Category Archives: Food

Great ideas for today – Happy Independence Day!

We had a lovely dinner last night with two other families. All of the food was wonderful (especially since someone saved my vinaigrette), the company was delightful and I will share some of the recipes here.  The hosts had the new issue of Bon Appetit and the food was gorgeous. They also had some super absorbent dish rack toweling that I am coveting. Maybe some kind reader will write in where to find them.

Here is a bean and tomato salad recipe that is wonderful and takes about 3 minutes to make. Okay, I subbed out the dill for basil because we didn’t have any dill – it is great both ways. I also did not have red onion so used shallot. Also very nice.

bean and tomato salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained
  • 2 1/2 cups halved grape tomatoes (about 12 ounces) or cherry tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed

There was grilled salmon with a pesto sauce that was incredible and grilled chicken and a corn salad that was fresh and lovely. I can’t find those recipes but when I do I’ll put them up. Also an amazing fruit cobbler and the (in)famous Neiman Marcus cookies – a yummy urban myth.

Here is the Bon Appetit Summer Salad Slideshow – all gorgeous.

We will have the quintessential burgers and hot dogs on the grill tonight. A family tradition that I love – even if we expand the tradition to include tuna burgers (Whole Foods, on special for $6.99/lb – worth trying – they were a staple last summer). Added to post: Do not try the tuna burgers at Whole Foods. They were so pepper-y (as in cayenne pepper) that they were inedible. We have been getting these for years and they have been lovely. I am going to return them today. Even my spouse who likes spicy foods did not like them.

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Filed under Feed your head, soul, self, Food, mom blogs, recipes - tried and true

Urban Legend – Neiman Marcus Cookies

Who cares if the story isn’t true? The cookies are amazing….here is the link

http://www.snopes.com/business/consumer/cookie.asp and here, from another site because I couldn’t copy it from Snopes, is the cookie recipe.


Neiman Marcus Cookie Recipe

(Recipe may be halved):
2 cups butter
4 cups flour
2 tsp. soda
2 cups sugar
5 cups blended oatmeal**
24 oz. chocolate chips
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 8 oz. Hershey Bar (grated)
4 eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice)

** Measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder. Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey Bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies.

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Filed under Feed your head, soul, self, Food, recipes - tried and true, there is always chocolate

Ratatouille's ratatouille from smitten kitchen

This is probably the best vegetable dish on the planet. My entire family loves it and it is easy and pretty beyond words. I have made it so much that I no longer need to refer to the recipe. Always inhaled and great the next day. Here are some photos of our process.

The recipe is from the amazing blog smitten kitchen and it is her take on Ratatouille’s ratatouille – yes, as she imagined it from the movie. I imagined the ratatouille but it did not enter my mind to try to replicate it. This goes a long way to erasing the memories of a few years of bumper crops of zucchini. It was years before I could even look at that vegetable…my mom tried to disguise it but we always knew…

As you can see we cut these by hand but a mandoline would be lovely to use here. Go to my Amazon store in the side bar to get one.

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Filed under Feed your head, soul, self, Finds, Food, recipes - tried and true

Ratatouille’s ratatouille from smitten kitchen

This is probably the best vegetable dish on the planet. My entire family loves it and it is easy and pretty beyond words. I have made it so much that I no longer need to refer to the recipe. Always inhaled and great the next day. Here are some photos of our process.

The recipe is from the amazing blog smitten kitchen and it is her take on Ratatouille’s ratatouille – yes, as she imagined it from the movie. I imagined the ratatouille but it did not enter my mind to try to replicate it. This goes a long way to erasing the memories of a few years of bumper crops of zucchini. It was years before I could even look at that vegetable…my mom tried to disguise it but we always knew…

As you can see we cut these by hand but a mandoline would be lovely to use here. Go to my Amazon store in the side bar to get one.

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Filed under Feed your head, soul, self, Finds, Food, recipes - tried and true

Recipes for my mother-in-law’s pressure cooker which is how I still think of it although I have owned it for almost 20 years.

