Sunday, August 30, 2009

Black Bean Quinoa Burgers

I've been eating a lot of veggie burgers lately and my favorite are some that I get from Jim's Meat Market on Northport Drive. They have great meats and they supply the Madison Mallards with veggie burgers. They're super easy and fast to cook--straight from freezer to grill or stovetop. They are a bit fragile, so I recommend cooking them in a pan or a grill pan, rather than straight on the grill--otherwise you risk having part go through the grate. I decided to try making some of my own variety and here's what I used:
1 can black beans drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 small onion minced
1 large handful fresh basil (you could substitute other herbs or just leave them out)
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 pieces bread or 1/2 cup bread crumbs. I used frozen baguette chips that I keep on hand for making bruschetta.
Mix together in the food processor or mash by hand--you want the beans to be pretty well smashed. Form into patties and cook or freeze.
Note: quinoa is a super food--inexpensive and very high in protein and other nutrients. You cook it like rice-1 part quinoa to 2 parts water about 25-30 minutes. It is great to add to salads or soups or served as a side dish. It soaks up the flavors of whatever you put with it.
Let me know what you think of the veggie burgers, or even submit your favorite recipe on the comments section.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Caramelized Tomatoes

Here's a great thing to do with all those yummy tomatoes in your garden:
Heat a medium sized saute pan over medium-high heat then add 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and 1 cup chopped tomatoes, the sweeter, the better. I've been using a combination of sungold, yellow pear and grape for this, but any tomatoes will work. If larger tomatoes have lots of pulp and seeds, cut them in half and squeeze that out prior to chopping. Toss with olive oil, add a little sea salt, and saute for about 5 minutes. Drizzle with 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar and saute 1-2 minutes more. These can be served immediately or chilled for later use. They're great with pasta or lentils. We made sandwiches with french bread, bacon, brie, basil and these tomatoes---delish! You could also use these to top bruschetta and add a bit of fresh basil and parmigiano reggiano.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Over the past couple of years I have tried many different kale recipes, trying to find one or two that I like. In general I find kale to be too bitter for my taste. In spite of that I know the nutritional value of kale is super, so I keep on trying. This year I tried Tuscan or lacinato kale and guess what?! I like it!
Here's a quick and easy pasta recipe to try:
Tuscan Kale and Pasta
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
4-6 Tbsp olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper
1 bunch Tuscan kale
1/2 pound pasta--bowties or penne work well with this
Fresh grated reggiano parmesan or romano cheese
Saute onion and garlic, with salt and pepper in 4 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat for about 20 minutes until tender
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and boil the kale for about 20 minutes. Then scoop the kale out with a slotted spoon and add to onion mixture. Boil the pasta in the kale water and then scoop that out with a slotted spoon and add to onion and kale mixture. Add about 3/4 cup of the pasta water to pasta mixture and stir. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and add salt to taste. Drizzle 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over the top and enjoy!
Optional: If you like for extra protein you can add 1 cup of cooked lentils or you can saute some proscuitto with the onions and garlic.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Greens, Greens, Greens

This time of year we start getting a ton of green tops from various vegetables: beets, carrots, radishes, then soon to come parsnips, turnips etc., not to mention kale, spinach, mustard, collard and many others. We didn't grow up eating all these greens so I've learned over the last couple of years which I like and which I don't, and I still keep trying new ways of preparing the ones I think I don't like because often I find a way I do like them.
When we're overwhelmed with greens I clean, chop, blanch and freeze them for use during the winter in soups and stews. One of Tim's new favorites follows:
Ham Hocks and Greens
1-2 smoked ham hocks
8-12 cups cold water, salted with 3-4 tbsp salt
12 cups washed, chopped greens, such as collard or mustard
¼ cup sugar
3-4 Tbsp Sriracha Sauce
Optional: 2 Tbsp liquid smoke
Cover ham hocks with cold salted water and cook over medium heat for 3-4 hours. Check the water occasioinally to make sure the ham hocks stay covered in water. If necessary, add more hot water to keep them covered. You want to cook the hocks until they are tender. Then add the remaining ingredients, cover and cook for 1- 1 ½ hours more. Remove the bones from the ham hocks and shred the pork with a fork. Salt to taste and add more Sriracha if you like it spicier. This gets even better as it sits in the fridge for a couple of days. Enjoy!
Note: This is best prepared with hearty greens such as collard, rather than tender greens like spinach.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Carrot Tops

Did you ever think about using the greens from carrots, but not know what to do? Last year I started experimenting with them and found that I enjoyed their carrot-like taste and wonderful nutritional qualities. Here's a great website with some information and recipes to try:
Recently I made a pesto using carrot tops, parsley and basil with the usual garlic, olive oil salt and parmesan cheese. It was quite tasty and nobody even knew it was carrot tops!
You can also blanch and freeze them to use in soups and stews during the winter.
I've found there are many uses for the various greens from vegetables, so don't waste that great nutrition!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Spinach and Cheddar Savory Muffins

