My first pickles

I promised I would report back on pickles and I’m finally getting to it!

Our cucumber plant produced a TON of cukes so we had to figure out pickling. I wanted to keep them as simple as possible, so I followed Deb’s instructions for the easiest fridge dill pickles.

First, I had to use a vegetable peeler to scrape off all the little spiky bits on the cucumbers. Some of them were really sharp. Then I decided to slice mine into spears.

I didn’t have fresh dill so I used dried and I think it worked just fine. One thing I had to adjust, though, was to add water to fill the jars to the top. Maybe because I had spears instead of slices, my cucumbers didn’t let out enough water and they were super vinegar-y. Once I added the water they were just about perfect.

I thought they might go bad quickly in the fridge, but they have lasted weeks and weeks. In fact I think they get better over time.

Easy strawberry jam

I feel like jam is one of those things that seems intimidating, but is actually really easy to make. I think it’s the canning aspect that’s scary, but you can make a quick fridge jam that will disappear too quickly to bother with the canning anyway.

We were only getting a handful of strawberries from our garden every day, so I decided to save them in a bag in the freezer until I had enough to make jam. I found this recipe in Real Simple and it worked perfectly.

Basically all you do is combine the fruit with sugar and lemon juice and simmer it until the fruit has broken down into a soft, chunky mixture. Let it cool and pour the jam into a jar.

You can make a decadent toast with cream cheese and berry jam – yum!

Gluten-free chocolate chip cookies

If I thought my last stab at gluten-free baking was successful, these cookies were even better.

I’d been looking for a way to use almond meal (a bargain at Trader Joe’s, though you can grind it fresh yourself) for a while and when I saw this recipe for coconut-chocolate chip cookies I had to try it. 

Though the cookies don’t plump up like traditional chocolate chip cookies, they are a little crisp on the outside and chewy inside. I used mini chocolate chips instead of chopped dark chocolate but otherwise stuck with the recipe. It’s a good base that would be good with other add-ins too.

Everyone in my house loved the cookies. They’re not too sweet. More like granola bars than cookies. My only complaint is that the recipe doesn’t make enough. You’ll definitely want to double it!

Buttery peas and potatoes

This was a favorite side dish growing up. I hadn’t made it for ages and when I finally dug out the recipe I couldn’t believe it didn’t include dill. So I added some. 😉

My mom always boiled the potatoes and then added the other ingredients (which you can certainly do), but this time I sauteed it all in a pan together. I’m all about one-pan dishes these days.

It was just as good as I remembered. Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the butter. It’s key!

Buttery peas and potatoes
A simple spring side dish.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 pound new potatoes, any variety
  2. 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  3. 1 bay leaf
  4. 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  5. 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  6. 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  7. 10 ounces frozen peas
  8. Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse potatoes and remove any bad spots. Cut them into 1-inch pieces, unless they are smaller than that already.
  2. Heat butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add the potatoes, bay leaf and herbs and stir to combine. Put a lid over your pan and steam the potatoes, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add in the peas and let them steam until they're warm. If your pan gets too dry, you can always add a little more butter.
  4. Remove the bay leaf and serve.
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

No. 32 Red Curry with Tofu

I’ve been trying to perfect a veggie curry recipe for a while without success. But I think I finally got it right. Mine is kind of a combination of Heidi Swanson’s weeknight curry recipe and the red curry from the Thai place down the street from our house, which I love and order often.

The Thai restaurant always deep fries their tofu, so it has a texture that stands up to being soaked in sauce. And I like that they add bamboo shoots. Theirs are more like thin sticks, so I took the canned bamboo shoots and cut them in half lengthwise.

The other thing I figured out is that it’s better to use coconut cream instead of coconut milk because the extra water from the veggies and tofu tends to thin out the sauce.

No. 32 Red Curry with Tofu

1 10-ounce package firm tofu, pressed and thinly sliced
Olive oil – enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet
1 red or orange bell pepper, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
2 cups fresh green beans, ends cut off and snapped in half
1 onion, sliced
1 can coconut cream
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1/2 cup bamboo shoots, sliced in half lengthwise
brown rice for serving

Start by frying the tofu slices. You want to heat enough olive oil in a large skillet to just cover the thin slices, somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.

Fry the slices until golden on one side, then flip them over to cook the other side. When they’re done, drain them on a paper towel. You can use the remaining oil to cook your veggies.

Saute the veggies until they soften and the onions are translucent.

