Grilled Peach and Red Pepper Salsa

I don’t have a good story to go with this recipe so I’ll keep it short and sweet and instead suggest that you run to your local grocer, farmer’s market or garden and collect the ingredients listed below.  Then, chop quickly so you can do your cooking out of doors and enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Grilled Peach and Red Pepper Salsa (adapted from Epicurious)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 small peaches, halved or 2 large
1 medium to large red bell pepper, quartered
2 rings purple onion
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Mix oil, garlic, basil and mint together.  Brush peaches with oil mixture and grill cut side down over a medium high heat 5 – 8 minutes, or until just browned.  Remove from grill and cool.  Brush onions with oil mixture and grill until done, about 5 – 10 minutes.  Brush pepper with olive oil and place peel side down on grill.  Grill for 8 – 10 minutes, or until peel is blackened.  Place pepper in a paper bag for 10 minutes.  Peel skin off.
Cut peaches, pepper and onion into 1/2″ cubes.  Put cubed fruits and vegetables in oil mixture.  Add vinegar and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Serve over grilled chicken or enjoy with chips.


If you can’t take the heat…make Cranachan

I suppose getting out of the kitchen would be an option, but what fun would that be?  I know some people who decided that the best way to survive this heat wave was to buy an air conditioner.  (Apparently this is what people do when they become empty nesters.)  I suppose that’s a solution as well, but not as creative as eating your way to a cooler self.

For example, back in the days before my parents had air conditioning (such as when their five children resided with them) the solution was not to give in and buy an ac unit.  No, the solution was to pack all the kids in the minivan and take a drive in the countryside with the ac on full blast.  The ride usually ended up at the Dairy Queen in Mosinee with a round of root beer floats for dinner.  Was the house still hot upon our return?  I don’t remember, to be quite honest, because the wonderful memories of those car rides and root beer floats far outweighs my recollections of a hot and sticky house.

Well…that’s not entirely true.  As I sit here typing up this little blog post, in my sweltering city dwelling – sans AC – with sweat dripping off of me, the memory of a hot and sticky house seems a little too close for comfort (and now that I’m typing, the memory of milking cows and baling hay in this weather suddenly makes me thankful for my sweltering city dwelling!).  But thank goodness I was raised with the good sense to at least get a car with AC and to eat my way to cooling comfort when necessary.

Which brings me (finally!) to today’s recipe.  Nope, it’s not a root beer float, but instead a refreshing dessert that features whipped cream, honey, raspberries and WHISKEY.  My friend and I tried this while on our trip to Scotland and I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to make it.  The perfect time is now!  No baking required, my friends!  Eat your way to comfort!!

1 pint heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. single malt whiskey
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 pint raspberries
2 – 3 tablespoons oat bran (Scottish oatmeal is more like steel cut oats, which I don’t have.  Regular oatmeal just isn’t right.  So, I used oat bran and it was good)

Step 1:  Whip cream until soft peaks form.  Add whiskey and honey and fold in.
Step 2:  Rinse and dry raspberries.  Place a few at the bottom of each glass (I used 3 martini glasses; adjust to your preferences!).  Reserve about 10 for the top.  Fold remaining raspberries into whipped cream deliciousness.
Step 3.  Layer whipped cream mixture over raspberries in glasses.  Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Step 4.  While Cranachan is chilling, toast oat bran in a skillet, about 5 mins.  Set aside to cool.
Step 5.  Sprinkle toasted oat bran over whipped cream and top with remaining raspberries.
Step 6.  Eat your way to coolness, Scottish style!

Cranachan in martini glass

Chicken Salad

A few weeks ago my friend and I went out for dinner and she proclaimed that she was on a chicken salad kick (she’s since moved on to French dips, oh well).  I don’t order chicken salad very often because it’s usually just a little too goopey for my tastes, but then I ran across this recipe in Cooking Light and thought I’d give it a whirl.  The poached cooking method for the chicken was perfect.  Plus, with a few adaptations, it was a great way for me to use up some CSA goodies.  I think now I’m on a chicken salad kick!

Chicken Salad (adapted from May 2011 Cooking Light)
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 c. chopped radish
1 c. chopped green onion
1/4 c. dried currants
1/3 c. coarsely chopped almonds

1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. honey
salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Fill a stockpot two-thirds full of water; bring to a boil.
Step 2:  Wrap each chicken breast half completely and tightly in heavy-duty plastic wrap. Add the chicken to boiling water. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until a thermometer registers 165°. Remove from pan, and let stand for 5 minutes. Unwrap chicken and shred; refrigerate for 30 minutes or until cold.
Step 3:  Combine dressing ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken, radishes, onions, currants, and almonds; toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Serve over salad greens.

Chicken Salad

Venison Kebabs

Back in November, my brothers butchered a deer for me.  Well, maybe the whole deer wasn’t intended for me, but I did come home with a cooler full of venison with my name on it.  Literally:

Frozen venison roast

It's not for you. It's 4 ME!!

