Spring Pea Soup with Burrata

Spring Pea Soup with BurrataGolden
My parents celebrated their 50th Anniversary over the weekend. Stop and think about that for a minute. 50 years. How much of their world has changed and what have they experienced since 1967? (And not just the birth of my sister and me!)

In 1967, Lyndon B. Johnson was the 36th President, and the Vietnam War was in full swing. Ronald Reagan was sworn in as our new Governor in January. A fire killed the crew of the Apollo 1 spacecraft while they were testing on the launch pad, and halted the space race in the US for almost 2 years. The Pirates of The Caribbean attraction opened at Disneyland, in California. The Bee Gees released their first international album. Lastly, Elvis and Priscilla got married. But that wasn’t the biggest wedding of the year. The biggest event, at least to my sister and me, happened March 18th in Oakland, CA.

To be married for 50 years is no small feat. It’s not as common an occurrence as it used to be. Frankly, the fact that my mother has survived my Dad’s snoring for that long without smothering him with a pillow is mindblowing…

There is no way you can let such a milestone like this pass like it is any other day. We celebrated as a family, in style. ‘Cause that’s how we roll. There was a limo and there were fancy clothes. And, because it’s us, there was food. Really good food. And plenty of good things to drink with it, courtesy of Boulevard in San Francisco.

If you ever have the opportunity to dine at Boulevard, do it. I have been there multiple times, and it is always fantastic. That particular night, I enjoyed a green English Pea soup that was amazing. Like, lick the bowl amazing. Alas, that particular recipe is not in their cookbook. (I happen to own a copy…shocking, I know) Nancy, if you or any of your fantastic staff are reading this (‘cause why wouldn’t she?) I would LOVE to have the recipe or maybe even and updated cookbook?

For now, I am on the hunt for something that might come close. I am working with the recipe I posted below—perhaps it’s the closest yet? But we’ll see. The first-of-the-season English peas should be in the market soon. Though, with the return of the rain, who knows? In the meant time some quality, organic, frozen peas will be used. When you do get your hands on some fresh peas, grab as many as you can. And try this cream-free soup as a perfect spring lunch or light dinner.

Spring Pea Soup with Burrata
Yields 4 servings

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Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers

Amy's Juicy Lucy BurgersBaseball Habit
When our kids first started to play little league, my husband and I swore we would not become those parents. You know who I am talking about. The almost obsessive, uber-involved people who live for game day, and volunteer for everything. We were convinced that would never be us. We were too laid back and easy going. No way would that happen to the two of us. Besides, we didn’t really even like baseball…

I’m not sure where it all went wrong. At first, it was just a little bit of tee ball a couple of nights a week. Just one or two innings here and there. No big deal. As the years went on, we found ourselves at the fields more and more often watching more and more innings. We just couldn’t get enough. It got so bad we even (gasp) starting watching baseball on TV! (Go Giants!)

Baseball was just the beginning, though. Softball came along and we were caught up in its tangled web of fast pitches. Now it’s to the point where our weekends are devoted to tournaments and our vacations are scheduled around potential plate appearances. I’ve even joined the league Board. We’re out of control. Can no one save us?

All kidding aside, this past weekend it was my pleasure to watch the sunrise at our fields as our league set up for our Annual Opening Day Parade and Ceremonies. Every year on Opening Day, the 1800 or so kids in our league and their parents gather to watch the teams parade through our city and end up at the fields where we are treated to a day of sunshine  (not always) and some great playing. It’s the one day of the year that you can bet that you will see literally everyone you know in the bleachers and it is a day that most of us look forward to with great anticipation.

It takes a lot to put something like that together, so dinners last week were not complicated. Friday night we had burgers ‘cause they are awesome. For me, I am all about the cheeseburger—the cheesier the better. This is why I am a big fan of Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers. (Juicy Lucy Burgers are a thing in Minnesota. You can Google it.)

If you have never tried your burgers this way, I highly recommend that you do. You may never go back to the ordinary cheese on top. This is one of the only times I will say that American Cheese is a must. But, mild or medium cheddar is an acceptable substitute.

Amy’s Juicy Lucy Burgers
Serves 4

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Amy’s Aram Sandwiches

Amy's Aram SandwichesLovin’ Lavash

Hi, my name is Amy and I have been on a bit of a lavash kick lately. I have been rolling whatever I have left over in the fridge in lavash, and calling it a sandwich. We had leftover pork loin the other day. I wrapped it up along with lettuce and some chutney and it was the bomb. Lavash is just so versatile and it’s a nice change from the usual white, wheat or sourdough.

