Triangulated (A Tasty Trio)

I must live in the Bermuda Triangle.

Every day I chart my course, set sail, and end up somewhere else. The phone rings, a text demands urgent attention or an email requires immediate action, and whoosh there I go. So much for goals! (I suspect you’re in the same boat.)

Thankfully, I love triangles.

My fascination with three-sided shapes hearkens back to high school Calculus  — mostly because the words ‘Pythagorean Theorem’ intrigued me — and by some quirk of fate, I ended up in advanced math. (Insert chuckle and/or Bermuda Triangle here.) Despite my  verbal affinities (and/or innate proclivity for naivety, lol), I managed to pull an A. But, just because I fared well grade-wise doesn’t mean I knew what I was doing. (I still don’t.) Welcome to my life! :)

Some folks assert there’s an alternate reality, but I say: this is reality. Do the work, even if it’s not what you planned. (Surprise!)

There are greater forces than our “to-do lists,” but ya never know what God (or the Universe) has planned for you to “do” on any given day. The trick is to fit your dreams between interstellar cracks wherever and whenever  you can.

Which brings me to three unexpected flavors.. Good things come in 3’s, yes?

Tapenade on Toast Triangles 2

Bermuda Triangle Tapenade

(Adapted from 3 recipes: Wolfgang Puck’s Black & Green Olive Tapenade, Real Housemoms Three Olive Tapenade, and Olive Crostini by Simply Recipes.)

1 baguette sliced in 1/2-inch rounds, or triangles made from gluten-free bread, brushed with EVOO — or excess chive oil from this post. Waste not, want not.

1 c. Kalamata olives, pitted (if need be), halved

1 c. large green olives stuffed with pimentos (I used Mezzetta’s Martini olives marinated in Vermouth)

1 c. large black olives, pitted and halved (ditto on “if need be”)

3 cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

2-3 Tbsp. capers, drained (I tend to lean towards 3 Tbsp. :)

1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley

1/2 Tbsp. dried basil (fresh is best, but still workin’ on my herb garden)

1 Tbsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice

A dash or two (or three!) dried ground oregano and thyme

3-4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400º F. Place baguette rounds — or bread triangles — on an ungreased baking sheet lined with foil for easier clean-up. Bake 10 minutes or ’til lightly browned. Set aside on a wire rack to cool.

Pulverize all but the EVVO in a food processor until chunky. (Resist the temptation to over-process.) The same applies to life; we often over-process or overthink. No need!

Drizzle in EVOO until mixture reaches a spreadable consistency. You’ll know “when.” (If not, it’ll still taste good.) Slather tapenade on toasted bread or baguette slices. Enjoy!

Refrigerate leftovers for up to a week. Or, mix ’em with marinara and a bowlful of al dente pasta for a fab side dish or main meal before then. Salad & bread optional.

Crab Cakes and Marinated Asparagus Salad

The other 2/3’s of this Trio (even if they aren’t triangular!) are Chef Dennis Littley’s “My Famous Crabcakes and Kevin Lynch’s Grilled Asparagus with Marinated Roasted Red Peppers, Feta, and Kalamata Olives ala salad shown above — one of Kevin’s many alternatives. Thanks, gentlemen, xo! My taste buds were SO tickled — and yours will be, too, after you click on the links.

FYI, I scaled down all three recipes to meet TMOFW’s appetite (and mine lately) with our ongoing HOT streak. (100º+) Sorry for not including the conversions, but as I tell my kids when they’re facing life-altering decisions: “Do the math!”

Enjoying isosceles living,

~ Kim

Smoked Salmon Extravaganza

Biscuits and Smoked Salmon

Black Pepper Biscuits with Smoked Salmon

First of all, I want to reassure you that I don’t plan on posting quite so frequently as I have been lately (I admire those of you who do, but that’s not my cup o’ tea), however after a long, cold winter away from home ( 3-1/2 months to be exact), I was ready for some hedonistic pleasure and writing. For me, that equated to some unbridled cooking, smoked salmon, and the word “extravaganza.” (Gotta love it!)

Spring arrived around mid-March in the Northern hemisphere, but such was not the case in Minnesota. It was 40 degrees when I left Oklahoma and 40 below zero when I arrived in Minneapolis in January… plus, it snowed eight out of the first ten days in April. Such fun!

