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Friday, July 30, 2010

Crab Cakes

I am very hesitant to make anything that requires flipping on a hot pan.  I fail at pancakes.  I fail at couscous cakes.  So, I was pretty nervous to be flipping something that involved pricey ingredients.  

But, this was, hands-down, the BEST crab cake I've ever eaten.  (Well, to be truthful, I've actually never eaten a crab cake.  BUT, my sister in law was just in town and she said they were the best crab cakes she's ever eaten.)  Seriously, they were amazing.

I actually made them twice.  The first batch was made prior to Kelly's visit.  Then, she saw that I had made them and was super excited, so we picked up some more ingredients and I made them again.  We ended up splurging the second time around and bought some pricier (much pricier) crab meat and mixed it with some less than pricey (but still pretty pricey) crab meat.  Both Ron and I felt that the second batch, with more expensive crab, was ten times better.  Perhaps we are snobs, or perhaps I had more confidence the second time around, but there is something to better ingredients.

They were very simple to mix up.  My only problem was with a few falling apart.  A few reviewers mentioned that they could've used another egg to bind, and I agree.  And the panko was a bit tough to coat because it wouldn't really stick.  But they had tons of flavor.  They were nutritious.  And, better yet?  They came from Ellie Krieger's recipe in the recent Food network magazine.  2 crab cakes would only set you back about 220 calories.  Goodbye, mayo-laden crab cakes!
Crab Cakes
Ellie Krieger, Food Network
Yield:  8 crab cakes
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat milk
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • Dash of hot sauce
  • 1 pound lump crab or crab claw meat, picked over
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Olive-oil cooking spray
  1. Heat 2 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the scallions and bell pepper, cooking until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.  Cool slightly.
  2. Mix 1/2 cup panko, egg and milk in a small bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the Worcestershire sauce, mustard, lemon juice, Old Bay and hot sauce; fold in the crabmeat, panko mixture, scallion/bell pepper mixture, 1/4 tsp salt and a pinch of pepper.
  4. Shape into 8 patties and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Coat the crab cakes with the remaining 1/2 cup panko.
  6. Heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil in the skillet over medium-high heat.
  7. Mist the crab cakes with cooking spray and cook, sprayed side down, 3-4 minutes.  Spray the tops, flip and cook 3-4 minutes more.
  8. Serve with lemon wedges.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chicken Ranch Pizza

Home-made pizza night has turned into awesome night.  Since we purchased the pizza peel and actually learned how to use it, pizza night has been a fun, smooth process.  No more freak-out sessions as we try to get the dough onto the pizza stone without it falling part or folding.  Pizza peels are awesome!

Something else that is awesome is this pizza.  Seriously.  I ate a slice with a salad and was in happy land.  Sprinkle some hot sauce on it and it tastes like just a buffalo chicken pizza (hmm, recipe idea).
I ended up using only about 3/4 cup of cheese of mixed cheddar and mozzarella but I've left Annie's recipe as is to reflect her cheese amounts.  People like cheese.  Why cut it in half??  We also mixed up a pepperoni for Ron, but he tried the chicken ranch and was pretty pleased.  I think he would've ate more if I hadn't loaded it with tomatoes and onion.

I ended up using AP flour for the dough.  It was more of a mistake than anything.  I had pulled the AP flour canister instead of the bread flour without paying attention.  I don't think I would have noticed if I had used my stand mixer, but I chose to hand knead and the dough was so sticky.  I had to add about 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup more to get it smooth and elastic.  But, once I did, the dough was awesome, rose quickly and was easy to roll.  I don't know... I may have to think about using AP flour again.  Regardless of what flour is used, this dough is just delicious.  And so was this pizza.
Chicken Ranch Pizza
Annie's Eats
  • 1/2 batch of pizza crust
  • 1/4 cup ranch dressing
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2-1 grilled chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 tomato, seeded and diced
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 500 degrees F allowing the stone to heat for at least 30 minutes.
  2. With parchment or a pizza peel sprinkled lightly with cornmeal, gently roll out the pizza dough into a large circle, leaving a thicker layer around the edges for a crust.
  3. Spread the ranch dressing in a thin layer evenly over the unbaked crust.
  4. Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella.
  5. Top with grilled chicken, tomato and green onions.
  6. Sprinkle with shredded cheddar.
  7. Once assembled, carefully transfer the parchment round and pizza to the preheated baking stone.
  8. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and browned.
  9. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Freezer Jam

Shortly before the move, I took some time to go pick a ton of strawberries at local berry farm.  It was a lot of fun and a lovely way to spend an hour outdoors.  However, I ended up with an enormous load of berries.  Thankfully, my Foodsaver (gift from Mom) came in handy because I was able to vacuum pack about 15 pounds of berries.  Since then, I have opened the berries for snacking, blended into smoothies, and used as a topping for my morning waffles.  The berries still taste fantastic and the juice can be used in lieu of syrup or butter!

