Welcome to the Circle B Kitchen!  We love that you're here and hope you'll browse the site and grab some recipes.  The Circle B Kitchen has been blogging since September, 2009.  We have loads of recipes and thoughts on food to share in the coming weeks and months, so come back and check in often!  We love hearing from you and hope you'll leave a comment or shoot an email our way.  Whether you have questions about a recipe or the site in general, please let us know...

 Contact me at
pberry@circle-B-kitchen.com

Why I don't have a cat...

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Some of our favorite things...

Iced Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Pie

   Homemade Flatbread

Homemade Pancake Mix

       Spatchock Chicken...
Best EVER way to cook chicken 

   Crab and Avocado Rolls

Mini Maple-Glazed Donut Hole                  Muffins

   Pesto Salmon Burger

Raspberry-Nutella Bars

     Homemade Ravioli

    Olive Cheese Bites

              Pizza!

Spaghetti With Tomato Pesto

Parmesan Sesame Biscuits

Two-Minute Chocolate Mousse

  Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Homemade Enchilada Sauce 

Creamy Chive Risotto Cakes

     
Brown Sugar Pie 

The Best Homemade Dinner Rolls
                      Ever

Chocolate Bark with Granola and Sea Salt  

Nacho Cheese Burger

 

... and just in case you were wondering...

       

 

Our oldest daughter, Erin, has been riding, training and showing horses since she was a teenager.  She graduated from Colorado St. University with a degree in Equine Science and is now Financial and Administrative Manager for HETRA (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Association), which provides therapy through horseback riding for children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, brain tumors, head injuries, blindness, autism, and strokes.  For more information or to donate to this amazing cause, please visit http://www.hetra.org/ .

 

 

Saturday
Apr122014

Edamame Fest!

 

In my last post I confessed to being a bit distracted from sharing my love for edamame with you by a scrumptious coconut macaroon pie.  But I don’t want you to think that a momentary distraction (albeit a delicious one) in any way could diminish my enthusiasm for edamame.  Not a chance.  For while a special occasion may call for a coconut macaroon pie, edamame are part of our everyday life in a way a pie never could be.  

Most of you, I’m sure, have already discovered the fun and yumminess of snacking on edamame.  For those of you who haven’t yet tried them or haven’t ventured to make them at home, today is your lucky day!  Today is edamame day here at the Circle B Kitchen and by the time I’m done with you, hopefully you’ll be running out to snag your own bags and get to boiling.  If you’re already hooked on the little green pods, don’t be rushin’ off to your next blog destination just yet.  We’ve got some serious snackin’ to do! 

But before we get to the snacking part, we’ll cover a couple of basics.  Edamame are soybeans in the pod that make a scrumptious little snack when boiled and salted.  They come frozen and take only about 3-5 minutes to cook.  When the soybeans are removed from the pod, they’re called mukimame, which are a great addition to stir fries and dips, sauces, rice, pasta and lots more kinds of things.  And when I say these little buggers are a healthy snack, I’m not even kidding.  If you’re interested in the health benefits, I will list them for you at the bottom of this post.  Suffice to say, we should all be eating them on a regular basis.  

On to the snacking… The first most basic and perhaps our favorite way to eat edamame is just a quick boil, and tossed with a nice flaky sea salt or kosher salt.  

Occasionally, we like to dress them up a little with a little drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon and of course, a sprinkling of salt.  So good. 

If you buy shelled soy beans, called mukimame, the possibilities for working them into your diet are pretty much limitless.  We’ve roasted them with olive oil and parmesan cheese for an uptown snacking experience…

 And we’ve used them to replace the garbanzo beans in our famous hummus.  If you’re looking for a healthy dip, look no further folks.  This is some good stuff.  The Husband says he actually prefers the edamame version.  I can see why. 

Another extremely delicious way to use them is to make a pesto sauce out of the little guys and toss it with some whole grain pasta for a killerly nutritious, easy and scrumptious dish. 

I guess that should keep you busy for a while.  I mean it when I say the possibilities are limitless for including edamame into your weekly meal plan or an impromptu snacking fest.  This is just the beginning…

 Edamame Bar Snacks 

Parmesan-Roasted Edamame

Edamame Hummus

Pasta with Edamame Pesto

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Dietary and Nutritional Data for Edamame...

(I apologize that I have lost the link to the website from which I obtained this information.  There are many resources on the internet for nutritional data if you would like to do further research)

Edamame are...

