Monday, January 31, 2011

Give Pizza Chance! ☮

Neapolitan Pizza Margherita
Hethyr:  I don't think I know anyone who doesn't like a good slice of pizza (or two... or three...) in one of its many forms.  There are so many options from which to choose...  gooey, cheesy New York-style, loaded Chicago-style deep-dish, wood-fired Neapolitan-style, thin and crispy crust, vegetarian, meaty, extra-cheesy, etc., etc., etc.  My personal favorites are Neapolitan-style and thin, crispy crust with just about any topping you can name.  Although Jon and I have a couple of favorite wood-fire oven pizzerias in town, we also love to make pizza at home.

Why make pizza when you can just eat out or order in?  There are several reasons!  It's easy and fun to make and if you have kids, this is a great meal that they can get involved in from start to finish.  They'll love rolling out the dough, helping to choose the toppings and putting the toppings on the pizza.  They can even watch through the oven window (as long as they don't get too close!) as the crust crisps-up and the cheese gets bubbly and melts.  Another reason to make your own pizza is value.  When we order in, we usually pay about $20 (minus delivery tip) for an 18-inch pie.  We can make our own for much, much less.  Although our pizzas are about 10 to 12-inches, we can load them up with as many toppings as we want and one of these will easily satisfy us both.  For the following recipe, cost was probably between $3 and $4 total, so if you're on a tight budget, this is a great option.  And pizza is so versatile you could probably eat it a few times a week and not get sick of it.

Everyone loves pizza d'oh!
If you don't feel like making the dough each time, make a double batch and freeze half for later use.  Then just thaw the dough a day or two before you plan to have pizza again.  I have also rolled out the dough, topped it and frozen the whole pizza before wrapping it in plastic wrap and heavy-duty foil and storing it in the freezer.  Then you can just bake it straight from the freezer.  It might take an extra few minutes to cook, but it's convenient for busy nights...  a homemade frozen pizza. Much better (and better for you) than those yucky store-bought ones!  You might also check with your favorite pizzeria to see if they will sell you some of their dough if you don't feel like making your own.  And if you're gluten-sensitive, there are gluten-free pizza dough recipes out there.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, we are currently inundated with apples and winter squash, but I haven't even begun to touch on beets.  As beets will (sort-of) be the topic of an upcoming post, for now let it suffice to say that we are getting beet-en.  If you don't like beets, I would really recommend trying this recipe as I'm not a big fan and I love this pizza.  But you might also want to look at the other ideas for homemade pizzas at the bottom of the recipe.

Make pizza night a weekly event at your house and enjoy getting your whole family involved in the meal preparation.  While the dough rises, you can prepare the other ingredients.  Not only do you end up with a fantastic, inexpensive, home-cooked meal, but your family has had time to chat and bond and what could be more important or enjoyable?

One of the best things about homemade pizza?  You get to pick
your own toppings, which means infinite possibilities!

Roasted Beet and Caramelized Onion Pizza

Makes one 10-12" round pizza
  • 1/2 teaspoon active, dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (about 100°F to 110°F)
  • 4 1/2 ounces (about 1 cup) white whole wheat flour (or a 50/50 mixture of whole wheat flour and white all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons warm water (about 100°F to 110°F)
  • Cornmeal
  • Olive oil
  • 2 to 3 cippolini onions, sliced thin (or substitute sliced sweet onions or shallots)
  • 2 small to medium beets, roasted and sliced 1/8" thick
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 2 ounces goat cheese or feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 to 3 fresh rosemary sprigs, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

1.  In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water and let sit for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse flour with salt a couple of times.

2.  Pour yeast mixture through chute while processor is running, then add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until dough forms a ball (see picture at left).  Process for 30 seconds.

3.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly a few times.  Form dough into a ball and place in a large bowl coated with cooking spray.  Turn to coat. Cover bowl with a tea towel and let it sit in a warm spot, free from drafts, for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.  While dough rises, preheat oven to 500°F.  Place pizza stone in the center of preheated oven about 30 minutes prior to baking pizza (if you don't have a pizza stone, skip this step).  

