Thursday, July 30, 2009

Summer Thyme Corn Chowder

Post Note: I just got my Williams Sonoma catalogue in the mail today with a recipe for sweet corn chowder that looks very similar to my own recipe. (They use a bit less cream, a bit more more bacon, and no broth or thyme, but otherwise the soups could be slurpable sisters.) I'll have to give theirs a try and report back. For anyone who is interested, here's the link.
Doesn't it seem contraditory to bemoan the scorching summer weather in one post, only to offer a post for soup in the next? Bear with me, dear readers. This isn't your sit-by-the-fire-in-December kind of soup, this is Summer Thyme Corn Chowder. It's got smoky bacon, some woodsy undertones from the thyme, and lots and lots of perfect golden corn. It's best NOW, even in the heat of summer, because the corn is at its flavorful best. If you've got your own ears growing out back, then you're off to a good start. If not, wait a few weeks till your grocer is offering 4 corn for a $1.00, then load up your bushel. We must be the corn lovin'est family; we ate corn chowder with cornbread slathered with honey, and then buttered popcorn for dessert. We would have eaten well on Plymouth plantation. I'll be back this weekend with more garden goodness; I've been canning marinara sauce that tastes exactly like a breezy summer evening in Tuscany.
Summer Thyme Corn Chowder
Estimated Cost: $4.00 for four servings
Notes: If you're dining with vegetarians, keep the bacon on the side and saute the vegetables in oil.
4 slices bacon, chopped
1 large onion, minced
generous pinch of cayenne
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh minced thyme
8 cups corn kernels, cut from the cob
2 and 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup cream
1/4 cup chopped scallions
In a large pot, cook bacon over medium high heat until crispy. Remove to paper towel and reserve for garnish. To same pot with bacon grease add onions and saute until softened, about 8 minutes. Add cayenne, garlic and thyme and cook for thirty seconds. Meanwhile, combine 4 cups corn kernels and 2 cups broth in blender. Puree until almost smooth. Add blended corn, remaining corn, and remaining broth to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until corn is tender, about 10 minutes. Add cream and season to taste with salt, pepper, and more cayenne. Garnish with crispy bacon and scallions.
Up Next:
Make your own Marinara

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

It's almost August. The thermometer is bulging red. The kids that are brave enough to be outside have red cheeks, sticky hair, and a slick of sweat on their forehead. Inside, I'm using tall glasses of lemonade, the air conditioner,cold bubble baths, limited movement, the fan, anything to stave off the inevitable heat of summer. But here is by far my favorite method for keeping cool: Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.....
This recipe, by Dorie Greenspan is creamy and rich, with a full bodied vanilla flavor. (Click here for the recipe and some pretty pics, too.) It'll cost you a little extra for the vanilla bean (buy in bulk to save some cash), but it's an indulgence that's worth every penny during these sultry summer months. Excuse me while I go make myself a cone for breakfast. Don't worry; I'll sprinkle it with granola so it can kind of be like cereal and milk. Phew. It's going to be scorcher.
I'll be back next with Summer Thyme Corn Chowder. Not too hot please.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Current Obsessions including Grilled Pork and Pineapple Tacos