High in protein (12g in a 1/2 cup)

High in dietary fiber (6g in a 1/2 cup) – this fiber lowers the levels of cholesterol and they make you feel full for longer

Loaded with antioxidants

High in iron (15% of daily value in a 1/2 cup)

Rich in micronutrients, particularly folates, manganese, and vitamin K

Plenty of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and omega-6 fatty acids

10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C in one serving

10% Daily Value for iron in one serving

8% Daily Value for vitamin A in one serving

4% Daily Value for calcium in one serving

Offers the nine essential amino acids that the human body cannot manufacture

Contain isoflavones that protect your heart from the risk of developing heart disease while at the same time lowering the cholesterol levels in the blood. Isoflavones aid in maintenance of the bone density because they offer estrogen-like effects to your bone tissues.

The edamame seed contains anti-inflammatory properties and is most ideal for those with arthritis and any other inflammatory condition.

Saturday
Apr052014

Coconut Macaroon Pie

You know how you sometimes have things all planned and locked in and you’re all ready to press the launch button and then without warning you get completely and totally yanked out of that plan by something so awesomely incredible that you get whiplash from the suddenness of the u-turn you just executed?  Yeah, me too. 

In fact, that very thing just happened to me yesterday.  No kidding.  I was all set to post some amazingly fun and delicious edamame recipes when I happened to be perusing the L.A. Times recipe section and came face to face with a photo of this coconut macaroon pie.  Within 2 hours I had one cooling on my kitchen counter.  It wouldn’t have taken me so long, but I decided to take some photos along the way… just in case. 

And boy howdy am I ever glad I did because that meant I could waste no time sharing this experience with you.  And what an experience it is.  I mean, it starts with how ridiculously easy this pie is to make.  If you happen to have some coconut in your pantry, then you probably can make it right now, especially if you’re one who likes to make your own pie crusts.  But maybe you have one of those in your freezer or something. 

The best part of the whole coconut macaroon pie experience though, is of course, that first bite.  I was totally unprepared for how those simple ingredients had conspired together to create this luscious coconut custard, topped with that crisp, browned coconut.  As much as I love coconut macaroons, and I do, I’ve never had one that tasted like this. 

And when I say this pie is easy, I mean it.  Easy as pie.  Sorry. 

Let’s start with the crust.  I’ve been making pie crusts for over 30 years, so I can pretty much throw one out in my sleep (here’s my recipe), but use a store-bought one if that’s your preference.

 Once you get your pie crust in place, 

we’re going to whisk together a couple of eggs, a little flour, water, salt, butter, sugar and coconut. 

And then we’re going to add my secret weapon to make this pie even more spectacular.  Ready? 

Yep.  Coconut extract.  It wasn’t in the original recipe, but I cannot make a coconut pie or cake without it.  We’re not talking imitation flavoring.  Your pie will be better if you leave that out.  No, we’re talking about the real deal… extract.  It’s a bit hard to find, but if you’re determined, you can order it online or find yourself a spice shop that carries it. 

Then we’re going to pour that lovely coconut mixture into your pie crust and sprinkle the top with more coconut. 

Then we’re going to bake it, let it cool and slice it up.  It’s that easy. 

Oh, and if you really must, but it sure doesn’t need it, you can drizzle your slice with a little chocolate. 

I hope I’ve persuaded you as to the deliciousness of a coconut macaroon pie.  My fear, actually, is that I’ve over-sold it.   Perhaps I’ve raised your expectations so high that no pie could possibly meet them.  This is, in truth, a very simple pie with very simple ingredients that just happens to be crazy good. Guess I’ll just stick with that.  Here’s the recipe…

Coconut Macaroon Pie

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from Saddlebag Lake Resort 
  via the L.A. Times

As I mentioned in my post, I added coconut extract, but if you can't find it, I'm sure it will be fine without it.  Also, it took my pie the full hour to bake, and then I had to turn the oven up to 350 for the last 5 minutes.  Every oven is different, so check your pie at 45 minutes, but it may take a bit longer.

2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract (not flavoring)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut, plus extra for sprinkling over the top of the pie if desired.
Unbaked 9-inch pie shell

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, water, sugar, coconut extract, flour, salt and butter. Fold in the vlaked coconut. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie shell, and top with a little extra coconut if desired to brown as the pie bakes.

Place the pie in the oven and bake until lightly golden and the custard is set (it will jiggle only slightly when tapped), 45 to 55 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. If the pie colors too quickly before it is set, loosely tent with foil.

Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.

