love, since they were made with memories of all the love I experienced when in your homes.  Miss you!

Utica Pie
Adapted in part from Cook’s Illustrated Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
Ingredients: Makes 2 pies
For the Crust:
3 ¼ cups flour
½ cup cornmeal
1 ½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1 pkg (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
1 ¼ cups water (room temperature)
7 tbsp. butter, divided
4+ tbsp. olive oil, divided

For the Sauce and Toppings:
3 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ½ cups freshly grated parmesan

The wet and dry ingredients for the crust.

The wet and dry ingredients for the crust.

Directions:
For the Crust:

  1. Melt 3 tbsp. of the butter and set it aside. Mix all of the dry ingredients together in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add the water and melted butter, and mix on low speed until ingredients are combined. Then switch to medium speed (speed 2 on most models) and knead until smooth and glossy, about 4-6 minutes. Alternatively you can mix and knead the dough by hand.
  2. Shape the dough into a ball and roll it in a little olive oil in a large bowl so it’s coated with oil all around. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a towel and set it aside to rise for 45-60 minutes.
  3. Soften the remaining 4 tbsp. butter and set aside. Turn the risen dough out onto a floured surface and shape it into a 12 x 15 inch rectangle. Using an offset spatula spread the softened butter over the dough’s surface leaving a ½ inch border free around the edges.
    Rolling the dough out into a large rectangle.

    Rolling the dough out into a large rectangle.

    Coating the top of the dough with a thin layer of softened butter will result in crispy, buttery layers of dough in the final pie.

    Coating the top of the dough with a thin layer of softened butter will result in crispy, buttery layers of dough in the final pie.

  4. Starting at a short end roll the dough up into a cylinder. Place the cylinder seam side down and roll it out into a 4 x 18 inch rectangle. Cut the rectangle in half crosswise. Set one half aside and work with one at a time.
    The dough cylinder.

    The dough cylinder.

    The long, thin cylinder, encapsulating lovely layers of butter.

    The long, thin cylinder, encapsulating lovely layers of butter.

    Divide the cylinder in half crosswise.

    Divide the cylinder in half crosswise.

  5. Fold the rectangle into thirds. Then pinch the edges of the dough together forming a ball. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Place the balls back into the oiled bowl, covering them with plastic wrap and placing the bowl in the refrigerator to rise for 40-50 minutes, or until doubled in size.
    Folding the two halves into thirds.

    Folding the two halves into thirds.

    The folded dough is then rolled and pinched into a ball.

    The folded dough is then rolled and pinched into a ball.

    One dough ball ready to become a Utica Pie.

    One dough ball ready to become a Utica Pie.

  6. Coat two 9-inch pie pans with 2 tbsp. olive oil each. One at a time transfer each dough ball to your work surface and roll it out into a 13 inch circle. Move each dough circle to its respective pie tin by rolling it loosely around the rolling pin and then draping it into the pie tin. Using your fingers press the dough into the corners of the tin, forming it up the sides. At this point you can continue on making the Utica pies, or you can cover the dough thoroughly with two layers of plastic wrap and freeze them for up to four weeks.

 For the Sauce:

  1. Heat a saucepan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and garlic, sauteing until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes.

    Mmmmm.... Oil and garlic...  Who needs more?

    Mmmmm…. Oil and garlic… Who needs more?  I was making a larger batch of the sauce here, so my proportions will be much larger than your’s.  I also have a lot of this in my freezer right now.

  2. Add the tomatoes and dried herbs. Simmer until the sauce thickens, about 15-20 minutes. Be careful, this might bubble like hot lava, and if it gets on your skin it will feel like it too! Yes, this is from personal experience…

    A flavorful sauce the cooks like hot lava.  Be ware of splashes!

    A flavorful sauce the cooks like hot lava. Be ware of splashes!

  3. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside to use with the crust, or refrigerate/freeze for use in the future.

Note: This sauce recipe makes more sauce than you will need for the two pies. The extra sauce can be frozen for use over the next couple of months. Try freezing it in ice cube trays so that you can defrost only the amount you need and keep the rest in the freezer.

 For the pies:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. If using frozen dough, remove the plastic wrap and bake the crusts for 15 minutes until almost cooked through, but not yet browned. Then follow the directions as for room temperature dough.

