switching gears

Mar
2013
25

posted by on cooking, Phoenix

No comments

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

No comments

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

1 comment

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

No comments

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

No comments

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.

posted by on cooking, Phoenix

No comments

Spanish ingredients

Before moving to Phoenix, we were given a going away gift box full of imported ingredients from Spain (everything in the picture above except for the ground sage).

I was excited to do some research and come up with a new recipe but those damn lemon-stuffed green olives threw me for a loop. I’m not a huge green olive fan. In fact, I don’t care for them at all. Sit me in front of a can of black olives and that’s a whole other story. Still, these ingredients were given to me as a set and I was determined to use them together.

Paella was a dish I had from Chef Rita here in Phoenix (who you’ll see a Q&A with soon) when I was writing a story for the Downtown Phoenix Dining Guide last year and something I had wanted to try on my own. While I wouldn’t call this recipe a true paella, the smell of sage and smoked paprika filled my kitchen. The result was an awesome combination of moist chicken, flavor-filled round rice and those pesky lemon-filled green olives (which turned out to go really well with everything).

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4-6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skinless (I only had 4 so that’s why I used, but the rest of the recipe would easily serve 6)
  • smoked paprika
  • sea salt & pepper
  • nonstick cooking spray (prefer olive oil)
  • sherry vinegar
  • 2 cups chicken (or vegetarian) broth
  • 1 can of sliced green olives (don’t have to be lemon-stuffed!)
  • 1 tsp. dried sage (I used ground)
  • 1½ cups white rice (I used the round rice that came in my gift box, but long grain would work well too – don’t use instant)
4 images showing the chicken cooking and the final dish

1. smoked paprika, salt & pepper on thighs   2. browning thighs in the olive oil   3. rice has absorbed all the liquid   4. dinner is served!

  1. If the chicken thighs have skin on them, remove all the skin you can and discard.
  2. Sprinkle smoked paprika, salt and pepper on both sides of the thighs.
  3. Heat the nonstick cooking spray (I added a bit of olive oil too) over medium heat.
  4. Brown the thighs, 4-5 minutes on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add about ¼ cup of the sherry vinegar (if you don’t have this you could probably be fine to skip it, but it does add another dimension of flavor) and use it to remove the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add your 2 cups water, chicken broth, sliced olives and sage and bring that all to a boil.
  7. Add your chicken thighs back in, turn down the heat to low and cover. Let simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. Add your rice to the pan and mix in without moving the chicken around too much. Cover and let that simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the rice has fully absorbed all the liquid as shown.

Enjoy!

 

posted by on baking, Colorado, Denver, high altitude, homemade, Phoenix, Q&A

2 comments

Questions & Curiosities logo

This is the first part of a small series I’m starting. I want this to open up conversation with people I’ve met along the way who inspire me, share similar interests (like Valerie below) or just have a great story to tell or recipe to share.  If you know of someone with a great story or want to have a chat with me, let me know! I’d love to do a post with you. Email me, Facebook, Twitter… ya’ll know how to reach me by now, don’t you? Let me know what you think! 

Valerie, I “met” you somehow through Twitter, right?I had just moved to Phoenix from Denver and you had just moved from Phoenix to Denver. We both love to cook and bake and we both love beer!
Although we have yet to meet IRL I can imagine how much fun you and I would have! You are always posting on Instagram photos of your awesome homemade meals fit for a queen now that you’ve moved to Denver. I appreciate you taking some time to chat with me! Tell us a little about yourself.

High Tea at The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa shortly after she moved from Phoenix to Denver.

Valerie enjoying High Tea at The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa shortly after she moved from Phoenix to Denver.

Yes, unfortunately I discovered you on Twitter the month I was moving from Phoenix to Denver, and learned that you had just moved to Phoenix from Denver… crazy! Not unfortunate that I discovered you, just unfortunate timing – because we would have been beer and baking soul mates!

I left the Wasatch mountains (Utah) for desert dwelling about five years ago in January, and after almost five years of cactus and monsoons, I returned back to higher altitude to explore rocky mountain living. As sweltering as the desert was, I really enjoyed my time there and met a lot of interesting people. I did feel that my adventures started becoming one-dimensional, though, and now I’m really thrilled to be living in 4-seasons once again. The thrill of the first week of a new season is one I’d never be able to live without again. The tiny, colorful buds in the spring, my first adult garden this past summer, raking golden leaves in the fall, and now tumbling (very ungracefully) down a giant snow-covered mountain in the winter. These are all the reasons my husband and I are enjoying our new Colorado life. We definitely feel lucky to be here.

