My (personal) Best Chocolate Chip Cookie: Dip, Eat, Repeat…

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A silver plate of chocolate chip cookies and milk on a cloth napkin
I know these are serious times. We are watching and waiting for life to go back to a more normal kind of scary.

In the meantime, as our global world, and more specifically, this small bit of my world that is located in King County within the Pacific Northwest, where our twelve legs reside (and ten spend time in the kitchen), we turn to something humble and familiar. A batch of cookies. Simple and comforting cookies that bring melted butter and sugar together, take a swing dance with flour, salt and baking powder, stir in vanilla and chocolate to reward us with fresh-from-the-oven comfort and success.

My late Grandpa George (on my Father’s side) taught me to dip cookies properly! In a tall glass of cold, whole milk; holding them just long enough to get moist, but not soggy and never too dry. If he were here today, he would tell us all to keep a positive mind, which can heal even a weak body, eat lots of cookies and be sure you dip them in milk.

He would also be taking in more stray dogs, giving them shelter and food, knowing that their capacity for love was larger than our own and rewards us with healing powers too.

I have been craving chocolate chip cookies for months now. Well before toilet paper, hand sanitizer and masks became the most coveted commodities.

We could be talking about doom and gloom, but let’s talk about the humble and almighty, classic chocolate chip cookie instead!

There are so many recipes out there. How is that possible? So instead of just winging it again, a long while back, I went to Pinch of Yum for a little inspiration and instruction (rather than making my “healthy” low butter, whole wheat, cardboard cookies yet again). I found this post and have been referring to it since (and that makes my husband happy…).

I love a soft cookie but actually prefer it to have a crisp edge.  I don’t want it to be burnt (like my Dad) and certainly not doughy. It should be light and fluffy; soft and gooey. This recipe hits all the marks! I think Lindsay’s secret is in the melted butter, which seems weird at first, but works.

I always cut back on sugar, because most desserts just seem too sweet; that’s what I did here. In fact, the sugar in this recipe is replaced by Monkfruit sweetener.

No skimping on the chocolate though. Now’s a good time to use that good dark chocolate bar that you have been saving. Break into the milk chocolate that is stashed away for your secret craving, or just buy a good bit of chocolate specifically to make these! Yes, do that (but only if you have to go the grocery store anyways)!

For the chocolate, we splurged on Lilian’s Chocolate Chips which have Stevia rather than sugar (because we can all stand to cut down on sugar).

The butter I use is 100% Irish (and not because of a nod to St Paddy’s Day, but if that helps, then go with it).  You can use any butter you like, preferably without salt. No fake butter allowed though! Seriously. I can’t believe I actually have to say that.

The flour. Let’s talk about flour.

I have been sabotaging my own baking for years. I tried making them healthy with whole wheat, or buckwheat, or whatever flour, other than white flour, that a nutritionist might conjure up. Today, we are using white flour, but, for the record, not just any white flour; we are using bread flour.  

DO NOT Overcook! Unless you like them crisp (or burnt, of course). Enough said. Or is it? Let me know?

A silver plate of chocolate chip cookies and milk on a cloth napkin

Dip, Eat, Repeat!

Zoe: Ahhhhh, Spring is near.
Winston: I smell something cooking, or is that you roasting Zoe?

Zoe: La-zzz-y weekends…
Winston: The only thing that’s going to get me off this couch is food. I hope mom used carob in those cookies so I can have one.

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Light & Fluffy Chocolate Chip Cookies

A silver plate of chocolate chip cookies and milk on a cloth napkin

Adapted from Pinch of Yum’s, “Best Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies”, these are a cut above the rest of the recipes out there (in my humble opinion, of course). The melting of the butter first may be the trick to their texture.

These take minimal time to make and will satisfy the cookie monster in all of us.

  • Author: Stacey Bender
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 9-10 minutes
  • Total Time: 58 minute
  • Yield: 24 cookies 1x
  • Category: dessert snack
  • Method: baked
Scale

Ingredients

2 sticks of butter (16 TB), melted and cooled (I use Irish butter) Note: I tried my last batch with 12 TB butter and 2 TB olive oil.

1/2 cup raw Turbino sugar

1/2 cup brown coconut sugar (I tried my last batch with 1/3 cup)

2 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 large eggs

3 cups bread flour (I used King Arthur’s)

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

1 cup chocolate chunks (cut from a mix of milk chocolate and dark chocolate bars)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350-degrees F
  2. Using a stand or hand mixer, on high speed, cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla bean paste.
  3. Add the eggs and blend, on medium speed, just until incorporated (approximately 15 seconds).
  4. Add the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder. Mix, gradually increasing speed until the mixture comes together and forms a crumbly, wet mound of dough.
  5. Add in the chocolate and mix on high until just incorporated.
  6. Form into 24 clumps and shape into cattywampus balls as you put them on 2 baking sheets.
  7. Bake for 9 minutes then check for doneness. They should be just beginning to turn golden and will have puffed a bit with the chocolate chunks melted. If they still seem wet and not cooked, cook another minute or two but beware of over-cooking!
  8. Let them sit on the baking sheet until they are completely room temperature (unless, of course, you are eating them warm; in that case, by all means, dig in after they are cool enough to touch).

Notes

This recipe easily doubles.

If you like, you can add more chocolate chips, chunks or pieces.

If you like nuts in your cookies, mix them in when you mix in the chocolate.

Keywords: Soft chocolate chip cookies

 

 

 

 

Mexican Made Easy! Mole Pork Tacos (rapidemente)


a gluten-free pork mole taco with lettuce and radish on a black cutting board

Ahhhh, he just might be right after all.  No, not Winston, and certainly not Tom, but that pesky Groundhog.  Let’s just say, Phil let us down in our neck of the woods last year. But, signs of young green leaves (and even color) are popping up, and it was a gloriously sunny (but damn cold) day. So lets say Phil had a reprieve. I think he knew it was a special day for another furry friend.

So let’s bring on the warmth from the South and wipe down that kitchen window to let more light in!