1.  While dough rises, heat a small amount of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add sliced onions and cook, stirring gently, until softened.  Lower heat to low and cook until soft and sweet.  Set aside to cool until dough is ready.

Beet and Caramelized Onion Pizza
prior to baking
2.  When dough is rolled-out and coated with olive oil, top with caramelized onions and sliced beets.  Drop small spoonfuls of ricotta on top of beets, then top with goat cheese or feta cheese and chopped rosemary.

3.  Carefully slide pizza onto the preheated pizza stone.  Bake for 8 minutes or until crust is golden-brown and crisp and cheese is melted (if you're not using a pizza stone, place the baking sheet with the pizza in the center of the oven and bake for 8 minutes or until crust is golden-brown and crisp and cheese is melted).

4.  Remove from oven with pizza paddle, slice and serve.

Other pizza ideas:
  • Sliced summer squash and zucchini with fresh thyme and goat cheese with red pepper
  • BBQ chicken with onions, green peppers and bacon
  • Taco-style with seasoned ground beef or chicken, salsa, cheddar, black olives and diced green chiles topped with hot sauce and fresh lettuce or other greens (like spicy arugula)
  • Butternut squash, shallots, fresh thyme, feta cheese and toasted walnuts
  • Pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, portobello mushrooms, fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Greek-style with sliced, cooked chicken, Kalamata olives, roasted red peppers, oregano and feta cheese topped with fresh cucumbers and tomatoes
  • Shrimp, pineapples and green bell peppers
  • Bacon, onions and ricotta cheese
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
Jon:  So many of my life memories are tied to food.  The snoopy cupcakes on my fifth birthday... the pickle on a stick at the Illinois State Fair... the giant biscuit followed by Snickers pie at Lake of the Ozarks...  I think this attachment is especially true with pizza.  Genuinely great pizza-related moments are few and far between, but they are all eternally etched in my brain.

When my friend Av and I were in Australia in 1997, we were dirt poor.  We used to stop at any Pizza Hut we could find because it was an all-you-can-eat buffet for 5 bucks.  We'd stop in, gorge ourselves, sit around for a couple hours, then go back for more.  It was a great way to stuff a few thousand calories in us for almost no money at all.  I feel more than a little embarrassed plugging Pizza Hut, but this is where I first discovered the possibility of chicken and barbecue sauce on a pizza.  It was a true pizza epiphany.  I suppose that would be a pizziphany.

Beau Jo's Mountain Pie
Another pizziphany came during one of the very first nights that Hethyr and I shared in Colorado Springs in 2000.  We stopped at a place called Beau Jo's that serves gigantically fat and unbelievably tasty individual pizzas called "mountain pies."  This pizza actually had the power to justify our move to Colorado.  (Go here to check out the rather sickening Beau Jo's 14er challenge. If you and your friend can finish a 14 pound pizza in one hour or less then you win a prize.  I'm not sure that the prize covers the cost of the stomach pump at the hospital.)

I had another pizziphany when eating the pineapple-shrimp pizza at Moya's in Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica. Yum.  I could probably list many more, but I'm beginning to drown in my own drool so I'll get to the point.  Ultimately, my most significant pizziphany came when Hethyr decided to make her own pizza.  The first one she made was a butternut squash pizza with caramelized onions.  I didn't know that it was possible to develop an emotional attachment to a piece of dough, but I fell deeply in love with that pie.  That was when I realized that homemade pizza can be the best of the best because it can be made exactly the way you want it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for... Bacon???

The co-op kitchen where I work
Hethyr:  As many of you may already know, I recently moved my business, Everyday Gourmet Colorado, into a commercial kitchen so I can focus more on cooking and less on lugging my cooking equipment around with me to clients' houses.  I have found several benefits to operating out of the Gotta Love It Kitchen, but possibly the most fun aspect is that I now get to sell my homemade ice cream out of the retail space at the front of the store.

I think it would be fairly safe to say that ice cream is, without a doubt, my very favorite food in the whole world.  EVER.  Bacon is a close second with crab legs trailing by a claw.  If I could eat ice cream and/or bacon for every meal and every snack (okay, maybe with the occasional crab leg thrown in for good measure) and not be horribly unhealthy and weigh at least a ton, I would. I most definitely would!