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Saturday
Mar292014

Chicken Lo Mein with Mushrooms and Cabbage

 

Growing up in Southern California, I was lucky enough to get some pretty great Chinese and Asian food, owing mostly to the fact that my Dad loved it so much.  I have wonderful memories of extraordinary meals in some questionable parts of downtown L.A. in the 50’s.  Without question, my favorite dish was always that big platter of chow mein resplendent with succulent, tender slices of tasty meat and big, gorgeous chunks of celery, cabbage, mushrooms and other fresh veggies mixed with fat, saucy noodles.  I loved it all while my brother ate a pile of fried rice with soy sauce.  That’s about all he would eat until they brought out the fortune cookies.  All the more for me! :) Even at the age of 9 or 10 those beautifully sautéed vegetables and noodles held me entranced in ways a burger never could. 

And then a few years ago, we moved to the Midwest and I ordered chow mein, and what appeared before me was at once disconcerting and sadly disappointing.  Yes, there were the meat and veggies, but mixed in were crunchy fried  noodles instead of the soft, eggy Chinese noodles I was accustomed to.  After asking a few questions, I learned that if I wanted that beautiful noodle dish that I loved, I would have to order the lo mein, which I’d never actually seen on a menu before.  If memory serves me, all those years we were asked if we wanted our chow mein with soft or crunchy noodles, but as it turns out, chow mein and lo mein are two distinct dishes.  Chow mein is supposed to be composed of crunchy, fried noodles, while lo mein is about the soft, saucy noodles. 

Whatever you want to cal it, I finally decided to make my own thanks to Grace Young and her invaluable book, Stir-frying to the Sky’s Edge.  For those who aspire to stir fry greatness, this is your text book!  I’ve done my share of stir-fries through the years, but was amazed and inspired by her beautiful writing and simple, helpful instructions to create authentic dishes which she describes as culinary magic.  Indeed. 

Undoubtedly, my love for napa cabbage drew me to this recipe of hers, but I’ve come back to it over and over for the extraordinary flavors and textures created in this simple dish.  And isn’t that the beauty of a stir fry well done?  Simple, quick, extraordinary.  That just about sums it up.  Here’s the recipe…

Chicken Lo Mein with Mushrooms and Cabbage

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy Grace Young, Stir Frying to the Sky's Edge

In uncustomary fashion, I followed this recipe to the last little teaspoon, and am I ever glad I did.  I wouldn’t change a thing and encourage you to round up some fresh Chinese egg noodles.  I’ve also used dried Chinese egg noodles which are also wonderful.  If you can’t find either, use a good quality spaghetti, but no matter what noodle you choose, please do not overcook them.  So much better to undercook them for a minute or so… they will continue to cook as you add them to the pan.  I’ve also used regular cabbage when Napa cabbage is unavailable and it works fine.  I chopped up an extra scallion to sprinkle over the top for serving. 

12 oz fresh Chinese round egg noodles (see headnote)
2 tsp sesame oil

For the Chicken:
12 oz skinless boneless chicken thighs, sliced ¼ inch thick
1 Tbsp grated ginger
1 tsp Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp soy sauce
1/4 teaspoons salt
¼ tsp white pepper

2 Tbsp peanut or vegetable oil, divided
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
3 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage
4 oz shiitake or crimini mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
5 scallions, chopped (reserve some for serving)

Sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce

In a 3-quart saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add noodles.  Return to a rolling boil and cook according to package directions until al dente (not quite done).  Drain noodles in a colander and rinse several times with cold water, shaking well to remove excess water.  Return noodles to unwashed pan, add sesame oil, and toss until well-combined.  Note:  if using spaghetti instead of Chinese noodles, do not rinse after draining the noodles.

Combine the chicken, ginger, rice wine, cornstarch, soy sauce, salt, and white pepper in a shallow bowl. 

Heat wok (or 12-inch skillet) over high heat until a bead of water vaporizes within 1 to 2 seconds of contact. Swirl in 1 Tbsp oil; add red pepper flakes. Using a metal spatula, stir-fry 10 seconds or until pepper flakes are fragrant. Push flakes to sides of wok, add chicken mixture and spread evenly. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting chicken sear. Stir-fry 30 seconds more or until chicken browns. Add cabbage and mushrooms and stir-fry 1 more minute or until cabbage is just wilted. Transfer chicken and vegetables to a plate or bowl.

Swirl remaining 1 Tbsp oil into wok. Add noodles and stir-fry 15 seconds. Combine the sauce ingredients and swirl into the pan, combining with the noodles.  Add the chicken mixture back into the pan with the chopped scallions.  Sprinkle with the remaining ¾ tsp salt. Stir-fry 1 to 2 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through and noodles are heated through.  Sprinkle with the reserved scallions to serve.