As the weather gets cooler spinach comes back and there are so many wonderful uses, but here's one of my new favorites, great for breakfast. lunch or dinner:
Spinach and Cheddar Savory Muffins
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
1 cup whole milk
1 cup chopped fresh or ½ cup chopped frozen spinach (if frozen, thawed, drained and squeezed dry)
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease 12 cup muffin cups, or line with papers.
2. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a mixing bowl.
3. Stir the melted butter, egg, milk, spinach, and cheddar cheese together in a large mixing bowl until evenly blended. Slowly stir in the flour mixture to form a batter. Scoop into muffin cups using an ice cream scoop, or fill about 2/3 full.
4. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
Makes 12 muffins

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Mediterranean Green Beans

I recently found out that I can't digest green beans that are cooked al dente...I know serious bummer. Anyway, Tim had some awesome Greek green beans at the Ariston Cafe that appeared to have been slow cooked and I decided to search for recipes that might taste good but cook the beans more thoroughly, without making them taste like school lunch. I came up with a winner:
Lisa's Mediterranean Green Beans
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 pounds fresh green beans, rinsed and trimmed (I used flat Italian beans the first time)
3 large tomatoes, diced
2 teaspoons sugar or agave
1 ½ teaspoons dried basil
1 ½ teaspoons dried marjoram
1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme
salt to taste
2-3 tablespoons Sriracha sauce to taste
1. Heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir the onions and garlic in the skillet until tender.
2. Mix the remaining olive oil, green beans, tomatoes, sugar or agave, herbs and salt into a slow cooker, add the onion mixture. Cook on medium-low for 4-6 hours or on low for 6-8 hours if you’re going to be gone all day. Stir the mixture occasionally if possible. If not, stir them as soon as you get home. Before serving add the Sriracha sauce and cook just a few minutes longer.
If you prefer to do these more quickly just add the ingredients to the onion mixture in the skillet and cook over med-low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Note: these make a wonderful sauce so be sure to have some bread handy to soak up the sauce.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cucumbers, Cucumbers!

What to do with all those cucumbers?
Here are a few ideas:
  • invuse vodka with cucumber and mint or lemon balm--just remove the skins and seeds and dice or thinly slice the cucumers then place into a glass container with vodka and fresh mint, store in a cool place or refrigerate--wait a couple of weeks and enjoy in a tall glass over ice with some seltzer or club soda--garnish with a cucumber slice and a sprig of mint or lemon balm

  • make a simple cucumber salad-peel deseed the cucumbers, thinly slice then place in a colander over a bowl and sprinkle with a little salt. Let rest refrigerated for at least 1 hour before serving--makes a great snack or side dish

  • make cucumber canapes--top with your favorite spread, or other veggies--the ones shown are topped with a smoked salmon spread piped onto the cucumber slices with a pastry bag

  • make cucumber pickles or relish and can it for enjoying during the winter

  • make cucumber salsa

  • make tzatzki (pronounced dza-DZEE-kee)--a yummy Greek dip: 16 oz thick Greek yogurt; 6 cloves minced garlic; 1/2 cup diced or grated peeled cucumber; 1 tbsp olive oil; 1-2 tsp lemon juice; 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh mint (optional): Prepare all ingredients in advance. Combine oil and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl. Fold the yogurt in slowly, making sure it mixes completely with the oil. Add the garlic, cucmber and mint, stir well and chill. Serve by itself or with veggies or pita bread for dipping-YUM!

  • make Granny's Sweet Cucumbers (my Granny's recipe): 6 cups cucumbers, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced; 1-2 cups thinly sliced onion rings; 2 cups sugar; 1 cup vinegar; 2 tbsp salt. Combine and let stand refrigerated for 2-3 days. Makes 2 qts full. Enjoy!
  • want more? surf the net--there are tons of fun, quick and easy recipes for cukes

