Sunday, August 31, 2008

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

A couple of months ago, I got a vintage copy of Prudence Penny's Cookbook in the mail. I had never heard of Prudence Penny, but apparently she was a Los Angeles Times food writer who encouraged young housewives to make appealing meals on a budget. The cookbook came to me from Deb in Hawaii, who has a gorgeous blog with stunning recipes and tidbits about life in paradise. Deb had been at a flea market and had noticed the book and immediately bought it and shipped it to me, wrapped in beautiful paper, and complete with beach themed note card.

It's readers like Deb that make being Prudence Penny (the only difference is that I have added WISE to my moniker) number 2 worthwhile. So many of you have brightened my day, made my recipes, encouraged my random ramblings, gently corrected any of my errors, and essentially made the hours of blogging worthwhile for me. Thank you, friends and readers.
This week I posted a hamburger bun recipe, white and buttery, the way that I usually make the, even though I'm almost exclusively a freakish whole grain lover. Deb, of Hawaiian fame, asked about making the buns with whole wheat. Although I was pretty darn sure they would work just fine, I wanted to test them out because I would never want to lead dear Deb astray. Plus, all of us have tasted hard and dry wheat rolls, and I wanted my buns to be hearty, but also light and tender. Ding, ding, ding! Success! I altered the original recipe only very slightly and now I've got a new favorite. Goodbye white buns (although Quiet Man still likes those best) and hello Wheaty Better for You Buns. Make them both and let me know which one you like best. This one's for you, Deb!
Money Saving Tips: Wheat is getting pricey, so buy your ground whole wheat on sale, or grind your wheat kernels if you can. Consider buying in bulk to save money.

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

Estimated Cost: $2.50 for 10

Notes: These are good enough to eat on their own, or with a bit of butter and jam.

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter, plus more for bowl

2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast (Use SAF yeast if you can)

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 and 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, divided use

2 and 1/4 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup all purpose flour

wheat germ, for sprinkling the outsides

In a small microwave safe bowl, heat butter and milk until butter melts. Cool until warm (about 95-105 degrees), about five minutes. In a large bowl, combine butter mixture, yeast, brown sugar, salt and 1 egg and 1 egg white. Stir in flour, 1 cup at a time to form a slightly sticky dough. Knead for 3 minutes; shape into a bowl. Butter the bowl and replace dough. Let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Shape into 10 rolls and place on buttered cookie sheet. Let rise, covered, for about 50 minutes or until light and large. Lightly brush with remaining egg yolk and sprinkle with wheat germ. Bake at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.

White Rolls after Rising and Baking:

Coming First Light of Tuesday:

Tuesdays with Dorie:

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Southwest Brown Rice and Black Bean Burgers

