Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Asparagus Strata

Asparagus Strata
1 onion
1 or 2 bunches of asparagus
Basil (I used 2 cubes of frozen, but you could chop up fresh or use dried)
1 loaf bakery bread, cubed (you can use French bread, whole wheat, sourdough, etc., just don’t use     sandwich bread)
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp. Dijon mustard (optional)
salt and ground pepper
Colby-jack and/or cheddar cheese, grated

1.       Grease a large, glass casserole dish
2.       Cut bread into cubes.  Put half of the cubes in the casserole dish.
3.       Dice onion and asparagus.  Sauté the onion in olive oil or butter until translucent.  Add asparagus and cook until tender.
4.       Add salt, pepper, and basil
5.       Grate the cheese, and put a layer of cheese over the first layer of bread.
6.       Wait for the veggies to cool then add them to the casserole dish.
7.       Top with the second half of the bread cubes and top with more grated cheese.
8.       In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and mustard with a hand mixer.
9.       Pour egg mixture over the bread, cover, and stick in the fridge overnight.
10.   Remove covering the next morning, pre-heat the oven to 375.  Cook for 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.  You want to make sure the egg has cooked in the middle.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Canning Salsa

I, being the logical person that I am, and knowing that I have infinite time available with an almost one year old, decided that it would be best to make favors for the adults coming to my almost one year old's first birthday party.  Since he loves Mexican food (what baby doesn't?), we decided to go with a fiesta theme.  And the adult favor?  Why, home made salsa, of course! 

I will say that this salsa is pretty darn good.  I took a pint to my aunt's, and my husband and I barely even got any it was gone so fast.  That being said, it is extremely time consuming, labor intensive, and requires a TON of ingredients.  If this sounds like something right up your alley, read on.

Until Google told me, I had no idea that salsa recipes had to be FDA approved-- or at least the tomato-vegetable ratios have to be.  I used two sites to guide me: one and two.  Here is what I came up with:

*If you are new to canning, you may want to check out some more detailed instructions on my Pickles or Jammin' posts.

J'adore: Fiesta Salsa

14 cups peeled, seeded, chopped plum tomatoes
2 1/2 cups diced onion
2 1/4 cups diced/minced peppers
           My pepper breakdown was as follows:
           1/2 a green bell pepper
           1/2 a red bell pepper
           3 jalepenos
           2 Hungarian wax peppers
           2 long, green chillies, medium heat (can't remember the name)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup lemon juice from a bottle, not fresh squeezed
1 Tbsp salt (add 1 tsp. at a time; 3 tsp. may be too much salt for you; it almost was for me)
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
1 Tbsp minced, fresh oregano
5 Tbsp minced, fresh cilantro

You'll need at least 15 pounds of tomatoes to get those 14 cups. Bring a pot of water to a boil, and prepare another bowl with ice water.  Put a colander/strainer in a second bowl to the side.  Slice a small X in the bottom of each of your tomatoes.  (I'm assuming you've washed them first.)  Put your scored tomatoes in the boiling water for 30-60 seconds.  Remove them with a slatted spoon, and put them in the ice water.  Remove from the ice water, peel away skin, cut in half across, not longways, and scoop the seeds out into your colander/strainer.  You may also want to remove the tough cores.  Ahh, you'll need a third bowl or a food processor bowl to put your processed tomatoes in.  Repeat with the rest of your tomatoes.  Dice your prepared tomatoes or pulse them in the food processor until you have the consistency you want.  

Once you've gotten all of your tomatoes prepped, dice or mince your onion, peppers, and herbs.  I pulsed everything but the onions in the food processor but separately so that I could measure the appropriate quantities.

Using a large sauce pot, bring your tomatoes to a simmer.  Add the other ingredients and return to a simmer.  Adjust the spices and herbs according to your taste, but you can't adjust the tomato/onion/pepper ratios.  You may change the types of peppers, but you'll need to have 2 1/4 cups total.  We did a lot of taste testing by scooping small amounts of the salsa into a bowl and adding ingredients before I put them in the big pot.  We decided that cumin made it too cuminy, and I wanted a fresh tasting salsa, so we skipped it.  We also skipped the chili powder for a similar reason.  The instructions on one of the links above says to let it simmer for 30 minutes.  Let me tell you, mine simmered for way longer than that while I was trying to get 6,000 other things accomplished.