I remember my parents making ice cream in one of those kind of old-school ice cream makers with rock salt when I was really little (my mom and dad are sometimes freaked-out by how far back my memories stretch!).  I also remember Mom making "snow ice cream" when my sisters and I were small.  If my memory serves me correctly, the ingredients were clean snow (we had to make sure it wasn't yellow!), milk, sugar and vanilla.  Memories of Dad making ice cream "soup" still make me laugh.  He would get a heaping bowl of ice cream, stir in chocolate and peanuts - you know, "stir in" is not even close to describing what my dad would do with this ice cream...  he turbo-whipped it until it was approximately the consistency of wet cement, then he would turn the bowl upside-down with the spoon still in it and the spoon would not fall out.  I kid you not.  

Two Xmases ago Jon and I bought our nieces and nephews on my side of the family ice cream makers.  The youngest niece, Delle, was too young to join in on the fun, so she received an "I Scream" onesie.  I apologized to my sister, Shaye, that she was just getting the onesie and Shaye's reply was "Don't worry, Hethyr.  She's a Helton (our maiden name).  It's a given that she'll have to have a bowl of ice cream every night in order to go to sleep."  Needless to say, ice cream is a tradition... okay, let me be honest here... an obsession in my family.

When Jon gave me an ice cream maker a few years ago for my birthday, he said he actually kind of felt bad for it because it meant more time in the kitchen for me.  Little did he know that this would be one of my all-time favorite gifts! I think the first successful batch I made was fresh Peach-Vanilla Bean, followed by Bourbon-Pumpkin-Pecan for Thanksgiving.  That year, I also made Peppermint-Dark Chocolate Chip as a holiday gift for my clients - it was a HUGE hit!  I have messed around with lots of other flavors and several of them are now for sale at the Gotta Love It Kitchen.  Maple-Bacon (yes, I actually make ice cream with bacon in it - my two favorite foods combined!) has become my specialty.  In all of my ice creams, I use organic cream, milk and vanilla.  The sugar I use is organic, fair-trade and as much as possible, the add-ins are organic also.  The chocolate is organic, fair-trade, the fruit is organic, the bacon has no antibiotics, no added hormones and no preservatives and comes from vegetarian fed, humanely raised and humanely harvested animals.  I try to be responsible when choosing my ingredients - I wouldn't feed my customers anything I wouldn't put into my own body!  More flavors will come as the ideas do and I'm always open to suggestions.  Here is a list of my current flavors:

  • Butter Pecan
  • Chocolate (the best EVER in our opinions!)
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  • Coconut
  • Maple-Bacon (!!!)
  • Mocha-Chip
  • Peanut Butter-Nutella (my Dad is begging for me to send him this one!)
  • Peppermint-Dark Chocolate Chip
  • Vanilla
  • White Chocolate-Raspberry
  • Peach (seasonal)
  • Strawberry (seasonal)
And coming soon:

  • Blackberry-Mint
  • Bourbon-Butter Pecan
  • etc., etc., etc.

* *
Jon:  There was an ice sculpting event last weekend in Old Colorado City, the neighborhood of Hethyr's kitchen.  While the ice carvings and related activities were a little bit lame, there were thousands of people walking around throughout the weekend.  Many of the good folks who share the co-op kitchen with Hethyr had tables set up on the sidewalk selling their various food products.  We took the opportunity to offer free ice cream samples to spread the word about the tasty new endeavor.

We ended up giving out hundreds of samples to the people walking by, but it was the people who we didn't give samples to that I was skeptical about.  As far as I'm concerned, I just don't think I can trust anyone who continues walking away from me as I'm saying the words "free ice cream samples."  I was especially dumbfounded when someone would look over and say something to the effect of "ooohhh

We offered Maple-Bacon, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and Peanut Butter-Nutella as samples.  It was fun to see peoples' reactions to the words "bacon" and "ice cream" together.  Some people scrunched their faces like they had just sucked a lemon, some were confused and others reacted as though experiencing spiritual enlightenment.  For those adventurous enough to try it, about 90 percent of them reacted with intense pleasure, even the skeptical ones that we pressured into sampling.  It was a satisfying experience.  The thing that amazes me about the maple-bacon is that you initially only taste the maple, then the tiny, crunchy bacon pieces provide a savory aftertaste.  It's really incredible.  And it's hilarious to me that vegetarians can't eat it (no offense... it's just that carnivorous ice cream cracks me up).

