Leftovers: Carrot Fritters

Carrot Fritters

Carrot Fritters with plain Greek yogurt (and yes, those are sliced, pickled jalapeno peppers on the yogurt)

Making food for a holiday party can be a crap shoot.

You really never know what people will eat, or not. Of course it’s not prime rib or king crab left sitting on the table at my house, but piles of mashed potatoes, dressing, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows or like this past Christmas, where a pound (okay, maybe two pounds) of braised carrots went uneaten.

Creative Cooking Crew came to the rescue with its January Challenge: Repurposing leftovers or how many meals can you get from one. (Thanks to Laura Lafata, the one and only La Diva Cucina.)

Creative Cooking Crew

I thought of a few leftover recipes off the top of my head. A carrot galette with roasted beets. A small pot of creamy carrot soup with cumin and cilantro. Both seemed so overdone. And I suspected Elvis would eat neither (of course I am always right about these things). I realized something else as I considered my carrots-I take leftovers for granted.

So I stewed a bit-you know, looked in the pantry and then the fridge. Then I decided to do some yoga. Afterwards I made a chamomile caramel tea latte and had a moment of clarity. There is no telling if it was from Warrior II or if it was the sugar buzz from the Agave in the tea. When I had the restaurant, I made fritters with copious amounts of leftover mashed potatoes. Everybody loved them. I knew Elvis would love Carrot Fritters too!

And if you’re wondering what the connection is, well potatoes and carrots are both root vegetables and make an excellent base for a fritter.

So. Onward.

Serve Carrot Fritters as an appetizer for a small party, (think sweet, tart, spicy and sour) or as an entree with salad greens for a quick midweek meal.

Carrot Fritters

You’ll want to have leftover carrots all the time.

Okay. Maybe at least once a month.

Appetite required.

Carrot Fritters MCB

Carrot Fritters
Yield 10-12 appetizers or 4-6 entrees

Cook’s note: The second time I made this recipe, I substituted roasted carrots for the braised carrots, but the texture was a little more dense and didn’t have the rich, meaty flavor from the braised beef. Still delish though. Roast carrots ahead several days to save time.

1/4 cup flour

1 tablespoon bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon toasted, crushed coriander seeds

Dash kosher salt

Dash black pepper

1 1/2 cups shredded braised carrots, chilled and shredded on box grater

1/2 cup raw apple, Gala or Granny Smith, grated on box cutter

1 tablespoon minced pickled jalapeño

1 egg, beaten lightly

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon oil

Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream (optional)


  1. Add flour, breadcrumbs, coriander, salt and pepper to a small bowl. Whisk.
  2. Add carrots, apple, jalapeño and egg to medium bowl. Stir.
  3. Add dry mix to carrot mix. Stir in a little at a time..
  4. Form into quarters sized disc if serving appetizers, or half dollar sized disc if serving as an entree. Arrange in a single layer on a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  5. Heat a 10 or 12-inch skillet over medium heat for three minutes. Add butter and oil. When butter foams, add carrot fritters to the skillet. Do not crowd. Work in batches if necessary. Fry for two minutes or until caramelized brown crust forms.
  6. Turn and fry equal time on the other side. Remove from heat.
  7. Plop a spoonful of yogurt on top (or on the side) of each fritter. Serve immediately.

Check back for the link to the CCC roundup on January 30, and don’t forget to check out the CCC Pinterest board.

Thanks for stopping by and see you next month! 

Chicken Walnut Salad

You guys, You guys. I first made this Chicken Walnut Salad in the mid-90s.

Chicken Walnut Salad MCB

I’d invited my friends and staff (who happened to be the same people) from The Wooden Spoon for a Christmas party at my house. Not only was the finished dish visually appealing (I’d formed it in the shape of a wreath), it was creamy and nutty with a burst of sweetness and anise. I served it with a fresh, hot baguette, thinly sliced. And champagne. And beer. And, and, and…well, you get it. It was a Christmas party. There was plenty of food. But this Chicken Walnut Salad was the bomb.

Last week my friend Loryn McDonald, one of my favorite customers at The Spoon, who was more than likely at that Christmas party all those years ago, asked me for this Chicken Walnut Salad recipe. Funny thing, I never wrote it down. Or if I did I left it at The Spoon where I assume they are still serving it.

I’m dedicating this recipe to Loryn. It tastes just like I remember-just like friendship.

Merry Christmas.

Chicken Walnut Salad

1 boneless skinless chicken breast

2 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 3 cups poached and pulled meat total)

1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise, plus 2 tablespoons

½ cup walnut halves and pieces

1/3 cup minced celery hearts, or 2 medium stalks

½ cup red grapes, quartered on the long side (sub dried cranberries if desired)

1 tablespoon dried tarragon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

Dash black pepper

Cook’s note: The original recipe version calls for pulled chicken, but to save time, I served a chunkier version at the restaurant. Whether you pull or chop the chicken, you’ll love the way the flavors complement each other. Chicken Walnut Salad can be made up to two days ahead, but wait to add the grapes until you are ready to serve.


