mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

“the easiest pizza ever! . . . “

I’ve been adapting different ways to make pizza in our house. My intentions were to make it healthy, super easy and tasty to eat. I made two of these mushroom pizzas today for lunch while it rained outside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with Pam. Place two flat flax tortillas on the sheet. Spread Ragu pizza sauce with a spoon, erring on the side of less rather than more. Sprinkle on shredded mozzarella cheese. Slice up fresh mushrooms and arrange on top. Then grate some fresh parmesan on top. Bake for about 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Remove the pizzas one at a time and slice them with a large knife. Wow, that was easy!

P.S.  You could put on pepperoni, thin sliced tomatoes and serve with fresh basil on top.

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fresh strawberries! . . .

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There are a few weeks in summer when local, freshly picked and RIPE strawberries are available. At farmstands and sometimes at Whole Foods, you can find these in quart boxes for about $6.99 each. That’s pricier than the big ones from California that have white centers when you cut into them. These are smaller, fragile, juicy and fragrant – and well worth the cost!

We are enjoying our second box of these this summer. G. takes a few to his 99-year old mother in the nursing home and she relishes them! It is important, I have found, to keep them out of the fridge and on the kitchen counter where we can sample a berry at will. I keep them in the morning sun where they ripen further.

For dessert, I hull the tops and cut them into pieces (do not rinse in water!) In a bowl, I squeeze a little fresh lemon juice on them (about half of a small lemon) and sprinkle a small spoonful of turbinado sugar. Mixed gently, these berries macerate in the fridge until dessert time

G. likes to eat his straight-up and I like to pour a little sweet cream into the berries. It thickens with the lemon juice and is a fresh fruit treat made in heaven! Well, almost!

Footnote: I’ve used the fresh lemon/sugar process with sliced fresh white peaches or nectarines too. Delicious with cream or without!

 

 

 

 

a simple meal in a heat wave! . . .

DSCN0760DSCN0762.jpgYears ago, I had lunch at “The Tea Box” a bento box restaurant inside Takishimaya, a jewel of a department store in New York City. The restaurant is closed now, but fortunately, the chef, Ellen Greaves published a cookbook called “Simple Meals for the Bento Box”  I have two copies of the book here and have also given copies of the book as gifts. In it, there is a recipe for a pea soup that we enjoyed ourselves at the restaurant when it was still open. It’s on the stove now, waiting for final preparations right before serving.

Sweet Pea Soup (adapted from cookbook above):

Heat one cup of chicken broth plus one cup of spring water in a pot on the stove. Rinse a package of snap peas (8 ounces) and put in the broth when it’s boiling. Simmer gently for one minute. Add a 16 ounce package of frozen petite sweet peas into the broth. Simmer for 5 minutes and turn off the heat. Leave it alone until dinnertime.DSCN0765

Finishing steps; spoon out drained peapods and peas into a food processor. Add the broth liquid and puree until smooth. Be sure to put the soup through a fine sieve, stirring to allow as much liquid through as possible. If not put through a sieve, the soup has a grainy texture. DSCN0768 (1).jpgAdd a little cream to taste, salt and pepper and serve with snipped chives on top.

To go along with the soup, I made a mixture of cream cheese, fresh chives and smoked salmon in a bowl.  Open a packet of cream cheese and let come to room temperature in a bowl. Snip in some fresh chives – about a dozen short stems. Open a pack of smoked salmon – a small one, bits, or on sale. And with a paring knife, cut the salmon and chives into the cream cheese until roughly combined. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

When ready for supper, toast two sesame bagels, cut in half.  Finish the sweet pea soup and serve in some pretty bowls. Place the smoked salmon gamish on the table and rinse some fresh lettuce, tomatoes and fresh basil on a separate plate. Voila! . . . a delicious supper on a sweltering day!

For dessert, I sliced up two white peaches that have been sunning themselves on the kitchen counter. Squeezed a little fresh lemon juice and added a couple of spoonfuls of turbinado sugar. Covered with plastic wrap and chilled. When ready to serve, spoon out the macerated peaches and add some light cream. It will thicken due to the lemon juice. Yum!

