Leek and Asparagus Risotto

My husband will tell you I am the most anxious when faced with an empty fridge.  Let me go grocery shopping, fill it up, and make a meal plan, and I suddenly feel like I can do life.  So the week before classes started, I changed my meal plan from a weekly meal plan based off the groceries I bought to a running categorical list based off the ingredients I already had on hand: 1. Meals I could throw together in about 10 minutes; 2. Meals I could make within 10-20 minutes; 3. Ready to go frozen meals; 4. Meals I could cook if I had some extra time and fresh ingredients.  I filled up a whole white board with my color-coded meal list, and suddenly felt like I could take on grad school.

Risotto is one of those meals that is homey and filling and warm and doesn’t take too long to pull together on one of those “extra time” days.  Add some fresh veggies, and your meal is set.


LEEK AND ASPARAGUS RISOTTO

  • Servings: 2-4
  • Difficulty: medium, for time
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 2 leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced, or grated with a medium ribbon grater
  • 1 asparagus bundle, trimmed and cut in thirds
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup roasted, salted sesame seeds, as garnish
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or Parmeggiano-Reggiano cheese (or nutritional yeast flakes)
  • 6-8 cups vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat the bottom of a large pot with olive oil, and saute the leeks with salt and pepper to taste on medium heat.  When the leeks are translucent, add the garlic and rice and saute 5-10 more minutes and lower the heat to low.
  2. Add 2-3 cups of vegetable stock, until the rice is just covered, and 1/4 cup of the parsley.  Allow to come to a boil, and let cook and reduce until nearly all the stock has reduced.  Add another 1-2 cups of stock and let cook and reduce.  Continue adding stock, one cup at a time, and reducing, until the rice has transformed into a creamy soft mixture, about 30-40 minutes.  When you add the final cup of stock, add the asparagus to gently cook.  Let the stock reduce just enough to be a thin, pudding-like mixture.
  3. Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese or nutritional yeast flakes.  To serve, garnish with the rest of the parsley and the sesame seeds.

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Saving up Tokens and Potstickers

Another change I instituted when starting grad school was tokens for chores.  We’ve had a chore chart for a while, and initially paid quarters and nickels and dimes for chores.  My boys’ interest in the money jar lasted just a month or so, and the chore chart subsequently lost its value.  When my boys got into Star Wars {and my husband introduced them to Star Wars video games}–and I started grad school and needed help around the house–I knew the chore chart was about to get dusted off.  For each chore they check off on their chart, they get one 5 minute token.  They add up tokens and turn them in for screen time–video games, shows, games on a phone, etc.

We’re going on four months now, and the novelty hasn’t worn off yet!  My boys get up, {mostly} check off their morning chores without me asking, ask if they can check off the afternoon chores, and always check off the evening and count out their tokens for the day before going to bed.  Ok, well, there are some mornings with lingering dishes on the breakfast table, and some nights with toys on the floor, but it’s a vast improvement from before.  It’s been great to watch them count the tokens at the end of the day and put them in their jar, and then count by 5’s to turn them in for a 20 minute show or game time, share the price of a show by joining tokens together, or tell me they want to save up their tokens for an hour of game time.  And let’s not forget the power of the token in terms of punishment or reward–or how cool you become when you say they can have some free time on you.

Tokens for me?  Freezer meals.  Dinner prep was seriously crunched during the semester, and it helped so much to have freezer meals to pull out and all I’d have to do was heat up the oven.  You have to devote a chunk of prep time–when you have time–but you’ll thank your cool self later when the only prep you have to do for dinner is heat up the oven or a skillet.

A couple hours one afternoon made a few lentil potsticker meals down the line.  Lentils only take about 20 minutes to make, mash them into a paste, add a finely chopped vegetable medley, herbs and asian seasonings, and your wrappers are ready to be wrapped.

Just about 1-2 teaspoons is enough for the small circle wrappers, then you just seal with water and crimp the edge by folding the wrapper over on itself.  And repeat.

You can cook some right away {because who can resist a good potsticker} and flash freeze the rest to pull out on a busy day.


