Thursday, May 31, 2012

Chocolate ice cream with candied bacon bits (and no ice cream maker)

chocolate ice cream with candied bacon bits
Chocolate ice cream with candied bacon bits
Believe it or not, this is my 200th post. Yowza.

That's 200 things I've cooked and shared with you ... at least 200 photos -- not all good, but still ... and 200 (well, probably 5000) smart-assed comments about food -- not all good, but still.

So what better way to celebrate than with ice cream? With candied bacon in it.

Yes, my friends, candied bacon. As if bacon alone wasn't enough.

(I think Job 1 this weekend is to re-make the bacon oatmeal cookies with candied bacon, don't you agree?)

Before we get too far down the candied bacon road, let me emphasize that this post is really about making ice cream without an ice cream machine. Really, it is.

For a while now, I've been debating about whether or not I need an ice cream maker. On the pro side: ice cream -- yummy goodness. On the con side: ice cream -- yummy fatness. We don't really need a whole lot more yummy fatness around here.

I am torn.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Strawberry-rhubarb drop scones: a recipe

strawberry rhubarb drop scones recipe
Strawberry-rhubarb drop scones
Strawberries and rhubarb: what's the history behind this winning combination?

Well, apparently, like a bajillion other things Americana, we have good old Ben Franklin to thank for rhubarb; he is credited with bringing the first seeds to America in the late 1700s.

As for the strawberry part, I couldn't really find any definitive answer, other than the first strawberries emerge just as the last of the rhubarb wanes, so, based on plenty and seasonality, both became popular pie fillings.

Regardless, it is in fact a great combination.

Regular readers will remember (probably with horror) that I don't really like pie (it's a crust thing), so I had to get my strawberry-rhubarb fix another way.

Scones, baby.

I love scones; they are so much richer and substantial than cake or muffins. And they sound so classy, don't they? Very British-high-tea and all, but they are quite easy to make. Normally, once the ingredients are combined, you pat out the dough into a thick round and cut the scones into wedges with a knife or use a biscuit cutter to make round shapes.

Monday, May 28, 2012

CSA Share Ninja Rescue: rhubarb and broccoli rabe

Rhubarb, in my garden right now
This year, I'm really enjoying the differences in requests for CSA Share Ninja Rescue help that are coming in based on a reader's geographic location. For example, this week we'll be tackling not only rhubarb, which is in season (albeit a short one) in the northeast, but also  broccoli rabe, which is plentiful for a reader in Colorado but generally more of a fall offering here in Vermont.

So keep those requests coming, no matter where you live.

As always, if you need help with a veggie, leave a comment below or send me an email before this coming Friday. Recipes suggestions are posted on Mondays.

On to this week's recipes...


My sister calls it "that stuff that looks like red celery" in the store. Yep, that's it. If you buy it from a store, farm stand or farmers market, you will get stalks only; if you pick your own, be sure to remove the leaves as they are extremely toxic.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tomato crab pasta: a recipe

tomato crab pasta
Tomato crab pasta
As if we could get through a week without a pasta recipe...

Earlier in the week we had a miracle breakthrough and Mr. Ninj ate asparagus. Well, cream of asparagus soup with crab, but it was still a miracle.

But that left me with some leftover crab and I didn't want to waste it.

Hello, Google.

I found this lovely tomato crab pasta recipe on, of all places, the PBS web site. Yep, PBS. See? Your donation during that pledge drive really paid off, tote bag or no tote bag.

This pasta is super easy to prepare and makes a perfect weeknight dinner. It actually reminded me quite a bit of the Mediterranean Tuna Pasta but less intense. In fact, if you were put off by the tuna recipe because you aren't a big fan of olives or anchovies, I bet you would love this crab pasta -- its flavors are a bit milder but still delicious.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cream of asparagus soup with crab: a recipe

cream of asparagus soup
I'll just say it was an Instagram photo, so it's supposed to look this crappy.
Wow. Let's try not to let today's craptacular pictures deter from you trying this soup. Promise? Please?

If I had better white-balanced and hadn't been in a rush to EAT IT, you would see what a lovely chartreuse color the soup is. Really, a perfect spring soup.

