Friday, August 22, 2014

Salmon Cakes

I know I said I probably wouldn't be blogging until we came back from vacation, but I loved these and had to share. We will be leaving August 31st for two weeks in our used-but-new-to-us motorhome. I'm hoping I have some cool stuff to share as we travel. In the meantime, I made these fish cakes the other night. Let me rephrase that. I sort of made these the other night.

The more I looked at the recipe, the more hesitant I became because the only seasonings were salt, pepper, lemon zest and chives. Perhaps it would make the white fish it called for in the recipe sing, but I was using canned salmon instead of white fish and I needed some spices or herbs that would stand up to and compliment the strong flavor of the salmon.

What I ultimately decided to do was combine this recipe with another recipe for Crab Cakes from the cookbook, Catch by Travis Lofland of Deadliest Catch. My son made the Crab Cakes for Travis' book signing on Anna Maria Island, FL and they were by far the best I've ever tasted.

What I liked about the Bon Appetit recipe was the addition of the corn and lemon zest, so I kept those in my recipe.

I didn't take a photo of the finished product, but I did manage to take a photo of my lunch the next day.......a salmon cake slider...with the leftovers. Sorry for the horrible photo. I took it with my phone.

Anyway, I made this Roasted Red Pepper and Chive Aioli to serve with them and they were delicious. This recipe made 12 nice sized Salmon Cakes. I used an ice cream scoop to portion out the patties, which yields the same amount as a 1/4 cup measuring cup.

Salmon Cakes

Makes 12 cakes

4 - 6 ounce cans pink (skinless and boneless) salmon, well drained
2 large eggs
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Finely grated zest of one lemon
1 cup fresh or frozen, but thawed corn kernels
3 tablespoons minced chives
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon finely minced jalapeno pepper
1/2 of a medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-1/4 cups Japanese (Panko) bread crumbs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter

Dump the salmon in a large bowl and break it up with a fork. Sprinkle the salmon with lemon zest, chives, parsley, jalapeno, onion, red pepper, corn and Parmesan cheese, gently tossing with a fork after each addition. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise and eggs until they are thoroughly combined. Whisk in the salt and pepper. Fold the mayonnaise mixture into the salmon mixture using a rubber spatula to gently combine.

Begin sprinkling the salmon mixture with the Panko bread crumbs about 1/4 cup at a time, gently folding to combine after each addition until all of the crumbs are used.

Using a 1/4 cup measure or ice cream scoop and form the patties to about a 3-inch diameter. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate until they are firm, at least 30 minutes. You can skip this step and cook them as they are, but you run the risk of them falling apart while they cook.

Here's where I stepped away from both of the original recipes I noted above. I did not reserve any bread crumbs to cover the surface of the patties before cooking. When my son made the Crab Cakes, he also omitted that step. I just didn't want to "over-bread" the patty.

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the patties a few at a time, being careful not to over crowd your pan. Cook the patties until they are golden brown about 3-1/2 to 4 minutes on each side. Remove to a serving platter. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hello, It's Me!

Back in February I think I said something to the effect that I was back. Now, it appears that I wasn't, but I have some reasons for that and I would like to share a few thoughts with you.

First I would like to thank those of you who routinely check in to see if I've posted anything new. I appreciate your loyalty and your interest.

It is hard to believe I started this blog over seven years ago, July 21, 2007 to be exact. I started it because I felt a need to write and I wanted to write about what I do best: cook. I wanted to share with family and friends old recipes I've collected over the years and the excitement of developing, copying and trying new ones.

As I have followed and unfollowed other blogs, I've watched the trends change dramatically to include other social media. Blogger conferences focus on marketing, monetizing and use of different ways to promote a blogger's brand on social media with innumerable tools: Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, just to name a few. That is not the direction I ever wanted to go. Sure, I have a Facebook page. I like it because I can post short pieces and photos of more casual food settings without having to commit to producing a long involved blog post with staged and edited photographs. I feel more connected to my readers on Facebook because it's a little more interactive.

