Tuesday, June 30, 2009

4th of July Trifle

Note: The recipe follows after a really long chicken discussion (grin).

Ha. Fred thinks he’s so clever. The Urban Chicken discussion is not over! Our neighbor Karen was walking her cute little Bichon, Penny, in our circle on Sunday afternoon, so we popped out of the house to chat for a few minutes. I was busy Sunday afternoon creating this lovely trifle and Fred was tying his 185th Prusik knot of the day (Fred’s new hobby is hanging off granite cliffs in Little Cottonwood Canyon.)

So anyway, I was standing on the sidewalk telling Karen about my blog when Fred pipes up from the cement stoop. ‘Tell her about your crazy idea to have chickens in the backyard!’

I cringed. Karen was probably the last person I wanted to know I was entertaining the idea of chickens in the backyard. After all, she seems so chic and sophisticated. And we live in a nice country club neighborhood. But, most important? HER HUSBAND IS THE FORMER MAYOR. I'm sure chickens in this neighborhood would violate several dozen ordinances.

Karen looks at me, looks at Fred, looks back at me, takes a deep breathe and yells ‘DO IT!!!’

Fred turned every shade of purple, pointed his finger at her and said 'HEY, YOU'RE NOT HELPING! I looked at her dumbfounded. She said 'Yes, do it. There's another woman just down the street who has chickens. It's a great idea!' .... Oh, really? NICE.

Fred immediately threw her off our land, warning her to never darken our doorstep again. Ha, ha, ha. Check. One more vote for the crazy Chicken Lady.

Karen and Penny went home but I decided that it would be a GREAT idea to invite her and Steve over to try the trifle later that night. I was dying to ask more questions about the woman down the street. Five minutes after they walked through the door Karen says 'Hey, Honey, Liz wants to have chickens. Isn't that a great idea?' He didn't bat an eye. He told me 'Yes, you can do that. We passed that ordinance 15 years ago.' BINGO!!

Poor Fred. He's doomed. I think I better hide all the ropes.


4th of July Trifle

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 store-bought pound cake (12 ounces), cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 bar (8 ounces) Neufatel cheese, room temperature (or light cream cheese)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream (the unwhipped liquid in the case near half n half)
  • 3 cups fresh blueberries (three 1/2-pint containers), rinsed and dried (I didn't have fresh so used frozen, thawed and drain juice)
  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled, sliced and tossed in 3 Tbs sugar

    In a small saucepan, bring 1/4 cup sugar, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup water to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Let cool completely, then brush over both sides of cake slices. Quarter each slice. Try to use up all the liquid. The pound cake can take it. It helps with the overall flavor of the final product.

    With an electric mixer, beat the Neufatel with remaining 1/3 cup sugar on high speed until lightened. With mixer on medium speed, gradually add heavy cream in a steady stream; continue beating until mixture is light and airy (mixture will be like a very soft whipped cream).

    Arrange half the cake pieces in the bottom of a 2-quart serving dish. Spoon half the cream-cheese mixture over cake in dollops; spread to sides of dish. Scatter the blueberries on top. Repeat layering with remaining cake, cream-cheese mixture, and strawberries on top. Cover, and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour and up to overnight.

    Sunday, June 28, 2009

    Dreaming of Chicken (Coops)

    It's been an exhausting week. I have so much to tell you. Thanks for hanging in there while I was off galavanting. I'm planning some delicious fare this week that includes the use of my new grill, beautiful berries and lucious chocolate. Please stay tuned, but right now I need your help. I've fallen in love. Goofy in love. With chickens. Or with the idea of having chickens. Rhode Island Reds. Cochins, Brahmas, Ameraucanas, Crested Polish, I love them all!

    I attended a seminar last week which has kindled my inner farmer and now I can't think of anything but chickens. And eggs. Blue, tan, ivory, white, and green eggs. It was a fantastic course explaining all the things you need to know to have 3 or 4 or 20 chickens in your back yard. I sat there with an ear to ear grin. Hey, I only want 3 - that shouldn't cause too much of a stir in the neighborhood, should it?

    But here's where I need your help. When I called Fred after the seminar, he answered the phone like this: 'Hi Hun, if you bring home any chickens, I'm going to divorce you.'

    Well. Gee. There goes my little dream of collecting fresh eggs every morning. Chicken lovers unite! Call Fred right now and cast your vote.

    I also met up with my friend Lacey at the Downtown Farmers Market. But, uh oh, what's that a photo of? I guess I'll be saying goodbye to an old friend in my cup cabinet. Fred's rules about my little obsession till applies.