I haven’t written much (or at all) about that experience — mostly because it pertained to Mom’s medical issues, a stove that didn’t work, two blizzards, and 60-years’ worth of “downsizing” (plus my sanity), but suffice it to say that I’m ecstatic to be back at the lake. (And Mom is settled in her new home at last.)

In the month that’s ensued, I’ve been treating myself to these simple, yet extraordinary appetizers (in lieu of full meals) to appease my soul. Oh my, yes! Sometimes you have to eat what appeals to you, never mind the “recommended daily allowances.”

Chive Tartines with Smoked Salmon

Chive Tartines with Smoked Salmon

Generally I concoct my own creations, but I arrived home with my mind in a mess, and my soul and stomach in sore need of Googling a recipe or two. What a treasure trove exists in cyber space, and how grateful I am for it. (And you!)

Briefly, I reconnected with my Irish (and Bohemian) roots while I was away — a combination of nostalgia and heritage (hence the Kerry Gold butter in the first photo) and a true appreciation for my ancestors and the “story tellers” in my life. (Thanks, cousin Fred — your writing continues to inspire me.)

As for the flavors, oh my goodness! Take your taste buds on a flavor picnic and TRY some o’ these… I’m so glad I did.

Smoked salmon toasts

Smoked Salmon on Mustard-Chive and Dill Butter Toasts

The compound butter in the canape above blew me away. (Bear in mind, butter is a rare treat and I’m still on the fence about “dairy” and ifs effects on me, but all in the name of trial and error.) Live and learn.

The “crunch factor” combined with creaminess… so worth it, swoon!

Re: the Smoked Salmon Mousse below…  I hesitated to pulverize part of my precious smoked salmon stash, but I couldn’t resist trying a new “texture.”

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Smoked Salmon Mousse

FYI, I subbed goat cheese for the cream cheese and cut the lemon juice by half to compensate for the “tang” — plus it sets up slightly stiffer than “mousse” — bring to room temp first. (Just sayin’.)

For a photo of my resulting appetizer with cucumber slices, see my previous post.

And if you run out of cukes, you can always make more deviled eggs. ;)

Smoked Salmon Mousse Deviled Eggs

Smoked Salmon Mousse “Deviled Eggs”

Here’s the links (with heartfelt gratitude):

Goat Cheese and Black Pepper Biscuits with Smoked Salmon

Chive Tartines with Smoked Salmon

Smoked Salmon on Mustard-Chive and Dill Butter Toasts

Smoked Salmon Mousse

Salmon Mousse Deviled Eggs “self explanatory” (reserve yolks for egg salad sandwiches or potato salad)

Enjoying culinary freedom at HOME — at long last,

~ Kim

Simple Shrimp Boil

Old Bay mug

Most shrimp boil recipes include corn and potatoes (and sometimes sausage), plus they make enough to feed an army. But, I was cooking for one (that’d be me) and I just wanted the “flavor.” The simpler, the better.

Recently I acquired this Old Bay mug (don’t ya love finds like that?) and I knew all I wanted to fill it with were shrimp and rice. (I’ll save the corn and potatoes for company dinner.)

In the time it took to cook the rice, the shrimp were prepped, simmered, and done — nothin’ else to do except spoon a dollop of each into my mug and eat!

Simple Shrimp Boil

(adapted from recipe #262 in 365 Ways to Cook Fish & Seafood by Charles Pierce… and Old Bay, of course)

3 sprigs fresh parsley (save some for garnish)

2 bay leaves

2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half

2 strips lemon peel

1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning

1 cup water

1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Chardonnay)

1/2 tsp. salt

1 lb. large shrimp in the shell, deveined with tails intact

1 cup cooked jasmine rice (prepared per package directions)

1-2 green onions, including tops, thinly sliced

Place parsley, bay leaves, garlic, lemon peel, peppercorns, and Old Bay seasoning in a piece of cheesecloth (hint: I used a coffee filter) and tie with kitchen twine.

Bring water, wine, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add seasoning “bag”; reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 to 10 minutes.

Add shrimp; cook until pink and just beginning to “bend.” (Beware of cooking them until they curl into an “O” — it stands for overdone!) Drain well and discard seasoning bag.

