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Recipe organization

July 22, 2014

Recipe cards

Magazine stacks

Messy table

After thoroughly wearing myself out making the plum jelly on Saturday, I didn’t think I’d want to do anything but hang by the lake for the rest of the weekend.  But I woke up with a real burst of energy Sunday morning and decided to tackle the bookshelf in my dining room.  (Also both roads I tried to take to get to the lake were closed — what the what?!)  I’m a magazine junkie, but I’m very lazy about throwing away recycling old issues when the new ones come in.  I always hang on to them “just in case” I need to find that one recipe again someday.  And while there are a few recipes I want to hang on to, most of those magazines just serve as a source of inspiration for how to use whatever’s in season at the time of print.  So I’m copying down the individual recipes that I return to again & again (mostly sweets and holiday dishes), and putting them in my little recipe binder.  And for the longer articles that are too good to toss out but too long to copy onto a single card, I’m slipping them into page protectors and putting them in a regular 3-ring binder.  It feels really good to be getting all of this organized (no more digging through stacks of junk trying to find my favorite article on taco recipes!), but it’s making me hungry for cake and soup and all of my favorite Thanksgiving dishes.  Why does it have to be 102° today?!

In order to keep the magazines from piling up again, I’ve got a new rule.  I’m only keeping issues for the current month, plus or minus one month.  So right now I’ve got June, July, and August issues in a magazine holder.  In a few days, I’ll pull the June issues to make room for incoming September issues.  We’ll see how long I can keep this up!  :)

My recipe binder is from Hallmark.  I don’t think they have this design anymore, which features little watercolor sketches of food labeled in French, but these are similar.  The binders come with a few recipe cards and the little plastic page protectors that just perfectly fit 2 recipe cards each.  Super handy!  I love having my recipe cards protected while I’m using them, and the binder fits nicely in a cookbook stand.  I’ve had mine for several years, but it’s getting really full, so I’m going to have to expand to a 2nd binder soon.  I don’t use the recipe cards that came with my binder, though, because I’m so in love with the adorable, heavy card stock, personalized letterpress recipe cards made by my friend Christy at Inkello.

How do you organize your favorite recipes?

Recreating Lula Viola’s wild plum jelly

July 19, 2014

Wild plums

Making wild plum juice

Straining wild plum juice

Wild plum juice

Lula Viola's Wild Plum Jelly

I never met my great-grandmother, Lula Viola Green, but I know exactly three things about her: she had wasps in her attic, she got struck by lightning while washing the dishes during a thunderstorm, and she made amazing red plum jelly with the fruit from her plum tree.  For as long as I can remember, even before I ever showed an interest in canning, my mother has waxed nostalgic about her grandma’s red plum jelly.  This year, she finally got a hold of some wild plums and asked me to try making it.

I was a bit nervous going into this project.  Nobody has Grandma Green’s recipe for red plum jelly, so I was kind of flying blind.  I used the method for plum jelly in the Ball Blue Book (juice strained from fresh plums + powdered pectin + a crap ton of sugar).  There was so much sugar, I was worried the whole thing would be way too sweet — but actually, wild plums are extremely tart, so the jelly ended up just tasting of pure plummy goodness.  I’m not sure why jelly has a reputation of being fussy.  For me, it was a lot more fun than jam.  Maybe because I didn’t have to worry about peeling or pitting the plums (it all got strained out in the cheesecloth), or because it was easier to split the work over two days (I made the juice on Thursday afternoon, then cooked the jelly & canned it this morning).

Cooling on my kitchen counter, these jars sparkle like rubies in the sunlight.  I’m going to be sad to give them away, but I think I made enough to keep a couple jars for myself.  When my mom slathers this wild plum jelly on a buttermilk biscuit or piece of toast, I hope she’s transported back to her grandma’s kitchen table in northwest Arkansas.  And someday, I hope my great-grandchildren will invite my ghost into their kitchens to sit and cook for a spell.

