A better BLT

Apr
2013
10

posted by on guilty pleasure, Nebraska, quick

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BLT ingredients

Summers in Nebraska meant visiting Grandma Herbert on the farm. It also meant fresh tomatoes and the best tasting BLT you’ll ever have. Times change, but luckily Grandma lives close to me here in Arizona and every time I make a BLT I think of her. She always made the best (so does my pop!) and I guarantee it had something to do with her tomatoes.

Now, I try and think of ways to not totally ruin a good, basic BLT but I am always curious to see how I can enhance the flavors of what a BLT is all about. Here’s my version! P.S. do not skimp on the bacon, don’t even bother with turkey bacon and buy really excellent (organic or homegrown if you can!) tomatoes. Heirloom are the best!

What you’ll need:

  • Lettuce
  • Arugula
  • 1 package of bacon (get all natural and center cut if you can – I love Applegate’s)
  • Mayo & mix-ins like cayenne, basil, cumin – whatever you like
  • 1 tomato
  • Bread of your choosing (grandma of course used good ol’ white bread – I use whole wheat now)
  1. Cook your bacon – I’m not giving you instructions on this. You may like it burnt, or undercooked, done in the microwave, oven or grill. I don’t care – just cook it.
  2. Clean up your greens (please use both, the arugula gives it an extra kick that’s fantastic – you could also add in spinach if you prefer)
  3. Slice up the tomato (thinly for easy stacking)
  4. Toast up your bread
  5. Assemble your sandwiches (duh).

My order usually looks something like this:
bread, mayo, bacon, tomato, lettuce, arugula, tomato, bacon, bread

Get creative with that mayo too! The mix-ins make a huge difference and enhance the taste. I also sprinkle my tomato with fresh ground black pepper!

duck eggs

Apr
2013
01

posted by on Phoenix

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My first duck egg

A few weeks ago we were at our friend Fara’s house to celebrate her birthday. She asked if we wanted a “tour” of her backyard chicken coop. Sure, right? How often do you see an urban chicken coop in someone’s backyard…in the city? Aside from the smell (which Fara warned us about) it was pretty cool to see her grab a few eggs from the chicken and duck nests and take them inside to her refrigerator.

I didn’t think anything else about this until this past week she brought over 2 dozen duck and chicken eggs. It’s odd to think of eating duck eggs, at least for me. Fara explained that they are much larger than a normal chicken egg.

chicken vs. duck

chicken egg on the left & duck egg on the right

She also told us that the taste is basically the same and can be used in anything just like you would a normal chicken egg. Fara did warn about frying them and said the white can easily be overcooked and rubbery. I decided to do a little research on this new-to-me ingredient in my fridge.

Saturday morning I whipped up my normal crustless quiche recipe for brunch replacing normal eggs with Fara’s duck eggs. Since they are so much larger, I used four of the duck eggs. Man, were they a pain to crack. The shell is pretty dang tough and took a bit to crack through (this thick skin & shell is also the reason the duck egg will last a month-6 weeks in the refrigerator vs. a store bought chicken egg).

Cracked duck eggs

Cracked duck eggs

I really slammed it down on my counter to get all four of them open. They had such an amazing bright yellow yolk and a very clear egg white. I was excited!

Aside from my spring form pan being warped and some of the egg seeping out of the side while baking, it tasted pretty good! I can’t wait to try the duck eggs in some of my baking, especially with that giant yolk. Should make for some good fluffiness. I’ll keep you posted.

switching gears

Mar
2013
25

posted by on cooking, Phoenix

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ripe seedless watermelon

This is the time of year I switch gears when it comes to what gets done in my kitchen. It’s starting to stay warm here in Phoenix (sorry for those of you who are still dealing with the early spring snow) and the thought of using my oven even to reheat something is not my favorite thing to do.

I hope to be posting more frequently now in terms of “summer” style recipes. I love to keep fresh fruits and veggies in my fridge at all times when it gets hot. Makes for easy snacks and pulling together quick meals during the week and honestly, I tend to eat even healthier when it hits this time of year.

I love this interactive map from epicurious that lets you pick where you live and see what’s in season and easily available for you to get in your local grocery store or your favorite, local farmer’s market!

Almost seedless watermelon

my almost seedless mini watermelon

I picked up these mini watermelons a couple of days ago. They are so sweet and juicy! Don’t forget the fresh cracked black pepper on mine – trust me, try it. It brings out the flavors of the watermelon like you would not believe!

Have a favorite summer-style recipe you’d like to share? Leave me a comment, I’d love to have you share yours with everyone! 

Simple Kale Salad

Mar
2013
01

posted by on cooking for 2, healthy, quick, side dish, vegetable

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Kale Salad

I love my friends. I love them even more when they share recipes! I’m just now getting into the kale kick and I love it. This easy recipe will be a go to from now on.

This one’s from the super talented (and green friendly) Mandy Stos. When you’re done eating your greens, go check out her handmade goodies at iamthemandy.com!

Mandy’s Hail the Kale Salad

  • 1 bunch organic kale
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lemon
  • 2 tbl Parmesan cheese
  • Small bread crumbs
  • (red pepper flakes if desired)

Cut and de-stalk the each piece so only the leaves are left. Tear or cut into bite sized pieces like a normal salad. Add to a large bowl. Add in olive oil, squeeze half of a lemon, salt, and pepper. Stir up. Next add in the parmesan cheese and mix. Add as much as you like and it really depends on how much kale you are making. Once you are done, add to your plate and sprinkle bread crumbs on top. I add chicken to mine as well!

posted by on cooking for 2, healthy, quick, vegetable

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Sweet Potato & Kale

Vegetarian or not, this is something I will be making again. Go to the grocery store and head straight for the produce aisle. No meat is needed for this one at all. Versatile, quick and perfect for two. Enjoy!

