Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Giant Dandelion

I was intrigued by the giant dandelion that we found near Hart Mountain in eastern Oregon.  With a little research I found that this is not really a giant dandelion but salsify.  I found some information in Teton Valley Magazine.

Western Salsify (Tragopogon dubius)

This is a plant with a root that can be eaten. Salsify looks like a giant dandelion, and in a similar fashion the bright yellow flower turns into a dainty puffball, dispersing hundreds of seeds into the wind.
Eaten raw, the roots are very bitter; fried, roasted, or boiled, the taste of salsify roots have been compared to that of parsnips. Others say they slide down like oysters, hence its common moniker, oyster plant. Cream the roots in a soup or simmer young stalks in butter for a side dish rich in Vitamin B6.

I think I might pass on eating salsify...oysters do not appeal to me.  It sounds slimey and the turnip taste is not enough to motivate me to step forward and try it!  I would rather blow and watch the tiny seeds fly in the wind!
Today is Outdoor Wednesday.  It is cooling down and time to play!  Visit Susan at A Southern Daydreamer to see what is happening!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mixed Berry Cheesecake

I am not a real fan of cheesecake.  It is the one dessert that is very easy for me to pass up.  Maybe it is because it always looks like a chunk of "heavy calories" sitting on the plate.  Heavy because I know where they will land when I eat it and I will be heavier!

What did appeal to me about this recipe was the berries.  They look lovely piled on top of the cheesecake.  They also taste heavenly.  I am a fan of berries so loving them was easy and I hate to admit it but serving them with cheesecake was a winning combination!

Ina Garten's Mixed Berry Cheesecake is one of the recipes that Barefoot Bloggers are preparing this month and why not?  Berries are still abundant!  Those who enjoy cheesecake will like this one.  The cake is not thick and heavy. The addition of lemon zest gives it a great little spark.  It is "light" for a cheesecake.  I must admit that as a non-lover of cheesecake...I actually enjoyed every bite of my piece!

Mixed Berry Cheesecake
Ina Garten

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
1 tablespoon sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:
1 cup red jelly (not jam) such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry
1/2 pint sliced strawberries
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
1/2 pint fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss berries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed. Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


I must admit that I didn't wait overnight to serve the cheesecake.  One should read everything before doing anything and since I did not I refrigerated it for only a few hours.

Doesn't this look heavenly?  Yum! 

Join the Barefoot Bloggers as we try Ina's wonderful recipes!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ultimate Grilled Cheese

I am in love with the grilled cheese sandwich.  Maybe it is because as a kid mom would make them and we would have them with tomato soup.  What a great lunch on a cold day!  It doesn't need to be cold to enjoy a grilled cheese.  In fact, it is very hot outside but I still enjoyed every bite!

The Ultimate Grilled Cheese has a spread of mayo, Dijon mustard, and parmesan that is delightful when coupled with Gruyere, cheddar and bacon!  It was a wonderful lunch.  The recipe will be featured in Ina's soon to be published cookbook, How Easy is That? available on October 26th.  Until then, you can find the recipe at Barefoot Bloggers or below.

Ultimate Grilled Cheese
by Ina Garten

12 slices thick-cut bacon, such as Nodine’s applewood smoked

1 cup good mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 white pullman loaf or sourdough bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick (12 slices)
6 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
6 oz aged Gruyere or Comte cheese
6 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, such as Cabot or Shelburne Farms

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Arrange the bacon on a baking rack set over a sheet pan in a single layer and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned. Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and cut in 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Lay 12 slices of bread on a board and spread each one lightly with butter. Flip the slices and spread each one generously with the mayonnaise mixture. Don’t neglect the corners!

Grate the cheeses in a food processor fitted with the largest grating disk and combine. Distribute the bacon evenly on half the slices of bread. Pile 1/3 cup grated cheese evenly on top of the bacon and top with the remaining bread slices, sauce side down.

Heat an electric panini press. When the press is hot, cook the sandwiches for 3 to 5 minutes in batches until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted. Allow to cool for 2 minutes. Cut in half and serve warm.


The Ultimate Grilled Cheese, is the ultimate!  Barefoot Bloggers are preparing and enjoying every bite.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Catch a Falling Star and Oven-Fried Chicken!

The Perseid Meteor Shower was at its height on August 12th and 13th.  It is said to be the best meteor shower of the summer producing at least fifty meteors per hour.  That is a show I didn't want to miss.

We love to drive out to the foothills, away from city lights, with our chairs and a bottle of wine in hand!  This year we decided that we could see just as much from the hills behind our house.  We planned to meet friends and eat a late dinner while we gazed at the sky. 

