Monday, July 28, 2008

One week later.....

.....and still no cooking.

I've grieved my friend Brad for exactly one week -- although I don't think the actual 'grieving' began until last Tuesday or so. Monday was strictly shock I think.

So, I've cried buckets for the past six days, but I think that for Carrie's sake I need to move past the sobbing, grieving friend and on to the rock hard, supportive friend she's going to need...easier said than done I guess. I've had moments today where I've broken down and lost it, but I'm trying to keep it together.

I thought I would share this nice article about Brad. The picture is one my husband took on the beach in Long Boat Key when we were all on Spring Break together back in March. You'll agree, they're a beautiful family. The one in the middle is my daughter's BFF.

I am planning on making something for dinner tonight, which I think is a good thing. A little normalcy would be welcomed in A Corner of My Kitchen. And thanks, everyone for your nice comments. It's so nice to have Cyberfriends!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sad News from A Corner of My Kitchen

I don't think I've ever blogged about how close knit our neighborhood is, but suffice it to say, we are all great friends, and our kids are all best pals. We've gone on ski trips together, had countless bonfires and parties, and been there for each other in good times and bad...and a bad time is upon us all today.

My dear friend Carrie lost her husband, Brad to a massive coronary sometime in the wee hours of this morning. He didn't stand a chance, it happened that quickly.

A few words about Brad -- he was a stand up guy...a 'guy's guy'. At 44 years old he was the chief of surgery at the hospital up the road, and a very well respected surgeon at that. More than a remarkable doctor though, Brad was a devoted and wonderful father to his three little girls. He was a good friend, and quite simply, a down to earth, all around nice guy.

44....what a shame. Three gorgeous girls have lost their father today. My friend is a widow at age 41. So, not to be dramatic or droll, I just don't know how much cooking is going to be getting done around here for the next little while and wanted to let you all know.

Everyone go hug your kiddos, life is short.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A healthy riff on taco salad....

Here's another recipe from the backlog....I'm making' my way through the pile of recipes that have piled up this summer! I'm getting to the bottom of the pile though, and pretty soon I'm gonna have to start cooking again to get more new material!

My family was totally snowed and had absolutely no idea that this was a healthy version of tacos -- well, tacos for them, salads for the Husband and me. I swear, you will never believe this is a Weight Watchers recipe!

This could not be easier to prepare, and while some foodies (you know who you are) will scoff at the use of pre-packaged taco seasoning, there are enough little changes in this recipe to make it taste more dressed up than your every day Ortega tacos (not that there's anything wrong with Ortega tacos!). I love how some of the meat in this dish is replaced with corn and black beans -- I can never get enough black beans!

Lovely on a summer night, family friendly, and perfect for a Mexican craving!

Turkey Taco Salad
Serves: 4-6
Source: adapted from Take-out Tonight! by Weight Watchers, page 107

1 t. cooking oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs. ground skinless turkey breast (I confess, I used a mixture of light and dark ground turkey)
1 packet of taco seasoning mix
1 t. adobo chili powder
1/2 c. water
1 c. black beans, rinsed and drained
1 c. frozen corn, thawed
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

Mixed greens (I used green leaf and red leaf)
Julienned red onion, chopped tomato, sliced avocado and black olives
Shredded reduced fat Mexican Cheese blend
Baked tortilla chips (for the salads) and a box of taco shells (for the kiddos)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Swirl in the oil, then add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 7-10 minutes. Add the turkey and seasoning mix. Cook, breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the water and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the water has evaporated, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in the black beans, corn, and cilantro; heat through. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Place a generous bed of greens on your dinner plates. Top with the turkey mixture and desired vegetables. Garnish with baked tortilla strips.

If your kids are doin' the taco thing (as opposed to the salad thing), bake your shells in the oven, and assemble their tacos with whatever they like.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fabulous Summer Berry Fruit Tart

Would you believe that this not-so-daring baker pulled off such a pretty fruit tart?! Any of you 'regulars' know that I do not usually do baked goods, but when my high school girlfriends were visiting last week, I decided we needed a summery dessert. And berries were on special for a really good price, so how could I resist?

The beauty of this tart is that the crust is made in the food processor, and then simply patted into the tart pan. No rolling needed, which of course is right up my alley! It couldn't be any easier.

I've done this before with bananas, kiwi, mangoes...anything you have on hand would work. There's also a glaze, but I've never bothered with it -- it would have added a pretty shine I guess; maybe next time I'll give the glaze a shot.