    From frozen, this crust was baked for about 15 minutes until almost cooked through, but not browned.

    From frozen, this crust was baked for about 15 minutes until almost cooked through, but not browned.

  3. From frozen/pre-baked and room temperature dough: Spread ½ cup of sauce over the dough, then sprinkle half of the cheese over top. Repeat with the second pie.
    You should still be able to see the crust peeking through the sauce.

    You should still be able to see the crust peeking through the sauce.

    A delicious coating of parmesan cheese...  I'm lucky that Little Man was sleeping or he would have stolen the cheese from my bowl.

    A delicious coating of parmesan cheese… I’m lucky that Little Man was sleeping or he would have stolen the cheese from my bowl.

  4. Bake until the crust is golden brown and the cheese melted, about 15 minutes.
    One hot, bubbly pie.

    One hot, bubbly pie.

    And another...

    And another…

  5. Remove the pies from their tins and cut into squares. Enjoy!
Pile them high on a serving platter, and then be sure to elbow your way to the front before they disappear.

Pile them high on a serving platter, and then be sure to elbow your way to the front before they disappear.

Click here for a printable version of Utica Pie.

I hope this recipe can make converts out of you too!  🙂

A Tale of Two Parties: Our Island Party and the Food

Now that we set the stage with the amazing party in New West… no pressure, right?  Oy…  Now I have to begin with confessing that some how, and I’m not exactly sure what happened, but we ended up with next to no pictures from Dave’s graduation party at our house.  I know…  I don’t know what happened…  I did, luckily, take pictures of the food (mostly) while I was preparing the dishes so at least that’s something.  But seriously… no pictures?  Ugh…

Here's our happy graduate!

Here’s our happy graduate!

On the brighter side, let’s talk about food.  Here’s the menu for Dave’s graduation party.

Dave’s Graduation Party Menu
Spiedies: Italian marinated pork or chicken that is skewered and grilled. Served on a bun with sauteed onions, mustard and mayonnaise.
White T-Shirt Shrimp: A Cajun spiced shrimp boil with beer and butter. Served with bread to dip.
Utica Pie: A deep dish tomato and parmesan “pie” with a Chicago-style crust.
Red, White and Blue Coleslaw: An homage to one of our favorite restaurants in Ithaca, NY, this is red cabbage, white cabbage and blue cheese slaw.
Half Moon Cookies: Made famous through Seinfeld, these Black and White cookies are claimed to have originated in Utica, NY, as Half Moons.

A fantastic blend of neighbors, family and friends.  What an amazing blessing!

A fantastic blend of neighbors, family and friends. What an amazing blessing!

It’ll take me a few posts to get all of the recipes posted, but today we are going to start with the Spiedies and White T-Shirt Shrimp, the two recipes that I don’t have images for.  This just means that you’ll have to try the recipes and send me pictures from your creations.  🙂  I’d love to see them!

Spiedies are a classic Binghamton, NY, dish.  This is the perfect festival food from Binghamton, honored yearly by the Spiedie Fest.  In fact, at my bachlorette party my fantastic ladies made a version to serve along with other bites of New York.  I hope I did them all justice with this recipe.  While the pork spiedie is the classic, we also offered a chicken version.  They were both delicious, especially with a heap of sauteed onions.

Spiedies
Ingredients
:
5 lbs. of pork loin or chicken, cubed
2 cups plus ¼ cup olive oil
½ cup cider vinegar
1 tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tbsp. dried oregano
1 tbsp. dried thyme
1 tbsp. dried basil
1 tbsp. dried rosemary
1 tbsp. garlic powder
4 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Combine the meat with 2 cups of olive oil, the vinegar, and all the dried spices in a large, nonreactive bowl or resealable plastic bag. If using a plastic bag be sure to place it in a casserole dish or other walled dish or bowl in case of any leaks. Place the meat and marinade in the refrigerator and chill for several hours or overnight. In a pinch, 30 minutes will get you some flavor, but longer is better.
  2. Meanwhile heat ¼ cup of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat and add the onions. Be prepared to cry a little… or a lot. Season with salt and pepper. Sauté the onions until they start to brown on the edges, then turn down the heat to medium and slowly cook them until they are soft and golden. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Put the onions into a serving bowl and set aside. If making the spiedies in advance you can refrigerate the onions for up to 2 days and then reheat them in the microwave before setting them out with the other condiments and buns.
  3. When you are ready to grill the meat, prepare the skewers. Skewer the meat, leaving some space between the cubes to ensure even cooking. If using bamboo skewers be sure to soak them according to package directions in advance. Grill the skewers over high heat to get a char on your kebabs. Depending on the size of your cubes this can happen quickly, so watch them like a hawk. Test individual skewers to ensure for doneness.
  4. Remove the meat from the skewers and place it in a serving bowl. Serve the grilled meat with torpedo buns, the delicious, golden onions, as well as mustard and mayonnaise. Enjoy!

