Welcome to the Circle B Kitchen! 
We love that you're here and hope you'll browse the site and grab some recipes.  
The Circle B Kitchen has been blogging since September, 2009.  We have loads of recipes and thoughts on food to share in the coming weeks and months, so come back and check in often!  We love hearing from you and hope you'll leave a comment or shoot an email our way.  Whether you have questions about a recipe or the site in general, please let us know...    Contact me at      pberry@circle-B-kitchen.com


Find a Circle B Kitchen Recipe 

Some of Our Favorite Things for Spring!

   Pesto Salmon Burger (YUM!)

Chicken with Artichokes and Angel Hair Pasta

Mediterranean Fish Fillets

   Greek-ish Salmon Salad

Spaghetti with Artichoke Sauce

 Chive Risotto Cakes with Lemon Aioli

Southwestern Salmon Tacos

Asparagus with New Potato Salad, Grilled Salmon and Buttermilk Dressing

Pasta with Asparagus and Egg

Mediterranean Shrimp Salad with Artichokes and Chickpeas

Sauteed Chicken with Clementine Salsa

 Grilled Chicken Kebob Salad

Grilled Bread and Shrimp Salad

Swordfish Provencal

Shrimp Salad with Avocado, Clementines and Pomegranate

And just in case you were wondering...

       

 

Our oldest daughter, Erin, has been riding, training and showing horses since she was a teenager.  She graduated from Colorado St. University with a degree in Equine Science and is now Financial and Administrative Manager for HETRA (Heartland Equine Therapeutic Riding Association), which provides therapy through horseback riding for children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, brain tumors, head injuries, blindness, autism, and strokes.  For more information or to donate to this amazing cause, please visit http://www.hetra.org/ .

 

 

Saturday
Apr182015

Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto and Tomato Salsa

 

So the question must be asked “do we really need another pasta recipe on this blog?  I mean, aren’t 47 pasta recipes quite enough?   Yes, people, this is pasta recipe #48, and while I’m inclined to feel a bit sheepish in posting yet another, I hope to make the case for its inclusion in what has recklessly become a serious imbalance in the recipe index. 

To that end, I will tell you that the recipe came to me via Beryl, a reader from down under, in an email I opened after a particularly long day at the hospital with Mom a couple of months ago.  I think I had just had a bowl of popcorn for dinner.  Beryl sent a very dear “keep your chin up” email (my chin had most definitely not been up), and she sent this recipe and a photo and told me how she had been making this since 2001 and how it was so easy to throw together when you don’t feel like cooking and that it’s become a favorite family comfort food (they call it “green pasta”).  It would be a few weeks before I got around to making it, but somehow I knew that I would.   

Pretty glad I did, too.  Yes, it’s a quick and easy recipe, but it’s the flavors that will haunt and bring you back for more.  Yes, I did say haunt.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think pasta is at its most delectable when the sauce is assertive and bright and balanced and nuanced and this one is all of that and more.  And here I am in the third paragraph and I haven’t even mentioned that we’re talking about arugula (aka “rocket” to those Brits and Aussies) as the star ingredient here, and how that peppery arugula in all its brash, sassy cheekiness dares to out-flavor and overshadow its more demure pesto rivals. 

But it’s those little bites of sweet tomato and the heat from the chiles and the bright notes of lemon and well, cheese.  Yes, there’s cheese, and I think I’ll just stop right there.  The Husband loved it too and I believe he used the word “keeper” or something about making it again, I’m not really sure cuz I was stuffing a bunch of it in my mouth, but yes, I did make it again and that’s how the Circle B recipe index came to have 48 kinds of pasta.  Here’s the recipe…

Fettuccine with Arugula Pesto and Tomato Salsa

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe adapted from The Australian Women's Weekly Vegetarian Cookbook (via Beryl, a reader from down under)

The flavors in this pesto sauce are just outrageously delicious.  I've reprinted the recipe mostly as it was written and noted the changes I made which were simply personal preference.  A couple of those changes had to do with the amount of olive oil called for (2/3 cup) and garlic (8 cloves).  I'm not terribly fond of oily pesto sauces and prefer to add some of the pasta cooking water to thin it down if need be.  And I don't mind a subtle hint of garlic, but 8 cloves sounded a bit like calling in the heavy artillery so I bumped that back a bit too.  If you're not a fan of raw garlic, I pop the cloves (unpeeled) into the microwave for a couple of seconds which softens the flavor a bit.

