Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Trout with Sour Cream-Cucumber Sauce

I never finished up telling you about our Sonoma trip, but one of the highlights was spending the better part of one day wine-tasting with this lady:


That was obviously before Cate got pregnant. It’s always fun to meet “internet friends” in real life, and Cate and I got along just as well as I hoped we would. My next goal is to get Cate and Mike to come visit the Southeast!

In order to make the meet up as smooth as possible, we chose Kendall-Jackson since it was centrally located and right off the highway. I generally associate Kendall-Jackson with lowest common denominator wines: over-oaked Chardonnays and such that you can buy in a Walgreens or CVS (but not in Tennessee!). The faux-French chateau didn’t exactly help my impression. So imagine our surprise when we tasted some really solid wines!


It turns out that Kendall-Jackson also makes some exceptional limited release wines that we really enjoyed. We purchased a bottle of their Highland Estate series Camelot Highlands Chardonnay, a chardonnay sourced from the Santa Maria valley in Santa Barbara County. According to the bottle, it’s the only East-West valley in the California coast so it gets a daily dose of fog and moderate temperatures to combine for a long growing season.


We busted out this bottle the other night in order to relive a little bit of that cool California November, and it was just as good as we remembered it. The wine is aged for 8 months in 57% new French Oak barrels so it has just enough of that buttery toastiness to create a lush palate. The bottle talks about the tropical fruit in the flavor profile, but I also got a little bit of a floral profile, not unlike some of our favorite Viogniers. With just over 3700 cases produced of this particular wine, I doubt we’ll be able to find it again unless we make another trip to the West Coast.

There was food as well! Joe and I play this game where we come up with extremely florid descriptions of the night’s menu. This time it was Steelhead Trout with a Sour Cream-Cucumber Sauce, Grilled Zucchini Coins, and a Fiery Asian Slaw. The creamy sauce was a good cooling complement to the slaw, and we used up some of our remaining CSA produce.


Trout with Sour Cream-Cucumber Sauce
source: Cooking Light
Yields 2 servings


  • 1/4 cup chopped peeled cucumber
  • 1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
  • 1/4 cup plain fat-free yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • 1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 (6-ounce) trout fillets
  • Olive oil


  • Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl; stir well, and set cucumber mixture aside.
  • Sprinkle salt and pepper over trout, and brush with olive oil. Heat a grill to medium heat. Grill trout, flipping once, until fish flakes easily with a fork. Spoon 1/4 cup sauce over each fillet and serve.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Marinated Portobellos, Grilled Veggies, and Barley Risotto

Please indulge me for a moment on a slightly heavier-than-normal issue. When I hear people my age talk about why they exercise and try to eat well, a lot of times those reasons reside in the future. They want to live longer, avoid cancer or a heart attack, have a healthy pregnancy, or lose weight for some future event. I know that Joe and I try to encourage each other to take care of our bodies in hopes of being together for a really long time. But that can give us a false sense of control, even potentially manifesting itself in a kind of disordered eating dubbed orthorexia. If we can just eat “perfectly”, whether that’s avoiding BPA, HFCS, meat, soy, or gluten (or all of the above), nothing will happen to us.

Ultimately though, we’re not in control. Susan over at The Great Balancing Act is active, even working as a personal trainer, eats well, and is my age. She was also recently diagnosed with Hodgkins’ Lymphoma when an x-ray discovered a huge mass in her chest. You can help her out with medical expenses and such today at The Great Fundraising Act. Susan’s honesty about her cancer and how it has effected her has been really moving and certainly gives a different spin to what “health” means.

And yesterday, a very good friend and training partner of an online running friend of mine, someone my mom has run with, an Ironman triathlete, was found dead of a massive heart attack at 64. A healthy man, younger than my own father. While the loss of this man is certainly unnerving and devastating for those who love him, it’s a good reminder for me that I am not in control, that there is a power much bigger than I, something I struggle with accepting a good amount of the time.