Please click here for a printable version of the Spiedies recipe.

Our front yard was festooned with balloons... and then we spent the entire time on our fantastic new back deck.  Ah well...

Our front yard was festooned with balloons… and then we spent the entire time on our fantastic new back deck. Ah well…

I cannot believe that I don’t have a single picture of the White T-Shirt Shrimp served at the party.  Ugh!  So you’ll just have to use your great imaginations to picture a vat of spicy sauce comprised predominately of butter and beer with succulent shrimp, served in bowls with crusty bread to soak up that delicious sauce.  My mouth is already watering…  The name for this dish comes from when Dave first tried it at a wonderful cabin (aka “camp”) up on Otter Lake.  He was wearing a brand new, white t-shirt he’d received for his birthday.  He took one bite of a shrimp, and watched the tail flip down in slow motion splattering his front with bright red, spicy butter sauce.  Dave now recommends a bib when eating these shrimp, but I’d wear a trash bag if I had to just to get a bowl of that sauce with a hunk of bread.  At the party we served the White T-Shirt Shrimp on a warming tray with a platter of warmed baguettes next to it to keep them both hot throughout the party.

White T-Shirt Shrimp
Ingredients
:
4 bottles of beer
¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
½ cup Cajun spice
4 lemons, juiced
1 lb. butter
5 lbs. shrimp, shell on, uncooked

Directions:

  1. Heat all of the ingredients except for the shrimp in a large pot. Bring the liquid to a simmer and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the shrimp and cook for 7-8 minutes or until the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
  3. Serve with bowls and lots of crusty bread to soak up the amazing boil. Enjoy!

Please click here for a printable version of the White T-Shirt Shrimp recipe.

 

New DeckStay tuned for more recipes… with pictures… from the party!  😉

 

Grilled Salmon, Fresh Off the Line

Until just a couple of days ago, the best salmon I have ever had was grilled up by Dave’s dad, Joe, at their cabin.  I should say that pretty much whenever Joe is grilling salmon, that’s my favorite.  It’s amazing.  That was the truth until a couple days ago when Dave grilled up some Lemon Garlic Salmon. This fish was incredibly tender, almost creamy in texture, but not mushy.  There wasn’t a hint of fishiness anywhere, and if you associate salmon with a fishy taste that probably means that you’ve been eating farm raised salmon.  Yuck.  Wild caught salmon from the Pacific Northwest has a fresh taste that has absolutely nothing in comparison to the muddy, fishy flavor of farm raised salmon.

The Lemon Garlic Salmon that Dave grilled up wasn’t just wild caught, it was caught by a cousin who just happened to be coming to our home for Dave’s graduation party (recipes from that party will be appearing next week).  This wonderful cousin, of whom poets should sing, showed up at the party with a large, red cooler.  He plunked it down in our kitchen and called Dave over.  As he lifted the white plastic lid I think I heard angels singing, because inside were two enormous sides of the most beautiful pink salmon I’ve ever seen. I had learned early in our relationship that one of the benefits of marrying a west coast Canadian boy was that this got me into closer proximity to some of the best salmon in the world.  I had no idea that this would also grant me family who showed up bearing gifts of fresh caught salmon.

