Category Archives: Food

Farm Fresh Challenge: Summer Sausage Scampi

box shot

Box shot: Starting at the 6:00 position and moving clockwise around the picture we have heirloom tomatoes, garlic, fennel, purple basil, mini carrots, baby beets, more carrots, scallions, and arugala. In the center are some of the shallots  and potatoes..

Nothing says summer more than a big juicy tomato, right?  — Well, except, maybe four big juicy tomatoes…that’s what I found in my box this week.  There were so many culinary  possibilities with this box from our CSA (Calvert’s Gift Community Support Agriculture farm north of Baltimore, Maryland) that it was hard to choose what to make. But when I saw the Roaming GastroGnomes weekly blog on Paella something clicked. No… I didn’t have the chicken, or green beans, or saffron of the right kind of rice… but maybe I could make something akin to the amazing dish he’d shared.

My goal, as usual, was to use what was on hand along with the treasures I found in my CSA box for …

[Not associated with the real Chopped, the Food Network or Ted Allen.]

[Not associated with the real Chopped, the Food Network or Tim Allen.]


  •  1 Garlic
  • 1 Tomatoes
  • 1 Shallots
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 cup Carrots


  • 1 lb Fresh Sweet Italian Sausage
  • Basmati Rice (prepared — I used 2 packs of Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice )
  • 1/2 cup of whole Almonds
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 teaspoons of Olive Oil
  • 1 teaspoon of Tumeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon of cumin


1. Form Sausage into 1 1/2″ meatballs and place into a large, hot, frying pan. Brown on all sides, cooking the meatballs through.

browned Sausage balls

These sausage meatballs have one more turn to go.

2. Turn down the heat. Add two cups of water and simmer for 5 minutes.

3. Prepare the vegetables. Chop the Carrots  and Tomatoes into 1/2″ pieces. Dice the Onions and Shallots into 1/4″ pieces. Finely mince the Garlic.

4. When the meatballs are done remove them to a medium bowl and set aside. Put the Carrots int he hot water (do not change the water) and cook for 5 minutes.

5. Transfer the carrots and and any water remaining in the pan to meatball bowl. Put the Olive Oil into the hot pan and add the Garlic, Onions and Shallots. Increase heat and brown the vegetables until Onions are translucent.

6. Put the Meat, Carrots and water back in the frying pan and stir. Add the Tomatoes, remaining one cup of water and stir.

7. Add the Basmati Rice and the spices and mix. DON’T STIR AGAIN until your serve. Sprinkle with the almonds.  Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes. REDUCE heat to simmer and cook an additional 5 minutes. Move the pan around the heat source to distribute the heat evenly.

Note the crisping rice at the edges. This is almost done cooking.

Note the crisping rice at the edges. This is almost done cooking.

8. Plate and serve. This is delicious as is… but I think the next time I make it I’ll add raisins for a touch of sweetness. I’ll also pump up the volume with an extra tomato.

On the plate and ready to eat.

On the plate and ready to eat.

(for more Farm Fresh Challenge recipes type “Farm Fresh” in the search field at the top of the blog.

More recipes I want to try:


Bonus Muffins — The Dunder Mufflin

Aren't these the cutest little muffins ever? The plates are from a set my grandmother used to have. I never knew what those tiny little plates were for. But now I know -- mini muffin plates!

Aren’t these the cutest little muffins ever? The plates are from a set my grandmother used to have. I never knew what those tiny little plates were for. But now I know — mini muffin plates!

I didn’t think it would happen, but it did. I miss The Office. I know that all things must come to an end (and, honestly, the really the good part of this Thursday night staple passed several years ago — though it has had a rebound of late). And now I find I miss my weekly dose of Jim and Pam, and Dwight and the gang.

So when my brilliant and creative husband suggested I create a muffin called the Dunder Mufflin I jumped at the chance.

The one ingredient I knew it had to have… Beets! And they had to be mini muffins to make them muffLINS.

