Monday, December 6, 2010

Spaghetti Sunday!

Check out that steaming action!  Straight from the Crock Pot!

I'm BAAACK!  I'm sorry about the unannounced hiatus, some of it was planned (out of town attending a wedding) and some of it unplanned (I lost my camera for a good while), but we're still cooking up a storm here in the Wholesome Household, and this week I'm making a big reveal: The Duke's Crock-Pot Spaghetti!

Shortly after our nuptials, in that blessed time when you're still madly falling in love with someone and learning how to live with them, my Loving Duke and I had a negotiation over how many times a week we could have pasta for dinner.  See, not only can my Loving Duke eat pasta every night of the week without getting bored of it, he could also eat pasta every night of the week without seeing any change in the scales.  Oh, how I envy that genetic trait (and dearly hope that it has been passed on to our children).  Its not one that I possess however, demonstrated by the fact that a mere glance in the direction of pasta causes my scales to climb perilously, so we came to the agreement that together, we would limit spaghetti to one night a week with occasional other pastas thrown in.

But when?  And what kind of Spaghetti to make?  There is Bachelor's Spaghetti, the Duke's personal favorite and self-named easy pasta.  But even people who aren't prone to emotional eating still can get wistful in their food memories, as the Duke has demonstrated.  He has very fond memories of his very Italian grandmother spending a day at a time making red spaghetti sauce, to serve on Sunday nights with a big family.  Having been party to one or two of those dinners myself (and having a special place in my heart for recipes that come from Grandmas) it was decided.  That is how Spaghetti Sunday came to be.

I myself thought I would get bored with Spaghetti every Sunday night.  I was so certain of it that in a very non-supportive way I refused to be a part of developing the recipe.  Undeterred, the Duke spent many Sundays in the kitchen, playing here and there with the different spices/seasonings in the cabinet--garlic powder or garlic salt?  (Both in this recipe, apparently.)  He tried different styles of sauce- bolognese or meat balls (either/or, according to preference).  Different cooking styles-- to brown or not to brown the meat?  (Definitely, to brown!)  Writing them down as he made each one, making revisions the following week, as we sat, week after week taste testing his newest spaghetti creations.  I smile as I think back to how dedicated he was, in the tiny kitchen of our first home, to creating the perfect spaghetti sauce for our weekly family tradition.

And I don't know if its the holidays, during which we spend so much time thinking of family traditions, or the fact that I'm pregnant again, causing the hormones to fly out of control, but lately I've been thinking about how much I love Spaghetti Sunday.  Yes, it makes my life easier every week, because I'm not usually the one cooking, and even if I am, I'm not worrying about the ingredients (we ALWAYS have them in the house).  But its not merely for the simplicity that I love Spaghetti Sunday.  Its not even for the constancy.  Its certainly not for its authenticity (we use canned tomato puree and molasses among other ingredients that would make native Italians faint).  Its the joy our one-year-old takes in sucking his spaghetti like Lady and the Tramp.  Its that everyone we know knows that if they come by on Sunday, they can share in a delicious family-style dinner.  But mostly its that it was a family tradition of my Loving Duke's, one of those warm memories that he will always have of his family, that we made in to ours.

I will always have my family's memories-- those memories we get in recipes and moments that we hold on to, passed down from generation to generation (which I'll continue sharing with you as family law allows-- some recipes are super-secret even still).  But a big family spaghetti dinner wasn't my memory.  It wasn't something I hoped to pass on to my children, it was the Duke's.  In his tenacious way, he made it ours and after almost four years of Spaghetti Sunday I'm still so very grateful that he chose me to share it with.

Because I cannot lay claim to this particular Wholesome Recipe, I've asked him if I could share it with you.  He says recipes are meant to be shared (reason number 3,783 why I love him!).  We are aware that this is a recipe that might make some people cringe-- its done in a crock pot for simplicity's sake and honestly doesn't have a whole lot of fresh ingredients (any, actually).  Feel free to substitute or change as you will/your cabinet allows.  Just don't tell us about it.  As far as we are concerned, this is the Mona Lisa of inexpensive and easy homemade pasta sauce, and we haven't had any complaints from anyone, even people who like only "real Italian food", so we're happy with it!

What I am hoping you will share though, are your acquired family food traditions.  The ones that aren't from YOUR family (at least not the family you were born with), but somehow you've picked up along the way and integrated into your special traditions and memories.  Please post a reply with your thoughts!  It will be a nice way to kick off the Holiday Season Recipes!

**Special Note about preparation: this recipe calls for beef base, which is still only occasionally used by some cooks.  Its much like bullion, but comes in a wet form and is MUCH stronger.  It can be found usually in the soup isle, very near the bullion/dried soups of major grocery stores (we first got ours at a random Greek Restaurant Supply Store).  If you MUST, you can substitute bullion cubes (they're not as good but will do in a pinch), but please, for the love of all delicious food, don't leave the extra beef flavoring out all together.

