Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tofu, Vegetables and Peanut Sauce

Quick, healthy, simple, delicious. This dish has all the right stuff. I've wanted to make it for quite some time, but haven't because my husband doesn't care for savory dishes that have a strong peanut flavor. Any time I'd mention a main dish with a peanut sauce, he'd cringe. So when I made this for supper recently, I was prepared for him to fix something different for himself. However, he approached this dish with an open mind, gave it a try and liked it. I mean, really liked it! The peanut butter combined with the soy sauce, rice vinegar and brown sugar makes a delicious, subtle sauce. This is going to be one of my "go to" weeknight recipes, for sure.

Whole Wheat Spaghetti with Tofu, Vegetables and Peanut Sauce

8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti
4 ounces snow peas, tough strings removed
2 large carrots, peeled then shaved into strips with a veggie peeler
1 container (8 oz) of extra firm cubed tofu, drained (I used pre-cubed tofu to save time, but you can buy a block of tofu and dice it yourself, making the cubes larger if you wish)
3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar

1) Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling water until al dente according to package. While pasta is cooking, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar and sugar in small bowl, stirring well; set aside.

2) Before pasta is done cooking, reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. When the timer shows about 15 seconds remaining, add the snow peas, carrots and tofu to the pot. Drain pasta mixture and return it to pot. Pour peanut sauce over pasta mixture and toss gently, adding reserved pasta water a little at a time to make a thin sauce (you may not need all the water). Season with coarse salt and fresh pepper. Note: try it topped with fresh cilantro and finely chopped roasted peanuts. Enjoy!

from Everyday Food

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Blueberry Crumble

After a bad blueberry season last year, my husband and I were eager to pick a few gallons this year, so we headed over to a blueberry farm about 25 minutes from our home. We picked two gallons of blueberries and purchased a third gallon of pre-picked berries. The bushes were loaded, but it was still slow going because a good number of berries were either too ripe or not ripe enough. Since I'm a perfectionist, I'm very selective and it takes me a long time to pick fruit. The next day, I spent a chunk of time sorting, washing and freezing the berries. Do you know how many blueberries are in a gallon? I don't, but it sure is a bunch! By the end of two gallons, I was sick of looking at blueberries.

There's a wonderful blueberry tart that I featured here on the blog a few years ago. Every summer I make one, but this year I wanted to try something different that would be faster to make. I chose a crumble that uses 6 cups of berries (which, by the way, doesn't even make a dent in 3 gallons). This crumble is delicious, so I wanted to share the recipe with you. 

One note: I forgot to include the 1/2 teaspoon of salt in the filling, but it tasted wonderful without it. Next time I will try using 1/4 teaspoon salt in the filling to see if it enhances the flavor of the berries.

Blueberry Crumble

6 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
5 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and salt; stir gently to combine. Transfer to an 8" square baking dish.

2) In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add flour and salt and, using your hands, mix until large pieces form. Scatter topping over blueberry filling.

3) Bake until center is bubbling, 40 to 50 minutes, tenting loosely with foil after 30 minutes if needed to prevent topping from getting too brown (I baked my crumble for 40 minutes and didn't tent with foil because I forgot that step; fortunately, the topping was perfect). Let cool about 20 minutes before serving. This would be delicious served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 
from Everyday Food

My husband says this blueberry crumble is now one of his favorite summer desserts. What's your favorite summer fruit to use in desserts: strawberries, peaches, blackberries, plums, something else ...?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Frozen Fudge Bars

I just made the most yummy frozen fudge bars this summer and they've quickly become one of my very favorite summer treats. They're incredibly creamy and chocolaty! The first time I made them, I followed the recipe exactly. The second time I made them, I substituted skim milk for whole milk, and they were still deliciously rich and creamy. I also omitted the vanilla the second time around and didn't notice any difference. If you're a chocolate fan like I am, definitely give these bars a try. What's your favorite frozen treat? 

Frozen Fudge Bars

2 teaspoons cornstarch
1-1/2 cups whole milk or skim milk, divided
1-1/3 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (optional)

1) In a medium saucepan, whisk together cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the milk until smooth. Whisk in remaining milk, cream, sugar, cocoa and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and cook 1 minute.

2) Transfer to a large heat-proof measuring cup and stir in vanilla. Let cool several minutes, skim off any skin that has formed on top and pour into ice-pop molds (Note: the recipe doesn't say to let cool, but I don't like the idea of putting super-hot liquid into a plastic container -- not healthy!). Freeze several hours until solid. To release the bars, briefly run the mold under warm water.
from Everyday Food

Monday, July 15, 2013

New Wine Glasses and Pillows

My husband and I enjoy wine. In fact, it's kind of a hobby. We don't have a wine cellar (or even a special wine fridge, though I'd love one), and we certainly aren't wine snobs! But we have come a long way over the years in our knowledge of wines. We enjoy all different varieties (but I'm not a fan of most Chardonnays) and many of our favorite bottles are priced under $15. 

There are a couple of wine shops close by we enjoy visiting on Saturdays for their wine tastings. One shop also has a restaurant where we'll grab a spinach and mushroom pizza and a salad for lunch. For quite some time, we've been admiring the wine glasses this shop uses for their tastings. They're made in Germany by Schott Zwiesel, the 13.7 ounce Forte Burgundy glasses, which are a nice size and shape for both red and white wines. 

