Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Confetti Coleslaw

I know summer is not far off when I begin thinking about making coleslaw. Once I make it, I'm doomed. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Come to think of it, I have. And as a snack in between. There's something about the combination of fresh crisp cabbage, sweet carrots and this incredible buttermilk dressing that I can't seem to get enough of.
The inspiration for the dressing comes from Kalyn's Buttermilk Dressing that she used on her coleslaw last summer. I've made a few changes to suit my whimsy, but the credit really goes to Kalyn.
Confetti Coleslaw
Inspired by Kalyn's Buttermilk Dressing
1 medium head green cabbage
1 medium head red cabbage
6 carrots
1 cup (heaping) frozen peas per bowl of slaw
1 cup lightly toasted pecan pieces
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups Vegenaise
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon wasabi powder
3/4 teaspoon celery salt
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
pinch kosher salt
1 packet Splenda
For the dressing, combine all the ingredients in a large glass measuring cup and whisk until blended. Taste and adjust seasonings and refrigerate until ready to use. This will keep in the fridge for several days, covered.
For the slaw, remove any limp outer leaves from the cabbages, slice them in half and cut out the core. Cut the coreless cabbages into wedges small enough to fit through the feed tube of a food processor. Fit the food processor with a slicing blade and process all the cabbage, emptying the contents into a large bowl when necessary.
Peel the carrots and snip the ends. Fit the grating blade into the food processor and push the carrots through the feed tube until they've all been grated.
Combine the carrots and the cabbages and mix well.
This makes a lot of slaw so I package about half of it into a gallon-size zip top bag and put it in the crisper of the fridge to use later. It will keep this way for about 4 days.
Toss about 1 1/2 cups of the dressing with 1/2 of the cole slaw. Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours in a sealed container, turning it from time to time to evenly distribute the dressing. About 1/2 hour before serving, add a cupful of frozen peas and toss well to mix. The peas will have defrosted by the time the salad is served. Lightly toasted pecans, added just before serving adds a nutty crunch factor. Too bad my pecan container was empty this time!
Cook's Notes:
Vegenaise. Bless the Follow Your Heart people for coming up with a mayonnaise substitute that tastes wonderful! Made without eggs, you'd think it would taste just awful but it doesn't. I prefer it to mayonnaise now and am delighted that it's full of good omega 3's. Check their site out for yourself.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Mother Of A Bean

Up until recently, I'd never been much of a bean person. I actually can't remember my mother ever cooking a pot of beans. Maybe that's where my indifference came from.

Not that I've never cooked beans before. In the 70s and early 80s when I decided to be vegetarian and Molly Katzen came out with the Moosewood Cookbook, I made her Black Bean Soup a lot. Over the years, though, my bean cooking had fallen off to just short of never.

These days, however, with all the attention on getting one's fiber, eating more whole grains, beans, etc., I've re-examined my ho-hum attitude toward the lowly bean.

Did you know that beans are a high fiber, complex carbohydrate, low glycemic food that are high in B vitamins and many minerals? Or that Beans have been shown to lower cholesterol, prevent diabetes, and lower the risk of colon cancer when eaten as part of a regular diet regimen? Neither did I until I did some research.

And if health factors alone were not enough to get me on the bean wagon, discovering Rancho Gordo has also helped to renew my interest. Steve Sando is so enthusiastic about his beans he practically could make a convert out of anybody. Including me. Here is my most recent purchase of a trio of beans from the man himself: Good Mother Stallard, Black Valentine and Marrow.

These beans are clean, people! No dust, no rocks. And I found just one bean that wasn't absolutely perfect. How many of you can say that about your store-bought beans?

Firmly on that bean wagon now, this morning I began with the Good Mother Stallard: A swirl of purplish burgundy on a creamy background encases this sturdy, plump bean which holds its shape even after cooking. The taste is nutty and earthy, the mouthfeel creamy and smooth. This is a bean to dress simply so its lovely flavor and texture are not muddled. And please don't throw out the cooking liquid. It's pure gold.

Cooked with fresh (or dried) bay leaves (I'm so lucky to have a bay tree growing outside my kitchen door!) and a covering of cold water, the finished beans needed nothing more than a drizzle of olive oil, some lemon zest and a sprinkling of Maldon Sea Salt to make my eyes light up and my tongue do its happy dance.