LENTIL POTSTICKERS

  • Servings: makes one full package of small circle wrappers
  • Difficulty: medium, just for the time
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup brown lentils, cooked and mashed
  • 1/2 cup each finely chopped carrots, snow peas, red pepper, fresh cilantro, green onion
  • 3 teaspoons Szechwan seasoning
  • 1-2 teaspoons sambal oelek with garlic

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Prepare an area to fill the wrappers (I like using a cutting board for easy clean up), and a bowl with water to seal the wrappers.
  3. Using a teaspoon, scoop the filling onto one wrapper at a time.  brush water along the wrapper edges and fold in half, sealing closed by pressing with your fingers.  To create the crimped edges, fold the edges over itself and seal by using water as needed.
  4. To cook, place two tablespoons oil and 1/4 cup water in a skillet.  Place the potstickers in the skillet, base-down, cover, and heat to medium-high.  Let cook for 7-8 minutes, then remove the lid and let the liquid evaporate or until the bottoms of the potstickers are golden brown and crispy.  Serve with your favorite dipping sauce (mine is a little soy sauce, sesame oil, lime juice, sambal oelek, and green onions).

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Soup and Sandwich…Gourmet

When Fall hits our small part of the world, amazing deep grey clouds roll in, full of character, and sometimes full of rain.  We had two straight days of cold, cold rain last weekend.  The weekend my husband happened to be riding in Salt to Saint, a relay cycling race from Salt Lake City to St. George.  While my boys and I drove through 200+ miles of rain, my husband and his team rode through it on their bikes.  Good thing St. George is always sunny and warm.  We met the team at the finish line with homemade cinnamon rolls, hot chocolate, apple cider, and the good ol’ St. George sun.

Just in case your Fall is starting out cold and rainy, here’s a gourmet soup + sandwich combo you are going to just love: Creamy Corn and Potato Chowder + Tomato Asparagus Tart.

Sauté the veggies for bit, add stock and let simmer until the flavors have had time to shimmy and the veggies are perfectly soft, then add the half and half at the end until warm and creamy and heated through.

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Our town’s Farmers Market runs through October, and we can still find a couple large heirloom tomatoes.  I love the vibrant colors of heirlooms–they look just like the leaves!  Mop up some of the tomato juice with paper towels while poking holes in the pastry.

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Arrange the tomatoes and asparagus, bake, and sprinkle with a little love…aka…chopped walnuts and grated Parmigiano-Regiano cheese…

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CORN AND POTATO CHOWDER

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 medium celery rib, diced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 6 red potatoes, diced
  • 2 ears fresh corn, cut from the cob
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3-4 cups half and half
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

DIRECTIONS

  1. Coat the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil and heat to medium.  Sauté the carrot, celery, onion, potatoes, and corn, with salt and pepper to taste, until the onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  2. Add the stock and parsley, and reduce heat to low.  Allow to simmer for 30-40 minutes until the potatoes are soft and tender, then add the half and half at the end, to get creamy and chowder-ish.  {Be careful to not let the soup come back to a simmer or boil, or the milk will curdle and your soup will separate.}

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TOMATO AND ASPARAGUS TART

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 store-bought puff pastry
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • grated Parmigiano-Regiano to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Heat the oven to 425F.
  2. Prepare a large un-rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Unwrap the thawed but chilled pastry and lay on the parchment paper.  Don’t worry about rolling or cutting or spreading it at all, just unwrap and lay flat on the sheet pan.  Poke with holes, using a fork.
  3. Prepare the tomatoes–they are too juicy and will make the pastry mushy.  Prepare by slicing thinly and placing on a paper towel.  Gently press the tops of the tomatoes with another paper towel.  When ready, arrange the tomato sliced on the pastry, leaving a 1-2 inch border (this allows the pastry to puff; without the border, it won’t puff as nicely).  Top with the asparagus.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.
  5. Before serving, sprinkle with chopped walnuts and freshly grated cheese.

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Melty Leeks

One of my favorite spring and summer finds is the leek.  This is an onion, but when cooked down is all melty sweet goodness and none of the usual onion sharpness.  Leeks work as a great topping, accompaniment, flavor addition, etc. etc.–they do it all!  In this recipe, they are going to add flavor to my favorite quick dinner:  a frittata.  I love frittatas because in a pinch you can still have a filling and veggie-laden dinner on the table within 20 minutes.  Serve with fruit and maybe some whole grain bread, and you’re set!

