Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What's afoot in my kitchen?

Things have been pretty quiet around Pregnant Lady Cooks...but don't let that fool you into thinking that I've been idle. No indeed! We've been on vacation for the last two weeks or so, but the pregnant lady has still been cooking up a tiny storm.

We spent a glorious week in Outer Banks, North Carolina with Chris' family, where I continued to perfect my recipe for Basil Turkey Burgers. I'm so thrilled about this burger idea--in part because I normally run for the hills when people start talking about grillin' burgers, and yet have finally created something that I love and that other people also seem to like and are willing categorize as "a burger," and in part because it is, IMHO, a truly sublime flavor explosion. Once I get a recipe down to normal-size quantities (we were feeding 18 in NC), I'll post it here.

Then last week we had a family reunion with my extended family, for which the dinner head count was 45. Thank goodness for slow cookers. We had a Mexican taco bar, complete with my first chicken mole, the Tinga Poblana that we all know and love, cuban pork (another recipe I should post some time), homemade pico de gallo, spicy pickled carrots and peppers, my now oft requested yogurt cilantro lime sauce (which can be found with my fish taco recipe), stewed beans, and loads of salad and fresh fruit. My conclusion: just because you're feeding a lot of people doesn't mean you have to eat processed crap. A certain someone who shall remain nameless kept trying to get me just to buy Pace Picante sauce and iceberg lettuce at Costco, and I'm so glad I resisted. It's so satisfying to eat good food and watch other people appreciate it.

And now this week a whole new project is emerging: my friend Katina's wedding cake. This baby is going to be four tiers of vanilla poppy seed bliss, with lemon curd, raspberry filling, and inexcusable amounts of rosewater buttercream frosting. This is my very first time making a wedding cake, and I am elbow deep in it at this very moment. I've decided not to bother cleaning the kitchen until it's completely done; there's just no point, since it's a perpetual scene of cakey-crumby-curdy carnage. A status update reveals 6 of the 8 cakes completed, the lemon curd and the raspberry filling chilling in the fridge, and a long evening of gum paste calla lily-making ahead of me. I've been photographing as I go, so provided the results aren't too embarrassing, I'll be making a mega post sometime over the weekend to share my experience with anyone who is interested.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Comparative shots: week 34

I have been really bad about the belly photographing, but thankfully, since we've been on vacation, other people have gotten shots that will do the trick in a pinch. Here's the wee Sawyer Francis in utero at week 34:

And here's a random beach shot that Uncle Steve caught during our trip to Outer Banks, NC, smack dab in the middle of week 34. I hope Carrie will forgive me for putting a picture of her in a swimsuit on my blog for all to see--but doesn't she look adorable?! These cousins are going to be PALS.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Milk Chocolate Pistachio Tart

Serves 8-10


Once again, not my picture. We’re in between vacations right now—the scant three and half days between arriving home and setting out again—and things are a little topsy-turvy here. I made this tart for cooking club before we set out on family vacation part one, but forgot to take my camera with me…so no one’s food got photographed, unfortunately. Anyway, this is a Martha Stewart recipe that was in her magazine this month that immediately—and I mean immediately—became an obsession. A few thoughts: delicious as it was—and it really was, I think we each had two servings at cooking club—it was a little on the sweet side. So I’m thinking I’ll try it with dark chocolate next time, if only to experience a surely delectable variation on the original. Next, maybe it was the Colorado dryness, but my pistachio paste was never more than crumbs, so I added a little water. I think I added a little too much—probably a tablespoon or two would have been sufficient. You could also increase the oil a little.


3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/3 cup unsalted shelled pistachios, chopped


1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


1/2 cup unsalted shelled pistachios

1/4 cup sugar


1 teaspoon safflower oil


5 ounces milk chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup whole milk

1 large egg, beaten

Garnish: finely chopped pistachios (optional)

Coat a 9-inch fluted round tart pan with a removable bottom with cooking spray. Make the crust: Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, chopped pistachios, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Beat butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, and beat until pale, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low, and add vanilla, then flour mixture; beat until just combined and dough holds together when pressed between 2 fingers. Press dough into a disk, and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for 15 minutes. Confession: as usual, I just poured all the ingredients into my food process and hit “on.” Took about 30 seconds.

Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Press dough into bottom and up sides of tart pan. Trim excess dough flush with edges of pan using a knife. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Bake until firm, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely; reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Meanwhile, make the pistachio paste: Pulse pistachios, sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor until mixture begins to clump together. Add oil, and pulse until smooth and paste-like. Spread evenly into bottom of cooled tart shell, pressing firmly with the bottom of a measuring cup until flat and smooth.

