Category Archives: food blog

Micro-Greens For Salads

Growing your own Micro-Greens can be as easy as spreading seeds on a wet, folded paper towel. I soaked a mixture of lettuce seeds overnight and poured them over a napkin. Add in cilantro and basil seeds that have bee soaked overnight for a spectacular taste in a salad. Within 7 to 10 days, beautiful little greens are ready to harvest. to harvest, the micro-greens are cut 1/4-inch above the roots with kitchen scissors.   Full of flavor and lots of nutrients, they are great for serving as a garnish, salad or main dish as in the following recipe for Lentils With Mango which was served at BlogHers Conference today in Miami.

Lentils With Mango and Micro-Greens

1 cup lentils
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
Bay leaf
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped chives
1 ½ cups ripe mango, peeled and diced
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon freshly ground cumin
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup fresh mixed cilantro, basil and lettuce micro-greens

Microwave on high, lentils, broth, garlic, bay leaf and salt in a 2 quart microwave dish 10 to 15 minutes or until lentils are tender. Drain excess moisture and discard bay leaf. Stir in remaining ingredients and serve with micro-greens on top or at the side.

How to find Morel Mushrooms

square mushroom

I traveled over 1520 miles to find these precious gems and it was worth every mile. My sister called on Wednesday and said she had been out walking on my Dad’s farm and found some morels. I was in the car the next day heading to Iowa. I picked up my other sister in central Iowa and we made it to the farm on Friday morning at about 7 AM.  Debbie was a little hesitant at first about the whole ordeal because even though she had found about 50 mushrooms, whose to say she could find any more? What if I drove all that way and came up empty handed? That had happened so many times that I knew it was a real possibility but I wanted some pictures of those amazing morsels of goodness for my blog and I decided it was worth the try. And, as you can see from the picture, I was not disappointed! We found about 30 or so in about an hour of searching the creek banks. When I say creek banks - really only about 2 feet wide and only had water in it in the spring. Here are some of my sister’s best ideas for where to find morel mushrooms:  1. They seem to grow right where gooseberry bushes are (which are easily identifiable) 2. They seem to grown in a line with where the wind can carry the spores.  In other words, if you find one, walk 50 yards in the direction of the most common prevailing winds. If you do not know the prevailing winds, you can also use the same logic if you happen to find three mushrooms spread out over an area and can make a line of them. Follow the line farther and you may find more mushrooms, like we did.  Some say dead and fallen trees are a good place to look. This was not true in our case. There were lots of rotted oak and walnut trees, but no mushrooms around them.  Debbie also told us that some say they are on the “north side of a south slope”. We spent a good chunk of our hunting time thinking on that one and could never come up with such a thing. It gave us some good laughs as we looked at a slope and tried to decide what was the north side and which was the slope. Most of the mushrooms we found on a slope were on the east creek bank but we found just as many on the flat ground in little thickets of trees that are between the corn fields.

Since mushrooms reproduce through spores, looking for them where the wind would carry the spores is really the crux of mushroom hunting. It is also what makes it so hard to find them - who knows where the wind blows and where those little spores are going to land and take root? Debbie fried us up a bunch of mushrooms before we left and here is her “almost world famous morels” recipe.  She tried to send some to her son Mike who was stationed in the military and Mike told her the entire box was leaking and smelled awful. Doesn’t that sound a little like the mana from heaven that the Israelites in the bible tried  save?  God provides our daily bread (and morels).

Debbie’s Fried Morels

1 to 20 morels
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste

Soak the morels in 4 cups water and 3 tablespoons salt for ½ hour to 2 hours (to remove any hidden bugs). Pat dry with a towel, cut each morel in half. Dip in egg and roll in flour, salt and pepper mixture. Saute in butter for 3 to 5 minutes on each side.

Crystallized Ginger

Several years ago my daughter told me about an amazing restaurant experience where she was served Crystallized Ginger as the grand finale. It sounded intriguing enough that I ran out and found some, but I was nraw ginger croppedot impressed with it and it sat in my cupboard forever. Later I came across a recipe from Cooks Illustrated on how to make your own. I tried it and was hooked. So are the culinary students in my class who love the little crystals and the sharp, sweet flavor.

