Thursday, March 31, 2011

Honey Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

Ever have one of those weeks where you did everything right and things just seemed to come effortlessly together?
Yeah, me neither.

Somehow the planets lined up to include the following in just a handful of my days:  Catering a tea party for 18, starting a new job with lots of techie stuff involved, and my boy getting on a bus to Fort Dix, the jumping off place for soldiers headed to Afghanistan.  I'm not going to lie and say that meditation is making the stress go away.  This is one of those weeks that even baking can't take the edge off.

But I'm fortunate to have friends and family about, and a girl has to eat, so if you've got a minute and you're wondering what's for supper at your house, I'll share this simple, earthy-sweet dish with you.  It comes via Mark F., a friend of the family and former chef for a local winery, who graciously shared the recipe.  I used to drive 45 minutes to lunch there, just thinking about these potatoes.

Recipe for Honey Roasted Rosemary Potatoes
4 medium to large potatoes - leave the peel if it's nice, don't if they're Russets
vegetable oil
fresh or dried rosemary
salt and pepper

First, cut the potatoes into 1-inch or so chunks, then parboil them not longer than 5 minutes.  Drain.  Preheat the oven to 450 while you place the potatoes into a medium glass baking dish.  Drizzle generously with the oil (don't soak them but to keep from drying out, I estimated 3 tablespoons), then honey in about the same measure.

Today, I was fortunate to have some honey my sister had given me when she cleaned out her cabinets before moving far away (told you it was that kind of week).  The honey was pale and floral and made the dish lighter tasting than usual. Lovely.

Don't be stingy with the rosemary.  If you're using dried stems, it might be nice to soak them a bit first.  Either way, I sprinkled in a good tablespoonful.  Salt and pepper to your usual taste - I think potatoes crave a bit of S&P.

Gently fold all the ingredients together and bake for 15 minutes on the high heat.  At this point, I turned my oven to broil for another 10 to 15 minutes to get good caramelization of the honey on the potato edges.
Once, when visiting Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, I noticed potted rosemary plants by the front door.  The guide commented that as ladies' skirts brushed the plants, their lovely fragrance was released into the air.  Right now, my house smells better than that and even though nothing's changed, I've made it through Thursday and I hope you do the same.♥

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sunny Citrus Cookies

Being of the flexitarian persuasion, I am not automatically drawn to vegan recipes. In fact, some little voice in my head murmurs, "They took something out. And if I liked this recipe before, it can't be as good with something missing."
Well, these cookies are every bit as good without the egg and butter. And they're versatile. Use whatever citrus you have on hand. My favorite is lime but I also love margaritas. Orange is good, lemon is lovely.
As a child, did you like SweeTarts, Sour Bites, Lemon Drops, Spree and Smarties? Well, join the club. These cookies are for grownup us.

The original recipe is Martha Stewart's. The vegan adaptation is mine and grew out of the need to develop such offerings for my bakery employer. But people bought them (and continue to do so) because they're just plain good. In fact, we could hardly keep up with demand.

Glazed Citrus Cookies Recipe (with vegan options)
2 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1/2 C butter or vegetable margarine like Smart Balance
1 C sugar
1 large egg or, in a 1/4 C measure, place 3 tsp soy milk and fill remainder with vegetable oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, soda, salt and lemon zest.
In bowl of mixer, cream butter/vegetable margarine and add sugar, beating until fluffy. Add egg or substitute mixture, vanilla and lemon juice and mix until combined. On low speed, add in flour mixture. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto 2 baking sheets - I get 2 dozen of this size.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until  edges begin to brown, rotating pans at the halfway point. The vegan version will be slightly flatter, with butter, a bit taller. Cool for 2 minutes and transfer to wire rack. When cool to the touch, mix glaze below and brush or drizzle over.

1 C powdered sugar
zest and juice of 1 lemon
Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Shortbread Shamrocks with Green Tea Icing

This seems like a good week for keeping things simple. With only five ingredients and a couple of steps, shortbread cookies make up for those relationships where you did all the work.

Shortbread Recipe

1 cup butter
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus 1 cup for icing
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups plain flour

green tea extract
light corn syrup

Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter in bowl of mixer, then add powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time, continuing to mix on low speed until sugar is incorporated. Add vanilla and mix. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, again while gently mixing, only until ingredients are incorporated.

At this point, you can just press two rounds of dough onto a large baking sheet and cut into 8 wedges each to bake for 20 to 25 minutes. If you have a bit more energy and are craving shapes, roll out onto floured board to about 1/2" thickness and cut out. The buttery dough makes greasing your baking sheets unnecessary.

I baked my shamrocks for about 15 minutes, until the sides started to brown slightly, then cooled on a rack so they were ready for icing. Per my usual glossy ice, I added green tea concentrate (instead of milk) to a cup of powdered sugar until good spreading/drizzling consistency, then added a teaspoon of light corn syrup for shine. Drizzle this over cooled cookies. Now, what do you take in your tea?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup.