Regular readers already know about the CSA Share Ninja Rescue: this week's post included some ideas for asparagus, but I had to keep this one separate for its own post.

It's solo post-worthy. (Try saying that five times quickly.)

It was also a huge milestone in our house because Mr. Ninj hates asparagus. HATES. I mean, doesn't-even-like-to-be-in-the-same-room-with-it hate. (That's a lot of hate.)

Turns out, after all these years, we've realized it's a texture hate, not a taste hate. So when we were out to dinner recently at the Kitchen Table Bistro, I asked him to try the asparagus-ramp soup I had ordered ...

... and he liked it!

Monday, May 21, 2012

CSA Share Ninja Rescue: kale, asparagus, fennel and radish

Clearly the harvests have started coming in around the country: I received more requests than I could handle this week for CSA Share Ninja Rescue, in which you, the readers, tell me, The Ninj, what veggies in your CSA share are giving you consternation and I give you some recipe ideas.

(Sadly, not so much bounty yet here in Vermont, where we just had another freakin' frost warning on May 17th!)

As always, if you need help with a veggie, leave a comment below or send me an email before this coming Friday. Recipes suggestions are posted on Mondays.

This week, readers in the Northeast asked for help with kale and asparagus, while some West Coast friends were confounded by fennel and radishes.

It's dark, it's tough, it's hearty -- and it's awesome! If you're new to kale, start out with lightly cooked versions. If you're already a fan, try using it raw, as well (I like to use it in place of lettuce on sandwiches and cabbage in slaws). Now, if only I could get Mr. Ninj to eat more kale, I'd be one happy camper.
  • Kale and sweet potato quesadillas: These easy quesadillas have become a staple for me now. And I'm quite convinced that even kids will eat them.
  • Kale chips: Move over potato chips, there's a new sheriff in town. 
  • Kale and amaretti salad: Cookie croutons on your salad? Oh yeah! (adapted from a Ron Suhanosky recipe in the February 2012 issue of House Beautiful)
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed, chopped
    handful amaretti cookies, crushed (about 4 cookies if you use Lazzaroni brand)
    1/2 ripe pear, thinly sliced
    1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
    salt and pepper

    Whisk together the oil and vinegar and toss with the kale. Add the pears and toss again, gently. Lastly, add salt and pepper to taste and top with crushed cookies.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chocolate chip potato chip cookies: a recipe

chocolate chip potato chip cookies
Chocolate chip potato chip cookies
Enough with the salad: bring on the cookies!

(I know you were thinking it, so I just said it for you. But seriously, we do eat actual food around here, I swear. I'm not sure why my posts have been dessert-centric lately. I'll through some kale in next week for good measure.)

This is no ordinary cookie, friends. Regular readers will know how much I heart the salted oatmeal cookies (I link back to that post about a gajillion times a week, I know), largely because of their near-perfect blend of salty and sweet.

But we may have discovered a rival.

I tried a recipe for potato chip cookies a while back. It was just OK, so I didn't bother to a) make them a second time or b) feature them here.

I mean, come on, you deserve a lot better than just OK.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tomato-green bean salad with shallot dressing: two recipes

tomato and green bean salad
Tomato and green bean salad with shallot dressing
Two recipes for the price of one today.

Yeah, you're welcome.

I don't know about you, but I'm a big fan of dishes I make for dinner that can double as lunch the next day. Dinner-cum-lunch.

Which is probably why I eat pasta way too much.

Well, that and the fact that I'm Italian. Clearly it's in my blood.

This tomato and green bean salad started its life as a warm side dish for some honey and lemon glazed chicken breasts, baked on a bed of rosemary (if I hadn't forgotten to take pictures of it, you might have seen that as part of this post as well. But I did so you're not. It happens more than you might think.).

But the leftovers did not seem substantial enough for lunch, all by itself. It needed a little boost of protein.

(Normally this is where I would add bacon or sausage, right? HA! Not today.)

Thursday, May 10, 2012

French yogurt cake: a recipe

yogurt cake
I really wish I'd seen that crumb in the foreground...
Lucky you: this is is your second dessert recipe this week!