Despite my love for the maple-bacon, I don't even think it's my favorite flavor of Hethyr's.  All of it is ridiculously good and I look forward to getting fat on it for years to come.  I also love that the containers are compostable, so if you enjoy the ice cream so much that you pass out and drop your container on the ground, it will naturally return to the Earth.

Our nephew, Roc, passed out with a Helton-sized ice cream cone

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Crab Redux

Jon and I have been incredibly busy for the past couple of weeks, so I apologize that we haven't been posting more, but until we have a chance to get our next post up, please enjoy the response we received from Jon's sister, Amy, regarding the crab post.  We felt that it was worth sharing!  =)

Hey there,
Just wanted to let you know that I read your latest blog, and I feel so honored to have made a cameo appearance of sorts in both of your sections – it makes me feel like a superstar!
 Your story, Hethyr, totally takes me back to that day… we never did make it to Dave and Buster’s or wherever, did we? 
This might be enough crab legs to feed Amy and me.
Yes, yes, it reminded me of another similar story where an acquaintance had extra coupons to a buffet at a casino in Wisconsin (I guess he gambled a lot) when I was in grad school.  I was in heaven w/ all the crab legs I was eating and eating and showing people my crab leg cracking technique, so as not to waste excess energy and precious eating time.  At some point about ¾ of the way through the meal, after everyone had already been adequately impressed by my seriousness and overindulgent appetite, a girl said “Hey,” and pointed to my hand, “You’re bleeding!”  Sure enough, one of the monstrous crab leg shells had very sharp bumps on it - one of them had pierced my skin, and my finger was indeed bleeding.  I wiped the blood off my finger w/ my napkin, and of course continued to eat, being slightly more careful. Apparently, the true horror of the moment hadn’t quite sunk in, because as soon as I started eating again the girl suddenly yelled, “Oh my God, she was WOUNDED, and she didn’t even notice!”  Then it was all a flurry of awed, impressed and horrified comments, all mixed and jumbled, but I distinctly remember the words “battle” , “like a machine” and “monster” being said at some point… Yes, I think we amazed people sometimes w/ our crab-eating fervor…
And your dishes looked so good... I am partly tempted to make an exception to the vegetarian thing for some crab sometime… and I’m glad you’re able to use the fashionable onion goggles!
In any case, just thought I’d drop you guys a quick note to say that I’ve been reading and enjoying your blog (even when I’m not mentioned in it) – good job!
Your favorite goggle-gifter
P.S.  There are many times that I wish that we lived closer to each other so that we could partake in some of your many wonderful creations (and I guess it would be nice to be able to see you guys too J ), but when I saw the ice cream flavors you are making – I don’t write OMG very often, but - OMG, I don’t think my mouth’s watered that much in a long time! – I almost bought a ticket to come visit and get some…
Regarding the ice cream, stay tuned.  We'll be writing about it soon!
Hethyr & Jon

Friday, January 14, 2011

Top of the Muffin to Ya!

bacon eggs sausage toast pancakes orange juice breakfast idea girl recipes for two squidoo
Although I am a foodie and adore good food, I am a bit picky (I can picture Jon's eyes rolling and hear him muttering under his breath "A BIT picky?!?") about what I'll eat and when.  When I'm in the mood for breakfast - and I'm talking about a big, hearty breakfast - anything sounds good...  eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, grits, French toast, pancakes, etc., etc., etc.  Man, I'm making myself hungry!!!  But, because I don't regularly eat like that for obvious reasons, it's often really difficult for me to find something that sounds good.  Let me explain...