I love this soup and it loves me back, which is why I chose the recipe to demonstrate for folks attending the Living with Diabetes Expo in Salem, Virginia, this Saturday.

It would be nice if all I ate was brioche tartine or heart-shaped cookies or chocolate cobbler, but the reality for me and my family is a whole lotta metabolic syndrome. Our family food culture, like a lot of those in this region, is heavy on carbohydrates, white flour, white sugar and all the things that lead to insulin resistance and eventually, type 2 diabetes. It's an uphill battle to change that culture, but one we continue to pursue, always looking and trying new recipes that will lure us away from those go-to favorites.

My personal goal is to change what I crave, to find foods that nourish but are so tasty, they become the first thing I think of when asking myself what I want for dinner. It takes solid research to learn about things like the glycemic index and well-balanced meals, what to leave in, what to take out. But it's totally worth it. Once you understand nutritional value, then you start looking for what appeals to you, within these guidelines. This warming soup is one of the rewards of my search. Not feeling yucky after a meal - that's another - along with living longer and not being dependent on drugs to metabolize my intake.

There are a lot of versions of this recipe out there. You'll find them with carrots, celery, and probably things you'd add that I wouldn't. Additionally, after I've eaten this soup for a day or two, I'll change it up and serve it as a bruschetta.

If you like bruschetta, or croutons on your soup, this whole grain ciabatta makes a happy healthy choice - I just substituted whole wheat flour and 7-grain cereal for half the bread flour. Remember, you really do need the nutrients in whole grains, so don't cut them out.
Do you have a favorite leafy green vegetable? By all means, things like collards, chard, spinach will do just fine. Same with the beans - I like the creaminess of cannellini, but Michigan navy beans and great Northerns do the job nicely.

Recipe for Tuscan White Bean and Kale Soup


2 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 t. minced garlic

1 pound fresh kale, stalks removed, roughly chopped
2 cans cannellini or other white beans, drained

32 oz. carton of low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan or Asiago cheese


Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sweat until the onion is translucent and softened.

Add kale to the pot and cover, letting it wilt – approximately 5 to 10 minutes – stirring to prevent sticking.

When kale has reduced to about half its volume, add in beans and broth, plus heel of Parmesan for extra flavor. Salt and pepper to taste, if desired. Cover, reduce heat and let simmer until kale is tender – approximately 20 minutes.

Ladle into soup bowls, add croutons, shave cheese over top and drizzle olive oil to finish. This makes four generous servings.
Now, I don't know about you, but where I most often get into trouble is dessert cravings. I'll have a lovely, filling and nutritious dinner, feel pretty good, and if there's a Krispy Kreme box on the counter, I'm helpless. BUT, that does not have to be the case. With a bit of pantry planning, you can have this:
Peach halves, caramelized in a grill pan, served with crumbled meringues. Shocking, right? Just a bit of research reveals that one large peach has about 60 calories and 15 grams of carbs. These vanilla meringues from Cooking Light magazine weigh in at a skimpy 13 calories each with 3 grams of carbohydrate and NO fat. Insane, yes? Insanely good!

If you're in the area or would like more information on Living with Diabetes, here's a link to Saturday's event: 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Country Ham and Cheddar Tartine with French Hot Chocolate.

I bet you thought baguettes were only good the day you bought them, all hot and crusty. Mais non! I made baguettes over the weekend, today is Fat Tuesday, and I've got some leftover French bread that's still pretty nice because I bagged the extra and stored it in the fridge.

A tartine is simply the French version of an open-face sandwich. Last week, on an orange and chocolate tear, I made one with brioche, orange jam and Nutella. It was mighty good.
For my savory tartine, the process was much the same.

Except the ingredients were:
1 red onion, caramelized
1 thin slice of country ham
a good quality cheddar
honey mustard

Caramelized onions are a good thing to keep around - they're easy and add a lot of flavor. Cut one medium red onion into rings and sautee in a tablespoon of olive oil or half oil and half butter. Throw in some ground black pepper, sage and a bit of salt and stir while they go translucent over medium heat. Let them go another 15 minutes and you've got a sweet, savory sandwich or meat accompaniment.

My leftover baguette was big, so I only used half, slicing it longways and using only the bottom half of that. I toasted the crusty side first, for crispness, then buttered the bready top half and broiled that just a bit.

While the baguette was toasting, I cooked the country ham with a bit of water in my sautee pan. When the baguette half was toasted, I plated it and applied one of my secret pleasures.
I know. I know. Don't judge. Look at those happy honeybees on the label!

Next, the caramelized onions, country ham and several slices of serious cheddar (today it was Boar's Head). I slid this back under the broiler to melt the cheese into the ham and generally warm everything back up. Et voila - salty, savory, tangy and sweet!

