Friday Recipe

It's been a crazy, crazy week. So instead of leaving you hanging on our regular Friday Recipe article, I'm reposting an older (short) one that you may have missed! Have a great weekend!!

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Food & Wine Magazine

I just got back into town and I couldn't wait to get this week's Friday Recipe posted.  It doesn't matter the time of year, I'm ready to eat pasta.  This recipe from Food & Wine Magazine is chock full of spinach which is so good for you but also luscious ricotta and creamy fontina which makes it xtra yummy.  Use the rigatoni or any other favorite pasta shape.  Just follow the link to get the full recipe.

Have a happy, relaxing weekend everyone!

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12lemon ricotta oil title

Like you didn't see that one coming, right?

Obviously I was going to use my own new recipe for our Friday Recipe even though I kinda-sorta shared it with you already on Tuesday because:

1.  My knee has recovered enough that I can drive and walk reasonably well, so I've been running all sorts of errands this week and didn't have time to come up with a different recipe.

2.  It's a really good recipe.  Really.  And I don't want my readers to miss it.

2lemon ricotta prep

4lemon ricotta ready

This recipe comes together in the food processor and has a short list of ingredients.

5lemon ricotta prep dish

There is just a teensy bit of butter involved. Or you can omit the butter and just use olive oil.  I'm flexible like that.

11lemon ricotta finished muffin

I ate the leftovers for breakfast.  This recipe is good hot out of the oven or later after it's cooled off a bit.

I have updated this post with the full recipe below or you can visit this post over at The Ranting Chef.

LEMON-DILL BAKED RICOTTA

2/3 cup ricotta cheese

1/3 cup cream cheese

1 small to medium garlic clove, chopped

1 loose Tablespoon chopped dill

1 green onion, green and white parts

Zest of one lemon

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Black pepper, about 1/8 teaspoon

Olive oil to drizzle, about 2 teaspoons

Preheat oven to 375⁰.  In the bowl of a small food processor combine the ricotta, cream cheese, garlic, dill, green onion, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Pulse for about 1 minute.

Transfer mixture to an 8 oz. ramekin that has been lightly greased with butter.  Place the ramekin on a baking sheet lined with foil.

Bake for 20-30 minutes, until mixture begins to lightly brown on the top and along the edges.

Serve warm with pita chips, crostini or English muffins.

 

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thai coconut soup
from Epicurious.com

It all started with a birthday celebration and Voxer.

6 girlfriends and I went to a local Italian restaurant for Spaghetti Night and to celebrate some recent birthdays.  This group of gals could not be a more mixed bag: some married, some single; some with kids, some with no kids; ages ranging from early 30's to 60's.  Some have known each other since birth, some are new to the group.  But we are all friends.  We care about each other.  We do life together.

We had a great time celebrating and eating heartily (no one in this group is bashful about eating) then we hopped in our cars, drove away to our 7 different homes and went to bed.

And then the next day something strange and beautiful happened.

Bright and early the next day, I heard my phone buzzing, messages coming in on Voxer (an app that is like walkie-talkie meets voicemail).  But I was at work and I didn't have time to stop.  It seemed every 10 or 15 minutes my phone was alerting me to a new message!  Later in the morning I had a few moments and I listened to the thread of messages from all 6 of my friends and it went something like this (paraphrasing for the sake of time):

(Friend 1) Thank you everyone for coming out last night, I loved spending an evening with all of you, eating and being loud.

(Friend 2) Yes, thank you everyone, it was amazing to spend time with you all.  Let's do it again on St. Patrick's Day!

(Friend 3) I want to second that, I had so much fun with you all.  Send pictures!

(Friend 4) Amen, all my favorite girls in one place!  Will have to do a Shamrock Day just to have an excuse to get together again!

(Friend 5) Thank you all for such a wonderful night, I had such a good time laughing with you. Thank you for reminding me how beautiful life is.

Here's what I forgot to tell you about this group of gals: every single one of us is going through something.  Big things, little things. Life things.  And although we spent a good amount of time laughing and celebrating the night before, we also shared the challenges and heartaches we were dealing with that week.  That day.

So the Voxer conversation took a turn later in the morning that went like this:

(Friend 3) Friend 5, I went to bed with you on my mind and woke up with you on my mind.  I'm praying for you today!

(Friend 4)  Amen, I'm praying for all of you!

