Thursday, August 22, 2013

Down to Business

Well, friends... Kimmers in the Kitchen is gettin' down to business.  For real.  As in LLC.  I am embarking on a new journey by finally doing what I love - cooking and baking for others.  I've started a personal chef business that grocery shops, prepares dinners, and delivers the meals to busy folks in the South Hills neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, PA.  It is exciting and scary beyond belief.  Mostly exciting.  And scary for sure.  But mostly exciting!

These last several months have been a whirlwind of establishing the business as a legal entity, building a web site, taking a course and exam to become a Certified Food Safety Manager, developing menus and pricing, working on a logo with a graphics designer, talking to professional chefs, and getting a line on a licensed commercial kitchen to rent.  A couple loose ends to tie up, but I am T-H-I-S close to launching!

Since I've never built a web site before, this was the most time-consuming part of the process for me by far. It took a lot of thinking to even decide on the content.  Then I went through a lot of trial-and-error and testing to get things to work the way I wanted. It only made sense to integrate the blog with the business, and moving all these posts also took some time. Truth is, the actual migration didn't take much time at all.  It was educating myself on how to do it and putting the blog posts in the new format that took a ton of hours.  I still have some work to do, like adding the easy printable recipe feature to all the recipes (bear with me as I work through the rest of them).  Now that I have the whole process down pat, new recipes and blog posts will appear on the new site going forward.

I am finally ready to show you the Kimmers in the Kitchen web site and a sneak peek of the logo. Please give 'em a look, sign up for email updates on the new blog page, like on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and let me know what you think.

Now hurry... click this link and save it in your Favorites.  :)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kickin' Potato Salad

For so many years, I made potato salad with a technique that goes like this:  dump jar of store-bought dressing over bowl of prepared veggies, stir. It was okay. I'd even go as far to say it was good.

Nothing, however, compared to the potato salad that my Aunt Wanda made from scratch. Although I don't have her exact recipe, this one is very reminiscent of hers. It is delicious. I'd even go as far to say it's kickin'.

Kickin' Potato Salad
2 pounds (about 6 medium-sized) red-skinned potatoes
6 eggs
1 shallot, chopped
3 celery stalks, sliced thin or chopped
1/4 cup chopped sweet gherkins, chopped
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon whole grain dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons pickle juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced (or 2-3 Tablespoons dried parsley)

Place unpared potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer until just tender enough for an inserted paring knife or fork to come out easily (15-30 minutes, depending on size of potatoes). Drain and cool. Cut into 1/2"-3/4" cubes, leaving skin but removing any eyes.

Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water at least 1" above eggs. Bring to boil, then remove from heat and cover. Let stand 22-24 minutes. Immediately plunge eggs into cold water. Tap egg on counter to break shell, roll eggs between hands or on counter under light pressure to loosen shell, then peel. Peeling egg in bowl of cold water or under cold running water helps remove shell. Chop to desired size.

In small bowl, prepare dressing by whisking together vinegar, mayo, mustard, pickle juice, salt, pepper and parsley.

In large bowl, combine potatoes, eggs, shallot, celery and gherkins. Add dressing and stir until potato salad is thoroughly coated. This can be served immediately and is very good warm; however, it tastes best if refrigerated overnight so the flavors can mellow.

Serves 8.

Per Serving
calories:  222
carbs:  30 g
fat:  8 g
protein:  8 g
sodium:  254 mg
sugar:  4 g


Monday, July 1, 2013

Bloody Mary

I crave a Bloody Mary after every race. The tradition started last December at the Jingle Bell Run post-race party. I'm not a beer drinker, and it was way too early for wine. Amid the festive atmosphere, I wrinkled my nose and dismissed the thought of ordering water. Then I saw someone with a Bloody Mary. Of course! Sensible AND nutritious. It matched my elf costume, too.

Let me just say this outfit was not a great choice, but not for the reasons you probably think are obvious.  

