Archive for the ‘Food Facts’ Category

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I almost thought to do this as a Wordless Wednesday post, but I simply can’t be quiet about fresh cherries and when I get passionate and excited about a food, my hyper-articulate and descriptive nature fully reveals itself and well, I just can’t stop. Either talking about them or eating them.

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This time of year, I’m not even that picky about how much a bag of cherries will set me back. This is one fruit that I will splurge on when in season without even a blink of an eye. And it’s the easiest to consume too; just a wash under water, a bowl for the pits and stems and no white clothing. I’ve eaten them until I feel like one big round fat cherry myself, lips and fingertips stained purple. I rarely make anything with cherries; they just don’t last long enough for me to search for the perfect recipe, I have little patience for the mess and hassle of pitting them by hand and really, I struggle with feeling like I am wasting this precious summer treat by putting it in anything, making it into something other than what it is- a perfect, simple, nutritious and fabulous treat. You do a great deal of good for yourself to snack on fresh cherries- they are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and contain high levels of antioxidants such as anthocyanins, quercetin and ellagic acid. They have high levels of vitamin C, fiber and anti-inflammatory properties. One cup has about 90 calories.

On or about the third bag of the dark and sweet red drupes that came into my kitchen, I started thinking about making something like cherry spoonfruit, or a cherry syrup to have on hand, then I began thinking about chocolate and cherries. Pretty soon, it was Chocolate Cherry Pancakes for dinner, with fresh and warm cherry syrup on the side.

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It was like having dessert for dinner. The key to a good pancake– besides a good heft and height- is that they taste good all on their own. I’m no spartan when it comes to my cakes; they’ve got to be chock full of something good, something flavorful and tasty enough so that I can eat it all on it’s own. These certainly fit that need. Chunks of sweet cherries, a sprinkling of Guittard semi-sweets and a hot pan was all I needed. That and an appetite.

Cherry Syrup
by Kate

(weights are approximate; this was totally thrown together)

1-1/2# fresh pitted cherries
1 c. water
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 T. lemon juice
Cornstarch for thickening (the amount you use will vary with the juiciness of your fruit)

Combine all ingredients in a heavy pan and cook at a simmer until fruit breaks down and releases it’s juice. Mix about 2 T. of cornstarch with 1/4 c. cold water to make a pourable liquid. Slowly pour into hot fruit, whisking constantly until thickened to your liking. Cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes more, or until liquid has darkened and becomes syrupy. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

This should keep in the fridge for a week or so, if it lasts that long. Enjoy on pancakes or waffles, ice cream, yogurt, cereal…..the possibilities are endless.

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Say Olé to Molé!!


Molé sauce is huge in traditional Mexican cooking, and a complicated one at that. I have researched this quite a bit and no matter what I read on one page, the next article or book or website tells me something different.

One thing is clear as I read, drool and learn about this rich, fragrant and thick sauce; like all traditions in any culture this food will never be the same if made by a mere two cooks or by more than a hundred. Molé is like a cooks personal fingerprint. Depending on where they originate, what their ancestors used and what recipe was taught to them, every Molé sauce is vastly different. And if I explain all of them to you, this post could be endless.

The bottom line is this: not all Molé sauces are made with chilies and chocolate, and when most people think of Molé, it’s likely what comes to mind is most common, Molé Poblano, widely considered one of Mexico’s most well-known dishes. It’s origin is Oaxaca, deep in the southern part of the country and home to a tremendous diversity of regional cuisine, it’s called The Land of the Seven Molés- Molé Negro, Molé Rojo, Molé Coloradito, Molé Chichilo, Molé Verde, Molé Amarillo and Molé de Almendra.

mole-sauce-1(photo courtesy of delectable victuals)

A traditional method of making Molé means a large, extensive list of ingredients- 30 is considered an average with rampant rumors of those recipes topping 100- and a time consuming simmer on the stove. Some of the sauces are reduced to the consistency of thick paste. These are then reconstituted with chicken broth and cooked to the desired consistency. Molé Negro is the darkest and richest of them all, also the most difficult to prepare and hence, one of the most famous. Given the necessary time needed to prepare a good Mole, it is generally reserved for special occasions. Mole sauces, although widely prepared with accompanying foods like turkey, chicken and vegetables, is often simply eaten with tortillas, the remaining items being served on the side.

