Cooking without a Recipe {pasta with tomatoes and corn}

Found this waiting in my drafts folder, because I never typed up a little blurb to go with it.  I made this without a recipe.  It was a dream.  Make it fast before summer escapes.  And cook more without using recipes.  I always wish I did.

pasta with corn and tomatoes.

To make pasta for 6 (or a hungry 4), you will need:

  • a pound your favorite spaghetti-esque pasta strands (ours is a local brand of either fettuccine, which we used here, or tagliatelle)
  • kernels from 3 ears of corn (raw is fine, cooked is too)
  • a whole bunch (pint?) of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (I used about half a point of two types)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Parmesan cheese

Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to a boil.  While you’re waiting for that to happen, make the sauce.  Heat olive oil in large skillet.  I used almost enough to coat the bottom of the pan.  When oil is hot, add garlic and saute for 2 minutes, until fragrant, but not brown.  Add tomatoes, and give things a stir.  Let tomatoes cook until their skins start falling apart and the smell is so good you can’t believe your luck.  When they’re looking good and bright, add corn kernels and stir things around for another minute or two, and remove from heat.  Hopefully by this point, your water is boiling.  Since I used fresh pasta, it takes 2 minutes to cook.  Rather than drain it when it’s done, I used tongs to transfer the pasta to the skillet with the sauce.  The reason for this is that I didn’t want to give up the pasta water.  As I used the tongs to turn the strands of pasta with the corn and tomatoes, the mixture, despite all that olive oil, became a bit dry.  And I had that whole big pot of pasta water left!  Did you know there’s a whole bunch of flavor in there?  I dipped a glass measuring cup in the pot and came up with about a half cup of pasta water.  I dumped it in with the sauce, and kept tossing.  I ended up adding about another 1/4 C of water until the sauce was the right consistency for me.  I dumped an individual portion in a bowl, and because you know me by now, you already know that I grated a giant heap of Parmesan on top.

Before the Summer Slips Away {marinated tomato bruschetta}

If you made a list of everything I’ve done this summer, in order of frequency, cooking would fall lower than just about anything else.  I have not cooked anything.  ANYTHING.  A large part of this truth is because we bought a house and I immediately jumped into action, using up everything that was already in our fridge and freezer, throwing out the remains of sauces and mixes saved up (and expired anyway) over the years, and running things off to storage, or to my in-laws, where my husband and I will be residing until the next, approximately, forever.  Cooking was, for once, the last thing on my mind.

marinated tomatoes.

And the other reason I haven’t been playing in the kitchen as much is the same reason I cite every summer.  There’s not much that needs doing in the kitchen.  Take these marinated tomatoes.  Slice up some tomatoes (I recommend home grown–these were gifted to me by a friend with a garden), and let them hang out with garlic, olive oil, and basil for a few hours, and heap them onto toasted bread.  That’s “cooking” in the summer.  And nothing tastes better.

marinated tomato bruschetta.

To make a baguette’s worth of marinated tomato bruschetta, you will need:

 

  • 4 medium or 3 large heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped into bite sized pieces.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, plus two cloves, peeled
  • large bunch of basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • one baguette

Combine all ingredients except peeled garlic cloves and bread in a bowl.  Set on the counter at room temperature for 4 hours (though you could get away with less; whatever, it’s summer, it will still work).  When ready to eat, slice baguette into three-quarter-inch-thick slices.  Chop the tip off each peeled clove, and give each slice of bread a good swipe.  The oil will seep into the bread and I promise goodness will ensue.  Toast or grill your slices, and then pile high with the tomato mixture.

 

Happy 5th Birthday to A Glass of Milk {blueberry summer cake}

When we weren’t looking (because we were celebrating the 4th of July) this blog went and turned 5!  5 years old!  If it was a child, it would be starting Kindergarten, and I’d be thrilled that someone else was going to keep it occupied for a big chunk of the day.

summer berries.

But here I am behind the keyboard, still plugging away.  Rather than make my blog a big, impressive cake, like I have in the past, I simply modified my favorite cake, using the berries Wooden Nickels had sitting on the counter for our family and a little bit of lime zest.  I love a little bit of lime zest.

my favorite cake.

Thus, strawberry summer cake (I made one of those, too) became blueberry summer cake, and was promptly gobbled up even faster than her red cousin.

blueberry swirls.