After many months of lusting over them and talking about purchasing some for at home, we finally decided to do it, only to find the wine shop no longer sells them! So to the Internet I went. I found them at Amazon at a better price (under $10 apiece + free shipping) and bought two sets for a total of 12 glasses. We're replacing an old set of 6 wine glasses from Crate & Barrel. Our new Schott Zwiesel glasses are a beautiful shape, thinner and lighter weight -- much better quality.

Schott Zwiesel wine glasses are made of Tritan® crystal, which is titanium-based. They are resistant to chips and breaking and are dishwasher safe. Pottery Barn's website has a video about Schott Zwiesel's patented Tritan crystal technology, which you can view here.

The wine in the photo above is a 2007 Altos de Luzon from the Jumilla region of Spain. It is a blend of Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo grapes. We typically don't care for Spanish wines, which can be very earthy, but the Spanish wines on the tasting that week were very delicious.

Another recent purchase: two new pillows from Pottery Barn for the chairs on our porch. They have a natural material look, but are made from synthetic fiber and are for outdoor use. They are very comfy!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


If you've been following my blog for a while, then you know I love food and love to cook. So it's kind of hard for me to admit that, before now, I had never made my own basil pesto. What took me so long! I've made other variations of pesto -- parsley, pea, even broccoli -- but never basil. I suppose one reason is that I haven't had luck growing basil in the garden. But this year I planted some in a container and positioned it so that it gets morning sun and afternoon shade. It seems to be happy in this spot.

Nothing beats the taste of basil pesto, and it is really easy to make. If you haven't tried making your own, you must. The most difficult part, in my opinion, is hauling out the heavy food processor and then cleaning it. See below for a simple recipe.

Basil Pesto
1) On a cutting board, sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt over 1 peeled garlic clove and roughly chop. Using the flat side of a knife blade (or bottom of a metal measuring cup), crush the garlic mixture into a thick paste. 

2) Add to a food processor along with 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (or another nut; I used walnuts), 3 cups packed fresh basil leaves and 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Pulse until ingredients are finely chopped. 

3) With machine running, add 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil in a slow, steady stream. Add 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and pulse to combine. Season with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. 

To store, place pesto in an airtight container with plastic wrap pressed against surface of pesto so it doesn't oxidize and turn brown. Keeps a few days in the refrigerator or up to 3 months in the freezer. Makes 3/4 cup.
from Everyday Food

Ways to use pesto:
  • Tossed with freshly cooked pasta
  • As a base for homemade pizza
  • Drizzled over grilled fish or vegetables
We used ours to make a potato and green bean salad, and for lunch I spread some on toasted slices of French bread and layered on a few slices of fresh tomato to make the most wonderful sandwich. So summery!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Snapshot: My Desk

Hello! I hope you all had a wonderful 4th of July holiday! 

I've been on a cleaning kick lately, and when I tackled my desk I took the opportunity to rearrange a few things. Knowing it wouldn't remain this tidy for long, I snapped a photo to share with you. Here are some details:
  • The photo of the Japanese doll head is by a friend who uses Photoshop to create collages. I really love the doll's face, how she's perched on top of two jade-colored bangles and the touches of red.
  • The calendar and notepad are from Snow & Graham, my favorite paper supplier. I found a local shop that sells some of their products including wrapping paper, which I'm going to stock up on.
  • The black and white tile, which I use as a coaster, is a piece I bought at a local gallery.
  • The desk blotter is an easy DIY project from years ago. I simply taped black corrugated paper on top of heavyweight paper board. It has held up well, but I think it might be time to make a fresh one.
  • The vintage lamp had been in my husband's family for years. He saved it from the trash heap, rewired it and painted the leaves gold. In the lamp's base is a little reservoir where I stash mementos: my dad's Air Force wings, a few coins from our trip to France and a little frog.

On the wall above my desk is a print my husband made using a traditional Japanese technique called gyotaku. The print is of a carp my husband caught (he is normally a catch-and-release fisherman). In the gyotaku process, a freshly caught fish is cleaned and dried before rolling ink onto it.  After the fish is inked, a sheet of slightly moistened rice paper is gently pressed down on top of the fish, then carefully peeled off to produce the print. Once dry, Paul hand-painted some accents in gold, and asked a lady to write "The Golden One" in Chinese. We hope that's what it really says (smile).

A note about the paint color in this room. The walls are Sherwin-Williams Studio Blue Green from their Roycroft Arts and Crafts collection. It's a color my husband chose. At first I was skeptical of a dark color in this small room, but it works nicely and gives the room a cozy feeling.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Strawberries with Sour Cream

Strawberries rank high on my list of favorite fruits. They are so versatile. You can use them to make fabulous drinks (think strawberry daiquiris), healthy breakfast smoothies, delicious desserts (strawberry shortcake, strawberry pie), as a tasty topper on oatmeal. And of course they are great just by themselves. 

Here's a super easy strawberry dessert that lets the berries shine while adding a touch of sweetness and a little crunch. Simply mix 1/2 cup of sour cream with one tablespoon of light brown sugar; stir well to combine. Drizzle the sour cream over the berries and sprinkle with sliced almonds. It's that easy. Enjoy, and happy Independence Day to my American friends!

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