Thursday, February 24, 2011

2011 Cookbook Challenge: Kumquats

Kumquat Salsa from Simply Recipes

2 cups chopped cleaned and thinly sliced kumquats

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 Tbsp olive oil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Dash of cayenne pepper

Pinch of kosher salt


Combine all ingredients. Add more or less red pepper and cayenne to desired heat. Let sit for 1 hour for the flavors to more fully blend.Makes about 2 1/2 cups of salsa.

Great served with steak or seafood such as halibut, black sea bass, or salmon.

Candied Kumquat Recipe from Simply Recipes
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4 cups of roughly chopped kumquats (roughly 1-1½ lbs.)

1 cup of water

2 cups of sugar


1 With a pairing knife roughly chop the kumquats. Discard any seeds you can that are easy to get too, but they're edible so don't fret if some get chopped up or stay in the fruit. Feel free to leave any small kumquats whole.

 Heat the water and sugar over high heat until it comes to a boil. Simmer for 4 minutes. Add the kumquats and simmer for 10 minutes.

3 Drain the kumquats through a sieve set over a bowl. Return the syrup to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes to reduce the syrup. Combine the kumquats and 1/4 cup of the syrup together.

Serve or jar and refrigerate. Can be stored for up to two weeks.

Kumquat Mojito from Chowhound message boards



7 or so mint leaves

2 tsp sugar

3 tbsp fresh lime juice (1/2-1 lime)

1 1/2 oz light rum

4 kumquats quartered

Muddle the mint leaves with the sugar in the bottom of the tumbler. Toss in the kumquat slices and muddle some more. Pour in lime juice & rum and stir. Dump in some ice and top with club soda, place shaker cup on top, flip and shake gently to mix club soda, flip back and serve. Take a whole kumquat and cut a slit half way through and rest on the rim of the glass. Delicious and refreshing summer adult beverage!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

2011 Cookbook challenge: Crockpot Coq Au Vin

Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cooking

Make It Fast, Cook It Slow: The Big Book of Everyday Slow Cookingis a great slow cooking cookbook. It evolved from Stephanie O'Dea's blog where she challenged herself to A Year of Slow Cooking- using her slow cooker every day to make healthy gluten free meals for her family. I really like this cookbook. The layout is straight forward and easy to read. She uses the slow cooker to make a lot of unconventional items such as desserts or drinks. This is a huge help when preparing a lot of dishes. Having the slow cooker, stove, oven and toaster oven all cranking at the same time definitely increases the chance that we will have everything ready to serve at the same time. She also gives a "verdict" on many of the recipes.

The recipe we tested as her Coq Au Vin recipe. The only modification was that we used dried thyme instead of fresh thyme.

Coq Au Vin

--6 to 8 frozen chicken thighs

--6 slices cooked and crumbled bacon (I used turkey, but you could use PORK)

--8 oz sliced baby portabella mushrooms (they are right next to the regular mushrooms)

--1 cup baby carrots

--1 chopped yellow onion

--3 cloves chopped or minced garlic

--1/2 t black pepper

--1/2 t kosher salt

--1/2 cup chicken broth

--1 1/2 cup cheap red wine (you can use non-alcoholic wine, if you wish)

--2 large fresh thyme sprigs (I really think the fresh thyme is the key, here. Go steal some from your neighbors garden.)

The Directions.

Cook your bacon. I used turkey bacon, and baked it on a broiler pan. Dump the frozen chicken into your crockpot and start layering in the rest of the ingredients. This is really a no-fuss (albeit amazingly gourmetish) preparation. Just throw it all in.

Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. You could cook it on high for 4, but it won't taste as good. The flavors meld so nicely when cooked low and slow.

We served it over pasta. We both really enjoyed this recipe. We felt it needed a little more salt added at the end of finish it. The use of fresh thyme matters. It would have given the dish that subtle, but important extra kick of flavor so make the trip to the grocery store.  Next time, we will lightly sautee the mushrooms in the bacon fat. The mushrooms released a lot of water during the cooking that diluted some of the flavors.

Because chicken thighs are so cheap and this recipe is so easy, I can see this becoming a staple in our week work menu.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2011 Cookbook Challenge: Breaded Pork Chops and Roasted Kohlrabi

Today's recipes come from and Girl's Gone Child.

Content Copyright © 2011 - All rights reserved.

4 to 6 pork chops (bone-in) or boneless pork loin chops 1/2-inch thick

2 c. crushed cracker crumbs

1/4 c. flour

3 tbsp. paprika

2 tsp. sugar

2 tsp. onion

1/4 tsp. oregano

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

salt and pepper

1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Sprinkle pork chops lightly with salt and pepper.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large plastic bag or bowl with lids. Add pork chops and shake.

Bake at 350°F for 1 hour on a shallow sided baking sheet (like a cookie sheet) or until pork chops are tender and juices no longer run pink when poked with a fork.