Make the filling: Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream and milk in a saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling; pour over chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes. Slowly whisk until smooth. Let cool for 10 minutes. Stir in egg until combined. Place tart shell on a baking sheet, and pour in filling. Bake until just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool. Garnish with finely chopped pistachios.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Tartlets—small and smaller

Makes 6 small and 20 smaller tartlets


I didn’t grow up with rhubarb--heck, I didn’t grow up with much more than frozen corn and canned green beans—but I’ve eaten it and experimented with it over the years and have become a fan. Chris, however, is a long-time lover of the strawberry-rhubarb combo, so when a few stalks were coming in our organic box this week, his cravings were the priority. “What do you want me to do with the rhubarb?” I asked him probably five times over the weekend, because at $3/lb I can hardly think of a greater tragedy than rotting rhubarb in my produce drawer. I never did get a proper answer from him so I had to take matters into my own hands. Chris isn’t a big cake eater, so while I have a great rhubarb coffee cake recipe from a family friend, some kind of pie seemed to be the best choice. But I’m not big on fruit pies. And so the dilemma arises: when there are only two of us in the house (toddler doesn’t count; we all know he gets a piece of chocolate the size of a grain of sand when cleans his plate), one of whom has to be REMINDED to eat dessert (that would be Chris, not me), a whole fruit pie could sit on the counter for a veerrryyy long time. Solution: mini-tarts! Just pop ‘em in your mouth! Freeze ‘em for later! Offer ‘em to guests without the bother of a plate and fork! This happened to also be the maiden voyage of my mini-muffin pan, which I’m ever so excited about. Why are there sizes ‘small’ and ‘smaller’? Because I got lazy. I still had a third of my fixins left after the mini muffin pan was full, so I did the rest in a regular muffin pan and cooked them at the same time.


1 1/2 C flour

1/2 tsp salt

2-3 Tbs sugar

1/2 C chilled butter or butter and shortening mixed

2-4 Tbs ice water

Blend flour, salt, sugar and butter in food processor until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add ice water until dough just comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill one hour.


1 lb rhubarb, washed and trimmed

1 lb strawberries, hulled

1 C sugar

3 Tbs cornstarch

Again, I opt for the food processor because, with the diminutive size of these tartlets, you do not want big nuggets of rhubarb getting in your way. So pulse the rhubarb and the strawberries separately until they are more or less diced. Stir them together with sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl, and let them macerate for about 20 minutes while your dough it chilling.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a mini-muffin pan, and a regular muffin pan if you’re lazy too. To do my exact proportions, divide dough into thirds. In the palm of your hands roll two of the thirds into about 10 little balls each (20 total). Roll the last third into 6 larger balls. Flour your work surface and rolling pin. Flatten the little balls into about 2.5-in in circles, then press into mini-muffin pan. Roll the larger into about 3.5-in circles and press them into the larger muffin tin. Fill close to the top with filling. Put them in the oven at the same time—bake the minis for 25 minutes, and the larger ones for 35-40.

Dust with powdered sugar or, even better, with a tiny dollop of whipped cream.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Makes 8-10 large pastries


Don’t be fooled by the name—chardikopita is just me being a smartass, and making spanikopita with green chard, which I had in abundance this week from my organic box. I like to make a batch of these and only cook three or four, saving the rest for quick lunches or dinner later in the week, as they get soggy in the fridge if they’re already cooked.We’ll definitely be tossing two of these in the toaster oven around noon tomorrow.

2 Tbs olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 bunch chard, stems removed (and saved for chard stalk hummus), leaves chopped

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

1/2 tsp Greek seasoning

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

4 eggs, lightly beaten

salt and pepper to taste

1(16 ounce) package filo dough

1 cube butter, melted

Heat oil in a large fry pan over medium heat, cook onions until softened. Add chard, cook covered about 10 minutes on medium-low heat, or until most of the moisture has been absorbed and greens are soft.


Remove from heat. Mix in feta cheese, eggs, dill, seasoning, flour, salt and pepper:


Unfold your filo dough on the counter, keeping it covered with a damp towel while working. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Separate one sheet of filo from the stack and evenly brush with a light coating of butter. Cover with another sheet of filo dough, butter, then a third sheet, with butter. Cut the layered filo dough in half. Place about 1/4 C filling 1 inch from the end closest to you and fold the pastry up like a flag around the filling.

Repeat with the remaining filling and dough. Place pastry triangles on a large baking sheet and brush tops with the remaining butter (this is the stop you’ll want to skip if you’re planning on storing a few in the fridge for the following days). Bake in the preheated oven, 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and cooked through.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Hungarian Goulash with Eggplant

Serves 4-6


This was dinner from last week…I don’t know what took me so long to post it. It seems decidedly unseasonal now that the weather is so hot, but on that cloudy cool day, it totally hit the spot. And I gave a great gift to Chris that night: I served it with plain ole white flour egg noodles. Norrmally I force whole- or multi-grain pasta on the family, which I think is only occasionally to Chris’ chagrin, but even I noticed how velvety, soft, innocuous and light these were…yes, every once in awhile, you just gotta eat big, soft, white things!