Leeks are pretty easy to clean.  First, slice in half lengthwise, second, rinse all the fronds individually and let dry, third slice thinly, and fourth, cook down with olive oil, salt and pepper.  It looks like a lot of onions in the pan, but they cook down quite a bit.

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This frittata has leeks, potatoes, red pepper, and mixed greens.

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Once you cook down the leeks, add the red pepper and cook just a few minutes more.  Add the leeks and red pepper in a bowl with the greens and set aside.

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Sauté the potato rounds, add the greens back to the pan, pour on the eggs.

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Let it cook for 7-10 minutes on the burner, then slide the oven-safe pan into the oven to finish cooking through.

Frittatas also work great as a sandwich on the go!

spring fritatta 11


VEGGIE FRITTATA

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 6-10 eggs
  • 1 cup milk or half-and-half
  • 2 leek stalks, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 3 small potatoes (red or gold preferable), thinly sliced
  • 2 loosely-packed cups of mixed greens

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. Beat the eggs and milk or half-and half, salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.  Set the mixed greens in a mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Coat a large (oven-proof) sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium-low.  Add the leeks and salt and pepper to taste, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are golden and melty looking.  Add the red pepper and sauté for a few minutes more until the pepper is crisp tender.  Remove from the heat and add to the bowl with the mixed greens.
  4. Put the sauté pan back on the heat and coat with olive oil.  Raise heat to medium-high and add the sliced potatoes in one single layer.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown.  Flip and cook again until golden brown on the other side.
  5. Reduce heat to low and add the mixed green mixture on top of the potatoes.  Pour the egg mixture evenly over top of all the veggies.  Cook until the egg is just set on the bottom, about 7-10 minutes.  Place the pan in the oven and cook for about 15-20 more minutes, until the eggs are slightly jiggly in the center but not wet.

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Fava Bean Succotash and Camping with Dinosaurs

We just ended a weeklong vacation camping trip.  In a tent.  Without a fridge.  We camped through dinosaur country, checking out dinosaur fossils, dinosaur tracks, 10,000 year-old petroglyphs, and rockhounding.  My husband and boys love this stuff.  I’ll be honest, my happy place is not in a tent, un-showered for five straight days.  {My happy place is more along the lines of a beach, crystal blue waters stretching to the horizon, something all-inclusive would be great–because then I don’t have to do the dishes…and it’ll have a shower…}  I will tell you from personal experience that squeeze cheese + crackers, raisins + cream of wheat, and non-perishable fruit containers in heavy syrup do not satisfy a fresh food craving.  I am high-tailing it to a Farmer’s Market tomorrow, and drooling while writing today’s post.

One of our camping nights was pretty chilly and rainy, and other than hot chocolate, I kept thinking of a dish I’d made a few weeks ago:  A warm bowl of creamy polenta topped with succotash.  Succotash is traditionally a Southern dish cooked with corn and lima beans.  I substituted fresh fava beans in place of the lima beans {lima beans never were my favorite growing up}, and asparagus tips I had on hand.  I am going to have to figure out how to turn this meal into one of those “Just Add Water” camping meals and pack it along next time!!

Fava beans are like lima beans in size, but where limas are kind of starchy, dry, and flavorless, favas have a sweet flavor and juicy texture.  They are also packed with a nutritional punch:  Per 1 cup of favas, you get 10 grams of Protein (20% of your daily nutritional need), 418 mg of Potassium (11% daily need), 9 grams of fiber (36% daily need), and throw in some Vitamins A and C, Iron, and Magnesium for good measure.  And, when mixing a legume with corn, you are also getting all the protein essential amino acids in one bite.

There are only a few beans per pod, so count on purchasing at least one pound of fava pods per person/serving.  You open the bean pod by pulling the “seam” of the bean from the top down, like opening a zipper on a jacket.  The beans are encased in a white, waxy shell.  That shell is removed by boiling for about 5-7 minutes, then running under cold water to stop the cooking process.  I cook mine in a colander for the easy pull-out-and-run-under-cold-water method.