I halved the recipe and used the boneless pork chops from the Omaha Steaks variety pack. I cooked it in the toaster oven since the regular oven was filled with the kohlrabi from the recipe below. These pork chops turned out really well. The breading had a great flavor and the pork was cooked very well. We will definitely make this again.

Roasted Kohlrabi
 (serves 4)

4 kohlrabi, peeled, sliced ¼ inch thick and cut in half

2-3 T olive oil

2 cloves garlic

salt and pepper

grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450. Peel and slice kohlrabi into ¼ inch slices. Cut in half (if kohlrabies are big, cut in quarters). Mince garlic. Toss kohlrabi, garlic, and oil in a bowl with salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until evenly browned. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and return to oven to brown for about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

I have been struggling with what to do with the kohlrabi from our CSA. Girl Gone Child’s mom to the rescue! This is a fantastic recipe. It was full of flavor. I could have eaten bowl after bowl.

Overall, dinner was a winner!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Movie Review: Easy A and KickAss

Easy A

 Easy A– Easy A is the story of a high school gal who lies about having sex and becomes the school slut – even resorting to accepting gift cards in exchange for lying about having more sex. I really like this movie. The dialogue was witty and sharp. It was one of those movies where you end repeating the lines for months afterwards. My favorite scenes were the ones with her loving, accepting, slightly wacky parents. It was good to see a movie with fun parents. Definitely check it out .

Kick-Ass (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)

Kick-Ass - Wow! I did not expect so much blood. I thought the dialogue was fun and witty. When it took a turn to actually killing – especially bloody killing by an 11 year old I wasn’t quite as enthralled. Overall though I thought it was a good action flick with more of story than we usually see in a movie with that many guns.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2011 Cookbook Challenge: Curry Kohlrabi Carrot Soup

So I made up this recipe all by myself  after pursuing the interweb for some curry carrot soup concoctions:

1.5 lbs carrots
2 medium kohlrabi
8 cups chicken stock
4 Tbsp curry
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Combine all ingrediants in a slow cooker.


It was full of heat and virtually no flavor. The carrots were not sweet enough to offset the cayenne. There was no fat to give the soup body. It does however, make a lot of soup that I am stuck trying to eat for the next week. So I had to figure out how to offset the heat to make it edible.

Here's some useful knowledge:  Acid and dairy offset heat. I added parmesan cheese which helped a little. I added some apple cider vinegar which helped a little and I am serving with a huge dollap of greek yogurt which helps a lot.  There you go - maybe my failure be your learning opportunity.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Book Review: Life After Yes by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

Life After Yes: A Novel

One of the authors I read recommended Life After Yes: A Novel by Aidan Donnelley Rowley on her Twitter feed so I decided to check it out. I was pleased.

Life After Yes follows a young corporate lawyer through her post-engagement freak out. Rowley does a great job creating complex characters. We learn about their relationships with their parents, her drinking problem and the complexities of their relationships from side comments or nuanced references. Reading this novel felt like peeling back an onion layer by layer.  It's a great read to cozy up to on the plane or by the fire. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

2011 Cookbook Challenge: Chicken Adobo with Bok Choy

The February 2011 edition of Real Simple featured Chicken Adobo with Bok Choy. We had all the ingrediants in our fridge and it uses one of my favorite appliances: the slow cooker. I set everything up mid-morning on Sunday so it would be ready by halftime of the 4:00 pm game. It was great being able to just chill out and enjoy the game while everything cooked.


2 medium onions, sliced

4 garlic cloves, smashed

2/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 bay leaf

black pepper

8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 3⁄4 pounds)

2 teaspoons paprika

1 cup long-grain white rice

1 large head bok choy, cut into 1-inch strips

2 scallions, thinly sliced


1.In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine the onions, garlic, vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, bay leaf, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle with the paprika.

2.Cook, covered, until the chicken and onions are tender, on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours (this will shorten total recipe time).

3.Twenty minutes before serving, cook the rice according to the package directions.

4.Ten minutes before serving, if the slow cooker is on the low setting, turn it to high. Gently fold the bok choy into the chicken and cook, covered, until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with the rice and sprinkle with the scallions.

The Verdict - The chicken turned out very tender and moist, but this recipe does need dark meat to work. The sauce had good flavor, but was overly acidic. Next time I make it, I will lower the amount of vinegar and add red wine or stock.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review: An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

I was very excited to hear that Steve Martin had a new novel coming out. I loved ShopGirl so I jumped at this one.

