Hearty Golden Borscht

I was inspired to make this soup while shopping at the farmer’s market. The golden beets looked so beautiful all piled up in the morning light. Be sure not to overcook this soup–the color of the beets will fade if you do. If you’re serving it cold, prepare soup 24 hours ahead and serve in chilled bowls. In the winter, when served hot, it makes for a hearty meal. Serves 2-4

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound golden beets, peeled and cut into small dice borcht photo (7)
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups salted chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups green cabbage, shredded into short pieces
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • salt to taste
  • 1/8 ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons rough chop dill weed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar or to taste

Garnish:

  • 1/3 cup sour cream or crème fraîche
  • 1/2 cup seeded and diced cucumber
  • fresh dill sprigs

Preparation:

Place the beets, onion, carrot, water and chicken broth in a dutch oven; cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the potatoes, cabbage, butter, salt, pepper, dill weed, and dill seed. Simmer covered for 20 minutes. Check the beets and potatoes and if they are tender, turn of the heat. Add vinegar, taste and adjust.

Mix crème fraîche and diced cucumber. Garnish bowls with a dollop of cucumber crème and a sprig of fresh dill.

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Shortbread Cookie Cutouts


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These buttery shortbread cookies are crunchy yet melt in your mouth good. They are a great base for frosted cookies or for dipping and  decorating with tempered chocolate. They are delicious topped with crystallized colored sugar as well.

Preheat oven to 325 °

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of salted butter at room temperature (use high quality butter)
  • 1 teaspoon quality vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted all purpose flour

Procedure:

Make sure butter is at room temperature at 70 to 75 degrees. Cream butter, vanilla and sugar. Blend in flour. Form into a ball. Dust rolling surface with flour and roll dough out to 1/2-inch in thickness. Cut out cookies with cookie cutters.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bottom of cookies are golden in color. Allow cookies to cool. They are good all on their own or frost cookies with colored frosting, dip or drizzle with melted chocolate.

Frosting:

  • 1 cup confectionery or 10x sugar
  • just enough water to mix into a thick spread or dip-able consistency
  • cake decorating food coloring as needed

Mix well and start frosting with fun colors. Allow first layer to dry before adding decorative touches.

Chocolate

  • 1 cup bittersweet mini chocolate chips
  • 1/1/2 teaspoons of butter

Temper chocolate and butter over a double boiler just until melted. Stir constantly. Don’t let the top of the double boiler get too hot to the touch or your chocolate will get too hot and will be hazy once it cools. Be sure not to get any water in the chocolate or it will seize.

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Roasted Eggplant

Roasted Eggplant Salad 

Served as a salad, over pasta or mixed with cooked lentils, this dish lends itself to variation.

Serves 4eggplant salad)

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium globe eggplant
  • 1/3 cup california olive oil
  • 1/4 pound crimini or white mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • 2 teaspoons chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1/2 teaspoon fresh
  • 2 teaspoon dry basil
  • pan spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel and trim the eggplant and dice into 1 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a stainless steel bowl. Wash, then quarter the mushrooms and add to the eggplant.Salt the eggplant and mushrooms, then toss with oil, garlic, herbs and pepper.

Lightly grease a jelly-roll pan (15 x 10 x 1 inch) with pan spray and spread the eggplant mixture onto it. Bake the eggplant mixture in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes then turn the mixture with a metal spatula and bake for 20 minutes. The roasted eggplant and mushrooms should now appear dark brown, caramelized color.

Additional Ingredients:

  • 3 diced Roma tomatoes
  • 2 sliced scallions
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

While the eggplant and mushrooms are roasting prepare and mix the diced tomatoes, sliced scallions and lemon juice in a large stainless steel or glass bowl. After the eggplant mixture has cooled, add to the tomato mixture.

Serve either chilled or at room temperature.

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Guacamole

Prep for guacamoleI recently went to a potluck. Even as a chef, I had no idea what I was going to take one hour before the party. I dashed over to the grocery store with my ATM card and an open mind. When I walked in I noticed that avocados were ripe, and on sale. BINGO!….A bag of corn chips and you’re good to go. Here’s the recipe, as requested. I can’t take much credit for this because it really had to do with the ripeness of both the avocados and fresh tomatoes. When you select your avocados choose the ones with dark skins and yield to a gentle squeeze. If they aren’t ripe then hang them in a netted bag so they can ripen without bruising. Trader Joe’s has a good deal on them but in most cases you need to ripen them 2 or three days prior to use.