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring water to boil on high heat in a large pot. Add chicken and reduce heat to medium heat. Cover with vented lid half way and simmer 25 minutes. Make sure water remains at a soft boil. If not, increase heat to medium high. If boiling too hard, vent lid a little more.
  3. While chicken cooks, spread walnuts on a baking tray and bake 7 to 8 minutes on center rack in 350 degree oven. Remove nuts from oven and let cool about ten minutes. Mince walnuts. (I use a chef’s knife for this task, but you can use a coffee grinder, too. However, don’t over process the nuts in the grinder. You want the walnuts to be fine, not paste-like.
  4. Remove the chicken from the water to a cooling rack. Cool ten to fifteen minutes or when chicken is cool to the touch. Pull chicken with your fingers or shred with two forks.
  5. Add pulled chicken to a large bowl. Add ½ cup mayonnaise and stir to coat chicken.
  6. Add walnuts, grapes, celery and tarragon. Stir. Add salt and pepper. Stir again. Add 2 tablespoons mayonnaise. Stir.
  7. Cover and refrigerate up to one hour before serving. Refrigerate any uneaten chicken salad within two days. (As if you’ll have leftovers.)
Appetite required. Champagne optional.

Vegetable Beef Soup

Warning: This post may be subject to wandering off-topic. (No, I am not sipping really good red wine, or really cheap white wine either.)

Vegetable Beef Soup

iphone mcb

I think I just made the best Vegetable Beef Soup ever. Ever have one of those why don’t I make this more often days? Yes, I’m sure you do.

As much as I like to write about food and cook, I tend to eat a lot of the same food.

Funny how life has its way of keeping us walking that straight line, tits tucked in, and no panty lines please. Of course now that I am in my 50s, I am always in a bra since I don’t want to add any more girth to my midriff area which is where my DD’s would be if I went braless. Okay. See there? I just went sideways.

That’s how I feel about cooking sometimes. I coast along, eating my oats and yogurt for breakfast, turkey and tuna for lunch, an occasional PayDay or Snickers for a midafternoon snack and the standard, salad and protein dinner, and then Wham! I make Linguine with Clams one night and Vegetable Beef Soup the next afternoon. Not that these dishes are spectacular or represent something out of a momofuku kitchen. Far, far from it. What they represent is that they are so simple and remind me of my desire to stop the sameness, the vanilla-coated everydayness, the ordinary.

linguine with clams mcb

Linguine with Clams

Say what?

Several years ago when I had the restaurant, where as you might imagine I could eat whatever I wanted, and I am not proud of this, but, every day I ate tuna salad on a toasted sesame bagel with a thick slab of tomato and a smattering of pickled jalapenos. For a year. Yes. Sad, but true. Ask anybody that worked for me. In fact looking back, I was a mayo Nazi when I asked my kitchen staff to make the tuna salad. “Very little mayo” I’d shout from the front of the restaurant through the pass-through window. Yep. Every day. And I had to have fresh tuna salad. No day-old tuna salad for me. How irritating my twenty-something self was! This neurotic, control-freak kind of attitude is the exact thing that makes people (who wake at 4 a.m. to work in a hot kitchen to sling hash and eggs and bacon and grits, for minimum wage mind you), want to spit in your food.

Now, to be clear, I never did that in my restaurant or anywhere else. And I pray nobody on my staff did that either. I’m going with the ignorance is bliss theory on that one. And if someone did spit in my tuna? Well, all I can say is, I survived it!

Recipe developer and food writers don’t always make glamorous, picture perfect meals. I have plenty of recipe-fail kind of days. Some days when the Bosc pears are ripe to the touch ready to bake in a flakey tart, the weather is foul and the light nonexistent. Other days, the best intentions to create a new recipe with a fresh, expensive ingredient go out the door as fast as my terrier runs after a squirrel or deer.

Reagan #wirefoxterriers


So beyond all this pithy bs about eating habits and food writing, and lets not forget how boring my life must be that vegetable beef soup warrants a 700-plus word blog post. So what exactly makes the best Vegetable Beef Soup ever?

Leftover brisket for starters. Beef that had simmered low and slow for hours in a tomato, onion and beer broth, then marinated in the refrigerator and reheated in a large stockpot on a cold November afternoon. Soup that forced me away from my desk for an hour or so to chop fresh vegetables. Away from thinking about how to make my protagonist in THORNTON PARK, divulge backstory without coming across as a pompous ass, or doing an info dump and creating a compelling character you want to love and root for. Away from my research, to-do lists and emails to suppliers, organizations and agents of change for my next cookbook, EATING GROUPER.

Of course I made Vegetable Beef Soup in the past. But it seems like a long time ago, like when I wore a C cup.

What are you cooking lately?

Poached Pear and Sweet Potato Muffin Recipe Idea

I love to eat sweet, rich-tasting muffins. Who doesn’t?

With my Poached Pear & Sweet Potato Muffins with Lemon Buttercream Frosting recipe idea, you can eat sweet-on-sweet muffins too.

Where did I this food combo idea come from?

From food in my fridge that was destined for the trash if I hadn’t used it in a recipe.

Did you know that 40 percent of the food in the United States goes uneaten today? According to the National Resources Defense Council, that amounts to 20 pounds of food per person every month.

Where does all that food end up?

Almost all of it in a landfill.

Still here? Thanks.

Poached Pear & Sweet Potato Muffin with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Poached Pear & Sweet Potato Muffin with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

I don’t want to scare you off I really do want to talk about Poached Pear & Sweet Potato Muffins with Lemon Buttercream Frosting. This is all related, hang in there.

I think it’s important to share this information. Because if only one person reads the NRDC report, one person makes my muffins or a recipe from food they would otherwise toss, then I am good. I don’t claim to want to change the world with this story, but I would take pride knowing one person was affected by this post. And maybe that one person will share this recipe and story, and so on.