This recipe made 16 half pints and 2 pints, so 10 pints total.  I liked the squat jars for gifts because they're more visually appealing (i.e. cuter).  I processed the jars for 15 minutes a batch in the boiling water bath.  Again, if you haven't canned before, please do some reading up on it.

I almost forgot: as an added bonus, keep the tomato juice you caught in your second bowl.  Scrape everything through the strainer so that you're left with only the seeds.  At my house, the seeds and skins go in the compost which is why you see that white yogurt container in the picture.  Drink the juice, if you like tomato juice, or you can chop up some basil in it and freeze it to add to soups and other recipes later on.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Sweet Potato Sticky Buns

These sticky buns are amazing, easy to make, and can easily be made vegan. The original recipe appears in the Nov. 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times, but I made a few tweaks, as usual. They seem to be best made a day ahead of time and then reheated before serving.

J'adore: Sweet Potato Stick Buns

For the dough:
1 0.25-oz. package active dry yeast
3 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling dough
2 Tbs. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup mashed sweet potato*
3 Tbs. vegetable oil, plus a dash for oiling the bowl

For the filling:
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 stick butter or vegan margarine, melted
chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

For the pan:
1 stick butter or vegan margarine, melted
2-3 Tbs. light brown sugar or use leftover filling

For the icing:
8 oz. cream cheese or vegan cream cheese
2-3 tsp. natural maple syrup
a pinch of sea salt/ 1-2 twists of grinder
confectioners' sugar (the recipe says 1 cup; I just dumped some in but probably less than a cup)

1. stir yeast into 1/3 cup warm water until dissolved. Let stand 10 minutes.
2. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in food processor fit with bread hook.
3. Stir sweet potato and oil into 1/3 cup warm water. (I just used a large measuring cup-- easier for pouring.)
4. When 10 minutes is up, stir yeast into sweet potato mixture.
5. Turn food processor on, and pour liquids through the feeding tube in the lid. Allow to run until dough forms a ball.
6. Remove dough from food processor and place into a large, oiled bowl. Cover with a barely damp, light-weight dish cloth, and allow to rise for 2-3 hours or until dough completely fills the bowl. (I warm up my oven as I'm making the dough then turn it off and stick the dough in to rise. If you have another warm spot, that will work too.)
7. Prepare filling by mixing together brown sugar and cinnamon, although you could just as easily just spread the brown sugar on the rolled-out dough and then shake cinnamon on top of that.
8. Grease large glass dish (9x13? I don't know how big any of my dishes are) with melted (vegan) butter, making sure to get all the way up the sides.
9. Sprinkle flour over a clean work surface, and turn dough onto it. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of dough and rub some onto your rolling pin. Roll out dough into a large rectangle.
10. Spread rolled-out dough with melted (vegan) butter (enough to coat evenly, but not enough to make a runny mess when you're rolling and cutting), then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture. You may also add chopped pecans or walnuts to the filling, but I choose not to since some people don't like nuts.
11. If you want larger buns, start with the back of the dough and start rolling it toward you so that you make one big dough tube. If you prefer to make smaller buns that will feed more people, cut the dough in half horizontally and make two dough logs.
12. Cut dough log into approx. 1" thick pieces. The original recipe says to cut off and discard the ends. Madness, I say! Just turn them so that the cut side is up. Waste not, want not!
13. Pour remaining butter into the bottom of the baking dish. Sprinkle any left over brown sugar/cinnamon mixture into the butter in the dish. If you've used it all already in the rolls, simply make some more. This helps to make the buns more like sticky buns and not so dry around the edges.
14. Place dough slices spiral-side up across the dish. Leave room for them to rise.
15. Stick the dish back in a warm spot, covered again with the barely damp dish towel, and allow to rise again for at least an hour.
16. Bake buns at 375° for 18-20 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
17. To make the icing, combine the maple syrup, cream cheese, and sea salt. Add in the confectioners' sugar and mix.
18. Spread the icing over the buns straight out of the oven. Top with chopped pecans or walnuts, if desired.

