“monday” musing

Didn't start cooking

Well, since it’s obviously not a Monday, the “better late than never” sentiment seemed appropriate.  I came across this ages ago, and have kept it on my desktop since then.  It’s one of those things that’s nice to keep in mind on those days when you’re still not sure what you want to be when you grow up–even if you have a fancy degree and are perhaps supposed to know that already?! While I’ve had some pretty stellar ideas, I generally like to think I’m a work in progress.

Here’s to learning a bit more each day…

etsy

Exciting news! I finally took the plunge and did something that I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. Buy a little beach house in South Carolina? Nope. Run away to pastry school in Napa? Nope. Have white wine and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s for dinner? Possibly, but not what I’m getting at.

I opened an Etsy shop! I’ve been doing photography for years, and have recently been getting back in the swing of things. So I figured, now’s the time!

The shop is also called the little éclair, and it’s here on Etsy. The shop is small for now, but I’m hoping to continue working and adding to it now that it’s officially up and running! I’ll have photographic prints for sale there, like the ones here and this one:

Canoes on Golden Beach

Canoes on Golden Beach

I’ll keep things updated on the Etsy page of this site, and let me know if there’s anything you’d be interested in seeing there!

Exciting stuff 🙂 Happy (almost) weekend!

guacamole salad

I could (and have) made an entire batch of guacamole and eaten it myself as a meal. I love it, in a way that’s problematic because I never get sick of it. Anyway, my husband isn’t quite as into eating a dip or condiment for dinner, so I came up with this salad. It’s got all the goodies of guacamole–plus chicken and chickpeas for some protein and texture–but is a bit more substantial (and meal-like).

Step 1 IMG_2407

Chopped tomatoes, green onion, and cilantro

Step 3 IMG_2416

Sauteed chicken, diced

Step 4 IMG_2427

Tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, chicken, and chickpeas

Step 5 IMG_2434

Added avocado, corn, and extra cilantro

Step 6 IMG_2439

Finished with feta cheese and lime juice

Guacamole Salad

  • 2 avocados, diced into bite size cubes
  • 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, seeded, diced
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • Cilantro, to taste
  • 15 oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 ear of corn, kernels cut off the cob
  • Lime juice (I used the juice from 1/2 of a lime; if you’re not afraid of a little extra tartness, use a whole lime)
  • 2 chicken breasts (seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic powder)
  • Feta or cotija cheese, to taste (I love cotija but don’t always have it on hand; feta is a good, easier to find substitute since it’s dry and salty, and crumbles well like cotija)

Sauté the chicken: heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. If the chicken breasts are thick, pound them to about 1/2-inch thin. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towels, and season them on both sides with salt (I like to use Lawry’s Seasoned Salt sometimes, too, for extra flavor), pepper, and garlic powder. Once the the skillet is hot, place the chicken breasts in the pan, and cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. This should only take a few minutes on each side. Once the chicken looks good and golden on each side, I usually take one piece off the heat and cut into it to see if it’s done (when the juices are clear and it’s whiter, not light pink, inside). Let the chicken cool before dicing it (it’ll stay juicier that way).

While the chicken is cooling, prep and mix the remaining ingredients. I usually cut and add the avocado last, right before serving, so that it doesn’t start to get brown. Chop the tomatoes, onion, and cilantro and mix together in a large bowl. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them to the bowl. Cut the corn kernels off the cob and add them, too. Chop the avocado into cubes (here is the perfect way to do that) and add to the bowl. Add the lime juice and toss everything together.

Once the chicken has cooled, cut it into bite size cubes and add it to the bowl. Season the salad to taste with salt and pepper. Give everything one last toss, being careful not to overmix so that the avocados don’t get all smushed.

Serve, with cheese, lime juice, and cilantro on the side for topping.

Enjoy a non-embarassing, grown-up way to eat guacamole for dinner!

monday musing

Summer, please restart

While I love fall, I’m not sure that I’m quite ready for it.  I love summer’s humidity, not worrying about a jacket, the sweating, clear blue skies, open windows, sitting on patios, and sunshine.  Soon I’ll be all about the cider and cinnamon and tailgating, but I’m not all the way there just yet…

For now, cheers to a summer week!

summer fruit, yogurt, and granola

Happy weekend!