My Mother-in-Law is a sweetheart and early in our marriage gave me a pressure cooker. She told me that I could make dinners in no time flat and it would be great. Well, I was a little nervous about the pressure cooker’s potential to explode so I tried only a few things – chicken soup was the best –  45 minutes and you have homemade chicken soup – overnight if you really want to skim the fat – but still. (Basically one chicken cut up or pieces you like best – thighs make it richer, veggies of choice – carrots, celery and parsnips, garlic and onion if you like – don’t salt it until it is done cooking). So for years that is all I used it for and I still don’t have a decent pressure cooker cookbook but last week I thought…”Hmmm, I don’t really want to cook…it is hot and I am tired…What can I make with minimal effort that my whole family will eat?” of course the answer – boringly – was chicken. What to do? I bought breasts and thighs and some Theo’s Steakhouse Marinade at Whole Foods and I dumped it all into the mighty pressure cooker. Okay, I filled the empty marinade bottle halfway with water to get the rest out and to cover the chicken with liquid. I secured the cover and turned the heat up. I guessed it would be done in about 25-30 minutes and it was just as I wanted it – like pulled chicken from a Barbeque place. I served it on potato rolls (also Whole Foods) and some salad and brown rice and corn on the cob.

Done.

I am baking today which means I can’t write about it now or I will mess it up – chocolate cinnamon cookies and a strawberry pie (we went to a strawberry festival yesterday at Verrill Farm in Concord) and I am also making a salad for a friend with our farm share bounty – red and green lettuce, arugula, radishes, spinach and scallions.

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Filed under Feed your head, soul, self, Food, healthy

Recipes for my mother-in-law's pressure cooker which is how I still think of it although I have owned it for almost 20 years.

My Mother-in-Law is a sweetheart and early in our marriage gave me a pressure cooker. She told me that I could make dinners in no time flat and it would be great. Well, I was a little nervous about the pressure cooker’s potential to explode so I tried only a few things – chicken soup was the best –  45 minutes and you have homemade chicken soup – overnight if you really want to skim the fat – but still. (Basically one chicken cut up or pieces you like best – thighs make it richer, veggies of choice – carrots, celery and parsnips, garlic and onion if you like – don’t salt it until it is done cooking). So for years that is all I used it for and I still don’t have a decent pressure cooker cookbook but last week I thought…”Hmmm, I don’t really want to cook…it is hot and I am tired…What can I make with minimal effort that my whole family will eat?” of course the answer – boringly – was chicken. What to do? I bought breasts and thighs and some Theo’s Steakhouse Marinade at Whole Foods and I dumped it all into the mighty pressure cooker. Okay, I filled the empty marinade bottle halfway with water to get the rest out and to cover the chicken with liquid. I secured the cover and turned the heat up. I guessed it would be done in about 25-30 minutes and it was just as I wanted it – like pulled chicken from a Barbeque place. I served it on potato rolls (also Whole Foods) and some salad and brown rice and corn on the cob.

Done.

I am baking today which means I can’t write about it now or I will mess it up – chocolate cinnamon cookies and a strawberry pie (we went to a strawberry festival yesterday at Verrill Farm in Concord) and I am also making a salad for a friend with our farm share bounty – red and green lettuce, arugula, radishes, spinach and scallions.

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Filed under Feed your head, soul, self, Food, healthy

Cakes: rainbow, chocolate and other

capability mom makes the rainbow cake - spoons Here are some cake recipes that I have posted before but seem to get searched for fairly frequently. I am putting them on the front page to make it easier to find them…not because I am lazy and this is an easy way to post.

Here is the thing. I love to bake but am not especially gifted in this area. Oh, pshaw, Capability Mom, you say, it looks like you are…well, capable. I am capable but I am not inspired. I am a nervous baker and can’t easily adapt a recipe or change part of one that I like and add something else instead. I have friends who are incredible bakers and so I know the difference.

When I made The Whisk Kid’s crazy gorgeous rainbow cake, for instance, I followed her recipe exactly…except when I didn’t. Here is another thing about me – I love to read but not directions…like on cake flour boxes. So I had cake flour and thought how nice it would be to use it for a cake, logical, yes? But I failed to read the box which told you the formula (not difficult – just another tablespoon or so of cake flour for each cup called for in recipe) and when we made the first batch (yes, this was before we had no water – thankfully) – they were flat and full of airholes and some were quite raw. The colors were gorgeous but I knew the cakes were a failure. Sigh. I do so dislike failure.capability mom - cakes in the oven - rainbow cake After determining that all were mostly lost, we remade the cakes with all-purpose flour – as I should have known to do in the first place – and they came out perfectly wonderful round layers.