Nearly every Saturday, Ron and I had into town towards the Mill City Farmer's Market where I pick up the most fantastic jam from a local organic farmer.  I am hooked on the stuff.  It's like crack.  But, our new freezer doesn't have a lot of room, so I decided it was time to get rid of some of my berries, and try my hand at making my own jam.  I decided to mix raspberries and strawberries together, so I didn't make as much of a dent as I would have liked.  But, the end result was fantastic.  Now I have 5 jars of delicious jam and I'm thinking this could turn into a potential gift for family and friends.

Hmm, it's blueberry picking season right now.  I'm already thinking of canning options!
Freezer Jam
from Pectin package
  • 4 cups crushed berries (measured after they are crushed)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 pkg pectin
  • 5 Bell 8 oz Freezer jars or Jelly jars
  1. Stir sugar and pectin in a bowl.
  2. Add crushed fruit.
  3. Stir vigorously for 3 minutes.
  4. Ladle jam into clean jars and let stand for 30 minutes.
You can easily follow the instructions on the back of a pectin package.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins

I normally have regular rolled oats in our pantry.  My granola is normally baked with the old-fashioned kind and I don't eat oatmeal enough to have quick cooking oats on hand.  But, I saw a muffin recipe that called for quick cooking oats a few weeks back.  The recipe must have appealed to me because I ran to the co-op to buy 1 cup of bulk quick cooking oats to mix up the recipe.  Naturally, I lost the recipe I was so excited to make (by lost, I mean, it got buried in the 700+ recipes I had bookmarked since that day) and ended up frowning at the oats every single time I opened the pantry door.  The lone bag even came with us on the move.  I was determined to use them.

The fact that I sheltered these oats for nearly a month (I'm lying, it was much longer) bothered me.  I need to start USING the stuff I am running to the store to get.  So, with some leftover buttermilk, I decided to mix up a new, different muffin mix.  I have no idea where I got the recipe and I have absolutely no idea how I came up with the concept, but they were absolutely delicious!!  I did not use butter or oil.  Surprisingly, they weren't so terribly dense (they still were more dense than most muffins, but I've gotten used to that; the baby food can be replaced with equal parts oil to solve this problem) that Ron balked at them.  And, I decided to experiment with baby food instead of applesauce.  I wanted to get a richer flavor and I chose to buy a sweet potato cinnamon kind.  It made the muffins taste, and smell, delicious!  By the way, baby food is disgusting.  Poor babies.  It was extremely bland and gooey.  Then I added sugar.  Much better.  But, poor babies.

I also have a confession.  I didn't put the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  ***GASP*** I, the person who follows every recipe to a tee, mixed everything IN ONE BOWL.  And guess what?  Nothing happened!!  The oven didn't spit out the pan.  The muffins didn't burn with disgust.  In fact, they tasted just fine.  And even though I probably only saved about 30 seconds of hand-dishwashing time by doing this, I'll probably do it again.

I made some freezer jam while making these with some berries I had picked.  I ended up eating one of these muffins with some of the jam and YUM!  Not such a bad snack :-)
Buttermilk Oatmeal Muffins
Yield:  12 muffins
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup baby food (I used Earth's Best Cinnamon Sweet Potato)
    • Can use whatever flavor you want, or can be substituted with 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 cup WW flour
  • 1/4 cup regular old-fashioned oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp french vanilla extract (or regular vanilla)
  • hearty handful sliced almonds, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a bowl, soak the oats in buttermilk for 15 minutes.
  3. Stir in egg, brown sugar and baby food.
  4. Stir in flours, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon - just until moistened.
  5. Add vanilla.
  6. Fold in almonds.
  7. Fill muffin pan (lined with liners and sprayed with cooking spray) until 3/4 full.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees F for 18-18 minutes or until muffins test done.
  9. Cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Marble Cake

I haven't been blogging recently because we're still trying to get settled in.    The kitchen has taken some time to get used to, so a few meals have been failures.  Boo.

But, this cake turned out pretty well.  I decided to bake this cake shortly after moving in to celebrate my new oven.  It was moist, chocolately and delicious.  It was also very simple to make and very quick to put together.  

I enjoyed this cake.  Ron did too.  But, he seemed rather confused that there was no icing to go on the cake and requested some icing.  After what seemed like the tenth day in a row of cleaning and de-bugging our house and basically no relaxing whatsoever, I told Ron to stuff it.  I made the cake because it was simple and I was tired and wanted an easy treat.  