The Duke's Special Crock-Pot Spaghetti Sauce
This makes enough for two meals with leftovers, so we usually freeze the extra sauce to use the next week.

(2) 29oz cans tomato puree
(1) 12oz can tomato paste
1 lb ground beef (or any kind of ground meat you like)
2 teaspoons beef base
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
1/2 Tablespoon ground black pepper
2 Tablespoons minced onion (fresh or dried, its up to you)
1 Tablespoon garlic powder
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 Tablespoon garlic salt
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses (or sugar if you need a substitute)
1 lb pasta (we like whole wheat spaghetti, but its up to you)

Preparation Instructions
Brown beef in a frying pan, then turn down to med-low and add paste and beef base to cook briefly.  Pour tomato puree into crock pot set on low, add all spices and beef mixture.  Stir to combine, and let everything come together to get happy at least four hours.  You COULD leave it all day, if you want, that's the beauty of the Crock Pot, but I'd leave it on your absolute lowest setting then ("Keep Warm" or something similar).  Serve over cooked spaghetti, preferably on a Sunday.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Easy Poultry Pot Pie

Don't mind me, I'm just a delicious pie.  I could be any kind of pie.  Mmmm...

It kind of surprised me to realize that some of my favorite young child memories are of my dad in the kitchen.  He wasn't really a cook.  He could make potato or macaroni salads (probably because my mom taught him how, but he could).  He was a master griller, or at least he did it often enough to be a master.  And he could pair grilled goodies with rice or potatos to make a decent dinner.  But generally the kitchen was Mom's domain, as evidenced by the Great Cookie Disaster of 1989.  In the GCD-'89, somehow my Dad got involved in the baking of Chocolate Chip Cookies.  He and I together successfully made the dough, and scooped it out onto a cookie sheet.  Dad, being Dad, was convinced we could fit just a few more cookies the sideless cookie pan, and we stuck the whole thing into the oven.  It didn't take long for the oven to start smoking.  As predicted by any experienced baker: they had all melted down and spread out, not only making one big cookie on the sheet, but falling off the cookie sheet onto the floor of the oven.  Even the giant cookie was ruined by the smoke.  It was a sad day for cookies.  But I look back fondly on that day and I don't remember the probable frustration of a 9 year old who would have to go cookieless nor do I remember the irritation of a smoke filled kitchen.  Only the impetuousness of my dad, who had such a zest for life (and chocolate chip cookies).

Other favorite Dad food memories are making beef jerky from scratch.  Without a dehydrator, mind you, in the oven.  To this day I do not remember eating the jerky, I do not remember tasting it or if it even came out.  I remember the thin slicing of the meet, getting to stir the marinade, and laying it all out on racks before it went into the oven.  I remember watching him prepare for his weekend with the boys, chopping up potatoes and beating the eggs together so he could make breakfast on Saturday mornings.  And I remember going to the store to pick out frozen dinners.  I'm sure we went with mom too on certain occasions, but I remember specifically going with Dad.  He would read to us what was in each package, to make sure we were really getting exactly what we wanted.  We didn't do frozen dinners often, just occasionally when my parents were going out and we were going to be with a sitter, or if mom was away for the evening, but even those prepackaged (and probably terrible for you) dinners have become special and important to my upbringing.  Especially the pot pies.  They were individual sized, and as he took them out of the packaging and my sister and I would watch as he would take a knife and carve our first initial into the top of each pie, ostensibly to create a vent for the hot air, but we really knew it was  so we would know which one belonged to us.  It was a very important part of the pot pie ritual, even though I'm sure the pies were exactly the same.

Time passes, as it does, and frozen dinners became a thing of the past, as we eventually became old enough to fend for ourselves when our parents went out.  I grew up, went to college and became part of the work force before pot pies once again entered my reality.  This time, I was 25 and had moved in with some wonderful friends.  B, one of the said friends, who is a fabulous cook in her own right, made a pot pie for dinner.  From scratch.  I thought it was the most magical thing I had ever seen-- roll out crusts from the grocery store made this a fabulously easy meal, and you could even make it ahead of time, and pop it into the oven when you get home from work, or (gasp) freeze it!  Oh, and the left overs!  Its like a working girl's dream dinner and a delicious way to use up the veggies in the fridge.  It even had squash it it, and even though I kinda hate squash, I had a second helping.  It was that good. 

