Sunday, May 30, 2010

Blueberry Bran Muffins

I love blueberry muffins, in case you couldn't tell.  These are yet another variation, with plump fresh blueberries and a more rustic muffin base.  Thanks to the use of wheat germ or wheat bran (your choice), these are muffins you can feel pretty good about eating.  They're high in fiber and low in fat.  They also happen to taste great.

You can find fantastic blueberries right now, so it's a great time to give this recipe a try.  The muffins are sweetened with maple syrup, so they have that extra edge that is hard to identify. They'll make an excellent breakfast before all your barbecue-ing on memorial day.  Muffins make an excellent breakfast any time, in my opinion!

*Note:  the original recipe said it makes 12 muffins, but I got 16.  So have a second muffin tin around just in case.

Blueberry Bran Muffins
adapted from Mad Hungry
makes 12-16* muffins


2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups skim milk
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup wheat bran or wheat germ


1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Grease a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper or reusable liners.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt.   In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, maple, sugar, oil, and milk together.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just mixed together.  Stir in blueberries and wheat bran or germ.

3.  Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 of the way (more if you want your muffins to spill over the top).   You may need to use a second muffin tin for the extra batter.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spiced Chicken Salad

Sometimes those random ingredients in your refrigerator can come to a fortuitously delicious conclusion.  I knew I wanted to make chicken for dinner, but I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with it.  We had arugula, a couple of stray potatoes, lots of carrots and half a cucumber.  We had herbs, and the usual spices, oils, and vinegars.  We also had a chunk of feta.

Voila!  All of these items came together to form a filling and delicious salad.  The chicken breast is marinated for a mere 10-15 minutes in yogurt and spices, then cooked in a cast-iron skillet and placed atop a salad of mixed veggies and boiled potatoes.  It's simple and filled with flavor. 

This is a basic formula that could work with any number of variations.  Cook a piece of marinated chicken breast and you can put it on top of just about anything, and then call it spiced chicken salad.  This particular combination works wonders, but if you have some mixed baby greens and tomatoes, you could use those instead of the arugula and potatoes.  You could ditch the feta and opt for fresh mozzarella, cubes of sharp cheddar, or no cheese at all if you like. 

Once again, I invite you to take my recipe and do whatever you like with it.  That's what playing in the kitchen is all about.

And speaking of which, I am thinking about changing some things up on this blog.  Is there anything you'd like to see more of?  Anything new you'd like to see besides recipes?  I promise to consider any serious suggestions.  Thanks!

Spiced Chicken Salad
serves 2


1 cup plain lowfat yogurt
pinch of ground cinnamon
bigger pinch of ground cumin
salt to taste
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, divided
2 skinless boneless chicken breast cutlets
2 medium red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups baby arugula
1/2 hothouse cucumber, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
cooking spray
1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced feta cheese


1.  In a shallow dish, combine yogurt, cinnamon, cumin, a pinch of salt, and about half the parsley.  Place the chicken cutlets in the dish and turn to coat well with the yogurt mixture.  Let marinate for 10-15 minutes. 

2.  While the chicken marinates, place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cool water by about 1 inch.  Place on the stove over high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat slightly and cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside to cool.

3.  While the potatoes are cooking and the chicken is marinating, put the arugula, cucumber, and carrots in a large salad bowl with the remaining parsley. 

4.  Heat a cast-iron skillet, sprayed well with cooking spray, over medium-high heat.  When it's hot, shake the excess marinade off the chicken and add it to the skillet.  Cook for about 4 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through.  

5.  Drizzle the vinegar and oil over the salad and toss.  Add feta and toss again.  Divide the salad among two plates and add the potatoes around the perimeter.  Place a cooked chicken cutlet on each salad and serve.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Penne with Zucchini and Mint

This pasta is perfect for a weeknight.  We had some special impromptu dinner guests tonight, and it was easy to quickly pull this together while visiting at the same time.  Pasta with vegetables are a no-brainer, but pasta with zucchini and mint is a particularly special combination.  This duo is not only healthy, but it is refreshing and unusual enough to make even simple pasta with garlic and olive oil interesting.  The citrus works wonders, too.