This isn’t as much of a recipe as just a celebration of summer fruit. A yogurt parfait is the perfect way to highlight that deliciousness, particularly I think, if the yogurt is fruity, too. For these, we used peaches and strawberries–I could smell them just by walking by the farmer’s market stands and they tasted as good as they smelled.

Step 1 IMG_2441

Here in the Indy area, we have a great place to get local dairy: Traders Point Creamery. It’s a family owned, organic dairy farm and their products are sold in a lot of local markets around town. Their yogurts are particularly good–they’re the type that are quite liquidy, almost the consistency of very thick cream, which makes them great for pouring over things like fruit or cereal. (They also freeze really well into popsicles.) Traders Point describes the yogurts as European-style and drinkable–whatever they are, they’re yummy! We used raspberry for these, but my other favorite is the banana mango.

Step 2 IMG_2448

Topped with some extra crunchy granola, these make the perfect light weekend breakfast. I like the warm flavor of vanilla with fruit, so we used french vanilla almond granola from The Fresh Market for these. And I put them in my favorite glasses from Crate & Barrel (“happy” morning!).

Step 3 IMG_2454

perfection: salted caramel sauce

I have a feeling that, once in a while, I’m going to be compelled to share those “perfect things”–foods, products, restaurant meals, etc. Some things are just too good not to share!

Like this:

Sauce Jar IMG_2785

Now Trader Joe’s has so many great things, but this stuff is serious business. I generally discover things there in one of three ways: via a random find due to pretty packaging or a craving, creeping on other shoppers’ carts, or sampling. This was a sample win. The evening it was out in the store, I’m pretty sure I told every employee I saw that it was the “best sample day ever”. (It was being served WARM on top of the best vanilla ice cream ever, what was I supposed to do?) It’s that good.

Ice Cream IMG_2786

This sauce is so smooth, and has that sweet, browned butter taste with the perfect amount of salt. (And it’s salt you can actually taste, which is nice–sometimes I think the “salted” descriptor might be overused…) I like to heat it up for just a few seconds in the microwave before I pour it over the ice cream. While it’s perfect with vanilla ice cream, I’ve also had quite excellent experiences combining it with other flavors like coffee, caramel, and the always delicious Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.

You probably need this.

ratatouille

“Anyone can cook!”

–Remy

While I love Fall and the crisp air, bright leaves, and football that come with it, the end of summer is still a little sad. No more outdoor farmer’s market and fewer bright colored fruits and veggies is a bummer! My solution to this problem? Buy all the fresh bright produce in sight. This dish arose partly from that sentiment–I wanted to make something for dinner that used as many pretty, colorful vegetables as possible.  (The other part is that my husband and I love the movie Ratatouille… :)) This dish isn’t tricky, and it’s delicious! The essential ingredients are below:

Ingredients IMG_2340

All the pretty colors?! Couldn’t resist them. The first step of this recipe involves slicing the veggies very thinly. This is easiest with a mandoline, but can also be done (carefully) with a good sharp knife. I used the mandoline on all these vegetables, and still have all my digits–success!

Sliced Veggies IMG_2363

One of the parts that makes this so yummy is that the sliced veggies take a tomato/garlic/onion/olive oil bath (but not like this) while they bake. The tomato and flavorings are in the bottom of the baking dish, so when the veggies are layered on top, they soak in all that flavor while all the ingredients cook together. Being Italian, pretty much anything in tomato/garlic/onion/olive oil is a win in my book, particularly when fresh herbs are involved.

Tomatos IMG_2346

Olive Oil IMG_2356

Part of what makes ratatouille so fun is the pretty way it’s arranged. While mine is nowhere near perfect, I find that it works well to sort of spiral in from the outside, layering the slices in a pattern with each one overlapping the one below. I stuck the bell pepper in around the edges, and then put some small pieces in the center–that seemed kind of fun and added some more color. Anything works though!