The cake was eaten as prepared, with no icing, and no further complaint.  
Marble Cake
from Martha Stewart
Yield:  1 9x5 loaf cake
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp
  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temp
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk, at room temp
  • 1/4 cup + 1 T dutch-process cocoa powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9x5 loaf pan; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
  4. Mix in vanilla.
  5. Add flour in 2 batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour.
  6. Set aside 1/3 of the batter.
  7. In a bowl, mix cocoa and 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp boiling water w/ a rubber spatula until smooth.  
  8. Add the cocoa mixture to the reserved 1/3 of the cake batter; stir until well combined.
  9. Spoon batters into prepared pan in 2 layers, alternating spoonfuls of vanilla and chocolate to simulate a checkerboard.  To create marbling, run a knife through the batters in a swirling motion.
  10. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until a cake tester comes out clean, 40-50 minutes.  
  11. Transfer pan to a rack to cool 10 minutes.  
  12. Turn cake out from pan and cool completely on the rack.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Vegetable Soup

One of my favorite meals is a big bowl of soup with a big, hearty slice of multigrain bread.  It's strange.  I'll go for a longer run and crave soup and bread, even if it is 90 degrees outside and I have been running for 2 hours.  (I'm thinking it has something to do with the salt.)

I've been trying to eat healthier.  After the move, I was desperately craving fruits and vegetables.  I had purchased a box of Eden Organic pasta shells a while back at Kowalski's and had visited their site to find a good recipe for them.  I knew I wanted this soup the second I saw it.  Strangely, Ron was craving soup too.  This soup was very fresh and light tasting, even though it had so much starch!  Very, very delicious!  And, Ron ate all of his veggies :)
Hearty Soup with Small Vegetable Shells
Eden Organic
  • 1 cup Eden Organic Small Vegetable Shells
  • 1Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup green beans, remove ends, sliced
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can Kidney Beans, do not drain
  • 1 can Garbanzo Beans, do not drain
  • 1 can Diced Tomatoes with Basil, do not drain
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 tsp Sea Salt
  1. Cook pasta as package directs, rinse, drain and set aside. 
  2. Heat oil in a soup pot, sauté garlic and onions for 2 to 3 minutes. 
  3. Add all ingredients except the salt and pasta. 
  4. Cover, bring to a boil. 
  5. Reduce the flame to medium-low, simmer for 30 minutes. 
  6. Put pasta in each bowl, top with soup and serve.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Roasted Summer Vegetable Couscous Salad

Hello, Lake Nokomis! We have arrived! How was the move? Exhausting, it's still going on. I'm ready for it to be done. We've had some time to adjust now in our new home. I have had some time to adjust in our new kitchen. So far, I have not adapted as quickly as I had hoped. The lack of space and the missing dishwasher is somewhat challenging to manage, but I'm learning some tricks. For now, complicated recipes are going to be put on the back-burner more often than not unless I am dying to try it. But, aside from that. It is lovely and I am happy to be here.

We spent several days eating grocery store prepared food in the week leading up to the big move. After one day, it got old. I needed something fresh and yummy. This was perfect! Our kitchen was still in disarray but I didn't care. I simply could not eat another packaged or pre-purchased item again! My cutting board was sitting on top of a box as I was cutting the squash. The furniture delivery people were watching me stand on my tip-toes to try and cut. 
I received this recipe in a Clean Eating email and was impressed with the flavors. I would likely switch out the WW couscous for Israeli couscous the next time. It would be fine if you were serving as a side dish, but mine was a meal intended to last a few days. Couscous tends to go dry after a day, so it tasted like paste the next day. Israeli doesn't dry up as bad, so I think my couscous salad would have tasted better on day #2 if it had served as an ingredient.

Roasted Summer Vegetable Couscous Salad
Yield: 4 servings

  • 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard 
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt 
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 
  • Olive oil cooking spray 
  • 1 medium zucchini, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups) 
  • 1 yellow squash, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (1 1/2 cups) 
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces (1 cup) 
  • 1 8-oz pkg sliced fresh baby portobello mushrooms (1 cup) 
  • 4 cups cooked whole-grain couscous 
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled 
  • 4 sprigs fresh basil, chopped (2 tbsp) 
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F
  2. In small bowl, whisk together vinegar, Dijon, oil, salt, black pepper and garlic; set aside.
  3. Mist a large shallow roasting pan with cooking spray. Arrange zucchini, squash, bell pepper and mushrooms in a single layer in pan (vegetables may touch or overlap slightly). Drizzle with vinegar mixture, tossing gently. Cook vegetables in oven for 15 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
  4. Combine vegetables with couscous, tossing gently. Top with cheese and basil. Serve warm, at room temperature or chilled. Can be kept, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Jicama Slaw

We had a terrible dining experience the other day.  And, I mean terrible.  So terrible that it scarred me to the point that I've lost my appetite to dine out.  This is not good news as we love dining out.  It's one of our favorite things to do together.  But, this experience was so horrific that it's going to be awhile before we are gracing the culinary scene.