Clockwise from top left:
Coconut-Pumpkin, Pumpkin-
Cranberry, Sweet Beet and
Dark Chocolate-Beet Muffins
I have always despised oatmeal, solely based on texture (although my good friend Jodie blogged about the one-and-only oatmeal recipe I'll touch and it's divine - Oatmeal Casserole), and I'm not a big fan of most cereals.  I like granola but it's too sweet for my usual breakfast tastes, as are most yogurts and pastries.  And to top it off, I'm allergic to and can't stand the taste or smell of cinnamon, so that eliminates about half of all breakfast foods as possible options for me (and for poor Jon since we share a house).  That leaves muffins as one of the few options.  Luckily muffins are incredibly versatile, they can be sweet or savory and they are easy to make.  Most muffins start with a basic recipe and it's very simple to make substitutions or to turn it into your own recipe completely.

Our CSA delivery yesterday.
Oh, my!
As often happens with our CSA, I was feeling overwhelmed by produce the other day and decided that I could use a lot of it by making several batches of muffins, which freeze very well.  Muffins are a portable and tasty breakfast or snack for Jon during school, so I try to make them frequently when school is in session.  I had a bunch of frozen puréed pumpkin and a whole lot of beets.  As you can see from the picture above, I made four batches and since I think four recipes are a bit too much information for one post, I'll break this into two.  This one will include the two pumpkin muffin recipes and a post in the near future will contain the two beet muffin recipes.

I almost always use white whole wheat flour when baking muffins but you can feel free to use all-purpose flour or a mix of regular whole wheat and all-purpose.  White whole wheat flour has almost the same nutrient content as the red whole wheat variety you're probably used to seeing - it's just a different variety of wheat.  It's baking properties are closer to white flour than to red whole wheat, though, which is why I favor it in baking muffins and breads.  It bakes up lighter and fluffier than dense red whole wheat.  I highly recommend giving it a try!

As always, feel free to make adjustments to these recipes to suit your tastes.

Pumpkin-Dark Chocolate Chip or Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins

   Makes 12 muffins or 24 mini-muffins
  • 1 cup cooked, puréed pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk *
  • 1 tablespoon molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour (use soy flour for a gluten-free version)
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (decrease to 1 teaspoon for high-altitude)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips or fresh, frozen or dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup ground walnuts or pecans
* If you don't have any buttermilk on hand, mix 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar with enough milk to make 1/2 cup and let sit for 5 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Mix pumpkin, egg, sugar, buttermilk, molasses and vanilla in a large bowl.

Mix together flours, baking powder, spices, chocolate chips or cranberries and ground nuts in a separate medium bowl.

Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, being sure not to over-mix.

Fill greased muffin or mini-muffin tins about 2/3 full.  For regular muffins, bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  For mini-muffins, bake at 350°F for 15-18 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool muffins in pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.  If desired, wrap individually and freeze in freezer bags.

Coconut-Pumpkin Muffins
   Makes 12 muffins
  • 1 cup cooked, puréed pumpkin
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder (decrease to 1 1/2 teaspoons for high-altitude)
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup macadamia nuts, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup coconut flakes
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Mix pumpkin, eggs, brown sugar, coconut milk, oil and coconut extract in a large bowl.

Mix flour, baking powder, spices, salt and macadamia nuts in a separate medium bowl.

Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, being sure not to over-mix.

Fill greased muffin tins about 2/3 full.  Sprinkle with coconut flakes and bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool muffins in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Nutritional information for
Star$$$ Pumpkin-Cream Cheese Muffin...
It's tough to beat a good muffin.  But in my opinion, it is also hard to find a good muffin.  I guess it's the purist coming out in me, but the ingredients lists of most muffins in stores or coffee shops are downright scary.  Leave it to Americans to take the old-fashioned English-style muffin, with its minimal ingredients list and respectable nutritional value, and essentially turn it into a preservative-laced cupcake.

I remember making muffins from Jiffy-brand instant muffin mix in college because I could fill up my gut for about 29 cents. I'm not even sure that stuff could be classified as food. Packaged muffins from most grocery stores are not much better.  And I wouldn't trust a Starbucks muffin to do anything besides lodging a gooey cholesterol ball in my aorta.  I also am not especially fond of the flabby-over-the-side-of-the-jeans-muffin-top, but at least that's just an eye-sore and won't shorten my life.