I have to say that the veggies I put in the recipe are just what we had in the fridge that we all will eat.  Feel free to modify for whatever you like or have on hand.  A lot of people like celery or fennel in theirs, I highly recommend either, but there are certain people (I wont mention names) in my house who are a little picky about aromatics, so they're not in the recipe.  (A note about fennel-- I would saute it up in the butter a little before you add the broth-- gives it a better flavor.)  Peas are also common, use them frozen, just like the corn for a dash of color.  In this recipe I used remnants of a smoked turkey that we made a while back, which definitely adds a dimension of deliciousness that I had not previously reached with my pot pie recipe.  If that's not your style though, you can cook up some chicken breasts yourself ahead of time, or some people I know just pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and use the meat, to make an even easier version. Just make sure the poultry is cooked before it goes into the pot pie goodness.  Also, this is not a low fat recipe.  If you wanted to make it lighter, you could omit the milk all together, go lighter on the butter/flour mixture, and only use one pie crust on top, instead of both.  If you do though, don't tell me. It would make me sad.

I have shared this recipe with many people because I love it that much.  They in turn have shared their versions with me, and the recipe below is a compilation of all the favorites, so I can't credit any one person for the specific recipe below.  I will however, give a shout out to my friend B who brought the pot pie back into my world after a long haitus, and my sister who, by trying to follow my instructions, made an even more delicious version.  And to my Dad, the non-chef, who laid the foundation of how to properly vent the pot pie.

Its a little messy, but its worth it.

Easy Poultry Pot Pie

This makes the filling for two pies-- I freeze the leftovers and have an even easier pot pie next time.


Two pre-rolled pie crusts, found in the refrigerator section of the store
3/4- 1lb cooked poultry
4 Tablespoons butter
1/2 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 Tablespoons flour
1 1/2-2 cups chicken stock
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) hot pepper sauce (Tobasco, etc)
5 medium red potatoes (about 3/4 lb) skins on, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 lb peeled carrots, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2-3/4 cup milk/half and half or cream (I use whole milk, feel free to use what you  have)
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
Spices/herbs to taste
 Egg wash (1 egg white 1 tsp water, beaten together)

Preparation Instructions
Take your pie crusts out of the fridge, leave in bags, set aside.  
If you need to, cook up your poultry and set aside.

In a large sauce pan or dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add in the onions, until the become translucent (about 4-5 mins).  Add garlic, cook for 1 minute.  Sprinkle flour over mixture in pan, let it come together, and the flour cook, for another min.  Add in your chicken stock, powdered mustard and hot pepper sauce, stir.  Add in potatoes, cover and cook for 10 min.  All potatoes should be at least partially touching the liquid.  If not, add more chicken stock.  Add carrots and cook uncovered until veggies are cooked through.  They won't cook that much more in the oven, so make sure they're pretty much where you want them.  Don't forget to stir occasionally.

While the goodness is cooking, we'll address the crusts.  The crusts are easy-- open box, cut open bags.  Voila!  They don't have to be room temp (AND DON"T PUT THEM IN THE MICROWAVE!!) but you don't want them straight from the fridge either.  Unroll one crust into 9" pie plate.  Press gently to fill in the plate.  Unroll your second crust onto a cutting board.  Brush the egg wash across the top of the crust.  Use a butter knife to gently scrape away lines in the crust, about 1" apart.  Don't be exact, this is homemade.  Turn the crust about 45 degrees, and scrape again, creating a diamond pattern on the top.  Set aside your crusts for baking! (Keep the egg wash for later.)

When the veggies are done cooking, stir in the milk/cream, add in your chicken and corn.  Taste it now.  You'll probably need salt (more than you might think if you used homemade stock) and pepper.  Feel free to add a little more hot pepper sauce and mustard-- they're supposed to give it a little special something, not be the main flavor.  Feel free to add in whatever exciting spices/herbs you have in the cupboard.  I usually add a little extra onion and garlic powders.

Once you've got it where you want it, pour/spoon it into pie crust.  Don't fill ALL the way to the top, it will drip down the outside of the crust.  Ick.  Freeze your leftovers, or set aside to serve on the side of your pot pie slice.  Once the shell is properly filled, brush egg wash over the exposed crust on the side.  This will help the bottom crust bind to the top.  Take your top crust, place egg washed side up.  Press around the edges, rolling and fluting as necessary.  Vent  your pie with a few knife slits (or your initials) in the center of the pie.  Bake in a preheated oven until the bottom crust browns, about 45 min.  If the top starts to get too brown, lie a piece of foil over it (don't wrap, just place).  This will allow the crust to firm up without trapping in the steam.

Once you take your pie out of the oven, let it sit for about 10 min, just to let things firm up.  Slice and serve.  It will be messy, but delicious!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pan Fried Noodles with chicken and veggies

Pan fried noodles with chicken and veggies

Our home is a testament to where we've been; the $5 Ikea mirror, the (arguably) artsty items picked up on trips around the world, the couch purchased for $75 at a second hand store that almost didn't fit into the back of the Duke's now-donated-to-charity chariot.  The essence of what makes our house our home is, of course, the memories.