So instead of informing you about all of the virtuous health and nutritional benefits of eating your vegetables and whole grains, I’m going to tell you how the bite of the barley risotto is the perfect complement to the texture of the grilled vegetables. And the marinade on the Portobello mushrooms makes them taste shockingly close to steak. Because eating good food with the people you love is important when it’s impossible to control or predict the future.


Marinated Portobellos, Grilled Veggies, and Barley Risotto
Inspired by Ming Tsai’s Grilled Vegetable Barley Risotto with Marinated Portobello Steak


4 Portobello mushroom caps, gills removed
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup red wine
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise, 1/4” thick
1 large summer squash, sliced lengthwise, 1/4” thick
Olive oil
2 tbsp butter
4 minced shallots
2 cups barley
2-3 cups vegetable stock


1. Combine mustard, garlic, soy sauce, oil, red wine, and pepper together. Taste for seasoning. Marinate mushroom caps for 1 hour.

2. Toss the squash and zucchini with olive oil and season to your liking.

3. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable stock in a small saucepan until hot. In another pot, add the butter and saute the shallots. Add the barley and toast. Ladle in the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring until the barley is creamy and al dente. Season with salt & pepper and add the cheese.

4. Heat the grill to medium-high. Cook the mushrooms, zucchini, and squash until tender.

5. Place a mound of barley risotto on the plate. Slice the marinated Portobello like a steak and serve in front of the barley with the zucchini and squash to the side.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Creamy Taco Mac

I’m not usually what one would call an Early Adopter. If something is trendy, by the time I found out about it, the trend is probably over. Like when someone on my internet cooking board brought up planking. I hadn’t ever heard of it, but once I was aware of it, I heard about it several times that day and then had my husband reference it. Or the first time I heard about Silly Bandz was after the craze had mostly passed. And while listening to my iPod on our recent trip to Atlanta, I came to the realization that most of the music I still really enjoy listening to was “cool” back when I was in high school or college.

So you might’ve seen this dish before on other food blogs because it has certainly made its rounds. It’s just taken me this long to actually make it. But that’s the great thing about being in conversation with other people: you try things you might not have tried otherwise. That was one of the things I loved about being at camp, learning from other people, in age groups I don’t normally socialize with, about what they were into, what they were listening to, and what they were thinking about.

I’m certainly not on the cutting edge of fashion or music or cooking, but that doesn’t mean that some trends aren’t worth following. I took Bridget’s adaptations to the “original” Creamy Taco Mac and tweaked them just a little based on what I had around. I threw in a jalapeno with the onion and bell pepper and substituted light cream cheese in lieu of Greek yogurt. Using only one pot was a definite bonus, especially since it made a ton of food, providing me with a glut of leftovers.


Creamy Taco Mac
adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped small
1 red pepper, chopped small
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped small
Table salt
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon ground chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
16 ounces dry pasta
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 cups water
2 15 oz cans black beans, drained
4 oz light cream cheese
2 tablespoons cilantro
1 avocado, diced (optional)


1. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, and ½ teaspoon salt and cook until the onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and spices and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2. Add the pasta, diced tomatoes with juices, water, and beans. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Stir in the cream cheese until melted. Cover and simmer over low heat until heated, 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and avocado, if using. Serve.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Baked Eggs in Mushrooms with Squash Ragout

Cooking for myself again feels a bit like a revelation. Joe even offered to go to the grocery store for me if I gave him a list, and I almost took him up on it when I realized that I really missed picking out my own food. It didn’t hurt that I had these baked eggs on the weekly menu. A collaboration between two of my favorite bloggers, Cara and Bridget? Oh yes, count me in.


Sometimes I live in a kind of enchanted world because the bloggers I read make very conscious and conscientious choices about what they eat. In this world, everyone eats some variation of oatmeal or a green monster for breakfast, knows what chia seeds are, swears by almond butter, and considers refined grains to be anathema. And they obviously know how to put together a nutritious, filling meatless meal.