(Friend 6) Can someone pray for me, I've been sick for a month and now I've thrown my back out!

So we spent the next few hours sending each other words of encouragement and prayer.

Then out of the blue, the subject of soup came up:

(Friend 4) I know what will make you feel better Friend 6, my Thai Coconut Soup that you love so much.

(Friend 1) Umm... I really like your Thai Coconut Soup too!

(Friend 3) Yeah, I've been feeling under the weather.... I need some healing soup....

(Me) I don't think I've ever had this soup....

(Friend 5) I like soup too!!

So Friend Number 4 did something completely and totally selfless: she volunteered to make a vat of Thai Coconut Soup for all of us to share.  She packaged it up individually and all we had to do was show up at her house and pick it up.

And we did.Every single girl drove over to her house to receive her gift of soup.  And while we ate her Thai Coconut Soup later that day we knew we were loved, that we were not alone in this mean world.

I know I've shared this with you before, but I'm going to share it again today and I'll go on sharing it every time I feel like I should. Jesus made a big deal out of feeding people.  There is a connection between nourishing someone's body and nourishing someone's soul.  It's such a small act, but conveys so much.

I hope you all have a support group as amazing as mine.  I hope you have people in your life who will make soup for you when they find out you are sick.  If not, you just let me know.

Here is the link to the recipe on Epicurious for Thai Chicken Coconut Soup.  This is not the exact recipe that Friend 4 used but I think it's pretty close.

Maybe you can make a little extra and share it with someone this weekend.

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777

Happy Friday ATC friends!  By the time this post goes live I will be lying on a bed in a light blue, backless gown with an IV poking out of my arm, waiting to be wheeled in for surgery Lucky Number 7.  My last surgery (2008) was to replace my severed ACL but unfortunately it has not felt right since then.  In fact, I've lost roughly 80% of my muscle in that leg.

So my surgeon is removing the screws and washers that were used to attach the new ACL, apparently they aren't necessary any more and are sticking out the wrong side of the bone.  I saw it on the MRI, it was surreal to think that long skinny thing was jutting out of my bone or even in my body at all.

Supposedly I will be back on my feet in just a few days so I will be taking just a short rest before getting back to my crazy life.  And physical therapy, blech.

But that is not going to stop me from our Friday Recipe, no way!

avocados-salad-l

I don't know why exactly, but I have been craving avocados all week.  I have been dreaming up recipes in my mind, pinning and bookmarking other people's avocado recipes but strangely, I have not yet bought a single avocado!  I guess in the back of my mind, I know it's not quite yet time for the creamy California Haas avocados or the smaller but flavorful Mexican avocados that are so easy to find here in Northern California.  Especially when your Uncle planted such a tree and has now grown into a mighty giant.  Yes, when the time is right I will be able to walk down the road and pick a few of my own avocados, right off the tree.  Jealous?

One of the recipes I stumbled on is from Sunset Magazine called Avocados with Warm Bacon Parsley Vinaigrette.  I'm sure I don't need to explain why this simple side dish would be delectable but  besides the obvious there is a bit of sentiment involved here.  My mother used to make the classic spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette and I loved it.  Which is saying a lot because generally I don't like raw spinach.  But the smokey bacon mixed with the tangy vinaigrette is irresistible to me and I know, I know, I know that combo will pair deliciously with velvety avocados.

If you've never made warm bacon vinaigrette it goes like this:  cook your bacon and set aside to drain.  With a little bit of the bacon fat still in the pan stir in and lightly cook garlic, lemon juice, sugar and water.  Check for salt & pepper then add back in the bacon and some chopped parsley.

Drizzle your warm vinaigrette over sliced avocados and then take a moment to thank me for sending this recipe your way!  Click here for the full recipe.

I'm going to be a little sore (actually, a lot sore) and possibly a little cranky this weekend while my knee recovers.  I don't  usually eat much post-surgery, just oyster crackers and Peanut M&M's.  I got my super-size bag of each.  I'm ready for this.

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from Epicurious
from Epicurious

It finally happened.  After months of mind numbing cold, the sun finally came out.  In fact, I was running errands outside the office this afternoon and I actually got hot!  I rolled down the windows of my car and let the preSpring air whip my hair into a knotted mess.  It was glorious.

