Pretty Purple Kale

purple cabbage pantry diaries

These Purple Kale plants are beautiful and they certainly do brighten the long Midwest winters. They are practically the only thing with color left by mid winter.
But I certainly did hope that they were also edible. It turns out that they are and they are also quite nutritious.
I found a few recipes to utilize this pretty veggie. It’s inexpensive and is as beautiful in the plate as around it.

Braised Tuscan Kale

4 bunches kale, stems removed
Salt as needed
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
½ white onion thinly sliced
½ rosemary sprig
1 dried small red chile
2 garlic cloves thinly sliced
¼ cup chicken stock or water

1. Coarsely chop the kale leaves and blanch them in boiling salted water, about 3 minutes, then drain.

2. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onion, rosemary and chile. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. When the onion is translucent and starting to color, 3 to 5 minutes, add the kale.

3. Cook the kale over medium-low heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring often. The kale will turn a deep, almost black color, become soft and then almost a little crisp. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. If the greens get too dry during the cooking, stir in a little stock or water.

4. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve.

Bean and Kale Soup

1/2 lb. dried Great Northern beans
Water as needed
Olive oil as needed
1 onion, chopped
2 small carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
4 cup shredded kale (1 small bunch)
1 boiling potato, diced
2 cup chopped Swiss chard bunch (1 small bunch
1 large tomato, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place beans in large saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Let stand at room temperature overnight.

2. Drain beans and return to saucepan. Add enough water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until tender, 1 hour 30 minutes, reserving liquid. Transfer half of beans to food processor or blender and puree. Reserve remaining whole beans.

3. Heat 1/4 cup oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and saute 5 minutes. Stir in kale, potato, pureed beans and enough reserved bean cooking liquid and water to make 6 cups. Heat over medium heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until vegetables are tender.

4. Add chard, tomato, garlic, rosemary, parsley, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until chard is tender and flavors are well blended, at least 1 hour, adding additional bean liquid if soup is too thick. (Soup should be quite thick.)

5. Stir in reserved whole beans and simmer until heated through, 5 to 10 minutes. (Can be cooled and refrigerated overnight.) Ladle into heated soup bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Top each bowl of soup with spoonful of olive oil, if desired.

Carrot Cake and Company

carrot cake pd nice

The cold winds are blowing and coffee and carrot cake is the only remedy.
This tastes best after a long walk in the chill autumn air.
It’s so cozy and yummy and feels like Fall to me.
I added a little yogurt and butter to make it extra moist and have been enjoying this all week.


1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts
½ cup raisins

Cream cheese frosting

1 package cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
enough milk to soften


Heat oven to 350 fahrenheit
Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.
Mix sugar, oil and eggs until well blended. Beat for 1 minute
Stir in remaining ingredients except carrots, nuts and raisins.
Beat 1 minute then stir in remaining ingredients

Bake 35-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean

Frost with cream cheese frosting if you’d like

Reaching Your Potential

new wine pantry diaries

I don’t know about you but I like to feel as though I am on the cutting edge; “edgy”.
I don’t know how realistic that is living in the Midwest, I mean, no matter how new it is here it is surely falling out of favor already in the trendy parts of the world. In any case I have decided that it is all relative. If it’s new to me, it’s new. And if nobody I know knows about it yet, well then, now I’m edgy!

Now, for a town of no more than 18,000 people we have, within a half mile radius, 4 wine stores. This does not count the extensive wine selections at the small chain and boutique grocery stores within the same distance.

I feel that the proprietors and sommeliers in my town are on top of things and there is always a wine tasting going on somewhere. Wine distributors and suppliers frequently seem to be coming back from a trip to Napa, Argentina, or the Veuve Clicquot Champagne house in France.

So, here I am at one of my favorite stores looking for a Malbec; a wine which I enjoy greatly which is from Argentina, something I “discovered” about 2 years ago, and I get a hot tip from the wine guy that Carmenere is the new one to watch. It is a revival of an old varietal that is very much like a Malbec and similar to the popular Merlot grape.

Like the Malbec, Carmenere was popular in France in the mid 1800’s and was used to produce the Bordeaux blend. The finicky Carmenere grape took too long to ripen and fell out of favor with winemakers. The grape found its way to Chile and is making a comeback after being mistaken for Merlot for decades. Vintners are sorting through their vines and rediscovering the Carmenere.