I knew very little of this when I spied a recipe for Roast Pork with Chipotle Mole Sauce in Dana Jacobi’s 12 Best Foods Cookbook. I just knew, looking at the recipe, that this was a dish that I would love, Mike would enjoy and Griffin might manage to choke down. He’s not one to really go into an eyeball rolling culinary glaze over spicy flavors like Mike and I, and I was right. He ate it, but with reservations. Mike and I, however, had a bad case of Mole lust with the first bite.

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Based on the descriptions and ingredients of the different Mole sauces, I think this one could be considered Mole Coloradito. This Mole, brick red and relatively mild in comparison, contains raisins, cinnamon, oregano, tomato, peanuts and almonds, as well as the required chilies and chocolate, all thickened with darkly toasted bread.  The ingredients are cooked and seared in a pan, blended smooth then returned to the pan and cooked to a thick, fragrant and mouth-watering sauce. A small pork tenderloin was then browned and placed in the hot sauce to cook through.

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And like I said, we had some serious Mole lust going on.

The pork was ultra tender from it’s simmer in the thick sauce and the flavors that touched our tongues were at once spicy, sweet, hot and dark. I added additional dark chocolate to the ingredient list and allowed it to simmer way longer than recommended. I’m glad that I did; the sauce thickened, turn very dark and achieved a richer and deeper flavor that only got better over the next few days. We enjoyed the leftover sauce drizzled over nachos and used as a tortilla chip dip. Heck, I would have gladly spooned it up all on it’s own.

Pork Tenderloin in Chipotle Mole
from 12 Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi

1 T. canola oil
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1 c. canned tomato, with liquid
1 slice whole wheat bread, darkly toasted
1-2 canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
1/2 c. golden raisins
1 T. unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 T. sugar
1 t. mexican oregano
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. ground clove
1 15-oz can chicken broth (or equivalent)
1 whole pork tenderloin, about 1-1/2 #
2 T. white sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

In a deep skillet with a tight fitting lid, heat oil over medium high heat, add garlic and saute for one minute. Stir in nuts and spread out, cooking to a light golden, about 2 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent scorching. Transfer mixture to a blender and wipe out skillet. Add tomato to blender, along with toasted bread, chipotle, raisins, cocoa, oregano, sugar, cinnamon, black pepper and clove and whirl to blend well. Add about a half cup of broth and blend again until sauce is a pulpy puree. Pour sauce back into skillet and add remaining broth. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.

In a separate skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil and when hot, add pork tenderloin. Sear on all sides to a golden brown, then place in pot of Molé sauce and stir to coat pork completely. A little chicken broth or water can be used to de-glaze the skillet, adding the browned bits to the Molé. Cover pan and allow to simmer on low heat until pork is cooked thoroughly.

Can be garnished with sesame seeds before serving.

I added a chopped onion to the skillet before cooking the garlic, and browned it well to provide some extra flavor. Once the Molé sauce was simmering, I stirred in about 3/4 of a dark chocolate bar (I think it was Dove). It added an amazingly deep chocolate-y flavor.

I cooked my Molé for quite some time before adding the browned pork. It probably simmered for at least 30-45 minutes, long past the time indicated in the recipe. I added slightly more chicken broth to the mix while I cooked it, and watched as the color deepened. My sauce needed a bit of salt for seasoning, but otherwise it was really wonderful. This extra step is not necessary, but I think it added a lot of flavor. Be sure to stir it often to prevent it from sticking and scorching.

The leftovers will keep for days in the fridge, and likely can be frozen for months. It makes a lot of sauce. Alternately, you can brown and then roast the pork with the sauce in a 325° oven until it is cooked through, making sure you’re using an oven-proof pan.

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I’m the total opposite of this guy.


Instead of warily watching over the masses, determining who best to give a bowl of soup to and weeding out the undeserving, I would be holding the door open, waving folks inside and pushing bowls into their hands; bowls of steaming, hearty and delicious soup with plenty of great bread for dunking.