This particular cut of pork, the loin cut, packs a punch of flavor and pulls apart in juicy moistness thanks to pressure cooking and Oaxacan Mole Sauce by Bunches of Bunches Provisions.

What’s this all about?

Well, I’m glad you asked!

Having had purchased two duck hindquarters during one of my binge grocery shopping trips, duck mole was on my mind! Wait, wasn’t she just talking about pork?!

Oh baby, these are the dinners (my) dreams are made of.

Imagine my disappointment when I found the duck showing signs that the grocery trip had been a few days longer ago than I thought…

Disappointed as I was that I had already worked up my dinner plans, only to make that unfortunate discovery, I swiftly (albeit begrudgingly) switched my focus to finding “plan B” (AKA, freezer diving for replacement meat). I wasn’t willing to exit the train to Mole Town so soon!

I scanned the freezer until I spied something promising and pulled out two, 2-inch thick cut fillets of pork loin and immediately went to work.

Thaw meat.

Put in Zip-lock bag.

Add stuff (in this case: Cara Cara orange skin (can also use blood orange or other sweet orange) and segments, plus 3 TB previously mentioned mole sauce).  

Let marinate (I didn’t have a lot of time to spare though, so rather than an overnight stay in the fridge, this concoction only took a one-hour soak).

Pat meat dry then brown the meat.

Add liquid (fresh-squeezed orange juice).

Pressure cook!

Add to taco shells with other good stuff.

Rapidemente!

Winston: “Hey, why did Mom throw out the duck?”
Zoe: “I don’t know; we like duck!”
Winston: “She knows you turned 11 today, right?”
Zoe: “Well, I’m not wearing my rain hat…” (editors note: FINALLY a sunny day in the PNW) Winston” “Happy birthday little sis. It looks like she made a special treat for us too!”

A big toast to my little Speedy Gonzales! Zoe turned a young 11 today and still only looks and acts like she is 3 1/2 years old!

Can we please throw a party?

Never one to miss a party! -GB

“Ginger (Princess) Bender: portrait by Bill Casto” (AKA, Grandpap)

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Mole Pork Tacos with smashed avocado, radish & lettuce

These can be made very quickly for an effortless week night dinner, but would easily be welcome for lunch, brunch or as part of a taco bar to serve to a crowd.

The pork is lean but flavorful and could also be used in quesadillas or stuffed poblanos just as well.

I am not one to use jarred sauces but Bunches of Bunches Provisions was a happy discovery! Now I can enjoy a more authentic Mexican meal without the traditional time intensive process.

  • Author: Stacey Bender
Scale

Ingredients

2 Cara Cara Oranges, torn into segments (with skin on)

3 TB (for marinade) + 1-2 TB (for cooked pork) Oaxacan Mole Sauce by Bunches of Bunches Provisions

1lb pork loin cut into 2 thick pieces

1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice

Olive oil for browning

Hard taco shells (see note)

Crisp lettuce, cleaned, dried and sliced (approximately 1-2 leaves per taco)

Thinly-sliced radishes (approximately 1 radish per taco)

Avocado (approximately 1/8 large per taco)

1 tsp Fresh salsa per 1/4 avocado

Lime juice for seasoning

Sea salt and pepper for seasoning

Torn cilantro, cleaned and dried

Instructions

  1.  Squeeze the orange segments into a Ziplock bag and add 3 TB mole sauce. Add the pork, turning to coat. Squeeze out air, seal and put in refrigerator until ready to cook. You can let it sit overnight or if short on time, try to let it sit for at least 1 hour.
  2. Remove pork from bag (reserve marinade) and pat dry.
  3. In the bowl of an electric pressure cooker (or Instant Pot or sautè pan, brown pork in olive oil. If using an electric pressure cooker or Instant Pot, turn to high pressure and set time for 20 minutes. Pour over the 1/2 cup fresh orange juice and reserved marinade. Close the lid and press start.
  4. When the pressure naturally releases, open the lid, remove the orange segments and shred the pork with two forks; add a TB or more of the mole to taste.
  5. In a medium-small bowl, combine the avocado, sea salt, pepper, lime juice and salsa. Smash with a fork until combined but chunky. Stir in some chopped cilantro.
  6. Heat the taco shells in a 350-degree oven for 5-8 minutes.
  7. Put the pork down in the bottom of the shells first.
  8. Top with the lettuce, radish, then avocado smash.

Serve immediately!

Notes

I love San Juan Island brand salsa or Salsa Rosa brand, medium hot.

I like to add some additional torn, fresh cilantro on top.

I also like to drizzle some fresh crema over top. Simply mix plain yogurt or sour cream with fresh lime juice and/or a bit of water and stir well to get a good drizzling consistency.

Cabbage is also a fine substitute for lettuce.

 

Anatomy of a Smoothie

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peach smoothie in vitamin cup before being blended

There are several reasons I like to make smoothies for breakfast:

  1. They are tasty.
  2. They go together quickly.
  3. They can be healthy (notice how I didn’t say they are healthy? Excess sugar and fat, I’m talking to you).
  4. They are portable!

There are a few things I do the same with my smoothies almost each and every time.

  1. Ice first.
    1. if I have a frozen fruit, I cut the amount of ice, subbing it for the frozen fruit, of course.
  2. Next comes fruit. This is my only source of sugar. No kidding!
    1. Part of that fruit is half of a banana, minus the peel.  his adds a little creaminess and body
  3. I add fresh ginger; because I like it a little spicy.
  4. I add lemon or lime, including the peel. It intensifies the citrus flavor and I hear the peel is good for the liver so, win, win!
  5. I add collagen powder (specifically Vital Proteins, unflavored). I find it frustrating that a lot of that expensive powder gets stuck in the bottom of the Vitamix cup when I am using the single serving glass to mix, so now I dilute it in a bit of water first.
  6. I add almond milk.
    1. If out of almond milk, I add regular milk.
    2. If out of milk, I add a dollop of yogurt and water.
    3. If out of yogurt, I just add water.