But that’s not the real world, particularly living in the middle of the country. At camp, no one I encountered had even heard of chia seeds, and only a few had ever tried a nut butter other than peanut. While no one seemed shocked that I didn’t eat meat, one response I got was, “I don’t really want to think about where my food comes from.” It really burst my bubble since I just assumed that everyone is concerned with these issues.

At the end of the day, the only person’s choices I can make are my own. So I chose to make this absolutely delicious, healthy, filling vegetarian meal. And even though I slightly overcooked the eggs and couldn’t get two of them to stay in their little mushroom homes, I still would’ve served it to company in a heartbeat. My mom even has a standing request for me to make this dish for her sometime.


Baked Eggs in Mushrooms with Squash Ragout
source: The Way the Cookie Crumbles

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 medium yellow squash, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 large portabella mushrooms, caps wiped clean, stems removed & gills scraped out
4 large eggs
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced

1. Heat the oil in a large oven-safe nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just browned at the edges. Add the garlic and pepper flakes; stir constantly for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add the zucchini and ½ teaspoon salt; cook until tender, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes; simmer uncovered until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position, place a baking sheet on the rack, and heat the oven to 400 degrees. On the non-gill side of the mushrooms, score ¼-inch deep lines ½-inch apart in two directions that meet at right angles. (This will help the mushrooms lose liquid before you add the eggs.) Spray the mushrooms with nonstick spray and sprinkle them with salt. Place the mushrooms stem side up on the hot baking sheet; roast for 8 minutes. Turn the mushrooms stem-side down and roast for an additional 8 minutes, until softened and wrinkled.

3. Crack the eggs into separate small dishes. Arrange the roasted mushrooms stem-side up in the ragout. Pour an egg into each mushroom; season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10 minutes, until the egg whites are starting to become opaque. Top with the cheese; return to the oven and cook an additional 5 to 8 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the eggs are cooked to your liking. Top with the basil; serve.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Take Me Home, Country Roads

It’s been a long five weeks, and a lot has happened, but I’m glad to be back home with Joe and my cats even though it was sad to leave the mountain and all the new friends I made.

Food-wise, there were ups and downs. Generally, the conference center was good about preparing a vegetarian option for me, but they also forgot to make me something several times. It was also evident that they didn’t really know what kind of food vegetarians need to eat, especially after being active all day. Starch plus cheese doesn’t really cut it. I did supplement with peanut & almond butters, some trail mix, and oatmeal packets, but I was really craving greens and beans by the last week. Or a meal like below: grilled tofu marinated in a mango curry sauce, local lettuce with cilantro dressing, and whole wheat curried couscous with almonds, green onions, and golden raisins.


Food aside, I had a wonderful time. I didn’t run as much as I had hoped, but I did sneak some in, including a 10K trail run on the Sewanee Perimeter Trail. I was more consistently active than anything between hiking and walking back and forth from the cabins and chasing kids on the playground. Looking in the mirror, I’m shocked at how tan I am from spending time outside.


Of course, the natural beauty of the mountain is incredible: so much green, waterfalls down into cold, clear waterholes, rock outcroppings, and natural overlooks off the plateau. I’m looking forward to going back with Joe and doing some more hiking. Particularly the last week, when I realized that I was going to be leaving soon, I was more intentional about acknowledging what a blessing it was to spend time in God’s beautiful creation.

source: Camp Gailor-Maxon Facebook page

I can’t say enough about what a great month it was. I loved the staff, loved the campers, loved the location. I learned a lot about myself, about the kind of minister I am, my strengths and weaknesses, and about God. I learned camp songs and games and the funny ways that kids will surprise you. I learned what it feels like to let go and have the Holy Spirit provide me with words and responses to questions that seem silly but are serious at heart. The staff gifted me with a title (Mama K!) and their friendship and their help and suggestions, and I only hope that I get to work with a group as creative and faithful and fun as they were in the future. And I would absolutely love if God called me to college chaplaincy sometime in my ministry.

While it’s looking like I might be otherwise occupied until the end of next August, I’m hoping that I’ll get to drop by camp next year, perhaps to celebrate an opening or closing Eucharist!