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The succotash is super easy to make–just get the fresh corn shucked, the fava beans shelled, and the asparagus tips cut up, and sauté everyone together, adding water halfway through the cook time, and then some butter at the very end to make a buttery succotash sauce.  I served this meal on top of creamy white polenta–it was filling, sweet, savory, and Farmer-Stand-Fresh.

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FAVA BEAN SUCCOTASH WITH WHITE POLENTA

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: pretty easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup white cornmeal
  • 1 cup milk (optional)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast flakes to keep vegan)
  • 4 pounds fresh fava bean pods, shelled from the main pod
  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked and cut from the cob, reserving 1 fresh cob
  • 1 small bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut in thirds
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 tablespoons butter (or vegan butter option)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the polenta.  Stir 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup milk (or water), and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and set aside.  Heat 3 cups water to boiling in a large pot.  Once boiling, add the cornmeal mixture and stir vigorously to keep the mixture smooth and lump-free.  Turn the heat to low and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently.  You may need to add another 1/2 cup-1 cup of water, 1/4 cup at a time, while cooking, depending on the consistency you like.  Adding more water while cooking will give the polenta a looser consistency, less water will make a thicker polenta.  Once done, add the parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast flakes and put a lid on the pot to keep warm while preparing the succotash.
  2. Place the fava beans with the waxy, white exterior shell in a large pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and let cook for 5-7 minutes.  Drain and run under cold water for 2-3 minutes.  The beans will pop right out of this waxy exterior with a little pinch.  Completely shell the beans into a bowl.
  3. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Add the fava beans, corn, asparagus, and onion, and salt and pepper to taste.  Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the beans are just tender, about 5-7 minutes.
  4. Add 1 cup water and the cob, and allow to come to a gentle boil.  Lower the heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.  Remove the cob and add the butter, stirring until a smooth, velvety sauce has brought all the vegetables together.
  5. To serve, divide the polenta evenly among the bowls or plates, and top with the succotash.  If desired, sprinkle with more parmesan cheese.

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Garden Vegetable Eggs Florentine

In our family, two of us have a “sweet tooth switch” and two of us do not.  You know, the switch that flips when you’ve had enough sweets and you know it’s time to put down the spoon and not even have that last bite.  I have that switch; I prefer savory to sweet, breakfast included.  Breakfast for dinner included.  Throw hash browns into any breakfast for dinner meal and I’m a happy camper!
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Eggs Florentine is the perfect recipe to add garden vegetables.  The eggs and milk are creamy and soft and the summer garden vegetables add a savory note that deepens the flavor of the dish.  After the first bite my husband and I looked at each other and sighed.  Ok, maybe I was doing the sighing, but both of us cleaned our plates–down to the last bite!

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GARDEN VEGETABLE EGGS FLORENTINE

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: easy
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Adapted from Weeknight Vegetarian

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 thick slices of rustic bread, diced into course crumbs
  • thyme (fresh, 2 teaspoons finely chopped, dried, just a few shakes)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 5 cups mixed greens
  • 2 small to medium zucchini, quartered and sliced into little triangles
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup half and half

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.  Spray two 4-cup baking dishes with cooking spray and place them on a timed baking sheet.
  2. Coat a large sauté pan with olive oil and heat to medium.  Add the bread crumbs, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the bread crumbs are browned and crisp, about 5 minutes.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and heat to medium-high heat.  Add the diced onion, garlic, and zucchini and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the mixed greens and salt and pepper to taste and toss with tongs until the greens are wilted, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Evenly divide the vegetable mixture between the two baking dishes.  Crack two eggs into each dish, on top of the vegetable mixture.  Evenly divide the half and half among the dishes, pouring around the eggs, and evenly divide the tomatoes among the baking dishes.  Bake, rotating the baking dishes once, until the egg whites are set and the yolks are slightly runny, about 12 to 15 minutes.
  5. Before serving sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs over top, and salt and pepper, if needed.

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Match Made in Heaven

I don’t know how your summer has been going, but our thermometer has barely dipped below 95F for two months straight.  When it’s so hot, you just don’t get very hungry for dinner.  We’ve been eating lots of smoothies, cucumbers + dip, bananas + nutella, or just nutella.  And running isn’t nearly as fun.  I can tell you there’s a huge difference between running in 100F and 90F.  I discovered yesterday 90F + a breeze is very comfortable running weather.