A quick rinse under cold water and these were ready to soak. A 6-hour soak was all they needed.

They cooked to a perfect consistency in less than 1 hour.
There's no particular recipe here. I simply did the following:
Rinse the dry beans under cold water.
Place them in a large pot and cover with cold, fresh water. Throw in 3 fresh or dried bay leaves. DO NOT salt the water. This will retard the cooking of the beans and you'll end up with hard rocks. Ditto on using stock. Just use plain, cold water and you'll be rewarded.
Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. When a boil is reached, lower the flame to maintain a simmer, on my stove, that was low.
Allow the beans to simmer until they've reached the consistency you desire. These were well cooked in just under 1 hour. In fact, I may have overcooked them just a teeny bit.
Remove the pan from the heat and drain the beans, saving the pot liquid! The liquid these beans make, in and of itself, is worth it. Use the liquid for soups, stews, or to add back into the beans if you wish.
Discard the bay leaves.
To achieve the finished dish (photo at top of page), drizzle beans with good, extra-virgin olive oil, a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest (go ahead, squirt in some juice if you want) and a sprinkling of good sea salt. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging. My post is not really about an herb per se, but WHB includes plants, veggies, and fruits as well. Plus, I'm so excited about beans, I simply must share.

Weekend Herb Blogging is the brainchild of my blogger buddy Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen and is being hosted this week by Ellie of Kitchen Wench, way down in Australia. To read about WHB and how to join in, please click here. Ellie should have her round-up posted on Monday. I can't wait to read all the entries!

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, May 25, 2007

Chipotle Vanilla Ice Cream

Take a bite. Go ahead. The first thing that hits your palate is vanilla, engaging both your nose and your tongue with its lovely perfume. Then cold. Sweet. A little crunch of chocolate. Suddenly, as the ice cream melts and reaches the back of your tongue, a bloom of smokey, hot, red jalapeno pepper fills your mouth.

What? You don't like your ice cream spicy hot?

Take heart, O timid one. Tempered by the cold and sweetness, the bloom is fleeting, gone all too soon. Did it really happen? That's when you take another bite. Then another. Then another...

Mr. CC's eyes got very big after his first taste. This is always a good sign. As a slow grin spread across his face, I knew I'd hit the bull's eye.

Hornitas in Estes Park, CO

So, the sisters and nieces were sitting around in Di's (the youngest sister) house in Colorado talking about Ann's (the middle niece) upcoming @%#*!th birthday (we're not allowed to say it out loud) and blow-the-doors-off-bash she's going to throw. Amidst the talk, margaritas and ginger-mint snaps (Ann's creation - hopefully she'll share the recipe), we were cooking up a somewhat Mexican influenced dinner for Kelly (the youngest niece) whose 18th birthday was on that very day.

While charring red bell, poblano and jalapeno peppers for the myriad dishes on the menu that night, which I will talk about in another post, I idly wondered about combining chipotles and vanilla in an ice cream custard. The more I thought about it the more I liked the idea and told Ann that, if successful, I'd bring the ice cream to her birthday bash.

I'm happy to report that this concoction is as delightful as I'd hoped and then some. Excellent on its own, a scoop would be an elegant partner to a sweetly-filled empanada (south american filled pastry turnover), my sis Cynthia's specialty.

As I'm wont to do, I made the ice cream low fat and sugar-free. The chocolate walked on stage as I was freezing the custard last night. Giving a slight curtsey it pleaded, "Use me, please!" How could I say no? Feel free to use all the cream, eggs and sugar you wish, but this is quite delicious as I've made it here and way easier on your heart.

Chipotle Vanilla Ice Cream
Christine's original recipe
2 cups 2% milk
1 large chipotle chile in adobo sauce
1/4 teaspoon adobo sauce
1/2 vanilla bean
3/4 cup Splenda granular
1 cup egg substitute such as Lucerne's Best of the Egg (found at Safeway)
1 12-ounce can fat free evaporated milk
1 ounce chopped or shaved bitter-sweet chocolate

Combine the milk, chipotle chile, adobo sauce, vanilla bean and Splenda in a saucepan, whisking gently to incorporate the Splenda.
Place over low heat and bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. It's okay for the chile to break apart during this process as it will infuse the milk with its smokey heat.
Remove the pan from the heat and slowly whisk in the egg substitute until fully combined.
Return the pan to low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Take care that the eggs don't curdle.
Remove from the heat again and allow to cool for 5 minutes before stirring in the fat free evaporated milk.
Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a clean glass container.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod into the mixture, stir to blend and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

Freeze in your ice cream maker following the manufacturer's directions. Add the chopped chocolate when the custard has become semi-frozen.
Ann, you find the ice cream maker and I'll figure out how to get the custard to Oakland.