-- First of all, dangly necklaces bounce around all willy-nilly when running. The novelty of the cute little flashing Christmas lights wears off quick.

-- Second of all, running on a 50-degree day with a long sleeve shirt, a fleece, glovelets and a synthetic hat made me want to peel off my clothes like Ricky Bobby when he thought he was on fire, which I didn't.

-- Third of all, it's a little known fact that tutus ride up. No pic for that, so feel free to use your imagination and laugh heartily.

-- Fourth of all, I didn't wear the right socks. One of them crept way down into my shoe, forcing me to stop, yank it off, and cram my shoe back on.

Crossing the  finish line looked like this:  elevated tutu; glovelets and hat in one hand; unruly sock, necklace and cell phone in the other. I DESERVED that Bloody Mary! Actually, I ended up deserving two.

Since then, I've been working on my own recipe for a Bloody Mary. Recipe development can be so fun, as Doug and I happily sipped our way through the trials. Yesterday I wrote down the quantities and took a pic. Here's the Keeper. Cheers!

Bloody Mary
1 shot vodka
1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon Frank's Original Red Hot cayenne pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon brine from olive jar
1/2 cup Tabasco Brand Extra Spicy Bloody Mary Mix
2 green olives
celery stick
smidgen (~ 2 turns of pepper mill) fresh ground black pepper, to taste
ice cubes

Add ice to a 12-ounce glass until about 3/4 full. Add vodka, worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper sauce, olive brine, and bloody mary mix. Stir. Garnish with olives, celery stick, and black pepper.

Calories:  103
Carbs:  7 g
Fat:  1 g
Protein:  1 g
Sodium:  1237 mg  (yeah, it's a bit high...)


Monday, May 20, 2013

Summer Couscous with Oranges and Olives

Have you ever tasted something new at a party, fell tastebuds over heels, and spent the rest of the evening casually-on-purpose circling back to it and hoping the entire time that no one notices the shameful amount you've consumed? This is what happened when I met Castelvetrano olives. I was and still am fascinated by the strikingly bright green color and unexpected sweet, buttery flavor. How have I lived so long without them in my life?

Last weekend I bought some of my very own. As I delightfully nibbled my cache, I wondered if these could possibly get any better and what kind of recipes might be floating out in cyberspace. A couscous recipe piqued my interest. Olives and oranges living together? Mass hysteria! But something about it spoke to me.

This recipe was an instant hit with my book club yesterday, and it's posted today by popular demand. It is healthy and super easy to prepare - a one-bowl wonder with no cooking or baking whatsoever. I'll be sure to circle back to this one many times.

Summer Couscous with Oranges and Olives
Modified a bit from

3 cups dry couscous
1/2 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
orange zest from one orange
lemon zest from one lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
4 cups boiling water (microwaved for several minutes works)
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped  (~ 1 cup)
3-5 shallots, chopped (~ 1 cup)
~ 35 Castelvetrano olives, pitted and halved
3 navel oranges, halved and sectioned
juice from 1/2 lemon

Whisk orange juice concentrate, olive oil, mustard, orange and lemon zests, and salt in a large bowl. Add couscous and combine thoroughly.  Continue stirring while slowly adding boiling water.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for five minutes.

Fluff the cousous with a fork, then add parsley, olives, orange segments (and any juice from the fresh oranges), shallots, and lemon juice.

Refrigerate or let stand at room temperature for two hours to let flavors mellow before serving. My taste preference is to serve at room temp; however, today's refrigerated leftovers were pretty good, too.

Serves 10. Nutrition info/serving:  298 calories, 51 g carbs, 7 g fat, 8 g protein, 419 mg sodium, 10 g sugar.


Friday, May 3, 2013

Just Right Energy Bites

~Survey says...!~
This is about the quickest, best sweet-tooth satisfying, one-bite bang for your buck! And with summer knocking on our doors, these no-bake cookies are a must. We almost always have all the ingredients on hand, so I whip these up fairly often. I recently shared these with three of my favorite girls - Susan, Angelina and Katryna - with two thumbs up all around. That's SIX thumbs up, people!  Whoa.

