Rhubarb Mojito

swellkid

I love a seasonal cocktail.  When the weather warms up I tend to go with lighter, sweeter drinks.  I attended a great cocktail party class at Hipcooks Portland last night and learned how to make a perfect mojito.  As luck would have it I scored some fresh local rhubarb as well.  Combine the two and you’re in for a tart, tasty treat.

Rhubarb Simple Syrup

  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 C. water
  • 1 stalk of rhubarb, sliced

Combine the sugar, water, and rhubarb in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Boil for one minute and set aside to steep for twenty to thirty minutes.  Strain through a sieve, pressing on the solids.  Discard the solids or eat them (they are yummy).

For one Rhubarb Mojito

  • ice
  • 2 oz. white rum
  • 1 oz. rhubarb simple syrup
  • 4-5 fresh mint leaves
  • 2 oz. club soda

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. …

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Fava Bean Fever

Fava beans are coming in to season. They are a bit of work, but totally worth the effort!

swellkid

The farmer’s markets have been featuring gorgeous fava beans the last few weeks.  They are a bit time consuming to prepare, but since they are only in season a few weeks a year, it’s worth the extra effort!

  • 2 lbs. fresh fava bean pods (yields about 1 1/2 C. prepared beans)
  • salted, boiling water
  • 1 T. fresh mint, chopped
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 t. olive oil

First remove the beans from the outer pod by splitting the pods open with your fingers.  Inside the pods you’ll find 4-5 beans.

The beans have a coating on them that also needs to be removed.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Drop the beans in and boil for 1 minute only.  Have a bowl of cold water ready.  When one minute is up, quickly remove the beans from the boiling water and drop them into the…

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Braised Short Ribs

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Six years ago I was teaching half time and staying home half time with my preschooler. Even though I was very busy, I was home a lot more and so my cooking was slower, more complex, and frankly, better.  I had the time to devote to marinades and slow roasting. Now, teaching full time, our family dinners are more likely to be tacos or spaghetti. Or maybe even taco spaghetti. So, now in this time of self-isolation I suddenly have all this time on my hands.  I am getting back to my love of cooking and slow food.  I am extremely grateful that I am in the position to be at home doing all this cooking, and thankful to those who are working to keep everyone safe.

In the case of braised short ribs, the more time you have the better they will be. Plan on two or three per person depending on the size, some butchers cut them long, and some cut them square, long cuts usually have more meat. I recommend buying about one pound per person. I started making these from a great cookbook by Lucinda Scala Quinn called Mad Hungry, but over the years have modified and changed it so that it’s now sort of a cousin to hers. Plan ahead, the total cooking time is about 3 1/2 hours, plus time to marinate.

  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 leeks, cleaned and sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 C. full bodied, fruity red wine, like a cabernet or a zinfandel
  • 1/2 C. soy sauce
  • 1/4 C. brown sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • about 6 lbs. of short ribs

In a big roasting pan or casserole dish, toss together the garlic, leeks, carrots, and celery.  In a small bowl combine the wine, soy sauce, and brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour the wine combination over the veggies in the pan.

Sprinkle the short ribs all over with salt and pepper and turn them in the veggie-wine mixture to coat them.  Nestle them all snug together and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Let the ribs marinate for at least two hours, or up to overnight.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the plastic wrap and put the pan, uncovered, in the oven to braise for one hour.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and braise for another hour. Turn the ribs over and braise for another hour.  If your liquid is evaporating too much, add a little water to the pan to keep the ribs cooking in liquid. At the end of the third hour, they should be very dark in color and glossy.  You will have this incredibly rich veggie infused sauce to spoon over them.  Let them rest for 20-30 minutes before serving with mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles.

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Easy Focaccia

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When I say easy, I mean easy.  I do not mean quick.  Focaccia from start to finish will take most of, or all of a day to make.  Making it takes just a few simple steps, but there is wait time in between.  So, make this because it’s fun and easy- when you have a lazy day to putter around the house.  Trust me, you don’t even have to knead it!  A note about flour: you can use all-purpose flour exclusively for this if you prefer.  Bread flour will add more gluten to the finished bread, which will give your bread more of a chewy texture, but bread flour is not essential. On the other hand, you can use all bread flour if you like. I like a mix of both.

  • 2 1/2 Cups of hot tap water
  • 1 t. active dry yeast, I use Saf-Instant yeast.
  • 1 T. honey or granulated sugar
  • 3 C. bread flour
  • 2 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • Kosher Salt (about 3 T. if using Diamond Crystal, 2 T. if using Morton’s Coarse Kosher- some salt is saltier than others!)
  • 1/2 C. extra virgin olive oil, divided (any type is fine, the better the oil, the better the bread will taste obvs.)

Combine the hot water with the yeast and honey, or sugar in a bowl.  Stir to dissolve and wait two or three minutes, or until foam begins to form on the surface of the water. If, after 5 minutes there is no foam, then your yeast is inactive (dead, …sniff), and you need to get some new yeast. IMG_5258

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and 2 T. of Diamond Crystal salt, or 1 T. of Morton’s Kosher.  Pour in the yeast and water mixture and 1/4 C. of the olive oil. Stir with a wooden spoon for about 30 strokes, or until the dough is just combined- it will look lumpy and craggy. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit on the kitchen counter for about three hours, or until the dough has doubled in volume.

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The dough is just combined.

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The dough has risen for about two hours and is almost doubled in volume.