Great zucchini is popping up at the farmers markets now, so make this now!  It's easy, delicious, and healthy.  The norm in my kitchen, or so I like to think.

Penne with Zucchini and Mint
adapted from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
serves 4


12 oz. whole wheat penne pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/4 inch half-moons
juice and zest of one medium-sized lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves


1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Cook penne according until al dente.  Drain.

2.  While the pasta water is coming to a boil, put the olive oil and sliced garlic into a deep skillet over medium-low heat.  Stir frequently, and cook until garlic is lightly golden, about 6-8 minutes.  Be careful not to burn the garlic.  Add zucchini, stir, and then put a tight lid on the skillet.  Let cook for 6-8 minutes, or until zucchini is just tender.

3.  Add lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper to the zucchini.  Add the cooked pasta to the pot and stir everything to combine.  Stir in parmesan and mint leaves just before serving.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Strawberry Challah French Toast

Some dishes need no introduction.  Strawberry challah French toast - I think it speaks for itself.  Think fluffy, slightly sweet and cinnamony French toast kissed with super-ripe, juicy strawberries.   Now you can stop drooling and make it for your breakfast.

Challah is by far the best bread for any French toast, in my opinion, but of course you can use whatever you have on hand and see how it goes.  Cut the slices of bread nice and thick, about half an inch, so that it can soak up the egg mixture without getting soggy too fast. 

French toast is good.  Strawberry challah French toast is better.  Welcome to the weekend!

Strawberry Challah French Toast
makes 2 slices


5-6 medium sized strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground cinammon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 thick slices Challah or similar bread


1.  In a medium bowl, sprinkle the sugar over the sliced strawberries and toss gently.  Let sit while you prepare the rest of the recipe.

2.  In another bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon to combine well.  

3.  Place the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat and let it melt.  

4.  Dip the slices of bread in the egg mixture to coat both sides and the edges, and transfer to the skillet after the butter has melted.  Don't be tempted to raise the heat from medium.  Let cook for about 3 minutes on the first side, then flip to cook the other side.  If it resists when you try to lift it with a spatula, wait another minute or so before flipping.  Then you can flip back and forth every minute or so until both sides are golden-brown and the bread no longer looks soggy.

5.  Serve the French toast topped with the strawberries.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Snap Pea and Carrot Salad with Ginger-Cucumber Dressing

The other night with our burgers, we ate this incredibly refreshing salad.  You might think all salads are refreshing, but this one really takes it to another level.  Not only are the veggies in the salad crisp and rejuvenating, but the dressing itself will wake up your taste buds in the best kind of way. 

Sugar snap peas and carrots are magical vegetables, in my opinion.  They are sweet and crunchy and juicy.  They also happen to smell and taste delicious.  Toss them with some lettuce and a cucumber-ginger dressing, and you have a bordering on transcendental salad.  This is seriously good salad, folks.  Seriously. 

Cucumber and ginger go together so well - one is mild and the other is hot, but together they are a powerful duo.  This is the kind of salad I imagine you'd be served at a fancy spa in the desert somewhere.  Or you could just make it at home, like I did.  I'm thinking the latter is a lot less expensive.

Snap Pea and Carrot Salad with Ginger-Cucumber Dressing
adapted from Simple Fresh Southern
serves 3


1 large handful sugar snap peas, stems trimmed, thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded on a box grater
1 small head romaine, sliced into 1/4 inch thick ribbons
salt to taste
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1/2 English hothouse cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut into chunks
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar


1.  Toss snap peas, carrots, and lettuce with a pinch of salt in a large bowl to combine.  Set aside.

2.  Put the ginger, cucumber, oil, and vinegar in a food processor with another pinch of salt.  Process until the dressing is smooth and thoroughly combined.