Footnote: Reminded of this soup, I took out the cookbook and am re-inspired to cook bento box size servings for appetizing but small portions of food for the rest of the summer. I have two bento boxes that I bought at Takashimaya those 20 years ago which contain four different kinds of serving dishes. They are spectacular and I am so glad that I have them now. Along those lines, I also thought about apportioning our meals in separate portion serving trays and found these on Amazon. They’ll be perfect for everyday use – and be lots of fun besides. We’ll eat really well in small portions – and I look forward to this new adventure to cooking smaller portions while enjoying them more!

easy summer meatballs. . .

DSCN0754It’s a Sunday afternoon and I thought I’d make a batch of meatballs between watching the World Cup and NCIS LA (yeah!) I used to brown and fry the meatballs in a big skillet which resulted in a lot of fat/grease. Now I don’t. I’ve learned from Julia Turshen (she uses ground turkey, I use ground 80% beef) that it’s a LOT easier to combine ingredients with the meat and then form meatballs, letting them cook in a 400 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes.

Here’s my go-to recipe for meatballs:DSCN0750

  1. 1 pound of 80% ground beef
  2. Lawry’s garlic salt
  3. shredded vidalia onion (1/2 of a big one)
  4. Pepperidge farm classic seasoned bread crumbs
  5. 1 large egg
  6. about a 1/2 cup milk

Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil; spray with Pam.

In a large mixing bowl, I turn the ground beef to break it up. Sprinkle with Lawrys’ and turn it over – add egg and mix well; shred raw onion on the large whole of a box grater; add to mix along with milk. Pour in about 1 cup of breadcrumbs, eliminating the big hard chunks. Mix well together.

DSCN0752Form meatballs (I got 28 from this recipe) and place on the cookie sheet – together but not touching. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes until done and not pink in the middle. Let COOL. I store these 7-8 in a small freezer bag and put them into the freezer. When I’m looking for something to have for dinner, they’re there for a) spaghetti and meatballs with Ragu classic tomato sauce or; b) swedish meatballs and noodles (stroganoff with sour cream and beef broth.)  These should last through most of the summer and mmmmm they smell really good right now in the oven!

Hooray!

 

green tea soba noodles . . .

DSCN0660Have you ever tried cooking soba noodles? They’re made out of buckwheat so they’re usually a medium brown color. There’s also a type of buckwheat soba noodles made with green tea (yep!.) and these are the ones that I turned to make supper for tonight when my piece of fresh salmon from Canada turned out to be perfect to be eaten in very thin slices of salmon sashimi dipped in Osawhwa organic soy sauce and wasabi.

We’ve had a beautiful day with a breeze, sun and temperatures in the mid-seventies. It’s not really hot but I thought I’d make a cool dish out of the soba noodles since the salmon sashimi was cool. Here are the steps I followed:

  1. I boiled two ribboned stalks of green tea soba noodles for about five minutes. I had prepared a shallow pan filling it with ice cubes to chill the noodles once they were drained from cooking. I let them set there for a few minutes while I prepared the vegetables.
  2. I had about six beautiful stalks of asparagus. I quarter cut them at a slant to where the stalks were too tough to use. I sauteed these asparagus pieces in canola oil until they were almost cooked. Then I drizzled in some “super sesame oil” – which has a little spicy taste to it – and a few drops of tamari (a darker soy sauce from Japan.)
  3. I also peeled a Persian cucumber and cut into thin lengths, then cut diagonally to make slivers.
  4. For the main noodle marinade, I poured about 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 1/8 cup of Marukan seasoned rice vinegar, a few drops of honey, a squeeze of Meyer lemon juice and about 1/8 cup of spring water. I tasted it for a balance between piquant but not too sour with just enough sweetness.
  5. I drained the chilled noodles from their ice water bath and shook them until they were really dry. I poured them into a shallow serving dish, poured the marinade over them and tossed the cooked asparagus and raw cucumber into the dish. I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for about an hour before serving.

Without salmon sashimi as the main protein “condiment” which was thinly sliced and dipped into soy and wasabi before eating, I would suggest that the green tea soba nooole marinade could be served topped with grilled or broiled shrimp, or perhaps some grilled flank steak thinly sliced on the side too.

In any case, we’ve inaugurated the warming Spring weather with this refreshingly cool supper tonight. Bon Appetit! or in plain English – TRY IT because it was YUMMY!!