We tightly wrapped and froze much of the salmon, but Dave saved out a large portion for the grill.  Then he went into research mode, trying to figure out the flavor profile he wanted.  In the end he chose a beautifully simple combination of lemon and garlic with just enough seasoning to highlight the amazing flavor of the salmon.  Dave adapted this recipe from an Essence of Emeril recipe tweaking it a bit here and there.  You could also use another firm fleshed fish like halibut or cod, but just be careful with the cooking time if you go for a smaller fish size.  The perfect accompaniments for the Lemon Salmon are the Cabin Grilled Potatoes and a fresh green salad…  especially if it is served with a glass of wine.  In true style of not wanting to let anything go to waste, we toasted the salmon with glasses of sparkling wine leftover from the graduation party that had gone slightly flat.  As luck would have it, the sparkling wine was so good that even the slightly flat version was still crisp with a slight effervescence that was amazing with the salmon.  It was a perfect meal on the deck with my two amazing boys.

Note: When Garlic Turns Blue…

The salmon smelled fantastic.  We brought the packet to the table and Dave did the big reveal, peeling the foil back, the delicious steam poured out revealing the perfectly cooked salmon layered with the beautiful golden lemons and studded with…  cyanide blue garlic?  What on earth had happened?  Was the salmon safe to eat?  And why on earth had turned the garlic turquoise blue?  A bit of quick internet research later and I learned that it is an interesting, but non-toxic, effect that sometimes happens with young garlic, especially when it comes in contact with other acids like lemon, onion or wine, and low heat.  So please enjoy the lovely turquoise hue of the garlic in our pictures and know that it tasted delicious.  If you are curious about the glories of blue-green garlic, here’s a NY Times article on the subject.

Lemon Garlic SalmonLemon Garlic Salmon
Ingredients
:
1 side of salmon, skin on
2 tsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. white pepper
2 tsp. fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil, divided

Directions:

  1. Preheat your grill or oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rinse the salmon under cold running water and then pat dry.
  3. Lay a long piece of foil down on the work surface. The foil should be twice the length of your salmon, or use two pieces to be sure to cover your salmon completely.
  4. Butter the foil, leaving a couple inch border around the edges for sealing later on. Drizzle a little olive oil over the foil, and then lay the salmon onto the foil skin side down. Sprinkle with the salt and white pepper.
  5. In a small bowl mix the minced garlic with a little olive oil and salt, smashing the garlic against the side of the bowl with a spoon to make it a loose paste. Smear the garlic paste all over the salmon, and sprinkle the fresh rosemary over top.
  6. Layer the lemon slices over the salmon, covering as much of the surface as you can. Then sprinkle the onions over the lemon slices, and drizzle the entire packet with the remaining olive oil.
  7. Fold the foil edges up to seal the salmon tightly on all sides in the packet. Place the foil packet on the grill and monitor it closely. The salmon should steam inside the packet, retaining all the amazing moisture and flavor of the lemon, garlic and onions.
  8. Cook the salmon packet for 15-20 minutes, or until just cooked through but still moist. The cooking time will vary based on the thickness of your salmon, thinner pieces cooking faster than thicker ones.
  9. Remove the packet to a serving plate and bring it to the table to serve from the foil. If your salmon had pin bones be careful to remove them carefully as you go, warning all diners that there could be pin bones in their portion. Enjoy!

Lemon Garlic SalmonClick here for a printable version of the Lemon Garlic Salmon recipe.

Cabin Grilled PotatoesCabin Grilled Potatoes
Ingredients
:
6 medium red skinned potatoes
1 medium onion, halved
6 tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat your grill or oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Thinly slice your potatoes and set them aside. Thinly slice your onions and set them aside.
  3. Place a baking sheet on your work station and cover it with a sheet of aluminum foil that overlaps each side by an inch or two. Generously butter the foil, leaving a couple inches of border all around for when you close the packets.
  4. Layer half of the potatoes across the foil, overlapping them slightly and leaving enough foil around the edges that the packet can be sealed for the grill or oven. Dot the potatoes with thin slices of half of the butter.
  5. Layer half of the onions over top of the potatoes, and sprinkle the entire packet with salt and pepper.
  6. Layer the remaining potatoes over the onions, and dot the potatoes with thin slices of the remaining butter.
  7. Layer the remaining onions on top of the potatoes, and sprinkle the entire packet with salt and pepper.
  8. Place a second piece of foil over top of the potatoes and onions, and fold the edges up to seal the packet on all sides.
  9. Place the packet into your grill and cook for approximately 20 minutes. Monitor the heat during the cooking, adjusting as necessary. The sealed packet will steam the potatoes, but the heat should also create a golden crust on the bottom. Be careful that the bottom layer doesn’t “over caramelize” (aka burn).
  10. Remove the packet to a serving plate and bring it to the table. Rip open the foil to let the aroma of browned buttery potatoes and onions float across the table. Serve family style. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Cabin Grilled Potatoes recipe.