And those are the usual suspects.

peach smoothie blended in a drinking glass with straw

The unknowns are:

  1. What kind of fruit?
  2. Vegetables or no vegetables?
  3. A little extra something? Cinnamon, nuts, cocao…?

I like to add something green, but typically only if I am not using berries. Kiwis are perfect with pineapple, and regular apple if you want to go green.

I wonder if there is a pea under here or if it’s in the smoothie?

Sleeping alfresco always makes me dream of meat for breakfast, not smoothies. Although my food is a bit on the smooth side.

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A Smooth Smoothie

This smoothie has the sweet taste of summer with a peach from our neighbor’s tree (uh, shhh…) and gets its’ body from home-made almond milk rather than the typical banana. If you don’t have home-made almond milk, try adding 4 or five almonds in as well.

  • Author: Stacey Bender
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: none
  • Total Time: 53 minute
  • Yield: single serving
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Cuisine: Healthy
Scale

Ingredients

34 1-inch Watermelon “cubes”

23 Ice cubes

1 Peach (peeled, seed and skin removed)

1/2 Red Apple (such as Gala, Braeburn, Honey Crisp…); core removed, peel left on

(1) 1/2-inch sliver Key Lime (or 1/4 sliver regular lime), skin on

(1) 1/2 to 1-inch knob of Ginger Root (depending on how much you like ginger), skin removed

1-inch top cut from a Wheat Grass plant, cleaned and patted dry

1 scoop Collagen Powder (diluted in a few tablespoons water)

4 TB homemade Almond Milk (thick)

Instructions

In the order listed above, add the ingredients to a Vitamix and blend in “smoothie” mode.

Pretty simple, right?

Notes

To make home-made almond milk, soak 1 cup of almonds overnight in a bowl of water.  drain and rinse.  Add to a Vitamix with 2 cups water and blend.  It will be thickish which you can dilute with water as you use it. For this smoothie, I like to leave it thick and get the extra liquid it needs from the diluted collagen powder.

Leftover-ish: A Frittata

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I’m not the biggest fan of leftovers.

That’s no surprise, seeing that I change my mind about what to eat on any given day, even after going to the store to get the ingredients.

I guess I can’t make that statement wholesale since I have been known to eat cold pizza without even bothering to close the refrigerator door, or scoop a few spoons of black beans from their container for a quick snack, or polish off the little corner of hamburger I saved myself from eating the night before (Tom always tucks it into a wrap of plastic for me, just in case).

Yet still, I can’t get behind true leftovers. The kind that you reheat and eat for lunch the next day, or worse, for dinner that week, dumped hastily onto a plate and barely resembling the lovely meal it used to be in its’ prime and throwing it into the microwave.

Maybe it’s because I know how good it looked when it came right out of the oven and now, sitting there in the fridge, it just looks cold and pale? Maybe even a little sad. Or maybe it’s because the tantalizing smell that came from the nights before are now silenced sitting in the cool air, picking up the neighboring smells?

Well, I guess that can’t be entirely true since I have already admitted to the pizza thing…

Perhaps I just like to eat something new?

I mean, I do like it if it is leftoverish…

Lefoverish:

/ˈleftˌōvər ish/

noun

  1.  Leftovers made into something new; Remaining surplus redefined

The steak and broccoli from dinner were made into a leftoverish frittata.

adjective

  1. Made from partially used ingredients

This delicious steak and broccoli fritatta is leftoverish.

Even though this frittata is leftoverish, its’ leftovers can be disguised as new. Just heat and serve neatly on a plate with freshly-dressed greens. Frittata is a leftover even I can get behind. In fact, going against my usual judgement, we might need to have it as a true leftover today. Well, leftoverish, I’ll need to make another fresh salad!

Steak & Roasted Broccoli Frittata

You begin by whisking eggs, yogurt, blue cheese and pepper in a medium bowl (break in some chunks of cheddar cheese slices or grate some into the mix as well).

Then, you chop the broccoli, potato and steak up a bit into smallish chunks.

Your prep area will look something like this.

Next, warm the olive oil over medium heat in a non-stick pan and add the potatoes, then broccoli and steak. Stir and let it warm up a bit.

Notice my super-cool, non-stick Green Pan from Food 52.

Next comes the egg mixture poured over top. We are looking to let it set up a little before transferring to the oven. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides a bit, keeping the egg mixture intact.

When the frittata has cooked halfway (around 5 minutes in), crumble the rest of the cheese over top and finish cooking.

When the frittata is fully set and cooked through, which should take about 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven, let it rest for 5 minutes, covered. You could also transfer it to a warming drawer until you have gathered up the guests and set a proper table.

Cut it into wedges, and if you feel fancy, serve it alongside a pile of Spring greens dressed lightly with lemon juice and olive oil. Pea vines are a nice addition if you are doing this in the Springtime.

Voila! Leftoverish steak and broccoli frittata.

Frit-ta-ta…ta…ta..ta
I’m dreaming of frittata..ta…ta…ta in my Spring sunbeam…

Wake up Zoe, it’s time to eat!

Don’t worry Ginger, we will save you a bite.

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Bacon, Leek, Corn + Gorganzola Fritatta

This is based on my leftorverish steak and broccoli fritatta but using bacon, chicken, leeks and gorganzola instead

  • Author: Stacey Bender
  • Prep Time: 10 miniutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 58 minute
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Brunch
Scale

Ingredients

8 eggs

3 TB full-fat yogurt

2 oz gorganzola piccante (separated into 1/2 oz and 1 oz mounds)

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

34 oz sliced leeks (2 leeks, pale green and white part only)

1 corn cob

2 thick cut slices bacon (approximately 2 1/23 oz) cut into horizontal slices

1 TB butter

Instructions

  1. Whisk the eggs, yogurt, 1/2 oz gorganzola cheese and pepper in a medium bowl.
  2. Remove the corn from the cobb
  3. Add the bacon to a non-stick pan and turn to medium heat.  Cook for a minute or two until just starting to brown.
  4. Add the butter, leeks and corn, cooking for approximately 3 minutes, until the leeks and corn begin to soften and become fragrant.
  5. Add the egg mixture and let cook a minute or two to set. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides a bit, keeping the egg mixture intact.
  6. Crumble the remaining gorganzola cheese over top, making sure to evenly cover the circumfrence.  You can do this as you are letting the bottom set but work quickly so as not to burn the bottom.  You could alternatively do this step when the bottom is set and you have removed the pan from the heat to help you work.
  7. Transfer to the oven and cook 10-15 minutes, until set and cooked through.
  8. Scrape the outside edge with a rubber spatula to loosen from pan and let sit (covered or in a warming drawer) for 5 minutes. This is a good time to prepare more drinks, setting up plates and start corralling people to the table.
  9. Cut into quarters and top with fresh herbs.