    There are all sorts of wonderful vendors at the market. Dolcetti Gelato is one of my favorites. Lacey hadn't tried it before. We shared a cup, choosing pistachio and fresh banana. Wow. Really, really good choices. She's hooked. On the gelato and the farmers market. Sorry Jeff. I'll return her at the end of the summer.

    We also shared a delish pesto, veggie sandwich. I bought a jar of this fresh pesto so I can make this for Fred at home. A grilled piece of whole wheat breaded spread with pesto, then covered with sauteed zucchini and onions, fresh roma tomatoes and sprouts. Heeeaaalllthy!

    And finally, I can't wait to share this with you. What's in this box? A little taste of Chicago!

    Stay tuned.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Summer Corn Saute

    Oh my heck. (Janai, put your hands over your ears) I've fallen off the wagon twice this week. Steak last night and filet mignon at Grand America for lunch today. What is wrong with me?

    I AM A VEGETARIAN. Really.

    Oh, all right, let's just go with it. So what goes better with steak than corn! The perfect summer duet.

    This recipe really belongs to Martha but we won't tell her. The ideal side dish for your summer dinner and extremely easy. Who needs to fuss with all that boiling water and messy butter anyway.

    Corn and Zucchini Saute

    4 thin green or yellow zucchini squash, halved and then sliced thin
    4 - 5 ears of yellow or white corn, raw, cut off the cob
    3 Tbs olive oil
    coarse salt and pepper to taste
    Several large leaves of fresh basil
    1 Tbs of white wine vinegar

    Heat oil in large skillet, add squash and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Add corn, coarse salt and pepper and continue to saute for another 3 minutes or until corn is getting tender. Take off heat, add wine vinegar and torn basil leaves, then stir. Done. Simple. Easy. Corn. Yum.

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Orange Tortilla Soup

    It still refuses to warm up here in Northern Utah. Normally, we hit the mid 90's by this time, but the last week has been rainy and grey with lows of 50. Reminds me of Chicago. In October. And November. And March. And almost every other month of the year. Our guests, Ron and Elaine, actually said it was warmer here than back home. They must be lying. This gloom was actually welcome for a few days, but I'm done now. Rain, rain, go away.

    To warm up our bones, I made the ever popular Orange Tortilla Soup for our guests on Sunday. This recipe comes from our ever popular neighbor Laura M. Hopefully, I'm still popular with her after I share her recipe with the internet. Love ya, Laura~


    1 Medium yellow onion, chopped
    1 Clove garlic, minced
    4 Celery stalks sliced
    3 Tbs vegetable oil
    2-1/2 Cups vegetable or chicken broth
    1-1/2 Cups orange juice
    1-1/2 Cups tomato sauce (14 oz can is fine)
    1 Cup water
    1 (4 oz) Can green chilies chopped
    1 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
    3 - 4 Carrots sliced
    3 or 4 Chicken breasts
    Pepper Jack cheese grated
    Tortilla chips

    Chop your celery and onions. Mince garlic and slice carrots. Do yourself a favor and buy pre chopped chiles. I bought the whole so I had to chop.

    Saute onion, garlic and celery in 3 Tbs of vegetable oil.

    Stir in broth, OJ, tomato sauce, chilies, cilantro and carrots. Simmer until carrots are tender.

    In the meantime, cook your chicken. I prefer to cook chicken breast in a non-stick pan. I heat 2 TB of oil on med-high heat, salt and pepper the breast, cook on each side about 5 min on that higher heat, then turn the heat to med-low. Do not cover!!! Big mistake. You end up with boiled chicken. I leave the lid off until almost done - you can tell you've overcooked chicken breast when it doesn't give anymore when you press with the back of your fork. I prefer to a point where it might still be a bit underdone and then take off heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes or so. Its usually perfect. Clear as mud? Sorry.

    Cut or shred your chicken into bite size chunks and add to your soup. Cook another 5 minutes or so and its ready. Just make sure your carrots are tender.

    Serve by placing tortilla chips (crunched or not) at the bottom of your soup bowl, ladle soup over and top with shredded jack cheese.

    Saturday, June 6, 2009

    Huevos Rancheros Mi Amigos

    My second cousin, 27 times removed, and his wife are in town this weekend. Besides driving them crazy with my incessant worries about them getting lost in their rental car, I let them buy me breakfast at my favorite breakfast spot. Located 10 miles up a beautiful canyon in the Wasatch Mountains, Silver Fork Lodge has beautiful views, loads of hummingbirds and great food. Ron ordered the famous oatmeal; Elaine and I split Huevos Rancheros and a beautiful fruit platter. Strawberries, kiwi, canteloupe, blueberries and grapes.