At this point we called it a night. I had made the base butter cream frosting from The Whisk Kid’srecipe – my first ever – and was thrilled because it was delicious.  I covered it and put it in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, I made the top coat of butter cream frosting and waited for the under or crumb coat frosting to come to room temperature. Despite the heat of the day (and it was so hot), that butter cream remained unspreadable. Rookie that I am, I was too nervous to do anything to it other than jab at it with a spoon (this does nothing) and make 3 or 4 more batches of the top coat (because I had started frosting with that and was now committed to it). Luckily, I had tons of eggs and sugar (and a container of egg whites that vaguely felt like cheating). Why did I not just go to the store and buy Duncan Hines? Because I am stubborn and I was making this cake and it would be from scratch because that would show my daughter that …what, exactly? The lesson learned was that her mom is, if anything, determined and stubborn, yeah, like that is news. I was pretty flustered but mostly capability mom's rainbow cakekept it together (except when I gave up and enlisted two middle schoolers to frost the cake because this is an area of great weakness for me) and I was putting together a party with a moonbounce, cotton candy machine and no water, thank you very much.

It was a success and thrill and surprise to most of the guests and worth the eggs, sugar and time spent. Next time I might read the directions, too.

capability mom rainbow cake

nabisco famous chocolate refrigerator roll We love chocolate at our house – well, except my husband and instead of deeming that a character flaw (which it surely is), I have decided to embrace the positive result of this particular preference which basically means…more for me. It does mean I don’t have to hide chocolate (except from the children…not that I would do that) and I know any stash (if there were such a thing) would never be disturbed even if discovered. So – all good for me. Above is a picture of a easy fun cake to make with kids that a friend just reminded me about (we made it last for a favorite stuffed animal’s birthday party).

Basically it is Nabisco FAMOUS chocolate wafers, whipping cream and vanilla. Here is the recipe from NabiscoWorld.com including the nutritional information – oh, come on, there is some vitamin A in there and some calcium.  My mom made this with us when we were young (it is a classic) and it is so easy (whipped cream and chocolate cookies). Let even the youngest of toddlers stack the cookies and spread the whipped cream. Sure, it’s a little messy but the little ones can make their own and will be so excited about it. Freeze for about 4 hours. When cut on a diagonal (by an adult) it is really cute. Almostrainbow cake cute but a black and white version.  A good project with no baking but you still get a cute, fun cake.

I made the following amazing (I am so modest) chocolate ship cookies for the same friend (a while ago! but talking to her just now made me connect the two) and just made a batch for teacher gifts on Tuesday. Best chocolate chip cookies ever. From the Ghiradelli bag of milk chocolate chips and the Ghiradelli website.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 4 dozen cookies

11 1/2 ounce(s) Milk Chocolate Chips
1 cup(s) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup(s) sugar
3/4 cup(s) brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoon(s) vanilla
2 1/4 cup(s) unsifted flour
1 teaspoon(s) baking soda
1/2 teaspoon(s) salt
1 cup(s) walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)

Directions
Heat oven to 375ºF.

Stir flour with baking soda and salt; set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat butter with sugar and brown sugar at medium speed until creamy and lightened in color. Add eggs and vanilla, one at a time. Mix on low speed until incorporated. Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. I use the milk chocolate chips – or semi-sweet if you must. Really, really good.

I was asked by a friend (the one who also reminded me about the refrigerator cake – we called it zebra cake) if I was going to put this up. I found the recipe in The Boston Globe magazine – it is from the Hi-Rise Bakery in Cambridge and I have been making it for years. I make it as a welcome to the neighborhood cake, a sorry you-don’t feel-well cake, an all-around great dessert. I call it Vanilla Bread – maybe I should rename Brownies as Chocolate Bread.

Vanilla Bean Loaves

Cake:
3 cups flour
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp.
2½ cups vanilla sugar (1 split vanilla bean stirred into the sugar and left for a few days*)
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped*
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
8 eggs

Syrup:
1¾ cups sugar
1 cup water
2 vanilla beans, split and seeds scraped*

For the cake:
Heat the oven to 325°. Generously butter two 8½ x 4½ x 2½ inch loaf pans.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a heavy-duty mixer, using the paddle, cream the butter and vanilla sugar until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla bean seeds to the mixture along with the vanilla extract and eggs. Beat to mix.

Add the flour mixture to the batter and beat with a few turns of the paddle until it is just smooth. With a rubber spatula, fold the batter from the bottom of the bowl into the mixture to make sure it’s well blended.

Divide the batter between the pans. Bake the cakes for 30 minutes, turn the pans around, and continue baking for 25–40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out almost clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Turn the loaves out of their pans and return them to the rack.

For the syrup:
In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the water. Add the vanilla beans and stir so the seeds disperse. Remove from the heat.

Place the cakes on the rack over a piece of wax paper. Brush generously all over—tops, bottoms, and sides—with the syrup. Brush with more syrup as they cool. Cool completely and slice.

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Filed under family Activities, Feed your head, soul, self, Food, rainbow cakes