But not in the kitchen.  The greatness of the kitchen lies not in the memories but in the possibilities.  We can be dynamic, beautiful, interesting people in the kitchen.  We can always try something new and fresh in the kitchen.  Honestly, when was the last time you said to yourself, "I think I'll reupholster the armchair in the living room, just to try something different tonight?"  Ok, that actually sounds like fun, but when was the last time you actually did it?  In the kitchen, however, we become adventurous, even if the only reason we add soy sauce to the sloppy joes is because we forgot to pick up Worcester sauce at the grocery store.  If it works out (and it does, my friends, it does!), soy sauce suddenly has a whole new life, and is added to your "Go-To Guys".

Meet my Go-To Guys:
Back Row: Lemon juice, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, pre-minced garlic, Fish sauce
Front Row: Balsamic Vinegar, Sriracha, soy sauce, sesame oil
In addition to the obvious basil and butter, there are quite a few staples in my kitchen-- these are the things I feel like I'm short a limb if we run out of them.  I know some of them might look a little new, (I know there was no fish sauce in my house growing up) but try them out anyway.  Heck, I don't even like fish generally speaking, but the sauce has a nice salty flavor that adds a nice undertone to whatever it goes in.  These are my background players, the ones who make a dish what it really is, the versatile ingredients that can be matched and married into countless flavor combinations to compliment whatever else I've got on hand.  I won't go so far as to call them friends, but they do talk to me, even if I don't use them all at once.  When I don't know what I'm making for dinner, I just pull them out of their respective homes, and ask them.  Last night I called and they answered, "Stir fry.  But instead of over rice, try pan fried noodles." In this case, balsamic and lemon juice were the only ones left out and put back in the cupboard to play another day.

What can I say, my "Go To Guys" get it done.

The noodles I used are recommended by just about anyone who makes Asian cuisine for a living.  The brand isn't so important as the type: the dehydrated noodles do much better than the "fresh" ones you might find in your produce section or refrigerator case, which, in my humble opinion, can come out a tad gummy.  And they're cheaper-- usually about the same price as a pound of pasta.  Check your "Asian" section of your grocery store (or even better yet, a local Asian market- they're usually even less there!!).  If they're not available where you live, I suppose some kind of linguine might work, but won't be as sticky.  (Please note, when I say egg noodles, I don't mean the big, flat, short egg noodles famous for pairing with stroganoff, I mean soba noodles.)  A note about cooking the noodles:  The noodles will probably instruct to cook for 2 min in boiling water.  I'd cook about 1:30 seconds, because we will finish them off later.  Also, when they say boiling, they mean exactly from the time the noodles hit the boiling water, not from when the water becomes boiling again after they're in the pot.  Short story: set your timer for 1:30 seconds, carefully put noodles in the boiling water, then hit start. Don't go anywhere, don't do anything, DO NOT OVER COOK these noodles, they become a sad mushy mess, and no one likes that.  No one!

As for the chicken and veggies-- no need to get anything special, just use the veggies/protein you have on hand (which is what I've done for the recipe below).  Just make sure you are cooking the veggies in the right order (the longest to cook goes into the pan first etc...). 

Pan Fried Noodles with Chicken and Veggies
This made enough for the Loving Duke and I for dinner, with enough leftovers for one lunch.  If you're not as hungry, feel free to use one package of noodles.

2 packages dehydrated egg or soba noodles
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
3 Tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil

Chicken and veggies
2 Chicken breasts, cut into cubes then smashed with mallot or side of knife.
3 cloves of garlic, minced (or 3 Tablespoons pre-chopped garlic)
1/2 small onion, shredded/minced
5-6 leaves basil, confettied
1/4 lb carrots, chopped into bite sized pieces
2 bell peppers, cut into strips (different colors is prettier, but I only had red)
1 small head broccoli (or broccolini) cut down into bite sized pieces.
1T sesame oil (or more to taste)
1T fish sauce (or more to taste)
2 small squirts Sriracha for heat 
Soy sauce to taste 
sesame seeds and cilantro (or more basil) for garnish

Preparation Instructions
In a large saucepan, add enough water to cover the noodles and bring to a boil. Add the noodles, stirring to separate. Cook until the noodles are al dente - tender, but still firm. (About 30 seconds less than the package recomends.) Drain thoroughly. Rinse with cold water, drain again, and toss with the sesame oil.

In a heavy frying pan or a wok, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high to high heat. Add the noodles. Quickly spread them out to the edges of the pan, and then let them cook, without stirring, until they are browned on the bottom (5 - 8 minutes).

Flip over and brown the other side. Remove to a plate. Keep warm while preparing the rest of the food.