I am no Soup Nazi. I’m a Soup Queen. We’re in May now, and I still can be swayed by a bowl of soup; I can read a recipe that is more suited to November’s chill, a thick blanket of fleece and a crackling fire and regardless of the fact that Spring is quite literally bursting out of it’s seams outside, I find myself lusting for that soup. It’s really a huge turn from even a few years ago. I used to never make soup. In fact, it intimidated me and I can’t explain why. I think I tried to make it on several occasions and was met with a thin, watery extraction, flavorless and vague that did nothing to satisfy the need inside of me for warmth or comfort. I can’t say; I’ve obviously blanked out the bad experiences of it. Back then, soup was a can for me, sad as it is. I cranked open a tin container to achieve a highly prized level of comfort, and wistfully dreamed of the steaming pot, bobbing with colorful vegetables and thick cuts of meat, or dripping with toothsome noodles and wished for the ability to do it from the ground up.

Obviously, what I didn’t know about soup was that it really needs to be built from the ground up in order to achieve that amazing soup quality that we all crave. Getting this…..


requires little else but a few tidbits of knowledge. Armed with that knowledge, I’ve knocked out soups by the score, at least one pot a week and often more.

Mmmmm, you can almost smell it, can’t you?

The origin of soup can be traced back nearly 6000 years. The word ‘soup’ is believed to have evolved from the term ‘sop’, when long before eating utensils were created and everything was consumed with your fingers, getting those precious drops of juices in the bottom of your bowl was necessary. A thick hunk of bread accomplished this task nicely.


Surprisingly, the word ‘restaurant‘ comes from a term first associated with soup, when in the 16th century in France, a highly concentrated and nutritious food known as a ‘restaurer‘ was sold by street vendors, advertised as an antidote to physical exhaustion. A Parisian entrepreneur opened a shop in 1765 specializing in servings ‘restaurers’, and the term ‘restaurant’ was coined to describe it. The ‘restaurer’ being served was but a humble bowl of soup used as a means to rejuvenate from the trappings of modern life. It’s no wonder that now, many hundreds of years later, when we crave comfort and seek solace from our own modern world, that a bowl of soup feels like a restorative shot in the arm.


Soup grew in popularity with the onset of canning in the 19th century, and today there are hundreds of options available in the supermarket; dried, canned and all designed to be quick and easy. There is soup for all weather too, and a soup found in all cultures, all cuisines and in every form from around the world. We have classic soups, cold soups, fruit soups and herb soups. It can be called bisque, chowder, stew and consomme. The Chinese have Egg Drop and Birds Nest soup; the Greek have their Avgolemono, Scots their Cock-a-Leekie, the French serve Bouillabaise, Hungarians love their Goulash, Russians their Borscht, the Spanish and Portugese revere their Gazpacho. Heated arguments ensue over which clam chowder is better- New England cream based, or Manhattan tomato based- and Gumbo pots simmer throughout the Southern United States. Ever heard of  Canh Chua? Revithia? Caldo Verde? Lan Sikik? Callaloo? Fasolada? Bourou-Bourou? Kharcho? Snert? They’re all traditional, cultural representations of soup. Anthony Bourdain claimed that he fell in love with food after eating a bowl of Vichyssoise when he was a boy. And in the 80’s, a flash in the pan boy band went by the name Menudo. Soup is everywhere.

There tends to be a mindset about making soup that it has to take a long time in order for it to be good. While there is something to be said about creating a deep and flavorful pot, simmered for hours at a time, with the ingredients on hand and a quick turn with your knife, soup can be on the table in less than an hour. My Recipe Index has lots of good options for both an easy spin on the stove and a good pot to create over a lazy afternoon.


This soup- Zuppa Arcidossana or Rustic Italian Bread Soup- the recipe that prompted me to make a hearty rich Fall-like pot on a beautiful- but cool- Spring afternoon, was one of the simple means to that steaming goodness. Browsing through the New York Times Dining section each Wednesday often gets me in a state like this; I spot a recipe I know I would love and my mad culinary brain must have it. Now. It’s all Bittman’s fault. The soup was simple, hearty and really flavorful, not to mention very quick.

Zuppa Arcidossana

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 cup 1/2-inch-diced carrots
1 large onion, chopped
3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and black pepper
1 cup stale bread (use coarse, country-style bread), cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 pound spinach, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup ricotta salata, cut in 1/2-inch cubes (feta may be substituted)
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley, optional.

Put oil in a large pot or deep skillet and brown sausage over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally. When sausage is cooked through and leaving brown bits in pan, add carrots, onion and garlic, and continue to cook until vegetables begin to soften and brown, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add bread to pan and stir for a minute or 2; add spinach and continue cooking just until it wilts, a couple of minutes.