In case you were wondering about any of my current mania, I've made a comprehensive list. This is only applicable to Summer 2009, because come Fall, a new set of mania will make my eyes turn into flying saucers. For now, my Current Obsessions:
John Adams, the HBO series. Abigail Adams is my new role model. Except I'm not sure that I want to work that hard. Or give up mascara.
Breaking Away. If I wanted to pretend to be someone else, an Italian exchange student would be top on my list too. Except now I'm thirty something and I don't think anyone would buy it.
The Art of Winslow Homer: Makes me want to go run outside and play in the grass. But then I get sweaty and hot and change my mind, and come inside the house and just look at Winslow Homer's artwork instead in the air conditioning.
The Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. According to Gladwell, you have to spend about 10,000 hours on any given activity to become an expert. It's too late for me, but I'll bet the charges are wondering why violin practice suddenly got about three hours longer.
Attack Uno: I just like pushing the card-shooting button. It's thrilling; a bit like Russian Roulette, except with the huge bonus of getting to stay alive. And you get to keep playing Uno for the rest of your life too, cuz you just got yourself 72 new cards.
Scrabble: If you play my mom's way, then everyone gets 10 tiles instead of seven. With ten tiles, the finished board looks like the work of geniuses instead of the average intelligence display that I'm so accustomed to producing. I might use 11 tiles next time, and then email a picture of the finished board to my eight grade English teacher. Wouldn't she be suprised.
Cinnamon Frosted Mini Wheats. They're just like Frosted Mini Wheats. Except they have cinnamon. Cinnamon Frosted Mini Wheats. With Cinnamon. On the Mini Wheats. I never thought I'd get so excited about mini wheats, but did I mention that these ones come with cinnamon?
Ireland: I should have about $1000 saved for our trip by now. Except I keep stealing from myself. But I usually put back what I steal at some point, since I try to at least loosely keep the commandments.
And these Tacos. Well, not just these tacos. Any tacos. I can't get enough. But in all fairness, this is no ephemeral obsession. I think they must have put taco seasoning in the baby formula in the seventies. I'm hooked for life, an inveterate taco chomper. I think you'll love this version too, since it's ready in less than thirty minutes, is a great use of plain old pork chops, and comes with a zippy pineapple slaw. The word "zippy" is from the seventies too, in case you were wondering. What are your current obsessions this summer? Leave a comment and let me know what I should be hooked on next.
Money Saving Tips: I buy pork chops 2 for 1 at Albertson's. If large cans of crushed pineapple are cheaper than the itty bitty ones, buy a big can and throw the extra in your baked beans, zuchinni bread, or morning smoothie.
Pineapple Pork Tacos
Estimated Cost: $5.00 for four servings
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, juice reserved
1/2 cup sour cream (If you use light, stir in 1 tablespoon olive oil)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
juice of one fat lime
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 lb. pork chops, about 3/4 inch thick
1 (6 ounce) bag coleslaw mix
1/3 cup sliced radishes
12 corn tortillas
1 tablespoon butter
Preheat grill for medium hot cooking. In a medium bowl, combine the JUICE of the pineapple, sour cream, chili powder, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove 1/4 cup of mixture and rub all over pork chops. Let stand for five minutes. Grill pork chops, about 4-5 minutes per side until only slightly pink in center. Let rest for five minutes, and slice into strips. Meanwhile, combine crushed pineapple with slaw and radishes and reserved sour cream mixture. (Grill tortillas about 1 minute per side and brush with butter and wrap tightly in tinfoil.) Assemble tacos with tortillas, slaw, and pork chops.
Up Next: Summer Thyme Corn Chowder

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Blackberry Raspberry Crisp and Nauvoo

This week in the great state of Utah, we celebrate Pioneer Day, to commemorate the Mormon pioneer's entrance into the Salt Lake Valley. The pioneers began their dusty trek in a little town in western Illinois called Nauvoo. Located on a bend of the Mississippi River, Nauvoo has been restored to recapture the 19th century charm of a little midwestern town. It's a bit like colonial Williamsburg, except that Nauvoo's attractions are 100 percent FREE to the public. The little red brick town contains a bakery, a gunsmith, printing press, blacksmith, brick factory, all operated by volunteers in pioneer dress. My children love the Pioneer Living Center best of all, since they can participate in candle, rope and quilt making, plus see a real bustle oven for baking bread. During the summer months, Nauvoo really comes to life with an outdoor theatrical known as the Nauvoo Pageant. Professional actors plus scores of volunteers make up the cast for a musical interpretation of life in Nauvoo for the Mormon settlers. (My parents, who normally live across the street in my southwestern town, spend their entire summer in Nauvoo as pageant volunteers.) If you live anywhere near Western Illinois, hitch up your wagon and head to the Pageant, which runs until August 1st. For more information about times and location, click here. I've been to Nauvoo about 7 times in the last ten years, and I'm so smitten with the place, that I wish it were 8. If you can't make it to Nauvoo, but want a taste of the Nauvoo Pageant, email me at, and I'll get you a free copy of the Nauvoo Pageant CD.
Now, for today's recipe, I'm sharing a fantastic blackberry and raspberry cobbler, which seems perfectly in keeping with today's pioneer theme. Make some homemade vanilla ice cream on the side, and you'll think you've died and gone to Nauvoo.
Money Saving Tips: Use the cheapest berries you can find, even if that means using frozen. Look for a U-Pick location. If you can't find good black berries, substitute blueberries or even peaches or apricots.
Blackberry Raspberry Crisp
Estimated Cost: $6.00 for 8 servings
4 cups berries, fresh or frozen
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
For Topping:
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, divided
Prehea oven to 350 degrees. Layer berries in 9 inch square baking dish. Toss berries with sugar, flour, and lemon juice. In a separate small bowl, combine oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, and salt. In a separate small bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, and salt. Rub in 4 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle oat mixture over berries. Dot with remaining four tablespoons butter. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until fruit is bubbly. Serve with ice cream.
I leave you with a poem by my mother.