Guacamole

Serves 10 depending on the crowd

Ingredient list:

  • 6 or 7 ripe California Hass avocados, diced
  • 3 garden fresh tomatoes the size of an avocado, diced
  • 20 springs of cilantro washed and chopped
  • 1 serrano chili-optional, discard seeds and dice
  • 1 1/2 limes or 1/4 cup depending on the limes*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt

Gather your ingredients cut, pit, dice and scoop out avocado into a glass or stainless bowl. Add diced tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, chili and salt. Mix together taste with a chip, adjust salt if necessary, then transfer into a serving bowl.

*When choosing limes look for the ones that have smooth, bright green skin, these usually contain more juice. Before cutting, roll the lime on a flat surface with the palm of your hand to break up the juice membranes, then cut and squeeze.

Other helpful tips: To get the pit out of the avocado, cut in half, top to bottom, then gently clef into the pit with the knife so that you can pull the pit out. While still in the skin, score the flesh with your knife, actually dicing the avacado in its skin. Then scoop out diced avocado with a spoon. If you want the dip to be spicy leave the seeds in the chili when you dice it. Wear gloves if are sensitive to the burning sensation that occurs when handling the chili’s seeds and veins.

¡Don’t forget the margaritas and cervezas!

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iSimmer’s blog slides over to WordPress.com

They called me Susie

This may take some time as I live life faster then I can write about it. You might find some of the posts lacking script or jumbled but that is due to the landslide from Vox to WordPress. I’ll sort it out. Nudge me if you find jumbled posts from the past. Thanks!

For my opening post I’ll just say; The best meals match the quality of ingredients you cook with….and….All cooks make mistakes, it’s those who learn along the way that are destine to succeed.

Make it a tasty journey!

Susan Beach

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Portions:  4 servings
Preparation time: 35 minutes  IMG_2319
Cooking time: 1 hour

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons of butter
1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and quartered
1 pound of Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 pound of turnips, peeled and quartered
6 cups of chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt, adjust if broth is salted
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

Preparation:

Place butter in a 3-1/2 quart soup pot and melt over medium heat; add onions and sweat until translucent.  Add apples, potatoes, turnips, chicken broth/vegetable broth, water salt and white pepper.  Cover and bring to a boil; turn down to a simmer and continue to cook for 45 minutes.  Puree with immersion blender; taste and adjust.  Garnish with chopped parsley.

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Bok Choy Salad with Mint

Servings: 8
Portion size: 1 cup
Preparation time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
1 head of bok choy, finely slivered
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 medium shredded carrot
1 cup shelled soy beans


Dressing:
1/4 cup minced fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 clove of minced garlic

Preparation: 
Wash and drain bok choy.  In a bowl, combine slivered bok choy, onion, shredded carrot, soy beans.  Place mint, cilantro salt pepper, rice wine vinegar, sugar, mustard and garlic in a blender and puree. Just before serving pour over bok choy and toss ingredients. Dressing the salad at the last minute will keep it nice and crunchy. More recipes at http://www.isimmer.com on the recipe page.

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EAT YOUR BROCCOLI!

I’ve cooked a lot of broccoli over the years. Personally I think its best served bright green, still firm in texture with a bit of crunch left in it. I prefer steaming over water rather than blanching in water for two reasons. You get the most nutrition out of your veggies when they’re raw or steamed AND it takes less time, energy, & water to cook them in.

At home I use a steamer pan. Put 2 inches of water in the pan, put the lid on, and heat over high heat. While the water comes to a full boil, wash the broccoli, cut it into florets then place it directly in the steamer insert. Place the pan over the boiling water and put the lid on the steamer insert. At an average altitude it takes from 6 to 7 minutes. Once cooked, run it under cold water to stop the cooking, or even better, use ice water to shock it. This process prevents carry over cooking. If I want to serve it hot, I place it in a dish, sprinkle with salt or a squeeze of lemon, then serve it immediately.

