Category Archives: Recipes

Food concoctions

Cherry Almond Millet Muffins

We start with the basics: butter, whole wheat pastry flour, millet and yogurt and sour cream…

But then we add…

And we get a beautiful muffin, sandy in texture (good for those who usually love cornbread) with little jewels of cherry and crunch of the almond/sugar topping.

Cherry Almond Millet Muffins:

adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday

2¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour

⅓ cup raw millet

1 tsp aluminum free baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp fine-grain sea salt

1/8 tsp each cinnamon, ginger, grated nutmeg

1 cup dried cherries

1 cup plain yogurt (or ½ cup yogurt and ½ cup sour cream)

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup barely melted unsalted butter

½ cup honey

Grated zest and 2 tbsp juice from 1 lemon

For the topping:

1/4 – 1/2 cup sliced almonds

2 tbsp turbinado or sanding sugar


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the top third of the oven. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

Whisk together the flour, millet, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger in a large bowl. Stir in the dried cherries.

In a another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, butter, honey and lemon zest and juice until smooth. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until the flour is just incorporated.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups, spooning a heaping 1/4 cup batter into each one, filling it a bit below the rim. Sprinkle the sugar over the muffins and then sprinkle the sliced almonds, pushing each one down a little into the batter so they stick.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until the muffin tops are browned and just barely beginning to crack. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out of the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Fonts in today’s post: Ribbon and Archer bold

Drama Queen

I think my Dad is a bit of a drama queen. He likes the drama of a stunner main course that takes your breath away and gets your friends talking. He is the guy that deep-fries the turkey at Thanksgiving. He is the guy that makes a viking ship out of a watermelon, complete with apple swans, you know, just for the extra touch.

I think I might have learned from him how fun it can be to impress people with food. And possibly the adrenaline rush you get when you’ve actually pulled something off. I don’t think I’ll ever make a viking ship out of a watermelon, but I wouldn’t put it past me to deep fry a turkey. I’m already well on my way to being my own little Foodie Drama Queen. The week after Christmas I was at the store, and on a whim I bought a prime rib roast. I have never cooked a prime rib roast. I like it, sure, but never even thought about cooking one. I confess, it was on sale. It was my shiny pair of red shoes, half off, designer brand. I had to have it. Before I even knew what was happening I was home with it, showing my boyfriend my amazing thrifty purchase when he said “So you gonna cook it for dinner?” Gulp. I thought it might live in the freezer for awhile- at least until I did more research and read about 10,000 recipes, comparing notes. Easter sounded like a better bet. He convinced me, and so I called the only person who knew about this sort of thing. Dad.

He has done prime rib at Christmas many times, but of course, he puts his own Drama Dad stamp on it. He covers it in salt. This may not sound like much drama, but when you take away one of the main senses I rely on to tell if I’m cooking something right (my eyesight) because the thing is covered in a 1/4 inch thick layer of pure white, you will be holdin’ your breath alright when you finally take it out of the oven and crack that sucker open. I was more worried then a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

Dad’s instructions weren’t too hard to follow:

This was for a 7-8 lb. bone in, prime rib roast that already came tied from the store.

1.Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with rock salt (ice cream salt, Drama Dad calls it.) Preheat your oven with a rack in the bottom third to 450F.

Place your roast on this bed of salt, drizzle with olive oil all over, then add seasonings. I used dried rosemary, thyme, dried chives, marjoram, salt and pepper, and garlic from the jar.

2. Put it in the oven uncovered, for about 20 minutes. This sears the meat for you.

3. Take it out and turn your oven down to 300.  Then, in a large bowl, put an ENTIRE box kosher salt (DD says, best to have 2 boxes on hand, just in case. In fact, I ended up using about a box and 1/2). Moisten the salt with water, until you can take a handful, squeeze it in your hand and it sticks in a little knuckle shaped bar, like wet chunky white sand. I think it looks like gleaming slushy snow.

4. Proceed to cover the entire roast in this sticky salt stuff. Dad recommended I “build a foil gate, so that the salt is held onto the roast” this proved easier said then done. It took some finessing with foil and salt errosion before I figured it out (should have known, coming the man who once spent his weekend creating a sea worthy craft out of a fruit!) But in the end he was right- it did help.

Once you have it all covered, about 1/4 of an inch thick, stick a meat thermometer in it (I recommend the digital kind) and cook it at 300 until it reaches 125-128 (rare to med. rare) I cooked it to 128, then took it out and let it rest for a good 1/2 hour (it will keep cooking, but also, the juices will redistribute and it will stay delicious this way).