Add about 2 cups water and stir to loosen any remaining brown bits from pan. This is more of a stew than a soup, but there should be some broth, so add another cup of water if necessary. When broth is consistency of thin gravy, ladle stew into serving bowls and top with cheese and some freshly chopped parsley if you have it. Serve immediately.

Mark Bittman, NY Times, 4/29/09

Browning the vegetables adds a lot of flavor. I browned the carrot, garlic and onion for quite some time before adding in the sausage and giving it a good searing as well. Since you are only adding water, the fond on the pan will add an immense depth to the pot.

I had some leftover green beans from a previous dinner that ended up in the soup as well. The bread I used was a baguette, and it wasn’t stale; I just cut off the super crusty ends and added them into the soup pot. The slices were toasted to make them nice and crunchy, then set in the broth to soften slightly. I added about a teaspoon of fresh rosemary for extra flavor.

Instead of ricotta, I used fresh mozzarella and of course, shaved parmesan which this soup absolutely cries out for in droves. Basil would also make a good garnish on the top.

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There’s a glut of food blogs on the ‘net, have you noticed? I’ve been trolling for some new inspiration, awesome lurk-worthy sites that are an instant source of excitement, chock full of recipes that I can’t wait to make.

I found myself gasping at what was in front of me; I was a bit taken aback, like thinking I fell into another era. The posts talked about mac and cheese, baked potatoes covered with canned soup, casseroles with frozen vegetables and potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches with perfect squares of fake cheese…..and please excuse me for sounding snobbish as I certainly know I do right about now…. but this is the food that Jamie and I joke and laugh about, the stuff we were forced to eat coming of age in the 1970’s from mothers who only knew about Betty Crocker and The Joy of Cooking.  This is not, in all our 2009 understanding about our food, our health, the way we can nurture and protect ourselves from the plate up; this is not food. I’m sorry. Forgive the mini-rant, it’s done now.


It gets better….I promise-  read on…….


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I am one of those cooks who use recipes only as a fundamental guideline to a finished product. I can trust my own cooking skills enough, and what I know about how my family eats, to be confident when I look at a recipe in determining what ingredients in it won’t work, or what needs to be enhanced. Even simple basic products can be made better with a little creativity and an eye towards a higher nutritional value.

Take a jar of spaghetti sauce. It’s high on the convenience scale, and has a reasonable amount of nutritional value, provided you avoid the sugar-laden brands and stick with a purer variety. With the addition of sauteed onion and garlic, along with shredded zucchini, carrot and spinach, a few chopped fresh roma tomatoes, some fresh basil or rosemary and a little tomato paste to bring it all together, you get a pasta sauce brimming with vegeteble content, better flavor and more nutrition.

I often come across recipes too, that when I do follow them to the letter and get that anticipatory excitement of what the finished product will be, I often end up sorely disappointed, especially if I ignore my inner urgings to add something of my own liking. It is a rare occurence indeed when I work through a recipe and come to a conclusion,  after following the prescribed steps, that what I see in front of me might be way better than what the original end result offered. That was the case with this Savory Millet Risotto.


The recipe, from the current issue of Eating Well magazine, was supposed to be for a Millet Cake, similar in structure and use to Polenta. Even though I have given up on using Polenta in any of my meals after repeated attempts to enjoy it always fell flat, I earmarked this recipe as an option. The millet cooks with shredded vegetables, parmesan cheese, fresh thyme and lemon zest to a creamy consistency, at which point it would be cooled, then shaped into patties to sear in a pan. It never made it that far.


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Seemingly a whole lifetime ago, I worked for five years in the office of a wholesale bakery and I have to say,  the smell of yeast has been and still is one of my most favorite smells of all. I loved walking through the production area in the early afternoons as the baking staff began their daily preparations; I loved standing by the enormous mixing bowls as hundreds of pounds of bread dough, pungent with the scent of yeast and flour, spun and smacked around inside. It was a happy day indeed when my boss would inform me that they would be making test batches that day because I knew he would be bringing me endless samples of warm bread to critique. And the best perk was free bread for the taking- crispy baguettes that snapped when you broke them, showering golden shards of crust everywhere, tangy sourdoughs, pillowy stirato loaves, rustic wheat breads and a mouth-watering marble rye that was my favorite sandwich loaf. The best lunch I could indulge myself in was a sliced baguette spread with a little of their scratch aioli and a few slices of salty ham. I was in carb heaven. I still miss the amazing bread, and it’s been a very long time since I last walked through those doors. I can buy the loaves in the grocers, and the flavor is still good, but I miss the experience of picking up a loaf off the rack that was only hours out of the oven, ethereal in it’s taste.