It is nice to have new choices and to enjoy a bit of history. Although, not everyone is enthusiastic about the Carmenere and consider it at most to be no more than a good table wine, that’s ok with me. I like knowing that I am enjoying the craftsmanship of those who have given special time and attention to coax the best out of a long forgotten fussy little grape.

I am planning to hang in with this grape, which much like me needs a lot of sun and a little extra time to develop to its fullest potential.

Mad for Mad Men

madmen pantry diaries

I just had to Mad Men Myself at Mad Men Yourself . I am crazy for Don Draper and I love it that now we have a picture together!

There are so many things to love about Mad Men. From the snappy dialogue to the beautiful set designs it’s easy to forgive a little sexual harassment and a mid morning martini buzz.

The show has rekindled an interest in cocktails of the bygone era along with nostalgia for steaks fried in butter and T.V. dinners. Remember Salisbury Steaks, Beef Stroganoff, Chicken Cordon Bleu? It’s all making a comback along with pigs in blanket and Rumaki.

Remember a time when cocktails were office supplies and cigarettes were a fashion accessory.

I am looking forward to exploring some of these recipes and the lifestyle that swirls aound the swell 60′s.

Savoring the Last Days of Summer

watermelon vodka cocktail

This is what happens when you get an unusually hot and muggy day at the end of a Midwest summer, you have a large watermelon on your kitchen counter, mint in your garden, and an almost full bottle of vodka in the freezer:

Accidental Watermelon and Vodka Fruit cocktails!


Chop enough watermelon to fill a Martini glass
add 1 shot of Vodka
squeeze lime to taste
garnish with mint
grab the nearest spoon and dig in!

Craving Sage

lentils and brown rice with sage BEST

I was craving sage! And by sage I mean Thanksgiving dinner, mostly the stuffing. But since I am shooting for the “unstuffed” look this Fall I wanted to come up with something that would have a rich texture, complex flavors and be healthy, nutritious, not fattening and still satisfy my cravings! Tall order but with a little luck; I had the ingredients on hand and not too much effort I managed to approximate the “stuffed” theme with out the aftermath; tight pants!

I started with my basic lentil recipe and added brown rice, and some chopped tomatoes. I also have an abundance of sage in my garden so I used that although I know for a fact that the dried stuff from the store works just as well. The secret, I think, is to slowly sauté the herbs in oil to extract the flavors.

I stuffed everything into peppers and baked them slowly. Eating healthy without feeling deprived, plus it was cheap! Lentils are the best bang for your food dollar around and full of nutrients; even protein. My good behavior left a little wiggle room today for a glass of wine! I love days like today!

Here’s the recipe which made enough to stuff 8 medium size peppers with some left over to make wraps for the children’s lunch tomorrow.


1 cup lentils
1 cup brown rice
1-2 Tbsp Oil or butter (I used coconut oil because I like the added flavor)
3-4 cloves of garlic
2-3 medium sized carrots
2-3 medium sized celery stalks
2 small tomatoes, chopped
Sage to taste (I used about 10 fresh fairly large leaves)
3 cups of water or vegetable stock, chicken stock; your preference
8 medium sized bell peppers (I used the orange, yellow and red variety)
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 325 Fahrenheit

In a large skillet add the oil, chopped garlic, fresh sage or powdered, chopped carrots, chopped celery and sauté until soft.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add the brown rice and lentils and coat them in the mixture then add the water and the tomatoes.

Let simmer until the water is absorbed. About 30-45 minutes.

Cut the stem out of the peppers creating a “cup”

Spoon the mixture into the peppers and place in your baking dish.

Here I will add enough water to cover the bottom of the dish; sometime I add a little white wine for flavor.

I don’t like my peppers to be mushy so I bake them just until they are tender; about 30 minutes.

Culinary Dominatrix

blythe beck

Chef Blythe Beck is not for the pretentious or the faint of heart. That voice could peel paint and she is not afraid of a few well placed “F” bombs. I recently did a phone interview with her and was blown away by her candor and her energy. I felt the love coming over the airways; and she made me hungry! The self proclaimed “Naughty Chef” is all about the food and, thankfully so.

The “Naughty” cuisine is her philosophy. It’s all about comfort food. She wants her food to be accessible. And there is butter! Lots of butter.

