23 June 2010

Peachy Keen

(The Hubs so kindly agreed to professionally document our session this morning.  All photos in this post are his work.  I want to make sure to give credit where credit is due.) 

Meet my friend Shannon.  She's the girl on the right.  That's me on the left.  No, we weren't mad at each other, we were simply "divinding and conquering".

No, we weren't mad at each other, we were simply "dividing and conquering".

Shannon really likes to cook too.  That makes it really easy to be friends with her.  Well, that and the fact that she is one of the kindest (and funniest) people I know.  This girl has a heart of gold. 

The last 2 Wednesdays we have gotten together to cook and it's been a blast!  Last week was biscotti, homemade nutella and nutella panna cotta.  So basically, chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. 

This week Shannon wisely suggested we be a little healthier and chose this fabulous menu:

Peach and Brie Quesadillas  

(For dessert I picked another recipe from Real Simple - Irene's Peach Surprise...but more about that tomorrow.)

Anyone picking up on a theme here? 

Since we really didn't vary from the way each of the recipes were written, I won't worry with typing in detail about steps and procedures.  Instead, I will let the Hubs' pictures explain it all.  Enjoy!

The Prep Work:

Of course there were peaches to deal with.  Lots of peaches.

There were also ingredients other than peaches to prep -



Limes and Eggs

And sauces / dressings to make -

Honey Balsamic Syrup

Honey Lime Dipping Sauce

Cooking and Assembling:

Quesadillas first -

Now for the salad -


(a sprinkle of crispy prosciutto)

(a drizzle of honey balsamic syrup)

I'm not sure if there was more laughing or cooking going on -

Lunch is Served:

My favorite Taste-Testing Neighbor joined us for lunch.  (She is a professional taster, you know.) 

Both dishes paired nicely with the Riesling I had chilling in the fridge.  The recipe also said a Chenin Blanc would work well. 

All 3 of us agreed there was not a thing we would change about the salad.  To say it was delicious would be an understatement.  A definite keeper. 

We also all agreed that while the quesadillas were good, they fell a bit flat in the flavor department.  Even with the dipping sauce (which was very good) they still lacked pizazz.  Georgia suggested adding cinnamon to the peaches mix and Shannon suggested cilantro.  Either (but not both at the same time!) would make a delightful addition.

Coming tomorrw: Dessert re-cap and why we re-named it Baked Georgia.

22 June 2010

Summer Soup

If you love sweet corn, or any corn for that matter, or just need a way to use up all of those ears of corn you purchased on impulse just because they were 5/$1, I have the recipe for you. 

Corn Soup with Poblano Puree
(adapted from Real Simple, July 2010)

2 poblano peppers
3 1/2 c chicken broth
2 T butter
1 small onion, chopped
5 c fresh corn kernels (about 8 ears; can cheat and use frozen corn in a pinch)
S & P
1/4 c heavy cream
Cilantro (for garnish)

Get the corn off of the cobs.  This is a chore, yes, but it is so worth it to use fresh corn.

Use a bundt pan - keeps things much neater.

Under the broiler, char the peppers on all sides. 

After they are charred, put them in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let them cool for about 10 minutes.  Once cooled, pull the skins off the peppers and remove the stems and seeds.

In a blender puree them with 3 T of the chicken broth.

In a large pan (I used my dutch oven) over medium heat melt the butter and then cook the onions until they are translucent and tender. 

Add in the corn, the rest of the chicken stock and some S&P.  Bring it to a boil, then simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it's at a consistency you're good with. 

To serve:
After filling a bowl with the corn puree, carefully add a spoonful of the poblano puree and then drizzle a little of the heavy cream on top. 

You really should garnish it with cilantro, but I forgot.

Oh, and I may or may not have thrown in a little creme fraiche as I was pureeing it.  So bad, I know, but oh so very tasty.


If the soup is too thick for your taste, it can easily be thinned with a little more chicken stock. 
Stirring in a little milk or half and half would definitely make it a little richer.
Some leftover roast or rotisserie chicken would be delightful in this soup.

21 June 2010

Monday Morning Muffins

Two dear friends are heading to China for a 2 week visit and needed a ride to the airport.  Their flight left at 6 am. 

Which meant they needed to be at the airport no later than 4 am. 

Which meant they needed to leave their house no later than 3 am. 

Which meant I needed to be up and out of the house by 2:35 am.  I was so nervous about not hearing my alarm that I didn't really sleep much.  I think I got a 45 minute nap in some time between 11 pm and 2:15 am. 

When I finally made it back home I was absolutely exhausted, hence the slightly blurry picture. 

Pretty cool how I got the camera to mimic my vision, huh?

Needless to say it was time to actually get some sleep.  I crashed sometime around 5am and slept until 9am when the monsters my sweet babies decided that the best bird watching could be done from where I was sleeping.  And bird watching, mind you, involves talking and chattering to the birds on the other side of the window pane. 

If I was going to have to be awake I might as well make it enjoyable.  So after a quick read of the paper I began working on breakfast.

I have no idea on what blog I found this recipe. For whatever reason I did not bookmark the site. Instead I wrote it down on paper. How 'old-school' of me, right???

Homemade Blueberry Muffins
This is not my recipe, I just cannot remember who should get the credit.

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Toss 1 cup of blueberries with 1/4 c flour and set aside.

In a separate bowl whisk together 1 3/4 c flour, 4 t baking powder and 1/2 t salt.  Set aside.
Measure 3/4 c milk.  Set aside.
Cream 4 T butter with 1/2 c sugar 'til fluffy.  Add in 1 egg.  Combine thoroughly.
Add in the flour mix and milk, alternately, until the batter is smooth. 