Prepare a large rimmed baking sheet by drizzling about 1/8 C. of the olive oil over it. Once the dough has risen enough, (you can let it sit all day if you want, but two hours is the minimum needed) peel it out of the bowl and plop it down on the oiled baking sheet.  Gently press and flatten it into a rectangle with your hands and let it rest for 30 minutes.

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After 30 minutes of rest time, it should be a little easier to stretch and press the dough to cover the whole sheet pan.  Dimple the dough all over with your fingertips. Combine 1 T. of the Diamond Crystal salt, or 1/2 T. of Morton’s, with 1/3 C. hot water.  Stir until the salt is dissolved.  Pour the brine mixture all over the bread allowing it to pool in the dimples. Let the dough rest again for another 30 minutes.

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Drizzle with about 1 T. of olive oil and sprinkle with a final pinch of salt.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and puffy.

Allow to cool on a rack before cutting into squares. Keep at room temperature, wrapped in foil for one or two days, or wrap with plastic wrap and freeze.

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How to Make a Peeps Wreath

You don’t have anything better to do right now…

swellkid

So I got it in my head that I needed to make a wreath out of Peeps for Easter.  I don’t know where it came from, just a need to decorate for the season I guess.  This project cost me a little under $20 and took about 40 minutes to make.  It has been hanging up outside under cover for two days and still looks great; of course I am hoping it makes it to the end of the week for Easter!

  • 1 foam wreath form, 14-16 inches
  • Wide yellow ribbon, about 4 yards
  • A hot glue gun
  • Lots and lots of Peeps, I used 100

Secure one end of the ribbon to the wreath form with hot glue.  Wrap the ribbon tightly around the wreath form to cover it, using a dot of glue every so often to secure it.

 

Continue wrapping until the whole wreath form is covered. …

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Scallops, Clams, and Shrimp with Vermouth and Orange Broth

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This is a wonderful dish to serve for a special occasion or romantic evening when you want to spend some time together in the kitchen.  It’s the kind of recipe that makes you feel fancy and accomplished in the kitchen, although it’s really easy to do with the right tools and ingredients. Prep everything ahead so that you can focus on the quickly-cooking shellfish. Serve this with some crusty French bread, butter, and a crisp, white wine.  Serves 2.

  • 6-8 large shrimp with their peels
  • 6-8 large sea scallops
  • 2 lbs steamer clams, scrubbed and rinsed
  • 1 t. olive oil
  • peel of one orange, try to get as little of the white pith as you can
  • 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 C. dry white vermouth, such as Cinzano, plus a splash for deglazing (about a tablespoon)
  •  salt and pepper
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1/2 C. white wine
  • 2 T. chopped fresh parsley

Start by making a quick shrimp stock.  Peel the shrimp and leave the tails on. Don’t throw away the peels. Heat 1t. of the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the reserved shrimp peels, the orange peel, red pepper flakes, and the smashed garlic. Saute until the shrimp peels turn orangey-pink and begin to brown. About two minutes. Add the dry vermouth and let the liquid bubble up for about a minute.  Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Add 1 cup of water and simmer for ten minutes. Fish out the orange peels and discard.

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Pour the remaining liquid and shells into a blender (a smoothie maker is perfect for this) and blend until it’s as smooth as you can make it.  Strain the liquid into a clean container and set aside.

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Meanwhile, saute the scallops. Pat the scallops dry with a paper towel and season them on each side with salt and pepper.  Heat a regular (not a nonstick) frying pan over medium high heat.  Melt 1 T. of the butter and allow it to foam up, swirl the pan to coat the bottom.  Add the scallops and cook for about two minutes on each side.  You might be tempted to flip them too soon- if you try to flip one and it sticks, the scallop is not ready to be flipped.  Once it’s got a nice brown crust on it it will release from the pan easily and be ready to flip over. Cook the scallops until they are just done, with golden brown crust on each side- no more than 4 to 4 and a half minutes total. Place the scallops on a plate and set aside. Deglaze the pan by pouring in a splash of vermouth and scraping up the brown bits – add this liquid to the container of shrimp stock. Toss the shrimp into the hot pan and saute them until opaque and beginning to brown- about three minutes. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan or Dutch oven with a lid, pour the shrimp stock, the white wine, the rest of the butter, and 1 1/2 C. water. Turn the heat on to medium-high. When the liquid starts to simmer, dump in the clams and cover with the lid.  The clams are done when their shells are fully open, which takes about four minutes from the time the liquid starts to boil. Discard any unopened clams.

To serve, divide the clams, scallops, and shrimp evenly between two shallow bowls. Ladle the hot broth from the clam pot over the top. Garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.

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Holiday Cookies and Candies

I haven’t had the time in the last two years to post many new recipes. My job as an elementary school teacher and my second job as a mom of two makes it pretty tough to carve our the time to create and test new recipes.  We are pretty much just eating a lot of tacos and spaghetti.

My favorite thing about having a food blog is that I have this giant archive of all of our favorite family recipes that I can go back to and search and revisit. Even if I don’t post anything new, I still use it all the time to make our favorite dishes.  At this time of year I use it for all of our favorite holiday treats.  Here is a list of my best cookies and candies for you and your family to enjoy!  Merry Christmas!

Chewy, Crisp, Gingery Mollasses cookies: 

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Sicilian Almond Cookies, simple and festive:

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Almond Apricot Amaretti, Chewy and Gluten Free! 

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Chewy Chocolate Ginger Cookies

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Boozy Rum and Pecan Bon Bons

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Peanut Butter Bon Bons

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Sea Salt Caramels 

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English Toffee

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