Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Bacon and Bean Soup with Kale

Two bowls of bacon and bean soup with kale
Last Two Serving of Soup

Recipe by Robin


Kale is just not something that my husband favors. In recent weeks of giant kale bunches we’ve explored Garlic Ginger Kale, Green Garlic Kale with Leeks, and our classic Hot Kale Salad with Balsamic & Hot Chili Oil. He’s tired of all of them, and tired of any side dish that is essentially just plain kale with seasonings. We had the same issue last year with large amounts of hefty escarole. Finally I drowned the escarole in a soup with beans and bacon, two well-known man-pleasers. This takeoff on Escarole, White Bean, and Bacon Soup suits this window of time while we still waiting on tomato harvests, but have plenty of mild and spicy peppers. Quite a bit of kale can be submerged in this recipe, and its hearty flavor compliments the bacon, peppers, and beans.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Stuffed Turkey Swiss Burgers

Vintage Take on Cheeseburgers

Recipe by Robin


There’s something about warm weather that inspires me to remember summers past. Long-ago skinny-dips in a few choice lakes, sun and fun at the beach, picnics with family members who have now passed on. Along with memories of celebrations and excursions, I remember the day-to-day summertime of my childhood. When I was on break from school, my mom designated me as assistant cook. While still at work, Mom would call me and instruct me on how to begin preparation of the family evening meal. She completed the cooking tasks when she got home. Sometimes I’d come up with an idea on my own and cook the entire meal myself. So this recipe is one of my adolescent ideas. Surprisingly, it passed the blogability test when I made it recently after more decades than I’ll admit to.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Smushberry Sandwiches

Thick and Succulent Smushberry (blackberry) sandwich
The Time is Right for Berry Smushing

Recipe by Satya


When my friend Satya told me about her smushberry sandwich summer tradition, I thought that it was perfect fare for the Teddy Bears’ Picnic, but more novel than delicious for most humans. When put to the test though, the delight of smushberry sandwiches was not just in the smushing, but in the flavor and texture of the sandwich: light, fruity, moist, with a bit of crunch. What are smushberries? “Blackberries, silly!” says Satya. It turns out that raspberries are equally smushable, and can be used in combination with the blackberries if you like.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Scalloped Potatoes

Aerial View of Scalloped Potatoes on Plate
Just Like Mom's, but with Green Onions & Gold Potatoes

Recipe inspired by Mom


My mom’s delicious cooking is one of my earliest and most persistent memories. When I was very young, she made the most tantalizing delights on her old electric stove, teaching me the various methods of preparation by osmosis: baking, broiling, boiling, and frying. This was before anyone in New England had heard of stir-frying or steaming (except for suet puddings), and before anyone I knew had an electric frying pan, if they were even invented yet. One of Mom’s old time recipes, often served with ham or beef, was scalloped potatoes. Although they weren’t my favorite back then, recent work stress brought on a craving for this classic comfort food. So I put together a recipe like hers…kind of.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Confessions of a Compulsive Jam Maker

Bowl of Jam and Plate of Toast spread with Jam, garnished with strawberries
Strawberry Pineapple Jam

by Robin


Do you see your plum tree loaded with fruit and think, “Looks like time to make jam.”  Do you have a friend with persimmon trees who gives you fruit for jam every year? Is your supply of homemade jam stacked high in a cabinet, or overflowing onto random bookshelves? If you saw an overloaded peach tree in a parking lot, would you gather enough peaches to make jam even if they weren’t quite ripe yet? Do bulk prices on raspberries put you in a jam-making frame of mind? Do you frequent blackberry thickets that most people don’t know about, with jam making in mind? Minutes after finishing a batch of wild plum jam, would you buy a half-price flat of strawberries at the Farmers’ Market so that you could make some jam? Have you ever arrived at a U-pick farm super-early so that you could pick as much fruit as possible, then go home and make jam? Congratulations! Like me, you are a compulsive jam maker.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Preserving American Plums in Honey Sauce

Two jars of canned plums, one open and dished out
Serve Now or in Winter

Happy Girl Kitchen


As recently as last week I’d never heard of an American plum, also known as a wild plum. But according to locals, we have one in our yard. “Prunus americana is over these (Santa Cruz) mountains!” said an old timer at the nursery. In the few years we’ve been here, fruit has been tiny, red, and not edible-looking, and the tree’s identity mystified even our arborist friend. This year, after pruning by said arborist, branches are heavy with small, yellow, tangy plums. Because of its placement, right beside a fence post and snuggled up too close to a parking spot, hubby Bruce suspects the tree is a volunteer. According to folks at the nursery, the American plum volunteers readily throughout the central and eastern US as well in these coastal mountains. What could be better than a fruit-producing volunteer, even if we need to move a parking spot?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Pasta with Onion, Green Garlic, Sundried Tomato, and Basil

Plate of Pasta with Onion, Green Garlic, dried tomato, and basil
Top with Parmesan Cheese, or Not

Recipe by Robin


Most great cooks love improvising from written recipes with inspired and/or wacky ideas. Not only does improvising tickle the cook’s creative bones, it’s also a practical way to deal with an overly enthusiastic garden and odd bits of leftovers in the kitchen. As case in point, I’ve just reinvented my classic “cheap fare” recipe, Pasta a l’Olio.  I incorporated a backlog of onions and green garlic from our CSA, a bounty of CSA basil from this week, and dried tomatoes from our last year’s garden harvest. Soon this year’s tomatoes will be ripe for drying, so I used a rather large amount from last year along with some tomato paste. You could reduce the quantity of dried tomatoes, and/or add some fresh tomatoes or tomato sauce. We’re improvising here, eh?

Monday, July 8, 2013

July Menus and Recipes

Gladiolas and Zinnias near Fence
In Neighbor's Yard

“Hot July Brings Cooling Showers, Apricots & Gillyflowers”*


I must admit that I’m a stress-eater. I started this pattern during the frequent rocky times in my early adolescence, and continued it through most of my life. The pattern resurged most recently during my downsizing by management and my consequent departure from my day job, as I labored over the choice between reliable income and taking care of myself. Scientists have shown that eating carbohydrates stimulates serotonin production in the brain, which reduces depression, normalizes sleep patterns, and generally makes one feel better. I’ve never met a carb I didn’t like (either starch or sugar), and during the recent past have relied heavily on them at the expense of eating more healthful, fiber-filled foods (although oddly enough I also consumed a lot of kale, which I also craved!) And yes, I did gain weight, and so did my husband. He never spies a carb he doesn’t like, especially if his wife is eating it. This month, we’ve agreed to plan menus with lighter, more veggie-oriented foods. With our garden and CSA both providing fruit and veggie bounty, this decision is “seasonally correct.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Raspberry Mini Trifle Parfait

Two Raspberry Mini Trifle Parfaits
"Everybody Likes Parfait" --Donkey in Shrek

Recipe by Robin


According to Donkey in the first Shrek movie, “Parfait's gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!” With the hot summer upon us, I’ve been remembering childhood trips to the ice cream store for parfaits. The classic French parfait is a flavored frozen custard of cream, eggs, and sugar. Because of its fat content, French parfait can be made without an ice cream maker, as long as the cook stirs it several times during the freezing process. In the US, parfait is typically soft ice cream layered with fruit, fruit sauce, or even jello, and usually topped with whipped cream. In recent years puddings, custard, nuts, and even tapioca have found their way into parfaits. Inspired by my recent Trifle experiment, I made this parfait with crushed almond biscuits, berries, Bird’s custard and a splash of Grand Marnier or orange juice.