Oh, it's been a busy week. They're all busy weeks, but some are just frenetically busy. Keep reading for one of my new favorite recipes, inspired by a post from Cookie Madness. On Sunday evening, we got a phone call that the Quiet Man's grandpa was in the hospital and wouldn't be around for much longer. We hopped in the car and drove 4 and 1/2 hours, straight to his bedside.
Grandpa is a 90 year old South Dakota farmer and cowboy. I met Grandpa for the first time the summer the Quiet Man and I married when we drove by his farm on our cross country/ honeymoon/ road trip to Nantucket. Since we were visiting in the summer, we thought we could help Grandpa out with his farm chores for a couple days. Grandpa has only one functioning hand, due to an accident about 50ish years ago when he fell down a well in the winter. Well, Quiet Man and I were supposed to help him toss bales of hay into the back of his truck. Grandpa at age 75 was faster and stronger than Quiet Man and I in our young 20s. We were out of breath and useless, and Grandpa kept right on working, and cracking jokes in between. We were ashamed of our college-educated wimpiness, but even more amazed at Grandpas gritty strength. This week, I'm amazed again at Grandpa's gritty strength. And tenacity. And wit. As he lay on his hospital bed, earmarked for death and white as a sheet, he continued to slowly toss out his clever one-liners, all the while quietly assuring us that he'd be home in a couple of days. The nurse took us aside and explained that he would surely be gone in a couple of days. But this is True Grit Grandpa we're dealing with. So sure enough, a few days later, he has amazed doctors and nurses and family and cheated death yet again. Grandpa, please stick around a little longer so you can continue to amaze the next generation, too. This is a great healthy "burger: to have in your arsenal for your frenetically busy weeks, but it's also delicious enough for a family barbecue. It's about as uncowboy as you can get-but I bet even Grandpa Bud would love it. You can use mostly pantry staple, like canned beans or even minute rice. I made these for a family get together last week, and they were a huge hit with vegetarians and meat eaters alike. The vegetarians were having to fend off the supply from the scavaging carnivores. (Party goers have been chomping at the bit for me to get them posted-sorry- and here they are at last.) I like them bunless, with some guacamole, but my dad loved his on a bun, as if it were a real hamburger. Enjoy your weekend! Money Saving Tips: These burgers are cheap to make, no matter what you do. When you cook brown rice, make extra and freeze it in 2 cup portions. You can use any bean you have on hand, but you may want to mash them down if they are large. Use canned jalapenos or green chilies, if you don't have fresh.
Southwest Brown Rice and Black Bean Burgers
Estimated Cost: $2.50 for five patties
2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1-3 tablespoons minced jalapeno or green chilies, (canned is fine)
1/4 cup salsa
1 egg white
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
2 tablespoons olive oil
cheese, if desired
Mix rice, beans, chili powder, cumin, salt, garlic, onion, cilantro, chilies, salsa, and egg white in large bowl. Mixture will be very moist. Add flour, using only enough so that you can shape the mixture into patties. Dust the outside of the patties lightly with flour. Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add olive oil and warm. Add patties and cook until nicely browned, about 3-4 minutes per side. Sprinkle with cheese, reduce heat to low and cover with lid to melt cheese. Serve with guacamole, if desired. Coming Tomorrow:
Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

Friday, August 29, 2008

Salsa Verde Turkey Burgers with Creamy Avocado Sauce and Green Tomatoes

When I first decided to have a food blog, I posted a few of my original recipes, right off the bat, before even sharing my blog with a single soul. Was it folly? Should I have saved the old favorites for the 6000 of you that were visiting Prudence Pennywise last week? In fact, it was a reader that really got me thinking about this to-die-for burger for Labor Day. Kevin, of Closet Cooking, tossed a few on his grill, and took some pictures that look better than the pros. See for yourself.
My burger in Rachael Ray magazine...
My burger on Kevin's blog....

If you're wondering why my burger was in the RR mag, I entered it in the 2007 Rachael Ray Burger Bash contest and surprisingly won, which meant a chance to make it on the RR show, a trip to NY for two, and a burger-cooking stint at the South Beach Food Festival. That's me with perky little Rachael Ray, advertising a blog project that I did for her website over the holidays.So, it's not that you need this kind of testimonial to try this burger, but I think this burger has an interesting, serendipitous history and I'm convinced that it will go over big at your Labor Day bash. A word of caution: They are very very messy to put together, so go a little lighter on the salsa verde. Honestly, the messier the juicier, so keep that in mind.

Money Saving Tips: If you have any unripe green tomatoes on the vines, they'll be perfect here, but red are equally delicious. Use ground chicken in place of the turkey, or even ground beef works well. This is a great way to stretch the avocado flavor, so you'll only need to buy one. Cilantro is my favorite here, but if it's too pricey, leave it out and use lettuce leaves for crunch.