And that's when it got me thinking... thinking about the upcoming Spring/Summer season and all the glorious produce we are going to have.  For the new friends here, I live smack in the middle of the farmlands of Northern California.  There are large and small farms all up and down the highways and just about everybody has a small vegetable garden or at least a tomato plant or two.  You name it, we grow it: cherries, peaches, corn, strawberries, nectarines, avocados, greens, herbs, garlic, onions, beans, and so much more!

So I've been dreaming.  Dreaming about all the sun-soaked fruits and veggies I'm going to eat so very, very soon.  And that's where this recipe from Epicurious comes in.

This salad recipe contains so many of my favorite California flavors: creamy avocados (yum), crunchy romaine (yum x 2), delicate corn (yum!), smoky chipotle (yummy!!) and puckery lime (YUMMY!!!).   I don't know why they named it Romaine, Grilled Avocado, and Smoky Corn Salad with Chipotle Caesar Dressing.  What a mouthful of a name!  They should have simply called it NorCal In A Bowl.

You may be thinking "grilled avocado?!" but try it!  Avocados have so much natural fat, they grill quite well and that little bit of char adds an interesting layer of flavor.  While you're at it, grill up some corn.  Then mix together parmesean, garlic, oil, lime juice, chipotles in adobo and a pinch of salt & pepper to form the dressing.  Toss that all together with some romaine and you will have one delicious salad that will make your taste buds oh so happy. (click here for the full recipe)

The only important thing on my checklist this weekend is to get outside and let the sun shine on my face.  Sunscreen...I need to find my sunscreen!

garlic chicken couscous

Most of the time when I share a recipe I try to include a little story, a little anecdote that leads up to the food.  I try to bring it all full circle in the end.  Today, I'm not gonna lie.  I got nothin'.

What I can tell you is this:  I'm hungry.  I like chicken.  I like quick and easy prep.  And this recipe fits the bill. It has garlic, it has wine, it has onions.  It all goes into the slow cooker and comes out a chickeny-garlicky-saucy dinner to be served over a bed of couscous.  This is a recipe I must share with you.

This recipe for Slow-Cooker Garlic Chicken With  Couscous comes from good ole Martha Stewart.  After lightly browning chicken pieces in a skillet, the onion, garlic and thyme are tossed into the slow cooker and the chicken pieces are placed on top with a little salt & pepper.  Flour and white wine are whisked together and drizzled over top.  In as little as 3.5 hours (on high) or 7 hours (on low), the chicken & sauce is ready to be served over couscous which takes approximately five minutes to prepare.  Top it off with parsley.

So there you have it, no fuss, no muss.

What is muss?  I'm going to have to look that up....

cracker jack title

Here it is, as promised!  I'm really excited to share this Friday Recipe with you for a few reasons:

  1. It's a Carey-original recipe.
  2. Actually, that first statement is only partly true.  It's really my mom's recipe, which is another reason why I'm thrilled to share it with you. I just added a tiny twist to make it mine.
  3. This is a super-simple recipe and if you  have young cooks in the kitchen this would be a perfect recipe to start them out on.  I learned this recipe when I was in Jr. High and my mom was my home economics teacher.  I wasn't allowed to call her "mom" in class.  That's a whole other weird story.
  4. The ingredient list is short and cheap.
  5. To put it plainly, it's good.  Really good.

cracker jack handwritten recipe

I have very few memories of my mother cooking with pre-packaged, processed foods.  She preferred to make things from scratch, and she could.  She was a brilliant cook.  Ironically, although she was very health conscious (very!), she was fine with sweet treats that were homemade in our kitchen and we made this recipe for Homemade Cracker Jack often.

It's easy enough to whip up on a weeknight after dinner and still maintain a feeling of health because the ingredients are very natural.  You can easily increase or decrease the size of your batch, making it a perfect party snack.

Are you ready?  Let's get started!  The full recipe will be at the end of this post, but I'll walk you through the finer points:

cracker jack pour

This recipe starts out simple enough... pop some popcorn.   You can use air popped corn, microwave popcorn (natural, not flavored) or you can do the stovetop method, which is my personal favorite.  You are going to need about 2 quarts of popcorn.  Don't know how much that is?  It is roughly 1/2 cup unpopped kernels but you can also use a 2 qt sauce pan to measure your corn after it is popped. This recipe is casual, easy-going, forgiving.  Don't get too hung up on getting exactly 2 quarts of popped corn, just estimate.  All will be well, I promise.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat combine the honey, butter and my addition, molasses.  The molasses is optional, my mom didn't use it.  But I think it adds one more delectable layer of flavor.