*I boiled the sweet potatoes until soft and then blended them in the food processor. The first time I tried baking the sweet potatoes and then mashing them, but the buns turned out far superior with the added moisture of the boiled potatoes. Cut up 1 or 2 large sweet potatoes and use the left over mash for dinner or baby food.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Baked French Toast

This recipe is super easy and can be prepared ahead of time. Perfect for brunch.

J'adore: Baked French Toast

1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tsp. maple syrup
3-4 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk or half and half
1 tsp. vanilla
1 baguette, sliced into 1-in. thick slices

1. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9x13" baking dish. (I use margarine.)
2. Combine brown sugar, butter, and maple syrup. Spread on the bottom of the baking dish.
3. Place bread slices flat onto bottom of baking dish.
4. Combine eggs, milk, and vanilla. Pour evenly over bread slices.
5. Cover, and stick in the fridge over night.
6. Bake at 350° for 30-40 minutes or until tops of bread look browned and the egg mixture is set.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprise Cupcakes

This recipe comes from Sara Perry's Holiday Baking: New and Traditional Recipes for Wintertime Holidays. I found the original icing way too sweet, but, once modified, the overall result was pretty tasty. I think the best part of the recipe is the idea of putting peanut butter in the middle of the cupcake and peanut butter icing on the top. You could probably just use your favorite cake recipe-- chocolate or otherwise-- and just use the filling and icing from this recipe. I may consider trying the filling/icing with our family birthday cake at a later date.

J'aime beaucoup: Chocolate Peanut Butter Surprise Cupcakes

Peanut Butter Filling:
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 chunky peanut butter
2 Tbs honey
2 Tbs powdered sugar
1 Tbs heavy whipping cream

Cupcake Batter:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk*

2 1/2 Tbs butter, at room temperature
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar
4 Tbs heavy whipping cream

chopped peanut butter cups, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line cupcake tin with liners. Makes 15-21.

For the filling:
2. Cream peanut butter filling ingredients with a hand mixer, and set aside.

For the Cupcakes:
3. In a mixer or food processor, cream the butter. Add in the brown sugar and blend until creamy and well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, and blend completely. Beat in the vanilla.
4. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda.
5. Add half of the sifted dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and blend.
6. Add the buttermilk and blend again.
7. Add the remaining dry ingredients, and blend until everything is smooth and combined. Don't forget to scrape the edges. (The batter seemed thick to me, so don't be alarmed if yours is too)
8. Fill each cupcake wrapper 1/3 of the way with batter (maybe 1 regular tsp.) Divide the filling evenly among the cupcakes by dropping a large dollop (maybe 1 heaping tsp.) of the peanut butter filling into the center of each cupcake. Gently nudge it into the batter. Fill the cupcakes with the remaining batter; each one should be approx. 3/4 full.
9. Bake on the center rack until the tops spring back when lightly touched with a finger, approx. 20 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool cupcakes in the tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. Cool completely before icing.

For the icing:
10. Cream the butter, cream cheese, peanut butter, and vanilla until light and fluffy. Alternately add the sugar and cream until the icing is smooth.
11. Ice your cupcakes.
12. Top with chopped peanut butter cups, if desired. Cupcakes may be stored at room temperature for 2 to 3 days... if they last that long!

*I used half plain yogurt, half milk to make buttermilk.
** The original icing recipe calls for 2 cups of powdered sugar and only a quarter cup of peanut butter. I followed the original recipe, found it to be too sweet, and added peanut butter and cream to fix it. The ingredients I've listed here for the icing are more or less a guestimate of what should work best-- or at least what I estimate to be close to what I did. You may have to play around with the consistency and flavor by adding more cream, sugar, or peanut butter according to your personal taste.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Christie's Pesto Tortellini Salad

This is apparently originally a Pillsbury recipe, but I had it at Christie's house, so I attribute the recipe to her. I've modified it a bit (cut out the chicken, mayo, and buttermilk), but it's essentially the same. It's really a delicious combination plus quick, easy, and contains both veggies and protein.