In the same pan used for the noodles (don't wash it, just keep going), add some more oil, and let it heat up on medium heat.  Add the garlic, onion and basil and cook briefly-- 30 seconds.  Then add the chicken and let that brown up and cook through.  When the chicken is fully cooked, remove from pan, put with noodles to keep warm.  Add in a little water to the pan, just to deglaze it, and add your veggies, starting with the carrots.  (Make sure to keep a little liquid in the bottom of the pan at all times, you dont want all the water to boil off and burn the good stuff in it!)  Let them steam/fry up for about 4 min, then add the bell peppers let them cook for another two minutes, and finally the broccoli pieces, cooking for another 4 minutes.  At this point, add the rest of the seasonings, oils and sauces, stir it all up, and make sure all the veggies are the appropriate tenderness for your liking.  Add back in the chicken mixture and the noodles.  Remove from heat.  Use tongs to mix everything together, and top with chopped cilantro and sesame seeds as garnish if desired.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Spaghetti with Bacon, Artichokes and Leeks

Spaghetti with Bacon, Artichokes and Leeks
Today was a busy day, as many days are.  Clean up, play with baby, work for a little bit, then run errands all afternoon into the evening.  As such, I was less than inclined to stop at the store for those last minute additions we need for dinner than I might otherwise be.

So, reaching into my pantry, fridge, and mental recipe box of stuff I'd like to attempt cooking, I settled on a compromise of two recipes I found on Ree Drummand's website.  ( is just plain awesome.  As in awe inspiring.  As in I am "in awe" of how she runs the website, works on cookbooks, posts recipes everyday, as well as info about farming, gardening, homeschooling, and being a mom of four.  She's pretty much my blogging world hero, and I highly recommend you check out her page.)  At any rate, she had two recipes, Spaghetti with Artichoke Hearts and Tomatos and Pasta with Pancetta and Leeks, both of which looked delicious, so I kinda stole from one and added to the other to fit my pantry's needs.  I've given you the link to the original recipes, since she really deserves the credit for this one, but posted the recipe the way I made it below.

I loved the leek in the recipe but not everyone in my house feels the same way, so if you, like me, are cooking for a Serial Leek Hater, you could use just plain onion, finely chopped in place of the leek.  Also, the recipe calls for freshly grated Parmesan.  I almost never carry that, because, lets be honest, I'm trying to be frugal. We used the kind that comes out of the cardboard can, and that works just fine (although I'm sure it would be even more amazing fresh).  If you're using the stuff from a can you should add some time to let it melt, since the preservatives tend to keep it more in grated form (I'm opting not to think about what that means for me...).  Also, regarding the cheese, the original recipe called for one whole cup.  I thought that it was a little too parmesean-ish, so I've reduced it.  Feel free to start with a little, and add more as you'd like.  Its hard to imagine a reality where there is too much cheese, but it exists.  And its a sad, gooey place where you can no longer taste the artichokes or the garlic, and you wish you could just take it back.  But you can't, my friends, you can't.  So start with a 1/2 cup, and add as you go.  Better to be careful than sorry.

Spaghetti with Bacon, Artichokes, and Leeks
If you're one of those odd people who don't just keep bacon in your freezer, or you'd rather go vegetarian, then I suppose you could just use a little butter and olive oil to saute up the leeks/onions and garlic.


  • 1/2 lb of Bacon or Pancetta
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 leeks sliced into coins or ½ of a medium Onion, Finely Diced
  • 1 can Artichoke Hearts (14.5 Oz. Quartered Or Whole) Drained AND squeezed
  • 1/2 can crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 cup milk (cream if you have it)
  • ½ cups Chicken Broth (More As Needed)
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound spaghetti (we like whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup + more to taste Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh basil (or Other Herbs) Chopped

Preparation Instructions

Cook spaghetti till al dente. Drain and set aside, reserving some of the pasta water for later, in case you need it.

**Start with a big pan, everything is going to end up in the pan, even the pasta!**

Chop up bacon, and render it in a pan, removing the bacon bits to a paper towel and removing most of the bacon fat from the pan. Add onions or leeks and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add artichoke hearts and tomatoes. Stir and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in milk and chicken broth, add the bacon back in. Add salt and pepper to taste (do not undersalt!) Cook over low heat until heated through, then turn off heat. 

Sprinkle Parmesan into big pan, and stir into sauce, to let it melt a bit.  Add pasta to the pan, and add basil. 
 Toss lightly to combine and coat; add a tiny bit of reserved pasta water if sauce seems too thick.

Yum yum!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Peaches, Peaches Everywhere

Ok, follow me here for a second... Is there anything better than a fresh peach?  The juiciness, the sweetness, the simple fuzziness of the skin.  It could be my poster food, except that I can never seem to eat them gracefully (picture, in front of the sink, trying not to get the dribbling juices all over my clothes).  I was thrilled when Maureen saw the Peach Pie post, and asked what I could do with a bunch of leftover peaches.  I feel her pain, that bushel of peaches was calling out to me too... until you get it home and realize exactly how many peaches are IN a bushel, and then you think, oh crap.  What am I going to do with all of this peachy goodness?  Aside from canning, which isn't terribly difficult, but can be time consuming, these are my simple peachy ideas.  Feel free to add any of your ideas in the comments section, I'm sure Maureen could use the help. :)
(In the interest of full disclosure, I didn't actually undertake all of these peachy "adventures" today (although I have in the past), and as such, these aren't my pictures-- I found them all on "Google Images" to use for visual effect.  Mine would be much less professional looking. ;))

Use them in fruit salad.
    Top the fruit salad with some citrus (orange/lemon/pineapple is my favorite) and let the salad sit a couple of hours before eating.  The ripe peaches with the citrus make a great "syryp" that makes everything even more delicious.