The sun’s rays move slowly
Up, over and through the
Wooded trees and ferns
Here a shimmering ray and there
From the deepest of green
To the palest of light - shadows
Cast across the lawn as
Brightly the solar star ascends.
“Good Morning children of
The earth, it is time to begin once more.”
No, it is not for man solely
To welcome the light of day
God’s creatures all join
This joyful wake up call;
From the tiniest of birds
To the cautious fawn silently
Stepping from her secluded haven.
Or even as the golden butterflies join in the joyful throng
Across this scenic canvas. No artist can truly paint the
Grandeur of the awakening known as morn
The radiance of flecks of gold,
The sounds of nature stirring.
And clamoring for its own daily bread.
The soft chattering of the insects
Or the wind that moves amongst
Thee trees with the pleasant whisper
“It is here, your rest for the night is o’er.”
Nor can be depicted by that same skilled brush
The anticipation of this human heart as I go forth
To a discovery of my very own
This a brand new day.

B. Renouf
Nauvoo, Illinois
Coming Next:
Super Fast Grilled Pork Tacos with Pineapple Slaw

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Super Fast Grilled Steak Sandwiches

My little sister asked me what we were having for dinner last night. When I told her we were having grilled steak sandwiches, she asked me, "Does your husband know how lucky he is? Mine is getting a bowl of cereal!" Believe me when I tell you that my husband gets his requisite nighttime bowls of Cheerios, but last night he struck supper-time gold. Juicy grilled steak sandwiches on crusty rolls with sweet bell peppers and melted cheese make for one man-pleasing dinner. Best of all, it's not much more effort than pouring some Kix and milk into a bowl. Especially if you can get your fortunate fella to man the grill. Move over Lucky Charms, now there's something meatier.
Start with some thin cut steaks. I wanted strip steaks, but my butcher didn't have any, so I opted for tri tip steaks. (I paid about $4.00 for 3/4 lb. which was plenty for four sandwiches.)
Drizzle the steak with worcestershire or steak sauce and sprinkle with salt and loads of freshly ground black pepper.
Quarter some bell peppers, removing the stems and seeds, and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil. Toss the steaks and bell peppers on the grill. (Thin steaks will only need about 4-5 minutes per side. The peppers need about seven minutes per side.)
Slice peppers and steak into thin strips. Drizzle the steak with a little more steak sauce or worcestershire.
Halve some hoagie rolls and place them on a foil lined cookie sheet. (I buy bolillo rolls from Albertson's market. They're $2 for six.) Drizzle the rolls with a teensy bit of olive oil and rub with a garlic clove, if desired. Top one side of the rolls with steak and peppers and top with cheese. I used sliced swiss, but cheddar or provolone would also be lovely.
Broil just until cheese is melted.
Serve to the man in your life with corn on the cob and call it dinner. Remind him how lucky he is. And also remind him to savor his sandwich, because tomorrow night dinner might be Raisin Bran. The end.
Up Next:
Blackberry Raspberry Crisp