3.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until evenly coated.  Season to taste with salt, and serve.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grass-Fed Beef Burgers

It has been a really long time since I made a hamburger.  Turkey and chicken burgers, sure, but not beef.  I limit my beef consumption to once a month, and a contributing reason for that is the difficulty in finding grass-fed beef (which is healthier and more environmentally friendly) in grocery stores.  Well I have good news, people.  It is becoming more common.  I happened upon a 1-pound package of organic, grass-fed ground beef at Trader Joe's this weekend!  Miracle of miracles.

The beauty of grass-fed beef, among other things, is that it has a unique flavor of its own that doesn't require a lot of doctoring.  This burger recipe seemed like the best way to use it, since it is so uncomplicated.  A simple combo of Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce, some salt and pepper, and voila.  Sure you can top it with ketchup, mustard, whatever you like after you're done.  Some good quality aged white cheddar is a nice addition (as pictured above).  But the burger itself has a fantastic depth of flavor that is hard to compete with.

Now that I've found grass-fed ground beef I'm not going to start eating it every week, but it definitely makes me feel good about my monthly beef consumption.  Eco-conscious meat eaters (no that is not a paradox), rejoice.

Grass-Fed Beef Burgers
serves 2


1 pound organic, grass-fed lean ground sirloin or chuck (85:25)
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
cooking spray
2 thin slices of aged white cheddar (or other cheese)
2 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted if desired


1.  Heat a grill pan over high heat.  While it preheats, use a fork to gently combine the ground beef, mustard, Worcestershire, and salt and pepper (to taste) in a bowl until well combined.  Divide into two patties no thicker than an inch each, and create a slight indentation in the middle of each patty so they don't puff up too much in the middle.

2.  Spray the preheated grill pan with cooking spray and add the patties to the pan.  Sear for about one minute on each side, then reduce heat to medium-high and cook for about 5-8 minutes per side, to desired doneness.  

3.  When burgers are just about done, place a slice of cheese on each patty and tent with foil.  Turn off the heat and let sit for a couple of minutes.   Place the patties onto the buns and serve.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Spicy Corn Chowder

Holy lord is this soup spicy.  Granted, I made the bold choice of leaving the seeds in our serrano peppers.  I think we each drank two glasses of water along with our soup (great dieting strategy - you get full faster! Okay I'm only kidding, but it's sort of true). 

I love the flavors of this soup - only I drowned them out a bit with spice.  I'd recommend you de-seed your serrano chiles and then put them in the soup.   The result is a sweet yet spicy corn chowder with delicious salty bacon on top.  It's a little creamy and a little crazy.  It's lovely. 

This post might seem out of the blue, but believe it or not, sweet corn is popping up already in the farmers market!  I got some in my CSA bag last week, much to my shock.  So it seemed perfect to make full use of the corn as this soup does - cob and all!  You are literally milking the corn for everything it's worth.  It's a labor of love, but the corn rewards you.  It really does.

Spicy Corn Chowder
adapted from Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Healthful Cooking
serves 3


2 ears corn, husks removed
1/2 cup half and half
1 small yellow onion, cut into a large dice
1 medium-sized red skinned potato, cut into a large dice
2 serrano peppers, seeds and ribs removed, and diced
2 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
salt to taste
2 slices uncured, nitrate-free bacon


1.  Cut the corn kernels from the cob over a large bowl to catch them.  (It's easiest if you invert a small bowl inside the large bowl and rest the cob on the small bowl as you slice off the kernels - the large bowl will catch them.)  

2.  Use the blunt side of the knife to scrape the cobs afterwards to get all the "milk" out.  Place the corn, cobs, and milk in a medium Dutch oven or soup pot.  Add 3 cups of water and turn on the heat to high.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle boil and cook for about 10 minutes.

3.  Pour the mixture into a sieve over a large bowl, so the bowl catches the broth and the corn gets caught in the sieve.  Discard the cobs  (try to squeeze the juices out if you can, but don't burn your hand).  Set aside half the corn.  Pour half the corn broth back into the empty Dutch oven.

4.  Place the other half of the broth and corn into a food processor or blender, and add the half and half.  Puree until smooth and creamy.  Set aside.

5.  Add the onion, potato, and serrano peppers to the broth in the Dutch oven and turn the heat to high.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.  Pour the creamy corn broth mixture into the pot, add the green onions, and season the soup to taste with salt. 