breadsI still love really good bread and for a long time I routinely spun loads of flour, water and yeast in my bread machine, so much so that I managed to effectively kill the thing outright, but I’m happy to have gotten my money’s worth. Since then, which was quite a while ago, I haven’t made a lot of bread from scratch despite having the time and the desire for it. I experimented with this amazing no-knead bread and loved the rich dense crumb and tangy flavor, but I am plagued with a ‘Must Have It Now’ mentality sometimes, and this just doesn’t work well with the patience and time required for a good loaf of scratch bread. There are some high quality artisan bakeries in the Twin Cities, including my old employ, and for a short trip in the car I can pick up a few loaves of bread to indulge myself in, but what I really need to do instead is lose the impatience inside of me and buckle down to make myself a good loaf on a regular basis.

On a recent trip through the library, I came across the publication of a local group called The Saint Paul Bread Club. I barely hesitated before slipping the slim book off the shelf. It’s basic and fundamental, nothing glossy or fancy, just page after page of bread recipes from a local group of passionate bread bakers, along with plenty of insider tips and hints to making better breads at home. After a few perusals and some thought to the first loaf to try, I rolled out of bed on a particularly gloomy morning after a simply pathetic night’s sleep and all I could think about was the smell of yeast, a warm glowing oven and the taste of a fresh warm loaf. The weather promised everything from rain to an eventual accumulation of upwards of 6″ of snow. It instilled in me both a bluesy melancholy, and a fierce need for the routine of baking, the rhythmic kneading and the promise of carbohydrates.


This loaf contained bulgur and millet and I had both on hand. Bulgur  is cracked and parboiled wheat and really simple to use- it requires little else but a soak in hot water. Millet is a hulled, wheat-free cereal grain- the outer husk is removed leaving tiny yellow balls. Millet requires cooking, but this recipe didn’t make any mention of pre-cooking the grain so I didn’t, and it plagued me on whether or not this would result in a tooth-cracking slice. It didn’t.


This recipe started with a sponge- honey, warm water and yeast were whisked together until foamy, then stirred with whole wheat flour, bulgur, oil and salt and allowed to sit until all puffy and fragrant. I mixed in the bread flour and millet, and pretty soon was faced with a coarse hairy blob of dough, and tiny grains of millet popping all over the kitchen. It seemed like hours before I stopped feeling their little hard knobs under my feet, even with obsessive sweeping. But the magic of kneading kicks in- and magic it is- taking a rough and craggy blob and transforming it into something smooth, elastic and uniform, dotted with the tiny yellow points of millet and smelling alive and warm.


The rest is your basic bread instructions; rise until doubled, punch down and allow another rise (which I skipped for time purposes) shape the loaves and place in a pan, rise to double again and then bake. I won’t bore you with instructions.

And somewhere along the way, amidst all this tactile interaction and flour/yeast transformation, a tiny sliver of light knifed through me, lifting the melancholy, driving it far away. Was it the nap I took during the first rise? Maybe. It likely was something else altogether; the bread making lifted my spirits, even with the late winter storm blowing hard outside and the yeast saturated me with it’s own little charm. It could have been the workout I gave my arms and shoulders as I kneaded, driving a much appreciated blast of endorphins into me, or it could have been the fact that a hands-on loaf of bread is a thing of beauty. It transports you back to a simpler time, before cellophane loaves were the norm, where you watch a few pantry staples work a magic trick right before your very eyes. It’s nearly impossible to bury yourself in the blues with that happening in front of you.

And the taste….well, that’s enough right there to lift your spirits. This loaf was moist, a nice dense crust and crunchy little bites of millet throughout. It made awesome toast too- to me, the best indicator of a good bread. I’m thinking that I need to buy this little bread book.

(recipe after the jump)


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Don’t know gnocchi??- say no-keee or nyawk-eee…. may I suggest taking the time to get to know these delicious, quick and wonderful little pillows of potato dough.