Cook's Notes:
We girls cooked up a storm while in Colorado and I'm hoping to get a few of those recipes posted here soon.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Welcome Simona!

Dear food blogger buddies,

It gives me great pleasure to introduce my friend Simona to the blogging community. About to relocate from the Bay Area to the North Coast (yay!), Simona is a food writer, chocolate lover (her home town is Perugia, Italy) and new blogger.

Simona's blog, Briciole, has links to her lovely writing and features an "idiosyncratic and opinionated dictionary of Italian words related to food." I don't speak Italian, but as near as I can determine, Briciole may mean "meatballs". Simona, please correct me if I'm wrong.

Please check out her blog and give her a hearty welcome!

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Silence is never golden when it comes to blogging and I've been silent too long. I'm catching up with my other life for a bit. You know, the one that makes a salary, digs in the garden, does the laundry. That one. More posts and food are on the way.

Here's a gorgeous stone church my sisters, nieces and I saw while driving through the Rockies last week. Was it just last week? Time goes by so fast these days. Hola Hornitas! I love you all.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Campari Tomatoes: Good For Breakfast

Just a few weeks ago I could walk into my local Safeway and pick up any number of boxes of small-but-mighty, juicy, sweet Campari tomatoes. I discovered the taste of these babies some time ago and knew they were exemplary grocery store tomatoes. No cardboard taste here. I also knew that not many people knew what I knew.

Now, thanks to Ruth Reichl, who wrote about them in May 3rd's Gourmet Weekly, I'm lucky to find a mere box or two. And there's always someone else eyeing the very boxes that I'm eyeing.

Lucky for me, this time I got to them first. And no one was hurt.

This time.
These are US grown, pesticide-free tomatoes. Packed with antioxidents, they'll do your heart good. If the news hasn't hit your area yet, get down to the grocery store and pick up as many boxes as you can carry. Then run for your life.
Campari tomatoes are perfect on a BLT (until, of course, the heirlooms come in), in a fresh tomato sauce, or with your scrambled egg breakfast.

Bon Appetit!

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Way I Roast Garlic

My boys love roasted garlic. When they're in my kitchen, they can hardly wait for the garlic to come out of the oven before they start picking the soft caramelized, succulent cloves from their skins. Didn't used to be that way. They had to grow a bit, develop a keener sense of taste. But now, if Mr CC and I want some garlic for ourselves when the boys are around, I have to be sure to roast a lot and even then there's no guarantee.

So this post is for my boys: The way I roast garlic. Make your own! Just kidding.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Take several heads of garlic and, using your fingers, peel the skins away to where they're just covering the cloves and keeping the heads together.
Laying a head on its side, cut the tops of the cloves off with a sharp knife. Trim the tips from the lower cloves with a small sharp knife.
Place the head in a small, lidded casserole and drizzle generously with olive oil.
Sprinkle with kosher salt, cover with the lid and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and soft.

To make enough for a crowd. Follow the above directions and place the prepared heads in a large baking pan that has been drizzled with olive oil.
Continue with more olive oil and kosher salt then cover the pan tightly with foil and roast per the above directions.

Another very nice way to do the for-a-crowd method is to lay herbs in the bottom of the pan and place the garlic heads on top of them. I've used sage, rosemary, thyme and bay leaves. You can use your imagination. Just be sure to use hardy herbs as soft ones will burn in the oven.

Cook's Notes:
The sweet little garlic roaster came to us as a gift from our friend Luis. It's made in Mexico.
I'm going to be gone for a few days. The sisters and nieces are meeting in Colorado for our annual Hornitas-fest. I'll tell you about it when I return.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Why I Link To Products

... and a bit of my philosophy on the subject.