So since November I’ve been trying out a variety of different meat recipes.  I never was a big meat eater, in large part because I don’t know how to cook the stuff.  I call my mom with lots of questions.  “Do I really have to “roast” a roast?  Because my apartment is already roasting.  Can I grill it instead?”  To which the answer was, as I was hoping, yes.

And you know what?  I think I stumbled upon a VVG recipe for venison kebabs that had the added benefit of using up some of our CSA loot.  If you or your loved ones killed a deer and need to think of inventive ways to eat it, I highly recommend trying it.

Vension Kebabs
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. red wine
1/4 c. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves chopped garlic
3/4 c. chopped green onion
1/2 c. chopped basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 – 2 pounds cubed venison (I really don’t know how much that roast with my name on it weighed.  I also had a little loin that I used.  I’m guessing it was about 2 pounds)

Mix all ingredients except venison together.  Place venison and marinade in a shallow pan or ziploc bag and mix thoroughly.  Refrigerate overnight or for 8 hours.  Place on skewers and grill over a high or medium high grill for about 10 – 15 minutes on eat side.  Enjoy!

Venison Kebabs

Barley and Chickpea Salad

This salad, or some version thereof, has become my go-to salad this spring / summer season.  Last year was the summer of quinoa and I think this might become the summer of barley.  Or maybe wheatberries (I can’t wait to try this recipe).  In any case, with Burning River Farms delivering our CSA goodies weekly now, I’m trying to think of creative ways to eat up all those greens.  Although few things beat a regular ol’ green salad, mixing in some grains really does make for a heartier meal.

Barley and Chickpea Salad (adapted from Cooking Light, April 2011)
1 c. uncooked pearl barley
2 c. arugula, spinach or kale, chopped
1 c.  chopped bell pepper
3 Tbsp. chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
1 c. dried chickpeas (about 2 or 3 cups cooked)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
8 kalamata olives, drained and quartered
2 Tbsp. chopped pistachios

Step 1:  Prepare the chickpeas.  Soak overnight, or for at least 4 hours.  Rinse thoroughly before cooking.  Put chickpeas in a stock pot and cover with water.   Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 45 to 60 minutes, or until chickpeas are cooked through.
Step 2:  Prepare the barley.
Step 3.  Mix peppers, olives, tomatoes, barley, chickpeas and greens* together.
Step 4.  Whisk olive oil, lemon and spices together.  Add to chickpea mixture.
Step 5:  Sprinkle pistachios over each serving as desired.
* If using kale, steam it just a bit before mixing it in.

Barley and Chickpea Salad

Bran Muffins (and brief update on my vacation)

Another delay in posts, I know!  But a friend of mine and I were traveling in Scotland for two weeks, hiking the West Highland Way, and I just couldn’t post from the trail.  And last week was jet-lag recovery so cut me some slack (ahem, mom).

The trip was amazing, once we actually got there.  We departed the day the volcano in Iceland errupted, and since we were flying Icelandair, our flights were canceled.  This resulted in an unanticipated stay in Toronto for a day where we ate the best chocolate and gelatto ever (Well, for me.  I’ve never been to Italy so that opinion is subject to change.)  If you ever find yourself delayed in Toronto, head down to the Distillery District and go to Soma Chocolatemaker for some tasty treats.

Best chocolate ever. Soma chocolate maker, Toronto

Anyway, when we finally did get to cross the pond over to London, our flight to Scotland was canceled because the ash from the volcano had drifted over our destination.  Thankfully, (mostly) reliable train transportation exists in the U.K. so we took a train to Glasgow, found a hotel, and then the next morning took a train to Balloch and bus to Balmaha so we could get caught up on the trail.  Of course, the train to Balloch was canceled but by day 3 (or was it 4?) of our vacation, and still not at our actual destination, this didn’t really phase us.

Just let us get to the trail!!

After a brief encounter with what we can only assume was a crazy Scottish woman who insisted that we were deaf since we couldn’t understand anything she said, we really did finally get on the trail.  And we walked and walked and walked.  And though we were delayed in getting there, it was worth the wait.

Loch Lomond

Not a bad view, right?  I must also share these pictures of “wildlife” I took for my parents.  Sheep for my mom, the knitter, and beef for my dad the beef farmer.


Highland Beef

I should note that we were not standing in a cow pasture when we took the picture of the beef.  Rather, they were on the trail.  My friend calmly stated, “Alyssa, I grew up in Chicago and this is scaring the crap out of me.”  To which I replied, “I grew up on a farm.  Our beef do not have horns like that.  This scares the crap out of me!”  But we had nothing to worry about.  Apparently these beef are used to hikers and ignored us as we gingerly walked on by.