You can make gnocchi from scratch and recipes are all over the Internets to those who choose to undertake the project. I made gnocchi absolutely eons ago, long before anyone even knew what blogging or the internet was, or even, really what gnocchi was. I don’t think they were all that good. I wasn’t all that good then either. So let’s fast forward.

I’ve read over recipe after recipe for handmade gnocchi and quite frankly, I’m not that interested in making them from scratch. It’s one of those labor-intensive recipes that seems easy enough but can be fraught with problems. I love to cook without issues, besides, when the grocer carries a perfectly acceptable brand of shelf-stable gnocchi that tastes wonderful and is a snap to put together for a meal, for what reason would I sweat over a bowl of floured cooked potato if I don’t have to? Right. I’m glad you agree.

The current issue of Eating Well magazine, my most favorite of all the food publications out there, had a very eye-catching recipe for gnocchi and I just had to try it. I knew it wouldn’t appeal to the little carnivore, but quite frankly, this was one of those meals I wanted no matter what. With plenty of leftovers in the fridge, it worked out fine.

Gnocchi is made from cooked potato that is mixed with flour, usually semolina, and sometimes bread crumbs. Gnocchi comes from the word nocchio, loosely translating to ‘knot in the wood’ and has been a traditional Italian offering since the time of the Romans. It is available in all it’s regional forms throughout Italy, although the potato version is considered to be the most recent, ever since the introduction of the potato to Europe in the 16th century.

Behold the gnocchi……from this


To this…..


In about 20 minutes.

And it was all I could do not to eat all of it. This is definitely on the repeat list for us. It was amazingly good.

Gnocchi In a Flash
adapted from the February Eating Well magazine
For the orginal recipe, go <HERE>

1 pkg shelf stable gnocchi
2-3 boneless chicken breasts, cut to strips
1 medium red pepper, cored and seeded, cut to strips
1 bunch spinach, washed and de-stemmed* (equal to a 10-oz bag)
1/4 c. canned diced tomato with italian seasonings
1/2 c. fresh mozzarella, cut into small dice
1/3 c. fresh grated parmesan cheese
Fresh basil to garnish

Season chicken breast strips with salt and pepper. Heat oil in 10-inch skillet, add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until strips are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove to bowl. Add red pepper and cook 3-5 minutes until tender. Add to chicken. Wipe out skillet with paper towel and add about a teaspoon of oil. When hot, add gnocchi and cook about 5 minutes until browned and slightly puffy. Add chicken and pepper to pan, and in bunches, add in spinach, stirring quickly until it’s all wilted. Toss in diced tomato and mozzarella cubes and shave some parmesan over the top. Stir to mix and allow to cook for 3 minutes or so until hot. Serve immediately topped with fresh basil.

The chicken is completely optional in this. Truthfully, it was an attempt to get Griffin to try some. He did, but didn’t like it. The original recipe has no meat in it, but it does have white beans. And no red pepper. I think this version is stellar.

The original recipe called for the entire can of diced seasoned tomato. For whatever reason, I just spooned in a few tablespoons and it was perfect. The rest can be frozen in a baggie for another use.

*A word on fresh greens, like the spinach; I always buy greens by the head. I don’t buy the bags of them at all- too expensive and chemically washed, plus they just don’t last as long-  and some markets around me carry the ‘live’ lettuce heads with a root ball attached. They are cheap, mixed and wonderful. I clean the greens as soon as I can after getting them home and place them, wrapped in wet paper towels, in a plastic bag in the drawer of the fridge. They keep for up to a week for the more tender leaf varieties like spinach or field greens, and longer for heartier leaves like bok choy or romaine. Remove any wilted leaves if you notice them.

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Ok, even I admit that’s a bit of a stretch. But stick with me on this one, ok?

I’m talking in a strictly comfort food sense here. Sloppy Joes are superbly kid-friendly, come together quickly and can be left to simmer for a while as you tend to life, and it can feed a crowd for a no more than a smidge from your pocketbook. While I don’t recommend it as a healthy alternative in your menu rotation, once in a while- and with the right additions- it’s not a bad thing to offer your family. Or share with your friends.

But skip the Manwich, all right??


Admittedly, once in my culinary lifetime I did buy Manwich, and I did shamelessly eat Wendy’s chicken nuggets and had an almost insane addiction to Burger King french fries, but this…..it’s all in the past, thankfully. Back when my size 8’s hung on my once-scrawny hips, I could do those things. Not any more. But there was that childhood love of a good sloppy, messy bun filled with warm saucy meat, my grin from ear to ear as I mowed through it, a pile of crumpled and stained napkins by my plate.

