Posts Tagged ‘recipes’

As a Mom of two rambunctious kids I know full well that “camping” means work for me and fun for them.  But Moms already know that it takes a lot more effort to go our there and have fun than to sit at home.  These days I’m so busy with day-to-day life, it was refreshing to turn off the phone and not bring any electronics to Inks Lake State Park.  The trip was a Scout Pack activity but everyone in the family is welcome, and most of the parents were Moms!

Camping did have me a little worried.  Little Sister likes to play in the dirt, with bugs, and chases butterflies.  She could easily get lost!  All the families kept an eye on the heard of kids as they explored our piece of heaven.  I went to the rescue of a boy while taking pictures of this flowering cactus, he fell on to the very same species I was admiring.  My trusty multi-tool with pliers came in handy as I played field EMT removing thorns and pins.  I was thankful it wasn’t one of my kids.  Sure enough though, Big Brother took a spill and scratched up his knee.  I could tell it was him by the yelp through the trees.  Can’t have fun without someone getting hurt.


I prepared some beef carnitas the night before we left, froze them and carried it in the cooler.  Wrapped in two layers of foil they sat on the coals until heated through.  On the side, a mixture of potatoes, sweet onion, and tomatoes cooked in foil.  A very satisfying meal.


Campfire Carnitas

  • 1 pound skirt or flank steak
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 cup diced sweet onion
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3-4 chilies in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup marinara sauce

Sear the beef on both sides, remove to a plate to rest.  Sauté the carrot and onion in the pan with olive oil.  Add the garlic powder, chilies and marinara sauce.  Slice the meat against the grain and return to the pan.  Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the carrots are soft, about another 10 minutes.  Cool and pour into a ziptop bag, freeze overnight.

Remove the carnitas from the bag.  Double wrap the mixture (it can be frozen) in foil.  Heat over medium coals until bubbling hot again.  Serve with tortillas and your favorite toppings like avocado, pico de gallo, or cilantro.



Breakfast was fruit salad (mango, banana, pear).  I was still stuffed with s’mores from last night.  The kids had cereal and milk, as well as some of my fruit.

The park was unbelievably beautiful.  Real toilets with showers, albeit a short hike away, were nice since we were tenting.

For more ideas on food outdoors, check out the Texas Parks Picnicking Page.  I’ll leave you with a slideshow of the trip.

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chop drop soup

This is not so much a recipe as it is a map or method to creating soul satisfying soup in five easy steps.  Let your imagination go wild, with the blessing of your taste buds of course.  Soups are a perfect way to use seasonal veggies that you may find at your local farmers market.  Say there is an unusual squash on the table, ask the grower if it is hard, bitter, sweet, or soft?  Bitter squash is not the best candidate for soups, at least in my view, so I avoid those.  Zucchini is about as bitter as I will go.  Give chop and drop a try!

Step 1

Empty the veggie drawer into the (clean) kitchen sink or counter.  Wash all skin-stay-on veggies.

Step 2

Peel and trim veggies.  Chop into manageable pieces.  Hint: the smaller the dice the hastier it cooks!

Step 3

Drop into a soup pot with a swirl of olive oil, sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Stir.

Step 4

Add liquids.  Choose your favorite stock, broth, bouillon, OXO, Knorr, or even tomato puree, or can of cream of whatever plus milk.

Step 5

Wait.  Poke the veggies to see if they are tender. Heck, you could even taste one or two.

You are ready to eat!

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mom mango chutney chicken

I love jam and the cousins, jelly, butter and chutney.

Mom sent me a jar of her mango chutney and plum jam for Christmas.  I finally decided it was time to crack open the chutney.  She uses raisins and mango as the fruit.  I browned some chicken thighs, spiced them up with masala and cayenne pepper, then poured in the chutney and some hot water to form a sauce.  The mild acidity of the chutney with the smoky Indian spices worked perfectly.  I was tempted to add coconut milk and glad I held off!

Sweetberry Farms is open again and I swear this will be the year that I make it out there before the strawberries are gone!  Mom being here is a good motivator.  I’d love to swap jam at an upcoming ATXswappers event if scheduling permits.

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Spaghetti Squash

spaghetti squash

A gluten-free day today.  I had lunch at Molcas’ and for dinner some faux pasta.

Here’s a fairly quick way to make yourself spaghetti squash “pasta”.

Cut lengthwise and clean out a spaghetti squash.  Lay it cut side down in a microwave-safe dish, such as a Pyrex pie plate.  Add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish.  Cover the plate with plastic wrap and nuke it for about 10 minutes.  The squash will be soft when it’s ready.  Carefully remove the squash and use a fork to loosen the strands.

