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December 4, 2012

Be sure to check out my website for updated blog posts starting May 2012!


Fresh Food Recipe Makeover: Ranch Style Potatoes

May 1, 2012

Today’s makeover recipe perplexed me a little.  I couldn’t quite understand why you would choose to cook potatoes in a crock pot for 6 hours when you can achieve the same texture and even better roasted flavor in the oven.  If anyone has a possible explanation, please feel free to share in the comment section!  It was a mystery to me so I took some liberties and created what I think is an even easier side dish!

Additional steps created for this recipe:

1. Create your own spice blend, rather than using a ranch dressing seasoning packet.

2. Chop raw onion and garlic, rather than use onion and garlic powders.

Recipe Results

Cons: This recipe does not have the same creamy texture of the original recipe, but that’s because I eliminated the sour cream and cream of mushroom soup, so frankly I am okay with that.

Pros: This recipe is a huge health improvement over the original!  I was able to reduce calories by 53% , fat by 78% , saturated fat by 89%, cholesterol by 96% cholesterol, and sodium by 71% (down from a whopping 1145 mg per serving!!)  Plus, this recipe is ready in about 45 minutes, without much additional prep compared to the original.

Ranch Style Roasted Red Potatoes    
Yields: 4 Servings

1 teaspoon Dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon Dried dill weed
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
1/4 cup Onion (finely chopped)
2 teaspoon Garlic clove (minced)
1 1/2 pounds Red potatoes (cut into 1″ pieces)
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)

1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. Combine first four ingredients (parsley through pepper) in medium bowl. Add shallots, garlic, potatoes, and olive oil, tossing to coat.
3. Place potatoes in a baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake 30-35 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown and tender when pierced with a fork.
4. Sprinkle with Parmesan and return to oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese. Serve.

Kate’s Thoughts

The seasoning mixture, onion, and garlic create all the flavors of ranch, without the sodium laden packet.  Although the potatoes have a crisper texture by being roasted without the cream sauce, your taste buds will not be disappointed.  Plus, the Parmesan at the end gives just enough added flavor to compensate.  (I did contemplate tossing the potatoes in Greek yogurt, but unfortunately did not have time.  I will be sure to come back and share when I do try it.)


Crock Pot Ranch Potatoes
Yields: 4 Servings

1 1/2 pound Red potatoes
1 Cream of mushroom soup
1 cup Sour cream
1 package Ranch seasoning packet

1. cut potatoes in quarters and place into crock pot.
2. Add all other ingredients and fold together.
3. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until potatoes are tender.

Roast Chicken & Spring Onions

April 26, 2012

The second recipe I am sharing today is simple, straightforward and did I mention absolutely delicious?  I found the spring onion bulbs produced such incredible flavor when roasted in the tart that I thought I would try roasting them whole.  I paired them with a chicken breast and a few simple flavors to create a wonderful seasonal entree.

Roast Chicken & Spring Onions
Yields: 4 Servings

2 teaspoons Olive oil
8 Spring onion bulbs (separated from greens and peeled if necessary)
4 Skinless, boneless chicken breast
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons Fresh thyme

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Toss prepared onion bulbs with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place in roasting pan coated with cooking spray.
3. Nest chicken breasts in roasting pan with onions, seasoning each breast with salt and pepper.
4. Sprinkle thyme over onions and chicken.
5. Roast 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Kate’s Thoughts

You will only need the white or purple bulb portion of the spring onion for this recipe.  I recommend reserving the green ends for other recipes.  I sliced all of mine up and put them in a container to test a Pinterest cooking tip, so I will be sure to share when I go to use them next!

Spring Onion, Grape & Goat Cheese Tart

April 25, 2012

I picked up some beautiful spring onions from Sassafras Creek Farm and was inspired to create a sweet, savory appetizer and a simple entrée.  Lucky you, that means I am sharing two recipes today!  The even better news for Southern Maryland locals?  Sassafras Creek will be at the Home Grown Market starting this weekend, Saturday, April 28th with even more goodies than their amazing onions.  I’ve seen some sneak peeks of the goods and trust me, you want to check them out.  (Tell them Kate sent you!)