Now that I've proven myself to be a complete food snob who will eat nothing that Hethyr doesn't make, allow me to plug her muffins (so to speak).  I never would have thought a chocolate beet muffin sounded edible prior to trying one, but now I'm addicted.  I'd consume them intravenously if I needed to.  I feel the same about the pumpkin muffins, the coconut muffins, the pear muffins, the chocolate cappuccino muffins or any others she's made.  And they don't have a single ingredient that scares me.

So throw the packaged muffin mix in the trash, feed the Starbucks muffins to a family of raccoons and try one of Hethyr's recipes.  That way you can store more fat in your brain and less in your muffin top.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Who knew a crab lived
inside of my eggplant?
For as far back as I can remember, one of my very favorite foods on the planet has been steamed crab legs with a little bit of drawn butter.  So simple, yet so delectable!  In fact, I love it so much that my date for my senior prom took me to a restaurant that served crab legs.  Picture me in my formal dress, hair and nails done, ripping apart crab legs.  I had crab meat all over my dress, in my hair, all over my date, the people sitting behind us, the server, etc.  I'm sure it was a sight! When Jon and I were dating we once met part of his family at Lake Lanier in Georgia.  The restaurant at the hotel required the guys to wear jackets and, of course, all of us ladies were dressed up.  Jon's sister, who is about my size (small), and I kept the entire family at the dinner table for hours as we devoured plate after heavenly plate of crab legs.  Jon and I even had crab legs at our wedding reception - it was the only food I specifically requested. I could go on and on, but I'll assume you get the idea...    
I ♥ CRAB!!!

At dinner with my parents and
Jon 11 years ago.  I think they
needed the goggles more than I did.
Unfortunately, living in Colorado, I rarely feast on this mouthwatering dish because 1) it's fairly expensive and 2) I live very much inland and I prefer the taste of fresh seafood on or near the coast.  That is not to say that cravings don't occasionally take over, so once in a while, I'll give in and buy an 8-ounce tub of crab meat from Whole Foods (jumbo, lump or claw depending on the intended use). One of my clients recently ordered an old-fashioned seafood bake which contained crab meat.  That was enough for me to decide that we needed some crab meat, too.  This time I bought claw meat since I didn't necessarily need large chunks of the meat - I was more interested in the taste - and claw meat was about half the price of jumbo or lump.  I think it was $7.99 for 8 ounces.  This price, at least in Colorado, isn't too bad and I got three full meals out of one 8-ounce tub!

For all three meals, I used crab meat, green onions and cheese.  You might think that using such similar ingredients for each of the dishes would be boring, but I guarantee that they all differ enough that you could easily eat them consecutively.  For two of the meals I used Gruyère cheese, a Swiss cow's milk cheese that has a distinct flavor that isn't overpowering.  It was perfect for letting the taste of the crab shine through.  It also melts beautifully, which made it a good choice for these meals.

So go ahead - indulge a little.  You'll be glad you did!

Super-Easy Crab Quesadillas

Serves 2
  • 2 large whole wheat tortillas
  • 1/2 to 1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/3 cup crab claw meat, picked over for shell pieces
  • 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Sour cream, guacamole and salsa for serving
Place each tortilla on a flat surface and top one-half of each with half of the cheddar cheese, crab meat and green onion.  Fold each tortilla over to enclose toppings.

Heat about 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Place one quesadilla in the skillet and heat until golden brown.  Carefully flip and cook second side until golden.  Remove from skillet and cover with foil to keep warm.  Repeat with other quesadilla.

Cut each quesadilla into halves or quarters, sprinkle with kosher salt and serve with sour cream, guacamole and salsa.

Crab and Gruyère French Bread Pizzas

Serves 2-3
  • 1/2 baguette, sliced in half lengthwise and then cut into halves or thirds
  • 2-3 teaspoons Dijon or coarse-grain mustard
  • 1/3 cup crab claw meat, picked over for shell pieces
  • 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1/2 to 1 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400°F and position a rack in the center.

Spread each baguette piece with mustard and top each with equal amounts of crab meat, green onions and Gruyère cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Place pizzas on a baking sheet and bake for 7-10 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and bread is toasted. Brown a little under the broiler for a minute or two if desired.