Salsa Verde Turkey Burgers

Estimated Cost: $6.50 for four

1 avocado, halved and pitted

1/2 cup mayonnaise or whole milk yogurt or sour cream

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon Salt

1 pound ground turkey thigh meat

1 egg

1/4 to 1/2 cup salsa verde- start with less and see if you can handle the mixture

4 slices pepper Jack cheese (about 4 ounces)

4 kaiser rolls, split

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

8 slices green tomato, (red tomatoes work well also)

1. Scoop the avocado flesh into a small bowl. Add the mayonnaise and garlic and mash with a fork until well combined but chunky. Season with salt and set aside.2. In a medium bowl, combine the ground turkey, (egg, if using) and salsa. Divide the mixture to form 4 patties.3. In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, cook the patties for 4 minutes on one side. Flip and top each with a slice of cheese; cover and cook for 4 minutes more. 4. Spread the avocado aioli on the bottom roll. and cover with 1/4 cup cilantro. Top with a patty and 2 tomato slices; set the roll tops into place.

Coming this Weekend: Black Bean and Brown Rice Southwest Veggie Patties

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Barefoot Thursdays: Garlic and Rosemary Chicken Tenders with Grilled Lemons and Roasted Bell Pepper Salad

The Contessa is in charge of dinner tonight. It's Barefoot Thursdays, so grab a fork and join in. This week, our job was to butterfly a whole chicken and smother it with lemon, garlic, and rosemary. The first problem for me was that I had just done about the same thing only a couple nights before, only with chicken tenders and sweet little slices of grilled lemon to squeeze atop. Should I have made it again for authenticity????
Between you and me, I don't relish the idea of butterflying a chicken. It sounds like something you might get arrested for doing. I've done it before, but I was younger and invulnerable then.
Since I'd already made some sensible and sumptuous chicken tenders, I'd already made a perfectly companionable side dish, too. The marinade for the chicken will do double duty as a dressing for a tri-colored roasted bell pepper salad, sprinkled with feta and a smidge of fresh basil. Roasting peppers is a snap; peeling them is another story. It's not pretty or fun, but the reward is a toasty, smoky sweet bell pepper. Check out the real chicken recipe here; for my version, boogie on down.
Money Saving Tips: Late summer is the best time to find a good deal on bell peppers. If you can find them for less than a dollar a piece, buy up the lot. Use any boneless, skinless chicken you can get for a good price. You should be able to find great meat and poultry deals this week for Labor Day. Swap out fresh basil for extra rosemary, or feta for parmesan, according to what you have on hand.
Garlic, and Rosemary Chicken Tenders with Grilled Lemons
and Roasted Bell Pepper Salad
Estimated Cost: $10.00
Notes: I estimated the cost a bit high, but that's assuming you have to pay for your fresh rosemary or can't get peppers for a great price. Hopefully you can get these items from the garden for free.
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice, plus one lemon, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 lb. chicken tenders or other boneless, skinless chicken
10 small fresh rosemary sprigs, plus more for garnish
3 bell peppers, preferably of different colors
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or flat leaf parsley
1-2 ounces crumbled feta cheese
In a small bowl combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and pepper. Set aside 3 tablespoons of olive oil mixture in a small bowl. In a pie dish, place chicken. Pour marinade over the top. Poke in sprigs of rosemary all around the chicken. Cover and refrigerate, turning often, for at least one hour and up to 24 hours. Prepare grill for medium hot cooking. Grill chicken tenders for about 3-4 minutes per side. Grill lemon slices also, for about 1 minute per side, until slightly charred in places. Let chicken rest for five minutes before serving. Serve with fresh rosemary sprigs and grilled lemon slices. Meanwhile, char peppers over gas flame or broil in the oven on foil lined baking sheet until mostly blackened. Place in paper sack for 10 minutes to steam. (This will make it easier to remove the skin.) Peel peppers as best you can, scraping with a paring knife, discard seeds and core and slice into thin strips. Toss with reserved 3 tablespoons lemon dressing and chopped basil; season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with feta before serving.
I know they look a bit homely, but these ugly ducklings grow up delicious.
Coming Tomorrow:
Salsa Verde Turkey Burgers with Creamy Avocado Sauce

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Classic Cheeseburgers on Homemade Buns