Just Right Energy Bites
1 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup ground flax seed (flax meal)
1/2 cup fiber cereal (I use Fiber One)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I use Trader Joe's Sesame Honey Almonds)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk together the peanut butter, honey and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and kind of mix them together atop the peanut butter mixture. Then dredge the peanut butter mixture from the bottom and thoroughly combine all ingredients.

Use a tablespoon to shape into balls or domes like mine.  I have a round tablespoon that use, pressing it against the side of the bowl to form a tight dome.  Then I scoop it out and place the little dome on a plate.  Keep refrigerated; we think they are too soft otherwise.
These probably keep for longer than a week in the refrigerator, but I can't say for sure.  They never last that long here.  And at 74 calories each, why would they?

Makes 36 cookies.


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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Nut Rolls

~Out of Season~

Hey.  I know this recipe is posted out of season.  In three years, it just never made its way to the blog right before the holidays.  Besides, I got a request for it today.  Crazy, huh?  So while every other food blogger in the world is posting Irish recipes this week, here I go with a traditional eastern European Christmas recipe.  It's okay; I've been accused of quirky before.  Just promise me you will come back here in, say, eight months and pretend like this post couldn't be more timely.

This recipe is a Keeper that goes back several generations.  It was given to my mom by her Aunt Lois.  Aunt Lois got it from her mother-in-law, whose family brought it with them from Lithuania in God-knows-what-year-but-let-me-tell-ya-it-was-a-loooong-time-ago.

Every holiday season of my childhood, we were never without these gems lined up on every square inch of counter space.  I'm sure Mom gave many of them away, but all I remember is we snacked on these morning, noon, and night for about three months each year.  It seems like we constantly had one on the counter from early November until mid-January.  Each one unwrapped and re-wrapped so many times that the foil was a crinkly mess by the time we got down to that last end piece.  Each time one disappeared, another reappeared in its place.  Did I ever mention my dad's never-ending, unstoppable sweet tooth before?  Heck, maybe Mom didn't give any of them away...

So.  You know when you really think a lot of someone, but going out and buying them an actual Christmas gift seems a bit much?  Well, The Dougster (aka HotDog) and I solve that dilemma each year with these nut rolls.  It's become a tradition to gift our good friends and neighbors with these Keepers every year.  Well, almost every year.  What's that saying?  "If the good Lord's willing, the creek don't rise, and the holiday frenzy doesn't get the best of you."  Yeah, that.

Nothing fancy.  I still wrap them in foil like Mom did.  When they are gifted, we adorn each roll with either a stick-on bow or tied with curly ribbon.  (Okay, maybe we DO get fancy.)  We deliver them in person with wishes for the happiest of holidays.  Then we go home, brew a pot of coffee, and eat the ugly ones that didn't make the cut - wrapping and rewrapping until the foil is a crinkly mess, down to the last piece.

Aunt Lois' Nut Rolls

1 cup sugar
1 pound butter
1 can evaporated milk
1 cake yeast
1 teaspoon salt
8 eggs
1 pound box brown sugar (2 1/4 cups)
2 cups sugar
1 pound butter
4 pounds walnuts
1 can evaporated milk

First, plan to make the dough the day before you intend to actually bake the nut rolls.  Since this recipe makes 12 rolls, give yourself plenty of time on baking day.

To make the dough, warm the evaporated milk to 110 degrees F.  Stir in the yeast.

