It’s summer in Texas. Heck, it’s summer everywhere–people are frying steaks and eggs on sidewalks and car hoods. They’re not in Texas, either.
Never fret–I have some nice recipes to keep you cool and comfy.
I caught Valerie Bertinelli’s cooking show last Saturday, and her good friend Faith Ford came by for lunch. Apparently, it was hot in SouCal when they filmed this episode (or they were just pretending) because Valerie didn’t want to turn on the oven. However. . .she did turn on the stove. I mean, how else do you cook lobster tails? While I’m not suggesting anyone go out and buy fresh lobster (I know I’m not, crawfish are the same thing), if you want some, many stores will steam them for you. (I think HEB does.) Valerie’s Lemon Icebox Cake was pretty fast and looked nice and cool. (It does call for Vanilla Wafers.) The episode is called Too Hot To Cook, but cook she does, albeit on the stove top–but not for very long. Want some real fresh-brewed iced tea? They make some, there’s a honey-sweetened recipe in this episode too.
Naturally, I’m up to my summer coffee making:
Now, if you’re thinking about going iced on your coffee, as always, The Coffee Detective has articles to get you started. This one explains how to make iced coffee at home, and this article has specialty cold coffee-based drinks. (Warning: Nick uses alcohol in some of these recipes.) How long does it stay in the fridge? Until I finish it. Which is going on twice a week now.
If you are in an area where it’s that hot, do you now see the wisdom of the Crock Pot? Even my mechanic friend JK is thinking seriously about making nice, cool Overnight Oatmeal after I told him about it. (I forgot to ask The E Man if he’s tried it.) Don’t be embarrassed–get one or two if you don’t have a slow cooker, and if you have a family, consider a larger waffle maker, too, for making brownies, hash browns and all that kind of thing. There is no need to turn on that oven, unless it’s a toaster oven.
Still looking for recipes for your slow cooker? Sign up at All Free Slow Cooker Recipes and get them in your inbox every day. (In addition to my favorite, Pinterest.) A searchable recipe database means you can go find what you want on a dime. Don’t heat up your kitchen in the summer, please.
I’ve already made my first batch of basil pesto for the year, which I didn’t document, because, well, I’ve done it more than once. However, the rooted basil cuttings have now been planted, and I expect a large amount of basil, and subsequently, pesto, in the near future. Last year I was lucky enough to get extra from my visit last year to the Genoa Friendship Garden, so I kind of made out like a bandit with the pesto. I have five containers in the freezer, and since we didn’t have a really cold winter in Texas, I didn’t make as much Pea & Pesto Soup as I thought. However, at some point, I’ll need to get more of those square containers I use to freeze individual batches. Earlier this year, I also broke one, darnit.
Speaking of the garden, I got more tomatoes:
Four more are behind it, and I’m watching the newly planted basil cuttings too. No more strawberries, and the jalapenos are taking their time. The lettuce, is, of course, gone now.
Anyway. . . .
Last weekend, for whatever reason, I pulled a couple of old cookbooks off the shelf and started flipping through them. I wanted to make something different, and wondered if there was anything I could make that I had on hand, or with minimal shopping. Something I hadn’t made in a while, or never tried. Turns out there was. The first recipe, Cool Lentil Salad, is a good one. Why have I never made this before?
The first book in question is Martha Stewart’s Healthy Quick Cook. Published in 1997, this book features elegant but somewhat “lighter” menus, including desserts, that are low fat. (Not all the customer reviews are positive, but that’s OK.) “Casual but sophisticated,” it says on the inside cover. Well, we know what “low fat” usually means–higher in carbs, sugar, salt, and other additives to cut the fat but make it taste good. In these recipes, most everything is made from scratch, as Martha usually does, although I admit to making just a few recipes from the book. Maybe I need to go back and read it again. This salad is made from simple ingredients, quick to make and is a nice, cool addition to a summer dinner.
I can still hear my ex-husband say to me, “You expect me to eat that??” Ah, memories. . . .
Recipe 1: Lentil Salad
Unfortunately, you do cook the lentils on the stove, but only for 10 minutes. After that, it’s just tossing everything together.
The parsley and celery came from the garden, and I really, really needed to cut the parsley. I’m forever telling LK to water the parsley plant she has out front of her house, and. . .mine is watered, but it really needed cutting too. Finally, I cut it. The re-grown celery also needed to be cut, and I took half of that off. (I’ll use the rest in something else.) The lentils. . .well, they’re in a sealed jar, OK? Next trip to Phoenicia, and I’ll re-stock. I haven’t made any lentil dishes since I made Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes earlier this year.