Assembled IMG_2365

The veggies are topped with herbs and a bit of olive oil, and into the oven it goes. Once everything is bubbling together and smelling amazing, it’s all set!

Toppings IMG_2379

Baked IMG_2386

Since it was dinnertime (and I have a husband who eats like it’s his job, which is super fun for someone who loves to cook) for a little more substance, I served this over Israeli couscous, which is a toasted pasta that looks like tiny little balls or beads and is cooked much like regular couscous or quinoa. It’s so delicious, and has a great chewy texture. If you toast it in a bit of olive oil so it gets slightly golden brown before cooking it in liquid, it has a super yummy nutty taste that really makes it best. I also like to top this dish with some herbed goat cheese or feta. Both are quite good with it, especially if added when the veggies are hot so that the cheese gets all melty and fabulous. And lastly, because I couldn’t resist it at the farmer’s market, I added a side of a piece of Italian herb focaccia bread. Slightly toasted, this sops up any extra tomato-y juices at the end. Perfect.

Served IMG_2397

Ratatouille

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 eggplant (I used a Japanese eggplant, which is longer and skinner; this worked great because it was similar in circumference to the zucchini and squash)
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 bell pepper
  • Fresh herbs (I used basil, oregano, and rosemary, but whatever you like along those lines would good)
  • Israeli couscous for serving, optional (a small pasta would also probably work well)
  • Feta or herbed goat cheese for serving, optional
  • Toasted focaccia or other flavorful bread for serving, optional

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour tomato puree into bottom of a medium, shallow baking dish (oval suits the “spiral” design well, but any type will work; mine was about 12 inches across, and I had extra veggies). Stir in the minced garlic, chopped onion, 1 T olive oil, and salt/pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini, squash, and bell pepper. Remove the core and seeds from the bell pepper.

Slice the eggplant, zucchini, and squash into very thin (1/16 – 1/8 in.) slices using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Slice/dice the bell pepper into some thin slices and some small pieces.

In the baking dish and on top of the tomato sauce, arrange the veggies in a spiral pattern, starting from the outside. Overlap the slices and alternate the veggies, adding the slices of bell pepper at intervals and the diced pepper into the center.

Drizzle 1 T olive oil and sprinkle the fresh herbs over the veggies. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Cover the dish very loosely with a piece of foil or parchment paper (really, just lay it on top).

Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until veggies are cooked but not looking too limp or soggy. They won’t be brown, and the tomato sauce should be bubbly.

Optional couscous: If you want to serve this with the Israeli couscous, I’d recommend toasting it first. Heat some olive oil (approximately 1 T for a standard 15oz box of couscous) over medium heat in a wide pan. Add the couscous to the pan and toast, tossing or stirring the couscous every once in a while. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn, and it’s done when it gets a bit golden and smells nutty. (It usually takes about 10 minutes for me.) Then just cook the couscous according to the package directions.

Serve the ratatouille over the couscous, with the cheese on top (added while the veggies are nice and hot) and the toasted bread on the side.

Enjoy, then watch Ratatouille 🙂

inspiration, part II

In France, cooking is a serious art form and a national sport.

                                                                                          –Julia Child

While I mention this in the name page of this site, I couldn’t resist sharing the second part of the inspiration behind the little éclair.

I love reading cookbooks. Is that weird? The combination of a special cookbook, a glass of white wine/tea/hot chocolate, and a blanket probably means I’m having a pretty wonderful quiet evening. Sweet Paris is perfect for that. It’s full of stories and descriptions that make you feel like you are (or wish that you were) strolling the streets of Paris, eating your way through the beautiful city. If you’re like me and have never been there, it further fills your head with daydreams.

Looking through the book and some of its challenging recipes is part of what inspired the little éclair. While I don’t plan to focus solely on this particular book (or on desserts, or on any one thing really), I do want to work my way through it over time. And document the process–its lessons, and hopefully successes–along the way. I’m going to try everything, including of course, the éclair.

(There are so many cookbooks I love that I promise to share. For now, my building list lives here.)