 Grill them
    Just slice them in half, pit them, You can leave the skins on if you'd like and stick them face down on your grill.  The flavors intensify, and the tops get all caramelized.  They're a nice side dish, or served on top of a salad  of a spinach salad with chicken, blue cheese and pecans *she sighs happily*, or, even better, topped with ice cream and a little granola or chopped pecans.

Peach Salsa.
     Dice up lots of peaches, jalapeno, red onion, and avocado, add chopped cilantro, fresh lime juice, salt. Let sit for a little bit, to let everything get "happy".  Serve with tortilla chips.  You won't be sorry.

Peach and Cornbread Cobbler
   In a bowl, mix together 3-4 sliced peaches, 1 Tablespoon Melted butter, 1/4 C of white sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. In another bowl make up two packages of Jiffy Cornbread mix according to the box (or whatever kind of cornbread mix you like).  Put 3/4 of the cornbread mix into a pan or cast iron skillet.  Spoon peaches on top of cornbread mix, leaving 1/2 an inch around the pan without peaches, then top with the remaining cornbread mix.  Some peaches should be showing through, that's ok.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 min.  Let cool slightly (or entirely) before serving.

Freeze 'em whole.   They're easy to peel once they're frozen all the way, and you can cut them up and use them however you like.  The possibilities are endless once they're frozen-- breakfast smoothies, margaritas, toss 'em in a salad, slices of  frozen peaches in your alcoholic beverages (or soda, if your tastes shy away from alcohol)!  I like the idea of just blending the frozen peaches into a sorbet type of thing, for a one ingredient delicious reprieve from the heat.  Check out this link for how to best deal with frozen peaches. Yum yum.  Just make sure you put the whole frozen peaches into a big ziplock bag if you're not going to use them right way.  That way, they won't get any freezer burn.  That would be the opposite of delicious.

Hope you find these ideas just peachy!  (Ok, you know I had to make the terrible pun at least once. Thank you for your understanding!)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Cous-Cous and Black Bean Salad

Southwestern Couscous and Black Bean Salad

When we were looking for homes, we thought we'd hit the jackpot when we found ours.  A modest house on 2/3 of an acre, we could still live near neighbors without being on top of them.  And, as an added bonus, the previous owners were retired landscape architects and maintenance gardeners, so it was BE-U-tiful.  We thought we had landed in heaven when they called and asked, "Are there any vegetables you'd like us to plant?  You'll be moved in before its time to harvest, so is there anything you'd really like to eat?"

Now, two summers later, its all we can do to keep the weeds from taking over and keeping the lettuce properly hydrated.  Any success we have had is due entirely to the force of my Loving Duke's will to keep this vegetable garden functioning.  Its a precarious balance-- what to grow, what to pull, what to spray-- it feels like the garden could turn on us at any minute, growing over into an uncontrollable monstrosity.

So it was no surprise today to find that even though I had planted them, I had neither cilantro nor red/orange bell peppers when I went looking for them today.  I was feeling a little dejected about our unruly, less-than-fruitful garden when I spotted the basil.  It was a beacon of fragrant goodness, these beautiful stalks of basil  towering above the rest of our cowering garden.  The basil that says, "I will grow no matter what you do.  I will stand tall and true to my herbaceous nature, and I will be here for you no matter how terrible of a gardener you are.  Cilanto couldn't take the heat.  Mint got mixed up with all those weeds, but I AM BASIL, and I will never abandon you in your hour of need."

At least that's what I thought it was saying as I pinched off a bunch of it to use in our salad this evening.  This cous-cous salad that at first glace does not seem like comfort food, is so delightful (oh, and easy) you will feel comforted just looking at it.  Add the basil in there, its like the poster food for the self-empowered eater.  And its pretty too.  Be like my Loving Duke: eat it hot with dinner and cold the next day for lunch.  Yum!

Southwestern Cous-Cous and Black Bean Salad


  • 1 cup uncooked couscous (I like whole wheat, but whatever makes you happy)
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth (or boullin, or my favorite: chicken base)
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about two limes)
  • 2 teaspoon red wine vinegar (or white, that's what I used)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 8 green onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped (red 'cause its pretty, but I used yellow 'cause that's what I had)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh BASIL (or cilantro if you prefer)
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bring chicken broth to a boil in a 2 quart or larger sauce pan and stir in the couscous. Cover the pot and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, vinegar and cumin. Add green onions, red pepper, cilantro or basil, corn and beans and toss to coat.
  3. Fluff the couscous well, breaking up any chunks. Add to the bowl with the vegetables and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve at once or refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with more of your chopped herb of preference.