 

zucchini mushroom pasta for dinner . . .

DSCN0656DSCN0655I’ve been reducing the amount of red meat that we eat although it isn’t always easy. For instance, I usually use meatballs made of beef for spaghetti. Sometimes, though, I’ll rescue some zucchini from the vegetable bin and some mushrooms reaching out to be cooked: you know, still good to eat but not looking their best.

Since there was a sale this morning at the grocery store of three jars of Ragu traditional spaghetti sauce for $5, I thought I’d use half of one for dinner tonight (and freeze the rest.) Into the cart went a box of angel hair pasta as well. I already have a wedge of parmesan to grate on top when we’re ready to eat.

I trimmed the zucchini ends off, rinsed them under cold water and sliced them in three, lengthwise. Then, I piled them up on each other and cut narrow strips on a slant with a sharp knife. The mushrooms took a quick rinse also and I cut them in thick slices, sauteeing them in a little butter and oil until golden brown. I set them aside in a small dish and heated up some olive oil, cooking the zucchini on medium-high heat until they wllted slightly, sprinkling them with some Lawry’s garlic salt.

I let the cooked zucchini and mushrooms cool on the stove until it was supper time. I often do some sous-chef cooking during the day which provides a head start to putting dinner on the table. This is especially convenient on evenings that G. goes to visit his mother at the nursing home. When we’re almost ready to eat, I’ll boil a pot of water and cook up some angel hair pasta, heat up half a jar of the Ragu sauce separately and plate a couple of wood-fired pottery plates with a slight bowl to them.

The well-drained angel hair will go into the bowls first. A thin layer of sauce on top, the reheated zucchini and mushrooms on top and another ladle of sauce around the edge of the pasta. The cheese grater and chunk of parmesan goes in its own bowl for us to help ourselves at the table.

Bon Appetit!

a Swedish coffee bread! . . .

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Many times, I write posts about preparing food. I just made my first try at making a Swedish coffee bread and took it out of the oven. It is STUPENDOUS to look at and the kitchen smells divine. I can’t wait to taste it when it cools.

It all started with a visit that my daughter, C. and I make to Verrill Farm, a fresh market in Concord, MA. that also has a coffee nook where we eat scones and catch up for a bit before buying yummy food to take home. I spied a braided loaf that was a Swedish coffee bread. At home, we ate almost half of it at one go because the crumb was fine and moist while giving off a delicate cardamon flavor.

It was so good that I decided to try my hand at making it at home. I found a recipe online that required 9 cups of flour so I halved it and then adjusted some of the ingredients. While mixing it together, I could tell this was going to be a favorite from the way it was put together. Here’s the recipe I followed:

SWEDISH COFFEE BREAD:

  1. Heat a cup and 1/4 of whole milk until bubbles form around the edges. Take off the heat.
  2. Melt a stick and a half of unsalted butter and add to the milk in a bowl.
  3. Add 1/2 cup natural sugar, 1 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1 teaspoon salt.
  4. Combine until dissolved. Let the mixture cool a little.
  5. Add a packet of rapid-rise yeast and stir well.
  6. In half cup increments, blend in 4 1/2 cups of flour (make sure they are lightly spooned out, not heavily packed. Stir gently to mix well into a ball.
  7. Knead gently and let rise at room temperature covered with a towel or in an oven with the light on for about an hour.
  8. When doubled in bulk, knead again gently for about 5 minutes. Divide dough into three pieces and roll each one out into a long “snake.” Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spray with PAM. On it, braid the three pieces into a loaf. Pat it into shape as a loaf, cover with a dish towel and put it back in the lit oven (but not on) until it doubles in bulk again.
  9. Take out of the oven, preheat it to 375 degrees and brush an egg wash all over the risen loaf. Wipe up excess egg on the sheet and bake for about 25 minutes.

Take photos of it when it’s ready to come out of the oven because you won’t believe how fantastic it looks and you’ll want to show it to others.

When cool, slice and enjoy – with just about everything! For dinner tonight, we’re having chilled artichokes, moussaka (that I brought back from VF) some of this bread and a small salad with green goddess dressing.

What could be simpler, right?   (Just kidding.)

 

 

plum cake . . . !