The Italian – a breakfast bagel

Steeped in a rich history of culture, politics and ethnicity, a bagel is so much more than a hand-sized, par-boiled biscuit with a hole.  Originating in Poland, the round, hand-formed bread, if given a right to vote, would lean to the left and would certainly never have voted for you-know-who.

Bagels may no longer resemble the harder, more chewy version they started out as, but as they made their way to North America, they overtook the almighty doughnut in popularity (Tom has no idea why, as much as he loves bagels, he’d always have a doughnut given the option).

Although bagels share similarities to doughnuts, they are more serious in nature and certainly more versatile than their airy, sugary counterpart.

So rather than letting them take on the pizza (and losing that battle as Tom points out), this morning I opened my freezer, took out a bagel and decided to let it go Italian.

Toast a bagel, smear with spicy, pickled peppers, top with your favorite salami, scrambled egg and a final layer of cheese.  Heat and eat or serve!

 

Do you think one of those is for us?

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The Italian – a breakfast bagel

Saturday, Sunday, everyday brunch!  Let me introduce you to the Italian breakfast bagel.

Easy and quick enough to make before running out the door in the morning (especially if you cook the eggs the night before), this open-faced, hot, cheesy delicacy holds its’ own as a casual brunch whether you are binge watching movies or sipping a Bloody Mary with friends.

Toast a bagel, smear with spicy, pickled peppers, top with your favorite salami, scrambled egg and a final layer of cheese.  Heat and eat or serve!

Buon Gusto!

  • Author: Stacey Bender
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 minutes
  • Total Time: 14 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x
  • Category: breakfast/brunch
  • Cuisine: Italian, Jewish
Scale

Ingredients

1 Parmesan bagel (you could use plain or onion bagels alternately)

3 eggs

2 TB milk

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

1 TB sliced Mama Lil’s peppers (out of the jar, some of their oil will be there too)

4 thin slices Gusto brand Napoli salami (or salami of your choice)

2  slices Provolone cheese

Rosemary or oregano sprigs for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. If frozen, thaw the bagel and cut it in half.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. Whisk the eggs with the milk and slowly scramble in a little butter until light and fluffy.
  4. Finely chop the peppers in their oil.
  5. Toast the bagel and spread each cut side with 1/2 the chopped peppers.
  6. Top each half with the salami followed by half the eggs and then top with cheese.
  7. Put on a baking tin and cook for 4 minutes or until the cheese is melted and heated through.

Notes

I used three eggs but you could easily get away with two.  I scramble them without salt or pepper so I can set a little aside for the pups.  If you use really good eggs, you won’t even notice the absence but do add a little if you like.  I put the pepper on while I am assembling (Tom is a stickler for pepper on his eggs, but errs on the side of not adding salt).

You could switch up the peppers for sun-dried tomatoes or plain, roasted red bell peppers if you don’t need the spice (guess who wants spicy).

Many cheeses work here instead, especially the melting variety.  I actually used the extra-thin, pre-sliced white cheddar I can buy at Whole Foods, but provolone seems more Italian.  If you use extra thin slices, you can double them up.  The benefit to pre-sliced versus other is simply a matter of saving time.  Fresh mozzarella would also be delicious, in which case basil is a must.

The salami I used was approximately the same size as the bagel.

I put a sprig of rosemary on top while they were in the oven.  The sprig was then removed before eating but the heat imparted a soft flavor of herb without overpowering.  You could also sprinkle some chopped, dried oregano or fresh chopped rosemary over the peppers before adding the salami.

I tried one bagel with the salami on bottom and one bagel with a slice of salami on bottom, and a slice of salami under the cheese.  I prefer the former for the texture, but the latter showcases more of the meat.  You decide which you prefer.

Keywords: Brunch, Breakfast, Italian Bagel, Pizza Bagel

 

 

 

 

The food is always tastier on the other side of the water bowl…

This weekend I was going through my old draft posts and came upon this one written a couple years back that never made it’s way out into the universe.  I’m guessing we had our hands full during that time period.  Now finally at time of publish (today), many of you know that Buddy is no longer with us.  This post gave us some happy memories of his larger-than-life personality that was particularly animated around the dinner bowl.

Always waited patiently (and fashionable) for supper.

The food is always tastier on the other side of the water bowl…

Why is it we always seem to want what we can’t (or maybe shouldn’t) have?

With dogs, seemingly, there is no exception!

For this, I may be to blame (with my dogs, that is).

Thinking through this, it is likely I am to blame!

Perhaps leading by example, I am?  For instance, recently, I brought to work a perfectly delicious lunch.  Not a super-fine-dine lunch, but a lunch that was rivaling those in the lunchroom.

Yet, I ate a bad lunch instead.

Often I have a very good lunch awaiting me in the communal fridge at work, yet if another lunch presents itself, free or otherwise, I am more apt to go that direction instead.

So why is it that given the chance or opportunity to eat something other than the lunch I so carefully prepared (which took actual time, I might add), I will happily take it and make it my lunch instead?

I’m referring to brought in lunches, for seminars, or going out for lunches, not stealing lunches from the communal work fridge, just to be clear.

In addition to my inclination to opt for somebody else’s lunch, I live in a state (and city) where you can throw a peanut in any direction and hit the front of an amazing place to eat.  Yet, when it comes to going out to dinner, we never go?