For anyone who reads my blog with any regularity, it's obvious that I do a lot of product linking.

I'd like to explain why but first, a little backstory:

This blog was originally started for my grown boys who for years had been encouraging me to write down my recipes in a family cookbook.

I made several attempts to carry out their wishes in book format, but it didn't work for me. Then, thanks to my brother-in-law, Devan, I discovered blogging and that was that -- I'd found my medium.

So, keeping the whole family thing in mind, here is my explanation of why I use product links:

Quite simply, I link to products that I use in my kitchen. I link to these products, or to cool products I've discovered, so my family and friends can find them to use in their own kitchens if they so choose. I do not seek remuneration for these links nor have I ever been asked to link to any of these products for monetary reward.

Occasionally, I am asked to review a cookbook which I happily do with the caveat that I am under no obligation to write a post about it or put a link to it on my blog unless I choose to do so.

Occasionally, I receive requests to review a kitchen gadget or product and my answer is always the same: I would be happy to do so if I am sent the gadget/product in question, but I clearly state that I will be under no obligation to post it on my blog unless I choose to do so. I am very nice about this, but firm in my resolve.

Now all this is not to say that I don't love to review cookbooks, products and kitchen gadgets. I do. I wouldn't mind being paid for it either. But I am very careful about not compromising my position, in that I write my blog for myself, my family and my friends and, in using product links, am not pandering for commercial gain. If this ever changes, you will be the first to know of it.

As can be seen on my sidebar, I have links to AdSense, which is run by Google. Viewers can click on these links and purchase products if they wish. Sales that result from clicking through my blog, also result in me receiving a small percentage of the sale of the product. I have no control over the content of these AdSense links.

In the not-too-distant future, I will be placing a link on my sidebar to my Amazon store. This virtual store will have a listing of products that I use and endorse. Viewers interested in buying a product can click through to my store and make a purchase which, again, will result in my receiving a small percentage of that sale.

Both AdSense and Amazon are win-win partnerships for bloggers. Everything is up front, there is no hidden agenda; a method which I fully support.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Friday, May 4, 2007

Squash And Cauliflower Stuffed Mexican Hat Pasta With Mediterranean Red Pepper Sauce

I made this dish several weeks ago and had pretty much decided it wouldn't make it onto my blog. Taste-wise, there's nothing about this that's not to like. The squash, grown in my sister Cynthia's garden, and the rest of the ingredients in the stuffing are all top notch; the pasta hats so cute, hand made in Italy with all-natural vegetable colors; the red pepper sauce fresh and delicious.

So what's not to post? An error on my part caused the pasta to not cook thoroughly, resulting in tough, rubbery little stuffed hats. The taste was divine but the mouth feel and degree of difficulty in using a fork left something to be desired.
Oh well. Lesson learned: Either cook the little hats completely before stuffing (the photo above shows them cooked for the 4 minutes the package called for), which I think would make them more difficult to stuff - ever tried to stuff a floppy little pasta hat? - or, immerse them completely in the sauce while baking, which would detract from their absolute cuteness and eye appeal. Or, use a different pasta.
You can find these little cuties on-line here. Click here to see what I've done with another of their pastas. And, if you give these little hats a try, let me know if they turn out better for you than they did for me.

Squash and Cauliflower Stuffed Mexican Hat Pasta With Mediterranean Red Pepper Sauce
Christine's Original Recipe
1 package mexican hat pasta with lids
2 large heads fresh cauliflower, roasted and pureed
3 cups squash puree
1 1/4 cups shredded parmesan cheese
1/4 cup coarsely chopped, fresh basil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black peppercorns
1 cup walnut pieces, buzzed in the food processor until coarsely chopped
1/2 cup egg substitute or 2 whole eggs, beaten to blend
For the cauliflower, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Break the florettes into pieces and place in a large roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.
Cover the pan with foil and roast in the oven for about 40 minutes. Remove the foil lid and continue roasting until the cauliflower is a soft, caramelized golden brown.
Puree in a food processor. You should have about 5 cups puree. Set aside.
Click here to see how to make the squash puree.
Click here to see how to prepare the red pepper sauce. You may need to make a double batch.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta hats and their lids and boil vigorously for 4 minutes.
Remove the hats and lids from the water with a slotted spoon and drain them briefly on paper towels. Set them on waxed paper while preparing the stuffing and sauce (see sauce recipe here).
In a large bowl, combine the cauliflower puree, the squash puree, the shredded parmesan and the basil. Add salt and generous grindings of black pepper to taste.
Stir in the walnuts and the eggs (I used Safeway's Best of the Egg egg substitute) until fully combined.
Have a large roasting pan at the ready drizzled with a small amount of olive oil then wiped with a paper towel.
Stuff each pasta hat with about 1 tablespoon of stuffing. Place the lid on the hat and put into the roasting pan lid side down.