I could not get my photos of this cake in focus, so I’ll have to make another, stat.

blueberry summer cake.

To make blueberry summer cake, you will need:

  • 6 T butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 C milk (I’ve used 2% and whole and both work just fine)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • zest of one lime (optional)
  • 1 lb. bluberries, washed and fully dried
  • powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 or 10 inch cake or Springform pan.

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl.  Beat butter and sugar in bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add egg and beat until incorporated.  Slowly add milk and vanilla.  Add flour mixture and mix just till combined.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Arrange blueberries on top of batter in single layer.  Or don’t.  Dump all the blueberries on top of the batter, scatter them evenly across the cake.  Either way, give them a little nudge down with the palms of your hands.  Bake cake for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees, and bake for 40-50 more.  Test for doneness wherever you think you won’t hit a blueberry.  You’ll probably burst one anyway, so just look to see whether goopy yellow stuff comes out with the gorgeous purpley sauce.

Let cool at least 20 minutes before removing from pan, top with powdered sugar, if desired, and serve in large wedges.

Fancy Snacks {yogurt with bananas, coconut, almonds, and dark chocolate}

Every Thursday, Tracy posts a fancy snack (here is one of my favorites), and on a recent Thursday, I realized that, duh, I can fancy up my own trips to the pantry.  Inspired by my favorite Chobani flip flavor, Almond Coco-Loco, I created a little yogurt bowl that I cannot get enough of.  Since the first bowl I mixed, I’ve been eating this any time hunger strikes, and it always hits the spot.

noosa yogurt.

Have you had Noosa yogurt?  Seriously amazing.

ingredients.

Spoon some of your favorite flavor yogurt in a bowl.  Slice a banana on top. Add about a tablespoon of sliced almonds, and a tablespoon of coconut (I almost always use unsweetened).  Break a square off your favorite dark chocolate bar, and chop chocolate into small pieces.  Add to yogurt.  Mix everything together, and dig in.  Obviously, this isn’t a strict recipe.  You could double (triple!) the chocolate, sub out a different kind of nut for something crunchy you like, or add something you can’t believe I forgot.  But what I love about this particular combination is that each bite of yogurt contains a little bit of all your mix-ins.

coco loco yogurt.

 

ACK {raspberry crumble}

nantucket.

Earlier this summer, we went to Nantucket.  And I was reminded that Nantucket is one of my favorite places.  My husband and I spent the morning walking around town, and then we headed to the top of the steeple at First Congregational Church to take in the views of the island.  The man who was on duty told us that we could see all the way to the Cape but couldn’t see the Vineyard. If we had been able to, the day would have been a 10.  As it was he declared it a 9.

 

The highlight of our trip to Nantucket, however, was an island tour and home-cooked meal from some of our friends who spend a few weeks there every summer.  They wouldn’t let us lift a finger to help with any of the preparations or a lick of clean up.  We ate outdoors, and after several days with only the two of us on the road, we thoroughly enjoyed the company of others.  Our dessert was raspberry pie, and my slice was heaven.  I was sitting outside on the most beautiful evening, sipping a glass of wine, and enjoying conversation with some of my favorite people.  What’s not to love there?  After that slice of pie, I swore to spend the rest of the summer eating as many fruit-centric desserts as possible.

raspberry crisp.

When I made this raspberry crisp for my own family, I was trying to bring back the feeling I had on Nantucket, when we ate a home cooked meal around close friends.  The raspberries weren’t nearly as sweet as the ones we had on the island, but that just means I’ll have to make it again when I find ones that live up to my ideals.

To make raspberry crisp for 6, you will need:

    • 4 cups raspberries
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
    • 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
    • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/4 cup coconut (I didn’t have this so I added a bit more oats)

1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, gently toss raspberries with sugar and 3 tablespoons of flour.  Pour the berries into a greased 8-in. square baking dish.
In another large bowl, combine the oats, brown sugar, coconut, and remaining flour.  Add in the butter and mix with your hands until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Lightly sprinkle the crumb mixture over the berries.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with ice cream, of course.