I decided to make Ina's Oven-Fried Chicken and nobody was disappointed!  Her Oven-Fried Chicken recipe is featured in Barefoot Contessa Family Style.  There are so many wonderful recipes inside!  If you don't have it in your cookbook library, I would recommend you consider adding it.

Oven-Fried Chicken
Ina Garten

2 chickens (3 pounds each), cut in 8 serving pieces

1 quart buttermilk
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil or vegetable shortening

Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Take the chicken out of the buttermilk and coat each piece thoroughly with the flour mixture. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed stockpot to a depth of 1-inch and heat to 360 degrees F on a thermometer.

Working in batches, carefully place several pieces of chicken in the oil and fry for about 3 minutes on each side until the coating is a light golden brown (it will continue to brown in the oven). Don't crowd the pieces. Remove the chicken from the oil and place each piece on a metal baking rack set on a sheet pan. Allow the oil to return to 360 degrees F before frying the next batch. When all the chicken is fried, bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink inside. Serve hot.


We weren't alone in the foothills, quite a few folks drove by looking for a place to watch the show.  They all had the same question, "Have you been seeing anything?"  Yes, we had!  We saw tiny short meteors and then some really spectacular bright long falling stars...wow!  What fun.

The chicken was perfect for our late night picnic.  It is great hot or cold. It was tender and delicious.   I pretty much follow any recipe exactly as written the first time but we do not like to leave the skin on chicken...who needs those calories?!  So, I took the skin off of half of the chicken.  I was pleased to see that the coating held equally well on either.  Next time, I will add a few spices, garlic salt/powder and a little tarragon, to the flour mixture.  I can hardly wait to make this one again!

Check out the Barefoot Bloggers to see what everybody thought about this recipe!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cowboy Dinner Tree - Nearest Town Silver Lake, Oregon

The Cowboy Dinner Tree...When I first heard that we were going to be stopping there for dinner I was curious about the name.  What kind of name is that?  Well, years ago there was a dinner tree....and what is a dinner tree?  The dinner tree or juniper tree that grows just outside the restaurant was the half way point for the cowboys who were herding their cattle from Silverlake to the Sycan Marsh.  It was just that, the cowboy dinner tree.  They stopped there twice a year for the night and to eat dinner as they herded the cattle back and forth between the two points!

This restaurant is out in the middle of nowhere.  I can now officially say that I have been to nowhere and that there is no electricity but there is a restaurant!

There were seats on the porch but we passed through and went into the main dining area.

And what exactly is on the menu?  You have a choice of one of the two items on the menu when you make your reservation (and reservations are required!) 

You place your order for a 26 to 30 oz. Top Sirloin Steak

or a whole chicken.  There is no sharing! 

Your meal starts with a mason jar of iced tea or pink lemonade and a salad.  Everything is served family style. We dished up a crisp salad enjoyed our drinks and conversation.  A large bowl of cowboy bean stew came next accompanied by the sweet rolls...don't even try to get the recipe.  The cook has made these so many times that there isn't one!  She is on auto-pilot!  Alongside our steak or chicken was a very large baked potato with all the fixin's.  There is also dessert!

Did we eat it all?  Nope!  Large plastic bags are passed around at the end of the meal.  Since we were on the road....we had wonderful beef and chicken sandwiches for lunch for at least two days!  That was a lot of food.  It was also a lot of fun....who would have thought that there was a popular restaurant down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere!

Susan at A Southern Daydreamer is hosting Outdoor Wednesday.  Hop on by to see the great outdoors!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Greek Panzanella

With so many fresh vegetables in our farmer's markets and in our veggie box, Ina's Greek Panzanella was perfect.  A Panzanella is actually an Italian salad that is found commonly in the Tuscan region.  It is a summer salad that combines fresh bread and the summer's vegetable bounty!

Ina's Panzanella takes on a Greek flair using oregano, kalamata olives and feta.  This was a lovely salad that I couldn't stop eating!  It definitely goes on the rotation and will be one that I make for company.

Greek Panzanella
Ina Garten

Good Olive oil

1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups)
Kosher salt
1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 red bell pepper, large diced
1 yellow bell pepper, large diced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, sliced in half rounds
1/2 pound feta cheese, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted

For the vinaigrette:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup good red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup good olive oil

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Add more olive oil as needed.

Place the cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, tomatoes and red onion in a large bowl.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the garlic, oregano, mustard, vinegar, 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper in a small bowl. While still whisking, add the olive oil and make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the vegetables. Add the feta, olives and bread cubes and mix together lightly. Set aside for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.


I am totally sold on this salad!  What a delicious light salad with robust flavors!
Barefoot Bloggers featured this salad in July. 