Now the only thing missing was something decadent to wash it down. Enter my friend Carol and her amazing French Chocolate recipe. I refer you to her witty and delicious blog --
Cambria Cooks at, but the recipe goes like this:

2 1/2 squares Baker’s unsweetened chocolate, cut in pieces
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
Dash of salt
1/2 cup cream, whipped
6 cups of hot milk
Combine water and chocolate and cook over low flame until smooth, stirring constantly for about four minutes. Add sugar and salt; continue to cook stirring until thick for about four minutes longer. Cool. Whip cream. Fold chocolate mixture into cream.
(Try to keep from licking the bowl until after you're done.)
Put two heaping tablespoons of mixture in a mug. For a bit of flare, add a peppermint stick as a stirrer. Chocolate mix can be doubled or tripled easily for larger gatherings. The chocolate mix can also be made the day before and stored in the refrigerator for use, in a covered container.

Thanks, Carol!

This is the creamiest, most decadent hot chocolate I've ever had and really, not much trouble to prepare when you consider how many servings it yields.

Now, if you'll excuse me, with dinner and chocolate out of the way, I've got a date with Dennis Quaid.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mardi Gras and muffalettas. A guest post by somebody who might be related to me.

If you're a mom, sometimes you might pretend that there are certain things your offspring would never do. Here is one:
That's my son on the right.

Here is another:
Oh, I could go on.

But that'd just keep me awake all night. Instead, I'll let guest baker, Tyler Speaks, tell you about himself and his amazing muffaletta.

Guest Muff’n
Hello internets. Hello Mom and Leo.
Let me preface with a bit about myself.  I envisioned myself at age 24 with a fancy degree, 5,000+ skydives and a steady flock of babes.  One of those wishes has come true.  Anyways, a steady grasp of travel and cuisine in America is never something I thought I would be an expert on, but for the first time in my life I am ready to share some knowledge with them internets.
Truthfully, I never really cared for New Orleans.  I like jazz, but not when homeless people blast it in my grill.  I like culture and beignets, but not underwater.  I like interfacing with the local populace, but not at knifepoint.   Also, my roommate is a Saints fan.  He loves to let you know it.  I brought two things back from New Orleans: MRSA and a love of Cajun cuisine.  I will share ONE of these things with you now.
I don’t really even get why this is a Cajun dish, it seems more Italian or something fruity to me.  It is, however, one of the few things that brings me joy in this bleak world and is as much fun to make as it is to consume.
I’ve tried a few recipes from different spots on this muffaletta (hereon referred to as “muff”) and my favorite is one I got from my drunken Saints-obsessed roommate.  I think he got it from The Central Grocery or something like that in the French Quarter.  Anyshways, it’s pretty straightforward: Get a loaf. Get some meat and cheese.  Make an olive salad.  Combine.  More info you ask? Here we are:
Olive Salad:
2/3 cup green olives, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup black olive, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped pimientos
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 Tbsp. capers
1 metric ton of chopped parsley
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
Mix all those ingredients together and cover.  Marinate in fridge.
1 lg round loaf bread (Italian or whatever)
1/3 lb thin sliced salami
1/3 lb thin sliced ham
1/3 lb thin sliced provolone cheese
olive salad

Once the olive salad is mixed together you let it marinate in the fridge for at least a few hours.  Probably no more than 24 hours or it gets greazy.  Also, put this stuff in a mason jar if you don’t want your fridge to smell like the entire country of Greece condensed into a mixing bowl. 
Ah, the bread.  This is my favorite because I really enjoy baking.  It really tickles the chemist in me and is a good substitute when the labs are closed (or class gets skipped).  Basically, you can buy any big ole round loaf you want, but if you really wanna make an impression on the babes/dudes then make your own bread.  Personally, I prefer a nice olive sourdough.  Get the bread however you want.
Tyler's sourdough w/o olives

So, your bread is fresh out the oven and olive salad has been stewing overnight.   To prepare the bread, slice the top of the round loaf about an inch or so and remove it, like a hat.  Cut a circle and hollow out the inside, leaving a sturdy wall on the sides and the bottom.  This is hard for me to describe for some reason, just Google it or something.  Once bread victory has been achieved, brush a thin layer of olive oil on the inside bottom of the hollow loaf.  Next grab some meats and layer them.  Add the cheese at the top and cover the whole shebang with a thick spread of olive salad.  Everything should pretty much be bursting out the top of the loaf.  Put the top of the bread back on and cut in half and serve.  If you like it hot (some like it hot), then shove it in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes.  The original recipe says to serve this dish with root beer to be authentic.  I say serve with actual beer.  A heavy one.
Hope you enjoy preparing and serving this as much as I do.  It has been a pleasure guest-writing here and maybe I can do it again soon.  Maybe a report on the fabulous dishes of Afghanistan next.  Probably not. 
P.S.: I am single, moderately attractive (most would say 7) and am pretty good at various skills.  Also, well read.  And I travel.  Cheers everyone!!