If you truly want a rest from your labors this Labor Day, then plan ahead for a big and easy burger cook out. I've got three scrumptious burgers to share with you this week: a classic and juicy beef cheeseburger, a tomatillo turkey burger with a creamy avocado sauce, and a brown rice and black bean vegetarian patty with zingy southwest veggies. Make all three for a big burger bash, or choose one for a small get together. I won't be able to help you choose which one; so help me, I love them all. Whichever one you choose, be sure to make these homemade hamburger buns for an over the top burger experience. (I'll post some whole wheat hamburger buns later in the week, per the request of my favorite Hawaiian blogger Deb.)
Sample Labor Day Menu:
Grilled Burgers on Homemade Buns
Gourmet Kettle Chips (I'm addicted to the Spicy Thai-try um!)
corn on the cob
veggies and dip
watemelon
Ice Cream Torte (scroll down to yesterday's post for recipes)
Money Saving Tips: Every grocery store in town is going to have ground meat, condiments, chips and ice cream on sale for Labor Day. Take advantage and stock up. If the meat is a really good deal, buy a big package, portion it up at home, and freeze it for another day.
Classic Cheeseburgers
Estimated Cost: $8.00 for four
Notes: I make a condiment rich crunchy lettuce salad for these burgers, and then I skip condiments on the bun.
1 and 1/3 pound ground beef (not too lean)
1 egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic, or 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
sliced cheese, (sharp cheddar or swiss work best)
3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons yellow mustard
sliced tomatoes,
sliced dill pickles
sliced red onion

In a medium bowl, lightly combine meat, egg, garlic, Worcestershire, pepper, and salt. Shape into patties. (Patties can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours, if desired.) Preheat grill for medium hot cooking. Grill patties about four minutes per side, topping with cheese for last minute of cooking. Let rest, covered, for five minutes, to finish cooking from residual heat. Meanwhile, combine lettuce, mayonnaise and mustard in a medium bowl; season to taste with salt and pepper. To make burgers, layer lettuce mixture, patty, tomato, pickle and onion on bottom buns. Cover with top buns and serve.


Homemade Hamburger Buns
Estimated Cost: $2.00 for 10
Notes: These buns will take your burger from so-so to unforgettable. Make them a couple days ahead and freeze them, or bake them up fresh. Use all purpose flour for a soft rich bun.
1 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon, divided
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for buttering bowl
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, yolk and white divided
2 and 1/4 teaspoon yeast (I use SAF)
3 cups flour

In a microwave safe small bowl, combine 1 cup milk, sugar and butter. Heat until butter just melts and mixture is warm but not hot. If it is hot, wait until it is lukewarm to proceed. In a large bowl, combine salt, egg white, yeast, and flour-one cup at a time, to form a soft dough. (In a separate small bowl, combine remaining egg yolk and tablespoon of milk). Knead dough briefly, about three minutes. Butter same bowl, replace dough, cover and let rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled. (At this point, you could punch the dough down and refrigerate it for up to 24 hours, or until ready to proceed.) Shape dough into 10 separate round buns. You can roll them out and cut them with a biscuit cutter, or you can simply shape them into 10 round buns. Let rise on a greased baking sheet for about 45 minutes, or until light and risen. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush buns with egg yolk mixture. Bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until nicely browned. Coming Tomorrow:
A Brief Break from Burgers for Barefoot Thursdays
Grilled Lemon and Rosemary Chicken Tenders and a Bonus

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie: Mint Chocolate Oreo Ice Cream Torte and a Bonus