I started out enjoying the process of composing a blog post. I love telling the stories related to the food that comes out of my kitchen. I love writing the specific instructions for recipe preparation, particularly for those of you who are not very confident in your skills or are afraid to try something new or challenging. I love taking photos of my food and sought out tips to take better photographs. I started out with a point-and-shoot camera and now work with a Nikon DSLR.....well, when I work nowadays. Anyway, I asked for and received a tripod one Christmas. Although my kitchen is well lit, it doesn't have tons of natural light, so I purchased two professional lights and set them up in our guest bedroom. Then something happened.

I started looking at all those other blogs that were evolving into bigger, more professional websites. Recipe content is confined to easily printable boxes. There are buttons to links to the social media site of your choice. They started promoting giveaways sponsored by great companies that provided awesome products. I started comparing my blog to all the others, my favorites, and I was falling short.....very short. And I lost my enthusiasm.

This is starting to sound negative and that's not my intention. I don't want to be a "Debbie Downer."

I'm still cooking, although there are more days than there used to be when I don't feel like it at all. But mostly I cook everyday. If I don't cook, Tom does. There's usually something going on in my kitchen. It's just getting it to my blog that's the problem.

Once I do start posting again, here's what you can expect from me. I won't be doing giveaways or promotions. I won't ever promote products or websites that I personally don't fully support and enjoy myself. I will give you recipes, instructions and, hopefully, nice photos. The photos of my food will not contain any tricks to make the food look more appetizing, although I may use garnishes, herbs and other ingredients to balance out the photo. It will be photos of the food that I have prepared to serve as or with a meal, not something I prepared to merely photograph and post on the blog.

I hope to start posting again. I don't know when that will be. In the meantime, if you'd like to check in to see what I'm doing, you can follow me on FACEBOOK. Stop by and say hello.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Where do I begin? Where have I been?

Let's begin with the latter. I've been here. Just on the other side of my computer screen, but I don't seem to have much to say. I've talked about blogger burnout before, but it just seems to get worse instead of better. I'm still cooking and baking, still taking photos (although I'm not really happy with most of them), but when it comes to putting the dishes into words and recipes.... well, it just escapes me.

Maybe it's because I'm trying to do too many things at a time. I have seriously considered the idea of switching my blog from to its own domain. I've been reading and studying, but it is a HUGE learning curve for me. I'm not a programmer, nor do I have a desire to be one, but some of those skills are required to build a new website.

I read expert advice on how to be a better blogger. Use all the social media available, they say, but I get overwhelmed: twitter, facebook, sulia, tumblr, reddit, google+ and there's plenty more. Who has that kind of time to spend all day at the computer? I'd never have time to do what I love most. Cook and bake.

In the midst of my burnout/questioning/soul searching I've determined I am not ready to move forward quite yet. So here I am on For now I think I will make myself comfortable here. I have a Facebook page and a Twitter handle. Those are plenty for me right now.

So what can you expect from me in the near future? Exactly what I have done in the past. I will cook, bake, take photos and share them with you.

I know it's already February... correction, I know February is almost gone... but let's start with herbs and other stuff.

During the spring, summer and early fall, I grow my own herbs. Basil, chives, tarragon, sage, parsley, oregano, marjoram just to name a few. Late last fall I decided to cut up and freeze the chives and tarragon in olive oil in ice cube trays (I love Pinterest!) for use during the winter. It worked out beautifully. I have used the onion chives and garlic chives for my weekly batch of Focaccia. Unfortunately, I didn't come across the freezer idea until after the first heavy frost to which the basil, sage, parsley,, oregano and marjoram succumbed.

Speaking of frost... and ice... and snow... and winter... I'm over it. Really over it. We've had a few nice mild days, you know, as a teaser. But it is supposed to get cold again and the little girl inside of me is screaming, Nooooooo!!!!! I want warm weather! I want crop pants, t-shirts and flip-flops!

Okay. Enough of my tantrum.