You can find her working her magic at Central 214 in Dallas, Texas at the top of the Hotel Palomar where menu items include, fried lobster, chicken fried oysters, duck breast, rib eye and chicken fried Kobe steak with sides like naughty creamed corn and fried lobster corn fritters. You get the idea. Definitely, wear your stretchy pants!

Be sure to catch her Naughty Chef debut on the Oxygen network September 22.

Here are just a few of the quotable moments from my interview with this rising star who is all heart, and ready to put the love in every bite.

P.D. I have to ask you about “the voice”, is that a family trait?

B.B.No, Not really
We’re all loud; it probably comes from years of yelling at line cooks.

P.D. To what do you credit your tremendous success in the male dominated world of professional chefs?

B.B .Oh God yes. It is hard and mean and cruel. But, cooking… it is the most empowering thing in the world. The boys were awful to me, It’s like working in a men’s locker room. This experience has made me Blythe Beck; it makes you toughen up.

P.D. Is it easier for women now?

B.B. I wish that I could say it is. But it’s not, no it’s not but the good thing is there are more women trying it. Cooking is so empowering. You’ll work your ass of but it’s worth it.

P.D. On, why she works so hard:

B.B. I have to take over the world, I work my ass off I work all the time. I want to achieve world culinary domination.

P.D. You’re so young to be where you are right now; what is it that has driven you to accomplish so much?

B.B. I don’t want to stop ‘til I’m the best.
I am so grateful for this opportunity that’s been given to me over here at Oxygen. Oxygen is all about women for women. I love them.

P.D. What would people be surprised to know about you?

B.B. I heart Nick Lachey, I really do.

P.D. What annoys you the most when it comes to food trends?

B.B. Don’t make food complicated. Food is universal. I hate chefs that do that to people; who make you feel that you’re not worthy of their cuisine. I’m very anti, that. Food knows its love. I was sitting in a restaurant and I didn’t know what this word was and I’m a chef. It was some French bean. I don’t want people to feel intimidated. I don’t want to do that to people.

P.D. What is your opinion on the explosion of the “food scene”?

B.B. My show is different. I dress in pink from head to toe, this show is about real people being honest. This is not a cooking competition.

P.D. You guys are the new rock stars; do you feel like a rock star?

B.B. I have always felt like a rock star!

P.D. What do you like to eat?

B.B. I’ve never told this to anyone! My favorite thing in the world to eat is mall pizza, it’s my dirty food secret. My all time favorite meal is my mom’s spaghetti and turkey balls. Whenever there was a special celebration that’s what she made.

P.D. On her training as a chef:

B.B. I did not go to culinary school. I got my education from the school of hard knocks. I learned from chefs and did it everyday for $6.50 an hour. So many people go to culinary school and I say do it first. I’m all about that. I’ll say come work in the kitchen with me and see if you love it first. If you have the passion for it you will really excel.

P.D. What are “foodies” missing? Is there a best kept secret in the food biz that we all should know?

B.B. I don’t follow trends. But I like to see what other people are doing. I’m not into foams, or nitric oxide. Food should be easy basic and simple. At the end of the day, people want to eat. Times are tough out there. Let’s give them some value.

P.D. How do you entertain? What do you serve Family and friends?

B.B. Oh that’s a good question. I love to make meatloaf because you get to put so many ingredients in it. Pot roast potatoes, salads, I love to grill steaks with mounds of butter, fried chicken. I make chicken and dumplings that make you feel dirty in the naughty spot. Who does not love butter and bacon and cream and cheese? It’s everyone’s dirty food secret. Everyone should tell their dirty secrets and own it.

P.D. Chef Blythe Beck’s advice to women:

B.B. If we could all embrace our talents we could be amazing.
I am addicted to Twitter and Facebook: I get messages from girls saying, oh my god, someone who looks like me. You need to feel ok to be who you are.

Chef Blythe Beck’s last words:
“I want people to heart me and heart my food. You can taste and feel the love in my food.”

Truly Amazing Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip cookies tastespotting

There is almost no skill more valuable than the ability to make an amazing chocolate chip cookie. I almost wouldn’t believe it myself but these cookies might have magic powers; my daughters will stop fighting and my ex-husband becomes more pleasant just by the very smell of them baking in the oven.

Everyone has asked me for this recipe and I have been reluctant to divulge it, however, it is time to move on. Cooler weather is the ideal time to perfect this recipe; by the time the holidays roll around you will have a great hostess gift for friends and family.

Some variations I like include adding white chocolate chips and Macadamia nuts. But be careful. Some may consider this sacrilege!