Come on inside for summer's last big chill. It's time for Tuesdays with Dorie and I've got an Arctic double whammy for you..... This week's assignment was an elegant triplebanded ice cream torte. The timing is perfect, since with a few little tweaks, this would make a stellar dessert for Labor Day. (Keep on coming back-I've got three great burgers for Labor's Day that I'll share this week.) Join along and squeeze in one last summery dessert before we all start paring Granny Smiths and humming the theme song from Johnny Appleseed. I made two separate ice cream tortes, because I wasn't thrilled with the presentation of torte number one, a chocolate mint oreo version. Oh, it was tasty but a little too, well, fussy for me. Maybe I'm just a simple country bumpkin busy mom, but I need a lot of reward for my efforts. All that freezing and waiting and freezing and waiting and blowdrying(really!) and refreezing and waiting. And maybe I made some mistakes. I should have crushed the mint oreos and thrown them in my mint ice cream instead of getting fancy shmancy with the layering, and I should have lined my pan with tin foil and removed the whole thing instead of blowdrying a glass loaf pan. I'm not sure if Paul Bunyan could slice through those frozen oreos. My dangerous slicing was more like a knife-smooshing, but none of our guests complained. (We had a group of kids over to play and when the grown ups came to pick them up I forced them all to come in for dessert. Generosity is my only defense against excessive sweets.) I wanted to try it again, but in a more accessible way.
I made an easier version for a Sunday evening family get-together, and this faster and homier technique would work well with any flavors. I mixed vanilla ice cream (homemade-but store-bought would work well) with peanut butter and chopped Reese's peanut butter cups, plunked into a pie dish, and stuck it in the freezer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, I made a half batch of milk chocolate ganache and poured it over the top. When it was firm, I decorated the top with some aerosol whipping cream (lazy me) and more chopped peanut butter cups. That's it! Simple and beautiful and.....gone. Every last drop. Click here for the real recipe in its entirety. For a pie dish version, you'll only need about half of a ganache batch plus a little less than a half gallon of ice cream. Money Saving Tips:
Each attempt cost about $6.00, pretty reasonable for a great frozen dessert. Plain chocolate chips work well in this ganache. You can pep up a medium quality vanilla ice cream with any number of candies of flavorings, so be creative with what you've got on hand.
Wouldn't it be delicious with raspberry ice cream and white chocolate ganache, mocha ice cream with toasted walnuts and dark chocolate, pistachio ice cream with dark chocolate....the possibilities are endless.
Coming Tomorrow:
Labor Day Menu
Classic Cheeseburgers with Homemade Hamburger Buns

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Zucchini, Tomato and Summer Squash Gratin

When I was a college student, I took a part time job selling and writing adds at the university newspaper. It turned out to be one of the funnest jobs I ever had. It wasn't the writing and selling of ads that turned out to be so thrilling, but it was the dynamics of the office crew. We had a very kind but stodgy-smelling old women as our unassertive leader, a dingbat clueless overgrown boy who was surprisingly brilliant with politics, a scholarly and shy girl that turned out to be not shy at all but tons of sharp edged fun, a former model/beautiful newlywed girl, me, and the new girl Tanji. As soon as Tanji walked in the room, I knew she would be my bosom friend. She had a megawatt smile, tons of energy, class, and wit, and an easy way of laughing at everything. I think we had the makings of a sitcom in that office, and Tanji would have been the star, deep thinking and kind, gorgeous and classic, funny and gracious, and I would have had a supporting role as her loud awkward friend.

We sold a few ads here and there, but mostly Tanji, shy scholar, and I giggled relentlessly at all the going-ons in the office. (Like the fact that every time the clueless boy walked into work he asked "Why does it always smell in here," never realizing it was the stodgy old boss that shared his desk.) The day I got engaged to Quiet Man, Tanji was the first to notice the shining band around my finger. I had made up my mind not to breathe a word at work unless someone noticed, and sure enough, it took Tanji about two seconds. Nothing gets by that girl . Somehow over the years we lost contact, until one day Tanji stumbled upon my blog and left me a comment. Other than having four adorable little charges and an impressive husband, the only thing that has changed about Tanji is that she is more hilarious, more gracious, and closer to perfect than ever.
So when Tanji emailed me this recipe from the food network for Provencal Vegetable Gratin, I already knew it would be luscious and addictive. I had to have it for dinner TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW. I made it twice in a row, the first time as written, and the second time the lazy way-which I liked every bit as much. In an effort to keep the oven off for long periods of time, I started it the second time in the micro, and it worked smashingly. Thanks, Tanji and I'm so glad that we can share not only good memories, but recipes too.
Money Saving Tips: You can use a medium quality olive oil here with good results. Use dried basil if you don't have fresh. If you're lucky, you can get all the main ingredients in your own garden or farmer's market for pennies.
Zucchini, Tomato, and Summer Squash Gratin adapted from the Food Network
Estimated Cost: $4.50
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rings
1 yellow squash, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rings
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese
crusty baguette for serving
In a microwave and oven safe small baking dish or loaf pan, combine olive oil and garlic. Add onion, salt, zucchini, squash, and tomatoes and toss to coat with the oil. Pat down into pan. Preheat the broiler (if you want a crunch top). Cover baking dish with saran wrap and microwave on high for about 6 minutes, or until all vegetables are softened and cooked through. Sprinkle with basil and parmesan and pass briefly under the broiler to melt the cheese, if desired. You can just return the dish to the microwave to melt the cheese, also. Serve with slices of crusty french bread.
Coming First Light of Tuesday:
Tuesdays With Dorie Double Whammy
Mint Oreo Chocolate Ice Cream Torte AND
Reese's Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Ice Cream Pie