"Dear God!" she exclaimed.

"...he's salting meat."  I'm not sure I can get behind salted meat (as a means of preservation), but my Loving Duke follows me on my food adventures, so fair's fair.  Plus, his enthusiasm for new ideas is part of his charm, so its hard to resist.  Check back in two weeks for the salted meat update.

Friday, August 27, 2010

"This One's For You, Grandpa" Peach Pie

Grandpa W's Memorial Dinner

Food, for many of us, is a celebration.  For those who cook and those who eat, there is a little triumph in a tasty spread.  In our home, as in many others, there are specific foods we can tie to special people/events.  My mom still makes this green jello salad during the holidays every year.  Its got cottage cheese and avocado, pineapple bits and green jello.  And I think its nasty, (probably because I think anything that gelatinous is evil).  But its important to her, because this food has been passed down through her people, and was present at many celebrations in her past.  So whether anyone else is going to eat it, she makes it every year.  We can all respect that, and appreciate that the jello salad, as wiggly as it might be, allows her to spend time with those memories that she holds dear.

In this vein, in my family, when someone passes away we create a special meal in remembrance of them.  Not just any meal, but their very favorite meal, or a meal that has specific meaning for that person.  We all sit down, and enjoy this (usually) very rich meal, and share and reflect on the light and special presence that person brought to our lives.  Anytime we want to feel extra close to them, we can cook up their special meal, and its brings them right back to the table. For Grandpa B, its pot roast.  I cannot drink a chocolate milkshake without thinking of my Grandma B.  For my dad, it was very hard to choose, because dag gum it, he just liked food.  And a long, long time from now, when we have to pick out a meal for my mom, I'm sure we will have to include the aforementioned "nasty jello salad".  For my Grandpa W, who passed away this week, I've chosen grilled pork spareribs, with a baked potato and corn, a nice cold beer, and peach pie a la mode for dessert.  He and I know why, and that's the important part of the memorial meal.

The peach pie is what brings me to you tonight, my friends.  I've never made any fruit pie other than apple in my life, so I was a little hesitant, and I considered purchasing one from our very delicious, local bakery for $14.  But peaches are in season, and in an attempt to stay true to my goal to eat more local foods (and save money), I bought some tree-ripened *freestone* peaches at a local farmers market (along with the potatoes and corn for the dinner!  Go me!).  I even, *gasp*, made my own crust (which was a tasty disaster).  But in the end, the labor of love was worth it, not just because it was so light and melt-in-your-mouthy, but because I spent the entire cooking process full of love and memories.  Curses at the uncooperative pie crust aside, what a beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

Pain-in-the-Hiney Pie Crust (for the Food Processor)
This makes enough crust for one double crust pie or two single crust pies, and despite its name, is VERY much worth the effort. (If you're only going to need a single crust, make the whole recipe, and freeze one dough disc, well wrapped, it will keep for up to 6 months.)

Everything I've read about pie crusts suggest that the colder (as in having spent a little time in the freezer) the fats and liquids are, the flakier and more delicious your pie crust will be.  So feel free, chop up/dish out the fats (butter and vegetable shortening) and set them on a baking sheet in the freezer while you mix up the dry ingredients.  Go ahead, put a mug of water into the freezer too (but don't leave it there forever!) Its ok-- tell them the Wholesome Duchess said you could.


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed and chilled
  • 8 Tablespoons vegetable shortening, in tablespoon sized dollops, chilled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • up to 6 Tablespoons ice water 

  1. Measure the flour, sugar, and salt into the processor with the regular blade attached.  Pulse 4 times until mixed.  Add the unsalted butter, cut into cubes, and pulse 4 times.  The butter should still be in pea sized pieces. Add the shortening, and pulse three times until gently mixed.
  2. With the motor off, add the vinegar.  Pulse once or twice to mix in.  Do the same, one tablespoon at a time with the ice water. Don't wait until it forms a large ball, it will be tough.  Instead, check after the 2nd or 3rd tablespoon of water.  The dough is ready when you pinch it, and it sticks together.  If you pinch it and its still crumbly, it needs a little more water.
  3. Stop the machine, dump the crumbly dough into a bowl, and gather the dough into a ball with your hand. you can squeeze it a bit to make it stick together. If it just won't form a ball, add a tiny bit more water. (Note that if you are making crust in the food processor, you will use less water than most recipes call for.)
  4. Divide dough in two equal pieces.  Flatten it to a thick disc, then wrap your dough ball in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill it about 30 minutes in the refrigerator (or even better in the freezer!). If its too tough to roll out when you need it, let it warm a little bit on the counter, but try to keep it as cool as possible.
  5. Roll it out on a cool surface if you can.  Using the rolling pin from the center, gently push the dough out.  If it cracks, gently re-form it then keep going, trying to touch it with your hands as little as possible. You know its the right size when its about 2 inches larger than the pie plate turned upside down.  Then follow your pie recipe for baking.