I do my share of trashing food. Wilted celery stalks, one portion of leftover chicken soup, ½ cup of cooked oatmeal, half an onion, stale crackers. Lettuce is the ultimate trashed item in my house. Not because I don’t like to eat it, but because lettuce is the most perishable food item. And on most days, I cook for one and don’t always want to eat salad every day.

One word comes to mind—boring.

While I make a conscious effort to use all the food I buy, sometimes I buy too much. Or sometimes we eat out on a whim because I don’t want to cook. Or I open a can of tuna instead of chopping those not so crisp vegetables for a salad or stir fry.

Pear and sweet potato muffin w buttercream frosting

But despite all that consciousness-raising-effort, I have a winner in the use all the food I buy category. Take this Poached Pear & Sweet Potato Muffins with Lemon Buttercream Frosting.

This is one of those recipes I call—least boring.

I started with my base recipe for banana walnut bread. Instead of bananas, I used one poached pear from a jar (the last remaining pear from a jar I preserved last summer), a leftover baked sweet potato (yam to some of you), a handful of dried cranberries and a dash of ground cinnamon. That’s it.

Oh. And the Lemon Buttercream Frosting? I admit I never toss a lemon in the garbage until I use every last iota of lemon. I use lemons for cooking, salads, baking and cleaning, but I use the zest for almost everything (like this frosting) after I squeezed the last drop of juice from the pulpy center. So when you squeeze a lemon for lemonade, or your next apple pie, don‘t throw out the lemon. Wrap it. Refrigerate it. Then when you want to add some zing to your next buttercream-frosting recipe, zest it.

Take a look in your refrigerator before you trash your food. Tell me, what deliciousness have you made lately? And if you don’t mind, would you please share this post?
Thanks and I’ll see you next time.

Sugar, Salt and Everything Nice

Saturday mornings and Wednesday afternoons from the cool crisp mornings of May to the hot, humid days of October, or until the corn dries up, the bays at the Hopkins County Farmers Market fill with farmers eager to sell and Kentucky residents happy to buy.

On a cemetery-grey sky kind of Saturday, just after 7 a.m. in mid-August, I drove 2 miles to HCFM to talk with Jeanne Marcum. Jeanne sells a line of natural skin care and culinary products called Park Bench Naturals.

Jeanne Marcum/Park Bench Naturals

Jeanne Marcum/Park Bench Naturals

A few weeks prior, I bought a tin of Chipotle Lime Salt from her. I sprinkled it on scrambled eggs, baked salmon, fresh sliced tomatoes, boiled sweet corn, roasted chicken and rubbed it on pork butt. The smoky, dusty flavor complemented everything! Prior to buying the salt from Jeanne I thought of her as “granola girl,” an endearing term I apply to women who wear hippy clothes, no makeup and sell handmade soaps and lotions.

TMO organic tomatoes

Since Jeanne hadn’t arrived to the market yet, I wandered through the pavillion. Red, pink, yellow and green tomatoes were lined up like soldiers, or piled and sorted by flavors like Rutgers, black cherry, brandywine and green zebra. Cranberry beans, lima beans and crowder peas were sorted in baskets to be sold by the mess. Sweet corn, yellow corn and silver queen corn were piled high on the backs of truck lift gates. White pattypan squash, small globes of candy onions and baggies of fresh basil tempted sleepy-eyed customers. The air smelled sweet and light from citrusy French Orange Cantaloupes, fresh-shucked Peaches and Cream sweet corn, and the threat of a morning rainstorm.

Twin Maples Organic farmer Chris Devoto at HCFM

Twin Maples Organic farmer Chris Devoto at HCFM

I bought a twenty-pound box of tomatoes for $.50 a pound from George and Rita, middle-aged farmers as sweet as peach pie. I chatted with my favorite farmers, Chris Devoto and Elizabeth Ewing of Twin Maples Organics to see what they planted new this year (celery root and leeks). TMO is the only CSA certified organic farmer within two hundred miles of my home. Chris and Elizabeth are tall thirty-something energetic farmers with sun kissed skin and infectious easygoing smiles. They stage their heirloom tomatoes on blackboard-chalked tables. Oversized baskets showcase clumps of organic beets, jars of honey, purple and white stripped Sicilian eggplants, and mason jars of preserves and relishes.


Fresh cut zinnias and sunflowers were pimped out in tall tin vases. I bought  a bag of basil and a few pounds of distressed Brandywine tomatoes for $1.50 per pound, normally $2.50 per pound, to bake a few Galettes later that day.

tomato and eggplant galettes

Scott Wells of Hanson Berry Farms, also a CSA farmer, was in the bay next to TMO. Scott sat quietly on the gate of his Ford pick-up. A squat white freezer was behind him, filled with two-pound packages of frozen mild and hot ground sausage from his own pigs I learned. His spit cup was within reach next to his hip. I peppered him with questions about his feed, ingredients, and how could I get on the bacon list. He talked and chewed while he answered my questions. His legs swung back and forth with a relaxed gait like a man with nothing but time on his side. Scott asked for my card and then asked me to be patient about the bacon. I bought a two-pound tube of hot sausage, a bargain to have local pork I reasoned despite the GMO feed. I turned to leave and saw Jeanne backing up in her gold Jeep Wrangler.


Jeanne has sold PBN products since 2012.

Jeanie Marcum PBN

Jeanie Marcum

Prior to that time she “gave away” products, a common tactic for small startups. One this Saturday morning, Jeanne sported a tie-dye dress and batik print hair band. She is the type of woman when you look at her you might think hippy chick. With her freckled skin, blond hair, bright white smile, and sea blue eyes, she could sell PBN at the Straw Market in Nassau, or any number of markets in Florida or around the country.