6.  While the soup cooks, cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat, flipping often, until crispy.   Ladle the soup into bowls and top with crumbled bacon.  (Leave off the bacon if you want this to be vegetarian).


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chocolate Chip Banana Snack Cake

This is one of those great in-between treats that isn't quite desserty enough to rule it out for breakfast.  It's a bit more cakey than banana bread, but not as sweet as your typical cake.  You can have a slice with a cup of coffee and feel good that you're starting your day right.

There is no refined sugar or flour in this cake.  There is, however, chocolate.  And banana.  And honey.  It's like a big healthy muffin in the form of a cake.

As you might be able to tell, I'm having a hard time classifying this cake.  Hence the term "snack cake."  I think snack cake is a nebulous category of food, not quite pigeonholing itself in the realm of dessert, breakfast, or after-school snack, so that it can work for any of these three.  The bottom line is, you'll like it.  Your kids will like it.  And the world will be a better place if you make it.

(Okay, I made that last one up.)

Chocolate Chip Banana Snack Cake
makes one 8 x 8 cake


cooking spray
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup nonfat milk
1/4 cup honey
1 egg
3 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips


1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly spray an 8 x 8 cake pan with cooking spray.

2.  Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl.

3.  In a separate bowl, mix the banana, milk, honey,  egg, and oil together.

4.  Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet.  Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined.  The mixture should be thick but wet - if it's too dry, add a splash more milk.

5.  Stir in chocolate chips and then transfer batter to the prepared pan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool 5 minutes, then serve warm.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cauliflower Gratin

There aren't many vegetables that I don't like, but there are those I tend not to choose (to put it nicely).  Cauliflower is one of those vegetables.  Still, I belong to a CSA, and the dutiful thing is to use all the produce I can, even the items I'm not so crazy about.  When I saw a recipe for Cauliflower Gratin, I thought perhaps I'd found that dish that would win me over.  (I've tried before, but it didn't quite do the job).  After all, it's cheesy and crunchy and creamy - what's not to love?

Well, it is really tasty, I have to say....for cauliflower.  If you like cauliflower already, you are going to *love* this.  If you don't, well, it will make cauliflower a bit more tolerable.  (I'm really selling this, aren't I?)

The crunchy bread crumbs, the melted cheese, and the creamy finish serve as a tasty backdrop to the still-slightly-crunchy cauliflower, the way the major cast members of a gratin are prone to do.  Serve it along with some of your favorite things, and it becomes a nice well-rounded dish.  We had ours with grilled chicken and roasted brussels sprouts.  Yum.

Cauliflower Gratin
adapted from Food Network Magazine
serves 4 as a side dish


1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 cup half & half
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
pinch of salt
1/2 cup shredded cheese (gruyere or mozzarella works)
1/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs


1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Place the cauliflower florets in a shallow baking dish or casserole.  

2.  Whisk together the half & half, mustard, and salt in a small bowl.  Pour over the cauliflower.  Top with shredded cheese and bread crumbs.

3.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cauliflower is easily pierced with a fork but still has a bit of crunch, and the topping is brown and crunchy.  Serve hot.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Potato, Spinach and Bread Soup

Soup doesn't need to be fancy or complicated to be completely delicious.  This recipe is for an extremely humble soup; the kind of thing you'd imagine would have been considered "peasant" fare in a less enlightened time.

Well, peasant fare or not, it's incredibly tasty, easy to prepare, and comforting as any good soup should be.  There are shockingly few ingredients - most of them are already in the name.  This is definitely a meal in a bowl - you don't even need bread for dunking, as it is already in the soup! 

The flavor profile is simple and familiar, but these elements all together are not entirely obvious.  Give it a try and see.

Potato, Spinach and Bread Soup
adapted from Jack Bishop's Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook
serves 4


1 1/2 pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock
4 cups packed spinach leaves, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 cups cubed (1/2 inch) day-old whole grain baguette
extra virgin olive oil for serving


1.  Place the potatoes and vegetable stock in a medium soup pot or Dutch oven.  Turn the heat to high and bring to a rapid boil.  Cook for 15 minutes, uncovered.  