For those who may not be familiar, Lavash is a thin, unleavened flatbread that originated in Armenia. Fresh lavash is soft and pliable which makes it easy to fill with your favorite ingredients and roll it up. You could use a flour tortilla as a substitute, but it doesn’t taste as good in my opinion.

What you fill your lavash with is entirely up to you. The possibilities are endless. The most popular version in my house is roast turkey, roast beef, lettuce and havarti cheese along with a little mayonnaise (and, depending on who’s eating it, some tomato). However, I have also used smoked salmon with cream cheese, red onion and a sprinkling of fresh dill. If you have any leftover grilled veggies they are fantastic in lavash with some spicy hummus…goat cheese works well in these too. And then there is the Greek version with lamb and tzatziki. For a little extra flavor, you can also throw your aram sandwich on the grill to crisp it up. Think of a bacon lettuce tomato and avocado lavash with a little bit of  grill on it. Seriously, I’m drooling right now…

So, the other great thing, besides versatility, is that aram sandwiches are convenient. Basically, it’s wrap, cut and go. And, if you cut them small and arrange them artfully on a platter, they are perfect if you have, say, a volleyball tournament and need to feed 12 hungry spikers.

Amy’s Aram Sandwiches
See filling and condiment recommendations in the post above, or get creative with your own. Read more…

Hot Cheezy Things Redux

Hot Cheezy ThingsComfort Me With Football
I have to say I am looking forward to the Super Bowl this weekend, which isn’t new. I generally like to watch the game and the commercials. I really don’t have a team I am rooting for—my husband is a Patriots fan, though. Frankly, I am simply looking at the Super Bowl as a few hours of suspended reality. I think we all could use the break…

The good news about suspended reality? Calories don’t count. And, football means foods that would otherwise be a no-no in larger quantities, foods like sausage, beef, cheese, gooey desserts, etc. You get the idea. I’ve prepared a lot of different foods for Super Bowl, from chili and cornbread, to pulled pork, or grilled brats.

So, I am still working on the menu for the weekend. We will be attending a crab feed the night before, so crab’s out. I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am kinda Mexican food-ed out. (I know, is it even possible?!?)

Maybe it’s time for some Oriental Barbecued Ribs, if only as a teaser for the warmer, dryer weather?

Or maybe I’ll just drown myself in fat and cheese with our favorite Hot Cheezy Things. I originally posted this recipe in 2012, but it bears repeating. Every time I whip some up, people go crazy for them. And they are perfect for football.

Hot Cheezy Things
Yep. That’s what we call them. One of our favorite snacks while watching football! I watched my Mom make these as a kid, but I don’t have an actual recipe. I just wing it. You really can’t screw them up, though. I mean it’s cheese and mayo. What could go wrong? Feel free to add cheeses or change the type of cheese you use.
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French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips

French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and ParsnipsRainy Days and Mondays…

When the weather is as rainy as it has been the last week, I look to the things that warm me up. Usually, it’s something slow roasted or slow cooked in the crock pot. It could be pot roast or it could be a turkey breast but whatever the ingredients, it is a bowl full of warmth and comfort.

Last Sunday, while we contemplated lining the animals up two by two, I threw some beef chuck in the crock pot and made some tasty beef stew. And, it was the perfect answer to the wind and rain, especially served with warm crusty bread to sop it all up. Yum.

There is a multitude of recipes for beef stew you just have to decide which one is your favorite. That’s the hard part for me. Sometimes I want straight up stew with all that beef flavor. (Like my Batchelor Beef Stew.) Other times I like French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips and some red wine. And then there are the times when dark beer and onions make a great combo too. (Check out my Beef and Guinness Stew.) Depends on my mood…

So, this is the one I made this weekend. If you wish, it is easily done in the slow cooker. Just follow these directions. But instead of cooking in the Dutch oven, you put it all in a large crock pot on low for about 8 hours, or until the beef is falling apart tender.