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Blueberry Coffee Cake Muffins

Life happens.  Sometimes one is unable to do all of the things to which one is obligated.  It isn't because there isn't a desire to do them.  It isn't because interest has waned.  It could be because there just aren't enough hours in the day and days in the week for it to happen.  Or, it could be that there isn't access to a kitchen.... That has been the situation for me this summer.  Life just happened....

I had committed myself to monthly participation in Barefoot Bloggers.  I was not able to consistently fulfill that obligation this summer.  My participation was hit and miss.  I was able to hit when I had a kitchen...and missed when I did not!  Sadly, I was removed from the group. 

Over the next few weeks I will be playing catch-up so I hope you enjoy Barefoot Contessa recipes as I do!

I had gotten some fresh blueberries in the "veggie box" this week.  They were begging to be in a muffin!  As I mixed the batter for the muffins, I noticed that it was more stiff than most muffin batters.  I mounded it in the muffin tin as the recipe said to "fill the cups to the top"....in my mind I was getting a message that this was not going to be good.  I had visions of muffins running all over the oven.  Bring out the cookie sheet!

I could have one of two things...lovely muffins that peaked beautifully or I could have one large flat muffin....guess what I had.  

You were right.  What came out of the oven was one large pan of muffins that melted together.  It didn't matter, what they lost in beauty, they made up for in taste! 

The muffins were very moist and not too sweet.  They were perfect for breakfast with a cup of coffee. 

Square muffins taste just fine!  You can get the recipe here.

Barefoot Bloggers made Blueberry Muffins in July.  I am just a bit late in posting!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stuck in the pan...

Last night I made Ina's Sour Cream Coffee Cake.  Since the weather is such that I feel as though I am living in an oven, I hated to even turn on the oven.  The house was warming up nicely and the coffee cake was raising nicely.  The batter had tasted wonderful and I could hardly wait for it to come out of the oven! Or, is it that I could hardly wait to turn off the oven!?

I didn't have the type of pan that was recommended so I had to use a bundt pan.  Maybe that was the problem.  When I inverted the pan, nothing happened.  (It was too hot for problems....)  It was a very stubborn coffee cake. 

When some of the cake finally was released, it was not a beautiful cake. It came out in chunks.  I tried to put it back together but it was too hot to attempt this puzzle. 

I wasn't too excited about putting any of the glaze on the cake...the glaze, I thought, was really lacking.  Well, I lost all enthusiasm for this cake.  It was destined to go with the Kitchen Gnome when he went camping with the guys the next day.  Guys don't care if the cake is beautiful.

What a mess!
Let's talk taste...the batter, as I said, was great.  It really reminded me of the batter that Ina uses for her Blueberry Muffins.  The cake is moist and not too sweet.  You can get the recipe here.

Barefoot Bloggers made this coffee cake in June.  I made it in August!  I am late and begging forgiveness.

Since not all things are perfect....I am also submitting this for Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Designs by Gollum.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Open-Face King Crab Rangoon

What is Crab Rangoon?  Crab Rangoon is a popular North American appetizer.  It is made with four basic ingredients:  crab, cream cheese, green onion, and wonton wrappers or egg roll wrappers.  Seasonings vary from garlic to Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce.  The cream cheese and crab mixture is sealed in the egg roll wrapper and fried.

I was recently introduced to Crab Rangoon when I was the lucky winner the Alaska Products Give Away that Linda of Ciao Chow Linda so graciously offered.  I was so excited to receive a package in the mail with smoked salmon, the Alaska Seafood Cookbook, and a lovely dish towel!  Thank you very much Linda!  I have been having fun reading and deciding what to prepare.

I selected the recipe for Open-Face King Crab Rangoon because the pictures in the book were tempting and the ingredients were all things that I like.  I figured it couldn't go wrong if I liked all of the ingredients!  This was a very easy recipe to make.   My only recommendation would be to cut back on the garlic!!  Unless, of course, you like a stronger garlic flavor.  I also cut the recipe in half and it yielded a dozen servings.

Open-Face King Crab Rangoon

2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, softened
2 tsp garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. king crab meat
1 cup green onion, chopped
1/4 cup chives, minced

1 package egg roll wrappers
Peanut oil for frying

In medium saucepan, combine cream cheese, garlic, lemon juice, soy and Worcestershire sauces over medium heat.  Add cram a little at a time to desired thickness.  Gently simmer for 5 minutes.  Fold in crab meat and 1/2 cup green onion and remove from heat.

Heat 2 inches of peanut oil in deep skillet to 350 degrees F.  Fry egg roll wrappers until golden brown and drain on paper towels.  Immendiately dust with minced chives and salt to taste.

Spoon crab mixture on one wrapper, sprinkle with additional green onion. Top with another egg roll wrapper.