2.  Reduce heat slightly (but keep a bubble going) and add the spinach, pressing it down into the liquid gently.  Salt and pepper to taste, then place a lid on the pot and cook for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are falling apart and spinach is tender.

3.  Turn off the heat and stir in the bread cubes.  Cover the pot and let sit for 5 minutes, allowing the bread to soak up some broth.  The soup will be quite thick.

4.  Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mocha Cake with Mocha Nutella Frosting

For mother's day, I wanted to make a dessert that felt mother-ish.  Particularly, one that my mother would like.  We also were going to have a group of 18 people, so it had to be something that could stretch for a large group.  First, I thought to do a sheet cake.  Second, I thought chocolate.  Third, coffee.  Voila - Ellie Krieger's mocha cake!

I changed the frosting to a different one I found on Tasty Kitchen because the original recipe called for a cream cheese frosting, and my mother is not a fan.  Instead, I made a Mocha Nutella frosting that was out of this world.  The combination of the moist mocha cake and the sweet nutty frosting was absolutely fantastic.

This one is a crowd pleaser, for sure.  It's tasty, it's pretty, and it's different than your typical chocolate cake.  Make it for your next family gathering!

Mocha Cake with Mocha Nutella Frosting
adapted from The Food You Crave and Tasty Kitchen
makes one 9 x 13 cake


for the cake:
Cooking spray
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups plain lowfat yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee, dissolved in 1 tablespoon hot water
2 ounces good quality dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa)

for the frosting:
1 tablespoon nonfat milk, plus more for texture
1 teaspoon instant coffee
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1.  Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 350.

2.  Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking soda, and baking powder in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

3.  Whisk together melted butter, canola oil, eggs, and egg whites until well combined.  Fold in the yogurt, vanilla, granulataed sugar, and dissolved instant coffee.  Mel the chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl in the microve for 90 seconds on high (careful not to burn it!)  and stir it into the batter.

4.  Gradually add dry ingredients to the wet, and stir until just incorporated - do not overbeat.  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake until cake has risen nicely and a toothpick comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let cool completely on a rack.

5.  Make the frosting:  dissolve the instant coffee in a tablespoon of milk and set aside.  Beat the butter, Nutella, powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla in a bowl with a handheld electric mixer on high.  Add the dissolved coffee and milk and beat well.  Add additional milk as needed to achieve a smooth frosting consistency.  Frost the cake when it has cooled completely.

6.  As a nice added touch, grate a little chocolate on the top for decoration.  Cut into squares and serve.


Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shaved Asparagus with Parmigiano-Reggiano

Did you know you can eat asparagus raw?  I don't know if that necessarily means you'll want to grab a stalk and start gnawing on it, but when you shave it thinly with a vegetable peeler and toss it with a simple lemon vinaigrette, it's pretty divine.  Add parmigiano to the mix, and a bit of sea salt, and you're in business.

This recipe comes from Mario Batali's latest book, and it is a great example of the beauty of simplicity.  When you have excellent produce, you shouldn't mess with it too much.  If you can find a way to eat it raw, all the better. 

Mario includes this in the antipasti section of Molto Gusto, but I think it works great as a salad or a side dish, too.  Try it out and see what you think.  I'll bet you've never had anything quite like it.

Shaved Asparagus with Parmigiano-Reggiano
adapted from Mario Batali's Multo Gusto
serves 2-3


1 bunch medium asparagus, tough ends snapped off
1/4 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon warm water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
coarse sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper


1.  Using a vegetable peeler, shave the asparagus into long diagonal shavings.  It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be thin.

2.  Put the cheese in a large bowl and whisk in the lemon juice and warm water.  Whisking constantly, drizzle in the oil slowly to create a loose emulsion.  Add the asparagus and toss everything together.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Shepherds Pie

With mother's day around the corner, I am extra inspired to make dishes that remind me of my mother's cooking.  This is the epitome - shepherds pie made lighter, healthier, and more delicious than you've ever had before.  Most people think of shepherds pie as beef stew topped with mashed potatoes, or something along those lines.  Well it's about to get much more interesting.