So I started out by boiling the rinsed lentils and garlic in salted water:
And let them simmer for 10 minutes. Meantime, I started chopping celery:
You’ll need half a cup:
When the lentils are, as the book says, “crisp-tender”, that is, cooked but not mushy with a textured bite, drain them:
Discard that garlic, then run the cold water over them:
And toss the lentils into a bowl (your serving bowl, if you like.) Finely chop that red onion (or as best as you can get it):
And add it with the chopped parsley into the bowl.
Now, I have to tell you about my recent little benefit: I was at HEB on a Saturday, and when I was walking into have lunch, I mean, get my shopping, I noticed that someone dropped a big, beautiful red bell pepper. It was just sitting there! I figured someone would go back for it, but when I left HEB, someone carefully perched it on the short concrete pylons in front of the door. So. . .it came home with me. And I said, Thank You.
I put it on the Butusdan for a few days, but noticed it was getting a tad wrinkly. Into the fridge until I figured out what to do with it, and so I tossed it into the lentil salad. The bell pepper was an addition, not part of the recipe:
Now for the dressing: It’s just 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, and 1 teaspoon of warm water. I whizzed that all together with the frother:
Poured it over the salad in the bowl and mixed it together:
It’s pretty darn tasty, and will complement many summer dishes perfectly.
Recipe 2: White Bean & Olive Salad
This tasty throw-together salad only appeared in the Houston Chronicle via The New York Times many years ago. It was an Everyday Food recipe, and was never in a book or on their website–despite my request to add it. Fortunately, I kept the newspaper section in my personal notebook, and have enjoyed it for many years. It’s simple, and uses just a few simple ingredients for a cool, tasty side dish.
There’s a reason I put out three kinds of mustard–because, quite frankly, I think you should have a choice. The original recipe calls for Dijon mustard. However, the first time I made it, I only had Creole Mustard, and have been using it in this recipe ever since.
I think it’s a lot more flavorful than the Dijon, but that’s just me. You could certainly try the grainier variety of Dijon, too.
Why do I have two kinds of Dijon? Because at Trader Joe’s, it’s cheap.
So, you rinse two cans of cannellinni beans, and add them to a serving bowl:
Chop (or halve) a quarter cup of Kalamata olives:
These are the olives, available in most markets:
Add them to the bowl. Now thinly slice half a small red onion (in this case, left from the Cool Lentil Salad):
Time to mix the dressing–and I used my secret weapon again.
Into a small bowl, add 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and one tablespoon of mustard. In my case, I like the Creole mustard in this dish, but the original recipe calls for Dijon:
And out comes the Aerolatte milk frothing tool to mix and emulsify the dressing.
Note that you MUST wash it carefully by hand to get it clean. Don’t want olive oil in your frothed-up latte, do you?
Then it’s just a matter of pouring it over the salad, and mixing it up:
Voila! A tasty no-cook salad that’s quick and delicious anytime. It makes four servings, by the way:
This, too, will hold up in the fridge for a few days. If you can keep your paws out of it. It’s THAT good.
Recipe 3: Ginger Ice Milk
The third recipe, also from Martha Stewart’s Healthy Quick Cook, is Ginger Ice Milk, and takes a bit of prep work before it’s ready to eat. Remember that this book came out in the 90’s, when low-fat was still the prevailing mindset in “healthy.” It calls for 3.5 cups of “low-fat” milk–which is mostly or all sugar, if you didn’t know that. (I’m guessing it’s either skim, 1% or 2%, but it’s still more sugar than fat; whole milk is both sugar and fat.) No way am I going to put a half-cup of sugar into a pitcher of sugar. So, much like lattes and iced coffee, I made it with whole milk, and sweetened it with SomerSweet. (Yes, I still have some.)
I’m not sure whether to call this “ice milk” or “ice cream.” Whatever you call it, you’ll enjoy it in the summer heat.
Warning #1: fresh ginger has a real bite! And, you should observe sitting times and probably not leave it for 2+ hours while heading out for a bike ride. Just 45 minutes of infusion should have done it. (I forget these things.)
Warning #2: If you have an ice cream maker like mine, that requires the freezing of a component (in my case, the bowl) make sure you freeze it ahead of time as instructed. That’s in addition to making the base for the iced treat you’re freezing, and letting it chill completely. Mine from Cuisinart requires 24 hours for the bowl to freeze up properly, and I actually put it in the freezer on Wednesday. If you have one of the fancier ones with an internal compressor (that is, it’s plug-and-play like this one with no freezing beforehand, which cost more), then you don’t need to freeze ahead. One day. . .I’ll get a plug-and-play ice cream maker, or a bigger freezer so that I can keep *two* of the freezer bowls frozen at the ready and make my own ice cream a lot more often. At least I don’t have to make ice for days in advance like I did with the one I used to own.