 

 

Summer Lunch [couscous with chicken and grapes]

Dear readers, it’s summer break ’round these parts, and that means I’m not tied to my computer like I often am in the colder months.  I’ve been digging deep in the archives to find  some recipes worth sharing again.  These all aired in the blog’s earlier days, but I’m pretty sure the only people who were there to see them go live were CV(D), Wooden Nickels, and Cari Faye.  They are my tried and true staples, and they’ll run for a few weeks while I enjoy the good life.  I’ll check back in with you later this summer dear readers.

xoxo,

Jennie

Lunch is an oft-neglected meal, isn’t it?  People are always busy during the day, so they either go out or eat a sandwich they slapped together in the morning.  But folks, it doesn’t have to be that way, and summer is the perfect time to start thinking about your lunch options.


Like pasta/rice/grainy salads.  They’re a big time summer thing for me and I have a couple of favorites.  This is the first.  It’s a blend of couscous, chicken, grapes and scallions (oh, and toasted almonds, which I forgot to add this time around) mixed with a mustard vinaigrette.  Sounds like a truly strange combination doesn’t it?  I found the recipe somewhere and made it on a whim one day.  I wasn’t expecting much, and was so pleasantly surprised to taste the results.  It’s a great mix of flavors and textures, and it really is the perfect weekday lunch.  I don’t think it has a name.  Maybe couscous with chicken and grapes?  Weak.  Any better ideas?  No matter what you call them, start playing around with lunchtime salads.  I make mine over the weekend and enjoy them for lunch all week long.

You need:

  • 2 C chicken stock (low sodium)
  • 2 C couscous
  • 1 T olive oil or butter
  • 1 – 1 1/2 C chopped chicken
  • 4 scallions, diced (green and white parts)
  • 1 C grapes, halved
  • 1/4 – 1/2 C toasted almonds
  • 3 T mustard (I use Grey Poupon)
  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Cook the couscous by boiling the chicken broth and T of olive oil or butter.  Remove from heat, pour in the couscous, cover and let sit for 5 minutes.

*Time Out*  When I’m by myself, I often stop here, grate in 8 million pounds of Parmesan cheese and eat just plain couscous for lunch.  It’s fabulous, and oh-so buttery with all that cheese.  *Time In*

Fluff with a fork and spoon into a large bowl.  I always do this over the sink as couscous is small and tends to stray.  Add the chicken, scallions, grapes and almonds.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Pour over the couscous and toss to coat.  You can do this in advance and let the dressing really sink in.  The flavors will start to come together and the dish only gets better with a day in the fridge.

Original post here

Chicken Stock, Flavor Boost Edition [chicken stock]

Dear readers, it’s summer break ’round these parts, and that means I’m not tied to my computer like I often am in the colder months.  I’ve been digging deep in the archives to find  some recipes worth sharing again.  These all aired in the blog’s earlier days, but I’m pretty sure the only people who were there to see them go live were CV(D), Wooden Nickels, and Cari Faye.  They are my tried and true staples, and they’ll run for a few weeks while I enjoy the good life.  I’ll check back in with you later this summer dear readers.

xoxo,

Jennie

Warning:  2 chickens were harmed in the making of this post.

I’ve made chicken stock before, but never with this much flavor.  This time, I threw in more carrots, because they were about to go bad, and more cloves of garlic.  I didn’t peel or chop them, I just threw them in.  It was fun.  Also, more thyme.

And this stock turned out so much more flavorful than my last.  Why?  Were the chickens better?  Was the secret just to throw everything in the pot a la Ina, rather than slicing, dicing and browning a la Love and Olive Oil?  Maybe it was my “backyard” thyme?


I have no idea, but I’m glad it made so much.  These 9 cups are just the beginning.  The rest is in the freezer.  Can’t wait to make dinners with this.

Ummm, I didn’t really follow a recipe, I just made this by feel.  I used Ina’s recipe as a guide, but consulted with my main man Mark as well.

*Original post here

Settling In [bacon, spinach and cheddar frittata]

It takes a couple days for me to settle into summer routines and rhythms.

blueberry lemonade.

Blueberry lemonade helps.  It helps a lot.

Anyway, summer.

I have this stretch of time with not much planned and of course, what I want to do is fill every single moment with, like, OMG, something to do!  But this year I’m fighting back.  I will not, like, OMG do all the things.  I will do some of the things if I feel like doing some of the things.