The bulb portion of the spring onions has so much incredible flavor when it is fresh that I felt it would lend itself to a savory tart.  I couldn’t resist roasting it up with some sweet grapes, a touch of honey, and tangy goat cheese to round it out.  It is hard to say whether it was the robust flavor of the onions or the creaminess of the warm goat cheese, but I couldn’t stop eating it!  Which was probably not a good thing given that I used over 1 1/2 sticks of butter to make the underlying puff pastry…

Spring Onion, Grape & Goat Cheese Tart
Yields: 10 Servings

1 sheet Puff pastry (see note in Kate’s Thoughts)
1/2 tablespoon Olive oil
1 cup Spring onion bulbs (peeled if necessary, thinly sliced)
1 1/2 cups Red grapes
2 tablespoons Honey
1 1/2 teaspoons Fresh thyme
2 ounces Goat cheese (crumbled)

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Roll out puff pastry on lightly floured surface to 8 x 15 inch rectangle. Place on parchment covered baking sheet.
3. Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté 2 minutes. Add grapes and sauté 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in honey. Spread mixture evenly over puff pastry dough.
4. Top onion/grape mixture with crumbled goat cheese and fresh thyme.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until puff pastry is golden and crisp. Cut into appetizer size portions.

Kate’s Thoughts

You will only need the white or purple bulb portion of the spring onion for this recipe.  I recommend reserving the green ends for other recipes.  I sliced all of mine up and put them in a container to test a Pinterest cooking tip, so I will be sure to share when I go to use them next!

Please note that I increased the portion of grapes I included in the recipe after I photographed it.  The flavor was wonderful, but I wanted to be sure each slice would have enough grapes.  I also adjust the cooking time of the grapes.  I found cooking the grapes much past 2 minutes caused them to burst before you roasted them, creating a bit of a sugary mess in the pot and burnt fruit juice around the edge of the tart.

I got a little crazy with this recipe and decided to make my own puff pastry.  FYI-Not for the faint of heart!  It’s not too terribly difficult, but it’s a lot of short tasks repeated over a long period of time so you need to be prepared.  By the 3rd or 4th time you roll it out, you will start second guessing yourself.  But then you will eat it and it will be worth it!  Next time around I will make several sheets at a time and keep them in the freezer for when needed.  Here is the recipe I slightly modified from Gourmet magazine:

Puff Pastry Dough
Yields: 1 Sheet

1 1/4 cups All purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon Salt
13 tablespoons Unsalted butter (frozen)
5 tablespoons Ice water

1. Sift together the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.
2. Add chilled, diced butter and pulse three to five times, until the butter pieces are about the size of lima beans. Add water to the mixture and pulse again about three times. . Test mixture by gently squeezing a small handful: When it has the proper texture, it will hold together without crumbling apart. If necessary, add another tablespoon water, pulsing until just incorporated and testing again. (If you overwork mixture or add too much water, pastry will be tough.)
3. Gather mixture together and form into a 5-inch square, then chill, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, about 30 minutes. (Dough will be lumpy and streaky.)
4. Roll out dough on a floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 15- by- 8-inch rectangle. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you, then fold dough into thirds like a letter: bottom third up and top third down over dough. Rewrap dough and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.
5. Arrange dough with a short side nearest you on a floured surface and repeat rolling out, folding, and chilling 2 more times. Brush off any excess flour, then wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour before using.

If you do not own a food processor, mix the flour and salt by hand and then grate in the frozen butter before incorporating the ice water with your hands.

Garlic & Ginger Napini: My first official cooking competition entry!

April 24, 2012

This past weekend I had the pleasure of participating in the Food Experiments National Tour: Washington DC. It was my first (mostly) formal cooking competition and I must admit, I was more than a little nervous. The theme of the event was Chinese Food Take Out, and since the purpose of my business is to encourage you to eat at home, my experience with take out is fairly limited. Nonetheless, I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase my approach to cooking, test my culinary skills, and frankly, have a good time. I am happy to say I think I fulfilled all three goals! Did I mention the event was held at a bar (Rock & Roll Hotel, DC–highly recommend!) and was sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery? I think you can surmise how one of those goals was achieved.

After a rather desperate visit to the farmers’ market on Saturday searching out the perfect ingredient for my seasonal stir-fry, I gratefully walked away with a garbage bag full of napini, courtesy of Even’ Star Organics. Yep, you read that right: a garbage bag. Did I mention I had to create 250-300 samples? My initial plan was to buy 30 pounds and thank goodness they only had 10 pounds available because I way overestimated! (Seriously, if you think this recipe sounds tasty and you live in Southern Maryland, I have about 50-75 servings sitting in my refrigerator. Please stop by with a Tupperware container and a fork!)

So what the heck is napini? I think that’s what most of the people were thinking when they came through my station on Sunday. It didn’t help that I brought some raw to showcase on the table. My guess is that most people thought it was my lame attempt at a center piece. Napini are the spring blossoms of winter vegetables (specifically brassica plants-kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, etc.).  I’m not sure what veggies my napini came from, but I do know it is surprisingly tasty.  The flavor is pretty strong, so it’s not for everyone.  I would describe it as a little bitter and slightly peppery; it definitely has bite!  As much as I enjoyed the flavors I created for the competition, I think it is just as tasty raw and is great served on a salad.

