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Posts from — June 2010

300 and counting

Yep, it’s my 300th post. I have to confess, I never thought I’d really do it! I can’t think of one other thing in my entire life that I’ve done this consistently on a daily (or near daily) basis before… well besides brushing my teeth, I suppose.

Well, another thing I’ve done very regularly for the last seven years is to keep my hummingbird feeder full. Not as easy as it may seem. I am seriously devoted to the little devils. I snapped the photo of this sweet guy a couple days ago while he took a rest on a nail used to hang our Christmas lights. I love to watch them zip around and really appreciate their feisty attitude… so aggressive and defensive for ones so small. After taking the hummer photo, I checked on the herb garden and peach tree and when I discovered how many ripe peaches there were – I had to make a wonderful summer cobbler with them.

So today it’s dessert and backyard photo day! Pictures of my peaches and sunflowers to go along with the resting little guy above.

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June 30, 2010   2 Comments

summer dip

If you have a food processor, then this is one of the quickest and easiest dips possible. Serve it with the toasted pita wedges as I suggest or go an even easier route and serve with purchased pita chips, tortilla chips, or crudités. It’s fast, it’s yummy, and it’s pretty. What more can you ask from a dip?!

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June 29, 2010   2 Comments

“Honey, you done good”

me and my dad

One of my dad’s favorite salads is a 3-bean or 5-bean or… if possible, a dozen-bean salad. Personally, I find many of the multiple-bean salads out there to be bland. So I created this Three Bean and Corn Salad for my dad.

Needless to say, he loves it. Of course, it’s hard for me to make anything that my dad doesn’t like. Whenever he’s finished his meal, here is what he says, “Honey, you done good!” I have to confess, just typing that now, made me smile. I love you, Dad!

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June 28, 2010   2 Comments

smart kids

I am always amazed at how open and accepting kids can be. Even after teaching them to cook for 15 years, they continue to surprise me. This past four weeks of classes we’ve had Pizza Day, Bread & Sandwiches Day, Greek, Mexican, and Caribbean Days…. and for the last day of each week, Vegetarian Day. Do you know which “Day” a majority of the kids look forward to most? Yeah, veggie day! Parents, you should be proud – I know I’m mighty proud of them!

Soft lavash bread is a great vehicle to use for vegetarian dishes. You can find a six-pack of it at Trader Joe’s. And just as with yesterday’s recipe, you need to be sure to seed the tomatoes and then drain them to prevent this thin crust from becoming soggy.

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June 27, 2010   No Comments

tomato water

Before I begin telling you more than you may ever want to know about tomatoes, their seeds, “seeding” them and tomato water…. I have much more intriguing and interesting information to pass along. I added a new name to the Blogroll over there on the right. It is called “Linger” and is listed under the “Super Non-Cooking Stuff” category, directly below “Larry Fitzgerald”.  Which actually is appropriate. Since I met and began teaching Larry to cook, more than five years ago, I sometimes consider him to be just like a 3rd kid. And “Linger” is the new blog of one of my actual kids – Marissa, my gorgeous and talented daughter. (BTW, mom’s are totally permitted to brag and say things like that – especially when it is true!) Marissa recently graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Journalism and a creative writing minor… so it is natural for her to have a blog – she’s a writer!  Please check her out when you have a second, she just got the site up about a week ago and it’s already looking great!

Now on to the task at hand… tomatoes….

You may think that the reason recipes call for tomatoes to be seeded is to… well, remove the seeds. While the seeds may bother some people, the real benefit of seeding tomatoes is to get rid of the water liquid/juice found along with the seeds in the tomato’s interior chambers. Excess liquid makes some dishes soggy, such as salsas and pizzas, and other dishes gummy, such as pasta salads, especially if they sit for awhile before being served.

You can choose to either discard the seeds and liquids after seeding the tomatoes, or you may want to save the juices and use them in a chilled soup or even a cocktail. Click here for an article from Bon Appetit about doing just that.

To seed a tomato; cut the tomato in half around its equator. If saving the juice, place a sieve or strainer over a bowl. If discarding the seeds and juice don’t bother to use the strainer. Grasp a tomato half in one hand and gently squeeze it over the strainer/bowl to remove the seeds and the juices. Then slice or dice as directed in the recipe.

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June 26, 2010   No Comments


A few days back, my teen students had their graduation lunch and chose quiche as one of their buffet menu items. Since our time to cook on graduation day is a bit more limited, I made the crust dough ahead and refrigerated it so that when the kids arrived they could roll out and blind bake them immediately. They then proceeded with the recipe, making the filling, baking the filled quiche, and then going back to the beginning to make the crust dough, so they had the experience of actually making the recipe in its entirety. So what’s the point of me telling you all that back-story? The point is, I then had two disks of dough in my refrigerator – hence my utter brilliance in making these lovely wild mushroom tarts for Father’s Day to go with our Steak au Poivre.