Warning #3: Ginger can develop a mold on the surface if you leave it too long in the fridge. Like I did:
I only made this to use up the ginger. And, because I like making my own ice cream.
This recipe is dessert for a meal inspired by Japanese cuisine. The protein is <cough> tofu, and there is nori (flat dried seaweed) involved in a “Vegetable Handwrap.” Now, I’ve eaten burritos for quite a number of years, but even I know that it is not possible to chew through the nori wrap! (It’s like chewing aluminum foil lined with plastic wrap–it’s too stiff to make burritos.) Obviously, the rest of that menu will never happen in my kitchen, but the dessert is a good one.
So, it’s pretty simple to make: heat up 3.5 cups of milk with a half-cup of sugar (I used SomerSweet), and stir, but don’t boil:
Warm until the sugar or sweetener dissolves, and whisk occasionally to make sure it does.
While that’s happening, peel the ginger (recipe calls for a 3-inch piece, but good luck finding that to spec). I learned from Martha to scrape the peel off using a spoon. Then slice it like the red onion above:
When the sweetener has dissolved, add the fresh ginger, lower the heat and let it lightly simmer for 15 minutes. Then take it off the heat, add the grated ginger, and let it infuse for 45 minutes:
It was at this point that headed out on the bike for 90 minutes. That’s where the powerful ginger taste came from. It’s almost hot, no kidding.
After 45 minutes, remove the ginger pieces (I had to strain out the tiny bits):
Then let it cool, then chill it thoroughly. (This is why you plan ahead.)
Once it’s cool (and you’ve frozen your bowl, if need be), it’s time to make this into a sweet treat.
Now, there’s something I found unusual with this recipe. See where the milk level is? Well, start to finish took about 40 minutes (and thank heavens for earbuds, that machine is loud.) But as it churned, the mixture sort of expanded:
Now get a look at it right before I turned the machine off:
I’ve never seen that happen before. But it was time to shut it off, and I did.
Theoretically, the square glass container on the right should have been elegant sufficiency. However, I had to resort to putting the “overflow” in another container. Well, that’s OK–it’s sugar free, I’ll have it whenever I want some. (I also have some cantaloupe sorbet in a separate glass container, sitting underneath these two.
One thing I noticed is that when I put this dish in the freezer with a spoon, it didn’t freeze hard like ice cream does:
Checking the containers in the freezer, they’re not frozen hard, either. So, you’ll have to eat this quickly before it melts.
Oh, and I also ate the “crumbs” I scraped off the inside of the freezer bowl:
Delicious–but let me repeat the warning that ginger can be quite spicy, and it gives a bite to this frozen dessert. I may have left it infuse too long. But it’s SOOOO good!
Recipe 4: Quinoa, Pea & Mint Salad
The last recipe is actually on page 17 of Martha Stewart’s Dinner At Home, a book similar to the ill-received Healthy Quick Cook, but without the “healthy” connotation. Like the first book and one or two before it, the menus are arranged by season to take advantage of what’s available. They don’t call this a “healthy” cookbook, but for the most part, it is–elegant made from scratch dishes using easy to find fresh ingredients. I made this from what I had already, plus mint from the garden, and I have to say, it’s quite good. So let’s make some!
I bought that chicken stock for something else a long time ago, and I finally used it. Peas I try to keep around for Pea and Pesto Soup, so that’s only a cup. I have quinoa as well, and that’s a cup. The mint, of course, came from the garden. So, let’s make this one.
First, put the chicken stock (or broth) in the pot, then rinse the quinoa:
Heat it to boiling, cover and simmer for 10 minutes:
After 10 minutes, add the peas, fresh or frozen:
Cover and let this simmer for another 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, remove it from the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and then 3 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil:
Mix well, and then add into a serving dish (which is probably cool):
Let this sit for five minutes or so to cool a bit, uncovered. Then stir in the mint. I just added the leaves whole, since they weren’t big. If you have big leaves, tear them a little or even chop a little:
Mix it up well, and serve either warm or room temperature. If you’re doing the weekly cooking thing, this will sit in the fridge all week and hold up just fine. Best to cook after the sun goes down, or if you’re the hardy type, before the sun comes up. (I used to do that.)
Now, if you’ve got grilling on your mind, the July/August issue of Hobby Farms magazine has a quick recipe for Grilled Bell Pepper and Tomato Kabobs with Herbs and Olive Oil. I haven’t tried this one, but it looks tasty and is simple. It would go well with an outdoor grilled dinner.