For me, being in the kitchen while my mother was baking was something I loved as a kid. I guess it stuck!  When/how did your passion for cooking/baking start for you?
Looks like we have even more in common! I come from a homemade, from-scratch family, and watching my grandmother and mother cook were common occurrences from a young age. I think a lot of people may come from that kind of background in some way or another, but it only resonates with a small number of us – mostly because you have to keep trying despite the kitchen fires, over/undercooked food, and straight up colossal disasters that seem to happen weekly during that first year – and regularly every year after as well!

When I moved to Arizona, I discovered that cooking and baking seemed to equate with meeting new friends, so I jumped on that wagon and never looked back. Food brings people together in a really basic and important way – it’s a method of forging friendships over meals, learning about other people’s cultural backgrounds, and sharing the harvest that is unique to a particular region throughout the year. Sharing my cooking failures/triumphs with others has been, hands down, the easiest way for me to meet new friends, and to go out in the world with confidence – knowing that I have something to share with others. I think once you’re passionate about something, your hobby will take you places you never could have imagined!

Who are some of your culinary inspirations? 
Of course I have a million cookbooks and read a million food blogs, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother and the way she carried herself in the kitchen. She did a lot of preserving – peaches & pears, strawberry jam, etc, and that is now becoming one of my favorite hobbies. Also, she made food that was memorable without being overly complicated. A rustic vegetable stew and homemade chocolate cake are two of her specialties that stand out to me.

I think we get caught up in the newest trends and forget that food is meant to be shared and enjoyed by everyone – you don’t need a degree in molecular gastronomy to create a dish with soul. My grandmother always cooked with soul, and that seems like an emotion I’ve been trying to capture recently in my own dishes.

I used to live in Denver and making the transition from baking in what my dad calls the “high plains” to high altitude was something I talk about 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?
Oh dear… honestly I’m savory over sweet – so baking is something I do occasionally, and usually only for parties and holidays. I do enjoy breads, though, and I’ve had decent success at altering my recipes for the high altitude.

Every single cake and brownie I’ve attempted since I’ve been here has sunken in, though, and despite my efforts they don’t seem to be getting any prettier. I hosted my cousin’s birthday party this summer and found a gorgeous strawberry shortcake recipe with a delicious strawberry glaze and whipped cream. I did everything according to the recipe and the cake just collapsed.

I scrambled to put it together in a way that actually looked like a cake with candles for the birthday song, but it was mostly a sloppy mess. The one photo I caught that night shows a strawberry shortcake blurred by candle-lit flames, and it actually looked really pretty. So I’m happy with that photo – and it telling a very different story of the strawberry shortcake. I will try that recipe again this summer and I WILL get it right! 🙂 (Val, I address my issues with Angel Food cake and other high altitude problems/recipes in these blog posts )

What’s been the biggest challenge/transition in your kitchen moving from PHX to Denver? 
This question makes me laugh, because it’s been one challenge to the next! I thought the kitchen in our condo at Papago Park in Tempe was pretty damn small. Like really, really small. Then we showed up to Denver and walked into the house we knew would be ours. I turned the corner and saw the kitchen – even smaller than my shoebox from Tempe – and no dishwasher! I couldn’t say no to the house, though, because it was charming and had Griswold written all over it.

For the most part, I really do love cooking in a small kitchen. Everything you need is within arm’s reach, and there’s a real ownership over the methods and the organization that plays into everything you do in that space. I love my kitchen – I love that I’ve discovered myself as a home cook here. I love that I need a step-stool to reach just about everything above the sink, and that I sometimes spend 5 hours a week doing dishes. Actually, I really hate that last part. That’s my attempt at a joke.

Favorite dish right now? Favorite ingredient you can’t live without in your kitchen? 
This is an easy one based on the weather – soup! I made one batch of soup a year while I lived in Phoenix, during that one really rainy week in January or February every year. I got really excited this fall dreaming about all the soups I was going to make on cold winter’s nights in Denver.

Dan and I took a little weekend trip to Winter Park and I found the Ski Town Soups Cookbook. I’ve been making my way through that book and having a lot of fun with it. Soup is not only comforting to eat, it’s comforting to make. Standing over my dutch oven, taking in the aroma of spices, broth, garlic and onions is my happy place.

Do you have a personal recipe you liked to share?
I know I just admitted to being savory over sweet, but there’s only one dish that really completes me and tickles all my taste buds – spice cake. My mom made a flavorful and dense spice cake growing up, and I’m pretty sure I was the only child out of 5 that was even remotely interested in it. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger – these are the things that make my heart sing! The hills are alive – with the smell of spice cake! Yes, it turns me into a version of myself that’s rather embarrassing. Sorry.

I’ve made many different recipes, but since my mom never remembers to email me her recipe, I’ve come up with two favorites on my own. America’s Test Kitchen has a nice version that is clean and balanced, and Martha Stewart has a molasses spice cake that is over the top in every way possible, which means you should all put your weekend on hold and make it right away: Martha Stewart’s Molasses Spice Cake

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...