French-Style Beef Stew with Carrots and Parsnips
Serves 6 Read more…

Moussaka

MoussakaThe Kickasserole

I gotta say, it was a good Christmas this year. Not one clunker gift could be found amongst the massive pile of paper and cardboard. We were all spoiled rotten. One of my favorite gifts has my thoughts spinning…

At Christmas time each year it’s a pretty safe bet that I will receive something that is at the very least related to cooking. This could be a cookbook, or a subscription to my favorite cooking magazine, or even some bizarre ingredient. But more often than not, it is a tool to be used in the preparation of food. This year was no different. What was different however was the personalization on the side. I received a gratin dish with “Amy’s Kickasserole” engraved on the side. It is a thing of beauty, and beyond awesome! But it is also as if a challenge has been issued.

One does not simply cook any old thing in a dish that says Kickasserole. No my friends, leave the mac & cheese or the baked ziti to the plain white earthenware. The Kickasserole is destined for much more interesting and grander fare, which is why my mind has been spinning. What would be the perfect recipe for the maiden voyage of the Kickasserole?

I have come to the conclusion that I can’t make anything that I have made before. That would be boring. It needs to be an event. So here’s the plan. One of the other gifts I got was a Greek cookbook. My daughter and I have decided we are going to cook from it for New Year’s Eve. And one of the recipes we will be making is one of my favorite dishes, Moussaka. I have never made it before. Ever. So I think it is the perfect choice to ring in the New Year and to begin the new era of the Kickasserole…

Moussaka
Adapted from Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors
This is the cookbook from Kokkari Estiatorio, my absolute favorite Greek restaurant in San Francisco. If you have not had a chance to eat there, I highly recommend you make reservations! Read more…

Amy’s Spaghetti and Meatballs

Amy’s Spaghetti and MeatballsSmiling Is My Favorite
Because it is the week before Christmas, you will have no problem finding Christmas-themed shows or movies available on your television. In some cases, they are streaming 24/7. Some folks are not a fan of this annual occurrence. Personally, I am okay with it.

There are a lot of good holiday movies out there (some not so good ones too…), and everyone has their favorite. People like my brother-in-law, are fans of the classics. For him, it’s not Christmas unless he is schnuggy on the sofa with warm Gingies watching It’s A Wonderful Life. For others it’s not Christmas unless Hans Gruber is falling off of Nakatomi Tower in Die Hard. Nothing says the holidays like blowing stuff up. Although, lately it seems that nothing says the holidays like StarWars.

For my father, nothing says the holidays like mischief. My dad loves little kids, and this time of year it is turned up a notch. Dad just gets a kick out of kids. It makes no difference if he is related to the child or not. If there is a little kid within range, Dad is going to interact with them. And, if said child is “up to something” so much the better, in his eyes. For that reason, while it may not be his actual favorite holiday movie, I always associate the movie Home Alone with my Dad. Here’s why.

Years ago, my parents were in town to pick me up from college, and for whatever reason Home Alone was the only thing on TV. (Don’t ask me why it was on in June, but it was.) While watching the movie, Dad was laughing so hard he had tears rolling down his face, and we were concerned about his oxygen intake. It got so out of hand that my mother and I were more entertained watching him watch the movie, than actually watching the movie. So, right or wrong, I will always think of Home Alone and Dad when I think of holiday movies.

If I had to choose my favorite, it would be Elf. Though I do enjoy a good A Christmas Story marathon, Elf is a must-watch to get into the Christmas spirit (other than singing loud for all to hear, and having a tickle fight). I have seen this movie hundreds of times and it never fails to make me laugh. The one-liners sustain me through the year.

Last night some friends of ours had a Buddy The Elf themed party, and it was great. While we didn’t make snow angels or snuggle, we did manage to eat the four basic food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn and maple syrup. And, of course, there was spaghetti…

Amy’s Spaghetti and Meatballs
Yield 6  servings
I usually double the recipe for the meatballs when I make them, because I like my meatballs the size of tennis balls. If you prefer to make them smaller than that, just go with a single recipe. Read more…

Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt Pork

Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt PorkSpanish Feast

A couple of weekends ago we had our cookbook club dinner and I have to say it was one of the best dinners we have had in a while. It may have been the subject matter. You can’t go wrong with Spanish fare…

The book was Curate by Katie Button, and I don’t think there was anything that we made that wasn’t fantastic. Everything was good. Even the octopus—and I am not a huge fan of octopus. The very best part? The book is intended for American kitchens, which means the ingredients aren’t hard to find and the recipes aren’t too involved.

