Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mini Chocolate Strawberry Tarts

I just completed my first column for and it will appear on their site in a day or two. For the column this month, I focused on red foods for Valentine's Day and came up with mini chocolate strawberry tarts that are so easy, but so decadent.

Mini Chocolate Strawberry Tarts
4 crunchy granola bars crushed or 1/2 cup granola
1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preparation: Divide granola among 4 small ramekins. Melt the butter in the cream on medium heat. Remove from stove and stir in chocolate until melted and smooth. Pour into ramekins and chill in fridge for an hour (half hour in the freezer). Top with strawberries and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cookbook from my grandmother's hometown

When looking for fundraising ideas for the Suffern Farmer’s Market, I came upon a website that publishes community cookbooks and one of those cookbooks was from Middleport, NY. This is a very small town way upstate in New York – near Buffalo and the Canadian border. My father and uncles grew up there and my grandmother lived there until she passed away a little over ten years ago. She was very active in the community and I hope I possess half the zest for life that she had. One of my favorite (and last) memories of my gradnmother is of she and I peeling, coring and cutting apples from my former boss' tree and making an apple pie the way her mother (a home economics teacher at a school for the blind in MI) taught her. (I will include that apple pie recipe in another post). My grandfather, Herb Halstead, passed away when my father was a child, so I never knew him but have heard often about his vivacious personality.

The following sample recipe from the Middleport Community Choir Cookbook was on the publisher's site and I felt warm and fuzzy when I saw the name - Herb - like my grandfather! Could it be a message from above? Below the recipe is information on ordering.

"Welcome Herb" Potato Salad (German recipe) By: Dorle Hirte
1kg potatoes
1 lg onion
6 T. oil
3 T. boiling water
vinegar to taste
salt, pepper & paprika
parsley, chives & dill

Boil the unpeeled potatoes until done. Peel and cut into slices. Peel onion, grate into small pieces and add to the potatoes along with the vinegar, salt, pepper, paprika and chopped herbs. Pour the hot water over the mixture and allow to marinade for about 30 minutes. Add the oil, stir well and make sure all ingredients are well incorporated. You may now add some chopped hard-boiled eggs or dill pickles if you wish.

Make check payable to:Middleport Community Choir
Mail order to:The Middleport Community Choir, Attn: Gail Kester
Park Ave. & Vernon St.
Middleport, NY 14105
Phone: 716-523-4783
Web site
Cost: $11.00plus $3.00 S/H per book.
New York residents add 8% state and local sales tax to your order.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Simple way to feed the hungry - and I don't mean your own kids!

Barilla, the pasta maker, has joined chef Mario Batali, entertaining expert David Tutera, and several celebrities to create a free cookbook with Italian recipes and d├ęcor advice – all to benefit hunger relief in America. During the month of February, go to to download the book. For each download, Barilla will donate $1 to America’s Second Harvest.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Win Cooking Classes from Woman's Day

I love to enter sweepstakes and this one I couldn't resist. Woman's Day is sponsoring the Dream Come True Sweepstakes. When you enter, you'll be eligible to win one of over 1,000 prizes including a 10-day Southern Caribbean Calypso Cruise aboard the Queen Mary 2, plus $5,000 or $25,000 cash. First prize is cooking classes, a $2,000 value. Second prize is a GE Profile Electric Range and third prize is a DeLonghi Coffee Bar and Espresso Maker. The sweepstakes ends Jan. 30, 2009. For official rules and details visit

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Decadent devil's food and peanut butter cookies

I was stuck in the house again because we are still all getting over being sick. My daughter slept for three hours on my lap, so I had no choice but to sit there and flip back and forth between E! Hollywood network and Food Network. The inevitable happened - I became incresingly hungry and wanted to cook everything I saw. Guy Fieri was hitting his usual Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and the gooey burgers inspired me to make burgers (local farm-raised, no antibiotics or hormones of course) with sauteed onions and melted horseradish cheddar. I served natural hot dogs for my son, who doesn't like burgers because I have only started serving red meat recently for my husband. My son and I usually eat turkey burgers. But I digress - I was also watching Road Tasted and Jamie and Bobby Deen were tasting some scrumptious looking whoopie pies from Maine. Of course I wanted those too, but had to make do with whatever I had in the house. So I decided to make double chocolate cookies with peanut butter filling. They turned out delish! But the one mistake I made was making the cookies too big which made them unmanageable, not to mention too filling.

Here's the recipe:
Cookies -
Devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp water
2 eggs
1 cup cholcolate chips or chunks

Mix ingredients together in a bowl until moist. Drop by spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8 to 10 minutes.