After those ingredients are melted and combined add the peanuts.  Some of you observant ones are looking at the above photo and thinking, "Those don't look like peanuts!"  You caught me!  It turns out, I was all out of peanuts so I grabbed some almond slivers.  This proves my point that this recipe is so easy, so forgiving.  You can swap the peanuts for your favorite nut or better yet, use a combination of nuts.  You could even leave the nuts out or use pumpkin seeds & sunflower seeds instead.

Pour the melted honey-butter mixture over the popcorn and then using your hands or two spoons lightly toss the popcorn so the syrup and nuts are evenly distributed.

cracker jack tray

Slide the gooey popcorn onto a shallow baking sheet.  I line mine with parchment so the cleanup is a snap. Spread the  popcorn across the pan in a single, even layer.  You observant ones have caught me again, "That doesn't look like a single layer!"  Do as I say, not as I do!    My pan was a little too small.  But you can get around that non-problem by either giving the popcorn a little stir halfway through OR bake it in 2 batches.

Into a preheated 350 degree oven it goes for 10-15 minutes.  Keep an eye on it!  It will be very sad if it burns because there is no salvaging burnt cracker jack.  It will turn golden brown as it bakes, pull it out before it starts turning dark brown.

This part is important: when you take it out of the oven you must let it cool!  You will be greatly tempted to start snacking on your cracker jack as soon as it comes out of the oven.  It will smell nutty and sweet, glistening from the butter and honey.  Resist!  You will blister your fingers and taste buds, I speak from experience.  Also, the popcorn might appear to be a little soggy when it first comes out of the oven.  Be patient dear friend, you will be rewarded.

cracker jack finished

After about 15 minutes of relaxing on the counter the popcorn will be nearly dry and cool enough to touch.  Slide your cracker jack into a big bowl, give it a little toss to break up any big clumps and enjoy!

It's crunchy and sweet.  It's salty and nutty.  It's addicting.  I really hope you will give this recipe a try and let me know what you think!

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Homemade Cracker Jack

by accordingtocarey.com

1/4 cup salted butter (1/2 stick)

1/4 cup honey

1 Tablespoon molasses (optional)

2 quarts popped corn, in a large bowl

3/4 cup peanuts (can substitute other nuts, seeds or leave out completely)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the butter, honey and molasses in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Mix in the nuts.  Pour mixture evenly over the popcorn and toss lightly to coat the popcorn evenly with the butter mixture.  Spread the sticky popcorn onto a shallow baking sheet in a single layer.

Bake the popcorn for  10-15 minutes, giving it a stir halfway through.  Remove the popcorn from the oven when it has turned golden brown.  Let it cool on the counter or stove top for 15 minutes before transferring to a large bowl.  Gently toss to break up any clumps and enjoy!

,

The power of suggestion is dangerous.  For example, last week a gal at my office was eating pork rinds (aka : chicharrones).  I have not thought of or eaten pork rinds since... well, I think it was while my Grandpa Dee was still alive and that was over 20 years ago.  He used to buy the big bag of spicy pork rinds and snack on them while watching television.  Or in the car.  Or when he driving tractor.  Or in bed.  He had a snacking problem.  Anyway... he used to share them with me and that salty, crispy, spicy crunch of deep fried pork fat sticks in my memories of him.  So when my office pal was eating them, I immediately started craving them.

It has been a week and I have not yet given in to the chile-flavored-pork-rind-craving, but I don't know how much longer I can withstand.  Hold fast, Carey!!

You can bet I'm going to give in sometime this weekend.

Today's recipe was also brought on by the power of suggestion.  Lately, I have been considering pulling out my mom's recipe for cinnamon rolls and doing a little experimenting.  I've only made them once and that was a very long time ago.  It will be a lot of trial and error to get them just right.  I hate error.

Then one day I was Pinterest-prowling and ran across Ree's recipe for Orange Marmalade Rolls.

It was the "orange" that got me, you know how much I love my citrus.  Plus they are a homemade-knockoff of these:

rolls

Pilsbury Orange Sweet Rolls.  They are so disgustingly sweet, processed, sticky and... yeah, I admit it, I like them with a big cup of coffee.   But homemade would be OK, right?  I can control the sugar and know that no Franken-foods went into the recipe.  So I filed that away in the back of my mind, craving them a little.  But not in a hurry.