Tom and I always look forward to the places in other states, other cities, that we can’t frequent (without a plane, train or long haul in an automobile).  So why would we not just simply frequent these great eateries in our own city?  At least more often that is…

If that weren’t enough, air travel is no exception.  I pack a pretty mean picnic to take up in the air.  I make much effort for good eats and take many precautions, so as not to lose things at security (which has happened on previous occasions, such as goat cheese in Maui, dammit), ensuring that a lovely meal, eaten on porcelain plates, with metal utensils, laid out on linen placemats, will be enjoyed alongside wine, sipped from glass vessels, to wash it all down, properly.  Yet, I always stop at one of two favorite pre-boarding retailers to grab some nosh, just-in-case (!!!) it is needed.  Of course it is not!  However, I eat it instead.  Every. Single. Time!

And to make matters worse, I also end up purchasing the plastic box containing fruit, cheese and crackers that are usually less enticing than those that are currently stashed neatly in my bag stowed under the seat right in front of me. Or, if a free meal is offered (say, we were able to upgrade to first class) I would eat that meal instead.

No way is that meal better tasting or better for me than the one I have so meticulously packed.  And yet…

…the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree, as the saying goes.

Buddy and Ginger had taken up a new eating routine.  Even though they eat exactly the same, high-quality, well-prepared food (made with duck or rabbit, fresh vegetables, sweet potato and turmeric), they continually are always switching sides of food service areas.  Ginger peers at me as Buddy is hand fed his food and then swoops in to eat whatever he has left behind.  Buddy reciprocates by finishing her meal; the both of them sure that the other is eating something better.

I can still feed myself.

Buddy making his move…

So, as Erma Bombeck once, (not) so eloquently said, the grass is always greener on the other side of the septic tank.  Ginger and Buddy have decided that their life is actually greener on the other side of the water bowl, and we will continue to let them think this is true, as long as they continue eating (we know they are eating the best meals they can!).

Ginger: “Your dinner was better than mine Buddy”.   Buddy: “It tasted the same to me.”

Ginger: “I wonder what they’re having?” Buddy: “I think they call it old and fashionable.”   Ginger: “Kind of like us!”

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Easy (psuedo) Butter Chicken

Buddy was the biggest fan of rotisserie chicken; I bought the organic, plain rotisserie chicken, once a week during the last 6 months of his life.  He never turned it down.  Not once.  In fact, sometimes I think it was the chicken that kept him going.  Something to look forward to.  We ate so much rotisserie chicken during that time that I wasn’t sure Tom would let me ever buy one again.

This Butter Chicken recipe is something that came from the need to make rotisserie chicken into our dinner…again.

It is so easy to make that it almost makes itself and can be served over rice or tucked into warmed rounds of fresh naan.

The chicken becomes quite fragrant with a wonderful texture. The whole house will smell like you are making a big pot of chicken soup but the flavor will hint more of Indian fare.  Dial up or down the spices depending on your affinity for tumeric and such.

If you plan to share any chicken with your dogs, be sure to buy a plain (unsalted and unadorned) chicken which I have only been able to find at Whole Foods.  Save some meat off to the side for them to eat since they won’t be able to eat butter chicken with leeks.

  • Author: Stacey Bender
  • Prep Time: 10 miniutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 33 minute
  • Cuisine: Indian
Scale

Ingredients

1/2 lb meat from a rotisserie chicken (skin discarded, *bones reserved for broth)

2 TB butter

2 cups sliced leeks (light green part only)

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp finely-chopped jalapeño (minus seeds, adjust to your desired heat level)

2 tsp finely-chopped ginger

1/4 tsp ground pepper

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground tumeric

1 tsp ground cardamon

1 TB tomato paste

2 cups chicken broth*

1/2 cup plain yogurt

Juice of 1/2 a lemon (more to taste as desired)

Instructions

  1. Shred the chicken fairly fine.
  2. Melt the butter in a medium Dutch Oven.
  3. Add the leeks, garlic, jalapeño and ginger.  Sauté over medium low heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Ladle a ladle full (if using fresh) or pour a little of the broth over and let cook to soften the leeks, approximately 10 minutes.
  5. Add all of the spices, tomato paste and stir.
  6. Add the chicken and yogurt along with the rest of the broth and bring to a simmer.
  7. Cover, lid slightly askew, and let simmer for approximately 30 minutes.
  8. Add lemon juice and season with salt as needed.
  9. Serve hot, over rice, in Naan or however your creative mind might dream up.

Notes

If you plan to share any chicken with your dogs, be sure to buy a plain (unsalted and unadorned) chicken which I have only been able to find at Whole Foods, otherwise it will be too rich.  Save any chicken for them off to the side as dogs should not eat Butter Chicken and should never eat onions or leeks.

As pictured, I served over rice, roasted eggplant and garbanzo beans, topped with sliced tomato, green onions and mint.

You can freeze the meat in Ziplock bags for an easy meal later.

The best won tons are made with canned tuna…fact or fiction?

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Ironically, I am likely the only blogger whose mother doesn’t actually read her blog.

This, instead of the blogger whose only reader is their mom, which I guess would be worse!

The irony is this: Today, I am going to talk about my Mom’s first published recipe.  One that I published in my first (and only) cookbook.

Okay, so it was self-published.  And I wasn’t the only cook in the book.

And this was twenty-some years ago?

Well, perhaps thirty.

The cookbook was a project in JA (Junior Achievments).  I wish I still owned a copy.  It is currently out of print.  I guess all of the moms bought them up?

If Mom were reading this, she would probably tell you I have it all wrong.  Which, let’s face it, likely, I might.  This is my story to tell though, so I’ll pretend not to hear her.  She’d probably agree that I’d do that too.

We ate pretty straight-up meals for dinner when I was a kid; roast beef, meat loaf, the occasional salmon cake and the like.  Lots of vegetables, as long as they came from the freezer or out of a can.  Salad.  We did eat salad.  I was usually in charge of that (and still am).

Most nights it was your typical family dinner.  Scott and I took turns setting the table (Mark was too young).  We discussed the news and our school work, while I picked at my plate.