  But, that flavor really depends upon the ginger you start with. If it is fresh, the flavor will be mellow and smooth. Ginger that is woody and a little older will have a stronger more pronounced bite to it.  My students from Vietnam say they never peel ginger. The papery thin layer is usually not on purchased Crystallized Ginger, but I have done it both ways. I hate to waste ginger by peeling but it does look a little mSONY DSCore like crystals when peeled. It usually comes down to how much fresh ginger I have. Today I found a huge bag of it at an Asian Market. It was a great find and I am feeling like I don’t have to hoard my ginger. I adapted this recipe for the microwave which does a great job of super-saturating the sugar and water.

As the ginger cools in the super saturated mixture, it absorbs sugar.

I toss the ginger with additional sugar to give it the look I want.

Both the liquidGinger crystals left behind and the sugar that is used to coat the ginger have a wonderful flavor, so save it for baking.

 

Crystallized Ginger can be used in cakes, cookies, or muffins.  I am saving my ginger crystals to top scones for company this weekend.

Crystallized Ginger

1 pound fresh ginger root
1 cup water
1 cup sugar, plus more for tossing with ginger


Peel the ginger root and slice into 1/8-inch thick slices. Place into a 2-quart microwave-safe dish with the water and 1 cup of sugar.  Microwave on High for 4 to 5 minutes or until ginger is tender and sugar is dissolved, stirring twice.  Let stand for 30 minutes to allow ginger to absorb sugar.

 

 

Tiny Yam Muffins

I love tea parties, and these tiny delectable bites remind me to slow down enough to have a few tea parties. When the girls were little we would dress in old fashioned dresses, fill some fine tea cups, and have a party.

The flavor of these little gems is dependent upon the ingredients that are used. I find  fresh yams with a dark flesh, microwave them for about 7 minutes per pound, scoop out the pulp, and smash them in the food processor for a few seconds for the best flavor. I also bring out some great flavor with whole nutmeg that I grate with a zester and homemade vanilla (see my vanilla blog for that recipe).

Tiny Yam Muffins

 ½ cup butter, softened

 1 ¼ cups sugar

 2 eggs

 1 cup milk

 1 ¼ cups mashed yams or sweet potatoes

 1 ½ cups flour

 1 teaspoon baking powder

 ¼ teaspoon baking soda

 ½ teaspoon salt

 2 teaspoons cinnamon

 ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

 ¾ cup chopped, toasted pecans

I just put the cooked sweet potatoes in the food processor and process until smooth. I add all the other ingredients (except the pecans) and process for just 20 seconds or until combined, being careful to not process too long. Fold in the pecans. Spoon into tiny muffin pans and bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes. Remove muffins from the tins and allow to cool before putting in freezer bags. Freeze any muffins that won’t be consumed in a day or two.

Here, Carson is enjoying his Tiny Yam Muffins, a fist full at a time. Definitely more “manly” than a tea party. with sweet potato muffin

Raspberry Balsamic Dressing

This is a dressing that I used at my daughter’s wedding and other events I have catered. It is light with a hint of sweetness.  If your raspberries are still frozen, put them in the microwave for a minute or two until the juice runs easily. The secret is to pop the mustard seeds before adding to the dressing. Just about any grain or seed can be popped like popcorn. The flavor is enhanced and adds depth to the dressing. Taste the dressing before serving and add more sweetness or lemon juice to match your preference.

2 cups frozen raspberries, thawed

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon popped mustard seeds

¼ teaspoon salt

Squeeze all the liquid from raspberries, using a cheesecloth or  jelly bag, into a jar with a tight lid. Add remaining ingredients and shake well.  (To pop mustard seeds, place in a small glass dish with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Microwave on high 1 to 2 minutes or until you can hear the seeds popping.)

Thyme Infused Leek Soup

If you find yourself in the woods this spring, look for the red colored ramps which can be used in this recipe.  When we backpack in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, we always look for ramps and put them in whatever soup, stew, or main dish is on the menu.  They can be sauteed or cut up and added raw, which is much easier over a campfire.   The entire “Ramp” plant can be  used in this recipe, or substituted for leeks in just about any recipe.  If using ramps, use just a small amount at first as the flavor is much stronger and more pungent. Try fresh Thyme and either leeks or a touch of ramps to your next soup to add a wonderful smooth flavor.  Soup over a campfire is great just about any time of year because even the summer evenings are cool in the mountains. If I am not cooking over a campfire, my second favorite way to cook a soup is in the microwave.