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Savory Summer Tart

What to do with all that summer squash??? How about a savory summer tart!
It's quick and easy and delicious.
1 pie crust
2 oz bleu cheese (if you hate bleu, substitute another cheese that melts well, maybe gruyere)
1 lb summer squash sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 large onion, sliced thin
1-2 tbsp molasses (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 tbsp olive oil
2-3 oz chevre or other goat cheese
2 tsp dried herbs or 3 tbsp freshly minced herbs
Sea salt to taste
Carmelize the onions by cooking over medium heat in 2 tbsp olive oil for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure they cook evenly and don't get crispy. Be sure to salt the onions so they release their juices more quickly. When the onions are soft and carmelized, you can add a tablespoon or two of molasses to give them that rich dark sweet color and flavor. Set aside the onions and place remaining oil in pan then saute the garlic and summer squash for about 7-10 minutes, until squash is still a little firm, but tender. Stir often to ensure they cook evenly.
You can either use a store bought pie crust or make one yourself, they're quick, inexpensive and easy. Then roll out the pie crust to a couple inches wider than your pie pan and place it in the pan and fill as follows:
1 oz Crumbled bleu cheese on the bottom of the crust
top with 1/2 of the sauteed squash and garlic mixture
top that with 1/2 of the carmelized onions
top that with 1 oz of chevre
sprinkle 1/2 of the herbs all over and then repeat the process
When you're done, fold the edges of the pie crust over the top so there is an edge of dough all the way around.
Bake at 400° for 30-40 minutes.
Can be served hot or at room temperature.
If making ahead, keep refrigerated until serving and then let stand at room temp or heat through in oven.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Recipes--Lemon Balm

This week I'm going to try to give you a recipe each day to harvest the summer bounty.
A friend contacted me today and said she had an abundance of Lemon Balm, and what to do? Well, first off, lemon balm is of the mint family and it will take over your garden, so if you're just starting out, plant it in a pot in the ground and then watch it and prune regularly...otherwise it will take over. There are some fun uses outside of the ones you might think of right off. Of course, you can make teas and vinegars with it, and it has the most incredible lemony flavor, but here are a few other ideas and one recipe:
  • Dry the leaves and store for winter teas--you can dry them in your oven, which works particularly well if you have a gas oven with a pilot light. Just wash and dry the leaves and lay them out flat, then turn them every day or so for 3-4 days until dried crispy. Store in an air tight container once dry. If you don't have a gas oven you can turn on your electric oven to the lowest setting for a few minutes just to warm it up, then shut it off and put the leaves in. You may have to re-heat the oven occasionally just to keep the moisture out, but they will dry to a crisp in a few days. You do want them crisp dry, otherwise they'll mold in storage.
  • Make Sangria with the leaves and other herbs, spices and citrus
  • Add the leaves to your bloody mary mix
  • Add fresh chopped leaves to salads for a lemony brightness
  • Add fresh chopped leaves to marinades
  • Use fresh chopped leaves mixed with basil for pesto
  • Add leaves to fresh made lemonade
  • Use leaves for a garnsih for macerated fruit, combining fresh lemon juice and minced leaves with a little grand marnier poured over fresh fruit as a marinade
  • Add chopped leaves to muffins or scones, both sweet and savory

Try this recipe for Valentino from The Herb Garden Cookbook by Lucinda Hutson:

2 oz unsalted butter, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

2 tbsp strawberry preserves or orange marmelade

1 tsp orange zest

1 tbsp Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur or fresh orange juice

3 tbsp chopped fresh lemon balm

Fresh Strawberries (optional garnish)

Fresh lemon balm sprigs (optional garnish)

Blend the butter and cream cheese with a fork. Mix in the other ingredients. Best made a day in advance for flavors to mingle; chill overnight and serve at room temperature. Keeps for a week. Serve as a dip for fresh strawberries, or as a spread on open faced sandwiches or with shortbreads.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Ariston Cafe Litchfield, IL

During the long boring drive home from St Louis a couple of weeks ago we stopped to eat at a restaurant we had seen on a Route 66 special on Food Network, The Ariston Cafe.
We were tickled with everything about the place, and will definitely be back. From the moment you walk up to the entry you feel like you're entering a place of history. The original restaurant opened in 1924, and was moved to its current location in 1935 on historic Route 66. The restaurant is still family owned and operated and is much more than just a diner.
We arrived on a Sunday, early afternoon while Brunch was still going, and were pleasantly surprised to find that we could order off the menu or from the buffet style brunch, which is unusual. Most kitchens can only accommodate one or the other at a given time. The owners greeted us graciously and inquired whether we were travelling Route 66 when they saw my camera. The menu is extensive and features the usual diner options, as well as some unique offerings. We were pleasantly surprised to find that there is full bar service, which is not often the case at roadside diners. Tim selected one of the daily specials, a 14-oz Ribeye, which he ordered cooked rare, as he normally does. I chose one of the owners recommendations, Tamales, smothered with the house-made chili and loads of onions. Tim's meal came with the salad bar, which had some of the old standbys on it--great fun. His steak was cooked to perfection--really, truly rare, which is rare for a Ribeye. As you can see from the photos the grill marks were perfect too. He said it had a great grill flavor througout. He had ordered the vegetable which was a Greek style Green Beans and he loved those. The steak also came with sauteed mushrooms, which he normally doesn't eat but he said they too were cooked to perfection, not limp and overdone as is often the case. We have definitely found ourselves another regular stop on our trip to St Louis and recommend that you give it a try next time you're passing through Litchfield, IL.

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