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 allrecipes.com, 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.