Christmas Morning

I find good value in wholesome, savory foods this time of the year. They provide something of an anchor among all the merrymaking and passing of sweets, and this Christmas I'm giving up my former tradition of gingerbread pancakes for this divine torta. There is plenty of time for gingerbread in the afternoon.

In the photos you see a Spinach Artichoke Torta. (This recipe is from The Best American Recipes 1999 Cookbook. If you haven't tried one of them before, check one out from the library, or head to this link and buy one: http://www.amazon.com/Best-American-Recipes-1999-Newspapers/dp/0395966477 I haven't found a dud recipe in one of their books yet.)

Spinach-Artichoke Scramble (Inspired by the above Torta)

8 eggs
1/2 c milk
3 Tbls Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 can artichoke hearts (in water) drained and chopped
1 Tbls lemon juice
1 bunch scallions
3 oz frozen, chopped organic spinach, thawed and sqeezed of excess water
3/4 c grated havarti
1/2 c grated parmesan
1 bunch basil, chopped
2 oz prosciutto, cut into tiny squares

1. Heat one Tbls EVOO in frying pan and add scallions over medium heat. Cook until they become transluscent. Add Artichoke hearts and lemon juice, cover and cook until fluid decreases (about 4 minutes.) Set aside to cool. (This step can be done the night ahead to make prep a cinch on Christmas morning.)

2. Mix eggs and milk with whisk in a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients.

3. Heat large frying pan over medium heat with remaining olive oil. Add egg mixture and cook, stirring constantly to scramble until eggs are well cooked. Enjoy.


Recipe of the Week: Garden Fresh Berries with Cinnamon Whipped Cream

These gorgeous strawberries came from a local farm and they tasted ten times better than any strawberry I've tasted before, which is just another argument for buying local and fresh.

I wish I could credit the patriotic look of this week's desert to careful planning and organization, but I can't. The red, white and blue is just a happy coincidence that I failed to notice as I prepared and ate this light, summery treat. (Yes, I do eat just about any food I photograph. Sometimes I have a little help. Sometimes.)

Here's the recipe:

A bowl full of berries (whichever you like best) washed and ready to eat

1 c organic whipping cream
3 Tbls sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon*

Mix in electric mixer (or with hand mixer) on high speed until soft peaks form (just a few minutes.) Of course, there's nothing wrong with good, old-fashioned elbow grease: I've seen a friend do it with a whisk.

*If you're having blueberries, try 1 tsp grated lemon zest in place of the cinnamon


Spice It Up - Egg Salad Sandwich

Life gets busy, as mine has tended to do lately, and when I'm in a pinch, I find myself falling back on the same handful of quick meals that I grew up on. "Spice it Up" is my way of adding a little interest to those otherwise boring (but beloved) dishes that are just too plain convenient to drop.

Today, I threw together a delicious egg salad Sandwich with a hint of pesto. Here's how: replace yellow mustard with 1/4 tsp fine pesto per egg. Otherwise, mix as you would normally, with mayonnaise. A nice slice of tomato throws it over the top.


Memories and Salad

Memorial Day is a special holiday in my family. Of course we're delighted to celebrate the beginning of summer and all the wonderful, fresh produce that comes with it (and my mind suddenly wanders through you-pick fields and farmstands with barking dogs and freshly picked sweet corn) but my grandmother faithfully maintains a beautiful tradition on this day that reminds me what Memorial Day is all about.

In the morning, she loads the back of her car with small blooming plants along with water and garden tools, and visits all of the area cemeteries where our family members have been laid to rest over the last several decades. I was fortunate enough to go with her while visiting when I was about thirteen, and it was a lovely occassion to hear stories and become acquainted with the people who have laid the path on which I now walk. As the years roll by, I'm sad to think that people I knew (and deeply loved) have been added to her list of stops, but it touches me deeply to think that her love and devotion will be visible to others in the form of brilliant blooms all summer long.

So today, as I prepare my favorite summer salad, I'm thinking with a grateful heart of my grandmother and my mother who joins her.

(Recipe for MINTED PEACH AND TOMATO SALAD available here)


Spice It Up - BLT

It's hard to imagine making any improvement on a BLT, but it seems the secret's in wasabi-horseradish mayonaise. Thank goodness it's not so hard to find on the store shelf these days.


Recipe of the Week: Savory Sweet Potato & Goat Cheese Puffs

I have been an obsessive foodie for years, but the demands of balancing family duties with my life as an artist has significantly cut into the time I am able to spend on meals. (Isn't this something we all struggle with in some way or another at some point?) I've come to accept the fact that I'm lucky to have three square meals a day, nonetheless eat something that is both healthful and interesting, but I like a good challenge. This recipe is one of many I've come up with that applies the bygone days I've spent in gourmet cookbooks with the need to put something good together, quickly.