Serves: 10-12
Source: An Occasion to Gather, Milwaukee Entertains by the Junior League of Milwaukee

3/4 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 c. flour

10 oz. white chocolate chips or vanilla chips
1/4 c. heavy cream
8 oz. cream cheese, softened

sliced bananas, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, sliced kiwifruit, sliced peaches, blackberries

1/4 c. sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1/2 c. pineapple juice
1/2 t. lemon juice

For the pastry, beat the butter and confectioners' sugar in a bowl until blended. Add the flour and beat until smooth, scraping the bowl occasionally. Press the pastry over the bottom and up the side of a 12-inch tart pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until light brown. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.

For the filling, combine the white chocolate chips and heavy cream in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 2 minutes and stir. Add the cream cheese and beat until blended. Spoon the filling over the baked layer.

For the topping, arrange the desired fruit in a decorative pattern over the top of the filling.

For the glaze, combine the sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan and mix well. Stir in the pineapple juice and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly. Drizzle the glaze all over the fruit to prevent browning. Chill, covered, in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Grilled Cajun Chicken fresco!

Can you believe this? Three posts so far this week. This must be a record for me! I told you on Sunday that I had a backlog of photos and recipes to share, so here's another great summer dinner for you.

My only regret is that I don't have a photo of the composed salad with all of the components, but as they say, the natives were restless, starving, and annoyed that I was shooting their dinner while all they wanted to do was dig in!

This was a hit with my family! The recipe makes a ton of dressing, and it was a little spicy for my kids. Hub and I loved it though. All it needed alongside was a loaf of toasted French bread. Delicious!

Not the greatest chicken picture, but as I said, the DamFam was hungry and impatient!

Here's a link to the recipe:

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Favorite Flank Steak, Couscous Tabbouleh, and a BONUS!

My family just returned home yesterday after a long weekend in Ohio. My husband was nice enough to take himself and the kids on a road trip to visit his mom and siblings so that I could have the house to myself to entertain my high school friends.

The road weary DamFam needed a good dinner after eight hours in the car, so I marinated everyone's favorite flank steak, and tried a new salad to have alongside. Both were outstanding, and there was just enough left for the hub to take to work for lunch today.

This flank steak is one of the first 'real' entrees I learned how to make; I got the recipe from my Aunt Trish way back in 1991, and I've made it several times a summer ever since. The couscous tabbouleh recipe is from Epicurious. We also had a blueberry crumble, but there aren't any pictures because it disappeared way too fast!

Favorite Flank Steak
Serves: 4-6
Source: Aunt Trish's Recipe File

3/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 T. molasses
2 t. dried mustard
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. minced fresh ginger

1 1/2 lbs. flank steak

Mix all marinade ingredients in a big Pyrex measuring cup. Place the flank steak in a large ziplock bag and pour the marinade in. Squeeze out all the air and seal the bag; marinate in the refrigerator for at least four hours, and up to eight hours.

Allow the steak to come to room temperature before grilling over medium high. I usually do 6 minutes per side for medium rare. Remove steak to a large cutting board (with a rim for catching juices, if possible). Cover loosely with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly across the grain. Transfer to a nice platter and pour any juices over the meat. MMMMMMMM!!!

The Couscous Tabbouleh recipe can be found here:

And now for the BONUS RECIPE I promised! My daughters have been asking for a turn to be Guest Bloggers, and just look at the delicious dish they thought up while away in Ohio over the weekend! It's called Pond Scum Surprise!

They gathered this fantastic organic scum from the pond at my brother in law's place, plated it up, and staged the perfect photo shoot - complete with a drink and fritos from their real lunch. I thought this was just too hilarious, so I just had to post. Ah, good times!DIG IN!!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Panzanella & an Amazing Cheesecake

We've had kind of a revolving door of parties and social functions going on around here for the past week and a half. I looked forward to this time for about two months, and it's been great, great fun -- out of town company, a huge 4th of July celebration, my big Four-Oh, dinner with friends in and out of the neighborhood, and a ladies tennis social. This weekend four of my favorite friends from high school came for a visit (an annual event for our little group), and that was a blast too! The partying with everyone was so, soooo much fun. I haven't laughed so hard in the longest time!