Park Bench Naturals

Jeanne has embodied the natural, chemical free, holistic, medicinal lifestyle since the 1980s. Armed with a Bachelor of Arts in Corporate Exercise and Nutrition, she decided to develop products “made naturally 4 U” in her words when she moved to western Kentucky.

jeanie marcum

Jeanne’s lifestyle mirrors her products. She lives with her family in Manitou, KY where she grows chemical free and GMO free produce, raises grass-fed cattle and free range chickens and mills her own flour. She forages in her woods and pastures for herbs and plants to enhance her PBN product line. She researches extensively for base ingredients like solar dried flake sea salt and organic turbinado sugar for her gourmet finishing salts and sugars like Kentucky King of the Red, a merlot wine-based finishing salt, and Bourbon Vanilla Bean sugar, a local favorite.

Park Bench Naturals salt

Bourbon Vanilla sugar

Jeanne creates blends of loose leaf red and black herbal teas too. In addition to the artisanal salts and sugars, she sells herb-scented hand crafted soaps, 17 natural pure essential oils, mud scrubs and rubs, tooth powders and body lotions.

Park Bench naturals soap

Park Bench Naturals

She develops all of her products on her 130-acres ranch-style homestead. The forward thinking marketing side of Jeanne coined her business Park Bench Naturals as a homage to the upcoming city park in Madisonville.

When I asked her for three uses for her sugars and salts, she beamed and said, “For sugar-coffee, chai tea and crème brule. For my finishing salt-farm fresh eggs,” (think deviled eggs with chipotle lime finishing salt–emphasis mine), “rub for pork, beef and chicken.” She nodded to a passerby and then added, “Oh, and my motto on the tin Keep a Tin on the Table.”

I chatted with a few of Jeanne’s customers, who seemed timid to buy from her diverse selection of salts and sugars, but eager to talk about cooking–the perfect reason to go to any farmers market. One fellow and his wife talked nonstop about a Bourbon-infused smoked Paprika they bought in Louisville. Apparently they sprinkle it on everything. “A little goes a long way,” the fellow leaned in to tell me.

Before I left the market, I stopped to buy a peck of white peaches from Miss Linda at Brumfield Farm Market. Chipotle Lime Salt seasoned salmon topped with a fresh peach salsa was on my mind.

When I got home, I realized I hadn’t bought a tin of Bourbon Vanilla Bean Sugar for my morning coffee. Then I remembered-Wednesday market is just a few days away.


Jeanie Marcum Park Bench Naturals

Want to know more about Jeanne Marcum’s “Made for 4 U” Park Bench Naturals products?

Find Jeanne at the HCFM May through October. When she’s not at the market, her products can be found at the following Hopkins County, Kentucky locations: Brumfield Farm Market, Big City Coffee & Market, Barbie Hunts Studio, and most recently in the newly opened The Hub, an artisanal craft store and coffee shop in Hanson, KY.

Find Park Bench Naturals products at Guthrie Pantry in Guthrie, KY. “Like’ Park Bench Naturals on Facebook and find out about its full product list, shipping information and more. Park Bench Naturals is a registered Kentucky Proud product.

3 Easy Quinoa Recipe Ideas

I may be late to the party, but I always bring something to the table.

Vegan Quinoa Sushi

Vegan Quinoa Sushi

This is the only way I can describe cooking and eating quinoa. Despite the history (5,000 years), culture (South America) and nutrition (can you say superfood?) of quinoa, up until a few months ago, I was a quinoa cooking virgin. Since that time, things changed ’round here.

Enter Three Easy Quinoa Recipe Ideas.

Do you eat quinoa?

I bought my firrst bag of white quinoa and then decided to toss a box of red quinoa in the cart too because, frankly, I didn’t know the difference. I did know quinoa would be a hard sell to Elvis. He is, by far, the fussiest eater I know. That said, I am happy to write he was eager to eat (and yes! he liked) my Vegan Quinoa Sushi. Since that recipe I have only glanced at the partial bag and unopened box of red quinoa in my pantry.

Do you make quinoa for a party or event?

Until a few weeks ago that is.

I needed a quick, easy, lunch entrée for my writers guild.

Enter Farmers Market Quinoa.

Farmers Market Quinoa

Farmers Market Quinoa

By adding fresh corn, tomatoes, peppers, spinach, cucumbers, cilantro, basil, parsley and mint to the nutty tasting quinoa, I made a refreshing, light salad. I served the chilled salad with buttermilk dressing and bacon bits on the side for those who really can’t do without bacon. Ever. I also offered champagne vinaigrette for a crisp, clean flavor for those who prefer a lighter flavor profile. You can make the FM quinoa up to a day ahead, but don’t add the fresh herbs or dressing until just before serving. Chamomile Agave iced tea is the perfect beverage to serve with quinoa recipe idea.

Do you cook quinoa for one?

I do. Wow. I made a whole cup of quinoa which yields, well, a lot of little grains of quinoa. I didn’t think to reduce the amount. Silly. Yes. Spacey. Yes. So unless you want to eat quinoa for a few days, just make ½ cup. Or make a whole cup and go with one of my other quinoa recipe ideas below.

I knew I wanted to try a warm quinoa dish for dinner. There is just something about hot food isn’t there? Even on a sweltering August night. Here’s how Mediterranean Quinoa recipe idea went down.