Savory Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Puffs
(created by K. Sitko for brunch with the girls)

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1/2 can sweet potato puree (This can be found in most grocery stores these days. If you can't find this, cut sweet potatoes into 1" cubes and steam for 40 - 45 minutes or roast in the oven at 400 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes, or until soft when squeezed - with an oven mit, of course.)
Dried, rubbed Sage to taste
Pepper, to taste
1/4 c crumbled goat cheese (the goat cheese really is what makes this treat, so don't be afraid to use more)
9 fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven and let puff pastry rest at room temperature according to instructions on the packaging (Mine read 375 degrees F and 10 minutes, for example) then cut into nine equal squares and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Set aside.

2. In small bowl, mix puree with sage and pepper and spoon dollups of the mixture into center of puff pastry squares. Cook according to instructions on pastry packaging, until pastry is golden brown. (Mine was 15 - 20.)

3. Let cool for 5 minutes before crumbling goat cheese evenly over each pastry. Serve warm or cool.

(* For variation, try butternut squash puree with rosemary, thyme and sage with ricotta cheese.)


A Wee Break Before Dinner

Sometimes a glass of wine helps to get the chef ready for battle and sometimes it's just a reward for making it through the day.


Easter Feast

I hope your Easter was splendid indeed. Mine was bright and sunny, filled with good music, a great church service and brilliant company.

We happen to take feasting quite seriously in my household, and this time we broke out the fine china and good wine to go along with our Easter ham. We were so stuffed that we didn't make it back to the table for espresso and triple berry pie until after dark. Now, just what to do with all of these leftovers?


Perfect Packaging

After such a winter as this has been, I'm thrilled at the coming of spring. Tiny buds appear on branches, brave little tulips send leaves poking through the soil and, at long last, the sound of birdcalls fill the morning air once again. This holiday weekend, amid a frenzy of feastfull celebration and cellophane grass, millions of eggs will be collected from henhouses and iceboxes and, for just a moment, admired for their simplicity.

I wish you and yours a Happy Easter and Joyous Spring!


Coffee with Friends

Nothing quite says coffee date with the girls quite like fresh biscotti. This Thursday, we required two pots to brew at once.

(By popular demand --- the recipe)

Cranberry Almond Biscotti

1 1/2 c slivered almonds (toasted, unsalted)
1 tsp baking powder
2 1/2 c all- purpose flour
1 1/4 c sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tsp almond extract
1 c dried cranberries (Trader Joe's Orange Cranberries are divine)

1. Heat over to 350 degrees F. Combine baking powder, flour, sugar and salt in large bowl. In medium bowl mix eggs, yolks and almond extract. Add to dry ingredients; mix until sticky dough is formed. Stir in nuts and dried fruit.
2. Turn dough out onto well-floured board and knead slightly (adding flour if neccessary.) Shape into rectangular log, about an inch tall. Transfer to parchment covered baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, 25 - 35 minutes. Let cool about 10 mins. Reduce over to 275 degrees F.
3. Transfer log to cutting board and cut into 1/2" thick slices. Return pieces, cut side down, to baking sheet. Bake until lightly toasted, about 20 minutes. Flip onto other cut side and bake about 20 minutes, or until dry.


Afternoon Treat

Is there anything quite like cookies with milk?


Friday Morning Pastries

I consider myself very fortunate on the occasional Friday morning when I have the chance to steal away to a sweet little Patisserie not far from home and enjoy a cheese crepe or a butter croissant. This morning was especially luxurious... I had both and shared them with my favorite little girl.


Rainy Day

What more could I ask for on a cold and rainy day than a new pair of slippers and a cup of tea from my favorite tea shop in Paris?


Spinach-Artichoke Souffle


Soup for a Cold Winter's Day

Need I say more?

Just Can't Get Enough

I'd like to say that the winter makes me drink more coffee than usual, but it just isn't so.


Please Forgive Me

I just couldn't help myself. I had to take a bite.


Love affair with vegetables

It's early February and something has happened in this typically frozen solid world around me. The snow has melted. The sun is shining and I'm thinking about spring and all the wonderful fruit and vegetables that will soon be gracing the farm-stand down the street. I cannot wait.


Salmon Salad with Honey Mustard Balsamic Dressing

When I spotted the words "Sockeye Salmon" in the freezer section at my local market, I couldn't help but think of early fall days of my childhood in the Pacific Northwest. In numerous rivers and shallow pebbled streambeds, I remember watching the bright red backs of these fish as they labored upstream on the way to spawn in the lakes of their origin.

I had to take some home, and broiled it up with salt and pepper and threw it into a salad of mixed greens and dried cranberries, all covered in this delightful dressing:

1 Tbls dijon mustard mixed with 2 Tblsp honey
stir in 1/4 cup balsamic dressing and finally 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Balsamic Chocolate Truffles with a Hint of Cherry

For the recipe and more of my truffle images, go to http://www.designspongeonline.com/2008/12/in-the-kitchen-with-kristine-sitko.html#more-16238

Blackberry Cobbler

In my family, blackberry cobbler is a sacred late summer tradition which finds us all donning gloves and boots for an afternoon of berry picking in the back field. While the scent of cinnamon and baking oats fills the house, we pull out the favored crystal dishes and silver in anticipation.