Cabin Grilled Potatoes

The Long May Weekend – A Year Later

To be honest, I don’t know a lot about Queen Victoria whom the long May weekend commemorates. We still feel repercussions from the Victorian era, such as white wedding gowns and a penchant for prudery. The Queen also plays a memorable role in “The Pirates! Band Of Misfits” in which she wields a mean scimitar. I hadn’t even been aware that she had her own day in Canada until last year when I flew out to Vancouver Island on the long weekend to look for a place for our family.  I had only this one weekend and some substantial internet house browsing in which to find the home we would move to in a few short months.

Such began an epic weekend of rental house hunting with my mother-in-law, Ruth, and my sister-in-law, Erin. We would learn quickly that house hunting online is much like online dating…  Everyone lies.  The pictures are all glamor shots from years if not decades earlier, the houses all looked much cleaner online, and in the case of a couple of our visits the picture can’t quite convey the… shall we say scent… of the actual building.

We called ourselves Little Man’s Angels, an all woman team who were finally answerable to my toddler son.  Even though he was back in the States during our adventure, Little Man became our litmus test for whether or not a property was even worth considering.  Unfortunately most of the places that we visited were not viable. In fact, right after visiting one more decrepit, dirty property in a long line of decrepit, dirty properties with questionable potential for child safety I was starting to wonder if I was being too picky. I must have mumbled something positive about the house when Ruth looked me in the eye and stated that while Dave and I were welcome to live in that house, her grandson would certainly not. I almost cried from relief.

The houses we toured in the greater Nanaimo area over the course of the weekend were memorable. One was so small that it should have housed dolls, not real people. Another reeked of stale tobacco and we later learned a man had been violently killed on a nearby street a few months earlier. Another had a blind driveway that led onto a busy street, not to mention a pile of human feces on the back porch. Another had strange fabric draped from the ceiling, holes punched in the walls, and boasted that it came with an outdoor plastic play house… mind you the playhouse had been used as a chicken coop for three years, but that’s nothing that a little spray bleach can’t take care of right? Right…  The one thing that all of the properties shared was that online they looked and sounded amazing.  I started to panic about our prospects.

Then we saw the property on the farm and I think I heard angels sing as a single ray of sun broke through the clouds and lit the house.  The building itself is nice, but the biggest draw was the farm itself and the surrounding landscape.  The idea of Little Man’s first long term memories being shaped here feeding chickens, petting horses, being chased by sheep…  The three of us looked at each other and had to resist the urge to rush into a jumping group hug.

Later we would begin the pattern that would haunt us for the rest of the move.  Just as things would start to look up, something would come crashing down.  No sooner had we called to secure our rental of the farm house then the great situation fell apart almost instantly.  We almost lost the house when its occupants at the time lost the home they were bidding on, and in fact it was only a few weeks before the actual move to Canada that we learned we’d be able to move in.  Other things would happen as well, but for the purposes of this post, it wasn’t until when Dave and his dad pulled up to the house with the moving van filled with all of our belongings and pulling our car with the cats that I truly let myself believe that things would work out.

The farm house is not perfect, but it has turned out to be a great decision. Almost a year later Little Man still asks to go back to our blue house in Iowa, but I don’t think he misses the house as much as he does the proximity to his favorite zoo and his child care provider.  We’re making friends, we live in a beautiful place, and are finding favorite places that we like to go back to over and over again.

Now that we are at this Long May Weekend one year later the main thing that keeps coming to mind is gratitude.  I’m grateful for the hilarious memories from our house hunt. Grateful that Ruth and Erin were able to take the time (and insanity) of that visit with me. Grateful that we live on such a beautiful island; in such a great home; close to the sheep, pigs, Little Man’s Ladies (aka the chickens), and horses; in a place full of potential for more fantastic adventures and memories.