Then, if you dare, break into the salty crust to make the dramatic reveal…

Frankie was totally impressed.

The real drama is when you cut into it. And this one took my breath away. It was exactly how we wanted it. Of course, to some of you this make look bloody and disgusting, and you may want to cook yours to 130 or even 135. But then, why even go to all the trouble? You might as well over cook a NY Strip and call it good (the best part about being the drama queen is that you have license to say catty things).

This comes out with a fabulous crust. The best part, is the salty herby end piece. That one’s for the cook. I learned that from Dad too.

If you are looking for a full meal, try mashed garlic potatoes, and a salad something. It doesn’t really matter what the sides are, everyone will want seconds on meat.

Embracing your inner drama queen, AND eating juicy red meat? What could be better? Actually, the sandwiches we had the next day were a close second.

Foodie Birthday!

Everyone deserves a good birthday. This is the day that you’re presence has blessed the earth! This is the day that you’re parents became sleep deprived and poor! This is the day that your bottom was slapped and you let out your first cry to the world that said “Hey! Me! I’m here!!”  I love my birthday. I have always loved my birthday. But, then again, I am under 30 (does it change after that?). I actually have been feeling older lately.  I guess going back to school does that to you… I mention a wine I like and they all look at me with blank stares “I’m 19” they say. Sigh.  Oh to be 19 again. Still, 27 turned out to be not that bad. Pretty good actually. It turns out there are a lot of people that love me and wish me the best, which is always a blessing. And, bonus: I got to eat cake. With no regrets (though I hardly have them anyways in regards to cake).

First, please indulge some remembrances of birthday’s past….

When I was 6, McDonald’s was my choice of birthday parties. As it was for years after that. I think it was the milkshakecheeseburgerfriescokecakewithRonaldMcDonald’sfaceonit that got me addicted. As a child my culinary pursuits were purely Freudian ID. But I have always loved food- and I remember looking forward to meals like they were my only hope for pure joy for the next 2-3 hours. Snack time, with a nap afterwards? Hell ya.

And when I was 10?  The tea party! What about 16? Teriyaki Chicken! 19? A suburb dinner at the Stockpot, practically an institution, in the Portland area (still my standard for Mussels, Filet, and Lobster bisque… oh and the flourless chocolate cake has become my standard of perfection.)  The food and the places don’t matter, well, they sorta don’t matter, but what DOES matter is the people I was lucky enough to have around me that loved loved me, wanted to make my day special, and wanted to show me that my existence on this earth was something to be celebrated. Yes. I am lucky. But I still argue that everyone should have a day. A day that is completely theirs.

So, you might be wondering, what does a foodie do on her birthday? Well…EAT! I was treated to many culinary delights over the “birthday weekend”, including breakfast at Gathering Together Farms. It was packed, if you go, make reservations for sure. The scene was nice, with the restaurant out on the covered porch and heaters set up, and the farm store inside, it was very quaint. This would be an excellent place to take people who are from out of town. You really get the “flavor” of Corvallis when you eat here. I had the Eggs Burnheimer, which featured homemade biscuits (that were so buttery Paula Deen herself would have been proud) house made sausage, a poached egg, sauteed Kale and and topped with freshly made from scratch hollandaise sauce. I think hollandaise may be the best thing to come out of France ever. Besides pommes frites. They had other dishes on the menu I wished I could have ordered, the pork belly omelet with goat cheese, and the smoked salmon omelet was a contender as well. But, in the end, I just wanted the whole package-the combo- the runny egg-buttery biscuit- rich sausage and hollindaise goodness that makes me feel like it’s my special day.















Verde Easy!

The abundance of summer is upon us! I love this time of year for all the produce… unfortunately I haven’t had the time I usually do to fully enjoy it. One thing I started doing a few years ago (that got a chuckle and an eye roll out of some of my friends) was make my own enchilada sauce. Tomatillos are in season now and oh so delicious. I like to roast mine in the oven with jalapenos, garlic, onion and fresh oregano. Making your own sauce this way is really very easy, and the difference in taste is amazing. You could also use this same idea for a salsa, just finely chop instead of blend at the end. Make this sauce when you have about 45 minutes to kill, and stow it in the freezer. Your guests will worship you as the Enchilada Goddess forever.