Here goes…


Dunder Mufflins



  • 1 1/2 c White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3/4 c Almond Meal (or if you are frugal like Dwight, Almonds that you grind in a Blender)
  • 1 Tbsp of Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Salt
  • 1/2 c of Brown Sugar
  • 1 c non fat Milk
  • 1 teaspoon Almond Extract
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 stick (4 oz) melted Butter
  • 1 cup Cherries
  • 1 Cup Beets


  • 1/3 c Flour
  • 2 Tbsp White Sugar
  • 1/2 stick (4 oz) melted butter
  • 1/3 cup Almond Meal
  • 1/2 c Sliced Almonds


1 Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Prep 36 mini muffin cups with paper liners and spray.

2. Grate the Cherries in a food processor or blender.

3. Grate the Beets in a food processor or blender.

grated beets

4. Combine the Flour, Almond Meal, Baking Powder and Salt in a large bowl.

5. In a medium bowl beat the Eggs and Brown Sugar together, add the Milke and Almond Extract. Slowly add the Melted Butter.

6. Combine the liquid to the dry to create a smooth batter.

7. Fold in the Cherries and Beets.


8. Divide the batter evenly into the mini baking cups.

9. In a medium bowl combine all the ingredients for the Topping.


10. Top each Mufflin with some of the Topping. (I had left over topping).

11. Bake for 20 minutes. Mufflins are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes before enjoying.


I would not put the Dunder Mufflins in the sweet muffin catagory, but they are very good. The beets were undetectable, and the cherries gave it just a little bit of a kiss of flavor (but didn’t make the muffins too tart). They were moist, but not gooey.  A nice mild muffin to get your work day off right. Kind of the Pam of the muffin world.

I think the guys at the Office would give these Mufflins their nod of approval.


IMG_2525 (Photo credit: justiny8s)

Farm Fresh Challenge: Turnip and Ham Salad

Turnip and Ham Salad

Turnip and Ham Salad

Do you know CHOPPED? It’s a TV series on the Food Network where professional chefs are presented with a basket of mystery ingredients and given a brief amount of time to come up with amazing dishes. The dishes are judged by a distinguished panel of chefs and the winner, after three grueling rounds, gets $10,000. I’ve always liked that show because it reminds me of dinner time at my house. Only… my basket is the refrigerator,  my judges are my family, and my reward is their gratitude.

It is summer here in Maryland and that means our family enjoys a weekly box from a local farm. We are part of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and every week we pick up our very own mystery box from the farmer. We get a share of eggs and a variety of vegetables from the farm. And, although we get a reminder email every week that lists what will be in the box — they even give us some serving suggestions –I always open the box with a bit of Chopped inspired glee. For me it is Chopped, Parkton Style.

[Not associated with the real Chopped, the Food Network or Tim Allen.]

[ritaLOVEStoWRITE and Chopped Parkton Styles is NOT associated with the real Chopped, the Food Network. My apologies to Tim Allen.]

With that in mind I’ve decided to dedicate one blog a week to a recipe based on something I cooked from the box. Today is the first installment. — Turnip and Ham Salad.

I was doubly inspired this week because fellow blogger 124 Park posted a beautiful recipe for Blue Cheese & Bacon Potato Salad. [Click Here to see 124 Park’s yummy recipe.]

In the CSA box I had:

  • romaine lettuce


  • bunch turnips


  • bunch carrots


  • eggs


  • radishes


Other Ingredients:

  • shallots
  • chives (fresh from the garden)
  • olive oil
  • apple cider vinegar
  • dijon mustard
  • honey
  • lemon peel
  • ham
  • cheese (I used grated Italian Blend)


1. Chop the romane and set aside.

2. Remove the greens from the turnips and radishes and cut into 1/2″ pieces. Scrape the carrots, cut off the tops and ends and cut into 1/4″ chunks. Put the turnips, radish and carrots into a large pot with salted water and boil until tender. About 10 minutes. Drain and run veggies under cold water to stop them from cooking further.


3. Hard boil the eggs.

4. While the veggies and eggs are cooking …  whisk together the oil, vinegar, shallots, chives, chive flowers, dijon mustard, honey and lemon peel in a large bowl.

5. Cut the ham into 1/2″ cubes. Toss them into the pot you used for the veggies and cook until done. (The ham I used was pre-cooked, so it just needed to be heated through).