"This One's for you, Grandpa" Peach Pie
If you're using fresh peaches  *Freestone* is important, as the pits come out easily.  If you get clingstone peaches by accident, they'll "cling" to the pit, and be much less cooperative in general.)
  • 2.5 pounds (about 6 medium) freestone peaches, pitted and sliced
  • 1 tsp lemon or lime juice, whatever you've got laying around
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice or cinnamon, whatever you like
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg yolk, used for eggwash
  • 1 Tablespoon milk/cream/water for eggwash
  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
First, we must prepare the peaches by removing the skins, pitting and slicing them.  If you already know how to the super amazing trick we call blanching we use to remove the skins, then pit them, you can skip down to step one.  Otherwise, please read my extra special paragraph on "Peach Blanching 101" below:
  • Get a large pot, fill it with water and boil it.  While you're waiting for that, get a bowl of water, and put a bunch of ice in it.  Once the water is boiling, gently place your peaches in it, using a slotted spoon or fry spoon.  Leave them in the boiling water for 45 sec-1min.  Then using the spoon, remove them from the boiling water, place them in the ice water, and let sit for about the same amount of time.  Once they're cool enough to handle, take a paring knife and make a criss-cross at the bottom of the peach.  The skins should slip right off (or at least come off easily enough that you won't want to hurt someone with that paring knife while trying to remove them).  Cut in half, remove pits, slice peach halves, and place into a large bowl.
  1. Coat peaches with lemon/lime juice.  It keeps them from turning brown, and adds that special something.
  2. Mix flour, sugar, cornstarch and butter and allspice into crumb stage. Mix with the peaches.
  3. Line a 9" pie plate with one of your pie crusts.  Paint a little eggwash on the bottom, between the crust and fruit, to help keep it from getting too soggy with all of the juices.
  4. Put fruit mixture into pie plate.
  5. Top with lattice strips of pie crust.  If you need help (like I did) check out the video.  Then eggwash the top crust.
  6. Bake at 450 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 15 minutes, then 350 for another 30 min. If you can, just turn the oven off, and let pie sit in the cooling oven.  It will allow a little more of the juices from the pie to boil off, making sure it sets up nicely, and isn't too watery.  Allow pie to cool (mostly) before slicing. Best when eaten fresh, but you can store covered in the fridge for up to three days.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stuffed Chicken Valentino

I don't know why this is called Chicken Valentino.  Perhaps its because it is designed to make you fall in love with it on the first bite.  On first glance, even.  Oh man, were these Deee-Licious.  My tummy is grumbling, just thinking about them. (And I just finished dinner!!)  They are moist and tender, with a filling of cheese and peppers that feels decadent, but is actually very, very easy.  So easy, in fact, that you could make these for company, and present yourself as the fancy-pants cook you want people to think you are, without the normal effort that being a fancy-pants requires.  I know will!

I found the inspiration recipe on, and changed it according to what we had in the house today.  I had 2 chicken breasts on the bone, which I've never cut off before while it was raw, but I did a halfway decent job, considering I was elbow deep in chicken before I realized I didn't know what I was doing.  (Never fear, its fairly intuitive.  But if you're one whose intuition does not tend toward chicken, I've found an instructional video for you, so you never have to find yourself wondering if you're navigating the deboning process correctly.)  I served said deliciousness over a bed of quinoa pilaf with leeks (recipe to follow on another day, after its been perfected) and broccoli.  You could pair it with wild rice or serve it over pasta.  The possibilities are endless, because this, my friends, this chicken is the star of the show.  Yum yum.

Stuffed Chicken Valentino
  • 2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 (6 ounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, drained and squeezed in paper towel
  • 1tablespoon cup chopped fresh basil or chives
  •  2 slices low moisture mozzarella cheese, cut in half (use shredded if you have it)  Heck use more if you have it!
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • a dash of lemon juice


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Slice a chicken breast in half lengthwise, leaving the halves attached on one side: opened and laid flat, the chicken breast should resemble a butterfly. Place between two sheets of plastic wrap, and pound flat. Repeat with other chicken breast.
  2. Combine Parmesan cheese with seasonings and chopped basil/chives, and sprinkle over chicken breasts. At one end of each breast, place 3 strips of roasted pepper. Top with 2 halves of mozzarella side by side. Roll each breast up, starting on the side with the peppers and cheese. Insert a toothpick in each roll to prevent unrolling. Season rolls with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Preheat oil in pan you can use in oven.  Place chicken rolls top town to brown.  Brown on all sides, then place whole pan into the oven to finish cooking.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 5-7 min, then turn oven off, and let finish cooking in warm oven while you finish preparing your sides/veggies. 
  5. Remove from oven, slice to display the colorful filling.  Dash a little bit of lemon juice over the top to make it "fresh" and serve.