More farm-type recipes are available on their website. This month’s issue also includes a Letter to the Editor about foot rot in sheep. EWWWW, poor babies! If you see a sheep kneeling to graze, that means it’s in pain and needs immediate medical attention. But if you do have sheep, you’ll likely smell it, too.
What will you have that will keep your house from feeling like a HeatCageKitchen? (Go to the Recipes page for PDF files for all these tasty dishes.)
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
I’ve had a lot happen since my last post, including. . .car repairs. I missed last week’s gardening lecture at the library, darnit, and I missed seeing our Miss Shirley. Soon as I get the Texas state inspection finished and the registration sticker taken care of, I’ll be rolling for another year (we hope.)
If you haven’t heard, Starbucks is revamping their My Rewards program. Some frequent-customer math majors have figured out that due to the new 2-points-per-dollar-spent, members will have to spend a total of $62.50 in order to get a free thing. Currently, points are issued per transaction, no matter how much you spend, whether it’s a small coffee or a $7 salad or your favorite over-sweetened coffee-tasting drink thing. The new program will be strictly on what you spend, so big spenders get free stuff faster, but occasional visitors like me might be longer for a free thing. One complaint levied was that customers were requesting each item rung separately, giving them more points but holding up the lines. Starbucks will be keeping the “star dash” days, where you buy a certain thing, or use the mobile order app, or come in after a certain time and get extra stars; that’s how I’ve “profited” with it. I check the emails from Starbucks and use them accordingly, paying attention and getting extra stars now and again for different things. These promotions will continue.
I got my latest free thing on Monday, another salad. Because I managed to get extra points on Tuesday for something else I wanted, my next free thing expires 4/28. Woo hoo! It pays to pay attention, folks. The newly revamped program goes live on April 12, and if you’re already enrolled, you’ll be rolled up into the new program. Any points you have will be carried over and multiplied by 11, so it behooves one to get 11 points by the 11th of April to get 121 points to start with. (I’m not a complete math dunce.) If you are already enrolled, pay attention to your emails so you’ll know when the “extra point” days are, especially Mondays, and rack up 11 points before COB April 11th.
Easter is this weekend, and our lovely new HEB will be closed on Sunday. I ducked in today to pick up some milk and a few other things. Well, as usual, while I shop in the daytime, I basically had lunch at HEB. Salmon burgers, chips with a very hot guacamole, a sip of fresh orange juice, some ham, and samples of one of these Bavarian Cream Fruit Pies that the demo lady was happy for me to have:
There’s also a larger one for $16. I did not bring one home, and I’ll be working hard to rid myself of the three samples she offered me today. They’re “freshly made in the store,” but. . .here’s how. I’m guessing the crusts are baked in the bakery, and then something called “Bavarian Cream” is poured from a huge plastic tube into the crust. then it’s topped with fruit, then with a glaze, then sweetened whipped cream is piped on the rim. Then for an extra touch, some crumbles are sprinkled on top. It’s not an overly sweet treat, and not as heavy as the kinds of desserts served during the holidays, but it’s pretty good. At least, I thought it was until I saw the “Bavarian Cream” poured into the crust. Oh, well.
On the way out I saw a stuffed toy I know you’ll just want two of, and if you have children or grandchildren, you’ll want to put these in their Easter basket:
Yes, those are stuffed armadilloes.
No kidding. Cute, but I passed on it. This time.
I’ve had some venison in the freezer for quite some time, a gift from Neighbor J upstairs from one of his West Texas hunting trips. It was a small wrapped package with just a few pieces, but I decided to use it. Haven’t had venison in a while, and I decided to. . .oh, you know what I did with it. After I used my multi-bladed hand-held meat tenderizer on it and put plenty of oil on it, then seasoned it up:
And why not? After Sunday’s burned waffle mishap. . .oh, nevermind. These turned out pretty good for a quick dinner.
See what I mean about your waffle maker being an indoor grill? Of course, I’m now concerned that with all the use and scrubbing I might rub off the finish. I’ll worry about that when the time comes (the plates are $40 to replace.) I could have just used the grill plates, but. . .why? Next time.
Anyway. . . .
Spring is here, sort of, and I’ve been enjoying the last gasp of winter. Well, we think it is. . .a few years ago, we had 40-degree days in MAY. But not many of them. Every time I put away my favorite warm winter boots, I have to take them out again. Yesterday I was bundled in socks and a long-sleeved shirt, but all last week, like today, it’s t-shirts and shorts. That’s life on the Gulf Coast. Folks in the northeast are still shoveling snow, Which brings me to today’s blog post.