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Blueberry Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes

At 4 AM this morning, my five year old cowboy stood by bedside and poked me in the shoulder. "Mom....Mom.....Mom, I'm really tired." At 4 AM.
It just isn't necessary to express every thought. Some things go without saying. Like the fact that you're really really tired at 4AM.
Or these pancakes, for instance. I could poke you in the shoulder and tell you how delicious they are, that they taste like something to eat in a beach house in Maine in the early morning hours, with a little crunch of Midwest sensibility from the cornmeal. I could tell you all that. But it really isn't necessary. You already know. I sure as heck won't wake you up at 4 AM to tell you all this, but when you do wake up, you're going to want these for breakfast.
Money Saving Tips: If you don't have buttermilk on hand, make some by adding 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to a 1-cup measuring cup and pouring milk to the top. Let stand for five minutes. Frozen blueberries work marvelously well if you don't have fresh. Raspberries, dried cranberries, or even kernels of corn would also be lovely here.
Blueberry Buttermilk Cornmeal Pancakes-adapted from the old Joy of Cooking
Estimated Cost: $4.00
Notes: I almost never make pancakes with butter in the batter, because frankly I want the most bang by putting butter on the top.
1 cup flour (I used half whole wheat)
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
2 eggs
zest of one lemon
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (not thawed)
butter and maple syrup, for serving
In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, powder, soda, and salt. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together buttermilk, oil, eggs, and zest. Pour over dry ingredients and mix very briefly, until just combined. Do not over mix. Gently mix in blueberries. Cook about 1/3 cup on lightly buttered griddle. Flip pancakes when bubbles form on raw side. Serve with butter and maple syrup.
UP NEXT:
Tomato, Zucchini and Summer Squash Gratin with Parmesan and Garlic

Friday, August 22, 2008

Closing Exercise Dinner: Peanut Ginger Slaw and Spicy Asian Style Pasta Salad

It's hard to swallow the idea that the Olympics will be over on Sunday. What did I do with myself before they began? I know I wasn't twiddling my thumbs, so what was it? What inspired me to exercise? How can I possibly stay motivated to get rid of my love handles without seeing Michael Phelps in his Speedo, or the women volleyball players in their itty bitty bathing suits or Nastia Lukin in her sassy pink leotard? The only possible advantage to the ending of the summer games is the return to my normal sleep pattern.

I've created an Olympic "closing exercise" dinner, loosely Asian themed, with lots of bold flavors and fresh vegetables. There's a noodle salad (one of my recipes that was published in Bon Appetit), with crisp fresh veggies flavored with sesame and honey and a peanut ginger slaw with a zingy peanut butter dressing. I suggest that you also make my soy and lime tri tip. I'm convinced that tri tip is the frugal fillet mignon. It has a little more bite, but the flavor and juiciness belie its reasonable price. For dessert, ginger cookies (try this recipe from the fabulous Del sisters) and sorbet would hit the spot.