6. Toss the veggies, ham and eggs with the oil, vinegar mustard dressing.

7. Plate over romaine and top with a tablespoon of grated cheese.

Turnip and Ham Salad


This was a big hit with my family, and I will definitely be hitting this recipe again.

Special thanks to 124 Park, Chopped and the Food Network.

Muffin Monday: Rhubarb Delight Muffins

Rhubarb Delight Muffins



  • 1/2 C. Brown Sugar


  • 3/4 C. Demerara Sugar  (You could just use 1 1/4 Brown Sugar if you don’t have the Demerara Sugar)


  • 1/2 C. Vegetable oil


  • 1 Egg


  • 2 1/2 C. Flour


  • 2 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt


  • 1 C. Milk


  • 2 tsp. Vanilla


  • 1 1/2 C. Rhubarb (finely diced)


Topping Mixture:

  • 1/4 c White Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 Almonds
  • 1/2 C. Sugar
  • 2 T. Butter



1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Put muffin pants into the muffin tin and spray lightly.

2. Mix the first four ingredients together (the Sugars, Oil and Egg)


3. Add Flour,Baking Soda and Salt  all at once.


4. Combine Milk and Vanilla in a measuring cup.

5. Add Milk to the batter and stir until completely mixed.

6. Fold in the diced Rhubarb.


7. Divide the batter evenly amongst the muffin cups. (This recipe made 12 large muffins.) Set aside and make the Topping.

8. In the measuring cup you used for the milk and vanilla melt the butter.

9. Grind the Almonds in a blender or nut mill.

10. Combine the Nuts, Sugar and ground Almonds together in the measuring cup. Add the White Chocolate Chips.


11. Spoon the topping onto the muffins, dividing evenly.


This is what one of the muffins looks like pre-baked

12. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Using the toothpick test to determine if they are done.


13. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before transferring muffins to a cool surface. Let cool for an additional 5 to 10 minutes before you enjoy.


Sorry these muffins aren’t very healthy. I’m going to try to make them again with out so much sugar. But every spring the god’s give us rhubarb and you’ve got to do something with it, right?  Your house will smell amazing while these little darlings are baking. And the will power you show by not munching on them the second they come out of the oven will off set the will power you don’t show by  indulging in their sweet wonderfulness (maybe twice.)

These are simply fantastic muffins and would make a great dessert.

They are awesome on their own, but if you want the ultimate treat you could add one to a bowl of black cherry ice cream and just go straight to heaven.


Serving suggestion.




Muffin Monday: Berry White Chocolate Muffins

Berry White Chocolate Muffins*



  • 3 cups White Whole Wheat Flour


  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar or Demerara Raw Sugar


  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 2 Teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt


  • 1 cup Skim Milk


  • 1/2 cup Yogurt


  • 2/3 cup Canola or Vegetable Oil


  • 2 teaspoons of Vanilla Extract


  • 1 cup of White Chocolate Chips


  • 1 cup Blackberries


  • 1 Cup Blueberries



1. Pre-heat the oven  to 375 f. Spray muffin tins lightly. (This is a large batch so either prepare two 12 muffin pans — for smaller muffins — or one 12 and one 6 muffin pan for larger muffins.)

2. Place the Berries in a blender and process. Add the Sugar, Milk, Yogurt, Vegetable Oil and Vanilla Extract and blend completely, creating a pretty Superbowl Winning BALTIMORE RAVENS purple berry slurry.

Berry Slurry

3. In a large bowl combine the Flour, Baking Powder, Baking Soda and Salt.

4. Pour the berry slurry into the dry ingredients and mix.

The Berry Slurry and the dry ingredients just as I start to hand mix the two together (and remember that I wanted to take a picture.)

The Berry Slurry and the dry ingredients just as I start to hand mix the two together (and remember that I wanted to take a picture.)

What the mixed batter looks like.

What the mostly mixed batter looks like.

5. Fill the muffin tins with the batter (divide evenly into 12 muffin cups if you want smaller muffins, divide evenly into 18 muffin cups if you want larger muffins — I went for larger muffins).