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Plum Crumb-yes, that's really the name of this cake

It's Tuesday again, and that means hundreds of internet bakers are joining together as part of our TWD baking club and recreating a sweet treat from Dorie Greenspan's sizeable tome, "Baking: From My Home to Yours." This week, the appointed recipe is a plum brioche tart. You will not find a plum brioche tart here. Yeast risen brioche dough, while extremely pleasant in other forms, is not to my liking in tart form. And so I had decided not to participate in today's baking, except that a couple of days ago while swimming in my parent's backyard, my daughter noticed some plums, just ripe for the picking on a poolside tree. Together we plucked the best of the bunch, and then threw the squishy ones over the fence because no one lives back there and it seemed like the sensible thing to do. Ripe plums make very fine baseballs, in case you are ever in need, by the way. Having procured my plums by sheer fortune, I knew I had to make something delicious with them. I remembered a plum crumb cake that I used to love from an old Pillsbury cookbook. Please don't be put off by the name Plum Crumb. Maybe you won't be, but my mother regularly uses the noun "Crumb" to label married men with-how shall I say?- lascivious and licentious behavior. For example, if Mom knows anything about John Gosselin, she would definitely dub him a Crumb. But don't blame this crumb for any of his misdeeds. This crumb is a soft lemon cake, covered with juicy jewel -toned plums, and then topped with a brown sugar streusel. I remembered that I used to adore it, but like so many things that I used to love in my youth (cool ranch doritos, for example) I worried that it wouldn't survive the test of time. I am very happy to be wrong. It's scrumptious, just absolutely scrumptious and I hope you'll make one soon. I sure will. I know a great place to get some free plums.
Money Saving Tips:
The best time to get a good price on plums is summer and early fall, so act now. (Anybody in your neighborhood have a plum tree?) All other ingredients are pantry staples, so once you get a good price on plums, you should be able to make this one for mere pennies. You can easily double or triple this recipe. If you choose to double, use one whole egg, instead of two yolks. Substitute plain yogurt, sour cream, or plain milk for the buttermilk, if necessary.
Plum Crumb Cake
Estimated Cost: $3.00
Serves Four
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 eggs yolk
1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
generous pinch of salt salt
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 and 1/2 cups sliced plums with skins
Crumb Topping:
5 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 5 inch springform pan, (or use a loaf pan) with no stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add yolk, lemon zest and juice. In a seperate bowl, combine flour, powder, soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with buttermilk in two additions. Pour batter into prepared pan. Cover with layer of sliced plums. In a separate small bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Mix in melted butter with fork. Crumble over the top of plums. Bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. Check doneness in center with toothpick and be sure that toothpick comes out clean.
Next Up:
Super Fast Grilled Steak Sandwiches

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Summer Tex Mex Vegetable Soup