 

Making soups in the microwave is almost hands-off cooking once all the ingredients are in the pot. It is a matter of starting the microwave and letting the soup simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Most potato soups remove the peel from the potatoes but I think the peelings in this soup adds a really nice texture and color when red potatoes are used. Yukon gold or other potatoes can be used and while the red color will be missing, the potatoes themselves lend a velvety golden goodness to the soup. At the last minute add just a little milk so the soup has the consistency you want. I like mine with just enough body to hold its shape on my spoon. An extra cup of skim milk was just the right amount. If the soup cools too much, just place it back in the microwave for a minute or two. Infusing the soup with thyme gives it a subtle flavor. The stem of the fresh thyme can be removed, but scrape down the stem to keep the tiny bits of leaves in the soup for added color and flavor.

Thyme Infused Potato Leek Soup 

 

2 leeks, cleaned and sliced (about a pound)

2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup butter

4 cups water

¼ cup dry white wine

3 sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable base

6 potatoes, cubed

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 cup skim milk (optional)

Combine leeks, garlic, and butter in a 2-quart microwave safe dish. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Microwave on high 10 to 12 minutes, or until leeks are tender and start to turn color. Add remaining ingredients except milk. Microwave on high 15 to 16 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove thyme stems, leaving the leaves in the soup. Puree ½ of soup in blender, food processor or with an emersion blender. Stir in enough milk to make desired consistency.

 

 

Court Bouillon

I knew my article was on page 23 of  the Cooking Light Magazine, but it took  a friend to point out that it was my recipe on the cover! Wow, that is my recipe isn’t it?  How I had missed this little detail is beyond me.  It is a little like the time a journalist showed up at a cooking show I was doing. I always try to make a connection with my audience and I started a little small talk with her. She told me she was a food columnist from the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. I started to gush effusively  about how amazing that was and I told her what an honor it was to meet her and I loved the her latest column and what a coincidence to meet her here and on and on and that I also was a food columnist  for the paper . She rolled her eyes at my naiveté and said, “I know, I am here to cover your cooking show.” Ooops there goes my cover as a VIP, culinary extraordinaire or food snob. I wouldn’t mind being one of those, but I can never quite pull it off. As a Food Science Professor, I rub shoulders with all kinds of elite and wanna-be elite. Within the first couple days of starting my university job I was asked about my favorite food in the area. I could have talked about some exotic dish or earthy organic food but instead I innocently answered the truth, my favorite thing to do is prepare foods that my family likes. She gave me a look like “that was totally un-inspiring” and walked away. That was  an ah ha moment for me. I realized that, no matter what, I will always be a farm girl at heart and my family will always be my favorite people to cook for.  And lucky for me, my family loves all kinds of different foods, including this Court Bouillon. Coulter loves to catch anything wild and ever since he was little we always made a habit of cooking his catch. So whatever fish or seafood he has found, I add it to this Court Bouillon.  It has evolved since I developed it for Cooking Light Magazine but it was developed as a microwave recipe and I can’t imagine any better method.

When my students made this in class, they were a little freaked out by the shells left on the shrimp. I tried to convince them that this is how it would traditionally be served because the shells really do add flavor.   This recipe might look like a serious list of ingredients, but it goes together quick and is done in less than 15 minutes.

Court Bouillon

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped bell pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup crushed tomatoes

2 tablespoons chicken-flavored base

6 cups water

1 tablespoon, minced thyme leaves

2 tablespoons, minced basil leaves

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon hot sauce (I like green Tabasco)

1 teaspoon Creole Seasoning (see below for recipe)

½ cup chopped green onion

2 Tablespoons cornstarch mixed with ½ cup water

1  or 2 fish filets  (I like redfish but any firm fish will work)

1 cup lobster meat

8 frozen shrimp

 

Sauté onion, celery, bell pepper and garlic in olive oil for 4 to 5 minutes in the microwave on high. Add remaining ingredients except cornstarch, fish and shrimp.  Bring mixture to a boil (Microwave 8 to 10 minutes on high), stir in cornstarch. Microwave for 1 minute. Stir in fish, lobster and shrimp. Let stand 5 minutes to allow fish and seafood to cook. If mixture cools too much, microwave until heated.

Makes 8 servings

Granola With Pomegranate

Granola takes minutes to make in the microwave.  It is as quick as any

whole pomegranitesbreakfast and I love to put all kinds of yummy things in it…..like walnuts, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), flax seeds, and coconut – not to mention dried fruit.