Serve shrimp atop cooked rice. Garnish with green onions and parsley. Feel free to add a salad or steamed veggies and warm French bread for a complete meal.

Old Bay seasoning

FYI, I peeled the shrimp before serving and shared half with my hubby. (They made a flavorful shrimp fettuccine Alfredo, but he ate the evidence!)

‘Twas the least I could do after he constructed this to make my life easier.

Simplicity reigns at the lake. Ahhhhh…

Ramp.JPG

Enjoying shortcuts to happiness,

~ Kim

Miniature Dole Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

Find Your Adventure

The theme for the upcoming 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, CA (January 1st, 8:00 a.m.) is “Find Your Adventure.” As you know, this past year has been one — and then some — especially with the torrential rains in Oklahoma. I’d planned to photograph these mini-yellow & red beauties with a yellow & red rose bouquet in the background (a gift from my hubby for Christmas and perfect for the Rose Parade) but the light was fading fast. Always an adventure!

However, the Miniature Dole Pineapple Upside Down Cakes turned out grand! Who doesn’t love a parade — and Pineapple Upside Down Cake in ‘mini’ form?

Enter Ally Phillips (http://allyskitchen.com/), winner of the 2013 Dole California Cook-Off and Dole Packaged Food’s first-ever Social Media Ambassador (and instigator of “individual sized” Pineapple Upside Down Cakes!) I’ve made many a Pineapple Upside Down Cake in my day, but never “miniaturized.” It was SO fun, I even made “Mini Mini’s!”

Not only will Ally be supplying her colorful “live” observations (on Social Media) during the Tournament of Roses Parade, she’ll also be cooking up a creative storm at DPF’s “Live on Green” prior to the much-anticipated annual festivity. Tune in as Ally prepares these and other DPF inspired recipes, including refreshing smoothies, a zesty hummus dip, Ricotta Dumplings with Dole Raspberry Sauce, and even an inspired Bellini recipe! (Hey, it’s New Year’s after all.) All of ’em were tested, ENJOYED, and received rave reviews by some of food blog world’s finest cooks. (There’ll be links!)

Dole Packaged Foods graciously expanded their annual presence in this year’s 127th Tournament of Roses Parade by including a FREE three-day family friendly event at the Pasadena Convention Center to promote good eatin’… aptly demonstrated by Ally and more. “Live on Green” will take place on December 29th & 30th (9 a.m. to 8 p.m.), and December 31 (9:00 a.m. to 3 p.m.) with activities centered around the National Park Service’s Centennial Celebration. (100 years, woohoo — way to go!) There’ll be places where children can romp and play at the Scholarshare Toddler Play Area, a Family Fun Zone, and live performances throughout the event, including singalongs. (Y’all know music is a balm to my soul.)

PLEASE be sure to watch for DPF’s float during the Tournament of Roses parade on January 1st, too… an incredible construction entitled “Soaring Over Paradise” complete with a zip-line, waterfalls, and gorgeous fresh flowers! Dole does its best to bring you their BEST, and I’m so honored to participate in this “virtually” with my fellow foodies. Good will and GOOD FOOD abounds at the 2016 Tournament of Roses Parade.

Quick update:

Here are my roses minus the mini’s… my hubby took ’em to work to share!

Tournament of Roses bouquet

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Minis (and “Mini” Mini’s!)

2 (20 oz.) cans DOLE pineapple slices, well drained

1/3 cup butter, melted

2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 pkg. yellow cake mix

Maraschino cherries, drained and halved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 degrees F if using dark or non-stick muffin tins.)

Prepare cake mix as directed, substituting drained pineapple juice for the water.

Mix together melted butter and brown sugar until combined.

Spray muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.

Equally divide butter/brown sugar mixture between muffin tins — 18 total. (See below for additional measurements and/or adaptations.)

Press 1 pineapple slice into brown sugar mixture in each muffin cup.

Add 1 cherry-half in the center of the pineapple ring (sliced side up.)

Pour in about 1/3 cup prepared cake batter.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of muffins comes out ‘clean.’

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.

Loosen edges of muffins (use a  butter knife or similar) and invert onto a cooling rack over a half-sheet baking pan, then cool completely.

NOTE: Use at least a 2/3 cup size each muffin tin or it won’t be large enough to hold pineapple slice and batter.