Shortly after passing the beefers, I thought to myself that it would be really nice to have some delicious food that night after hiking.  Most of the food we had since arriving was sort of blah.  Turns out my wish was granted when we arrived at the Bridge of Orchy hotel.  The only eating establishment in the town, the Bridge of Orchy served up some very tasty treats.  Upon the advice of a group of Scottish hikers we met on the trail, we were daring enough to try the Crisp Haggis and Chicken Money Bags which were quite tasty.  We were not yet willing to commit to the Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, though (that’s haggis, turnips and potatoes if you don’t speak Scottish).  All in due time.

After such a satisfying meal, we hit the trail the next day only to be pelted by hail.  You wouldn’t believe it for some of the pics I took that day, but the weather was horrendous (make sure you roll the ‘r’ as much as possible when you read that.  Think Sean Connery times 10).  It took a lot of energy just to stay on the trail and not be blown off the side of the mountain.  Good thing we had that haggis in our bellies to weigh us down.

Between Bridge of Orchy and Kingshouse, Scotland

Despite the beautiful pictures we took that day, it was the last day of our hike. The weather forecast wasn’t in our favor for the remainder of our hike, so we cut our losses and left the trail alive and well.  We embarked on a new adventure – eating haggis, neeps and tatties anywhere it’s served.

Haggis, neeps and tatties are good.  Haggis on nachos are also decent.  (Yes, you read that right.  Haggis + nachos.)  But one should not eat too much haggis.  It will make your belly hurt.

Which brings me to today’s recipe.  If you find that you’ve eaten too much haggis, or too much of anything for that matter, I recommend eating some bran muffins.  Activa yogurt? Bah!  Fiber One bars?  Double bah!  Just bake up these bran muffins and I promise all will be right in your tummy.  I found this recipe a few months ago and have been meaning to share it with you for ages, but alas, just as I had to wait to finally arrive at the West Highland Way, you too needed to wait for this recipe.  But I promise, in both cases, the wait is worthwhile!

Bran Muffins (from Susan at Farmgirl Fare.  I love the name of her blog.  And all of her recipes.)
2 c. wheat bran
1 c. oat bran
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
2/3 c. yogurt
2/3 c. milk
1/3 c. molasses
1/3 c. honey
1/3 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. frozen fruit (I usually use cranberries, but see Farmgirl Fare for other delicious options).

Heat oven to 375o.  Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk the wet ingredients together in a bowl.  Add wet mixture to dry mixture and mix with a rubber spatula until just combined.  Add fruit to batter.  Scoop into greased muffin tin.  Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Bran muffins

Pistachio-Chai Muffins

Dear Faithful Readers,

I know it’s been a while since I’ve last posted, but I have a confession to make.  After March Maple Madness a couple of unintended side effects took hold.  First, and foremost, I was coming dangerously close to disliking maple syrup.  Oh, the horrors!  What would I pour on pancakes if I didn’t like maple syrup anymore?  More importantly, would my dad disown me (I mean, he was pretty upset when I told him I don’t like cows milk…thankfully Grandma stuck up for me on that one)?  So, clearly, I had to take it easy on the syrup for at least 2 good reasons.  Second, I was just plain sick of blogging.  I’m glad I took part in my 20 day experiment of daily blogging because it gives me new appreciation for those who blog day in and day out.  I just don’t have enough linguistic fodder to pull that off on a daily basis.  Sorry, folks.  The final unintended consequence, though not wholly unpredictable, was that my pants no longer fit comfortably.  Despite my morning swims, all those maple goodies caught up with my waistline.  And though I did spend copious amounts of money on a new spring wardrobe, apparently my pocketbook does have its limits.

So, for the past two weeks I was doing a modified version of the Fat Flush to reboot my system.  My mom introduced me to the Fat Flush a couple of years ago and I like to do it when I’ve had just a little too much sugar.  Like my dad, I don’t have one sweet tooth, but rather a whole mouth full of sweet teeth, and though I love sugar, I know it won’t love me if I over do it.  Anyway, the Fat Flush was a success, and though the recipes are good, many of them are not VVG and thus inappropriate for this blog.

What is appropriate however, is this muffin I made today to kick off a new era of non-maple recipes.  This is my “I’m back” recipe!  I promise that more will be coming!

Pistachio-Chai Muffins (from May, 2011 Cooking Light)
1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 chai tea bags, opened
1 c. low-fat buttermilk
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1/3 c. shelled dry-roasted pistachios, chopped
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. water

1.  Preheat oven to 375.
2.  Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.  Cut open tea bags and add to mixture.  Make a well in the center of the mixture.  Combine buttermilk, butter, 1 tsp. vanilla, and egg in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just moist.
3.  Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.  Divide batter evenly among tins, filling about 2/3 full.  Spring nuts evenly over batter.  Bake at 375 for 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cook for 5 minutes on a wire rack.
4.  Combine remaining 1/2 tsp. vanilla, powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp. water in a bowl until smooth.  Drizzle over muffins.

Pistachio-Chai muffins on plates

Thanks to Michael Diener for the picture!