I am happy that I was introduced to Crab Rangoon.  They were delicious.  I am also thrilled to have made Linda's acquaintance and to have won her Alaska Products Give Away.  Linda's blog, Ciao Chow Linda is a wonderful blog filled with great recipes and adventures.  Take time to visit her to see what she is cooking!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Plantain Chips with Mojo and Creamy Cilantro Garlic Dip

I selected the appetizer as the course I would prepare for our recent gourmet group dinner.  I had no idea at the time that I would be standing (or rather the Kitchen Gnome would be standing...I stood for moral support!) for close to four hours!!  How could it possibly have taken us that long to deep fry the plantains?  It was a bad choice on our part.  We should have prepared them in the fry pan as outlined in the recipe and not the fry baby.  (The fry baby was our brilliant idea.)  We couldn't do very many at a time in the fry baby.  So, it took quite a long time...

They were delicious and the dips that went with them were wonderful.  I preferred the creamy cilantro garlic dip...maybe I just like to be able to scoop up some and have it stay on the plantain!  Two totally different kinds of dip.  Both worthy!  Both consumed!

What are plantains?  Green bananas?  No.  Plantains and bananas are not interchangeable!  The plantain is much more starchy than the sweet banana.  The plantain is a banana that is treated as a starch, as a  vegetable.  It is not eaten raw; it is cooked.

What is mojo (mo-ho)?  A mojo is a salsa-like sauce common in Cuba and the Caribbean.  A mojo is very thin, flavorful citrusy and garlicky sauce . 

Plantain Chips with
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen Mojo
and Creamy Cilantro-Garlic Dip
adapted from Big Small Plates by Cindy Pawlcyn


1.  Cut off the tips and remove the peel.  Make two lengthwise slits to loosen the skin.
2.  Prepare a bowl of ice water add 1/4 tsp of salt.
3.  Slice the plantains into chips that are about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. (If thinner chips are desired slice them 1/16-1/8 inch thick.)
4.  Soak the plantain slices for 15 to 20 minutes in the bowl of ice water.
5.  Fry the plantains in 1 1/2 inches of oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan.  Heat the oil to 365 degrees.
6.  Lower a few slices of plantain at a time into the oil, do not over crowd.  Fry for 1-2 minutes until crisp, remove to paper towels to drain, and salt while hot.  Allow the oil to return to temperature before the next batch is fried.

Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen Mojo

12 small cloves garlic
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup bitter orange juice (available in the market; or 1/4 cup sweet orange juice plus 2 Tbsp lemon or lime juice)
1 1/2 tsp toasted ground cumin seeds
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

1.  Place the garlic and salt in a blender.  Pulse until finely chopped.
2.  Blend in the bitter orange juice and cumin, finely process.
3.  With the blender running, slowly add the oil in a thin, steady stream until mojo is emulsified.  Season with pepper.

Creamy Cilantro-Garlic Dip

1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 bunch cilantro, leaves and tender stems, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp capers, rinsed and minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Chill.

Serve the plantain chips with the two dips and lime wedges to squeeze over the chips!

Delicious appetizer!!

If you are interested in small plates such as the one above, you may be interested in Cindy Pawlcyn's book, Big Small Plates available at Amazon.com and on Google Books.   

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sweeten Drinks with Stevia - Guest Blogging for The Herb Companion

Last week our veggie box had an herb called stevia tucked inside.  This wasn't an herb that I was familiar with so a little research was in order.  To learn about this non-caloric sweetener, see my guest post, A Summertime Favorite:  Sweeten Drinks with Stevia at The Herb Companion.  I was delighted to be asked to be a guest blogger for them this week!

A Lime Mint Spritzer is so refreshing on a warm afternoon.

A cool Mojito to round out the day.

I am also sending this over to Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday!  Thank you Michael for hosting all of us today!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Crack in the Ground Oregon

Part of our vacation was spent on a geological tour/study of Southeast Oregon.  We visited many fascinating places.  One of these was Crack in the Ground Oregon.  Crack in the Ground is a large, deep fissure approximately 2 miles long and 70 feet deep and ten feet across.  What makes this fissure unique is that it has remained open for 1,000 years.  The fissure is in two parts.  We hiked the first section of the fissure, followed the trail as it climbed to the surface and then hiked back to our starting point.  Let me take you on our hike...

We descended into the crack...

One look back to the surface before moving forward...

The two sides pulled apart.  You can see how they would fit back together again....it was fascinating.

Follow the trail...

The trail twists and winds...

Peculiar formations along the way...

This section looked a little rough...I was thirsty...time to head back.

Crack in the Ground is outside of Christmas Valley and is worth making the trip.  We enjoyed exploring the fissure!

It is time to share the great outdoors with one another.  Outdoor Wednesday is hosted by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer.  Hop over and visit all of the bloggers sharing.