Darlene’s Verde Easy Enchilada Sauce

2 lbs. Tomatillos

3/4 red onion, “chunked”

4 garlic cloves, peeled but left whole

3 jalepenos, ribbed and seeded if desired, cut in half

1/2 teaspoon cumin

3 sprigs fresh oregano

salt and pepper

olive oil for drizzling

1/4-1/2 cup water or stock


1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. Remove the paper skins from your tomatillos and rinse off the “sticky stuff”, cut smaller ones in half and larger ones in quarters. Put everything on a big baking sheet as you cut it.

3. Cut the red onion into 1″ slices, I like to call this “chunking” because it reminds me of sort of hacking something up rusticly. This will all end up pureed eventually so no need to get pretty about it.

4. Peel the garlic cloves and add those to the baking sheet (better be one with sides…the juices will flow!)

5. Slice the jalepeno in half and remove the ribs and the seeds if you would like a mild sauce, leave them in for more heat. I like to do 1/2 and 1/2 or 1 with seeds and ribs left in tact.

6. Rip off the leaves of your oregeno and sprinkle around your sheet, and then drizzel everything with a healthy coat of olive oil.

7. Sprinkle with cumin, salt and pepper, and use your “built in” tools (hands) to mix everything up.

8. Roast for 20 minutes at 400. It may need to go 30 depending on the size of your produce/amount.

9. Let cool and throw into  a blender or food processer (or try a big pot with an immersion blender) and add a little water or stock to thin. Blend and freeze or serve as desired.

Before Roasting....

...After Roasting!

So what, you may be asking, could roasting possibly accomplish? It’s the magic of the oven, my dear foodie. It’s amazing how flavors deepen, sugars caramelize, and the texture of food can change in that little hot box. All you need is even heat, olive oil, and good ol’ salt and pepper. Oh yes, and time, like with everything else, makes it better.

Some weather we’re having!

I had to say a word about the weather lately… my cooking was feeling way too schizophrenic and I think it definitely has something to do with this Oregon spring we’re having! For instance, Sunday night I made fish tacos. Perfect for the warm sunny, 70° weather! I just used a quick cooking fish, in this case Tilapia, topped with a sprinkle of onion powder, garlic powder and chile powder and baked it in the oven for only 10 minutes, topped it with a jalapeno cream sauce (something I picked up from a restaurant in San Diego) and some coleslaw. A little Guacamole on the side, and you’re talkin’ summertime feast!!

I had some of the jalapeno cream sauce left over and decided to save it. Just 3 days later, it’s raining, the power is in and out all around town, and I’m actually turning the heat on again! Thinking about the warmth of that creamy sauce, I knew it would be an easy way to get one of my favorite homemade comfort foods on the table, macaroni and cheese! I just added it to the recipes section of this blog. Anyone else feeling the turbulence? Tell me about some of your favorite spring time meals! For me, it’s something that can to from hot to cool, light but satisfying. A little bit of spring, with the hit of winter that keeps holding on.

Empanadas, amigos!

Ahhhh as the Thanksgiving holiday weekend draws to a close, the family is leaving (finally) and I am needing to find ways to use up those leftovers.  Turkey sandwiches are great, but after one or two, lets face it, I get bored and so do those around me. *Lightbulb!* What better way then to encase them in dough? I looked to the fridge and what did I find, but a big bowl of shredded pork my friend had made for me a couple days ago.

Wait a minute, pork?? That has nothing to do with Thanksgiving leftovers!

Yes, keep your bib on, I know. What I’m saying is this: use the turkey as part of your filling in these savory little dough pockets and you’ll be fooling your family into eating every last bit of those dark-meat-white-meat leftovers faster than you can say “Empanadas!”

You may be curious now…ahh yes, I see it in your eyes. “What,” you are saying to yourself, “is an empanada…exactly?” Well my foodie friend, it is basically a calzone, with Mexican ingredients.  According to, empanadas are a Spanish dish brought to Latin America by Spanish immigrants. Empanada comes from the Spanish verb “empanar”, which literally meant to put something in bread (with the “pan” part in the middle being “bread”), but which actually means now to put something in pastry or some form of dough for the purpose of cooking it ( But in English, it means yummy meat pocket.