One of the recipes I made was Stewed Chickpeas with Collard Greens and Salt Pork. Because of schedule overload I had to make this the night before, and it was so good that my husband and I couldn’t keep ourselves from having a bowl. This stew is more like a hearty soup, but it makes for a super (see what I did there? ) satisfying bowl that hits the spot on a cold night.

I would definitely recommend using the Edison Grainery Garbanzo Beans that we have here at the store, as they seemed to re-hydrate better than others I have tried. And, I choose to use kale rather than collards.

Serve this with some warm crusty bread and a nice Spanish Rioja….

Spanish Chickpea Stew with Kale and Salt Pork
Adapted from Curate by Katie Button
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course
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Hearty White Sandwich Bread

Hearty White Sandwich BreadThe Left Overs

I think it’s safe to say that we all have our favorites for Thanksgiving. For some it’s the sweet potatoes or the pecan pie. For others, it’s the stuffing or the turkey. For me, the best part comes afterwards. (Well, after the pie anyway.)

The most anticipated part of Thanksgiving in my world is the leftover turkey sandwich. And there is no question that I am an unapologetic turkey sandwich snob. My husband would prefer to have the entire meal over and over again. Not me. I want a turkey sandwich. (Okay. Let’s not get crazy. I still want some more pie.)

The Thanksgiving leftover sandwich is a thing of beauty. and has taken me years to perfect. Now, I am not saying there is a right way or a wrong way but there is my way.

Here’s how it stacks up:
You gotta start with good bread. The concept of good bread is always a hot debate in my family. There are those misguided souls that prefer super-fluffy white bread with questionable nutritional value, but excellent moisture content. Other, more enlightened sandwich veterans, prefer honey wheat for its nutty flavor and ability to stand up to the fillings. Then there are the black sheep who opt for the tortilla wrap or even the rogue croissant. I shudder…

Next come the condiments.
I am using the word condiments loosely here. Because for my turkey sandwich, the condiments consist of the following: Mayo, a very healthy smear of left over gravy, and a smidgen of cranberry sauce. (Now you see why I may want a more substantial piece of bread!) These three combine to provide a whole lot of flavor, and some much needed moisture—because the stuffing and the turkey get piled on top. (Yes. You read that right. Stuffing on bread. Just go with it…)

With that, you now have perfection on a plate.

Because of my sandwich psychosis, I usually make a couple of loaves of bread for the day after Thanksgiving. I always make Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread. But I have been known to compromise with the white bread lovers by making this Potato flour version as well.

Not only does this loaf of Hearty White Sandwich Bread make fantastic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, it also works well with your leftover turkey.

Hearty White Sandwich Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flours
This recipe works well in a bread machine. Read more…

Favorite Marinara Sauce

Favorite Marinara SauceKids in the Kitchen

Over the weekend, I hosted a few 4th and 5th graders for my Beyond Chicken Nuggets cooking class. I had auctioned it off during our school’s Spring fundraiser.

I believe in the If you teach a man to fish… philosophy. I figure if you teach kids to cook from an early age, not only will they never starve once they are out in the cold, cruel world, but they might actually eat better in the process.

My goal was to introduce this group to some easy recipes that are out of the ordinary, and perhaps a little more adventurous for the elementary school palette.

First up was Paella. In every culture around the world, there is at least one dish that consists of chicken and rice—think of chicken and rice as global comfort food. The only difference is how you spice it, and in some cases how you cook it.

I chose to go with the Spanish version, mainly because it’s something that I make on the regular. And also, it is easy for the kids to throw together—with supervision, of course.

And we also tried to make cream puffs, which are usually not too complicated. But in this case were an epic fail. My guess is we were too focused on our other dishes, so we weren’t patient enough with the puffs. They tasted fine, but they didn’t puff up. So, I sent everyone home with a jar of pastry cream and a spoon…

By far the biggest success of the afternoon was the handmade pasta. All of the kids made their own, from scratch, with very little help from me. And it turned out beautifully.

Fresh pasta may sound daunting, but it’s easy enough that you may never buy dried pasta again. And the flavor difference is incredible! If you want to give it a try yourself, here is a good tutorial.

As for the sauce? The simpler the better, if you ask me. We ate the pasta my daughter made with a fresh tomato and basil cream sauce. But, you can never go wrong however, with my favorite Marinara sauce.

Favorite Marinara Sauce
Using fresh herbs makes all the difference in this quick and easy marinara.
Serves 6 Read more…