While the quinoa simmered, I raided the refrigerator for a Mediterranean-style dish. Once the quinoa finished cooking (fifteen minutes), I plopped a few healthy spoonfuls of warm quinoa in a bowl then added a few teaspoons of pesto, a few quartered marinated artichokes, some chopped tomatoes, a smattering of canned chickpeas, one diced medjool date, tossed some shaved parmesan reggiano cheese on top, then chopped a couple of fresh basil leaves, added a dash of salt, pepper and lastly, a splash of olive oil. Yep. That’s it.

Stir and serve baby. (Sorry, I didn’t take a photo of this dish-I was hungry.) Kick up your feet and eat out of the bowl while you watch Dallas, True Blood, Modern Family or, whatever you do when you eat dinner for one.

What do you do with leftovers?

The next day, I saw that bowl of leftover quinoa in the refrigerator and noticed a ready-to-eat peach on the counter. Enter the next quinoa recipe idea.

Peach and Cucumber Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Peach Cucumber Salad

Quinoa Peach Cucumber Salad

Plop a few spoonfuls of cold quinoa in a medium sized bowl. Chop a medium sized peach and a quarter of a medium cucumber into bite-sized pieces. Quarter a red onion and using a mandolin or a sharp knife, slice a few slivers of onion. A little goes a long way. Chop a quarter of a tomato. Chop fresh chopped parsley or mint. Add all to the bowl. Squeeze a cut lemon over the salad. Drizzle white wine vinegar and olive oil over the salad. Stir and taste. Season with salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for later.

That’s it. Simple right?

What have you made with quinoa lately? Got a photo to share? Let me know in the comments or on FB. I’ll add your quinoa recipe photo to my Pinterest Food board.

Hungry for more recipe ideas? While you’re here, why not sign up to have my posts delivered to your inbox? I do not sell or spam your email. Pinky promise.

Tomato Herb Sourdough Bread

You know it’s summertime when riots and looting are a result of an innocent killing in Missouri, but you want to talk about your Husky Gold tomatoes.

Tomato Herb Sourdough Bread

You know it’s summertime when flash floods fill the streets of New York, but you want to talk about your Baby Roma tomatoes.

Organic Baby Roma tomatoes

You know it’s summertime when POTUS sends a “humanitarian mission” to Iraq with the disclaimer “they will defend themselves if necessary,” but you want to brag about how many jars of tomatoes you canned.

Canned Tomatoes

Not many other subjects pervade summertime conversations like tomatoes. Except perhaps corn (which is fodder for another post). Whether you grow your tomatoes on a rooftop, in a hydroponic garden, in the ground, or buy them at the farmers market, you gotta admit, tomatoes are the quintessential summer fruit. Worth bragging about. I mean do you really want to talk about Putin’s ego and ISIS?

Kentucky organic tomatoes

Red, pink, yellow, green. Round, oval, as big as a grapefruit or as small as a nickel. Sweet, juicy, drip down your chin, tomatoes need very little to taste great. A kiss of sea salt, a drizzle of olive oil, or ranch dressing (hey remember I’m from Pittsburgh), or simply plopped in your mouth after you snipped that Rutgers from its stem and wiped off the skin with a bit of spit and polish on your tee-shirt.

Tomatoes scream summertime.

The Creative Cooking Crew challenge for August and September is yep, tomatoes.

Did I mention I bought a twenty-pound case of Better Boy tomatoes?

Roasted Eggplant Galette

After a few tomato and roasted eggplant galette’s, several canning operations, a batch of garlic chili tomato salsa, I stood in my kitchen and stared at those tomatoes. Since I think best with a full belly, I sliced a thick slab of bread, put it in the toaster and while I held my butter knife, I began to think how I would love a thick, chunky tomato jam to slather all over my toasted sourdough bread. For the record, I could live on tomatoes, corn, and homemade bread all summer long.

Never one to attempt a recipe without doing a Google search first, I found several recipes for tomato jam as you might imagine. Most require all the same ingredients. Tomatoes, lemons, sugar, pectin, cloves, ginger, cinnamon and a lot of time. I had everything on the list except time. I crunched on my toast and realized I was overthinking this CCC challenge.

Enter Tomato Herb Sourdough Bread.

Tomato Herb Sourdough Bread

Before you click away, this is not one of those “starter” breads like my Oscar that takes two days and special bread flour. This is bread from a box. Yep, worth repeating. Bread from a box. It is good. Trust me. Especially since it is packed with fresh sun-kissed summer tomatoes.

Here is what you knead need for Tomato Herb Sourdough Bread

  • 2 large fresh tomatoes (you pick the variety), or several small ones
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • A box of Krusteaz sourdough bread. (This is not a promotional/paid post btw). But if someone from Krusteaz is reading and you want me to work for you, I’m all in. Call or email works.
  • Flour for dusting.
  • 1 hour

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the skin from the tomatoes. You know the drill-cross hatch the bottom, submerge in boiling water for a minute, dump in an ice bath, then peel.

Once peeled, cut in half and remove the seeds. Work over the sink. This is messy.

Chop the tomatoes and begin to pat dry with paper towels to remove the excess water. You can add a little kosher salt to help the weeping process, but don’t use much. How much? A dash.

When dry (about ten minutes), chop the halves into a coarse bite-sized pieces.

Chop your herbs.

Now here comes the really hard part (NOT). Prepare the bread according to the box directions. You want the “artisanal” recipe toward the bottom, the one that takes an hour. You will mix the bread mix, the yeast (included in the box), warm water, tomatoes and herbs until you have a sticky, blob of bread.