Crab and Gruyère Omelettes

Serves 2
  • 4 to 5 large farm-fresh eggs
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons milk (I have a raw milk share through Larga Vista Dairy)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/3 cup crab claw meat, picked over for shell pieces
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup green onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped for garnish
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk and salt and pepper, to taste.

Heat butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once bubbles subside, pour in egg mixture and stir for a few seconds.  Once eggs start to cook, tilt skillet and lift edges of omelette with a rubber spatula so that raw egg pours under the cooked eggs.  Continue to do this until the omelette is almost completely cooked.  Top half with crab meat, Gruyère cheese and green onions.  Fold top half of omelette over to enclose ingredients.  Cook for another minute or until cheese melts.  Cut in half, slide onto plates and sprinkle with parsley.

Best served with mimosas!  =)

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Jon:  Looking at that old picture of Hethyr wearing her goggles really takes me back... to last week.  While I haven't seen her wear any protective armor during seafood meals in a long time, she still frequently sports a sweet pair of "onion goggles" that my sister, Amy, bought for her a couple years ago.  Every time she cuts an onion she sobs as if she is the one being sliced and diced.  The goggles are meant to protect her eyes and prevent the waterworks.  They are light green and white (much like an onion), and their thick, sleek, aerodynamic nature would make them the perfect accessory for leaping out of an airplane.

Like Hethyr, I also love to eat fresh crab, and it's not always easy (or inexpensive) when you are severely landlocked.  Even when we lived in Boston, where every business is either a seafood restaurant or a Dunkin Donuts, we couldn't find fresh crab legs.  Every menu offers crab cakes, but apparently crab legs are a Pacific coast luxury.  Who knew?  Maybe everyone did but us.  Regardless, the next time you are fortunate enough to devour a fresh claw, enjoy every moment.  And remember to wear your goggles.

A Galapagos Crab.  Photo taken by Tony,
the husband of my goggle-gift-giver sister, Amy.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Hethyr:  Remember the scene from E.T.: The Extraterrestrial where Elliott hides E.T. in his closet amongst his stuffed animals?  Well, when I came home from work today, I couldn't find Jon.  I looked everywhere, calling his name as I roamed the house.  Just when I was beginning to think he left me or something awful, I glanced into the corner of the kitchen...

Poor guy had gotten trapped under a monstrous pile of squash and pumpkins from our Grant Family Farms CSA!  I figured it was time to use some of those beauties before one of us had a fatal accident.

When I first gave into the Facebook phenomenon a couple of years ago, I reconnected with a friend from high school who is a freelance editor for Illinois Country Living Magazine.  She, like me, loves to cook and test recipes.  She shared one for Pumpkin-Chicken Chowder which sounded delicious.  I think I must have been in an Indian-food mood the night I planned on making it because my version turned out much different than hers, although I'm sure the original version was yummy as well.  My thanks to Catrina for the original recipe!

I took this chowder to a foodie friend of ours when he was sick and several other friends had taken him meals, too.  He mentioned to me when he was feeling better that this was the only dish he polished off completely.  I won't mention his name (although he knows who he is!) as to not offend his other friends.  ;)

My recipes tend to be very versatile in terms of using what you have on hand.  I am constantly substituting some ingredient for another as our CSA share contains whatever was ready-for-picking that day on the farm and that is anything but consistent.  I love the variety, though - it keeps me on my toes!  That being said, please feel free to make any substitutions you'd like based on what you have on hand.  I'll give you some substitution ideas along with the recipes and I'd love to see your comments on how you adapt it to suit your personal tastes or to suit what you have on hand.  I'm also including an easy recipe for Baked Pita Chips, which I adore.  You could easily buy bagged pita chips, but homemade is more fun and tastes a lot better!  They are fun to "dress-up" with any seasonings or dried herbs you can think of.

Curried Pumpkin-Chicken Chowder

Serves 4 to 6
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder (or to taste)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked pumpkin *
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound cooked chicken, shredded or cubed
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish
Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  When oil is hot, add chopped onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.  Add curry powder and  cayenne and cook for another 2 minutes.  Stir in broth, pumpkin, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly and blend with a stick (or immersion) blender - one of my favorite kitchen tools - or in small batches in a blender or food processor until smooth.  Be careful - hot liquids can cause burns and a big mess.  