6. Top with 6 to 8 White Chocolate Chips per muffin.

7. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Test with the toothpick test. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes in the pan before turning them out onto a cool surface. Let sit at least 5 more minutes before enjoying.


These muffins were delicious and not too sweet. They were moist, but not gooey.  Muffin taster Andrew S. liked the way the White Chocolate complimented the berries. My other tasters (fellow members of the contemporary band at my church) were too busy scarfing them down to give me a comment — which I take as a good sign.



UPDATE: Jenny B. (one of the other members of the  Contemporary Band at my church) has weighed in to say of the muffins that “THEY WERE AMAZING!!!!!!”  Thanks for the endorsement Jenny!


*I know there should be a comma in the name of this muffin recipe, but I just couldn’t resist. I’m guessing that should Soul/Funk/Disco pioneer Barry White eat one of these muffins he’d probably comment … “I’ve heard people say that too much of a good thing can’t be good for you, baby, but I don’t know about that… I can’t get enough of  these muffins babe.”

Yeah, you’re going to be humming that all day. You can thank me later.

James Beard 5.5.13 Thought of the Day

“Food is our common ground, a universal experience.” — James Beard

[Image courtesy: Three Three Five and the James Beard Foundation]

[Image courtesy: Three Three Five. com ]

James Andrew Beard was born on this day in Portland, Oregon, USA in 1903. Today is the 110th anniversary of his birth.

His mother, Elizabeth, was a foodie who ran a boarding house. His father, John, worked at the Customs House. James spent summers fishing, and gathering shellfish at a beach near Gearhart, Oregon. He cooked what ever he harvested from the sea and on  jaunts though near by wild berry patches.

After briefly attending Reed College, Beard wanted to be an actor. From 1923 to 1927 he worked on his craft, he went abroad to study theater and voice, and tried to make a go of the acting biz, but found it difficult to pay the bills, so he turned to he other love, food and opened a catering business. “With the opening of a small food shop called Hors d’Oeuvre, Inc., in 1937, he finally realized that his future lay in the world of food and cooking.” []

Hors Doeuvre & Canapes [Image courtesy:]

Hors Doeuvre & Canapes [Image courtesy:]

In 1940 the publication of Hors d’Oeuvres & Canapés, his first cookbook, put him on the culinary map. His sophomore publication,  1942’s Cooking it Outdoors,  was “the first serious work on outdoor cooking.” []

Now based in New York, Beard continued to delight food lovers and crank out cookbooks. He embraced the new media of Television in 1946 when he  hosted TV’s first cooking show.  He wrote prolifically and contributed to countless magazines. By 1954 he’d earned the title “Dean of American cookery” by the New York Times.

In 1955 he established The James Beard Cooking School. He continued to teach cooking to men and women for the next 30 years, both at his own schools (in New York City and Seaside, Oregon), and around the country at women’s clubs, other cooking schools, and civic groups. He was a tireless traveler, bringing his message of good food, honestly prepared with fresh, wholesome, American ingredients, to a country just becoming aware of its own culinary heritage. []

The James Beard Cookbook (revised) [Image courtesy:]

The James Beard Cookbook (revised) [Image courtesy:]

In all he wrote more than two dozen cookbooks, most notably:

  • Fowl and Game Cookery 1944
  • The Fireside Cook Book: A Complete Guide to Fine Cooking for Beginner and Expert 1949
  • Paris Cuisine 1952
  • Complete Cookbook for Entertaining 1954
  • How to Eat Better for Less Money 1954
  • James Beard’s Fish Cookery 1954
  • Casserole Cookbook 1955
  • The James Beard Cookbook 1959
  • Delights & Prejudices: A Memoir with Recipes 1964
  • James Beard’s Menus for Entertaining 1965
  • How to Eat (and Drink) Your Way through a French (or Italian)
  • Beard on Bread 1973


James Beard died  in January of 1985. “He was hailed as “The Father of American Gastronomy” and his name remains synonymous with American food.” []

[Image courtesy the James Beard Foundation]

[Image courtesy the James Beard Foundation]

One of his lasting legacies is the Award named in his honor. Since 1986 the James Beard Foundation, an NPO started by former student Peter Kump, has honored outstanding chefs, cookbook authors, wine specialists and food writers.