We were expected to finish everything, yes, even our daily glass of milk (which explains why my piano teacher had to keep telling me to cut my fingernails).

I liked eating dinner at my best friend Mary’s house; they drank water over there.  And ate homemade pizza for dinner.  And chicken dumplings.  Ice cream was often for dessert.  No washing dishes for me on those nights; I wasn’t even allowed to clear my plate from the table.  Those were the days.

However, on occasion, Mom would surprise us and make fried won tons.  For dinner!  Those nights were the best.  “Junk food” for dinner, and we were not usually allowed to eat junk.

Unless Grandpa Edwards was around.  Then we drank soda pop, ate potato chips, and only used milk to dip cookies.  But I digress.

Tuna won tons sound unusual, even to me.  But trust me, they’re delish!  Mom would open up the Starkist Tuna (2 cans) and dump them into a mixing bowl.

Then she unwrapped the silver foil from the Philly cream cheese after removing it from its’ box.

Onion was chopped (which always made me shed tears), Worcestershire sauce, mustard and lemon juice; I think that was it.  All mixed up in the bowl, then plopped onto the square dough wrappers and carefully closed up.

I loved watching the oil.  It was bubbly hot as the packages dropped into the pan.  They spurted and spat as they started to crisp.

Mom flipped them over, toasting the other side before removing them to a plate lined in paper towels where she would sprinkle them with salt and playfully slap our hands away as we tried to sneak one before supper.

The best part was the simplicity of their deliciousness.  No salad, no can of peas.  Not even milk.  We ate them happily, pulled from a large bowl placed centrally on the table, one after the next.

My version is a little fussier but not much.  Tom reacts much the same way I used to when told tuna won tons were on the menu for dinner; on his best behavior because he too is a fan.

Come inside Daddy, Mom says we have tuna for dinner!

I use green onions rather than red, add cilantro and wasabi (because we like the kick), and serve a simple sake sauce next to a garnish of fresh greens and slices of grapefruit or pickled ginger.

In other news, we welcome a new member into the extended family this month.  Kiki Edwards, a Havanese, weighing in at 4 pounds at 4 months-old was adopted last Saturday by my brother Mark’s family in Alaska.  Her cousins are already eagerly awaiting a visit!

Us, We couldn’t be more thrilled!  She looks like a feisty one with a bit of Bitsy (Mark’s childhood dog) and our Ginger mixed in.

I came to the right place!

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Tuna Won Tons with Sake Sauce

An easy week-night supper or an appetizer that can be fried a few hours ahead and reheated just in time to tantalize your guests.

No skills required to make these., other than opening cans, mixing ingredients and folding things somewhat accurately.

Hot oil required, don’t make without parental supervision for the youngsters (and some adults).

  • Author: Stacey Bender @ 10 Legs in the Kitchen
  • Yield: 16-18 Won Tons yield dinner for 2 or appetizers for 4 1x
  • Category: Dinner or Appetizer
  • Method: frying
  • Cuisine: Asian fusion
Scale

Ingredients

For Won Tons

1 5oz can of 100% Albacore Tuna (sustainably caught), preferably packed in spring water)

2 heaping TB soft cream cheese (preferably organic)

1 large or 2 small Green Onions, chopped

1 TB Worcestershire Sauce

1 tsp Dijon Mustard

1 tsp Soy Sauce (low sodium)

1 tsp Wasabi Paste

2 TB chopped, fresh Cilantro (approximately a large handful)

1 TB freshly-squeezed Lemon Juice

1620 fresh Won Ton Wrappers

Peanut Oil for frying

For Sake Sauce

1/4 cup Sake

1/8 cup Soy Sauce (low sodium)

2 TB Rice Wine Vinegar

1 tsp Coconut Sugar (or cane sugar)

1/2 tsp chopped Jalapeño (seeds removed)

Instructions

For the Won Tons

In a medium-sized bowl, with a rubber spatula, mix the tuna with its’ juices, cream cheese, green onions, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, soy sauce, wasabi paste, cilantro and lemon juice together until completely mixed.

Drop 1 tsp full of mixed ingredients onto the middle of each won ton wrapper.

Fold over into a triangle, pressing the mixture toward the center and sealing gently with your fingers.

Single corner pointing up, fold the two parallel corners toward the single corner, pressing gently to tuck the mixture in.  Use a dab of water if needed to seal.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to cook.  Meanwhile make the sauce (recipe below).

When ready to cook, pour enough oil into a wok or sauté pan to cover the won tons halfway (approximately 1″).

Heat the oil until hot.  Test by throwing in a small piece of won ton wrapper.  If it begins to bubble quickly but not burn, it is ready.

Add enough won tons to form a single layer; it will be a few batches.

Stand over them (carefully), checking to see when the first side browns and turn to brown the other side.

Remove to paper towels.

Prior to serving, place in a 350-degree F oven for 5-10 minutes or until heated through.  Serve immediately alongside the sake sauce.

Sake Sauce

Combine all ingredients into a small sauce pan (I use a mini stainless steel saucepan) other than the jalapeño.

Simmer over medium heat for a few minutes until sugar is dissolved and it just starts to bubble and slightly thicken.  Let cool.

Notes

I use less cream cheese than Mom did so feel free to add a bit more if you want.  The texture should be thicker than a dip, but lighter than a brick.

This version ebbs toward the Asian flavor but not overtly so.  They are pretty versatile and forgiving.  Skip the sauce altogether if you don’t want to fuss, but its a nice touch.

Winter Storm Watch 2019: Ribs

Don’t let the 2017 Christmas beer fool you because:

A. It’s not Christmas

and

B. It’s not 2017

That didn’t stop me, of course, from opening the bottle and taking a swig (which was quite good, BTW) before pouring it into the pressure cooker, over the ribs.

There was a storm coming (supposedly) after all and that meant we needed to make something hearty. It was getting late though so we also needed to make something quick.

Good thing because, in inevitable, pre-Super Bowl style, I had filled my cart at Whole Foods with what could be considered “you’re having a SB party?” kind of food. 