However, this morning I woke up and my voice was completely gone....this girl is partied out. I'm having a peaceful and quiet evening tonight at home, and have just enough energy to update the ol' blog. I've got a back log of photos and recipes that I'm going to try to get to this week.

I made these two recipes when my brother and his wife were here a couple of weeks ago. One is for my favorite Panzanella Salad (yep, that's from Ina), and the other is for my mom's cheesecake. People RAVE over this cheesecake, I'm not lyin'! I think the recipe is from 1968 (Mom, you can correct me if I'm wrong); it's tried and true, and you'll love it too.
One of the beautiful things about this recipe is that is has a sour cream topping that can cover a multitude of baking sins (your cracks, namely -- tee hee). I'm not a careful baker and inevitably, my cheesecakes always end up with massive fault lines. This topping disguises those beautifully, and you'll look like a total pro.

Serves: 12
Source: Barefoot Contessa Parties! pp. 102-103

3 T. olive oil
1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 t. kosher salt
2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 English cucumber, seeded and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
3 T. capers, drained

1 t. finely minced garlic
1/2 t. Dijon mustard
3 T. champagne vinegar (which I could not find, so I used Sherry vinegar instead)
1/2 c. good quality olive oil
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil if needed.

For the vinaigrette, whisk the ingredients together. I used my stick blender to get it perfectly emulsified!

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red and yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.

My Mom's Cheesecake
Serves: MANY!
Source: A long since gone newspaper clipping circa 1968!

1/2 lb. graham cracker crumbs
1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. melted butter

1/4 lb. butter, room temperature
3 - 8 oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
5 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla

2 pints sour cream
12 T. sugar
2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 325. Mix the crust ingredients together in a medium bowl. Press into and up the sides of a 9x13" pan; bake for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the butter and cream cheese together until blended. Add in the eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake for 1 hour, or until center of cheesecake is very slightly jiggly. Cool for 10 minutes but maintain oven temperature.

For the topping, combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and spread over the top of the cheesecake. Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely before covering and chilling overnight.

**Note: I ALWAYS cut this recipe in half and make it in my 10" springform pan. When cutting it in half, I use three eggs.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Birthday, Part 2.....or, give the drunks what they want!

Sorry, my dear three readers. My local-yocal friends have asked for more party pics. So, by popular demand, I must do a party picture reprise. The funny thing is that all these friends think that my having a blog is so 'interesting' and 'cool'. I just laugh. I tell them that there are probably blogs about sock folding, weed pulling, and ditch digging, and that if they wanted to, they could have one too!
Anyway, give 'em what they want I guess, and back to food tomorrow!
My sister-in-law Megan, cozying up to Jose Quervo. He was a popular guy that evening. Go get you some limes and salt, girlie!!

Yes, I know my eyes are closed and this is not a flattering picture of me. But even though I AM THE BIRTHDAY GIRL, I sacrifice, because Adam, my YOUNGER BROTHER (yes, you're noticing his grey hair by now) needs attention and I'll accept looking queer with my eyes closed, even though he's looking handsome despite the GREY HAIR, nevermind he's almost two and a half years younger than me! WHICH ONE OF US LOOKS 40?!?!?!

My husband, Rob and our dear friend Mike. You can call him Waldo. He's married to Ann. She's in the next shot, looking guilty!

Yeah. She's going home with Waldo, if he's claiming her!

Lisa & Eric.....two of my favorite people on the entire planet! I love to split a 12-pack with Eric and then have an 'intellectual' conversation with him....he went to Yale Law, so he could have 24 beers and still sound like a genious! I love it. I know he humors me.

CONGA IN THE KITCHEN!!!!! A first! I'm going to try to get my kids to do this sometime. I think they'd dig it.

Julie and Kris.......

"SLAY-DAY! You bring me up when I'm down (up when I'm down!)" This is Slade. He's the party spin-doc.

Oh look! Two more of my favorite people, Jane and Ann. Love them!

Sorry you three loyal readers; you know who you are. I've TOLD all these fools that IF THEY WERE VERY, VERY LUCKY, that MAYBE, just MAYBE......Peter, or Krysta, or Stacey would drop by and leave them some sort of comment or critique on their outfit or their inhebriation.
I have a backlog of food photos to blog on.....good God, if this birthday week would ever just go away, I would be able to post on them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Lordy, lordy, looks who's 40...or, pass the Botox!