But when you get a new cookbook, the oven goes on.  And this meal is WORTH it.  This is summer on a plate–a beautiful, soft and fluffy Corn Pudding Soufflé topped with a sweet and flavorful stone fruit salsa.  And for good measure I threw some Citrus Cherry Irish Soda Bread on the side.  I kept waiting for a bite to be not as good as the first, but this meal will take you for an amazing ride on the SummerFlavorTrain.

Soda bread is pretty cool–it’s leavened with baking soda and buttermilk instead of yeast, so it’s like a big biscuit.  And we all know how much I love biscuits.  Just throw in some orange and grapefruit zest and dried cherries, and your biscuit is magically transformed into a citrus loaf from heaven.

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I hope you have a Farmers Market or fruit stand nearby–fresh corn, nectarines, and plums deserve to be in the summer sun as long as possible before ending up on your dinner plate!  Adding stone fruit to the salsa base makes it sweet and spicy.  You will have leftover salsa great for chip-dipping!

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I know this looks  like a normal pan of cornbread, but you will be surprised at how light and fluffy this soufflé is!

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This sweet, fresh summer corn pudding soufflé paired with the sweet, spicy stone fruit salsa is a match made in heaven!


CORN PUDDING SOUFFLÉ

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: medium-ish
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Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups fresh corn
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 red onion, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons masa
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 eggs, separated

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.  Butter a 6-cup soufflé dish.  [I didn’t have a dish that size, and was nervous the soufflé would overflow in the oven, so I filled 2 small ramekins as well.  If you use a smaller dish, just watch them during the cook time!]
  2. Puree 1 1/2 cups of the corn with half and half, then pour through a fine sieve, pressing the liquid through with a rubber spatula into a bowl.  Set the bowl aside.
  3. Heat a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, add the butter, red onion, salt and pepper to taste, and cook until the onion is translucent.  Stir in the flour, then whisk in the corn-milk and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is slightly thickened.
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat, and stir in the remaining corn, feta cheese, 1/2 salt and pepper to taste.  Warm the yolks with 1/2 cup of the mixture, then add the yolk mixture to the rest of the corn milk mixture, stirring until smooth.  The mixture will be thick, just make sure you make it as smooth as possible.
  5. Beat the egg whites until they hold firm peaks, then gently fold them into the corn milk egg yolk mixture.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish and set in a large roasting pan with boiling water that comes halfway up the side of the baking dish.  Bake until a golden puffy soufflé crown rises over the top of the baking dish, about an hour [watch bake time in smaller baking dishes, check every 20 minutes until the soufflé is set and no longer wet-looking in the middle.]

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STONE FRUIT SALSA

  • Servings: males about 6 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 nectarines, diced
  • 2 plums, diced
  • 4 small tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Add all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Let sit and allow flavors to combine.
  2. Serve as a topping with the Corn Pudding Soufflé, and later with chips!

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CITRUS CHERRY IRISH SODA BREAD

  • Servings: 1 loaf
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2-1 3/4 cups buttermilk
  • zest from 1 large grapefruit and 1 large orange

DIRECTIONS

  1. Position rack in the center of the oven and heat to 450F.  If you are using a baking stone to bake the bread, place it in the oven to heat up.
  2. Sift all the dry ingredients and the zest into a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in 1 1/2 cups of the buttermilk.  Stir with one hand to incorporate the buttermilk.  If necessary, add more buttermilk 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough just barely comes together {Think biscuits–be very gentle and soft, not a lot of kneading, and it’ll stay moist and fluffy and not overworked}.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and pat into a round about 6-7 inches in diameter and 1 1/2-2 inches high in the center.  Invert the rounds the floured side is on top and transfer to the baking sheet or stone, covered with a sheet of parchment paper.
  4. With a thin, sharp knife, score an “x” on the dough about 1/4 inch deep, and extend from one side to the other.  Bake on the baking sheet for 15 minutes.  Lower the oven temperature to 400F and bake until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, another 20-30 minutes.  Cool to room temperature on a rack before slicing and serving.

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