To accompany the squash I prepared an Alfredo sauce with sautéed shallot, Canadian bacon, and peas.  Tossed the cooked faux pasta in the sauce and it’s ready.

This took maybe 20 minutes to prepare and was healthy!  Yay for not cracking open the ice cream after dinner (or instead of dinner).

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2013 refreshing strawberry lemonade

Making use of the five-pound bag of lemons I bought at Costco (why do I do this to myself?) I decided to make lemonade.  Those bright yellow puckers looked so lonely, so I added strawberries to the jug.  The lemon is front and center, but I love the pink hue the strawberries added.  Bonus is the pieces of fruit in the bottom of your glass!  This can be easily scaled up to serve a larger crowd for a back yard gathering or picnic.

Refreshing Strawberry Lemonade

  • 1 cup organic coconut sugar (more to taste)
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 2 large organic lemons
  • 6 large organic strawberries

In a small pot, combine the sugar and 1 cup of water, bring this to a simmer to dissolve the sugar.  Slice the lemons in half and take a slice off each half, place these perfectly round slices in your lemonade vessel of choice.  Juice the remaining lemon, catching the seeds or strain afterwards.  Add the lemon juice to the vessel.  Add the sugar-water and stir to combine.

Chop the strawberries and cook them down until their juices are released, use the same little pot to save washing two!

Add the strawberries to the vessel.  Add the remaining 4 cups of water and stir well.  Cover and chill until ready to serve over ice.

Another idea is to make a more concentrated version by only adding 1 more cup of water then adding it to fizzy water to make a sparkling strawberry lemonade!

Cocktail time by adding vodka or gin to the sparkling version.  Although you may want to reduce the berries further and strain the seeds if you are making hard strawberry lemonade.  Seeds floating in your cocktail is not classy.

Have fun with it.  Enjoy and be refreshed.

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Tonight is the New Member Mixer hosted by the Austin Food Blogger Alliance and Savory Spice Shop on 6th.  I’ll either post a recap of the event here or on the AFBA blog once I can find some pictures.


Here are a few recipes I jotted down using some of the spice blends available at Savory Spice Shop:


guacamole savory spice shop

  • 1 large or 2 small ripe avocado
  • 1 tsp Peruvian Chile Lime blend
  • 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • salt to taste

Cut the avocado open and scoop out the flesh in to a small mixing bowl.  Add the Peruvian Chile Lime blend and lime juice, mash with a fork.  Taste and add a small pinch of salt to taste.


peruvian chile spice - guisado

  • 1/2 pound organic ground beef (85/15)
  • 1/4 tsp salt and pepper
  • 2 red potatoes
  • 1/2 can of petite diced tomatoes with green pepper and onion
  • 5 white mushrooms, cleaned and stems removed
  • 1/2 cup carrot, sliced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 2 tsp Peruvian Chile Lime blend
  • 1 tsp Greek herb blend (or oregano)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup water

Brown the beef with salt and pepper and remove from the pan.  Sautee the vegetables for about 4 minutes, then add the Peruvian Chile Lime blend and Greek herb blend.  Add the beef back to the pan and the sauce.  Stir in the water.  Cover and reduce the heat to simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about 8 minutes.  Serve alone or with rice.

Herbed Mashed Potatoes

herbed mash potatoes

  • 1 cup mashed Russet potato
  • 1 tsp Hudson Bay Beef Spice blend
  • pinch of salt
  • sour cream

This recipe is based on a per cup of potato serving.  Blend everything together well with a potato masher while warm.

Rockfish with Mango Salsa

barrier reef seasoning - mango salsa on rockfish


  • 1 cup mango, finely diced (about one large mango that is firm but ripe)
  • 1/2 cup organic heirloom tomato (one that is slightly larger than an egg), diced
  • 2 tsp shallot, finely minced
  • 3 tsp cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tsp Barrier Reef Seasoning
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp olive oil

Combine in a bowl, cover and refrigerate while preparing the fish.  There’s enough salsa for two large fillets.


  • parchment paper
  • 1 (1/3 lb) Rockfish fillet, remove pin bones
  • 1/2 tsp Barrier Reef Seasoning
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (I used Silk original)

Make a pouch with the parchment paper.  Season the fish with the seasoning and salt then place it in the pouch.  Pour the coconut milk in and seal up the opening.  Fold the edges to make a tight package around the fillet.  Bake at 375ºF for about 8 or 9 minutes, until the fish is firm to the touch.

Serve the fish with the mango salsa.