Filling -
1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Cream together in a bowl until completely combined. The mixture will be stiff. Add a few drops of vegetable oil to make it smoother if necessary.

Make sandwiches out of the cookies using the peanut butter filling in the middle. The peanut butter spreads more easily when the cookies are still warm.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

Stretch out that chicken soup

Now I have what my daughter has which was inevitable since I am contantly bathed in sneezes and mucus from my little angel. So, chicken soup sounded pretty good to me last night and today. Unfortunately, I had left my broth from the day before on the stove for too long with the heat too high and it cooked down to a more concentrated soup which was quite flavorful, but there was only a little of it. So, I saved it and put it back on the stove, added a chicken bullion cube and some water as well as a can of diced tomatoes. I boiled some extra noodles and voila - more homemade soup. Well, my daughter is sleeping now, so I am going to put my fuzzy slippers on and crawl under a blanket and watch Food Network.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Have a sweet tooth? Try these cookies...

My son has made a new year's resolution to cut down on sweets, my husband is getting in shape to enter the police academy, and I am still trying to lose that last 15 since my daughter's birth a year-and-a-half ago. We eat healthy meals daily, but the main challenge in our house is that we all have a sweet tooth. But, I've been stuck in the house with a sick baby all week and needed a treat. So, last night I decided to make a healthy version of our favorite cookies - chocolate chip. I adapted the recipe from the inside of the cap on my Quaker Oats box. Instead of one cup of butter or margarine, I used half a cup of olive oil and half a cup of unsweetened apple sauce. I also replaced the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. So, with whole wheat, oats, apple sauce and healthy fats in the olive oil, this recipe is a pretty healthy (and tasty) alternative to a decadent treat.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Chicken Noodle Soup

So I made wraps from leftover rotisserie chicken yesterday and then started sauteeing a yellow onion in olive oil in a large pot, then threw the chicken carcass in the pot, filled it with water, put it back on the stove and started cooking down my chicken stock for homemade soup. My mother-in-law taught me how to make soup from scratch while I was pregnant with my daughter. The timing for my soup is good today because my daughter happens to be under the weather and she loves soup - the standard remedy for a cold. As the stock cooks down, I add chopped celery, shredded carrots, a can of tomato soup and seasoning which usualy includes salt, pepper, dried poultry seasoning, bay leaves and sometimes dried celery if I don't have fresh available. I let the soup cook down for a few hours and then take it off the stove, strain the chicken bones out, and let the soup cool - overnight and in the fridge if possible. Orange colored fat solidifies on the top and that gets skimmed off before the pot goes back on the stove. In a separate pot, I cook the noodles or macaroni (any can be used, but my favorites are wide egg noodles or small dittalini pasta). I add the pasta to the soup as I serve it, that way leftover soup can be frozen or put in the fridge for another night. The noodles don't keep well in the soup. They absorb the liquid and get too soggy. I serve the soup with crackers and topped with plenty of grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese. Campell's move over!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Put that rotisserie chicken to work for you

I don't usually like to buy rotisserie chickens from the supermarket - they're six bucks, tiny and a bit too greasy for my taste - but sometimes they are a lifesaver. When you are really pressed for time, a rotisserie can be the building block of a nutritious family meal. The first night, pair it with brown rice and some steamed veggies and you have a healthy dinner. Put the leftovers in the fridge and take them out the next day and put the chicken pieces in quesadillas or chicken wraps. Wraps are a wonderful cath-all for leftovers. Take the remaining chicken carcass and put it in a pot for chicken stock. I will share my mother-in-law's chicken noodle soup recipe soon. If you don't have time to cook the stock right away, freeze the carcass until you are ready. Three or four meals from one rotisserie - not bad for six bucks.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Easy, Delicious, Nutritious

Last night's dinner was simple to cook, but the family felt like they were eating at our favorite Japanese restaurant.

Salmon - wild, not farm-raised of course - was on sale at the local supermarket, so I bought three pounds. I cooked half of it and froze half for another night. I lined my George Forman grill with aluminum foil for easy clean-up (otherwise the grill smells like fish for weeks), set it to 350 degrees, put the salmon on and topped it with a soy/ginger/garlic marinade from a bottle. It was fairly thick, so it took about 15 or 20 minutes.

While that was grilling, I put a cup of brown rice and some water and olive oil in my rice cooker to boil and topped that with the steamer tray filled with shrimp shumai. I buy the shumai frozen at my local Asian vegetable market and for $2.99 I get about three times a typical order at a restaurant for a fraction of the price. I also steamed some veggies.