Next mix the curry paste with a couple tablespoons of coconut cream in a bowl.

Add this mixture to your veggies and stir until they’re all coated. Add the tofu and bamboo shoots to the pan and then stir in the rest of the coconut cream.

Let the curry simmer on medium-low heat for about 10 minutes. Make sure you taste the curry before you serve it. You may want to add a little salt or more curry paste. I usually end up adding some of both. The curry paste adds more heat, too.

When it’s ready, serve the curry over brown rice. Or, if you’re like us, leftover takeout rice. 🙂

Chicken with peanut sauce

This was another successful recipe I thought I should mention. The chicken cooks quickly and the peanut sauce would be great for a lot of applications — a dipping sauce for kabobs this summer, perhaps?

I had to make some adaptations for the ingredients I had on hand and because I didn’t need quite so much chicken for two people. Here’s what it ended up looking like:

Chicken with peanut sauce
adapted from Nectar

chicken:
1.5 pounds chicken tenderloins, or boneless chicken breasts cut into tenderloin-sized pieces

marinade:
2 tablespoons grapeseed or safflower oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon tamari
1/4 cup brown sugar
juice of 1 lime
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon coriander

sauce:
3/4 cup peanut butter (I used smooth, crunchy works too)
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
1 cup coconut water
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
Sliced scallions would make a great garnish!

rice (or just plain rice works too):
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup jasmine rice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced

At least 2 hours ahead:
Prepare the marinade by whisking all the ingredients together until the sugar dissolves. Coat all the chicken pieces in the marinade and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.

You can also make the sauce anytime. The recipe says to mix it up in a food processor, but I think I just did it in a bowl with a spoon. Whatever floats your boat.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, start boiling the water for your rice. Add all of the ingredients and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. While that’s cooking you can grill or saute your chicken. I used my favorite nonstick pan and cooked the chicken with the marinade on the stovetop.

Put everything together and you’re done!

Butternut squash bisque

I’ve written about this recipe before, as my version is inspired by the one in the Clean book. But I’ve never given a full recipe, and I thought that since it’s feeling all lovely and fall-ish, now would be the perfect time.

This soup could not be healthier, but it’s sweet and satisfying as well. So few recipes really have all those qualities, but this is one of them. If you want a little crunch, sprinkle some chopped toasted nuts on top.

Butternut squash bisque
If nothing else, remember the 1-2-3 measurements of the first three ingredients and add water!

1 small or 1/2 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
2 tart apples, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for roasting
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
4 cups water

Start by roasting the veggies. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash, carrots, and apples with a little olive oil and the teaspoon of kosher salt. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until you can easily press a fork into the squash.

In a big pot or dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium and saute the onions until they are just starting to brown. Add in the turmeric and toss to coat. The smell is heavenly.

Pour in the water and vinegar and then add the roasted vegetables. (I guess technically there is a fruit in there, too.) Put the lid on and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes, just to let all the flavors meld and make sure the carrots get nice and soft.

Turn off the heat. Blend the soup using an immersion blender. Or you could do it in batches in a regular blender.

If you don’t want to eat all the soup now, freeze some of it to enjoy later!

Butternut squash bisque
The perfect healthy soup for fall.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 small or 1/2 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  2. 2 tart apples, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  3. 3 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  4. 1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced
  5. 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for roasting
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  8. 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  9. 4 cups water
Instructions
  1. Start by roasting the veggies. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash, carrots, and apples with a little olive oil and the teaspoon of kosher salt. Roast for about 40 minutes, or until you can easily press a fork into the squash.
  2. In a big pot or dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium and saute the onions until they are just starting to brown. Add in the turmeric and toss to coat.
  3. Pour in the water and vinegar and then add the roasted vegetables. Put the lid on and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes, just to let all the flavors meld and make sure the carrots get nice and soft.
  4. Turn off the heat. Blend the soup using an immersion blender. Or you could do it in batches in a regular blender.
Notes
  1. If nothing else, remember the 1-2-3 measurements of the first three ingredients and add water! -
  2. Soup can be frozen and reheated later.
Adapted from Clean Program book
Adapted from Clean Program book
Cara Corey http://www.caracorey.com/

Pupusas

One of the things we most loved to do in Des Moines was go to the farmers market on Saturdays and get a pupusa from the pupusa stand. We haven’t been able to find any pupusas in California that come close to how good those were. The ones here are too small, too perfectly round (as if a machine made them), and don’t have enough filling. The Des Moines ones are stuffed so full the filling starts to ooze out the sides until it gets crispy on the grill. YUM.