Southwestern Potato & Kale Omelets

July 16, 2014

Sizzle sizzle

Potatoes & peppers

Southwestern potato & kale omelets

Southwestern potato & kale omelets

So, last week I made the Chard & Saffron omelets from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty.  Of course they tasted amazing (what Ottolenghi recipe doesn’t?), but I knew the recipe would lend itself well to variation.  Here’s a riff on that recipe that I tried tonight, and I have to say that I liked it even better than the original.

Southwestern Potato & Kale Omelets

(adapted from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi)

serves 2

1 large (8-10 oz) yukon gold potato, peeled and diced
olive oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced
3 mini sweet peppers, finely chopped (I used 1 each of red, orange, and yellow)
1 small bunch of kale, stems discarded, leaves finely shredded
5 eggs
1/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. southwestern seasoning (I use this one from Penzeys; alternatively, use a mix of salt & chili powder)
vegetable oil
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
hot sauce, for serving (optional)

Place potatoes in a small pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil, add a big pinch of salt, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Drain potatoes and set aside.  Heat olive oil in a medium cast iron skillet.  Sauté green onions and peppers for 2 minutes, then add cooked potatoes.  Season with a little bit of salt & pepper and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until potatoes begin to brown.  Add kale and stir until greens are wilted.  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Set aside to cool (if your pan is crazy hot, you may want to transfer potato-kale mixture to a bowl).

Whisk together eggs, milk, and southwestern seasoning in a 3- to 4-cup liquid measuring cup or small bowl with a spout.  Heat 1 tsp. vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a 9- to 10-inch nonstick skillet.  When the oil is hot, pour a quarter of the egg mixture into the pan and swirl the pan around to evenly distribute.  Cook 2-3 minutes, then carefully flip and cook another 1-2 minutes.  Remove omelet from pan and set aside to cool.  Repeat three more times with the remaining egg mixture.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325°F and line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper.

When omelets and potato-kale mixture are cool, begin assembling (I find it’s easiest to do this directly on the baking sheet, as the omelets tear easily once filled).  Spread 1 Tbsp. sour cream over half of each omelet, top with a quarter of the potato-kale mixture, and top with 1 Tbsp. shredded cheese.  Fold each omelet in half (the empty side over the filled side, like you’re closing a book), then carefully fold in half again to create a wedge shape.  Warm filled omelets in preheated oven for 10 minutes, until cheese has melted.  Serve with hot sauce.

Squash Puppies

July 15, 2014

Squash puppies

My love affair with hush puppies began early.  It’s one of my strongest taste memories from childhood (along with chocolate tofu ice cream — I wasn’t allowed to have dairy as a kid).  These days, my favorite hush puppies come from Terrebonne, a cajun/creole restaurant in downtown Lawrence.  They’re big and a little spicy, with chunks of corn and peppers.

Last night, I was scratching my head for a side dish to go with our dinner.  I also had a bunch of summer squash in the fridge that my mom sent home with me this weekend, so I decided to make some fritters.  When I saw the peppers, corn, and green onions in the crisper drawer, inspiration struck.

Normally for a fritter, I shred the vegetables on the coarse side of a box grater.  But I really wanted the squash to have a smoother texture here so the chunks of corn and pepper would shine like they do in Terrebonne’s hush puppies, so I finely shredded the squash instead.  I also used a fine mesh sieve and a wooden spoon to press as much water as possible out of the squash, but it was still a little wet — this allowed me to skip the egg I would normally add for binding, making these squash puppies vegan!  They could also easily be made gluten-free by using a gluten-free flour blend.

Squash Puppies

makes 8-10 fritters

1 medium (or 2 small) yellow summer squash – ends trimmed, cut in half lengthwise and seeds scraped out
2 mini sweet red peppers (or 1/2 a large red bell pepper) – finely chopped
1 small to medium-sized ear of sweet corn – kernels removed
2 green onions – finely chopped
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1-2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning (I used 1 tsp, but I think I would’ve liked a little more spice)
vegetable oil, for frying

Using a box grater, finely shred the squash.  Place the shredded squash in a fine mesh sieve and press on it with the back of a wooden spoon, to squeeze out as much liquid as possible (do this over a bowl, so you can add the liquid back to the batter later, if it’s too dry).  Let sit 5-10 minutes, then press on the squash again.  Put the squash in a medium-size bowl, and stir together with the peppers, corn, green onions, flour, and Old Bay.  Mixture should hold together when shaped into a small patty (about 2″ in diameter).  If the mixture is too wet, you may need to add a little more flour.  If the mixture is too dry, add a little bit of the reserved squash liquid.