FYI, I used a “jumbo” (popover-sized) muffin tin to make these. (I also experimented with larger ramekins, but they were almost too big!) As for the mini-Mini’s… I put 1/2 tsp. brown sugar/butter mixture into each “mini-muffin-cup”, added a maraschino cherry half first, then topped it with 1/2 tsp. of well-drained DOLE crushed pineapple, and approximately 1/2 Tbsp. cake batter on top. (Eyeball ’em til they’re 2/3 full.)

Bake as directed, adjusting the time to accommodate more or less cake batter. For me, the mini-mini’s baked up “just right” in about 11 minutes… test with a toothpick to be sure. (And don’t neglect that 5-minute cooling-time advice — worked slick in every size.)

A hearty thank you to Dole Packaged Foods for sponsoring this post. All opinions are my own, but I simply have to add that my hubby just ate two of those “mini’s” and asked if he could have more. YOU BETCHA! Happy, HAPPY New Year everybody — go, have FUN — and “Find Your Adventure!

Enjoying being adventurous,

~ Kim

Poached Chicken, Mango, Avocado, and Blueberry Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

Chx Avo Mango Blueberry Salad vertical

Do you despise rubbery, tasteless chicken? I do! The only solution I’ve found that renders succulent, slice-able chicken for salads or Alfredo or whatever (without confiscating the choice parts of a whole roast chicken at the table for “later”) is poaching. Although come to think of it, that first method is “poaching” too… but let’s move on.

When chicken breasts — even the boneless, skinless variety — are submerged and cooked at the gentlest of simmers (I’m talking barely a bubble) over the lowest heat possible, magic happens! Plus, you can “influence” the chicken’s flavor by whatever you throw in to simmer along with it. (I believe the proper term is infuse.)

For this batch I alternated whole carrots and celery stalks, chunks of onion, and a couple of garlic cloves in my Dutch oven, laid the chicken breasts on top (so as not to cook them too quickly on the bottom of the pan — the higher off the heat, the better), added a half-dozen black peppercorns, several sprigs of fresh parsley, a sprinkle of sea salt and a bay leaf topped with enough cold water to cover all of the above. Let the poaching begin!

Granted, it takes a bit of patience, but the tender results are worth your time (and mine) — not to mention more chicken stock for the freezer. Win, win! And hey, how ’bout those frozen blueberries… I feel a salad coming on. (I love visual reminders, don’t you?)

Blueberries and Chx Stock

Poached Chicken, Mango, Avocado, and Blueberry Salad with Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

Assorted greens (I used a “bagged mix” but anything with arugula is fine by me)

1 poached, sliced chicken breast (for an excellent tutorial on poaching click here — many thanks to The Kitchn!)

1 cup diced mango

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced

Juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed

1/2 cup blueberries (I used frozen, obviously)

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

(adapted from Jodee Wieland’s “Delicious Homemade Honey Mustard Vinaigrette recipe here — thanks, Jodee!)

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 Tbsp. spicy brown mustard (Gulden’s or Grey Poupon)

1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup (the real deal)

3 drops hot sauce (Frank’s Red Hot or Louisiana style hot sauce) (no doubt I used more… let’s just say “to taste”)

1 small clove garlic, minced

Freshly ground black pepper & sea salt (ditto on “to taste”)

Assemble salad greens in the bottom of a large shallow bowl.

Top with artfully arranged slices of poached chicken, mango, avocado, and blueberries drizzled with freshly squeezed lime juice.

Pour on the Maple Mustard Vinaigrette and enjoy!

Poached chicken, avocado, mango, and blueberries with Spicy Maple Mustard Vinaigrette

There’s nothin’ complicated about this salad — just start slicin’ and dicin’ whatever’s in your fridge for your very own flavor fest and throw on a tasty vinaigrette — but, please take the time to properly poach your chicken first.

Enjoying weekend wonders,

~ Kim

Cookware Debut

Fish Poached in White Wine 1

Humor me and hover over the photos…

 

I didn’t realize how dependent I was on my cookware until I had to use somebody else’s… a conflagration of pots and pans with mismatched lids. Gotta love ‘cabin’ cooking!

Since last November every meal has been a challenge and I’ve been doing my best trying to maintain normal life (and meals) with the implements at hand.