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Saturday
Mar222014

An Ode to Tiramisu

Oh, tiramisu, how we do love thee.  You have stood the test of time and poorly-executed imitations and maybe you were a bit over-done back in the 80’s and 90’s, but your deliciousness has prevailed. And because you're good, so very good, you have withstood the slander and soldiered on with your head held high, and this is exactly what makes you so endearing.  Because done right, you are an eternally scrumptious dessert that succumbs to neither snobbery or ineptitude.  Amen.

Yes, I do believe that tiramisu has had to endure its share of disrespect, but I don’t think the problem ever was that people actually became bored with it, but more that shortcuts were being taken and tiramisu derivitives were cropping up that began to less and less resemble the original. It's true that it does take a bit of time to make, but few things are as worth the effort as a tiramisu well made.  And I’ll admit that even a mediocre tiramisu can still be pretty delicious. 

But the tiramisu that we’re talking about today is anything but mediocre.  I’ve been making this particular one for about 20 years, after watching a man make his Italian aunt’s revered recipe on an early Food Network show.  We fell in love and never looked back.

As I said, it’s not a dish that you throw together at a moment’s notice or half hour before dinner.  But this is actually a good thing because it’s best made a day ahead and allowed to sit in the fridge and let the flavors of cream and chocolate and coffee and rum all hang out and get to know each other and create something quite delicious and extraordinary. 

Hopefully, your grocery store or Italian market will supply you with the savoiardi (Italian lady fingers), which are crispy finger-shaped cookies that are sometimes hard to find.  I bought mine at Whole Foods, but not long ago I wasn’t able to get out to Whole Foods and our local market only had some frozen American-type lady fingers that were smaller and softer.  I went ahead and bought them, thawed them out and placed them on a baking sheet in a low oven (about 200 degrees) for about 20 minutes.  As they cooled, they crisped up and ended up working really great.  So if that’s all you can find, no worries.  

And although it takes a little time to make tiramisu, there’s no baking involved… it’s mostly a matter of mixing and assemblage and none of it is difficult.  Firstly, we’re going to combine some espresso coffee, cream and sugar together and set it aside. 

Nextly, we’re going to make our luscious custard filling by whisking some eggs and sugar over boiling water until slightly thickened. 

After we cool it down, we’re going to add the mascarpone cheese and a goodly amount of dark rum.  Some people add brandy, but rum’s the way to go here. 

Now we’re ready for the assemblage part… 

Start dunking your crisp ladyfingers briefly (count to 3) in the coffee mixture and layer them in the bottom of your baking dish.

Once you have the bottom of the dish covered, spread half of the mascarpone custard over the soaked ladyfingers.  

Make another layer of dunked ladyfingers on top of that

And then spread the rest of the custard over the whole thing. 

Refrigerate for a couple of hours to set it up and then mix together the cocoa and powdered sugar and sift that over the top of the custard.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for another 2 hours or preferably overnight.  Before serving, I like to sift a little more of the cocoa powder mixture over the top. 

Now then just stand back cuz this is some powerful good stuff.  I’m not even kidding. 

Each bite is creamy and luscious with just the right notes of coffee, chocolate and, of course, rum.  Tiramisu passé?  I think not.  Here’s the recipe…

Tiramisu

Click here for a printable recipe

As I mentioned in the blog post, finding savoiardi cookies can be challenging.  If your store doesn't carry them and you don't have access to an Italian grocery store (I get mine at Whole Foods), some stores carry frozen lady fingers that are smaller and softer.  I've had to buy those before, but simply thaw them out and place them on a baking sheet in a low oven (200 degrees) for about 15 or 20 minutes.  You can just turn off the oven and let them sit in there and they will crisp up.  They will work just fine.  A word of caution... the secret to a great tiramisu is to not-over-soak the cookies as it will end up soggy and un-yummy.  But do not under-soak them either or it will turn out on the dry side.  A 3-second dunk seems to be about right.

 1/3 cups sugar (divided)
6 large eggs
 1/2 pounds mascarpone cheese (3 8-oz tubs)
 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup instant espresso powder
3/4 cup chilled whipping cream
5 tablespoons rum
44 (about) crisp savoiardi or Italian ladyfinger cookies (from two 7-ounce packages)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
1/4 cup powdered sugar 

Set mascarpone out to come to room temperature.  Whisk until smooth. 

Bring 1 1/2 cups of water to simmer in a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup of the sugar and the espresso powder; whisk until sugar dissolves. Mix in the cream and refrigerate until cold. (alternately, you can use 1 ½ cups of brewed espresso instead of the water and espresso powder). 

Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside. Whisk the eggs and 1/3 cup sugar in medium metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisk constantly for about 10 minutes or until the mixture just begins to thicken. Then set the custard over the bowl of ice water and whisk until cool.  Remove the bowl from the ice water, mix in the rum, and fold in the mascarpone cheese.  Set aside. 

Submerge 3 cookies in the chilled espresso-cream mixture for 5 seconds. Place the cookies on the bottom of a 13x9x2-inch baking dish or trifle bowl. Working in batches, repeat with enough remaining cookies to just cover the bottom of the dish. Spread half of the mascarpone mixture over cookies. Repeat soaking process with remaining cookies, placing them in single layer atop the mascarpone mixture. Spread the remaining mascarpone mixture over the cookies and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.  

Whisk the cocoa and powdered sugar together in small bowl to blend. Sift the sweetened cocoa over the top of the dessert.  Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.  (I like to sift a little more of the cocoa and powdered sugar mixture over the top just before serving).

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Monday
Mar172014

Kale Gratin with Italian Sausage

 Greetings from the West Coast headquarters of the Circle B Kitchen!  For a couple of weeks we're going to be trading in our winter boots for flip flops and soaking up a little spring sunshine.  Things aren't quite as lushly spring-like on the Central Coast these days, owing to the drought, but that big ol' blue ocean is as wet and beautiful as ever and we're grateful for its constance.

So here I am in my tiny but much beloved Circle B Kitchen West getting ready to head down to Giovanni's on the wharf and nab us some fresh fish for the grill, but before I do, I thought I'd share with you a little special something that we're going to be enjoying alongside that beautiful fish.

In the month before we left home, I made this gratin a couple of times... The first time because it sounded so good, and the second time because I couldn't believe how good it actually was.  And I'm making it again because it has been confirmed… this stuff is exceedingly tasty. 

This gratin is one of my favorite things that I've made in recent weeks.  The flavors just pop and the crunchy topping is so perfect with the creamy kale.  My only complaint is that it isn't more photogenic.  I wanted so badly to produce a photo that would convey to you the luscious deliciousness of this gratin, but alas, it refused to cooperate, and I’m afraid you’re stuck with mostly just my word on this.  But I kid you not, it’s frightfully scrumptious. 

And pretty easy to throw together, especially if you have access to a bag of already cleaned and chopped kale. 

The original recipe calls for 2 heads of kale, but I halved the recipe for us and used this one 10-oz bag and it seemed about perfect.  Well, everything about this recipe is perfect, which is why it seems just the right thing to serve with our first bite of ever-so-fresh halibut this evening.  But I would be just as excited to be eating it all by itself.  It’s that good.  Here’s the recipe…

Kale Gratin with Italian Sausage

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy of the L.A. Times

This is one of our favorite ways to eat kale, and to make it just a little easier to throw together, I used bagged kale that has already been cleaned and chopped, but I sort through and take out any large stem pieces that might be left in there.  Two 10-oz bags should work about right for this.  I halved the recipe and used 1 bag and it worked great.  To make this a vegetarian dish, or a lighter side dish, just leave out the Italian sausage.  It still tastes great! 

Servings: 6 to 8 

3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 pound fresh mild Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 bunches (about 1 pound) kale, stemmed and torn into large pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
8 ounces fresh goat cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (such as a combination of parsley, oregano and basil) 

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. 

2. In a large, heavy-bottom saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the sausage and cook until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes. 

3. Add the wine and cook, scraping the flavoring from the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook until the wine reduces and is mostly evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium. 

4. Stir in the kale, one handful at a time. Cook the kale, stirring it in with the sausage, until it begins to wilt and turn a bright green. Continue adding kale by the handful until it is all added to the saute pan and is just wilted. Do not overcook the kale. Remove from heat and set the pan aside. 

5. In a large saucepan, melt one-half cup (1 stick) butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour to form a roux. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly to get rid of any lumps. Bring the mixture to a simmer, whisking frequently. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 10 minutes. 

6. Crumble the goat cheese to the sauce and whisk until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth, then stir in the sausage and kale. Remove from heat. 

7. Spoon the mixture into a shallow, 2-quart gratin dish. 

8. In a medium bowl, combine the Parmigiano-Reggiano, bread crumbs and minced fresh herbs. Pour over the 3 tablespoons melted butter and stir until the butter is evenly distributed to form the topping. 

9. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the sausage and kale mixture. 

10. Bake the gratin until the topping is golden-brown and the filling is bubbly, about 30 minutes. 

11. Cool slightly before serving.

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