While this little often forgotten second cousin to the calzone is traditionally made into small bites, similar to that of a perogi or pot sticker size, I made mine into “hand pie” size which I would describe as not quite as big as a calzone, but larger than a pot sticker. Also, the ingredients of the dough is somewhat debatable. Some make it more like a pastry and others choose to use a yeast dough. I say, try both and use the one you like. In this case, I opted for my at the moment favorite homemade pizza dough. When I was first married I made these several times, because you can take some cheap ingredients and turn them into something really special. And we were in college and poor with a then just blossoming appetite for cooking and baking (oh if I could only have seen into the future and what an obsession that small hankering would turn in to…but that’s another post). Anyways, the point is, you can also use store-bought pizza dough, which I did back in the ol’ college/newly wed days. Many grocery stores carry it now, or sometimes you can buy it at a local pizza place. But of course, I highly recommend making it yourself (nose in the air just a little) which could also be a post in itself, but let me just tell you, the quality is superior to that of any store-bought.

So, while I’m seeing that big bowl of shredded pork in the fridge, I’m also thinking about what items from the pantry I have on hand… beans, diced tomatoes, onion, garlic… a quick little rootin’ around in the veggie drawer and I find a clamshell of fresh oregano and some fresh cilantro, as well as cheddar cheese and mango salsa from last week (see Quick Jerk Chicken). In the freezer I pull out what is probably my number one frozen staple, corn. I also find a container of pumpkin enchilada sauce I made and froze months ago, but a little zap in the microwave is all it needs. You know, one thing I noticed today is how truly handy it is to be a foodie. Sauces can be made from scratch and leftovers frozen and reused in something else later. A little searching around and you can make something delicious without much that needs to be picked up at the store right then. Also, as my friend and coworker (and fellow foodie) Katchen says, “the freezer is your friend.” I like to think of it as being resourceful, but others may find it similar to hoarding. However you slice it, it works out in my favor (and yours too, if I’m having you over for dinner).

Okay, back to your thanksgiving leftovers. Here’s my recommendation: Take that bird and shred her up. Saute up some chopped onion, garlic and some spices, for a mexican flair, use cumin and paprika and maybe a little cayenne. Then go ahead and add a bit of gravy or stock to put some moisture back into it, but not too much, no body likes a soggy empanada. Also, add that corn from thanksgiving or maybe some leftover carrots or sweet potato. Then a can of black or pinto beans… mmmm… salt and pepper it, and then begin assembling. Take your dough ball and split in to 6 pieces. Roll out each piece to about 6 inch rounds. Take a couple spoonfuls of turkey filling and place it on one half of the dough, then top with some shredded cheese (for the pork I used cheddar, but a white cheddar, or oooh…manchaego would be fabulous!!). Then take the other half and fold it over the filling. Seal the edge like by folding the dough over itself a little, and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake in a 400° oven for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with sour cream, salsa, or a pumpkin enchilada sauce if you just so happen to have some. You’ll soon see that you can mix this little fiesta in your mouth up a hundred different ways, and always with the same result: using what you’ve got (resourcefulness), and being completely satisfied (full). Now doesn’t that feel extra good?

Gravy is God’s Gift to Mashed Potatoes

Have you ever looked at a recipe and thought… “nah, I’m gonna skip that pesky last step of making a sauce with the pan drippings”.  It’s okay to admit it, you’d be surprised how many people do it.  And (whisper) I’ve even done it a time or two.  Usually I make mashed potatoes with onions and garlic and butter, so gravy feels a little…well…artery clogging (hey, gotta at least attempt to keep the girlish figure!)

Last night all that was proven to be foolish.  I grew up on gravy, first of all, and if my parents are reading this all I can say is, I’ve been failing you for some time.  I’ve been wasting all those morsels of flavor! You can not buy taste like that in a can people! It is only achieved by the roasting, frying or simmering of meat.

“But gravy is hard to make!” HA! I’m here to tell you that it is a down right lie! Gravy is easy! It’s probably the easiest sauce to put together.  Practically all the flavor comes from pan drippings, a little from fat, and then you add in an additional liquid (water, milk, stock, wine, beer… how could I have been missing this?) The possibilities are making me dizzy.  A gravy… with WINE? Oh my goodness.

Here’s the basic formula:

After your meat is cooked spoon off or separate all but 2 tablespoons of fat.  Add that to a small sauce pan (unless your roasting pan is stove top safe safe…lucky!) and heat on low. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour. Let it thicken into a paste- should only take a minute. Now… whisking constantly add in the pan drippings and 1 cup of liquid of your choice. Simmer 10 minutes until thickened and viola… God’s Gift!


I stand before you now, with my hand on this gravy boat.  I make a solemn oath to make gravy, from now, until the gravy itself kills me. Mom, Dad, you can stand tall again.

Meatloaf and Gravy

(look for my meatloaf, gravy, mashed potatoes and peas in the recipes section…coming soon!)