With the thought of gratitude in mind, I planned a simple meal for the barbeque.  My goal was for something that wouldn’t take much time, leaving more time to be with Dave and LIttle Man, but also something full of flavor that Little Man would devour without us having to focus on getting him to eat his dinner.  Thankfully I was successful.  Little Man gobbled everything up and we were all able to have a nice family dinner full of laughs and stories. It was a perfect commemoration of the House Hunt Long Weekend. I hope that one or more of these recipes can give you a similar experience with your family or friends.

Menu: Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks, Mustard Seed Rice, Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms, and Mango Lassi.

Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks

Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks
Ingredients
:
2 tbsp. Tandoori paste
¼ cup plain, fat free yogurt
3-4 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. canola oil
10 chicken drumsticks

Directions:

  1. Combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken in a large bowl.
    The marinade ingredients.

    The marinade ingredients.

    253

    The marinade ingredients combined.

    The marinade ingredients combined.

  2. Add the drumsticks to the bowl and toss until they are evenly coated. Use your hands here to really spread the marinade over the chicken.  Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

    Tossing the chicken in the marinade is best done with your hands.  It's a bit messy, but roll up your sleeves and dive on in.

    Tossing the chicken in the marinade is best done with your hands. It’s a bit messy, but roll up your sleeves and dive on in.

  3. Preheat your grill or grill pan over medium/medium high heat. The marinade is predominately yogurt based, so you may need to grease your grill to make sure the chicken doesn’t stick. Grill the chicken over medium heat for approximately 45 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Serve and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the recipe for Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks.

 

Mustard Seed Rice

Mustard Seed Rice
Ingredients
:
1 tbsp. brown mustard seeds
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 ½ cups white basmati rice
3 cups hot water
Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Gently heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. Cover the pan when the seeds start to pop, and shake it periodically to keep the seeds moving. Be careful not to burn them. When the seeds stop popping, about 30 seconds, add the rice and stir to combine. Stir the rice every now and then to let it just start to brown. This should take just a couple of minutes.
    Sizzling the mustard seeds in the oil.  When they start popping, cover the pan to prevent a mess on your stove.

    Sizzling the mustard seeds in the oil. When they start popping, cover the pan to prevent a mess on your stove.

    Popping mustard seeds.

    Popping mustard seeds.

    Sauteing the basmati rice with the mustard seeds and oil.

    Sauteing the basmati rice with the mustard seeds and oil.

    Browning the rice.

    Browning the rice.

  2. Carefully add the hot water to the pan. The pan is already hot so it will sputter and steam when you add the water.
  3. Bring the water to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cover the pan. Simmer the rice for 15 minutes, and then remove it from the heat. Let the rice sit with the lid on for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork. Spoon the rice into a serving bowl and enjoy.

Click here for a printable version of the recipe for Mustard Seed Rice.

 

276Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms
Ingredients
:
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1 ½ inch thick half moons
5 cremini mushrooms, cut into pieces roughly the same size as the zucchini
1-2 tbsp. olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves
Salt and Pepper
Directions:

  1. This recipe is more a method than anything else. Use whatever vegetables that you have at hand. I chose zucchini and mushroom because they taste great with a bit of the grill’s smokiness.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss until the vegetables are evenly coated.
  3. Skewer all of the zucchini on one or two metal skewers, leaving a little bit of room between the pieces so they can cook evenly. Set these aside on a baking sheet. Do the same with the mushrooms. Set them aside with the zucchini and drizzle any remaining marinade over them all. Let them sit for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Grill over medium to medium high heat until the vegetables start to char and are cooked through.
  5. Remove the vegetables from the skewers, being careful of the hot metal. Toss the vegetables together in a bowl and serve. Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the recipe for Simple Grilled Vegetables.

 

271Mango Lassi
Ingredients
:
2 cups plain, fat free yogurt
2 cups frozen mango pieces
1 cup milk
1 tbsp. honey

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. Taste to see if it needs more mango or honey. Adjust seasoning, blend again, and serve. Enjoy!

Click to get a printable recipe for Mango Lassi.

Our Victoria Day bbq dinner: Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks, Mustard Seed Rice and Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms.  Little Man already made off with his Mango Lassi, so it wasn't available for a glamor shot.

Our Victoria Day bbq dinner: Mumbai Grilled Drumsticks, Mustard Seed Rice and Simple Grilled Zucchini and Mushrooms. Little Man already made off with his Mango Lassi, so it wasn’t available for a glamor shot.