Surprise! This is me, (Jane is behind me, you can't see her), Ashley, & Kris

** a note about this post: I'm having trouble with blogger tonight. I think it's because I'm trying to put too many pictures on this post. Apparently I'm not a very good blogger because it's taken me forever to do this post and it's still not the way that I want it, but I'm so tired of working on it, that this is just the way it is!! If it seems confused and jumbled, well....that's kind of how the party went too!!!

Well, my Husband got me good on Saturday night when he threw me the mother of a birthday celebration. Here I thought we were meeting up with a group of friends, and then heading downtown to see Tom Petty (uhm, I was also duped in to thinking that we had amazing seats).....instead, I was surprised by 40 of our very good friends, waiting for me in my backyard.

Party go-ers......

I wish I had pictures of the tent and decorations....I think someone does, but these are some of the pictures that were taken on our camera. Dinner was done by a local caterer who brought huge grills and did whole beef tenderloins (so big that at one point one of my friends said, 'oh, look! he's grilling alligator!' -- she was totally kidding, of course!) with sauteed mushrooms and onions, grilled asparagus, a roasted yukon gold and blue cheese potato salad, and a fabulous caesar with giant garlic croutons......yum. No pictures of any plates, but believe me, it was a perfect 40th birthday dinner!

Ann, a co-conspirator who helped to pull it off!

Julie, me, Sarah, & Ashley

Uh, things are starting to get interesting.....mind you, it's about 12:45 am in this pic!
Lori, Ann, Shelly, Lisa (in front), me, and Julie

The evening wrapped up at around 1:45 (with some friends staying until 2)! One very dear friend (Lori; she's pictured above) was so kind that she delivered an Egg McMuffin and hashbrowns to me in my bed the next morning at around 10:00, which I gulped right down, and went back to sleep.

Our next door neighbors, Fred & Jane.....what could they possibly be looking at?!

......hhhhmmm, maybe they're horrified because they've spotted the birthday girl, dancing on her breakfast bar with a dollar sticking out of her top?

Rob, me, and my sister in law,'s getting late. Notice the oily shine!

I awoke a few hours later to enjoy the Wimbledon final (well done, Rafael!), go for a four mile run, shower, and enjoy a delicious Mexican dinner downtown.......I was in bed by 9 p.m!!!

Here's a very sad picture that in no way does justice to how gorgeous the flowers were! I loved them!

Forty isn't so actual birthday is today and I've had a blast!! I hope that everyone has girlfriends and family as dear as mine. I am truly blessed, and don't think that I don't know so!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A patio improvement project.....

My back is breaking and I'm covered in mosquito bites, but dang! I have to say, for the first time in a couple of years, our patio looks good. I guess if there's an upside to our cottage being flooded, it's that our backyard has gotten some much needed attention. On normal summer weekends, I can push those awful weeds to the back of my mind and head out to the lake, but of course, this summer is different.

I grew a HIBISCUS! unlike me!

Gardening is one of my least favorite things to do. I just don't have the passion and/or drive to go out and dig in the dirt....honestly, I'd rather unload the dishwasher fifteen times and fold never-ending whites than weed a flowerbed or prune a hedge. However, push has come to shove these past few weekends spent around the DamFam homestead. Even I couldn't stare at the weeds any longer, and really, it was getting a little bit embarrassing, having the only house in the neighborhood whose flowerpots were still filled with petrified evergreens and dogwood twigs leftover from the Holidays. We're having company the next two weekends and the thought of entertaining in my jungle of a backyard was just too horrifying. Something had to be done!


Lucky for me my neighbor Carrie is a total natural in the garden. One afternoon last week, she came over with a six pack of beer and her giant bag '0 gardening tricks and whipped me in to shape. Actually, it was kind of fun! We had a good time visiting, and I was in total awe of the way she took charge of my weed-ridden flower beds and post-Christmas pots.

Homemade pesto is in my future....

Now, one week later, I'm totally hooked. The pots we planted last week are blooming like crazy and my herb garden has really taken off. Over the past seven days I've become the weed police, weilding my Roundup and showing no mercy to these relentless thistles that seem to pop up out of no where!

A new chair & candleholder, both from The Bullseye Boutique (uh, that would be Target!)

So, there's not much food related content here this evening, but watch for a post on tonight's dinner tomorrow sometime. It was sooooo good, but I'm just too bloomin' tired to write about it just now. I'm bushed (my apologies for that sad little bit of gardening humor)!!