Place your bread blob (awful word, but accurate) on a parchment-lined baking sheet and form it into a round loaf. Or you can split it for smaller loaves if you want. It’s your bread.

Set the timer for thirty minutes and walk away.

After thirty minutes, dust the top of the bread with flour. Use a serrated knife and slice a few hatch marks (about ½”) into the top of the bread. Bake for thirty to thirty-five minutes. The box reads thirty, but with the extra liquid and heft from the tomatoes, you might need a few more minutes.

Cool bread on rack before slicing. Slather with butter, tomato jam or a cheese spread like the one in the photo.Tomato Cheese Spread

OCD Cheese Spread

  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 ounces feta cheese
  • Lemon zest and juice
  • Fresh basil olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Bring cheeses to room temperature in a medium bowl. Add a squirt of lemon juice. Zest a little lemon, careful not to zest the white pith. Chop several basil leaves and drizzle a little olive oil if you don’t have any basil olive oil made up. Add a dash of kosher salt and a few cranks of black pepper. Stir. Spread on Tomato Herb Sourdough Bread, grilled chicken, baked salmon, or crumble on sliced summer tomatoes and add a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Appetite required.

Creative Cooking Crew
While you’re munching, head over to the Creative Cooking Crew’s Pinterest board to see all the other fabulous tomato recipes from the oh-so-talented CCC. Here is the completed August CCC Challenge round-up. Thanks as always to Joan and Laz. or come back for the complete round-up of photos Aug 29.
While you’re here go ahead and sign up for my posts to be delivered to your inbox. I will not spam or sell your email address. I promise.

Rain Rant

Farmers may have always worried about rain, or lack of, but this summer seems like a particularly fertile time to write about it.

Silver Queen and Peaches and Cream Corn

Silver Queen and Peaches and Cream Corn

Wonky weather patterns have threatened the entire US this year, not just here in the middle of the country. Flash floods in Nevada and California, abnormally dry weather across the southwest, Hurricanes en route to Hawaii, severe storms in Florida.

Evidence of lack of rain surrounds us here in Western Kentucky where the red clay soil is stubborn as a growing medium as it is, not like the lush, silky black soil just east and north in the central part of the state. Grass is brown and crunchy. Tulip trees and dogwoods shed leaves as if it is October, not August. Crops are smaller, less abundant. Farmers at the market who rely on Mother Nature for water, not industrial machines, say in sad, sorry tones, “We had a small crop,” or “If only it would rain,” and worse, “We’re going to need to doing something else,” as if the aberrant weather patterns are their fault.


We’d all like rain, not just the farmers. Any form of rain will do. Jet-black cloud thunderstorm, a soft, slow patter, a steady soaking or a five minute downpour. Days of rain would be optimal, but wishing for it won’t bring rain. Prayers work for most everything, but I wonder about the nature of asking God for rain. It’s not as if we aren’t already praying to Him, asking for His help.

Mainstream media uses terms for the weather patterns, cough (climate change or global warming). It’s not rocket science-our current climate is in a rebellious streak. I liken our weather issues to an adolescent with a newly minted driver’s license who has also recently discovered swearing, smoking, cheap wine and raging hormones. Bent on doing what she is not supposed to do, whipping about like a tornado, intent on destroying everything in her path.

Summer rain does more than nourish the plants and clear the air. On a simple scale, rain makes summer feel like summer.

tomatoes in bowl

Organic Tomatoes in Bowl 2013

Nothing says summertime like fresh-shucked sweet corn, juicy, plump tomatoes, a page-turning book, a tall, cool beverage and a porch with a comfy chair. But rain is the essential element that makes this iconic summer pastime a reality.

Sitting on a bone dry, hot porch, or worse a sticky humid porch swatting flies doesn’t conjure up the sweet feel of getting lost in a story, sipping sweet tea and drifting into a nap on a long summer afternoon.

During the wait for rain here in Kentucky, we do with less sweet corn, smaller squash, wilting grass and fewer flowers. We read indoors, or under a shade tree, a fly swatter nearby. We have stronger respect for our local farmers and are grateful for what the land produces, even if it means less canned lima beans this winter.

Maybe praying for our farmers is the solution. After all, the rain will come when it’s good and ready.

On Stress and Cooking

What do you do to get out of a funk?

Exercise, pray, cook, do laundry, meditate, hike, bike, or surf? Maybe you paint. Everyone’s got something.

My get-out-of-a-funk activities involve sneakers and my kitchen.

After a weeklong staycation with my sister and bro-in-law, ( actually they were only here for three days, but it took me four to get the house ready), I found myself not all that interested to get back to work. Usually I’m more than ready to type, cook, photograph and edit.

Grapes at Eddy Grove Vineyards

Grapes at Eddy Grove Vineyards

But not this week.

This week I’m anxious. Waiting for “the letter” from Storey Publishing about the “Salmon” manuscript. And I have every right to feel this way. In a world fraught with rejection, not matter how excited and interested I thought the agent sounded in her email, I am afraid to hear those dreaded words. It’s good, but not good enough.

I confessed my fears to Elvis, who said the best damn thing a husband could say ever! “You’re going to get the letter and she’ll say yes,” or something along those lines, I felt better. Clear. I knew what would ease my mind.

Homemade chicken stock.