    Since Fred didn't go with us, I decided to make my own Rancheros last night for dinner! I pan toasted a flour tortilla, topped it with warm, black beans, eggs over easy, salsa, sour cream and cheddar cheese. I also browned up some hash browns to go with it. The trick to getting your hash browns brown and not too greasy? Use about 3 Tbs oil for 2 cups potatoes, get your oil hot to begin with, but after the potatoes are in, turn the heat on low, flatten them down with a spatula and cook for at least 15 min on each side. I add 2 Tbls butter, cut in small bits, all around the side of the pan and let that melt down into the potatoes. Add salt and black pepper. Adding the butter after you turn the heat down adds flavor and keeps it from burning. Make sure to flatten them again on the second side. Hash browns can't be rushed!!

    We chose to sit inside for our breakfast yesteday, the wind was a little much. But the views were fantastic as you can see through that big window!

    After breakfast, I took them for a walk around a mountain lake that is just a few miles up the road. We stopped to chat with a fisherman. He was casting for perch.

    It was a little grey but so nice. We had a wonderful walk and I look forward to cooking for them tomorrow. They may be treated to Orange Tortilla Soup. Adios!

    Monday, June 1, 2009

    Crab Asparagus Au Gratin

    Let me just tell you this. This dish is RIDICULOUS. It's so close to heaven, I can't even see my house anymore. Fred fell out of his chair and into the dog dish. Seriously, the man is SO in love.

    Last week I had a wonderful dinner at a new restaurant in Salt Lake called The Wild Grape. Their menu is marvelous. I sat through dinner trying to figure out how I could weasel my way back again the next night. I couldn't stop thinking about the Crab Au Gratin OR the Cheddar Grits OR the Spicy Shrimp, skewered and doing a great balancing act on the very tip top. Drool.

    So here's my version (serves 2 to 3):

    (BTW, this was a bit tricky to time. I would cook the grits first, leaving a little loose and finish cooking just before serving the au gratin. You will cook your shrimp immediately before plating.)
    Ingredients List:

    Crab/Asparagus Au gratin
    1 lb - Asparagus, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces
    1 lb - Finger or New Potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces, then boiled in salted water for 7 min or until just tender to a fork.
    3/4 cup - Crab, claw meat worked well (see image below)

    2 TB Butter
    2 TB White Flour
    1 Cup whole milk or you can use less fat but will take longer to get creamy consistency
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp pepper or to taste
    1/3 Cup grated parmesan

    Shrimp and Marinade
    I used large shrimp but I might switch next time to jumbo. Less chance of over cooking.
    12 Shrimp - peeled and marinaded in
    2 TB - Olive Oil
    4 TB - Lemon Juice
    2 tsp - Chili Powder
    --Mix these 3 together then toss with shrimp. Only needs to marinate 15 to 30 min.

    Cheddar Grits
    White Hominy Grits - Make according to package instructions, enough for 2 cups of cooked grits.
    1/3 to 1/2 cup of Cheddar Cheese finely grated.

    Wash and cut asparagus on an angle into 1-1/2 inch pieces. Heat oil in non stick pan then add asparagus and stir fry about 7 minutes, making sure not to overcook. The asparagus should stay slightly crisp and bright green.

    Add pre-cooked, 1 inch pieces of new potatoes (I like the finger potatoes from Whole Foods) but you can use small red or gold new potatoes (the ones with thin skin). Let the potatoes golden up a bit on the bottom of the pan. Turn off burner but leave on heat to stay warm.

    Measure out 3/4 cup (about 1/3 of a 12 oz can) of crab meat, depending on how much you like crab. Set aside.

    Next, create a basic roux sauce. To do this, melt butter in your small skillet on medium heat, add flour and cook until it turns a golden color (about 1 minute), then slowly add your milk or cream until your sauce is the consistency of melted Velveeta. If it starts to get too thick just add a little more milk. Add salt, pepper and 1/3 cup grated parmesan. Now add your crab. Again, you may need to add a bit more milk to keep it creamy.

    Next, pour the sauce and crab over the asparagus and potatoes and FOLD. Do not stir or you will have a mess. A few folds and you should be done! Put a lid over this to keep warm. Now finish your grits throw in the cheddar and add a bit more milk if its getting to thick. You really want the grits to be soft, not set up into a gelatinous glob.

    Cook your marinated shrimp for 1 to 2 minutes on each side on a high heat. Be sure NOT to overcook.

    Ladle out a generous portion of the creamy yellow grits, top with your au gratin and settle those perfect shrimp on top. Sigh.