1 cup butter or ( two sticks)
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
4 cups flour ( 3 cups unbleached white flour plus 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 24 oz. bag chocolate chips

*makes a ton, about 6 dozen- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Mix butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs in large bowl.
- Stir in the flour, baking soda and salt.
- Stir in the chocolate chips.
- Drop dough by rounded measuring tablespoons, about 2-inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. I always use parchment paper.
- Bake 9-12 minutes or until light brown.
- Cool slightly.
- Remove from cookie sheet, cool on wire rack.

Cashmere and Squash Soup

val2 Fashion Week is upon us and I am having thoughts of cashmere and squash soups! Every autumn these things happen. Lush fabrics and vibrant colors conjure fantasies of a lifestyle which includes lunch with girlfriends, movies in the afternoon, and wine by a fireplace.

I want to wear beautiful scarves with embroidered edges and eat risotto with wild mushrooms and a warm chocolate dessert.
Autumn ushers in the best of haute couture and the best of haute cuisine.

As far as I am concerned, Fall is the beginning of the eating season. With the holidays right around the corner, and cooler weather in the forcast, our palates are primed for rich meals of silken textures and hues that please the eye as much as the tastebuds.
You can’t wear suede boots and order a salad. Only Lobster bisque will do, with a boujolias and warm crusty bread.

Autumn beckons us with complexity and layers; layers of merino wool and silk and of nutmeg, subtle yet sublime, in the cauliflower gratin; unexpected but very much appreciated.

So, let the show begin! Like an off-Broadway production we ready ourelves for the best the season of eating has to offer.

Infused Oils and Hopes for Holiday Gifts

pantry diaries curry

This is a photo of curry in my garden. I bought it just because I thought it was pretty. I had no idea what I would do with it. I never knew that curry looked like this. Now that I see it and smell how wonderful it is I want to do something creative with it. I am sure that there are Curry Cupcakes in my future! But for now I will be experimenting with the infused oil idea.
Since I started my garden I‘ve had illusions of grandeur. Or rather, should I say dillusions.
I have had big ideas about giving gifts at Christmas; gifts of infused oils and alcohol decoctions. In an effort to be thorough, of course, I went on line. I’ve learned about mold and rancidity. What I thought would be easy and practical, given the abundance of herbs in my garden, has turned into an exercise in futility. Fresh herbs go bad very quickly when packed in oil.
It is important to eliminate air, moisture, and light and to maintain sanitary conditions on all utensils and containers used to keep and prepare the oils. After much research and inquiry I have come upon recipes which will insure the safety of your recipients and the enjoyment of all who partake in your generosity!
There are hot and cold methods and the general consensus is that refrigeration is necessary to maintain freshness. Creating an air-tight seal is extremely important to slow the oxidation process.
So, will I will be experimenting and will keep you updated on my progress, successes and failures. Hopefully, by the time the holidays roll around, I will have some beautiful oils to share with family and friends!
Cold Infusion (Blender Method)
This technique for cold infusion is best used with herbs, roots, citrus zest and fresh Chile peppers. Because these products may add moisture to the oil making it ripe for spoilage, the velocity of the blender will release their essential oils and they can be refrigerated immediately after preparation. Combine the oil and the flavoring ingredients in the blender cup and blend at high speed until the product is liquefied. Leafy herbs can be quickly blanched in boiling water and then shocked in cold water to help preserve their color and give the finished oil a pleasing green appearance. Roots such as horseradish, and ginger should be grated or chopped to fully extract flavor in the blender. Fibers from roots should be strained before bottling. Straining other ingredients is optional.
Hot infusion
The use of heat to release flavors is the best way to make infused oils with dry spices. It is also good with roots and woody herbs. The heating of the oil and flavor ingredients makes the finished product more sanitary and less prone to spoilage. It has the further advantage of making the flavor of some spices like cumin and curry more rich and complex the same way that toasting them does. To create a hot infusion, combine the oil and the flavor ingredients in a saucepan and heat over a moderate flame. Monitor the temperature with a thermometer. In most cases a temperature between 180 and 200°F is sufficient to release the essential oils of flavoring ingredients. Higher temperatures tend to give the oil a “cooked” taste and may caramelize or scorch the flavorings. Strain if necessary and bottle in sterile containers while still hot. Seal and allow to cool. Refrigerate oil after it has reached room temperature.

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