Note: This is also delicious on Wild Sockeye Salmon, just season the salmon with the Barrier Reef Seasoning then bake at 350ºF for 10-12 minutes (for a 1 inch thick fillet).  Use leftovers to make wraps for lunch the next day…post coming on that soon.

Stuffed Mushrooms

peruvian spiced stuffed mushrooms

  • 1 lb cremini mushrooms (about 12)
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 2 tsp Peruvian Chile Lime Seasoning
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 yellow onion (about 1 cup diced)
  • 1/2 large tomato, fine dice
  • 1/2 bell pepper, fine dice
  • shredded cheddar or colby jack

Pre-heat oven to 400ºF.  Line a baking sheet with foil.

In a pan over medium heat, sautee the onion in olive oil.  Add the seasoning and salt.  Add the tomato and pepper, cook until soft.  Add the rice and remove the pan from the heat.  Stir gently to combine and let cool slightly.

Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems.

Arrange the mushroom caps on the foil lined pan.  Stuff the caps with as much of the mixture as they will possibly hold, bake for 12 minutes.  Top each mushroom with the shredded cheese and return it to the oven until the cheese melts.

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As you can see I’ve been learning the art of bibimbap, a Korean dish that is basically rice with what ever I have in the kitchen that looks good.  All three of these were a combination of rice + vegetables + egg.  I’m not sure there is a wrong way to go about this.  I read up on the basics on Herbivoracious, did a few Google searches for images and gave it my best shot.  Even bought….tofu (something I never thought I would do because of a kitchen disaster in high school at my BFF’s house when she tried making me eat tofu before I was ready, Mom said don’t feed me tofu when I come visit!  Aversions to wet slimy bland mush runs in the family I guess!).  Another reason for this experiment is lamenting my friends who moved to Korea this month.

The first plate (above) had all cooked, at least sautéed, vegetables.  This included yellow pepper, green beans, cauliflower, and onion.  Weird, yes, but it worked.  Without the proper Korean condiment I made a ponzu hot sauce mixture and drizzled it over everything.  I survived.


The second round was made with raw vegetables, baby kale salad mix and English cucumber.  I enjoyed the contrast in texture and temperatures.  Also used gochujang this time.  I can see why some people want to chug this stuff, I suggested thinning it out with vodka first.  Haven’t heard back on that one.


Last one to tell you about is the full boat.  Fried tofu with sesame seeds, sautéed yellow bell pepper and green onion, raw bell pepper and the tips of green onion, baby kale salad, avocado, (tomato that I added halfway through eating after I realized I left it in the fridge), fried rice and egg.  The gochujang is under the egg so it mixed with the rice.  Man, this was good and so filling!  I can’t even think about dessert, not even a handful of blueberries.  I’m stuffed.


Look, Mom, it’s tofu!  If you can handle curry this should be delicious.  I’ll stick to my word…no sneaky tofu.

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Now that you have a freezer full of home-made pierogies, I’ll tell you about eating them.


Bring a pot of water, about 6 cups, to a rolling boil.  Slice half of a yellow or red onion and fry in a skillet.  Drop in four to six frozen pierogies at a time into the boiling water.  Once the pierogies float to the surface of the water they are cooked.  Remove with a slotted spoon and fry a little on both sides with the onion, add a smidge of butter and salt to the pan.

Serve with a side of sour cream or ranch dressing.  Bacon pieces are optional but highly recommended.  These are also a great companion to ham or sauerkraut.

The last batch I made about a year ago was shared with a friend, being Texan they ate the pierogies with salsa.  Huh?  Salsa?!?  I’m not going to do such a sacrilegious thing, but they raved about it afterwards and wanted more.  I never made more for them.  Not out of spite for them ruining perfectly good perogies with salsa, no that’s not it.  Pierogies are seasonal to me.  They are heavy and warm, like someone’s arm wrapped around you when they fall asleep, they’re hard to get off.  Only the pierogies stick to your ribs and thighs instead of your shoulders.

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Making my own food is so satisfying.  I can control the quality of the basic ingredients that form a dish.  These pierogies were made with organic unbleached flour, real cheddar cheese (not that processed crap), red onions, organic potatoes, and chives from the front garden.  Back in junior high when I first learned the ways of the pierogi, we lived on a farm and grew a large portion of our own food.  If I could get the cement-like dirt in my yard to loosen up I could grow the potatoes and onions needed for this recipe.  All that I would need is a cheese purveyor and charcuterie for bacon.