The whole meal took about a half hour to prepare and was a big hit with the family. Easy clean-up too.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sunday Brunch

Today I had a former boss over for brunch. I enjoyed using my new tablecloth, cloth napkins and fine china. Here's where my experience in college as a banquet hall waitress comes in handy. I enjoy dressing up the table and folding my napkins professionally.

As a main course, we served quiche. Quiche is the timeless brunch staple. It's just great entertaining food. One or two standard quiches can serve a small crowd and it's one of those foods that tastes just as good at room temperature as hot so can be left on the table for a while. For a large crowd, I once made a recipe from a Martha Stewart cookbook for quiche appetizers. The recipe calls for a crust rolled out on a large cookie sheet and then topped with an egg, cream, cheese and spinach mixture. Once baked, it can be cut into about 100 squares, so serves a crowd. And quiche is one of those great dishes that can be thrown together using whatever you have in the house. Some of my favorite quiche recipes come from my mom who makes an apple and cheddar quiche which is a great use for extra apples in the fall. Swiss cheese and marinated artichoke hearts make another great combination for quiche. If you have extra peppers, onions, scallions or potatoes - throw them in a quiche. Zucchini, yellow squash or tomatoes can also be used, but sparingly as they are watery and will affect the crust and bake time. All types of cheeses work well in quiche.

My standard recipe for quiche is as follows:
One 9 inch pie pan
Refrigerator pie crust
6 to 8 large eggs
One cup milk
Cheese and other flavorings to taste

Cover pie pan with crust following package directions. Whisk eggs and milk together. Add cheese and other flavorings to taste. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees.

A few months ago, I made a "pizza quiche" that was a hit with the kids. I added mozzarella cheese on top of the crust and baked for 10 minutes and then topped that with a can of tomato soup and then the egg mixture and baked for an hour. Delish!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Don't throw away that calamari!

Last week, I did something I never did before - I saved calamari from a restaurant, fried it again the next day, and served it over linguini. It all started when my husband and I escaped for a dinner alone - one of the first since our 17-month-old was born. Our nine year old, wise to where we were going (a favorite local Italian restaurant), was a little dissappointed he wasn't coming since he loves the calamari there. I promised him I'd bring some back but by the time we came home, he was full from the baked ziti I left for the kids for dinner, so he only had a few bites. So, what to do with all that leftover calamari?? It seemed a shame to throw it all away, so I decided to put it in the fridge and see what I could do with it the next day.

So, I heated some olive oil in a pan and dropped the calamari in as is. I let it fry for two to three minutes, sprinkled some kosher salt over it and removed it from the pan. I served it over linguini with marinara sauce and it was crispy and delicious. I was afraid the calamari would become tough or chewy, but that was not the case at all. It was even crispier and tastier than the day before. My son enjoyed it so much, that he didn't want me to throw the leftovers away. So we saved them for one more day and tried it again, but that was overkill. I think the calamari really needs to be used by the next day, or it won't work.

We may be going out with my in-laws tonight to another Italian restaurant, so if there are any calamari leftovers, I'll save them and do it again. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, January 18, 2008

New Column on My Personal Farmers

I am happy to announce that I will be writing a regular column on Since the Locally Grown contest back in Sept., I have had the pleasure of getting to know the people involved in the contest - the contestants as well as the judges. It really is a great group of people. And one of those people is Maryanne Hedrick, owner of She and I met for breakfast recently and spontaneously decided it would be fun to do a column on the site about cooking with local ingredients. And so my new column was born. More about that tomorrow.

As for recipe ideas for today, I was in meetings all day and as I was driving home from the city, my husband called with the ever-tempting suggestion: do you want to just order food? How could I resist. So, although I had a little guilt from not cooking a home-cooked meal for the kids, I thoroughly enjoyed some Mahi from our local Outback.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Welcome to the Farmer's Market Cooking blog

Hello. I am finally doing something I have been meaning to do for quite some time - create a blog so that I can share recipes, resources and stories and connect with other people who enjoy cooking with fresh, locally grown ingredients. Back in Sept. 2007, I won the Locally Grown recipe contest and cook-off sponsored by the Journal News ( in Westchester County, NY, and The Valley Restaurant ( in Garrison, NY. The pictures, recipes and video of the half hour TV program on the contest are still available on the Journal News website (see above link).

So, welcome. I look forward to getting to know other amateur chefs. Check back weekly to find new recipes and resources for gourmet cooks everywhere.

embracing a sustainable lifestyle as a Locavore ... using locally grown and produced ingredients whenever possible ...

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