It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I have all but one of her books (I just haven’t gotten the latest yet, nor Nigella Lawson’s) and honest, I don’t think I’ve ever cooked up anything bad from a BC book. I recently made one of my favorites–twice–once the week I got sick and the second time, because Neighbor E was given some delicious carrots as big as his forearm. (OK, they were big like cucumbers.) Like the potatoes I turned into waffled hash browns, carrots are not something I have often because of the high sugar content. When he gave me the carrots, I knew what I was going to make: Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes.
This recipe is from the 2006 Barefoot Contessa At Home, which I’d ordered online for my birthday, and requested it autographed. I forgot about that until I saw the invoice in the book, and looked at the title page. Yep, that’s the one.You can order any one of her books autographed here, very easily; that’s what I did for this book. Oh, look! I don’t yet have Make It Ahead, and now she’s got a new book coming in October. Cooking for Jeffrey! (That’s her hungry husband, if you didn’t know that.) Awww. . .I wonder if he’ll be going on her book tour with her this time. Probably not, he’s a busy guy. I’ll get that last book one of these days.
So, Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes.
It’s one of those recipes where you have just a few steps, put it all in the pot and let it cook. When you’re done, you have this warm, tasty bowl food that you know you will look forward to making again. This second time, I made a double batch so I could give some to both E and Neighbor R. E texted a couple of days later that he really enjoyed the “lentil soup.” It’s not lentil soup, but that’s OK. He’d added one or two things to it, but he liked it, and so did R. So. . .three thumbs up.
Ready to make it? Here’s how it goes:
First, you heat the 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large saucepan. (I used a chili pot, same one I use for popcorn, but any large pot will do.) Your carrots should be scrubbed clean and large diced like this:
Your onions should also be large diced:
And toss that into the pot with the carrots on medium-low heat, cooking for 8 to 10 minutes until the onions start browning; stir with a wooden spoon occasionally.
Chop up the garlic, and cook for one more minute.
Used my little red garlic do-dad for this job:
Easy, and no smelly hands (if you’re lucky.) So while that’s going on, open up that can of plum tomatoes and dump the whole thing into your food processor:
Blitz it a little with the pulse button to coarsely chop them. Also, if you’ve not done this already, rinse and pick over the lentils to make sure there aren’t any stones or dirt in them.
Now add the tomatoes, along with the lentils:
The chicken broth:
And the 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh thyme:
If you don’t have fresh, you could use 3/4 of a teaspoon dried thyme. (I recommend fresh, though.) You also add the curry powder, salt and pepper at this point.
Raise the heat to make it boil, then lower the heat and cover it. Then you just let it cook until the lentils are tender, about 40 minutes. Check it to make sure it’s still simmering occasionally. When it’s done, and the lentils are soft, remove it from the heat and let it sit for 10 minutes, then add 1 tablespoon of a good red wine vinegar. Stir, season to taste (if you like) and serve it hot.
Ta-dah! Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes.
Actually, the liquid cooks down, and I guess I forgot to take another picture when it was done. So here’s the picture from the book, which is pretty much what I ended up with and brought to my two taste-testers:
It’s just a little side dish, but it sure does pack a lot of flavor. Just the thing when you want something warm, cozy and satisfying. I have a note in my book to make a double batch–it’s that good. And if you use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock–it’s vegetarian! Wait, it’s vegan too, right? OK–it’s “meat free,” “wheat free,” and “soy free.” I don’t care, it’s just so tasty and good that I should make it more often than I do.
One thing, though–because it’s higher in carbohydrates (starch) than, say, a sweet potato, make sure you have some protein with it too, or you might find your self in need of a nap. The first time I made some for dinner with AC, I had some the next day and promptly needed to sleep. That was Tuesday. On Friday, my lungs started burning when I coughed, so I figured out that it probably wasn’t the lentils, but the bronchitis. If you’re sensitive to high carb stuff, have some chicken or something so you don’t need a nap. Especially if you have some at lunchtime at work.
If you do fall asleep at your desk, you’re on your own. You could pretend you were in prayer, but I don’t know if that will work or not.
Lentils aren’t as common in cuisine in the US as they are in other places, like India. They sure are good, though, and this recipe can show you how good they can be. (I think I have a lentil salad recipe in the new Giada book, but I’ll check on that soon.) If you do like lentils, I hope you get inspired to try this dish. A printable PDF file of this recipe is also on the Recipes page with an ingredient list and exact directions.
So what are you waiting for? Go get some lentils! Easter is Sunday, and you won’t go wrong with this dish. . .unless you don’t make enough.
Happy Easter, and Happy Dining!