1 lb fettuccine
8 cloves garlic, quartered (I used 2)
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil
120 grams (About 8 cups or 4.25 oz) arugula, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup olive oil (I used a little more than 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
3 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 red thai chiles, thinly sliced (I used a bit more than 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
1/3 cup toasted pine nuts

1.  Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water for about 9 minutes or until al dente.  Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water and drain the pasta.

2.  Meanwhile, blend or process the garlic, basil, lemon juice, arugula and olive oil until it becomes a smooth paste.

3.  In a large saucepan, combine the cooked pasta with the pesto and the rest of the ingredients.  Toss gently to combine, adding a little of the pasta cooking water if needed to thin the sauce.

4.  To serve, top with the remaining pine nuts and extra parmesan cheese.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Saturday
Apr112015

A Baguette of Your Own (In Only 4 Hours!)

Lest you’ve already decided that you have no time for such folly – let me just say that this is most definitely 4 hours well spent, especially if you've ever thought (fantasized) about turning out bakery-quality baguettes from your own home oven.  And let me tell you, I was once as skeptical as you most likely are at the moment.  But this is actually a really great baguette and you heard me right… 4 hours start to finish, and several of those hours require absolutely nothing from you.  This discovery has been a total game-changer here at the Circle B Kitchen where just about every baguette-type of bread I make takes at least 2 days.  My sourdough takes 3 days.  So 4 hours - phhhttt!  That's nothin' in the world of bread-making.

So you can imagine my glee (really happy emoji with the big teeth) when I saw this recipe on the Food 52 website.  They got it from a Saveur magazine article on American bread making featuring Dan Leader, the inventor of this incredible loaf.  The point is, one of the most highly respected bread makers in the country has devised this fool-proof method for turning out a no-fuss baguette at home, and I for one think we ought to take him up on it.  You in?

Right before Mom went into the hospital, I was making these baguettes on a fairly regular basis.  But then, of course, life happened and I’m just now getting back into the kitchen and I’m happy to report that the freezer is once again supplied with a good stock of baguettes at the ready.  Homemade bread in the freezer is a very good indicator that things in the Circle B Kitchen are sort of approaching normal.

So when I say 4 hours, I’m not even kidding.  This is about as quick and simple as baguette making gets.  There’s no fancy folding of the dough to create the perfect baguette shape, no tricky kneading steps, no fussy stuff at all really.  Yes, there will be kneading, but if you have a dough hook on your mixer, this is a non-issue.  If you don’t, then you’re facing 10 minutes of kneading, which is isn’t such a big deal.  C’mon… it’s just 10 minutes.  

Beyond that, this bread practically makes itself.  OK, that’s not really true, but I’m trying really really hard to make a point here, people – you can do this!  We can do this!  Bakery baguettes!  Fresh from your own oven!  The beautiful aromas of fresh bread permeating your home; soft butter melting on a still-warm slice of fresh bread, and you made it!  I think you'll be hooked too.  Here’s the recipe with some step by step process photos…

4-Hour Baguette

Click here for a printable recipe without photos

Recipe adapted from Saveur Magazine via Food52

This is a super easy recipe that turns out an incredibly great baguette.  I've given you the recipe here as it was originally published in 2012, but there are a few little things that might make it even easier for you.  Although the recipe asks you to mix and knead this by hand, if you have a standing mixer and dough hook, this works equally well for that.  And might I suggest that you NOT use your cast iron skillet for the ice cubes in step 5.  This will de-season (un-season?) your skillet and leave an unsightly stain on the bottom.  I use one of those store-bought foil cake pans and it works great.  ALSO Mr. Leader suggests that if you don't have a baking stone, you can turn a large baking sheet upside down on your rack and use that instead.  I use my baking stone, but for this post I used the baking sheet method and it worked great.  So no worries if you don't have a baking stone! Any other changes I made are noted in the recipe itself. Have fun!

Oh, one more thing... some small apartment ovens don't have a top heating element.  If this is the case with yours, place your baking rack near the top of the oven which will give your bread the best chance to brown nicely.  And make sure you give your oven at least 30 miinutes to get up to temperature (45 minutes is even better, especially if you're also heating up a baking stone).

Ingredients:
1 ½ cups (12 oz.) tap water, heated to 115°
1 tsp. (⅛ oz.) active dry yeast
3 ¼ cups (14  oz.) all–purpose flour
3 tsp. kosher salt
Canola oil, for greasing bowl (I use nonstick cooking spray)
½ cup ice cubes

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Whisk together water and yeast in a large bowl; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes.  The recipe describes this as "foamy", but here's what it mostly looks like...