In addition to 3 lbs of beef (just in case), a bucket of fried chicken (just because), 2 oven-fired pepperoni pizzas (just freshly made), I threw in two slabs of Barbacoa-seasoned pork back ribs (just on a whim).

I also bought corn chips (Fresh Summer July), salsa (Salsa de Rosa), avocados, cilantro, onions and Better o Bean ‘Cuban black beans’ (ok, so not from Mexico, but whatever).

Now, full disclosure: I had and still have, no intention of watching the Super Bowl. Not even for the ads. The shopping cart? Well, that’s just how I roll (no pun intended).

I am a marketing genius’s dream; what can I say?

Lucky for me, it turns out we have a cold front blowing in from the North here in the Pacific Northwest. It’s no Polar Vortex, but we get to participate in the after effects I guess.

Snow even, they say. Schools already deciding to close. I bet we get nary an inch.

But I have my excuse now though (for the shopping cart). Stocked up and able to hunker in, even if we could easily drive (or walk) the 1/4 mile down the road to our local grocery.

We’ve been here long enough though, having moved from Alaska, that we can go along with this ridiculous charade. Always best to hunker in and avoid the 60mph Tahoe’s on black ice anyway…

Frankly, we have even been known to tune into the news watching the hours of reporting about school closures (and no, we don’t even have kids), and how cold it is to be standing up North in Everett wearing a down parka while white snowflakes trickle down. Pretty tho (the snow, not Everett as Tom reminded me).

Last night we ate ribs. Seasoned with a hint of Mexico, I decided to serve them over rice and beans, topped with avocado, green onion, cilantro and quesa fresco.

Today is the Super Bowl. I think I’ll make chili. (Possible) Snow Day Chili, that is…

New Flash: It IS starting to snow!

I don’t know about Everett but it sure IS cold here at home (and prettier)!

The snow angels look easier to make on the Hallmark Channel movies, eh Ginger?.

I’m a snow angel too!

If you didn’t see last week’s post, this just in from Pete Woychick

“Dessert Toast, even a recipe I can pull off”.

Check out that post here https://10legsinthekitchen.com/2019/01/27/dessert-toast-is-it-a-thing/

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Anticipation Ribs

Mexican-seasoned ribs cooked in ale

  • Author: Stacey Bender
  • Prep Time: 10 miniutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 13 minute
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Meat
  • Method: Pressure Cooker
  • Cuisine: Mexican
Scale

Ingredients

For Ribs:

2.53 lb *Baby Back Ribs

1 TB Cumin Powder

1 TB Chipotle Chili Powder

1 tsp Kosher Salt

3 Cloves Garlic, smashed or finely chopped (or 2 tsp garlic powder)

2 tsp Ground Pepper

1 TB Ground Corriander

2 tsp Mexican Oregano (or regular)

1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

Juice of approximately 3 limes

1 bottle Anchor Steam Christmas Ale (or another winter ale), minus a few swigs for the cook

1/2 cup prepared fresh salsa (I used Salsa de Rosa)

1/2 onion, skin removed and sliced thinly

For Serving:

1/2 Big Handful Cilantro (yes, technical term), cleaned and chopped 

4 green onions, cleaned and sliced

1 ripe avocado, diced

1 cup cooked rice

1/2 **package Better o Beans Cuban black beans

1 oz Quesa Fresco (or French Feta Cheese)

*You can save some time by buying the un-cooked Barbacoa seasoned pork back ribs from the meat department at Whole Foods

*This brand (readily available in the refrigerated section of grocery stores is perfectly seasoned and already cooked but doesn’t have that bland or over-salted canned flavor. You could alternatively use canned beans, drained or cook you own. if you do, you will want to add some salt, vinegar or lime juice and perhaps some additional seasonings to make them feel adequately dressed for the rice.

Instructions

For the Ribs:

  1. If you have seasoned ribs from Whole Foods, simply put them into your electric pressure cooker (or buzz-wordy Insta-pot) and pour the ale/beer over them.  Otherwise, rinse and pat dry. Mix the cumin through the cayenne pepper together in a bowl. Squeeze juice of one lime over the ribs and then rub them with the seasoning.
  2. Turn to high heat and set cooking time for 25 minutes.
  3. Once they are done cooking and the lid unlocks, remove to a baking sheet.
  4. Spoon 1/4 of the remaining liquid over the ribs, top with the sliced onion, juice of 1 lime and 1/4 cup prepared salsa.
  5. Cover with foil and cook for 15 min in a 350 F degree oven.
  6. Remove the foil and let cook a further 10 minutes or so.

To Serve:

  1. Mix the beans with the rice and heat in the microwave.
  2. Cut the ribs between bones. 
  3. Put a scoop of rice + bean mixture on each plate and top with 3 ribs.
  4. Sprinkle with cilantro, green onions, diced avocado and cheese

Notes

Clearly, this is not rocket science nor is it to be given too much brain power either. 

The main take-away is this: Season ribs well, put in pressure cooker, pour over beer.  Turn on cooker and cook until done. 

The simpleton would just stop and eat now. 

Or, to layer the flavor and further enhance, add onions plus salsa and cook off more in the oven.

Serve with your favorite things such salad, polenta or as I did, rice and beans.

Keywords: baby back ribs, Super Bowl food, easy week-night meals, Insta-pot cooking

Dessert Toast. Is it a thing?

Cover toast.jpg

If not, it should be.

A thing.

Dessert toast that is.  Don’t you agree?

I mean we have French toast for breakfast (which, by the way is dessert that we happen to eat in the morning).

People like to eat eggs for dinner, which is funny because we often assume anything can be called breakfast, simply by adding an egg.

Add an egg to a dinner plate and it is often still considered to be dinner (think poached egg on a salad, an egg dropped into hot soup or tossed up with pasta for carbonara).

An omelette in the eventing is considered breakfast for dinner, but in my estimation is simply a sandwich using eggs rather than bread, so perhaps it is technically lunch? Or in the very least brunch?