What I'd really like is to be able to move my tropical plants and Meyer lemon tree from the garage where it's been winterized since before the first frost in November. They are doing pretty well, but I'd like my garage back.

We pulled the plants out to the driveway during those nice few days. The tropicals are a little yellow in spots, but some good fertilizer, heavy watering and sunshine should do the trick.

Garden Feb 2014 photo Garden2-20144_zps99597aaa.jpg

I have seven Meyer lemons that continued to grow over the winter and they are almost ready to pick.

Garden Feb 2014 photo Garden2-20146_zps0eec01e6.jpg

And blossoms have already started to develop for the next crop.

Garden Feb 2014 photo Garden2-20145_zpsa3ca9b80.jpg

I went out to the back yard to dump old coffee grounds in the garden and, even though temps have been below freezing at night, my onion chives are already starting to peak through.

Garden Feb 2014 photo Garden2-2014_zps4a399330.jpg

The garlic chives aren't as hardy, but they, too, are showing signs of life.

Garden Feb 2014 photo Garden2-20142_zps185a697c.jpg

Shockingly, last year's Italian parsley is also peaking through. That almost never happens!

Garden Feb 2014 photo Garden2-20143_zps596daa9f.jpg

It almost gives me hope that Spring is right around the corner.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Cheddar Pecan Wafers

Cheddar Pecan Wafers photo CheddarampPecanWafers1_zps39f28f3d.jpg

Is it safe to come out of my rabbit hole? I know I've been gone a long time. I've been posting a little on my Facebook page, sharing photos of what we have been serving for dinner and such, but I haven't felt compelled to create a whole blog post simply because none of food has really been holiday related, which is what everyone seems to be looking for these last couple of months. So I've kept quiet, waiting for the pumpkin season to pass.

I have a confession. I don't care for pumpkin all that much. It's probably because boring ole pumpkin pie was pretty much the holiday dessert mainstay when I was growing up. You know how it was made: a can of pumpkin, some sugar, a couple of eggs, a can of evaporated milk and pumpkin pie spice. Meh.

Last year when my blogger friend, Desperately Seeking {gina}, invited me to do a guest post during her annual Month of Pumpkin, I was hard pressed to come up with something creative. Mostly I lean toward savory flavors, but I did finally settle on Pumpkin Walnut Baklava. That's about as creative as I get with pumpkin. When it comes to pumpkin, I have nothing to add, nothing to contribute.

But we still have one major holiday to go...Christmas! And I love to bake and give my family and friends containers of sweet and savory baked goods for Christmas.

And when I have guests, I also like to set out a nice charcuterie or salumi and cheese plate with homemade wafers. I'll even make a plate just for the two of us for dinner occasionally and these wafers are perfect for that.

The tray I made recently included dried chorizo slices with chives....

Cheddar Pecan Wafers photo CheddarampPecanWafers8_zpsc9cba438.jpg

But they would be equally as tasty with salami, prosciutto or even pepperoni.

I also caramelized some apples slices with just a slight sprinkling of brown sugar and topped it off with a hint of fresh tarragon....

Cheddar Pecan Wafers photo CheddarampPecanWafers7_zps0d87aa53.jpg

It was sort of like eating apple pie with a cheddar crust. Yummy!

These wafers are a wonderful by themselves or as a compliment to just about anything. Use your imagination.

Cheddar Pecan Wafers photo CheddarampPecanWafers17_zpsd57f4d86.jpg

Cheese Pecan Wafers

Makes about 50 wafers

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 pound butter, room temperature
  • 1 pound bag of grated sharp cheddar cheese, cut into smaller chunks
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (I used "Pecan chips". I also think these would be equally good with walnuts)

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and cayenne pepper and set aside.

In a separate bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Turn the mixer speed to low and add the cheese in batches gradually until all of it is incorporated.

Now add the flour mixture slowly, about 1/4 cup at a time, making sure to incorporate each addition completely before adding more. The dough will be very stiff.