2 Tbs olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 eggplant, cubed

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 lb. beef chuck (stew meat, or shank meat)

2 tbsp. Hungarian paprika

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. crushed Italian pepper or cayenne

1/2 tsp. caraway seeds

1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes (I used 5 fresh roma tomatoes)

1/2 C white wine

2 bay leaves

Salt to taste

Sour cream

Place the cubed eggplant in a colander, salt thoroughly, and let drain in the sink. Heat the oil in a heavy bottom saucepan or casserole, add the onions and garlic, sauté until translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the meat, season with salt, cook until no longer pink on the outside. Rinse the eggplant and add to the saucepan. Add paprika, caraway seeds, the pepper and the bay leaves, stir all together, cover and let cook on a low fire for 10 to 15 minutes until meat has picked up the flavor of the seasonings. Add tomatoes and wine, cover and return to a simmer. Adjust fire so the goulash simmers very gently and let cook, stirring occasionally until meat is tender, up to an hour. Serve over noodles with a little sour cream mixed in.

Greek Salad with Sardines

Serves 4


Another photo stolen from a website—now that I found our camera, the battery is dead. This recipe is from Eating Well magazine, and Chris—truly, this is some kind of miracle—had flipped through the issue and DOG-EARED the recipes that he wanted me to try. That’s the most enthusiasm and interest he’s shown for anything in the kitchen pretty much since we’ve been married. Greek salad is nothing new for the Grays, we do quick dishes like this a lot, but the addition of sardines was something new. Buying sardines at all was something new, in fact, even though we’ve both heard how good they are for you. We had the perfect family dinner last night, yumming up this refreshing salad on the back porch with toddler and dog, enjoying the 80 degree evening.

3 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

2 teaspoons dried oregano (I used Greek seasoning instead)

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 medium tomatoes, cut into large chunks (I used cherry tomatoes, halved)

1 large English cucumber, cut into large chunks (I used 2 regular cukes, peeled and seeded)

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

2 tablespoons sliced Kalamata olives

2 4-ounce cans sardines with bones, packed in olive oil or water, drained

Whisk lemon juice, oil, garlic, oregano and pepper in a large bowl until well combined. Add tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, feta, onion and olives; gently toss to combine. Divide the salad among 4 plates and top with sardines.

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Serves 4-6


Normally I am no lover of Paula Dean, but when I wanted to make some sweet potato biscuits and her recipe came up at the top, I knew I shouldn’t deny her the chance to do what she does best. Comparatively, these did not offend my nutritional sensibilities like many of her other recipes (like the Krispy Cream burgers or deep fried Snickers).  I think it’s her total disregard for any notion of nutrition whatsoever, or moderation, or whole foods, or something, that I find alarming (and irresponsible) and that just kinda rubs me the wrong way, though I give her props for cooking a nostalgia-laden cuisine that brings people together. In any case, she doesn’t drive me as wild as Sandra Lee. Oh man, don’t get me started on Sandra Lee…

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 heaping tablespoons sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) softened butter

2 to 4 tablespoons milk (depending on the moisture of the potatoes)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a separate, large bowl, mix the sweet potatoes and butter. Add the flour mixture to the potato mixture and mix to make a soft dough. Then add milk a tablespoon at a time to mixture and continue to cut in. OR: do like I did and just put it all in the food processor, add milk until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and toss lightly until the outside of the dough looks smooth. Roll the dough out to 1/2-inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place the biscuits on a greased pan and coat tops with melted butter. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Watch your biscuits carefully to keep them from browning too fast.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Roasted Fingerling Potato Salad


This is about to be straight plagiarism, because I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit this month, decided to try it, couldn’t find my camera, and therefore have copied the entire thing, picture included, from their website. It’s a weird half-picture, so you’ll just have to believe me when I tell you that the salad is both beautiful and delicious. Chris gave it the ultimate compliment: “These are Spanish potatoes!” I did, of course, make a few changes, mostly out of lack of ingredients; now that our organic produce box arrives once a week, I can’t be troubled to go to the store for much of anything, which I guess means that we really are saving money with this new set up. So continue to rock potato salad paradigms and bring this to your next summer bbq.

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for brushing—CONFESSION: I used bacon fat instead of olive oil. Mmmmm.

1 1/2 pounds 1-inch-diameter fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise

2 green onions, thinly sliced (I used diced white onion, soaked in water 15 minutes)

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley leaves

2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves (I used fresh thyme from the garden)

1 1/2 tablespoons Banyuls vinegar or red wine vinegar (I used part white, part balsamic)

1 tablespoon coarse-grained Dijon mustard

2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, chopped

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Brush heavy large rimmed baking sheet with oil. Place potatoes and 2 tablespoons oil in large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss. Arrange potatoes, cut side down, on prepared baking sheet. Roast until potatoes are brown on cut side, about 23 minutes. Using tongs, turn potatoes over. Roast until crisp, deep golden, and tender, about 12 minutes longer. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir green onions, parsley, tarragon, vinegar, mustard, and 2 teaspoons oil in small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer potatoes to dish. Spoon chopped eggs and herb salad over.