So I finally decided, why not try making them ourselves?

The reason I thought we might actually be able to pull it off is that a few years ago Mike spent a morning with the El Salvadoran grandmother that runs the pupusa stand and learned how to make them. And while I didn’t expect us to get to that level of pupusa-making any time soon, I thought we could at least get close. My favorite filling was the bean/cheese combination, so we went with that.

Here’s the recipe we used for the corn masa and filling.

Here’s the recipe we used for the coleslaw/curtido.

Mike notes that for the filling we used red beans instead of kidney beans and Oaxaca cheese instead of jack. For the curtido he sliced everything using the food processor, and cut the carrots into coins instead of grating them.

We doubled the filling recipe and did 1 1/2 times the masa recipe. In the end we had way too much filling, so we either should have left that the same or did a full 2x the masa. I think we got about 8 good-sized pupusas.

It definitely takes a while to do all the steps, so it helps to have another person cooking with you. We cooked the beans first and let the coleslaw marinate for at least a couple hours before we made the rest.

Once you have your masa mixed up, make sure it’s always covered so it doesn’t dry out.

Basically your technique is to take a ball of masa, and using your thumbs, start to make an indentation in the center. Then you’ll pinch the edges until you have what looks like a little ceramic bowl, maybe 1/3-inch thick. Try to make it as uniform as possible. Place some filling in the center (my favorite was about 1/2 bean, 1/2 cheese) and fold the edges in until it looks like a taco. Then you carefully press the edges closed, and start pressing the whole thing flat until it becomes a disc about 1/2-inch thick and 6 inches long.


I should have taken more photos of this process. Sorry!

The masa wants to crack, so you just have to keep pressing it closed and trying to keep the filling close to the edges, but still inside. If a little bit is sticking out, it’s OK.

Then you oil a hot griddle and cook them for a few minutes on each side until they start to get browned. It takes a fair amount of oil to make sure your pupusa is fully coated and doesn’t get too dry.

To serve,  you add a big scoop of coleslaw and some salsa verde and you’re good to go.

The first couple we made were pretty good, but once we got the hang of it we started making some really good ones. I wouldn’t say they were farmers market level, but they were the best ones we’ve had in California, for sure. Success!

Bacon corn hash

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a recipe on Smitten Kitchen and been like ohmigodihavetomakethatrightnow! But this definitely fell into that category. You’ve got to love a 5-ingredient recipe, and especially one that involves bacon and an oozy egg yolk on top.

I pretty much followed her instructions to the letter. The only thing I changed was to add about half a chopped onion — it seemed wrong to make a hash without onion — and a chopped, seeded jalapeno.

I was very excited to finally use this technique for scraping corn off the cob.

The corn I got at the grocery store was surprisingly good. It costs a little more here than it does in Iowa, but it was worth it. Since we’re having what’s close to a real summer here, weatherwise, I was craving corn on the cob even before this recipe came along.

Mike and I both loved how this recipe turned out. It’s great for those breakfast-for-dinner nights. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Bean and veggie tostadas

When I saw this recipe in Real Simple, it totally took me back to the days when we were still vegetarian and both working 9-5 jobs. Sometimes I wonder what the heck we ate then, since we had so little time to cook. But I guess we ate a lot of things like this — quick, easy, satisfying.

I made a few adaptations to the recipe (mainly that I think you have to crisp the tortilla before you put anything on it), and here is what I came up with:

Bean and veggie tostadas

2 zucchini, cut into thin half moons
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 orange bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small or half a large onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon taco seasoning mix
8 corn tortillas
1 15-ounce can vegetarian refried beans
1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium and saute all the veggies until they are cooked through and just starting to brown. Partway through cooking sprinkle on the taco seasoning, reserving a little bit for your refried beans. My taco seasoning is just a mix of 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay out your tortillas on a lined baking sheet (you might need 2 to fit them all) and poke holes in them with a fork so they don’t puff up. Bake the tortillas for 5-7 minutes so they start to get crisp.

Stir up the refried beans with a little sprinkle of taco seasoning. When the tortillas are cool enough to handle, spread a little bit of beans on each one, and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake again for another 5 minutes, or until the beans are warm and the cheese is melted. Top with the sauteed veggies and any other condiments you like.