I’ve noticed everyone makes their batch of tamales for the year (or few months) during the winter holiday season.  In Canada, it’s cold at least 80% of the year, so there is some leeway in the definition of “winter season”, nonetheless it’s a good time to gather and make homemade food to last through to spring.  My tamale is the pierogi.  If only I had a bigger freezer!

Traditional pierogies, at least in my family, were filled with potato and cheese.  There are all sorts of variations from blueberry, to cottage cheese, to mushroom.  Not a huge fan of the sweet blueberry version.  A perogie in my mind is savoury.  And bacon.  Lots of bacon involved.

Here is how I made my pierogies.


1. Gather your ingredients and equipment:

  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons oil
  • leftover mashed potato
  • sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • cooked bacon and onion, fine dice
  • fresh chives
  • round cookie cutter
  • pierogi press (kitchen toy, not essential but it makes pretty pierogies)
  • rolling-pin
  • tray covered in parchment or wax paper that fits in the freezer horizontally (check to be sure you have space!)
  • pastry mat or floured work surface
  • small dish of water


2.  Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Mix the water, eggs, oil in another bowl.


3.  Pour the egg mixture in the flour.


4. Stir until almost all the flour is absorbed, add more water a teaspoon at a time to reach a uniform dough.  Little hands can help, too!



5.  Knead the dough for a couple of minutes.


6.  Let the dough rest covered by the bowl or plastic wrap on the counter for at least 20 minutes.  Meanwhile mix the filling.  I prefer to have the “goodies” in one bowl (bacon, onion, half the cheese, and chives) and the potato in the other with half the cheese.  Make sure the potatoes are cold otherwise the cheese will melt and that doesn’t make for good pierogies.


7.  Take a baseball-sized portion of the dough and roll out on the floured mat/countertop until it’s very thin.


8.  Cut rounds of dough.


9.  Place the dough on the pierogi press, stretch the edges if needed.


10.  Fill the center with a bit of the bacon mixture and top off with potato.  There should be about a rounded teaspoon of filling total.  Watch out for pokey bacon pieces that pierce the belly of the pierogi!


11.  Dip a finger in the water.


12.  Rub the water around half the perimeter of the dough.


13.  Squish…


14.  There’s your pierogi!


15.  Place the pierogies on the sheet pan and freeze.  Once frozen (20 minutes) transfer to freezer bags.  Use within 3 months for best results.  Repeat until you run out of filling or dough or patience.

Alright, that’s the hard part.  The easy part is cooking and enjoying all your hard work.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Drop your frozen pierogies in the water (not too many, don’t crowd the hot tub) and boil until they float to the top.  I give them an extra 30-45 seconds then remove with a slotted spoon.  If you want the full experience of the Canadian Perogie, fry those suckers in butter and top with bacon and caramelized onions, with a spoonful of sour cream.  Yeah baby. Effin heart attack on a plate!  I suggest serving 2 or 3 pierogies per person the first time you make this.  Let them develop the thirst for butter-coated potato cheddar pierogies before telling them how many are in the freezer.  More for you in the meantime, eh?

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One of my worst fears has come to pass for local families, and at the worst time of the year.  Early today an apartment complex caught fire, several families with children lost everything.  Can you join me in making a donation or spreading the word to those who can make a donation to help save Christmas for these families?  One of the schools affected, Forest North Elementary PTA is taking donations of any kind but for those not in the area who want to help can do so on their website.  Alternatively, contact the Austin Disaster  Relief Network – 512-331-2600 or donate online.  News story is here.

I realize you probably have every charity in the world contacting you for help.  My dear readers, if you can spare anything for these kids I would be very grateful for any assistance you can give to our neighbors.  Thank you and have a blessed holiday season!

Now a recipe for you and your family on this chilly Austin day…


The fall back plan in my kitchen is pasta.  I can make fresh or dried pasta and any little stragglers of food in the fridge can be used to dress it up.  Even if there’s no tomato sauce, like today, I use some canned diced tomato and tomato paste instead.  Look for tomato paste infused with roasted garlic, whatever you make from the pantry with it will be pleased.

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 15oz can petite diced tomato
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste (with roasted garlic)
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 Tbsp Greek Seasoning (Victorian Epicure)
  • 1 lb 90% lean ground beef
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dry rubbed sage

Start with the pasta.  Brown the meat in a large skillet and break apart as it cooks.  Season the meat well with salt and pepper.  Add the onion and carrot, garlic and herbs.  Stir to distribute and pick up brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomato, paste and about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water to dissolve the paste.  Cover and simmer gently until ready to serve and the pasta is al denté.

Add the pasta to the sauce and toss to coat.   Remove from heat.

Serve with Pizza Toasts and a side salad for a comforting meal with your family.

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