But mostly, I’ll just look for some white space, and enjoy the ride.  (See the summer list for more specifics.)

bacon, spinach, and cheddar frittata.

This fully includes cooking.  Maybe we’ve finally arrived at the summer where I learn to cook by feel, and not by following someone else’s rules.  I feel a lot of frittatas coming on.  This one was inspired by Tiny Kitchen.

To make bacon, spinach and cheddar frittata, you will need:

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 C of cream (or 3/4 C, or 2/3, or 2% milk, or half and half; just throw in some dairy)
  • 1/2 C of sharp cheese, grated
  • a couple pieces bacon, fried to a crisp, and crumbled (I used 4 thick cut pieces)
  • a TON of spinach, roughly chopped and cooked in the bacon grease (mmmmm) and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Whisk eggs and cream till combined.  Add cheese and whisk.  Add bacon, and spinach, when it is slighltly cooled.  Pour into greased 10-inch pie plate.  Bake in 375 degree oven 30 minutes, or until eggs are set.  Eat it for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner.

Flavor of the Week [asparagus and whipped ricotta pizza]

CV(D) caught on to my always-keep-pizza-dough-in-the-freezer strategy, and now she has me running to Trader Joe’s to not only pick them up for myself, but also for her.  Love it.  Anything for a friend.

Trader Joe’s pizza is a great go-to dinner option, when you need something quick, and you have several ingredients lingering in the fridge.

asparagus and whipped ricotta pizza.

This is not news.  I’ve shared it before.

But pizza is one of my very most favorite foods, and we eat it a lot, so here I am again, extolling its virtues.

This (more or less) was our most recent flavor combination.

Roll out a Trader Joe’s pizza crust.  Dump whatever is left of your favorite ricotta into a bowl and whisk till it’s silky smooth.  Spread on the dough.  You could totally top this with a half cup or so of shredded mozzarella cheese, but I showed restraint here–demonstrating a new skill of mine in the kitchen.  Mince a couple cloves (2?  3?) of garlic and throw on top of that.  Top pizza with a bunch of chopped asparagus, some sliced Prosciutto, and, if you’re my husband, olives.  Throw some grated Parmesan on top of all that if you’re in the mood.  Again, I held off on that here–who am I?  Bake according to the directions on the pizza crust, or your favorite pizza making method.

The Other Day [gnocchi with potatoes, green beans, and mushrooms]

The other day, a friend of mine mentioned how she was completely and totally exhausted because of her busy schedule.  And then I thought about my own. It is, without a doubt, one of the two busiest times of the year for me right now.  And I am not exhausted.  Weird.

gnocchi with potatoes.

The other day, a friend of mine emailed and mentioned how much she enjoys perusing this blog when she’s looking for dinner options.  She’s paying more attention to what is in the food she’s eating, because she wants to be the one who decides what goes into her meals.  Love this.  When I got her email it made my day.

gnocchi with potatoes.

And then, over-analyzer that I am, I got to thinking about these two friends, and their situations, and my own kitchen.

gnocchi with potatoes.

The other day, I took a bag of Trader Joe’s country potatoes with haricot verts and mushrooms, and a package of gnocchi from the farmer’s market.  I boiled the gnocchi (fresh pasta cooks in like, two minutes), and heated the potatoes in a skillet (six minutes).  When the potatoes were heated through, I added several glugs of olive oil, and the gnocchi.  I took a picture, and then I realized, that duh, it needed cheese.  So I took another picture. (You know I added more cheese after that, too.)

gnocchi with potatoes.

And I thought a lot about how most of what I eat is not that bad for me at all.  Most of what I eat uses ingredients I bought from places I know, and gets prepared with my own two hands (and my oven).  I can spend way too much time frowning at the number that shows up on the scale as soon as I step on it, or I can chill on that, and celebrate that I eat stuff that’s pretty darn good most of the time, and that keeps me fueled through my busiest days.

Had I not gotten that email from my friend, I wouldn’t have posted this meal, as it didn’t seem anything special.  But then I realized that y’all need to know that I don’t always spend time before dinner with a knife in hand, chopping onions, garlic, and who knows what else.  Dinner can be simple and healthy at the same time.  You just have to know how to put the pieces together.*

*Also, yes, the pieces, in this case, are potatoes and more potatoes.