In my quest to make this beloved childhood favorite without opening a can of suspicious looking sauce that held unpronounceable ingredients, I tweaked and tweaked this recipe until it was superb- a rich, tomato-y, slightly vinegared taste, combining the sweet touch of brown sugar and the sharp tang of worchestershire. Because it’s an amalgamation of flavors, the presence of vegetables does not turn off my little carnivore, and surprisingly, it even made Mike’s eyes light up. For a chilly winter night, it worked magic. And I knew what everything was that went in it.

The secret is to add lots of vegetables, and my hidden ingredient- bulgar. Bulgar is the oldest recorded form of wheat use, and is made by soaking and cooking the whole wheat kernel, drying it and then removing part of the bran and cracking the remaining kernel into small pieces. It is considered a nutritious extender and can be used to thicken soups and meat dishes.

I like the idea of incorporating whole grains into the foods we already eat. The bulgar hides well in this recipe, and the chewy grains are easily mistaken for the vegetables that are present. You don’t taste it at all. It gets added straight into the mix and cooks during the simmer. Comfort food with a healthy twist. Ahhhh…..deeee-light-ful!

Super Sloppy Joes

1  package ground turkey (it’s a 20-oz unit in our area)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery ribs with leaves, chopped
1 green pepper chopped
1/4 c. quick cooking bulgar
1 15-oz can crushed tomatoes
¼ cup ketchup
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp steak sauce
½ tsp garlic salt
¼ tsp ground mustard
¼ tsp paprika
8-10 whole grain or wheat hamburger buns, split

In a Dutch oven over medium heat cook meat, onion, celery and green pepper until the meat is no longer pink and the vegetables are tender; drain. Add the next ten ingredients; mix well. Simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon ½ cup meat mixture onto each bun. (yield: 8-10).

If the end mixture still has an excess of liquid, add a few tablespoons of tomato paste to bring it all together. If you’re like me and don’t buy the ultra-convenient but expensive tubes of tomato paste that would make this step a cinch, take the remainder in the can and freeze it in tablespoon increments. They keep very nicely in a baggie for a long time.

If you truly prefer the taste of ground beef for Sloppy Joes, by all means use it. I would just recommend the leanest type available . Sub in a red pepper for the green too if that’s your preference. I’ve made this also with shredded carrot and zucchini in it too, and the result was still wonderful. And no, Griffin didn’t notice.

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Endless speculation abounds about why battered and fried bread slices are called ‘French’ toast, but never is there an appropriate response to the question ‘Why is it called French Toast?’ What’s french about it??

Yes, it’s National French Toast Day. So let’s lay waste to the ongoing debate about the French-ness of French Toast.

The earliest understanding of how this dish came to be is to look as far back as the northern French Normans who created a dish called ‘tostees dorees‘  that was a battered and fried bread. It was similar to a popular dish in England in the Middle Ages that was named suppe dorate, and is considered a knock-off of the Normandy dish. Ironically, in France and Belgium currently, you can get Pain Perdu, loosely translated as ‘lost bread’. The egg mixure that is allowed to soak into the slices is a way of reclaiming old, stale bread, or lost bread and making it edible. So the Normans from France did apparently create a similar dish to the current manner of French Toast, but are they really the ones who should be credited with the discovery? According to many sources, the initial documentation of the dish is known to be at the time of Henry the V of England (1413-1422). Definitely NOT French.

There are dozens- I mean, dozens– of variations of this dish in all countries around the world:

  • Austria: Pavese (a medieval type of shield whose shape resembles a slice of bread)
  • England: suppe dorate (Italian for “gilded sippets”)
  • France: pain perdu (literally, “lost bread”)
  • Germany: Armer Ritter (literally, “poor knight”; the name is sometimes meant to originate from poor knights in Medieval times, having not enough gold to pay for meat, and thus eating old bread slices, coated with egg and fried )
  • Hungary: bundás kenyér (literally, “coated bread” or “bread with fur”) [<— mmmm, yummy]
  • Portugal: rabanadas or fatias douradas (literally, “golden slices of bread”)
  • Yugoslavia and some successor republics: прженицеprženice
  • Croatia: pohani kruh
  • Lebanon: pain perdu
  • Catalonia: torrades o croquetes de Santa Teresa (literally, “toasts or croquettes of Saint Theresa”)

And then there are so so many more that it seems silly to post them. It’s not French and barely can claim any French origin. But it is delicious. Especially with homemade lemon curd.