Place a nice sized piece of plastic wrap about 15 inches long on your counter. Spoon the dough in the center along most of the length of the plastic wrap, fold the plastic wrap tightly over the dough, gently rolling the dough into a neat cylinder that is approximately 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Twist the plastic wrap gently at both ends to seal and refrigerate the roll of dough at least 4 hours up to overnight.

Preheat your oven to 375° and prepare your cooking racks or kitchen counter by covering with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and gently unwrap the dough and discard the plastic wrap. Cut the dough into slices approximately 1/4-inch thick and place on an ungreased baking sheet about 1-inch apart. Bake the wafers in the preheated oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, until they are golden brown.

When the wafers are done, remove them with a spatula to your prepared counter or cooling racks. Allow to cool completely.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Focaccia ~ The Easiest Bread You'll EVER Bake!

Focaccia photo OliveampHerbFocaccia16_zpsbe1085c5.jpg

Well, hello there!

Yes, I'm back. Maybe not with a vengeance, but I'm back just the same. I can't really explain why I took such a long break. A little blogger burnout, a little depression or just not able to find the right words to communicate my love of cooking and food. But, now that it is somewhat behind me, I feel like I have a little more enthusiasm.

During my absence, Tom and I took a vacation to visit our youngest son, Chris, and his family in Florida. Chris is an aspiring chef/restaurant owner and he cooks up a storm. So when we arrived in the late afternoon, Chris and his wife, Kelly, met us at the house we rented for the week. When I say "met us," I mean with some very tasty goodies. Our afternoon snack consisted of crab cake morsels with an amazing dipping sauce and Focaccia bread still warm from the oven ready for dipping in olive oil and 30-year old balsamic vinegar. Chris said he got the recipe for the bread from an acquaintance who just happens to be an Italian baker.

It was, by no stretch of the imagination, the best Focaccia I'd ever tasted. And the easiest bread I've ever made. Seriously.

Now this is not a loaf of bread that you just mix up and throw in the oven. It takes time. Four separate rises worth of time. But it's easy, perfect for a beginner because there's no kneading, just a few stretches and fold-overs. Most of the time is spent waiting the 45-minutes for it to rise each time. Plenty of time to do the laundry, vacuum the living room and tune-up the car.

The basic recipe is only 5 ingredients. Bread flour, yeast, salt, water and olive oil. That's it. Nothing fancy. But, you can jazz it up any way you want. These are some of the ways I flavored the bread:
  • The first time I made it, I used roasted garlic mixed into the dough and sprinkled more chopped roasted garlic on top before baking.
  • Another time, I chopped up some olives (kalamata, green and black), some roasted garlic and some herbs (rosemary and Italian parsley) and mixed them altogether with a little olive oil (see the photo at the top) and sprinkled the mixture on top before baking.
  • I also experimented with adding ground rosemary (1 teaspoon) and garlic powder (2 teaspoons) when I mixed in the flour.
  • I added 2 teaspoons of course ground pepper ("restaurant style ground pepper") to the mixture just before mixing in the flour, then sprinkled the dough with rosemary salt just before baking.

It's tasty no matter what you use, so use your imagination.

My favorite so far is with the roasted garlic. I roast heads of garlic submerged in olive oil (how-to coming in a later post) and use the flavored olive oil along with the roasted garlic for extra flavor. It's exquisite.

This recipe does require one piece of special equipment: a stand mixer with a dough hook. If you don't have one, please invest in one. You will need it because you will make this bread often.

Focaccia photo OliveampHerbFocaccia24_zpse1420915.jpg

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, pour 2 cups of barely warm (not hot) water. Add 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and stir until the salt is dissolved. Sprinkle 1 package (2¼ teaspoons)of dry yeast over the salt water and let sit for 5 minutes.

When the 5 minutes has passed, add 4 cups of bread flour (if you are adding herbs or garlic, this is where you will incorporate them into the dough; or you can choose to just sprinkle them on top of the bread just before baking). Turn the mixer on low to start incorporating the flour into the liquid. Continue mixing on low for about a minute or so, then increase the speed up one notch for another minute. If you do it any faster, you'll have flour all over the place, so go easy. When most of the flour is incorporated, increase the speed again, but no higher than medium. When all of the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, you are ready for the next step.