Muffin Monday Banana Granola Chocolate Chip

Bananna Granola Chocolate Chip

Muffin inside


  • 2 Bananas


  • 1 cup of Granola


  • 1/2 cup of Milk


  • 1 Egg
  • 1/4 cup Peanut Oil

egg and oil

  • 3 tablespoons Demerara Sugar (or raw or brown sugar)

3 tbls Demarcaced sugar

  • 1 cup White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/4 cup Buckwheat Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder

flour baking powder

  • 1/2 cup Chocolate Chips

Choc Chips

Part 1: Pre-heat the oven  to 425 f. Put muffin pants into the muffin tin and spray lightly.

preheat to 425

Part 2: Mash Bananas in a large bowl. Mix in Granola and Milk and let sit for 5 minutes.

Mash banannas

Part 3: Mix Oil and Egg in a measuring cup. Add the Sugar.

Part 4: Add the Whole Wheat and Buck Wheat Flour and the Baking Powder.

Mix well

Part 5: Fold in Chocolate Chips.

all 12 muffins done

Part 6: Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Let cool for 5 minutes before enjoying. (Makes 12).

Single muffin

Related Posts:

Justin Wilson 4.24.13 Thought of the Day

“I GAR-ON-TEE!” -Justin Wilson

[Image courtesy: Smoking Meat Forum]
[Image courtesy: Smoking Meat Forum]

Justin E. Wilson was born on this day in Roseland, Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana, USA in 1914. Today is the 99th anniversary of his birth.

A storyteller at heart Justin Wilson worked as a safety engineer in south-western Louisiana’s Arcadia region. He found that people paid more attention to his safety lectures when he mixed in stories  of his youth so he began to drawl on the plethora of Cajun folktales he’d heard growing up.

He was so entertaining that he was asked to put out a comedy album of his stories. It sold over a million copies.

Justin was a “Humorist” who found something funny in almost everything. He did not laugh at his Cajun friends, but he laughed with them. His genuine admiration for them shined through in his stage, radio and television and 27 hilarious albums. But Mr. Wilson’s talent was not limited to his ability to tell stories.He composed 10 songs, as well as composing the background music for his world-renowned cooking show and recorded one album of Christmas songs with a jazz band. [Justin]

His passion for Cajun cooking lead to a PBS Television cooking show that was as much about Wilson’sfolksy story telling as it was about what ended up on the plate.

Wilson penned “seven best-selling Cajun cookbooks and two books of humorous Cajun stories” [Ibid] He also wrote music (including the theme song for his cooking show) and did Christmas album backed by a Jazz band.

Wilson died September 5, 2001

Muffin Monday! Raisin Muffins

Raisin Muffins



  • 2 cups of white whole wheat flour


  • 1 tablespoon of baking powder


  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt



  • 4 teaspoons of Just Whites (dry egg whites) [or 1 egg]


  • 1/4 cup of Water [don’t add the water if you are using the egg]


  • 1/2 cup skim milk


  • 1/4 cup chopped prunes


  • 1/2 cup yogurt


golden raisin sauna

golden raisin sauna (Photo credit: shutterbean)

  • Demerara sugar to garnish


Step One: Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tin with muffin pants and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Step Two: In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients. (NOT the raisins)

Step Three: Add all the prunes and wet ingredients to the bowl and mix just enough to incorporate. Batter will be lumpy.

Step Four: Last, but not least, add the raisins.


Step Five: Spoon into muffin tin. Sprinkle Demerara sugar on top of each muffin to garnish.


Step Six: and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven when tops of muffins are golden brown and the muffins pass the toothpick test. Let rest 5 minutes before enjoying.

These were my most dense muffins to date. I liked the addition of the prunes — which let me cut down on the sugar / truvia, but I think I’ll try these with some zucchini to make them a bit lighter next time. They were good, but definitely morn on the dense biscuit side of the biscuit/muffin/cupcake spectrum. I’d be interested to know what you think…


More Muffin Monday madness:

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