Return to soup pot, add cooked chicken, brown rice and corn.  Return to burner and simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes or until heated through.  Ladle into bowls, garnish with cilantro and serve.

* Notes:  If using canned pumpkin, be sure to get plain pumpkin - not the pie filling, which has spices.  I often cook large quantities of pumpkin at once, then purée and freeze it in 1/4-cup portions in muffin tins.  Then I store the "muffins" in freezer bags and just pull out the amount I need to thaw for the recipe I'm making.

This soup freezes beautifully, so if you end up with leftovers, freeze some for a busy night.  You'll have a wonderful, home-cooked meal without much work!

Baked Pita Chips

Serves 4
  • 4 pita bread rounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Brush both sides of pita bread with olive oil, cut into wedges and place on baking sheets.  Season with kosher salt and bake for 5 minutes.  Flip pita wedges and cook for another 5 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.  Cool on cooling racks, then store in reusable containers or plastic bags.

Now for those substitution ideas I promised...

  • Use any cooked winter squash in place of the pumpkin
  • Use leeks in place of the onion (I often have leeks on hand at the same time pumpkin and winter squash are in season)
  • For a vegetarian version, substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth and cooked chickpeas for the shredded chicken
  • If you prefer, substitute white, basmati or wild rice for the brown rice
  • The pita chips are a great side for myriad dishes, so try seasoning them with curry powder, cumin and oregano or red pepper flakes to complement the main dish

Just to give you an idea of how often I make substitutions, I actually made a couple in this recipe as I was taking pictures for the post.  I substituted a huge banana squash and a Hubbard squash for the pumpkin and a green bell pepper that I had chopped and frozen this summer for the red bell pepper.  I also doubled the recipe to freeze some for Jon since he starts back to school tomorrow - it's easy to reheat in the microwave at school and he doesn't have to eat cafeteria food.  See how easy it can be?  The possibilities are endless, so get your creative juices flowing!

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Jon:  I'm better at eating than cooking.  However, I do have several very specific and very limited talents in the kitchen.  I consider myself a bit of a breakfast aficionado, so I frequently take charge when Hethyr and I are looking to indulge in a quality morning meal.  You might even say my breakfast-making abilities are egg-cellent (that is, if you aren't concerned with sounding like a corny "yolk"el).  I can also toast a killer grilled cheese or a quesadilla, and I pride myself on my ability to grill nearly anything.

I occasionally cook squash because 1)  I try to make dinner whenever possible to lighten Hethyr's cooking load, 2) it is a good, tasty, healthy meal, 3) we have four hundred squash in the house and 4) squash is very easy to prepare.  I usually simplify it by using the microwave.  The exact method differs depending on the type of squash, but basically you pierce it several times with a knife, microwave it for a while, let it cool a few minutes, cut it in half, remove the guts, then microwave it some more.  Pay special attention to the first instruction... pierce it several times with a knife.  Allow me to paint a picture of what can happen when you pierce it less than several times.

I believe it was a large butternut squash...  I'll name it Beefcake in homage to a dog we briefly shared time and space with in Costa Rica, because he looked very much like a four-legged butternut squash.  After piercing Beefcake (the squash) less than several times with a knife, I popped him in the microwave for ten minutes.  Slightly less than ten minutes later, with me in the living room and Hethyr in the kitchen...BOOM!  Bye, bye, Beefcake.  The thunderous explosion blew the microwave door open and ejected high-velocity squash guts out into the kitchen.  Fortunately for the immediate safety of my wife and the future stability of our marriage, Hethyr was not in the direct line of fire and therefore escaped unharmed.  Unfortunately, I have no good news to report about the condition of Beefcake.

In the end, the incident proved to be a harmless occurrence.  I must admit, however, I sometimes still skeptically watch the microwave out of the corner of my eye when it's running and  deliberately avoid walking too close to it.  Now I'm not suggesting that you live in fear of your microwave.  Just do me a favor and pierce the squash twenty times.  This advice may someday save both your squash and your wife.