Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gardening & Food: Labor Day Weekend at Home

I've been a little behind in my postings...I've had material and ideas for a lot of entries and am not very quick in sharing them with you. If only work didn't take up so much time ;) Seeing as the leaves are now changing and falling to the ground and we've had a killing frost to eliminate any hopes of more fresh items from our gardens, I think it's about time I share photos from visiting my family's place on Labor Day weekend.

Visiting my parents' place in peak harvest season is definitely a treat. After all, who can resist fresh veggies and fruit? And when items are in abundance you can guarantee you'll be taking some wonderfulness home with you. This year the garden was even more bountiful than usual. My parents had so many tomatoes for example, my Mom took excess heirlooms to school with her to give away. Can you imagine? Free heirloom tomatoes?!? I hope her co-workers appreciated how much those would have cost at a grocery store :)

Some highlights from our garden-fresh weekend meals include grilled pizza in traditional style (i.e. homemade dough and sauce from scratch with fresh veggies from the garden), my dad’s famous omelets (his version of a Western with bacon, green pepper, onion and cheese) topped with delicious fresh salsa and served with toast and homemade jam (blueberry, grape, and raspberry!), Hamburgers with fresh salsa (including tomatillo), and fresh basil pesto with heirloom tomato mozzarella caprese. My mom has been really busy with her canning this year too – salsa, banana peppers, pickles, sauerkraut, jams - and their garlic was so successful, my dad braided it into a rope for storage.

Here are some photos to show the fruits of their labor. Maybe some day I'll have my own beautiful canning closet and braided garlic rope...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Food: Orange Pan-Glazed Tempeh

I don't like to admit failure. But I know when you decide to try out different recipes almost every weekend, sometimes things are going to be a flagged a failure. You just have to hope that you have more hits than misses to avoid giving your kitchen skills a messy reputation. That, and you have to be thankful to have a boyfriend who enjoys trying new things and doesn't insist that everything be plain and boring and all meat and potatoes :)
A few weekends ago I made something that in theory was supposed to be warm, nutty and comforting with lovely asian flavors like soy, ginger and orange served on a bed of chopped kale. But what I ended up with was something Jonathan and I both intensely disliked - so much so, when I tried to eat the leftovers the day afterwards (why do I have to feel guilty about wasting food?), I felt slightly ill after doing it. Lesson learned.
It's such a shame. The recipe sounded good, offered a chance to try a new, unusual ingredient (tempeh from Trader Joe's) and looked wonderful (I am always enticed by Heidi's lovely photos on 101 Cookbooks). I must apologize to her that we did not enjoy the recipe as much as I had hoped. I promise to try something else on her site soon to make up for this foiled attempt. And I apologize to all those tempeh fans out there that I haven't yet grown to love it. Maybe someone can share a better recipe with me to change my mind?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Food: Shish Kabobs

We're in the middle of tailgating season right now and it just so happens one of my favorite things on the grill works pretty great as tailgating food: Shish Kabobs. In three simple steps (1. Marinate the meat overnight; 2. Skewer the morning of the game; 3. Place in gallon-size ziplock baggies for easy transporting) you have something easy and delish to throw on the grill. And since these bad boys consist of both veggies and meat, you don't need to pack a million side dishes to go along with them! If you're in charge of all of the tailgate food, you could turn this into a complete Mediterranean meal by buying some pitas and hummus and mixing up a quick tabouli mix with fresh, diced tomatoes. Ask a friend to bring some cookies or brownies and you're all set!

MM Note: I don't know why I don't make these more often. First of all, the marinade transforms any meat into something tangy, juicy and flavorful. And second, they're so easy! I generally do a mix of chicken and beef to keep the crowds pleased and alternate skewers with pearl onions (defrosted frozen pearl onions save time since they're already peeled), grape tomatoes, pineapple chunks, sliced green pepper, and garlic.

Shish Kabob Marinade


  • 1 c Cooking Oil (I like to use something with little-to-no flavor like Smart Balance)
  • 1/4 c Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 1/2 t Kosher Salt
  • 1 T Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, crushed
  • 3/4 c Soy Sauce
  • 2 T Dry Mustard
  • 1/4 c Fresh Parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 c Wine Vinegar
  • Juice from 1 Lemon

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Food: The Perfect Chocolate Cake

As you've probably learned from my postings, I'm not typically a baker. This is mainly due to the fact that I prefer savory over sweet -and- with only two people in the house it's not really wise for me to make desserts very often - 3 dozen cookies, 2 people, one weekend? You do the math :)

Although I typically reserve the baking responsiblity for my mother or sister, I do like to make desserts for special occassions. As a result, I decided for Jonathan's birthday this year to try Molly's famous chocolate cake. Being prone to experimentation, I did modify the recipe slightly, using a chocolate bar infused with chili to add an extra special touch and a little spice/heat. Also, I didn't trust my cake pan in terms of sticking-risk, so I lined the entire pan instead of just the bottom with parchment (not particularly pretty but it worked).

We had slivers of the cake served at room temperature after dinner to celebrate and then I froze the rest. Since then we have shared some thawed cake slices with a house guest and have a few slivers left in the freezer, reserved for another special day. It holds up perfectly when frozen! And I've decided this wonderful, rich treat may become a birthday staple.

"Molly's Winning Hearts and Minds Chocolate Cake"
Adapted from Orangette

  • 2, 3.5 oz Dark Chocolate Bars with Chili (MM: Such as "Lindt Excellence" Chili or Vosges Red Fire)
  • 7 oz Plugra (MM: European-style butter)
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 T whole-wheat pastry flour


Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the base of the pan with parchment. You will probably want to grease the parchment too.

Finely chop the chocolate (a serated bread knife is a great tool to use for this) and melt it gently with the butter in a double boiler, stirring regularly to combine (Note: You should not try to do this in the microwave due to a high risk of burning the chocolate). Add sugar to the chocolate-butter mixture, stirring well and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Finally, add the eggs one by one stirring well after each addition. When the mixture is a gorgeous, silky brown, add the flour.

Pour the lovely batter into your cake pan and bake for around 25 minutes (Depending on your oven's true temperature this may vary - mine took 30-35 minuites). The top of the cake should be cracked and the middle just slightly jiggly (if at all). Allow the cake to cool before slicing. And don't panic - the cake will deflate some after cooling...this won't change the fact that it will taste fabulous.
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