Money Saving Tips: Use vegetables and herbs that you can find for a reasonable price. You can swap cilantro for mint or basil in either of these dishes with excellent results. Sesame oil is pricey, so if you don't have some on hand, you can use vegetable oil. Chop your own cabbage if the bagged mixes are overpriced. Don't pay extra for special Asian noodles; plain dried pasta works well here. The pasta salad is delicious cold, warm, or room temp, so plan on packing leftovers in your lunch this week.

Spicy Asian-Style Pasta Salad
Estimated Cost: $5.00
Notes: My original calls for honey roasted peanuts to be scattered on top. I swapped them for sesame seeds, since it would be nutty overkill with the slaw. You can easily make this a main dish by adding cooked shrimp, chicken, or beef.
1/2 lb. linguini or other pasta,
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 and 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 and 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 and 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
generous pinch of cayenne
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup edamame, or snow peas (frozen and thawed is fine here)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or cilantro
1 tablespoons sesame seeds

Cook pasta according to package directions. (Don't wash the pot yet.) Drain and toss with 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Meanwhile, combine 1 tablespoon sesame oil, honey, vinegar, soy and cayenne in a small bowl. Add remaining sesame oil (about 2 teaspoons) to pasta pot and heat over medium heat. Add pepper, carrot, onion, and edamame and cook for one minute. Mix with pasta and dressing. Toss with basil or cilantro and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds.

Peanut Ginger Slaw
Estimated Cost: $5.00
Notes: This slaw is best about 10 minutes after you mix the ingredients together. Only make as much as you will eat in one sitting.
1 heaping tablespoon peanut butter
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, very finely chopped (Use 1/2 teaspoon dried, in a pinch)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 (10 ounce) bag angel hair cabbage (you could also buy cole slaw bag)
1 cucumber, peeled, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped roasted salted peanuts

In a small bowl, whisk together peanut butter, lime juice, sugar, ginger, garlic, and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Taste the dressing. You may need to adjust the sugar a bit, depending on the peanut butter you use. You want the dressing a little on the sweet side. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, cucumber, cilantro,scallions, and peanuts. Serve within 10-30 minutes.
Coming this weekend:
Blueberry-Buttermilk-Cornmeal Pancakes

Thursday, August 21, 2008

August Corn Chowder and Soft Honey Whole Wheat Rolls

I have my own personal versions of corn chowder for every month of the year, or at least every season of the year. This version, the one I had two bowls of for Sunday lunch and then an extra bowl before I went to bed, is like liquid August. Sunshiney summer vegetables suspended in golden and creamy broth will impart the flavor of harvest warmth, like an edible Van Gogh sunflower painting. It makes me think of the poem by Robert Frost (and I hope I'm remembering it correctly):