J'adore: Christie's Pesto Tortellini Salad

1 package refrigerated cheese tortellini
1 cup frozen peas
mixed baby greens or salad green of choice
1 1/2 cups matchstick carrots (buy pre-packaged)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/2 cup pesto
half and half
grated parmesan-romano cheese

Cook tortellini according to package instructions. During the last 3-4 minutes of cooking, add the peas to the tortellini. Drain and rinse with cold water. Rinse and spin salad greens and divide among plates. (If you're serving this at a party you can layer in a big bowl as the original recipe instructs). Add carrot matchsticks, bell pepper strips, peas, and tortellini to salad greens. Serve with Pesto dressing.

To prepare the pesto dressing, slowly add half and half to pesto while stirring to combine. Add only enough half and half to achieve the desired consistency. Add additional grated cheese, if desired.

Monday, August 23, 2010


I think you could say that my husband is addicted to pesto. Of course, I never cease to remind him that when we first started dating he wouldn't even try it. Green stuff on pasta? Gross! But then one night I finally convinced him to try a little bite. Then he tried another... and now it's all I can do to keep him from eating it by the spoonful before dinner.

In the spring I buy one of those small pots of organic basil that the grocery store expects people to use in their kitchens. The greatest thing about these pots of kitchen herbs, is that they're filled with a dozen or more seedlings. So, rather than spend $1.99 (minimum) per tiny basil plant at a nursery, I spend $1.99 for anywhere from 12 to 20 healthy, organic seedlings. I plant them outside, and by July I have my own little basil forest. The price savings is really inconsequential when you factor in the expense of the pine nuts, cheese, and olive oil, but I can't see the point in spending $20 on plants when you could just spend $2.

There are many pesto variations, of course, but there are two that stick out most in my mind. The best pesto I ever remember having was in a restaurant on the way to Vermont one summer. I wish that I knew the name of the restaurant, but unfortunately, I don't even know the name of the town. It was from them that I learned to keep some of the pine nuts whole. The second best pesto was an electric green batch that I made when we were living in our first apartment together. That year, I grew the basil on the fire escape. I have no idea what caused the color of the pesto to be so lime green, but it was the best batch I ever made, and I haven't been able to replicate it since.

I never make it the same way twice, and a lot depends on small adjustments for taste, but I've finally written down my recipe for pesto (I had to remind myself to measure). I make multiple huge batches of pesto every summer and freeze it for winter consumption. We eat pesto on pasta, in risotto, on paninis, on salad, and in cold pasta salads. It's pretty versatile, and it's always an easy go-to meal. This recipe will make about 4 cups of pesto; I normally double it.

J'adore: Pesto

6 medium cloves of garlic
8 oz. pine nuts
3 cups basil leaves
1 cup parsley leaves
2 cups grated cheese (I use a parmesan/romano blend)
1/2 to 1 cup olive oil
sea salt

Peel each of the garlic cloves and mince in a food processor. Scrape down the sides and pulse again. Add 7 to 7.5 ounces of the pine nuts and blend until the garlic and nuts make a think, chunky paste. Rinse and spin/dry the basil leaves and parsley. Add three cups of packed basil leaves, one cup of packed parsley, 2 cups of grated cheese, and at least 1/2 a cup of oil to the food processor. Blend until all of the leaves are finely chopped. Add oil to thin to desired consistency. Add a pinch or two of sea salt, if desired. Stir in the remaining whole pine nuts.

Serve with pasta or any way you like!

*It's best to harvest the basil early in the morning before the sun gets too hot. Making pesto on a rainy day is another safe bet. The flavor and color tend to be better this way.
*The parsley helps to keep the basil and pesto from turning brown.
*Freezes well, just sit out or in the refrigerator to thaw.
*If storing in the fridge, it will last better with a bit of extra olive oil.
*If you are microwaving, microwave the pasta first, then mix in the pesto. Although pesto tastes great on already heated foods, it does not taste-- or look-- so great when it is heated directly in a microwave or pot.
*It would be easier to just throw everything in the food processor and press the on button, but then you end up with big chunks of garlic unevenly spread throughout the pesto. In my experience, it's most important to blend the garlic first, then the nuts, and then everything else. This is also the reason that I use so much garlic right from the start. You can always tone it down by adding more pine nuts, cheese, basil, or parsley, according to your taste preferences, but it's hard to add more garlic after the fact.