Then I ran across this recipe from Saveur:

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Sweet Orange Buns! It was a sign! Right?  Clearly, somebody wants me to eat orange cinnamon buns, it's all part of a Master-Plan.  The Master-Plan that makes me gain 15 pounds and have to wear jeans with an elastic waistband.

The gravitational pull towards these orange buns is going to get the better of me, I can feel it.

Whether you make the Saveur version or Ree's version, I hope you give them a try.  And gain 15 lbs.  That way I won't feel alone in the stretchy-pants-department.

hot ginger todddy, bourbon, cocktail, orange tea, orange
Work your magic before hypothermia sets in!

I'm sure you're sick of hearing about it but I don't care, I need to get this off my chest: I'm cold!!  Just when I think the worst of this freezing Northern California cold front is over, I wake up and have to chip ice off my windshield.  Again. It's just ridiculous.  It's insulting is what it is.

Consequently, I've become quite adept at building a roaring fire.  But even still, it takes at least an hour for the huge wood fire stove to get the inside temperatures up from the 54 degrees it is when I get home from work to a tolerable 65 degrees or higher.  I prefer higher.  Much higher.

Tonight, I simply couldn't take it any more.  If I sat on top of the wood stove, fire blazing, I don't think my backside would have defrosted.  When I first sat down to write this post, my fingers were numb with cold.

And then I did something I rarely do.  I made myself a cocktail, a hot one.

I did try eating spicy food first (jalapeno flavored pretzels to be exact) but that didn't work.  And it gave me heartburn.  So I pulled up a recipe I read about several months ago from shutterbean.com: Orange Ginger Toddy. I knew if I could get just a little bourbon in my system it would warm me up right away.  I've seen enough Donner Party documentaries to know just  a drizzle of the "hard stuff" would save my life.

It worked!  It was quick &  easy, too.  You can read Shutterbean's recipe here but I'll give you quick rundown:  Using your favorite orange flavored herbal tea, make a mugful of hot tea.  Next add a little ginger syrup (I like anything from The Ginger People), a splash of bourbon and a slice of orange to float on top.

I made a few adjustments for my own taste.  I used a blood orange because... well, that's what I had on hand.  I squeezed a little juice in the cup and reduced the bourbon by about half.  More tea, less liquor.  My lips were still numb about 3 sips in.

I was also finally warm and my little fingers could type away because they were no longer stiff with cold.

But I can't be held responsible for any typos.

1 Comment

blood orange, food, citrus
A ripe blood orange from Uncle Farmer's Market.

 

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I've told you about my uncle, right?  The one I call Uncle Farmer's Market?  Last night I stopped by my uncle's house to say "howdy" and left with a big bag of Blood Oranges.  He had about 15 bags of Blood Oranges that he is getting ready to sell but being his niece and all, I get the family discount: free.

I am a huge fan of all citrus but the oranges I grew up on, the ones my grandpa grew, are considered "eating" oranges, not "juicing" oranges.  This means that they lean a little more towards the tart side rather than sweet.

This is why I love Blood Oranges! They are a delectable combination of fruity and tart, not syrupy sweet, but what really sets them apart from standard naval oranges is their gorgeous ruby color.  On the outside they look just like a regular orange but the inside, oh the inside!  Such a beautiful shade of pinkish-red.

Since I have about 15 pounds of oranges to use up, I did a quick internet search for some new ideas to use up blood oranges.  Aside from peel-n-eat or adding the juice to cocktails, my blood orange repertoire is pretty light.  Thanks to Google I came across a recipe that I think is worth sharing.  The recipe comes from Martha Stewart and is called "Striped Sea Bass with Blood Oranges and Olives".  Just think about that for a second: firm, succulent sea bass paired with tart blood oranges and briny olives. Is your mouth watering yet?

It couldn't be simpler: after cooking the fish in a skillet on the stove, add a pat of butter and saute shallots.  Add the blood orange juice, reduce, then add some more butter.  Because butter is goooooood. Toss in the blood orange segments and olives.  And that's it!  Pour the sauce over the fish and if you like, you can serve it with a little polenta or jasmine rice or simple salad.

You gotta try it!

Get the whole recipe here, from marthastewart.com.  

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In other news, I am still dreaming of warm weather. Sunshine, please come back!!  Hot or cold, I hope you enjoy your weekend.

Oh, and Happy New Year!