For the competition I chose to saute it with garlic and ginger, red pepper for bite, and infuse it with Mirin for extra flavor.  Not exactly your typical Chinese food take-out, but definitely my fresh twist!  By the way, I think I could describe this dish in my sleep (all in 15 seconds or less), as I became quite a pro with the line of people that came through on Sunday!  I’m pretty sure my husband/assistant that day and the chefs on either side of me were probably a little sick of hearing it.

It was really important to me that I create a dish that my customers could easily prepare at home, as that is what Kate’s Thoughts for Food is all about.  And without further ado, the recipe:

Garlic and Ginger Napini over Noodles
Yields: 4 Servings

2 teaspoons Canola oil
1 tablespoon Ginger (peeled and finely minced)
1 tablespoon Garlic (minced)
1/2 teaspoon Crushed red pepper
1/2 6-ounce package Chuka soba noodles
1 pound Napini (or rapini or broccolini)
1/3 cup Mirin
3 tablespoons Water
1 tablespoon Soy sauce

1. Bring large sauce or stock pot of water to boil.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large sauté pan or wok over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and crushed red pepper, sautéing until tender and fragrant, about 2 minutes.
2. Add soba to boiling water and prepare according to package direction. Add napini to sauté pan and toss to coat with ginger/garlic. Sauté until slightly tender, about 5 minutes.
3. Add Mirin, water, and soy sauce to napini mixture. Toss to combine and sauté until napini cooks down slightly, about 2 minutes.
4. Remove napini from heat and toss with noodles. Serve.

Kate’s Thoughts

I know soba noodles are more a Japanese staple, but I found they worked well in this Chinese inspired dish.

This is the kind of simple, clean dish I love to make.  It is full of fresh flavor and a few other ingredients that enhance, not overpower, the main ingredient.  As I said, it’s not for everyone, but if you’ve tried broccolini or rapini in the past and have enjoyed it, then you would definitely like this dish.  Sadly we did not win the competition, although I had the vegetarian market pretty cornered.  It was worth the experience and my husband is already scheming about going back next year.  I owe him a huge debt of gratitude for his support and help at the competition!

And here are some more photos from the event:

A sneak peek of my dish

Cheering on the other contestants (that’s me all the way to the left)

Looking sort of dweeby by my little station

My big judging moment:

Doing all that I can to sell the sizzle:

Exciting news from Kate’s Thoughts for Food & a wonderful recipe: Purple Asparagus Risotto with Spring Onions

April 19, 2012

Oh where to begin?  Many exciting things to announce at Kate’s Thoughts for Food this week!  Starting today, Thursday posts will feature a seasonal and/or local ingredient recipe.  I will be trekking through local farmers’ markets, perusing CSA takings, and searching out seasonal finds in the grocery store to bring you new, original recipes for your kitchens!

This continued focus on fresh ingredients will go hand in hand with the launch of a new service at Kate’s Thoughts for Food: seasonal meal plans.  Starting May 4th, customers in the mid-Atlantic region (MD/DC/VA/Southeastern PA/southern NJ, and, of course, my wonderful home state of DE) can order meal plans that are catered specifically to what produce is in season in their region.  While I hope to launch the service in other regions soon, my home area will be my testing site.  (If you are interested in the product, but live outside of this region, please let me know where to start planning for next! ) Effective today, my website will start accepting orders for this new meal plan option in anticipation of the first plans being sent out May 4th.  I have been contemplating this additional product for a few months and I am so excited to finally launch!

And last, but certainly not least, it’s time to share my first seasonal recipe!  Although it feels more like summer with the weather we’ve been having in Maryland, it’s really only spring and that means asparagus season!  When I saw the purple variety at my local market I could not resist.  Sourced from Busy Corner Farm, a local Amish farm, the asparagus was just the right mix of crispness and sweetness.  A traditional risotto flavored with local spring onions from Sassafras Creek Farm seemed like the perfect way to highlight the seasonal veggie.

Asparagus Risotto with Spring Onions
Yields: 4 Servings

5 cups Chicken broth (I recommend home-made or low-sodium, organic broth)
1 tablespoon Olive oil
2 Spring onions (whites, peeled if necessary, and separated from greens, thinly sliced)
1 cup Arborio rice
2 Garlic cloves (minced)
1/4 cup Dry white wine (omit if you prefer)
1 pound Asparagus (trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper

1. Bring broth to a simmer in a medium saucepan (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
2. In another medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add white portion of spring onions and saute until soft, about 4-5 minutes.
3. Add rice and garlic to onions, toasting rice for a couple of minutes, stirring often.  Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes.
4. Add broth one ladle at a time, stirring often, until each portion of broth is absorbed before adding the next, about 30 minutes total.
5. Stir in asparagus with last ladle full of broth. (Rice should be almost fully cooked with just a slight chew to it. You may not need to use all of the broth.)
6. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, salt, pepper, and green portion of spring onions.