Chicken stock only needs a few ingredients and a bit of time. Making stock is a task that would whisk me from my current state of mind-freaking out and unfocused-to a steady, calm and focused-on-the-day mindset, instead of worrying about the outcome of that book proposal!

A stock is by far, the easiest thing to make. Sure, you can get fancy making stock, but that’s not the point of a making stock. Save your creativity for a roasted eggplant galette. See recipe idea below. Simmered on low for several hours, a well-made stock takes care of itself. And has multiple uses. Like replacing stock for water when cooking vegetables or rice. A cup added to a Bolognese sauce or to your favorite red sauce. Soup obviously. Risotto.

I opened the refrigerator. Two chicken carcasses, a quarter of a candy onion, two carrots, a bunch of celery hearts, three ears of cooked corn on the cob, and a handful of hericot verts would get me started. I used my 9-inch chef’s knife, a vegetable scrubber, a cutting board, an 8-quart stock pot. A few chopped red bliss potatoes, a teaspoon of dried thyme and a shake of dried cayenne pepper later, I filled the stockpot with water and placed it on the stovetop on medium high heat. By the time I filled the stockpot with water, my issues began to circle the drain.

I went back to the cutting board and turned my attention to the yellow watermelon (yes, yellow) and the two lovely Sicilian organic eggplants.

sicilian eggplant

I thought to make a watermelon sorbet or a granita. Since the latter requires a bit more fuss, (all that scraping with the fork every few hours), I opted for the former. I had plenty of simple syrup in the fridge, plus a few lemons and a ruby-red grapefruit.

Have you ever made a melon-related dessert?

Let me tell you, once you commit, you won’t have to worry about thinking about any book proposal or anything else. There is so much prep work involved; you will be thinking how crazy you were to start something like this. First you cut the melon into cubes (about 6 pounds worth). Then you pulse in a blender or food processor. Then puree. Then strain. See where this is going? Then stir in the other ingredients. Then cover and refrigerate for several hours. This all before you put it in the ice cream maker. And of course, just as I pour my Natural Geographic yellow melon liquid into the machine (from a large bowl with a spout mind you), the spill Gods must have taken a smoke break, or an early happy hour. So in addition to this labor-intensive recipe, the sticky cleanup is the insurance that you (read me) will probably never make this dessert again. In retrospect, the granita seems like the easier of the two.

yellow watermelon sorbet

Back to the eggplant. I confess. I am not an eggplant fan. Neither is Elvis. But I couldn’t resist the farmer who was insistent about growing them this year. Their farm didn’t produce them last year and she had an entire crate. Surely I could figure out something?

She offered a simple recipe idea-roasted eggplant-then said “Eggplant is my favorite.” She looked at them like they were her babies.

So of course I wanted to make something fabulous and then tell her about it on the next visit. I adore the organic farmers here. They’re my hero’s. Just as I’m sure you have your favorite farmers too.

Enter Roasted Eggplant & Heirloom Tomato Galette.

While you may use puff pastry for your galettes, I use pie crust. I’m obsessed with making the best damn pie crust ever! Yes, I use this expression often (a cheeseburger story for another post). I whisked flour, sugar and salt. Cubed butter. Dribbled ice water into the dough. Then formed a disk, wrapped it in plastic and placed the dough disk in the refrigerator. Fyi, I found the perfect pie crust recipe in The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook.

Roasted Eggplant Galette

I sliced the eggplant (about 3/8 inch), coated it in olive oil, sprinkled the slices with sea salt, garlic powder (don’t judge) and fresh oregano, then roasted on a baking sheet (no parchment paper or foil, just a little spray oil), flipped once, for 25 minutes in a 425 degree oven. The eggplant looked tan to caramel in color and tasted like melt-in-your-mouth heaven. After I put the extra sliced, roasted eggplant in the food processor, I smeared a spoonful on a crusty sourdough bread, added a little diced heirloom tomato. Yup. Delicious.

Roasted Eggplant Bruschetta

Tip: roast eggplant a day ahead. Just cover and refrigerate. Which is what I did because I got it in my mind that if I didn’t like the way the eggplant turned out (which I did) or didn’t want to make hummus (my original thought), then I should have something sweet, salty and crunchy to eat. Because what good is a day in the kitchen without something to nibble on?

Maldon Salted Chocolate Pretzels anyone?

Chocolate covered pretzels with Maldon salt

Yep. While the eggplant roasted, I melted a handful of Ghirardelli chocolate wafers over a double boiler, then plopped in several handfuls of mini pretzels. Within minutes I sprinkled my perfect creation with Maldon salt to make the best damn late afternoon snack ever! See what I mean about that saying?

But by the time I finished the dishes the stock was done six hours later. I was tired. Imagine. I will have an assistant one day!

I strained, portioned and froze the stock. Satisfied with my day in the kitchen, I poured a glass of cab sav then headed to the porch to sip and listen to the tanagers, hummers and robins.

Tanager in Kentucky

The galette could wait. Tomorrow’s fretting would come fast enough.

What’s your favorite go-to stress-buster? Please share your ideas. I suspect there is more waiting-to-hear-from-the-agent stress in my future.

Roasted Garlic

Most mornings I wake up jazzed and ready to write. Whether I rewrite an article on conservation, start a new blog post, create a recipe, or craft a silly day in the life of tale like this one about making lists and roasting garlic, most mornings I have a plan. And a list.
Since I quit my day job (almost a month ago today), I am busy rewriting, editing and compiling a “Chef Inspired” section for my ebook, “Salmon.” These days I feel like I am on an endless zip-line, cascading high above the canopy of trees through the clouds, dizzy with energy, ideas and unlimited potential.
Today, I woke feeling as though I was transported back to the 1950s. A vapid feeling followed me around like Linus and his blanket. Housewife is the term that comes to mind.