For this particular recipe, I left out the dried fruit because I found my new BFF (new better favorite and friendlier). I just discovered a combination that I can’t resist.

Here, it is the creamy goodness of yogurt and pomegranates spooned over granola. I noticed other people top yogurt with granola, but at my table we top granola with yogurt and fruit. It is not alpom seedsl semantics, there really is a reason for our madness. Farm families for generations have found how to ramp up the energy value of breakfast to make it through the morning chores (now more often the morning workout).

The Secret is lots of whole grain goodness. 

 

Granola With Pomegranate

 

4 cups rolled oats (not instant)

2 tablespoons flax seeds

½  cup chopped walnuts

½  cup chopped pepitas

½ cup shaved coconut

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼  teaspoon salt

¼  cup maple syrup

¼ cup brown sugar

¼  cup coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Toppings:

Plain Yogurt

Fresh Pomegranate

 granola med

Combine oats, flax seeds, walnuts, pepitas, coconut, cinnamon, and salt in a 2-quart microwave safe container. Microwave on high about 4 to 5 minutes, until heated and starting to toast.  Combine remaining ingredients in a 2-cup measure. Microwave on high 2 to 2 ½ minutes or until sugar starts to dissolve, stirring twice. Pour syrup mixture over warm oat mixture and stir well. Microwave on high 4 to 5 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring twice. Allow to cool, stirring a few times to prevent granola from sticking to the bowl. To serve, top with yogurt and pomegranate.

Whole Wheat Waffles With Pecans and Pears

Louisiana food is an unusual experience for many, but especially for this Iowa farm girl. Who could imagine that there was a place where I could have two gardens a year? The rose trellis at the end of the covered porch was covered with hundreds of an antique variety of red climbing rose, and that was just one of the surprises in my yard during my first growing season. When spring brought out buds I found all sorts of fascinating trees in our yard, including pears and pecans. The combination always brings me back to wonderful Louisiana memories and flavors. Simple and elegant. Flavorful and inviting. Special and comforting. That what these cinnamon flavored whole wheat waffles have always been to my family.

 

Whole Wheat Waffles With Pecans and Pears
¼ cup butter
¾ cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites
1 pear, peeled and diced
½ cup toasted pecans

Melt butter in microwave on High for ½ to 1 minute or until melted. Stir in flour, sugar, salt, buttermilk, cinnamon, vanilla and egg yolks.  Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter.  Pour ¾ cup of batter into preheated waffle iron, add about 1 tablespoon each of pears and pecans.  Cook until golden brown. Serve with additional pear slices and pecans if desired.

Mushroom or Edamame Crostini

 

I love crostini….but if I have to be 100% honest – it is that I love toasted bread, and that is exactly what crostini is! With the addition of a drizzle of olive oil, garlic and maybe even a topping. When I would come home from track practice in middle school, I could eat half a loaf of bread toasted and slathered with butter, sugar, and cinnamon or maybe my own homemade chokecherry jelly (which spilled all over the kitchen carpet and ended my childhood days of making anything with deep red stainability). Onmornings of track meets when I needed a huge reservoir of energy, and needed to prepare it and eat it at 4:30 AM, I would reach for toasted bread once again – this time as a grilled cheese,. The toppings for edamame crostini include a smooth, rich tasting, homemade ricotta cheese.

Scald 8 cups of whole milk. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and allow to sit to make curds and whey. When curds form, carefully strain through cheesecloth until ricotta is the consistency you want. For more information on making fresh cheese, see recipe for Fresh Ricotta Cheese.

Edamame Crostini

 

1   baguette, sliced at an angle

2     cloves of garlic

1 cup fresh ricotta cheese

¾ cup cooked edamame beans

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

zest of ½ lemon

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon basil, chopped

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lay bread slices on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Rub with garlic. Toast bread for about 2 to3 minutes. Remove from oven and spread each with a layer of ricotta cheese. Combine  remaining ingredients and lightly mash together with a fork or potato masher. You want some of the edamame to be smashed and some to still be intact. Top toasted bread with edamame mixture. Garnish with more lemon zest, Parmesan cheese and radish.

Mushroom Crostini

Follow recipe for Edamame Crostini except substitute fresh, grilled or sauteed mushrooms and Aspargus for Edamame.