You can thank some dear friends of ours who came to visit recently, as we hosted them for dinner one night. When having a dinner party (do we call them that anymore or is that too Mad Men?), I like to choose dishes for the menu that can either be made in advance or are simple enough to a) not stress me out and b) allow me to spend time with my guests rather than being by myself in the kitchen.

For example, steaks on the grill are a great choice because then Mr. Ninj gets to cook, too. (Which he did for this dinner party. In the pouring rain, no less.)

So, wanting a simple, make-ahead dessert, I chose this French Yogurt Cake, not only because it was easy but also because it has the word "french" in the title and I'm gearing up for my first trip to Paris in June. (Yes, Paris! I mean, oui, Paris! Ooo la la!)

Talk about easy!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Nutella cookies: a recipe

Chewy yet crunchy Nutella cookies will quickly become your family's favorite.

Nutella cookies
Nutella cookies
I use the expression "comfort food" a lot, as I'm sure you do, too.

Usually when I say it, I mean food that is delicious and filling, is probably not very good for you and evokes some sort of safe-as-houses feeling inside. Food that offers comfort to you.

But, over the past year or so, I think I understand its other meaning -- perhaps its primary meaning.

Food can be a way of offering comfort to others, of saying what we don't quite have the words to say.

There's a reason why, in a time of crisis or sadness, the standard response is to whip up a casserole for the family in need. We want to show we care, to offer comfort, and we do so with our favorite recipes.

It's definitely what I do. I've experienced the loss of two loved ones recently and both times, for lack of knowing quite what else to do, I baked a batch of my salted oatmeal cookies. In fact, one of my friends has started calling them my "funeral cookies."

Similarly, since my dad passed away nearly a year ago, every time I visit my mom I bring her a whole load of individually frozen homemade meals, to try to make things a little easier for her.

In my way, I'm offering what comfort I can by offering food made from the heart.

Monday, May 7, 2012

CSA Share Ninja Rescue: bok choy and rutabagas

My indoor seedlings, as it's still a bit too chilly to plant the garden here in Vermont
Welcome back! It's the first week of the 2012 edition of the CSA Share Ninja Rescue, in which you, the readers, tell me, The Ninj, what veggies in your CSA share are giving you consternation and I give you some recipe ideas.

If you need help with a veggie, leave a comment below or send me an email before this coming Friday. Recipes suggestions are posted on Mondays.

This week, readers have requested help with rutabagas (reader from the South) and bok choy (not sure where she's from but I'll go with it). I'm just jealous that you're even getting fresh veg, as we are still having occasional frost here in Vermont.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Beef and pepper curry

Beef and bell pepper curry over udon
After all that cheesecake, I think you need to eat something a bit more healthy.

No big family story behind this one, I swear (I'm still a little verklempt over sharing that recipe, honestly).

Always on the lookout for a quick-and-easy recipes for weeknight dinners, I came across this one in the new (June 2012) issue of Eating Well magazine. The timing was great, as apparently it's mega mango season in Mexico, so the stores are full of ripe mangoes, on sale.

(Yes, yes, I try to eat locally as much as possible, but sometimes you just can't if you want to have a little excitement in your diet. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I highly doubt that there are any mango farmers in Vermont.)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Homemade ricotta and my super-secret family recipe New York cheesecake

The world's greatest cheesecake, I swear to god
I love cheese.

No, I mean I really love cheese.

As in, I always forgo dessert when we dine out if there's a cheeseplate on either the dessert or appetizer menu.

So imagine my excitement when the April topic for the Grow It Cook It Can It Cook It! 2012 challenge turned out to be fresh cheese. Yay! (I've really been enjoying that we're tackling some real cooking staples as part of this challenge, as opposed to getting all elaborate and complicated.)

As Caroline did, I decided to stick with fresh ricotta. I have made mozzarella in the past but the idea of making cheese in 10 minutes using only three ingredients was just too tempting.

Seriously. Ten minutes, three ingredients.

This was so easy there barely needs to be a recipe, so I'll just show you the steps (and I apologize in advance for the not-so-great step photos).