This feast, however, was accomplished in my newly arrived stainless steel cookware (with lids that match!) and I couldn’t help but debut it with something spectacular.

Fish Poached in White Wine 2

Who else to turn to but Julia Child?

Fish poached in white wine… ahhhhh, yes… life (and eating) is good.

I love her technique for “napping” the fish with the reduced stock — in this case thickened with cornstarch (due to my gluten issues) rather than a beurre manié.

Nap Time

The best way to share ‘how to’ is for you to check out Mastering The Art of French Cooking from your local library — if you don’t already own a copy — and turn to pages 208-211. (I don’t want to plagarize.)

All I can say was that it was fantastic… and, what a blessing it was to finally have the ‘right’ pan to cook with.

Some things are worth waiting for.

Enjoying reading, new recipes — and cookware!

~ Kim

Skillet Love

Summer Skillet

I used to think cast iron skillets were for frying chicken. Bacon and eggs. Steak. Spam. (And some pretty decent hashbrowns.)

Then Mom gave me these cherished relics — the lil’ Griswold skillet (above), and the Sperry griddle and larger “Never Break” skillet (below.)

Skillet Love 1

Generations of women cooked ‘real food’ in these pans — Mom, Grandma, and Mrs. Rogers (my piano teacher, to whom the “Never Break” belonged) — and I’m honored to be next in line. Considering that Mrs. Rogers was approaching 80 when I was a mere babe in the kitchen (my last piano lesson was over 40 years ago), I’d say her skillet was well-seasoned. The others, too.

Come to think of it, so am I. ;)

I can still ‘see’ Mom cooking breakfasts in that lil’ skillet, and one of my favorites was a Bohemian pancake (of sorts) called “Schmun.” I have no idea if the spelling is correct, but it was fun Googling it… amazing what you can find out about folks when your Czech is rusty or non-existent!

Schmun consists of 2 eggs lightly beaten, a cup of milk, a cup of flour, and a pinch of salt, whisked ’til smooth and fried to golden goodness in a liberally buttered hot cast iron skillet. About mid-way through, you start cutting the ‘big pancake’ into smaller pieces — similar to when the smaller space ships broke off from the Mother Ship in “Independence Day” — and continue frying the ‘independent’ pieces until all the sides are nicely browned. Add more butter… if needed? (That wasn’t a trick question.) Serve immediately with warm maple syrup.

I cooked with that skillet for the first time when I made meals for my folks on the ol’ Norge last year, and it primarily served as a sauté pan. (Mom developed a penchant for microwave cooking during the last decade and got rid of her ‘other’ pans.) Thanks heavens she kept the cast iron! I had yet to discover its wonders.

Then, last fall my sister came bearing a heavy box when she visited. Not only had Mom sent the skillets and griddle, she included two slightly battered lids — one large and one small. Anybody remember those? (I sent the larger one back with my Sis for her efforts, and to share the skillet love!)

Skillet Love 2

Lo and behold this summer, my garden began producing a bounty of veggies — particularly grape tomatoes, or so the label said. (They’re more the size of a plum tomato!) Previous assumptions ‘cast’ aside (I know…), I began to experiment with my skillet stash with divine results.

Tomatoes 1

A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some sliced tomatoes combined with summer squash, a sprinkle of cracked pepper and sea salt (or Pink Himalayan), and possibly Greek seasoning (or whatever ‘flavor of the day’ tickles my fancy — my adjunct seasonings vary every time, such fun!), and in ten minutes or less supper’s on the table. (Or at least my supper… ) The kitchen also doesn’t heat up from steaming and/or roasting.

I adore cast iron cooking!

No need to be concerned about tomato’s acidity on the skillets — or me. (By the way, that’s not intended as ‘medical advice.’) I did some research and nearly every article said it was a matter of ‘seasoning’ to thwart any ill-effects. Start with a well-seasoned skillet; re-season as needed. FYI, the contrary articles said ‘use your judgment.’ Done deal. I’m pretty sure my skillets have built up a protective coating after a century — plus I take good care of them. (And me!)

I’m reaping the flavorful benefits of kitchen savvy and cooking vessels from women I’ve long admired — that goes for you, too, Sis! — and I’m loving it.

Summer Skillet 2

Enjoying a lil’ skillet love,

~ Kim

© 2014 Kim Bultman and a little lunch