An Object of Beauty: A Novel

An Object of Beauty: A Novel by Steve Martin is a fantastic novel. The story is set in New York City in the art auction community. One of my favorite things about the novel is that it features reproductions of the art pieces to highlight the nuances of the story for those of us art novices. Martin does a great job crafting complex female characters. He tells a story that manages to feel sweet and harsh - all at the same time. I definitely recommend picking this one up.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

2011 Cookbook Challenge: Spiced Peanut Butter Cookies

I just couldn't resist trying this recipe: Wicked Good Peanut Butter Spiced Cookies from Tasty Kitchen. I was intrigued due to the minimal amount of flour and no butter. It was really easy to put together.

•1 cup Peanut Butter

•¾ cups Granulated Sugar Plus Extra For Sprinkling

•¼ cups Dark Brown Sugar (I used light brown sugar)

•1 whole Egg

•2 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour

•½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract

•¼ teaspoons Ground Cinnamon

•⅛ teaspoons Ground Nutmeg

•⅛ teaspoons Salt

•1 dash Coarse Sea Salt, For Sprinkling

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Add all ingredients to a mixing bowl.
Using your mixer, mix on low for a few seconds then turn it up to medium until well blended. I used my hand mixer because I really wanted to try it out. If you don't feel like getting yours out, you could pretty easily combine all the ingrediants by hand.

Roll dough into balls with your hands. I use a big heaping tablespoon, because I’m too poor to buy a proper cookie scoop. I used the trusty melon baller and ended up with 18 cookies.

Place cookie balls on a parchment lined baking sheet. If you have a silicon baking mat, that works just dandy too. I used silicon.

Use a fork to flatten the balls slightly.

Lightly sprinkle the cookies with a little extra granulated sugar and sea salt. All the ridges you added with fork will help adhere the sugar and salt to the cookies. It also makes them look sparkly and pretty. Now this sea salt and sugar step - I don't think I accomplished. The cookies were not sparkly or pretty. The sea salt did not melt so I basically ended up with a large crystal of sea salt on top of the cookie.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Then remove from the oven and let stand on baking sheet for a minute or two, then remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

The Verdict - These turned out very well. I ended up adding a little more salt to the top. The favors were well balanced. The lack of flour made for a rich dense cookie. We'll add this to the cookie line up.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

2011 Cookbook Challenge: Spicy Lemon Garlic Shrimp

I found this recipe on the Pioneer Woman's website


•2 pounds Raw Shrimp, Deveined, Shells On

•2 sticks Cold Unsalted Butter Cut Into Pieces

•1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

•4 cloves Garlic, Peeled

•¼ cups Fresh Parsley

•½ teaspoons Crushed Red Pepper

•1 whole Lemon, Juiced

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse frozen shrimp to separate, then arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.

In the bowl of a food processor, add cold butter, garlic, lemon juice, salt, parsley, and red pepper. Pulse until combined. Sprinkle cold butter crumbles over the shrimp.

Bake until shrimp is opaque and butter is hot and bubbly.

Serve with hot crusty bread. Peel and eat the shrimp, then dip the bread into the butter in the bottom of the pan.

The reason I was attracted to this recipe is that the recipe is designed to use frozen shrimp. I am very good at having a stocked pantry and freezer. I am not so good at remembering to dethaw. The other great piece is that it uses peel-on, uncooked frozen shrimp. These are much cheaper than peeled, cooked shrimp and I can easily stock up when it is on sale.

I adjusted the recipe to use up the 1 pound of frozen shrimp we had left. I didn't have hot pepper flakes so it didn't end up spicy, but both my husband and I found it to be very good. Instead of crusty bread, I used whole wheat pasta to soak up the extra sauce. This made it more of an entree.

Overall - a very good, simple recipe that I will definitely make again.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My 2011 Resolutions

So I definitely have some carry-over from 2010:

Be healthy - Continue the morning gym habit and focus on including more fruits and veggies in my diet.

2011 Cookbook Challenge - Once a week, try a new recipe from a cookbook or blog and post it on this website.

Finances - Get that retirement plan in shape

New this year, I want to:

Continue to blog at least three days a week - I am going to try to keep up the six days a week habit, but giving myself a break makes that a lot easier.

Focus on being home - 2010 felt like a year where most of my time was spent travelling across the country and a couple oceans. It was fun and exciting. I am really feeling a pull this year to scale back on travel - at least cross country travel and spend more time exploring what the Tampa Bay area and Florida has to offer. We are even considering buying a tent to check out some of the nearby campsites. I also want to scale back on the scheduling. I tend to schedule our weekends to be pretty full. I want to keep more time open for opportunities that just pop up.

Check out a couple new ball parks - Even with the focus on staying home, I can't wait to see at least a couple more ball parks.

Capture history - One project that has been on my mind is how to capture our family stories. As we get older, I don't want that to get lost. I got a new video camera for my birthday so I am going to try to get my family members to cooperate in telling their stories in front of it at family gatherings this year.

Write another novel - This year I participated National Novel Writing Month and it was fantastic. As you have read here, I actually finished a novel. I would like to write the sequel to that month in 2011.

What about you? Do you have any resolutions this year?