Focaccia photo OliveampHerbFocaccia2_zps22e2f465.jpg

Remove the bowl from the stand with the dough hook still in the dough. The dough is really sticky so put a couple of drops of olive oil on your fingers and push the dough off of the dough hook. The olive oil will keep the dough from sticking to your fingers. Take 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil and drizzle it around the edges of the dough, like so....

Focaccia photo OliveampHerbFocaccia4_zps7a20c13c.jpg

Now take a silicone spatula, rub it with a little olive oil, and run it around the edges of the dough so that olive oil can drip down the sides and underneath the dough, like this...

Focaccia photo OliveampHerbFocaccia6_zps30f6321b.jpg

Remove the spatula, cover the bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel, set your kitchen timer for 45 minutes for the first of four rises and go do something else. Really. That's it.

In the meantime, you might want to set up your work station. I have a very large 16-1/2- by 24-inch Silpat silicone mat that I use on my counter just for this purpose and to use when kneading all my other bread doughs. It's a bit pricey, but you don't need to be that extravagant. You can use a large piece of plastic wrap. Just wipe your counter with a damp cloth and lay the plastic wrap on top of the damp counter. The plastic wrap will stay in place and you can use it throughout the whole process. Easy peasy.

Okay. Next step. After 45 minutes, pour a couple of tablespoons of oil on your work surface (the silpat or plastic wrap or countertop, whichever you're using) and rub it around with your hands, then rub your hands together to coat them with oil as well. Dump the focaccia dough onto your work surface, using the silicone spatula to scrape out any dough sticking to the bowl.

Focaccia photo 007_zps15311a40.jpg

Now, stretch the dough out into a large rectangle. It doesn't have to be perfect. It just needs a good stretching.

Focaccia photo 010_zps58723739.jpg

Next you need to take about a third of that rectangle and fold it over top of the dough, like so....

Focaccia photo 011_zps3e0b4b9f.jpg

And then take the rest of the dough and fold it on top of the folded third, like this....

Focaccia photo 012_zps858b5117.jpg

And now you have a smaller rectangle. Flip the rectangle of dough 180 degrees and give it a good stretch...

Focaccia photo 013_zpsb074bc12.jpg

Then fold the dough by thirds like you did before...

Focaccia photo 014_zps94c20ffe.jpg

 photo 015_zps02b98d52.jpg

Take that nice little package of dough and tuck the sides underneath creating a ball of dough and put it back in the bowl, cover the bowl with the damp towel and set the timer for another 45 minutes, the second rise.

When 45 minutes has passed, you are going to repeat the stretching and folding process again, form the dough into a ball and allow it to rise again for another 45 minutes for your third rise. After the third rise, again repeat the stretching and folding process for the last time and put the dough back in the bowl for its final 45 minute rise.

While you're waiting for the last rise, preheat the oven to 425° and just before the timer goes off, prepare your baking pan. You'll need a large pan, 11½ X 17½. I bought mine at one of those big box stores (Price Club in California, which merged with Costco) but Sam's Club sells them, too.

So, to prepare your pan, I can only tell you what my son, Chris, told me: "Drizzle the pan with more olive oil than you think you will need," and this is how that looks...

 photo OliveampHerbFocaccia7_zpsd75b9971.jpg

When the final 45 minutes has elapsed, dump the dough out onto the oiled silpat (or plastic wrap or countertop) and stretch it into the best rectangle you can get, then pick it up and quickly drop it onto the prepared baking pan and stretch it some more.

If you are going to sprinkle the top with salt or herbs, now is the time. It should look like this...

Focaccia photo OliveampHerbFocaccia12_zps147656ec.jpg

Isn't it beautiful??

Bake it in your preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until slightly golden brown.

While your bread is baking, get out your best olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping because you will not be able to wait to eat this bread. Enjoy!

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