Would I sound like a broken record if I told you that my sister just had a baby? Well, it's true. My youngest sister, the ever charming Mary Kate, just gave birth to a darling little baby boy. I don't have a single pregnant sister left, uh, that I'm aware of anyway; I'll keep you posted if I hear otherwise. I've been up in Salt Lake City with Mary Kate, trying to be a sisterly helper, since her husband had to be out of town for a few days on business. Only I think I failed. I really didn't help her with the baby at all. Her other son, the two year old Jakers, took such a liking to me that I was completely wrapped up with him. He slept on my pillow, followed me into the bathroom, brushed my hair, confiscated my bracelets and yellow flower sandals, made sure I watched INTENTLy all of his tricks including light saber fighting, ball kicking, piano playing and dancing, and generally delighted me in every way. I'm home now and I dearly miss my rough and tumble little buddy. What will I do without him?
I had planned to post this soup while I was away, but that same two year old Jakers has cheerfully plucked the W E R T S D V C H L K and : " and BACKSPACE keys clean off of my sister's laptop. I tried typing, really I did. I just couldn't remember how to type with the keys gone. My fingers knew where to go, but when they touched the little round bump where the key should be, I just couldn't help but stop and then have to readjust again. I couldn't even get the title of this soup out without typing the needed Es Rs Ts and Ss. Besides, who knows what little Jakers could have gotten into while I was typing this post? He reminds me a lot of Peter Rabbit, that mischievous little rabbit who broke into Mr. MacGregor's garden. And speaking of gardens, let's move onto my vegetable soup. I absolutely adore this one.
If the green beans are ready in your gardens, then this is the soup for you. If not, it would be worth it to pilfer a few from the vines of your neighbors, or even pay for a few at the farmer's market if necessary. I absolutely love the zesty whole some flavors and the thick broth. It's even better the next day, if you can manage to save a little aside. The secret to the hearty broth is a little bit of pureed brown rice. I honestly think I'll be making this one at least twice a week throughout the summer. Have a great weekend everybody!
Money Saving Tips:
I used granulated chicken bouillion in this highly flavored soup with good results. If you have garden tomatoes, peel and cook them in place of the canned. Cut the corn off cobs if you've grown your own. I used minute brown rice in the soup, but leftover cooked brown rice would be even cheaper. Use any beans in place of the kidney.
Summer Tex Mex Vegetable Soup
Estimated Cost: $5.00
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes with jalapenos
about 5 cups chicken broth (or 5 cups water with 5 teaspoons granulated bouillion)
1/2 cup Minute Brown Rice
1 and 1/2 cups corn kernels
1 and 1/2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 (14 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Heat oil over medium high heat in large pot. Add garlic and onion and saute until softened,about eight minutes. Add chili powder and cumin and cook for thirty seconds. Add tomatoes, broth, and rice. Simmer for about ten minutes, or until rice is softened. Transfer mixture to blender, or use immersion blender, to puree mixture until almost smooth. You should have a slightly thick, slightly chunky broth. Add corn, green beans, and kidney beans. Simmer until green beans are tender, about 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in cilantro.
Serve with tortilla strips. cheese, sour cream and more cilantro if desired.
Up Next:
Blackberry Raspberry Crisp

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Katherine Hepburn Brownies

Maybe the reason that I love actresses of yesteryears so much is that I can tell them apart. Their looks were distinctive. They didn't have plastic surgery to fix their noses, their wrinkles, their lips. They didn't bleach their teeth, and while some of them certainly bleached their hair, they didn't all do it, and certainly not the same shade of platinum blond. They look like they even ate dinner once in a while, and didn't have liposuction to have it all sucked away. And they were gorgeous. Real human women-with flaws and all-are so much more beautiful then the false and brittle images that Hollywood promotes these days. Like Katherine Hepburn, for example. She's spectacular in Bringing Up Baby, divine in Philadelphia Story. She was a real woman; beautiful, talented, and imperfect. And Hepburn even had her own brownie recipe. A gooey, delicious, fudgy, deeply chocolaty brownie recipe. On second thought, maybe she was perfect after all.
Click here for the recipe that we baked as part of our online baking group, Tuesdays with Dorie. They'll cost you about $2.00 to bake on your own, and they're guaranteed to make you as gorgeous as Katherine Hepburn. Honest.)
Up Next:
Summer Tex Mex Vegetable Soup

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer Submission

Good morning, fellow patriots.
I hope you are recovering from a fun and firecrackly, food filled holiday. Oh, the feast we had! Even my bathing suit is starting to feel tight- I thought these modern contraptions were supposed to stretch. Oh, to be a child again and be able to have a mile high stack of pancakes right before you jump into your swimsuit.
Notice the lack of inhibition when a small charge does this....

And this...

And this
And if there is any extra time, there is always this...
Why do I have the feeling that we're just about to fall headlong into the lazy days of summer? Be careful, young feller.
Excuse me while I eat seven pancakes and join in the feckless revelry.
I think I'll pretend I'm seven again and really enjoy my summer.

I think I'll enjoy it even more knowing I'm the one with the camera. No photographic evidence will ensue. Phew. Pass the pancakes.

Be back tomorrow with ...Katherine Hepburn Brownies