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For years, decades really, I’ve been making a simple sponge cake garnished with cut up fruit on the top. It began with sliced plums. This afternoon, I made it again with a plum that was in our fruit bin but sadly passed over for too long.

The cake recipe is simple and easy to remember: everything is 1 of – for example:

1 cup sugar, 1 stick butter, 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, salt and 2 eggs.

Look for a pretty pan to bake it in – butter the pan and then smooth the batter in it. On the top, wash and slice up a piece of fruit that has seen better days but is still good to eat. In this case, I sliced up the plum and laid it out on the batter. Then I mixed up together 1 tablespoon of sugar with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 teaspoon of nutmeg. Sprinkled it on top of the plums and batter showing through.

(I’ve also made the cake with peeled sliced apple, dark red cherries cut in half, peaches and nectarines!)

In a preheated 350 degree oven, I baked it for 35-40 minutes. It was fragrant and simply beautiful to look at. Tastes good too!

“a chocolate cake . . . when the cupboard is bare!”

DSCN0566Today, we woke up to a layer of sleet and light snow on the driveway. Really? It’s the running of the Boston Marathon today – and it’s intermittently pouring rain outside.

Since I didn’t feel like going out to get anything at the grocery store, I rummaged around the freezer for some meatballs I had made awhile ago. Instead of spaghetti, I think I’ll make a combination of Swedish meatballs with farfalle pasta and alfredo (adding parmesan sauce.) There’s still a nice portion of kale to go with it tonight.

For dessert, I looked at a box of Hershey’s unsweetened cocoa in the pantry and decided to make half a recipe of a chocolate cake in a 8 inch springform pan and ice it with some chocolate frosting too. Here’s the recipe. Double it to make a two layer cake or bake in a bundt pan.

For a small 8 inch cake:

1 cup sugar, a scant cup of flour, 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa, salt, 3/4 tsp. baking soda, 3/4 tsp. baking powder. Stir all dry ingredients in a bowl. Then add wet ingredients and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes: 1 egg, 1/2 cup milk, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp. vanilla, 1/2 cup boiling water. Pour into a well greased cake pan (mine was 8 inch springform which I sprayed with Pam. Bake in preheated 350 oven for 30-40 minutes or when toothpick comes out cleanly.

For the frosting, I softened 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, added 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa and a scant cup of confectioners flour plus 1/2 tsp. of vanilla. Add a splash of half and half or milk. Beat well until mixed. When the cake is really cooled, spread a layer of frosting on the top.

It took about 45 minutes to make the cake and frosting from start to finish – and now, there’s a nice small chocolate cake for dessert tonight. Also, a pan of dishes to wash. But looks like it’s worth it! For the two of us, I usually make half a recipe of most desserts – and it turns out to be just right and still enough to share with others.

Footnote: We found this cake to be one of the best chocolate cakes ever! It was moist and rich of crumb plus it wasn’t overly sweet. The frosting was just right with a creamy mouth feel from a little extra butter that I added at the last minute. I thought it might last longer, but what the heck – it’s tempting to cut a small slice as you walk by it! A winner and a recipe I’ll go to now that I’ve tried it. LMK if you like it too!

 

“kale . . . beautiful kale!”

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My daughter is a big fan of kale. For a long time, I wasn’t. But, now I am.

Mostly, my change of heart is due to figuring out a way to cook it that’s both  tasty and easy to make. It was also important to learn that you can slice out the thick ribs and enjoy just the leafy greens. Plus, it’s cheap.

I bought a big bunch of kale at Whole Foods yesterday. The photo above shows the leaves cut from the ribs. The ribs go out and then I cut the washed leaves in small pieces. Then, back in the fridge until I stir fry part of them tonight to go with our supper of oven fried chicken thighs.

When I’m ready to cook the kale, I heat up a large skillet with a little skim of olive oil. Then I toss in a finely chopped shallot. When sizzling but not burning, I toss in the kale pieces. It cooks down quickly and I may add a spoonful or two of chicken broth. As it cooks down a little more, I splash in some Osawha organic soy sauce, a sprinkle of Marukan seasoned rice vinegar and a dollop of honey. Mix lightly and turn off the heat. By this time, the kale will be wilted and fragrant. Just about everybody likes the taste of this dish. If you try it, hope you will too!