Heat 1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Shape batter into 2″ patties and gently drop into pan.  Fry 3-4 minutes per side, until deep golden brown.  Keep them small when shaping, and be very careful when flipping — the batter WILL hold together, but the lack of egg makes them a little fragile.  Drain on paper towels.

Lemon and avocado chicken salad sandwiches

July 8, 2014

Lemon and avocado chicken salad on toasted kalamata olive bread

I’ve never been a big fan of chicken salad, so I’m not sure what motivated me to try this recipe — but I’m so glad I did, because it is amazing!  I just had to share.  A note about the bread: I used a loaf of rustic bread studded with kalamata olives, from my favorite local bakery (where they use it to make a killer tuna & artichoke salad sandwich!).  I think any bread — rustic white or wheat, sourdough, pumpernickel, or even regular sandwich bread — would be great with this sandwich, but you might consider adding a few chopped up olives directly to the salad.  I really enjoyed the briny note this kalamata bread added to the overall flavor of the sandwich.

Lemon and Avocado Chicken Salad Sandwiches

(adapted slightly from Midwest Living)

serves 4

1 lb bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts
olive oil
salt & pepper
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
4 green onions, green parts thinly sliced (discard white parts)
a big handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic, minced
zest of 1 lemon + 3 Tbsp lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan
1 avocado, diced
8 slices kalamata olive bread

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Pat chicken breasts dry, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt & pepper.  Roast in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165°F and juices run clear.  Let cool; remove skins, separate meat from the bones, and chop into bite-size pieces.

In a large bowl, combine chopped chicken, mayo, celery, green onions, parsley, garlic, lemon zest and juice, Parmesan, and avocado.  Season with freshly ground black pepper.  Toast kalamata olive bread slices in a toaster or under the broiler, then build sandwiches.

A day at the arboretum

July 5, 2014

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum

Lawrence Rotary Arboretum
Lawrence, KS
July 5, 2014


July 4, 2014

Chickpea & quinoa salad

Watermelon & cucumber salad

Squirrel on the deck

Blackberry ice cream

Blackberry ice cream

Artwork by Lucile Prache



Flowers in the yard


Ginger-peach iced tea & RIBS!

4th of July fashion

The past few days have been delicious…slow…spontaneous.  On Tuesday we went to a bar to watch the USA-Belgium game.  After regular time ended, I popped over to the farmer’s market set up in a parking lot around the corner and bought some beautiful cherry tomatoes and 3 tiny cukes.  I put cucumbers in everything these days, like the two salads I made this week: marinated chickpea & quinoa with lemon-dill vinaigrette, and watermelon-cucumber with lime-mint vinaigrette.  Feta gets crumbled into everything too…a little chunk of that goes a long way!

Thursday I made the custard base and blackberry puree for a batch of ice cream, followed by a super simple dinner of crab ravioli tossed with dill-chive butter and a salad with the last of the cherry tomatoes, some shaved cucumber, and tons of herbs.  After dinner we went downtown to take a walk.  We stopped at Rudy’s for a slice of pizza and a beer, then went to my favorite bookstore.  I found these greeting cards with watercolor prints by Lucile Prache.  I’m completely obsessed with everything in her Etsy store right now!

Today, for the 4th of July, we made some of our favorite things: slow-smoked barbeque baby back ribs, tzatziki potato salad, ginger-peach iced tea, and the blackberry ice cream for dessert (and mojitos on the deck! our only 4th of July tradition).  I feel like I was in the kitchen all day, so I’m looking forward to a little break tomorrow.  In the morning we’ll wake up early and go to the farmer’s market, and maybe go back to the arboretum we found when we made a wrong turn on our way to the lake last weekend.  (Or maybe just go to the lake?)  And I think a good long soak in the tub with this salt & seaweed bath bomb is definitely in order.

If the rest of July could go exactly like these first few days, I’d be in heaven!


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