Gently fold in the blueberries. 
Divide the batter amongst 12 greased or lined muffin cups and bake for 15 - 20 minutes.  Use the 'toothpick test' to check for doneness.

These were every bit as good as I hoped they would be.  They were different (and much better) than the box mixes.  Very similar in flavor to a strawberry shortcake, but with blueberries. 

All these needed to achieve perfection was a little pat of butter. 

The only changes I would (maybe) make would be to fold in the zest of 1 lemon, along with the blueberries, to the batter and/or brushing the muffins with melted butter and then sprinkling them with a little sugar right when they come out of the oven. 

20 June 2010

A Day with Dad

We celebrated Father's Day a little early this year.  My dad wanted to go visit his (almost 92 year-old) dad on the Father's Day, so he and I celebrated on Saturday.

He is one of the most difficult people to shop for and really there is nothing I could get him that he couldn't buy himself.  What he seems to enjoy most is when we just spend time together.  He promised me that we wouldn't go for a 12 mile bike ride in the middle of the day this year.  Although that was fun last year, it took my body a good 4 or 5 days to recover.

He has an upcoming fishing trip to Russia (his 6th trip, and yes, he's fluent in Russian) and needed some new shoes and clothes.  He hates to shop more than anyone I know...even more than R hates to shop.  However, if my sister or I go with him it seems to help the process a little and he focuses on the fun times with us and not the frustrating parts of shopping like having to dig through racks and racks of clothes to find his size.  He's tallish and fit (very low body-fat) and has long arms - it's tough to find clothes that fit him properly. 

We hit up REI first. 

On the list: walking shoes, a hat, socks and travel pants. 

After digging through many racks, trying on many hats and making laps around the shoe area in three different pairs of shoes we were able to check everything off of our list. We even found 3 pairs of travel pants in his size, a true miracle!  (I also managed to find a pair of Chacos that I love)

Shopping worked up our appetite, so we were off to Pronto for lunch.

We both ordered their house special - lemon garlic roasted chicken with green beans, garlic mashed potatoes and a roll. 

Even though I had roast chicken the night before, this stuff is so good that I couldn't resist. 

Back to my parents' house after lunch for movie time.  Dad is a movie nut.  The man watches the same movies over and over and over and over again.  It's one of his weird, yet endearing habits. 

I had not seen Crazy Heart yet, so Dad suggested we watch it. 

Wow.  Great movie!  Great cinematography, great casting, great acting.  I'm so glad Dad chose that one.

We had a great day together and I consider myself so lucky to have him as my dad.  He really is one of a kind in so many ways. 

Love you, Dad!

18 June 2010

Hooray for Helga

A while back I blogged about my failure learning experience with Matilda, the huge, free-range, organic chicken I bought from one of my students.  While I gained a couple of valuable nuggets of wisdom from the fiasco event, this was the ultimate outcome:

I had poured my heart and soul into the girl so I was more than a little upset.  The silver lining was that I had a standby in the freezer - Helga.  Otherwise known as bird 12978.

If you can believe it, Helga was even bigger than Matilda.  I didn't weigh the girl (1 - I don't have a food scale and 2 - I did not want to have to weigh myself in the process), but I got quite an upper body workout wrangling her today. 

Since I had a bit of a tough time with the butterflying process last time I found a video tutorial to help me out.  The guy is a little goofy, but it was a really helpful video. 

After watching it several times I felt confident and was ready to take out the backbone...with these pathetic excuses for scissors.

They didn't work and I got frustrated.  This was as far as I could get.

Enter my 'Knight in Shining Armor', R.  He immediately sensed my frustration and calmly told me to give him a couple of minutes to shower and shave and that we would head out in search of a real pair of kitchen shears for me.
I (heart) R.

Our search for good kitchen shears was a success and I was back in business. 

Although the process did not go as smoothly for me as it did for the guy in the video, I did complete the task and did not dislocate the "hip" this time. 

See what I mean about her being a big girl?

One thing Helga and I do have in common - our meaty thighs!  Check these out.  Hers, not mine. I do not take pictures of my meaty thighs, thankyouverymuch.

Now the question became "How am I going to cook her?"

Grilling was out for two reasons: 1) Both propane tanks are empty and need to be swapped out and 2) Do I really need to bring up what happened last time again?

After doing a little research I found a post on Chowhound about a recipe for roasting butterflied chickens that had been featured on America's Test Kitchen.   It received rave reviews (and that forum is a tough crowd) so I knew it must be a good recipe/method. 

Here's a quick rundown of the process with a few changes by me:

In the bottom of the broiler pan went 2 potatoes, sliced about 1/4" thick.  I also threw in an onion and some sad carrots that were hanging out in my veggie drawer.  Those were all seasoned and tossed in a little oil. 

The butterflied and seasoned chicken is placed on the grill rack that goes over the pan. 

You cook the chicken in the lower 1/3 of the oven @ 500 F for a total of about 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time.  You want the internal temperature of the breast to reach about 160 F. 

As the chicken fat, butter and olive oil drip off of the chicken, they drip on to the veggies below, bathing them in all sorts of yumminess.

After pulling it out of the oven loosely cover the pan with foil and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

She looks a little more well-done in parts, but I promise the bird wasn't burned or overcooked.  The skin was delightfully crispy and the meat was tender, well-flavored and incredibly juicy.  I hardly ever eat the skin on my chicken, but I devoured every bit of the skin on the breast I ate.

And the vegetables were everything I hoped they would be.  The best part is that since she was such a big bird, we'll be feasting on Helga for the next few days... maybe some empanadas, bbq pizza, chicken salad, quesadillas.  I could go on and on. 

I've already scheduled those leftover potatoes to be part of breakfast tomorrow.  Yum.