Which brings me to my original question.  Is dessert toast a thing?

I think yes.  IF not, it should be.

You wouldn’t hesitate to eat cake for dessert, which is just bread minus the egg and with less sugar, right?

Only difference is dessert toast waits on the butter until right at the end, melting decadently into each crispy crevice just begging to partner with it’s sweet friend honey or jam.

Well okay, yeast; such details I will skip.

marmalade toast

Orange marmalade by Preserve, discovered at Bay Hay & Feed on Bainbridge Island.

It could be argued that is more like a cookie than cake, step in cinnamon and sugar instead or bring on the peanut butter as well as the jam?

Dessert toast is as versatile as pie, change one fruit for another or slather it in goat cheese and tuck in some figs.

grape jelly toast

Homemade grape jelly by Lois Casto.

Yes, this is considered breakfast to some, but to me it is just as much the perfect ending to a simple dinner as it is the beginning of an ordinary or even extraordinary day.

Zoe did someone say toast

Did someone say toast?

silly ol bear

I’d like honey on mine, please.

diva3

Oh Winston, you silly ol’ bear.

diva2

Everyone knows it is best with raspberry jelly.

The Ultimate Traveling Appetizer: Crab Salad Cups

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Oops, missing the bacon garnish; just imagine it’s there (but wasn’t needed)!

Okay, maybe not actually the ultimate traveling appetizer, but a very good one at least.

Transportable, as in these puppies can go on the road.  Yes, the other puppies are on the road too (or ferry boat as it may be).

To a holiday party!

A Family dinner.

Or even the notorious office Christmas potluck.

Flexible. Not only can they be made earlier in the day or even the night before, they inherently come with a “choose-your-own-flavor adventure” built-in.

Not a fan of blue cheese and avocado (no judging here)?  Mango and curry can step in.

Prefer cilantro to arugula?  Great!  (Just don’t tell my brother Scott).

Don’t feel like whipping up that corn creme, or can’t since you haven’t yet splurged on a Vitamix (who are you anyway?), no worries, a little creme fraîche or yogurt can be gussied up with lemon juice and pepper instead.

Or, for a little more heat, shake in some chipotle chili powder.

For a different dimension, smoked paprika could attend…

… you get the idea.

Elegant. Forget the little smokies or the tasty, but expected, humus dip and wow your guests or hostess with these little jewels instead.

Easy. Whip up the dressing, pat dry the crab, chop a few things and mix it all up. After a little trip on the assembly line, the little glass cups can be put back in their box and refrigerated until ready to use (or take to the potluck, family dinner or party with friends).

And the best part:

No heating required! (Who has room in the oven when there is a turkey in there?… or a holiday ham, prime rib roast… or perhaps there’s no oven at all)!

Seriously though, to be honest, the best part is the crab.

Just saying! Pull out your wallet, it’s the Holidays!!!!

Over the Sound and through the woods…

Are we there yet?!

This ride sure beats the Mayflower!

Is it too early for sugar plum fairies to be dancing in my head?

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The Ultimate Traveling Appetizer: Crab Salad Cups

The quintessential holiday appetizer, 1st course or salad, all piled into a tiny, portable glass.

It’s a traveling appetizer that works as well at home as it does on the road.

Seafood – check

Crab – double check

Greens – check

Red garnish – check

Elegant Holiday Spirit – check (not that kind of spirit, but hopefully you have one in hand)

When the meal is heavy, the first course should be light.

When it’s a party meal, there should be something festive, tasty and fun that is healthy, filling and unforgettable.

Tall order?

Small cup.

Done.

  • Author: Stacey Bender
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: Zero
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Yield: Approximately (14) fourteen 4 oz cups
  • Category: Appetizers
  • Cuisine: Holiday + Universal
Scale

Ingredients

3/4 lb Dungeness crab meat, rinsed, gently squeezed dry and patted with kitchen towel

Lemon Juice, approximately from one full lemon

Fresh ground pepper to taste

1 ear of corn

1/4 cup fresh, full fat, Greek style or local yogurt

12 oz good quality blue cheese (I used Maytag Blue), or more to taste

1 Avocado, peeled, seed removed, diced and doused with lemon juice, sea salt and pepper

23 green onions, chopped

2 TB mixed fresh herbs such as thyme, parsley, savory, basil

1/4 cup very thinly sliced fennel, diced and doused with lemon juice, sea salt and pepper

Seeds from 1/2 pomegranate

Zest of 1/2 orange (approximately 1 TB)

Instructions

  1. Put the fresh, dry crab in a mixing bowl and let chill until you are ready to assemble.

2. Wrap the corn in plastic wrap and microwave for 1 minute.  Alternatively, steam or boil in water until just crisp tender.  Cut the corn from the cob.

3. Put the corn in your Vitamix or food processor.  Add some pepper and pinch of sea salt along with the yogurt.  Process until the consistency of cream.

4. Put a few spoonfuls of the corn creme, along with 1/2 of the blue cheese in a medium bowl and blend with the back of a spoon.  Add lemon juice and additional blue cheese to taste.

5. Mix in 1/2 the avocado, green onion/herbs, fennel, 1/2 the pomegranate seeds and orange zest.

6.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice as needed.

7.  Assemble the cups by first filling each with a spoonful of the corn creme, followed by a little chopped arugula, then the crab mixture.

8.  Sprinkle some of the remaining pomgranite seeds on each.

9.  If serving later, cover each glass cup with plastic wrap and refrigerate until use.

10.  To serve: Unwrap the plastic and top each with a few sprigs arugula, squeeze of lemon and dusting of chopped bacon.

Notes

I got the glass cups at Crate & Barrel a few years back.  They came six to a box and were inexpensive plus came with unlimited possibilities.  You could easily swap the glass cups for leaves of endives for serving.  Add more avocado if you like.  When I say “douse it in lemon juice”, I mean, squeeze fresh lemon juice over and sprinkle with salt and fresh pepper.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 4 oz

Keywords: Holiday Appetizers, Easy Appetizers, Crab Appetizers, Individual Appetizer Cups,