What you’ll need:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed/cleaned
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • sea salt & pepper
  • parsley, basil, whatever other seasonings you like (I added a little bit of cayenne pepper)
  • 1 small bunch of kale (I prefer organic), trimmed and cleaned.
  • ½ can of cooked beans, drained & rinsed well (I used white and red that were leftovers)
  • juice of ¼ of a lemon

images of sweet potato and kale

  1. Take a sharp knife and poke several “holes” into the potatoes. I cooked both of them together on a plate in the microwave until they were done (I don’t mess with waiting for an hour to have potatoes cook. I’m impatient. If you choose to do it, bake them at 400 degrees on a baking sheet for about an hour).
  2. Trim and clean up the kale. I do this by flipping the piece of kale over so the vein is facing up like shown in the picture. Trim the leaves from both sides of the vein, discarding the vein and throwing the leaves into a strainer.
  3. Heat up the olive oil over low-medium heat.
  4. Add your onions and cook just until soft.
  5. Add the garlic and your seasonings and cook for another minute.
  6. Add your beans and cook for a couple of minutes.
  7. Add the kale and some salt and pepper. Cover and let it cook until the kale is soft and slightly cooked down (I added a splash of water to help speed this process up). **side note: I’d steam the kale a bit next time I make this so it gets cooked down just a little bit more than it did**
  8. Take your knife and cut a slit through each potato, just long enough to have room to stuff the potato and fill each potato with the kale & bean mix.

This was the perfect combination of flavors and textures. I even had a little leftover kale & bean mix that would be good with scrambled eggs in a burrito.

posted by on Phoenix, Q&A

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Questions & Curiosities logo

Province Phoenix's Rita FrenchRita, thanks again for taking a little time to do a Q&A for my blog! I am always intrigued by others’ stories of how they got started in cooking and/or baking, whether that be professionally or as a hobby, like me. I was introduced to you when I was putting together my vegetarian and vegan article for the Downtown Phoenix Dining Guide last year. Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born and raised in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Started cooking at the age of 7 because my mom was an RN working overnights to earn extra money for the family. I served in the military for 6 years doing logistics in a combat engineering unit. Most people wouldn’t know that about me! I love Phoenix; been here coming up on 10 years now. I lived in Colorado before that for 2 years working (cooking) on a dude ranch.

For me, baking was something I always saw my mother doing when I was growing up. I took an interest right away. My dad is always a really great cook (I seek my creative side when it comes to cooking from him!) When/how did your passion for cooking/baking start for you?
Again, really when I was young and started coking for the family. I became like a mini-mom in our family.

Who are some of your culinary inspirations?
White House Executive Chef Cristeta Crawford. To be the first female executive chef at the White House is such a huge honor and achievement.

I used to live in Denver and making the transition from baking in Nebraska to high altitude was something I talk about pretty often on my blog. Many tears have been shed over a recipe I had worked long and hard on to try and get to work in a high altitude atmosphere. Tell me, what’s one cooking/baking experience you wish you could forget?
Nothing too horrific, praise the Lord, but I do remember once when I was a little girl that I made my dad potato salad-except I forgot to cook the potatoes! He was a real champ and ate it anyway.

Favorite dish right now? Favorite ingredient you can’t live without in your kitchen?
Well right now I am a sucker for a great empanada or any latin version of fried rice. I have come up with a bunch of different recipes for arroz chaufa (Peruvian fried rice) that I just can’t get enough of! I’ve also been working lately with creating healthy recipes for school cafeterias. I just got back from being a presenting chef at the Arizona school nutrition conference where I demo’d a few dishes for the schools. It was a lot of fun and hope I get to do it again soon!

Valentine’s Day

Feb
2013
14

posted by on baking, Holidays, homemade

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A year ago today I posted this recipe I had found on Pinterest so I thought I’d repost and share it with you. I didn’t have time to this year to pull out my collection of cookie cutters and make another batch. It’s been a rough week losing someone who was very close to us so I guess I’d rather take this time to spend with the people who I’m fortunate to still have in this short life. Don’t worry. There may not be any cookies, but there will be lots of red wine in our friend’s honor!

original post from Feb. 14, 2012 ————————–
I love Valentine’s Day! I found this cutout sugar cookie recipe on Pinterest and was anxious to try it. The ingredients list is short and you only need one bowl.

My almond cranberry glaze recipe below happened by accident but I’m happy with the results. You can switch out the almond for whatever flavoring you want or just add vanilla extract and food coloring. *The corn syrup adds that shiny look and sets up the glaze nicely so the cookies can be stacked when storing.*

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1½ sticks salted butter, softened
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in bowl.
  3. Roll out to about ½ inch thickness.
  4. Cut with flour coated cookie cutters.
  5. Brush off excess flour & place on parchment covered baking sheets.
  6. Bake 10-12 minutes & cool  on wire rack.

——————————-
Almond Cranberry Glaze

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-4 teaspoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • 4-5 frozen cranberries
  1. In a coffee mug, microwave the cranberries just until soft (about 30 seconds).
  2. Mix all other ingredients in a small bowl until you have a spreadable consistency.
  3. Add the softened cranberries – mash with a fork to make them bleed into the icing and mix really well.
  4. Remove any big pieces of cranberry from the glaze and throw away.
  5. Dip the sugar cookies face down into the glaze and slowly lift up letting the extra glaze drip off.
  6. Let the glaze fully dry on wax paper.
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