Mix all of the dough ingredients with an electric mixer until the dough comes away from your mixing bowl clean. (Or, in my case, until your old mixer can't continue under the strain, and you have to finish it by hand.)  Place in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
To make the filling, grind or finely chop the walnuts.  I find a food processor works well.
Melt the butter.  Combine all the filling ingredients in a large bowl or container.  I like to use a rectangular container so I can mark off 12 equal squares.
To assemble and bake those rolls, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Take the dough from the refrigerator and divide into 12 equal balls.  Sprinkle sugar on your counter or table and roll a ball of dough in sugar until it is 12-14" by 8-10".  Spread a "square" of filling on it, leaving about an inch on all sides.  Slowly make each roll, starting from one of the long sides.
Tuck the ends under and move to a baking sheet, seam side down.  Sprinkle each with a little more sugar.  Plan to bake three rolls per baking sheet; otherwise, they will spread out too much.  It helps to line your baking sheets with parchment or wax paper, which I learned after this batch.
Bake each sheet for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, or until golden brown.
Let nut rolls cool about 15 minutes before very carefully transferring them from the baking sheet to foil sheets.
When completely cooled, wrap tightly in foil.  I hear they freeze well, but they never made it that far in our house.

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Kimmers' Red Sauce

~ Out of my Head ~
This recipe was a staple of my childhood. Never written down, my mom made it from her head. She learned it from her mom who, of course, made it from her head. When I went to college and had an apartment of my own, I craved it something fierce. Calling my mom, I got instructions that went something like this:  "Brown some ground meat with some onions and garlic powder, add some sauce and paste - more paste than sauce - with some water to thin it, add some basil and oregano - more basil than oregano..." Umm, yeah. Thanks, Mom. I'm sure it will taste exactly the same.

I cleverly refined my approach:  drive to Mom's house, sit down with paper and pencil, and say, "Okay, make sauce." So I did, and so she did, and so I watched with a keen eye and took careful notes. I still didn't have exact amounts, but I felt confident I could recreate this masterpiece. Wrong-o!

The first time I made it was a disaster. Do you know what happens when you make lasagna with sauce that is way too thin? Those noodles slide all around on your plate like Bambi's attempt to ice skate. It does not stand nicely in cubed form, but rather resembles what I can only describe as "pasta splat". That's what.

In time, I found success. I learned not to over-water. I replaced the garlic powder with real cloves. Sometimes I add fresh basil and oregano. I discovered that a bit of hot sausage is nice. Both my lasagna and I can stand tall. I had achieved making the family red sauce from my head, too.

It's taken many batches of red sauce and trial-and-error with measurements to get this Keeper written down. No longer stuck in anyone's head, I am finally able to share it with you.

Kimmers' Red Sauce
3 generous tablespoons of olive oil
3 medium onions, chopped
5-8 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 pounds ground meat (I use 1 pound each of ground turkey, sweet Italian chicken sausage, and hot Italian chicken sausage.)
3/8 cup dried basil
1/4 cup dried oregano
30 ounces canned tomato sauce (I use two 15 ounce cans.)
30 ounces canned tomato paste (I use two 12 ounce cans and one 6 ounce can.)
28 ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes (I use Muir Glen brand.)
15 ounces water
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
In a large pot over medium heat, add onions to olive oil and stir until evenly coated. Add ground meat, garlic, basil, and oregano. (If you use link sausage, remove meat from casing first by running a sharp knife longways along link.) Break up meat into small pieces and cook thoroughly.
Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and sauce. Fill one of the 15 ounce cans with hot tap water. Use that water to swirl around in the cans to get all the tomato sauce and paste, then add this tomato-water to the pot. Stir thoroughly. Your red sauce should have a nice consistency, kind of on the thick side.

Using my amounts as guidelines, add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. The sugar will cut the acidity of the tomatoes to give your sauce a nice flavor.
Ladle sauce over prepared pasta and garnish with grated cheeses if desired. Serve immediately.

* This recipe makes a large batch, which is convenient because it freezes so nicely. To freeze leftover sauce, put it in freezer bags and lay flat on a baking pan until frozen. When ready to use, loosen the freezer bag by running it under hot tap water. Then cut the bag to remove the frozen block of sauce, and place in large pan on low heat to thaw. Stir and turn frequently until heated through.

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