Archives for July 2011

strawberry nectarine pie

There is little in the world of dessert that brings me more joy than pie. They are so easy to make (way easier than you think), versatile, and are perfect for any occasion. Like because it’s tuesday. Or you happen to have a ton of strawberries to use.

This was my recent predicament. A billion pounds of strawberries picked by yours truly (and a tiny helper, although I think she ate more than went in the basket). It’s a good problem to have.

Also good are a bunch of nectarines. They’re my favorite stone fruit and I think they’re highly underused for baking. If they’re a tad on the firm side, they’ll hold up a bit better in the pie.

Two gorgeous summer fruits ready for pie. I like to leave the strawberries whole (as long as they’re small) because they retain more of their juices and give a nice little burst when they squish between your teeth.

Add a little sugar…

…and a bit of cornstarch to thicken the juices.

Toss together.

Prepare your favorite pie crust. I swear by Elise’s. Swear. By. But if you use store bought, no judgement here!



Slit a few holes and brush the top with butter.

Sprinkle with sugar and then set the whole pie on a large sheet of aluminum foil. Bring the excess foil up and around the pie to prevent the edges from getting too brown. Handy trick, eh? I learned it from the fantastic Sonja Groset.

Place the whole thing on a cookie sheet and bake according to your crust directions.

If you can, let the pie sit overnight before slicing (I know, I know. It’s torture.). But it will prevent the filling from being too runny. Cutting into a warm pie will yield nothing but a gloppy mess.

What’s better than that this gorgeous red filling?

Oh, right—the perfectly buttery, flaky crust. That’s what.

The nectarines balance nicely with the strawberries so the pie is not too sweet and not too tart. Perfection on a plate, if I do say so myself. Take advantage of all that gorgeous summer fruit while you can and make this pie. They didn’t coin the term “easy as pie” for nothing.


Strawberry Nectarine Pie   printable version

This pie is a great way to take advantage of ripe summer fruit. I adore this perfect pie crust from Simply Recipes, but use whatever recipe you prefer. Makes one 9″-10″ pie. 

  • 5 cups whole strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 4-5 medium nectarines, sliced
  • 1/2 c sugar, plus more for dusting
  • 4 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  • your favorite pie crust
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • vanilla ice cream (optional)
1. Place strawberries and nectarines in a large bowl. Add sugar and cornstarch, stirring to coat.
2. Preheat oven according to crust directions. Press bottom crust into pie plate. Pour in fruit mixture. Cover with top crust and pinch edges together with moist fingers. Cut slits in the top crust, brush with melted butter and dust with sugar. Place pie plate on a large sheet of aluminum foil and gather the excess foil up to cover the edges of the crust, crimping it into place.
3. Bake according to crust directions*. Let cool completely, preferably overnight to allow juices to set. Serve topped with vanilla ice cream.
*If using the crust from Simply Recipes, bake at 400F for 30 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350F and bake an additional 30-45 minutes, drawing back foil for last 15 minutes, until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.



how to be a frugal cook

We all know the scenario: it’s 5pm. You’re tired. The kids are cranky. You have no idea what’s for dinner. Will it be $40 takeout or a run to the grocery for 13 pasta ingredients you don’t have? Sigh.

Luckily, this type of thing can be prevented (not all the time—let’s face it, we’re all busy and human). You don’t need to spend a fortune to eat well, and you certainly don’t have to scramble every night to get something on the table. With a little bit of planning, you can keep your grocery budget in check and be enjoying a glass of wine at 5:00 instead of running around in a hungry panic. Here are my guidelines for how to eat well and still pinch some pennies.

1. Follow the sales. Seems like a “duh” moment, but keep your eyes peeled for good sales on the things that you like most. Those flyers that appear in your mailbox on tuesdays? Study them. Take notes. Is it worth it to take a trip to an out-of-the-way grocer for a sale on tomato paste? No. But for organic chicken at $2.49 a pound? Go stock up.

2. Make your freezer your BFF. Keep a list of the items in it in order of “need to use.” That way your $2.49 organic chicken won’t go to waste because it was forgotten. Refer to the list as you plan your meals for the week. Cross things off as you use them. Clean it out once a month (plus if it’s not totally full, your freezer will work more efficiently, lowering your electric bill).

3. Make double batches. I plan two meals for the week, usually in double quantities. Not only does it save time (at 6:00 most nights I’m just reheating instead of cooking), but also it’s usually cheaper to double one recipe than purchase ingredients for two. Throw together a quick salad or steam some veggies on the side and call it dinner. If you are the kind of person who simply can’t eat the same dinner two nights in a row, freeze half the batch for next week. It’ll feel like a new meal again.