We began at one restaurant.  After waiting 15 minutes, for nothing (not even a glass of water), we decided to leave.  I'm always hesitant to force Ron to leave.  I feel bad.  But, I've also come to learn that if you have a bad experience within mere seconds of arriving/sitting down, the rest of the experience is going to be terrible and you are better off leaving right away.

So, we went to restaurant #2.  Within seconds, I knew this place was going to be a bust, but I still felt bad about making Ron leave restaurant #1.  So, in we went.  Without going into the revolting details (this is a food blog, I am about to talk about food), I will give a brief list as to why this was the worst dining experience ever:
  1. Smoke
  2. Bare feet
  3. No vegetables
  4. Terrible, terrible service
  5. Raw meat (for other diners as well)
  6. In addition to #5, inedible food due to poor quality and dirty dishes
Fortunately, a few good things came out of this experience.  First, I was inspired to find a good jicama slaw recipe.  Second, we discovered the area of Stillwater and we are excited to go back to explore, with a picnic-packed Ashley-approved lunch.  And third, Ron has finally been convinced to trust my judgment when I abruptly say, "We're leaving" instead of getting embarrassed.

Don't worry.  I spoke up.  We didn't pay.

This slaw was delicious and perfect for a BBQ.  Much healthier than the creamy slaw that is normally served with cabbage.  However, I would recommend finishing it all in one day.  The leftovers were mushy!  I added one shredded carrot and some chili lime almonds to the mixture (gave it a nice little kick) but cashews would work just as well.
Jicama Slaw
adapted from Food Network
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I used FF)
  • 3 Tbsp lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 cups shredded or julienned jicama
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1/3 c almonds or cashews (optional)
  1. Combine yogurt, lime juice, cider vinegar, sugar, cilantro, cumin, s & p and whisk to combine.  Put in fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop.
  2. When ready to serve, combine the jicama, green onions, red bell pepper and carrot in a large bowl and add the dressing.
  3. Toss gently but thoroughly to combine.
  4. Season with additional s & p and add nuts, if desired.
  5. Serve immediately.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Buckwheat Pancakes

We're in the process of moving, so posts have been pretty slow.  There hasn't been any cooking the past few days.  I packed everything away once I had my last oven fail in our current apartment.  Words cannot express how excited I am to move.  Though, I've certainly tried to express these words as often as possible the past few weeks.

The cats have been in total disarray since I started packing.  They always seem to know what's coming once they see boxes and suitcases.  And, considering the last move was total anarchy, I believe that they have good reason to be in disarray.  About 2 years ago now, we packed up a giant moving truck and hauled all of our belongings (as well as a caravan of family members), to move to Minnesota.  We split it into a 2-day journey.  But the cats were not pleased to be in a car for that long.  Nor have they been pleased to make that trip 2 subsequent times since we've made MN our residence.  So, I guess I understand why they are annoyed.

On the other hand, Salem is delighted because she has so much to do with the boxes.  She has ruined nearly all of them because she thinks its her personal jungle gym.  I've found her hiding in places that she's recently discovered and that I never knew existed until we cleared out our belongings.  I can only imagine where her new hiding spots are going to be in the new house.  A 3-story house is going to be a palace for her.  I expect that my first Salem search is going to take about 2 hours.  I'm still searching the basement for places that she can get stuck.  I had enough of her running around in the floodboards at our Pittsburgh house to realize that this cat likes to hide.

I've had the luxury of having some time to go and pick some fresh strawberries.  We first went a few weeks ago and I was amazed at how good the berries tasted.  I'm so used to buying them in the store that I forgot how delicious fresh berries can taste.  Mom got me a foodsaver a while back and I knew that it would be perfect for this occasion.  I ended up returning to spend an hour picking by myself.  Eventually, I ended up hauling and freezing about 15 pounds of strawberries (that cost mere peanuts compared to the store).  I've already had some thawed and they taste just as good as they did when I first brought them home.

Not much to say about the pancakes, except that I loved them.  They were pretty dense and you definitely needed something more than just butter to top them.  But, I'm a big fan of buckwheat so they were pretty darn delicious for me.  Plus, the provided ample fuel for a 9 mile run the morning they were eaten.
Buckwheat Pancakes
Fake Ginger
  • 3/4 c buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 c WW flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 c buttermilk
  • 3/4 c nonfat milk
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In another bowl, beat together buttermilk, nonfat milk, honey, eggs, and oil.
  2. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to combine them.
  3. Preheat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over a medium flame.
  4. Ladle the batter onto the skillet.
  5. Flip the pancake when it is golden brown on the bottom and bubbles are forming on top, about 1 1/2 minutes.  
  6. Cook the other side until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.