Nature's first green is gold
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
Thus Eden sank to grief.
And Dawn turns into day
Nothing gold can stay.
Since nothing gold can stay, clutch the season and make this summer soup, since September is truly just a turn of a leaf and a calendar page away. Enjoy it while it lasts....
Money Saving Tips: Hit up your farmer's market for your fresh veggies and corn. Since the cobs of the corn will flavor the broth, you can even get away with economical chicken bouillon cubes.
August Corn Chowder
Estimated Cost: $5.00
Notes: Make this soup with the soft whole wheat rolls for a hearty and healthful August meal.
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ears of corn, kernels cut from cobs and cobs reserved
1 (4 ounce) can diced green chilies (or 1/2 cup home roasted green chilies)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 cups chicken broth
1 small zucchini, chopped
1 small summer squash, chopped
1/2 cup cream or half and half, (I've also used fat free half and half with good results)
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro or basil, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon fresh lemon of lime juice
shredded cheese, optional for serving
chopped green onions, optional for serving
sour cream, optional for serving
In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, corn, green chilies, and red pepper. Saute for five minutes. Add corn cobs to pan and saute an additional three minutes. Add broth, zucchini, and summer squash. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for ten minutes or until every thing is tender. Remove cobs and discard. Stir in cream and cilantro and heat through. Remove from heat and add lemon juice. To serve, top with cheese, additional cilantro, green onions and cilantro.
My children are thrilled to death when I make homemade rolls. These ones are only slightly sweet, so serve them with loads of honey and of course butter. Leftovers would be great for sandwiches, but they never last that long at my house.
Honey Whole Wheat Rolls-adapted from Joy of Cooking
Estimated Cost: $2.00
Notes: During the summer, I let my bread rise in the car with the windows rolled up. It's hot and draft free in there.
1/4 cup warm water
2 and 1/4 teaspoons yeast (I use Saf)
3 tablespoons butter or oil, plus more for the bowl and roll tops
3 tablespoons honey, plus more for the tops
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup hot water
1 egg
1 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour, plus more if needed
1/4 cup oats, for the tops
In a small bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Let stand for five minutes. In a separate large bowl, combine butter, honey, salt, and hot water. Stir until butter melts. Let cool until luke warm, about ten minutes. Add yeast mixture, egg, and flour, about 1 cup at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky. Knead the dough briefly, about two minutes. Butter the bowl and replace the dough. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap and let rise for one hour. (You can refrigerate the dough for 2-12 hours, instead of letting it rise for one hour.) Punch down the dough and divide it into 12 portions. Shape them into round rolls and place in a greased 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Let rise, covered for about 1 hour. Bake for about 18 minutes at 425 degrees. When rolls finish baking, brush the tops with extra butter, some honey and give them a sprinkling of oats.
Coming Tomorrow:
Peanut Ginger Slaw and Spicy Asian Style Pasta Salad

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cowboy Shepherd's Pie with Summer Vegetables and Cheddar Potatoes

I love getting comments and feedback from my readers. It makes the daily hours of blogging worth while. So pipe up!
If you've got a recipe that's giving you trouble, or you need ideas about menu planning for parties, or info on how to utilize a certain ingredient, leave me a comment or shoot me an email at vsmylroie@aol.com. I am Prudence Pennywise, your humble servant. I've had a reader request for updated recipes ideas using ground beef. Ground beef can be an economical (shop sales!) and with today's lean cuts, a healthful way of feeding a family. And it goes way beyond hamburgers. (But I love those, too.) I've toyed around with the classic, ever-popular Shepherd's Pie to include some summery vegetables and flavors, like corn, zucchini, and barbecue sauce. It's tough to resist the mashed potato and melted cheddar topping. This is a great make ahead Sunday late lunch, or a fun weeknight dinner; it's a stick to your ribs, homey and comfortable, man pleasin' kind of casserole. I baked mine in individual portions, just for fun, and also to have a few easy lunches to pop into the freezer.
Money Saving Tips: Always stock up on lean ground beef on sale, to be sure you're getting a good deal. You can use leftover corn from the cob here, or frozen or canned kernels. The zucchini here is optional, so if you can grab some from your garden, toss it in.

Cowboy Shepherd's Pie with Summer Vegetables and Cheddar Potatoes
Estimated Cost: $7.50 for 6 hearty servings
Notes: For a vegetarian version, replace the meat with two (15 ounce) cans of drained black beans.
1 and 1/2 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 lb. lean ground beef (or turkey)
1 medium zucchini, chopped (optional)
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup smoky barbecue sauce
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 and 1/2 cups corn, fresh or frozen, thawed
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro or scallions, for garnish

Place potatoes in a large pot of coled water over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. Cook potatoes for about 13 minutes, or until tender. Drain potatoes and mash with milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Set aside briefly. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and grease an 8 by 8 inch casserole. In a large saucepan, cook meat with zucchini, onions and garlic, breaking up with back of spoon, until meat is just cooked. Drain if necessary. Stir in barbecue sauce, mustard and brown sugar. Transfer to prepared casserole dish. Scatter corn evenly on top. Spread potatoes carefully over corn and sprinkle with cheese. (You can refrigerate this for up to 24 hours and bake it later, if desired.) Bake at 400 degrees, just until filling is bubbly and cheddar is nicely melted, about 25 minutes.

Coming Tomorrow:
August Corn Chowder and Soft Honey Wheat Rolls