4. Omit. Substitute. Play. If that recipe calls for a jar of $7 olives, would it ruin the dish to leave them out? Doubt it. An ingredients list asks for shredded pork but you have a leftover rotisserie chicken to use up, so adjust the spices and go the cheaper route. A recipe is not cast in stone. Unless you’re baking (in which case amounts and types of ingredients need to be pretty exact), mess around with that recipe so it fits you and your budget.

5. Go to the bulk aisle. Most better grocers have a bulk foods aisle where you can buy just as much spice as you need. If you don’t think you’ll ever go through that whole jar of turmeric before it expires, grab just a pinch for only a few pennies. If you’ll never use almond flour again, buy just as much as you need for those cookies.

6. Grow herbs. For the $3.00 you’d spend buying a small package of cut herbs, you can buy two whole plants that will last you all summer long. Fresh herbs add sophistication to any dish (yes, even burritos). Then in the fall, cut your herbs back, dry, and store in your pantry.

7. Keep a stocked pantry, and know what a stocked pantry means for you. For me, it means flours and sugars for baking, chicken broth, diced tomatoes, beans, pasta and olive oil. But my list won’t necessarily fit your cooking style.

8. Purchase two things for the pantry on every grocery trip (and watch for sales on the stuff you use a lot). That way, when the time comes when you must toss together a meal from ingredients that you already have, it’s likely that you’ll actually have it.

9. Plan for nights out. Let’s face it: sometimes we can’t (or don’t want to!) eat at home. Don’t over-plan your home meals so that things will go to waste if you’re not dining at home every night of the week. Take count of how many times you realistically eat out and plan your home meals from there.

10. If you go to the big box stores, make a list and stick to it. It’s easy to get all dreamy-eyed at a 10 lb bag of chocolate chips, but will you use them all before they go bad? Do you even like the brand? Make impulse buys in small quantities. Purchase things you use everyday in large quantities if the price is right.

11. Spend more money where it matters to you. If grass-fed beef makes your skirt fly up, factor it in to your budget. If local strawberries are the only ones you like, set aside a few extra dollars. Then spend less on things that you don’t care as much about, like pasta, milk or cheese.

12. Keep a “greatest hits” list of recipes on the fridge. Refer to it if you’re struggling for dinner ideas. It’ll prevent you from ordering last-minute takeout.

Now you tell me in the comments: what are YOUR tips and tricks for eating well on a budget?


chicken teriyaki

We don’t have a heck of a lot of fast food in Seattle. Most folks around here snub their noses at McDonald’s, Burger King and Arby’s (all for good reason, although I admit I occasionally indulge in the King’s chicken sangwich from time to time when I’m traveling). If we do have a signature “fast food” though, it’s surely teriyaki. Teriyaki joints in the Big Rainy are almost as frequent as coffee shops. I’ve yet to find one that’s spectacular, but most are passable and can provide you with a quick, somewhat healthy lunch. It’s cheap, filling, and satisfying.

But as is the case with most takeout, you can make it better at home. In fact, you can make great chicken teriyaki, and it’s easier than you think.

Start with boneless, skinless chicken thighs. You’ll get the best flavor from the organic, free-range variety. Since this is a very simple dish, the quality of chicken you buy really matters. Grab your favorite teriyaki sauce (I like Yoshida’s Original Gourmet Sauce—stay far away from Kikkoman), and a few cloves of garlic.

Mince the garlic. I like my handy dandy garlic twist. All you do is stick the naked cloves in…

…give it a twirl and your garlic is perfectly minced. Plus, no smelly garlic hands.

Stir the garlic in with the teriyaki sauce.

Rinse and pat dry your chicken thighs, then place them in a large Ziploc bag. Pour in the teriyaki marinade. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 24.

When you’re ready to eat, grill the chicken for 3-4 minutes per side over medium heat. I always use thighs when I’m going to grill chicken—the higher fat content means they won’t dry out like breasts do.

Slice. Serve. Savor.

It’s your favorite takeout, but at home. With much more flavor. And probably cheaper. No need to visit that Teriyaki joint at the strip mall again.


Chicken Teriyaki  printable yaki

The key to this simple dish is quality chicken and good teriyaki sauce. Buy organic, free-range chicken if you can. Serves 3-4 as a main course. 

Prep Time: 5 minutes       Marinating Time: at least 6 hours     Cook Time: 8 minutes

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 c teriyaki sauce
1. Rinse the chicken thighs. Pat dry and place in a large Ziploc bag.
2. Mince the garlic. Stir into the teriyaki sauce. Pour sauce over chicken, seal, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours.
3. Preheat grill to medium. Grill chicken thighs for 3-4 minutes per side, or until no longer pink in the center. Serve with rice and vegetables.



blue cheese and bacon dip

This is our friend Geeven.