This recipe is an adaptation of my mother's.  She always makes it with turkey instead of beef, and adds loads of flavor from a couple of secret ingredients (which, of course, will not be secret for long).  The base is almost like a bolognese with an extra hit of seasoning that you don't quite expect.  The topping is glorious mashed potatoes with the skins left on, and the finishing touch is just a delicate sprinkling of cheese to add that something special.

The primary secret ingredient in this shepherds pie is somewhat controversial.  It's Marmite.  If you're not familiar with Marmite, it is a much-loved and yet much-hated ingredient for the children of British families.  I happen to fall in the love camp, but if you fall into the less-enlightened (in my opinion) hate camp, or you simply don't want to try it, you can use a bit of Worcestershire sauce, or just increase the tomato paste.  Marmite is a vegetarian yeast-based spread, but it lends a beefiness to this shepherds pie that would definitely be missed if you skip it.  You can also use Vegemite, which is the Australian equivalent. 

Shepherds pie, in my family anyway, is the ultimate comfort food.  And it only seems to get better the next day, so definitely make enough to have leftovers.

Shepherds Pie
serves 4-6


1 lb. baby Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and halved
2/3 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 lb. ground white meat turkey
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons Marmite or Vegemite
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, mostly drained
2 tablespoons grated mozzarella or white cheddar


1.  Place the potatoes in a pot and fill with cold water to about one inch above the potatoes.  Salt it.  Bring to a boil and cook, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork.  Drain, return to the pot, and add the milk and butter.  Mash the potatoes until smooth.  Salt to taste.

2.  While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high.  Add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are starting to soften, about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and red pepper flakes. 

3.  Add the turkey to the pot and break it up with a wooden spoon as it cooks.  Cook, stirring often, until the turkey is no longer pink, about 3 minutes.  Add the tomato paste and Marmite and stir to distribute fairly evenly.  Add the diced tomatoes and a little bit of their juices and stir everything together.  Let cook about 5 more minutes to evaporate some of the moisture.

4.  Preheat the oven to 375.  Transfer the turkey mixture to a 8 x 8 baking dish and top with the mashed potatoes.  Smooth them out to create an even layer.  Sprinkle with the cheese and bake in the preheated oven for 15  minutes, or until the potatoes are starting to get crusty and golden on top.  Serve hot.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Raspberry Scones

Berry season is well underway.  When I saw that this month's issue of Everyday Food had a whole feature on raspberries, I had to get in on the action. 

These scones are easy.  These scones are flaky and buttery.  These scones are studded with fresh raspberries.  I think that should get you up out of your seat and high-tailing it to the nearest market for fresh berries. 

As with any scone, these make an excellent breakfast pastry, or a nice accompaniment to an afternoon cup of tea.  Or you could just have them for dessert.  Or lunch.  Or a midnight snack.  No one has to know.

And a note:  any time you see buttermilk in a recipe and don't feel like buying it, you can substitute the same amount of milk, and add a squirt of lemon juice or a teaspoon of vinegar, let it sit for about five minutes, and then use it.

Raspberry Scones
adapted from Everyday Food
makes 16


2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, plus more for work surface
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg yolk
6 oz. fresh raspberries, washed and gently dried


1.  Preheat oven to 400.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2.  In a food processor, pulse the flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt to combine.  Add butter and pulse until pea-size pieces form.  

3.  In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk and egg yolk.  Slowly stream in through the feed tube of the food processor and pulse until the dough just comes together.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.

4.  Form the dough into a cohesive piece and flatten into a 1 inch thick square.  Sprinkle the raspberries over the top.  Knead gently, just a few times, to get the raspberries into the dough.  Warning: it will be squishy and messy, and that is okay.

5.  Cut the dough into relatively even pieces - you should easily get 16 fairly small scones.  Place on the prepared baking sheet 2 inches apart and bake for 15-18 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown.  Let cool a few minutes.