Carry over cooking is what happens after you take food off or out of the heating source. The internal heat in hot food continues cooking the meat or vegetables. What this means is that carry over cooking can cause your food to overcook even after you’ve removed it from the heat source. When you account for this and stop the cooking by shocking vegetables in cold water you’ll notice a big difference. How? You’ll know when to pull your vegetables from the heat, cued by both color and texture. That’s the precise time to cool them down quickly. So give it a try and…EAT YOUR VEGETABLES!

I was cooking with a friend here at her house and took a few photos as I helped her put dinner together.

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Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

I offered a gentleman a cookie today at work and he said, "Oh no, if I have one, it will be down hill for me every time you serve cookies. There should be a group called Cookie addicts Anonymous!" That made me laugh, but I totally understand his philosophy. I could attend a C.A.A. group occasionally myself. Hmmm, but what would we have with our coffee at group? That is a cookie conundrum! Here is the recipe for the cookies I baked off today.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter     
1 cup brown sugar 
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-3/4 cups flour
1
teaspoon soda
1/2
teaspoon baking powder
1/2
teaspoon salt
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup quick oats
12 ounces chocolate chips (or more in place of nuts, if you SO desire)
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (OPTIONAL as I would rather add more chocolate and skip d nuts)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugars together in or with a mixer.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture.  Stir in oatmeal, chips, nuts and mix well.

Form into uniform pieces with a cookie scoop, place evenly on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press down for uniformity onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes, or until golden. Makes about 4 dozen, 3-inch in size cookies.

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What I Did On My Summer Vacation…an AWOL Adventure

When my son Diego asked me for a dog I thought about it long and hard. I’d love to indulge him, but knowing how much attention and care a dog will need, kept me from saying yes. I have every reason to say I’d like to, since his father and I recently separated. There is a dog in our future, just not right now.

                     

Next was the request for a hamster. Okay, I thought, I’m down with that, it’s small.  So I mentioned this to his dad saying it would be fine to go out shopping for the new pet with “D” if he wanted to. The next day Diego left the pet shop, not with a hamster, but a bloody finger. He was very disappointed on many levels to say the least. The next few days were rough on Diego. He’s learning to ride a bike. Scrapes may be part of growing up but that doesn’t cushion the fall. Wanting to turn the week around for him I took him to buy a hamster, thinking… they can’t all be biters.

 

When we arrived at the store they were out of regular hamsters but they had one dwarf breed, a Roborovski, also called a Robo hamster. As we checked out with the hamster and her condo, the sales person asked, “Do you have a name for your new pet?”. Diego and I looked at each other and said no… I figured, like most pets, she would earn her name.

 

We all went to bed with the exception of the nocturnal one. Her condo has an exercise wheel, which she uses fanatically right around midnight. She likes to snack as she exercises, keeping spare food on the wheel, which rattles around as she spins. How can a critter so small create such a racket?

 

Next morning I couldn’t help myself, I just had to get her out to pet her. That lasted about 2 seconds as she leapt from my hands and then table to floor. She headed north towards the couch. Quick I thought barricade the room. I tore up the whole living room to no avail. Great, how am I going to break this news to “D” I thought. I peered into his room, and despite barricading the living room, I saw our robo pet bolting by Diego’s bed, heading south for the desk.

 

Diego started to wake up and I tried to explain the situation but was too busy to give all the details. She is twice as fast as she is cute, and she is very cute! Five minutes of trying to capture her and it seemed as if I was about to succeed. I strategically blocked off areas to make sure she didn’t get out of the room or into the most cluttered spaces of the room. Then I heard it… a little rustle in the big closet, which BTW was packed from top to bottom with “stuff”.  I dug in, frantically tossing stuff to the side. The room was quickly transformed into a disaster zone. Finally, I scooped her up and said to Diego, “For now we’ll call her AWOL”  Once I explained the term to Diego he said, “AWOL, I like it” So there you have it, that’s how she earned her name. AWOL is now on lock down, however, she gets an occasional supervised visit and is always able to exercise. Thanks to AWOL I cleaned our closets on my summer vacation.  

 

 

 

 

 

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