No, not the little blondie on the motorcycle (which, by the way is as close as she’ll EVER get to driving one). The guy behind her. Geeven is one of our best pals. He’s cute. He’s funny. He’s got that bad-boy motorcycle thing goin’ on. And ladies, he’s single!

But that’s beside the point. The thing is, Geeven loves bacon. He thinks it should be considered a food group. He loves it so much, in fact, that every year his birthday is christened “Bacon Day.” Friends come from all over, make a bacon-related dish, and toast Geeven on another trip around the sun. This year the table was strewn with chocolate-covered bacon, bacon maple ice cream, chocolate bacon croissants, bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, spicy bacon bloody mary’s, and even bacon water. I wouldn’t recommend the last one.

When it comes to bacon dishes, I’m a bit of a traditionalist. I don’t think bacon should be where it doesn’t belong (i.e. in water), and I don’t ever want to sacrifice flavor for creativity. Call me crazy. So I opted to create a savory bacon dip with a hint of blue cheese.

To make it, you’ll need bacon, garlic, blue cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise.

Begin by slicing the bacon…

…and mincing the garlic.

Fry the bacon together with the garlic until crisp. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and let cool completely.

Toss the sour cream, mayo, blue cheese and bacon pieces into the bowl of your food processor. Reserve a few blue cheese and bacon crumbles for topping the dip.

Blend until smooth. It may take a few minutes to get most of the bacon chunks pureed. I doubt you’ll need salt, but a few grinds of pepper can’t hurt. Season to taste, puree again, and stick in the refrigerator for at least one hour before serving.

Serve topped with a few crumbles of cheese and bacon. I like to serve dips this way—it gives guests a hint as to what’s in the dip so it’s not just some mystery bowl of goo.

For Bacon Day I served it alongside hunks of crusty sourdough bread, but veggies or crackers would also do nicely.

It certainly wasn’t the most creative dish at the party, but I think I’ve established a new entertaining staple. It’s rich, yes, but you could make it lighter by using low-fat sour cream, low-fat mayo and turkey bacon (just don’t tell Geeven).

Happy birthday, Geeves. May this year be filled with fun, good cheer, and lots and lots of bacon.


Blue Cheese and Bacon Dip    printable pdf

Serve this savory dip alongside crusty bread, vegetables or crackers. It’s a must for your next party! 

Prep Time: 10 minutes. Cook Time: 10 minutes plus 1 hour of refrigeration. Yield: 1 1/2 cups of dip.

  • 3-4 slices bacon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 8 oz sour cream
  • 1/4 c mayonnaise (I like olive oil based mayo, but use whatever you prefer)
  • 2 oz crumbled blue cheese
  • pepper to taste (salt too if you like, but I find it doesn’t need it)
1. Slice the bacon into 1/2″ pieces. Mince the garlic. Fry bacon with garlic over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and let cool completely.
2. Add sour cream, mayonnaise, blue cheese and cooked bacon to the bowl of a food processor, reserving a few bacon and cheese crumbles for topping. Puree for 2-3 minutes, or until mostly smooth. Season with pepper (and/or salt) to taste. Refrigerate mixture for at least 1 hour before serving.
3. Serve chilled dip topped with reserved bacon and blue cheese crumbles.


berries, berries, berries. and how to store them.

Berry season is officially upon us. I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but our long, wet, cloudy spring delayed the ripening of those beautiful berries. It was torture. I even got pissed off and made shortcake with oranges.

But now they’re here. They’re ripe. And we picked ’em.

Happiness is lifting a tangle of vines to find a family of blood-red strawberries underneath.

For every berry she put in the basket, one went into her mouth. She had a ball. And when we got home we made freezer jam and pie with our bounty.

Local berries are tricky that way—you have to use them immediately. But for others, I have a little trick to keep them fresh longer.

Take blueberries, for instance. They come in those easy plastic containers, and it’s tempting to just rinse them and stick the whole thing in the fridge. But doing that will shorten the life of your berries.

First, give them a good rinse.

Then spread them out on a clean towel and let them air dry. They should be completely dry to the touch.

Next, put them in a container that has a tight-fitting lid.

Place a clean, dry paper towel over the berries, close the lid, and store in the refrigerator. Change the paper towel daily as it’s there to soak up moisture that likes to rot the fruit. Your berries will stay fresh much longer!

What are you going to make with summer berries?