I had a loaf of sourdough bread that I chopped up for croutons to put in my Thanksgiving stuffing and there were four good-sized slices left over that were just crying out to be made in Egg Bread. (hehehe- I’m not calling it by that name) The lemon curd-which you’ll have to come back tomorrow to read about- was just a perfect topping for the warm slices sprinkled liberally with powdered sugar.

I know that everyone has their own manner of making Egg Bread and what goes into the batter but I’ll just tell you my version anyway. Eggs and milk (vanilla soy milk- ooooh yummy like a milkshake) and a tablespoon or two of cinnamon sugar and some fresh ground nutmeg. The sugar crystals in the batter help with caramelization. I have also made my batter from vanilla or banana yogurt with excellent results. I’m not really a syrup girl but I do like honey drizzled over the slices, or I spread them with fresh fruit, jam, apple butter or simply a little melted butter.


Well there’s TWO days left of National Blog Posting Month and my November desk calendar is criss-crossed with hash marks as I have methodically checked off the days and their corresponding food holiday. It’s been a great deal of fun with plenty of good learning but I’ll tell ya, I am looking forward to stepping away from the computer for a while and re-grouping before getting back into something of a more normal blogging routine. For those of you who have stuck with me through this adventure, I thank you profusely and hope you continue visiting.

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It’s always a surprise to me when someone passes on one of those very thoughtful and kind blog awards. I’m a tiny and insignificant little fish in the big food blogging world so when someone thinks well enough of me for one of these, it really is an honor.

This Kreativ Blogger award came from Susan at Food Blogga. Thank you Susan, your blog inspires me a great deal and your recipes are always creative and delicious, with the added edge of good nutrition.


Of course, the rules state that you may pass it on to five bloggers of your choosing. This part is always hard for me because I want to give it to everyone, but after careful consideration, here are my choices:

My (real life) friend Angela at Angela’s Gluten and Dairy Free Kitchen.

Adam from Baking with Dynamite.

Robin from Caviar and Codfish.

Katie of Thyme for Cooking.

Kian’s of Red Cook’s Chinese Kitchen.

All of these bloggers inspire me in some form and give me a push to reach deeper in my own kitchen. Really, there are tons more of them who do that very thing so it truly was hard to choose. You five know what to do now.

And as for today’s food holiday, well it’s really not that exciting; It’s National Sardines Day.



I can’t help the ‘Ugh’. I’m pretty biased against them, as my sister and I discussed over the weekend. When we were little, our dad used to make sardine sandwiches and we would watch, often in fascinated horror as he would slowly unroll the top of the thin can to reveal the smelly little fishes inside, then press them between bread and take a big satisfactory bite. It was like a wreck on the road- you don’t want to watch but you can’t tear your eyes away. The smell of them still is with me; I can’t even begin to think I could eat them, no matter what you did with them or how you prepared them. Still, I would love to hear of success stories with sardines. It might give me something more pleasant to think about than my odoriferous memories.

Sardines, or Pilchards, are small oily fishes in the same family as Herring. There is some debate over what constitutes one or the other; some say that if the fish is less than 4″ long, it’s a sardine (considered a young European Pilchard), if it’s longer than 4″ it’s a Pilchard. The canned version that I remember are almost always Sprats, or Brisling Sardines, which are also known as Round Herring. Good quality canned sardines, by whatever name they are, should have the heads and fins removed and be properly eviscerated. Fresh Sardines are a favorite food in some cultures of India, and fried Sardines are an especially sought-after delicacy. Sardines are very important to Portugese culture as well, and tradition has it that on June 13th, which is Saint Anthony’s Day, the most popular festival food is grilled sardines, which is a huge summertime treat all throughout the country. The tiny fish is very healthy; it’s chock full of beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids and is typically referred to as ‘brain food’. They are also an excellent source of calcium, B12, protein and Vitamin D. They are generally very low in mercury.

But none of this health information is ever going to steer me into the fan club of Sardines.


{{{sardine photo courtesy of Seattle Weekly}}}

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