You will notice from the photos that I decided to make three rectangular tarts, while the recipe instructs to make a 9-inch round tart. That is because I had two sets of dough and I also knew that with my limited freezer space – two long ones would fit much better than a big old round one.  I have to say, in general, I really do like the rectangle pans better than the round.  You never have to worry about the center of the crust becoming soggy and they are easier to cut and to serve. So if you enjoy making sweet and/or savory tarts, you might consider investing in this great size and shape too.

Now, as for the wild mushrooms, use whatever type you like. Costco sells a large container of wild mushroom mix and also a large bag (as you’ll see pictured here) of dried shiitake mushrooms. And just about all grocery stores sell small packages in either their produce or gourmet sections, as does Trader Joe’s.  That reminds me, when do you suppose Costco and Trader Joe’s are going to start paying me for all the free advertising I give them here?!? Wishful thinking… love ‘em both anyhow!

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June 25, 2010   No Comments

Love for our dads

Steak au poivre is French for pepper steak. It is a classic French dish and traditionally uses filet mignon, but any high quality cut of beef you prefer is fine to use. I served this on Father’s Day for my own wonderful father, Gene Otter, and my husband and the wonderful father to our children, Dave. Those two dads prefer the manlier bone-in ribeye to the filet, so that is what I used. The peppercorns form a crust on the steak and make a wonderful contrast to the rich and creamy brandy sauce that accompanies it. In France, common side dishes are mashed potatoes or pommes frites (French fries), but we went with another French classic, a wild mushroom tart (tomorrow’s recipe) and our house favorite, Parmesan asparagus. Good stuff all the way around!

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June 24, 2010   4 Comments

two rights – make an “excellent”

Right # 1 – Pizza! It is one of the most popular foods for a huge majority of Americans. Why? Because it is packed with flavor; you’ve got the great bread, with melted gooey goodness, and tasty toppings. It can be eaten in hand and is the perfect food to share. It is fabulous eaten hot or cold.

Right #2 – Chocolate! Another all time favorite of people world-wide. Why? For starters, chocolate melts at about 98 degrees and not so coincidentally, our body temperature is about 98 degrees. The soothing quality achieved  by merely placing a piece of chocolate in your mouth and just having it melt away is simply luxurious and luscious. Plus chocolate is known to be a mild mood elevator, stimulating brainwaves and pushing your stress levels down. When your stress levels lower, you become more relaxed which in turn is beneficial to your health. Chocolate also raises antioxidant levels in the blood, which in turn help fight any foreign bodies that can cause illnesses. And of course there is the benefit your taste buds feel when consuming chocolate-which keeps you in touch with that happy little child within.

Excellent overall - combining Pizza and Chocolate! Sounds like the perfect food to me! You’ve got the great bread, the gooey melted chocolate, which not so coincidentally are also the tasty toppings.  You eat it out of hand either hot or cold, and you’ll want to share so your friends can ooh and aah along with you!

But…. before we get to the recipe of the day, I have to once again share a post from one of my favorite bloggers (heck one of my favorite writers) out there. Cheryl Sternman Rule of “5 Second Rule” has such talent, humor, humanity, and style that I just can’t help but share.  Sure, she’s on my Blogroll (in fact, right near the top) but you really must read her post from yesterday, please click this LINK, and thank me later.

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June 23, 2010   6 Comments

P-A-R-T-Y… or not!

I would estimate that I receive between 2-5 requests each week, throughout the year, to provide birthday party cooking classes. Honestly, I could do that full time and have a real business…that is until those requesting find out the cost of such a party.

The real problem with the cost is not that a cooking class is about $50 per person. Most parents are fine with paying $50 for their child to participate in a 2 to 2  1/2 hour cooking class. But when they realize that they will not just be paying $50 for their child, but for at least 9 of their child’s “closest” friends, to the tune, of at least, $500 (the minimum for a private class is 10 students – or party goers, in this case). Now that is a different story… trust me, I understand!  Four hundred and fifty dollars is a heck of a lot to pay for a birthday party.  But, if you are willing and happy to pay that amount, I will happily work with you to find a mutually agreeable date, put together a menu, and get your party on my calendar. Or… if you, like me, think that’s too much – then I have some helpful ideas on how to “Host a Cooking Birthday Party” of your own, with some “ crafts help” from Family Fun Magazine. Major Disclaimer: I am not crafty – so even I was to do your party for you, well, the crafts – you are on your own – I am a cooking teacher, not an art teacher – not by a long stretch!

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June 22, 2010   No Comments

tv time

A week from today, on Monday the 28th, I’ll be on Channel 12 NBC Valley Dish with Tram Mai, making this pasta for a 4th of July menu. Let me just tell you, it’s the smoked Gouda that makes this salad! Do not leave it out or substitute another cheese.

Just wish I could have thought of something blue to add to make it a true “red, white, and blue” independence salad. Let me know if you think of something (I will let you know that blueberries don’t cut it!). Until then, I suppose you can just serve it on a blue plate.

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June 21, 2010   2 Comments