Kate’s Thoughts

As you can see from the picture, I chose to top my risotto with some pea shoots for an extra bit of fresh flavor.  I would highly recommend if you have them available!  While the purple asparagus was delicious, this dish will be equally yummy with fresh green asparagus.

Also, as the recipe indicates, you may not need to use all 5 cups of chicken broth.  The grains will absorb different amounts of moisture so no two pots of risotto are the exact same.

This dish is filling enough to be served in larger portions as a main dish entree as well.  Enjoy!

Please contact me for more information regarding Busy Corner or Sassafras Creek Farms.

Fresh Food Recipe Makeover: Roast Chicken Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing

April 17, 2012

When I found today’s makeover recipe I was almost paralyzed with fear.  Where does one begin tackling a recipe with taco seasoning, cream of chicken soup, Ro-tel AND a bag of Doritos?  But I powered through and came up with what I feel is a reasonable solution.  My goal was not to mimic the dish (did you read the part about Doritos??), but to create a new recipe that had some of the same flavor components and all fresh ingredients.  I chose to create a salad because I thought it would allow the fresh ingredients to really shine, while still incorporating the creamy texture of the casserole with the spicy buttermilk dressing.

Additional steps created for this recipe:

1. Make your own spiced tortilla chips

2. Chop vegetables for the salad and dressing

Recipe Results

Cons: The end product is very different from the original recipe and while I think that is a good thing, not everyone may agree.

Pros:  The dish can be prepared in about 20-25 minutes less time than the original.  But the most exciting part?  This recipe has 59% fewer calories, 76% less total fat and 80% less saturated fat, 39% less cholesterol and 74% less sodium!  I realize its not really that surprising given that the original recipe calls for an entire bag of Doritos, but a girl still feels proud when she see those numbers.

Roast Chicken Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing
Yields: 4 Servings

2 Skinless, boneless chicken breast
3 Corn tortillas (cut into 8 wedges each)
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Chili powder
1/4 cup Buttermilk
1/3 cup Plain non-fat Greek yogurt
1 small Garlic clove
1/2 tablespoon Jalapeño pepper (finely chopped)
1/2 Lime (juiced)
1 tablespoon Honey
1/2 teaspoon Chili powder
1/4 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
6 cups Mixed greens
1/2 cup Tomato
1/2 cup Avocado
1/4 cup Cheddar cheese (shredded)
2 tablespoons Green onion

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Place chicken breast in shallow dish coated with cooking spray. Roast for 25 minutes or until the cooked through. (See note in Kate’s Thoughts for suggested spice rub for the chicken.)
2. Place tortilla wedges on single layer on non-stick baking sheet. Spray with cooking spray and season with desired salt and chili powder. Add baking sheet to oven with chicken and cook for the last 7-8, or until crisp.
2. Meanwhile, combine dressing ingredients (buttermilk through black pepper) with a whisk in a small bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
3. While chicken rests, layer plate with tortilla wedges, mixed greens, tomatoes, avocados, cheese, green onion and any desired toppings. Slice or chop chicken into bite size pieces. Add roasted chicken to salad mixture and top with buttermilk dressing. Serve.

Kate’s Thoughts

This recipe will be even better in summer.  I would love to add fresh corn and other summer veggies!

The salad dressing is pretty darn tasty and the good news is that it will keep in the refrigerator for a few days if you have leftovers.  Also, if you do not have ancho chile powder, you can try chipotle powder or increase the amount of regular chile powder.

The recipe calls for roast chicken and I elected to create a spice rub for mine.  I felt it added to the overall balance of the salad, but it’s not necessary.  Here is the recipe in case you want to try it (this is to cover 2 chicken breasts):

Suggested Spice Blend for the Chicken:
1/2 teaspoon Ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon Garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon Onion powder
1/4 teaspoon Paprika
1/4 teaspoon Salt
1/8 teaspoon Chili powder


Mexican Dorito Casserole
Yields: 4 Servings

2 cups Shredded cooked chicken
1 cup Cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 can Cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 cup Sour cream
1 can Ro-tel (canned tomatoes with jalepenos-mild)
1/2 packet Taco seasoning (or more-to taste)
1 bag Doritos

1. Preheat oven to 350-f degrees.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients except Doritos.
3. In a greased 2 qt baking dish, put a layer of crushed Doritos (about 2 cups), then a layer of the chicken mixture. Repeat once more, ending with a layer of chicken mixture. Top with more shredded cheese, cover, and bake for 30-35 minutes, till bubbling hot.

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