Roasted Garlic MCB

5:30 a.m. I wander through the house like a robot to the laundry room. I turn the knob on the dryer to “refresh” and then walk back to the kitchen to unload the dishwasher. I think of the braid of garlic in the pantry to roast later and the fresh fruit I need to buy for the salmon recipes. I place knives in the drawer, lining them up side-by-side. Midway through the unloading, I write a shopping list-dog medicine, bread flour, butter, dried instant potatoes, a birthday card for Sarah. Then I pour a cup of black coffee and saunter to the back patio. The dishes can wait.

I sit still and watch hummingbirds whiz in and out to sip from the feeder. Robins and blue jays swoosh across the manicured lawn low to the ground. I have a brief thought about this, but it amounts to pure conjecture. I chalk up the low-level flying as a territorial thing. A woodpecker, hidden in the dense foliage, pecks on a pine tree. Tap, tap, tap-tap. The air is damp, wet in a pre-dawn spring shower way, just enough to make the seat cushions damp and my hair frizzy.

In a few hours, I will drive forty miles north to shell out over one hundred dollars to have my hair cut and processed. Money I don’t like to spend, but don’t know of any other solution, since I can’t bring myself to buy boxed product from the drugstore and screw up my hair and my only spa-like luxury. It’s enough I do my own manicures and pedicures. I digress.

While I like my hairdresser Emily, I wish I were going to see Michael Jon, my Florida hairdresser of thirteen years. Michael Jon understood me the I don’t want to work but I sure do like the extra money dilemma of my current life. Emily is a pleasantly plump (see, just there I wrote as if this was a 50s script) thirty-something, not prying, but eager to converse, I’m happy to talk about whatever you want and take your money kind of hairdresser. She is also an educator and shareholder of the salon. So while she lifts, brushes and cuts my locks, she instructs other stylists, “Use number 35 on Mrs. Rimmerson,” or “see if you can sell Judy a treatment.” The latter out of the side of her mouth; one eye on my thinning curly blond hair, the other on a hairdresser mixing color to her left, a slender gay dude who wears black on black and a throat beard.

I never feel fully comfortable with what the outlook of my hundred-dollar plus haircut might look like. Emily doesn’t disappoint most times. Although two times ago, she gave me a tad too many low-lights. But I’m willing to stick it out. This will be my sixth time going to her and I’ve been to four hairdressers since I moved here two and a half years ago. My track record sucks.

It’s only as I type this it occurs to me I need clarity. It’s the same feeling I get when I try to tweet something clever, but all that comes out is a Mrs. Middle aged rural voice who used to write for the weekly rag and watches birds in the mornings while she sips coffee.

“How are you handling not working?” asked Emily. She’s parting my hair as if she’s inspecting my skull for bed buds.

“I’m a little anxious,” I say. I hear my voice crack. Then to overcompensate, I launch into my what I did on my California vacation tale. I regal her with snippets of my good fortune and how I’m expecting 60 pounds of salmon in the mail tomorrow to recreate and photograph “celebrity chef” recipes. My voice is smooth and confident. I finish with, “I think I’ll go back to work in the fall at the library.”

“Won’t that be exciting?” she asks. When I look back to see if she meant it, (the voice always betrays) she was watching the other salon partner measure the distance from the wall to a chair with a retractable ruler. Apparently, the salon is expanding.


3:30 p.m. Back from the hairdresser and the grocery store, I scrimmage through my purse for the list I made earlier.

I didn’t buy one thing on the list.

I do have a bitching haircut and color I can live with for the next six weeks-a not too warm, not too ashy kind of blond. A bought a new hairbrush, a Mack Daddy can of hairspray, a $7 cotton teal-colored sweater that would be perfect for sailing, except we don’t live anywhere near a large body of water, nor do we own a sailboat. I bought a tube of mascara and a three-pack of a shaping, smoothing buffing manicure tool that for a reason I can’t fathom, I cannot find in Walmart, Walgreens or any other store in my little country town. I bought wine, croissants, sardines, organic chicken, smoked salmon, and a monster bag of produce.

I turn on the oven to 400 degrees to roast the garlic and beets, and to write my second list of the day. One that I will use to develop recipes for “Salmon”, the project that is costing me more in time, money, and mistakes than I’ll ever make on the sale of said book.

Pineapple, pears, peaches, raspberries (sense a theme?) for fresh fruit salsa. Rosemary and basil to season said salsa, champagne and balsamic vinegar to finish. Asparagus, beets and garlic to roast. Spinach to wilt. Green onions for a springy pop of flavor and color. Goat cheese, Parmesan Reggiano and Feta cheese because whoever said seafood and cheese don’t mix has never eaten any of my salmon dishes.

Just as I smell the pungent, sweet, caramel scent of roasted garlic, the kitchen timer chimes.

Thanks for reading.

Roasted Garlic Spread MCB

Roasted garlic recipe ideas: Smear roasted garlic on sourdough bread. Serve with mission figs, cheese, fruit, and a beverage of your choosing. Use roasted garlic in mashed potatoes, cauliflower puree, in scrambled eggs and, what else? Baked salmon of course.

Appetite required.

Are you a list-maker? What’s on your list? If you aren’t, what tactic do you use to remember the this is what I need to do today kind of stuff?
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