Repeat with the rest of the hats, lining them up in cute little rows.
Pour the red pepper sauce over the hats, cover with foil and roast in a 350-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until the pasta is cooked through.
Serve with a fresh salad of spring greens and a golden balsamic vinaigrette.

Cook's Notes:
Barring the use of the Mexican hat pasta, I suggest using large pasta shells or even manicotti shells.

5/6/2007: The photo turned out horrible, so I'm just going to tell you that I made a delicious soup with the leftover cauliflower-squash stuffing that went like this:
Roast 2 heads (not cloves, whole heads) of garlic in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove the cloves and mash them with a fork. In a large pot, bring 4 to 6 cups of low sodium vegetable broth to a simmer.
Add the stuffing mixture to the pot of broth and stir to blend. Stir in the mashed garlic. Bring the whole thing to a simmer then serve in warmed bowls topped with a dollop of red pepper sauce, a spear of roasted asparagus and a spoonful of cooked Dungeness crab meat. It was not at all photogenic, but it was really, really good!

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Heart Healthy Pasta With Quick Tomato Sauce

Barilla has come out with a new brand of pasta called Barilla Plus. It's a multigrain pasta that includes lentils, chickpeas, egg whites, spelt, barley, flaxseed, oat fiber and oats.

Wow! Talk about healthy. You've got your egg whites and legumes for higher protein, barley and oats which raise soluble fiber and my very favorite, flaxseed, for those ever-important omega-3s. This is a pasta I can get behind.

All that heart-healthy goodness plus it tastes good! Really, it does. Paired with my super-easy and quite-healthy-and-delicious-if-I-say-so-myself tomato sauce, this dish was ready and plated in about 1/2 hour. And while I added chicken this time, I would omit it the next time I make this sauce, it's that good on its own.
This is my entry for HOTM3, Ilva and Joanna's blog for heart healthy recipes, The Heart of the Matter - Eating for Life. This month the theme is pasta, on the light side. No heavy creams or butter sauces, thank you.

Not only is this sauce light of fat, it's also packed with lycopene from the canned tomatoes and the anti-oxident goodness of onions and lots of garlic. Fresh basil leaves round out the flavors beautifully.

I call this a pantry pasta because most of the ingredients came out of my cupboards. Sometimes dinner is like that.

Christine's Quick Pantry Pasta
Christine's original recipe
1 box multigrain pasta, I used Barilla Plus rotini
1 sweet onion, chopped
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large can Muir Glen Organic fire-roasted whole tomatoes
1 regular size can Muir Glen Organic tomato sauce
2 tablespoons Italian tomato paste
1 glass jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1 can chunky chicken, optional (mine came from Costco)
fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
good olive oil
kosher or sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper (I use tellicherry)
freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until it has a good feel to you when you bite into a piece. A bit more than al dente.
Drain pasta, drizzle with a small amount of olive oil, stir, cover and keep in a warm place.
In a cast iron skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.
Add chopped onions and saute until soft.
Add chopped garlic and saute 2 minutes. Do not allow to burn.
Add canned whole tomatoes, breaking them up a bit with the back of a spoon.
Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir to blend. Turn heat to a simmer.
Add the artichoke hearts, chicken and fresh basil. Give it a stir and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
Season the sauce to taste with just a bit of salt and generous grindings of freshly ground pepper.
To serve, place warm pasta on oven-warmed plates and spoon sauce over, being sure to get a sampling of all the goodies.
Garnish with a sprig of fresh basil and a light dusting of freshly-grated parmesan reggiano.

Copyright © 2005-2007, Christine Cooks. All rights reserved