Add the flour and stir with a fork until the dough forms and all of the flour is absorbed; let the dough sit to allow the flour to hyrdate, about 20 minutes.  It will sort of look like a shaggy mess...

Add salt and transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes (or use your mixer/dough hook).

Transfer dough ball to a lightly greased bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place bowl in a cold oven or draft-free place. Let dough rest until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

2. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and shape into an 8″ x 6″ rectangle. Fold the 8″ sides toward the middle, then fold the shorter sides toward the center.

Return dough, seam side down, to bowl. Cover with plastic again, and return to oven; let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

3. Remove bowl with dough from oven, and place a cast–iron skillet (I use a foil baking pan) on the bottom rack of oven; position another rack above skillet, and place a baking stone or upside-down sheet pan on it. (But pretend you don't see the ice cubes down there;they don't go in yet).

OR


4. Heat oven to 475°. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface, and cut into three equal pieces;

and shape each piece into a 14″ rope (I like to make mine a little shorter and fatter).  Flour a sheet of parchment paper on a rimless baking sheet; place ropes, evenly spaced, on paper.  Lift paper between ropes to form pleats;

place two tightly rolled kitchen towels under long edges of paper, creating supports for the loaves. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; let sit until it doubles in size, about 50 minutes.

5. Uncover; remove towels, and flatten paper to space out loaves. (I cut around each loaf so they can be put into the oven separately instead of on one sheet). 

Using a sharp razor or paring knife, slash the top of each baguette at a 30–degree angle in four spots (I only do 3), each slash should be about 4″ long.

Using the corner of the parchment paper as a guide, slide the loaves, still on the parchment paper, onto the baking stone or baking pan. 

Place ice cubes in skillet (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms). (I put the ice cubes in the oven before I put the loaves in which gives them time to make a little steam before baking).

Bake the baguettes until darkly browned and crisp, about 20-30 minutes; cool before slicing.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Wednesday
Apr012015

Closing in on Hard-boiled Perfection

 There have been many lessons to be learned from my experience with Mom over the last couple of months, and I hope to maybe talk about some of those at some point.  But not all of those lessons had to do with grief, death and coping with loss.  No, one of those lessons had to do with a major breakthrough in the cooking and peeling of the perfect hardboiled egg.  Hallelujah! 

As strange as that may sound, I have boiled and peeled enough eggs over the past few weeks to now consider myself something of an expert on the subject.  And with Easter on the horizon, I thought I’d share some of my new-found knowledge with you in case you might be gearing up for a little egg boiling, dying, hiding, peeling and eating this weekend. 

Early on in Mom’s hospital stay, I decided that eating hospital cafeteria food wasn’t going to cut it for me, even though they did have a killer salad bar.  No, I was going to have to bring my own food to get me through the day, and sometimes that meant food for Dad too.  And for convenience and nutrition, you really can’t beat a hardboiled egg, right?  Fortunately, Dad and I love them, so along with fruit and maybe some crackers or other healthy bits of things, hardboiled eggs became a mainstay of our hospital meals (that and tuna sandwiches). 

And while we’re big fans of the hardboiled egg, they’re actually not all that convenient if it takes 20 minutes to peel them, resulting in a pitted, gouged and mangled egg next to a pile of teeny, tiny shards of egg shell.  You all know what I’m talking about, right?  Well, what if I told you that the problem of unpeelable hardboiled eggs has been at long last solved and you no longer have to worry about that unsightly gray ring around the yolk either.  Oh, happy day, it’s true!  

I wish I could take credit for this momentous discovery, but no, that would be bad form.  All credit goes to the good folks at Serious Eats who did the pertinent scientific research and came up with this life-changing discovery, and here’s how it goes.. 

You know how we’ve always been taught to start the hard boiling process by placing our eggs in a pan of cold water and then bringing that water to a boil?  Well, as it turns out, that was all wrong.  Wrong, I tell you!!  The truth is, if you want an egg that peels like a dream, you must submerge it cold from the fridge into a pot of already boiling water.  

And no, the eggs will not crack if placed gently into the water. 

The pan is then covered and the eggs are simmered for exactly 11 minutes for a large egg

and then plunged into ice water for 30 minutes or so. 

 It may sound a bit violent, but these extreme temperature changes are what break down the membrane covering the egg white, which, if left intact, makes it nearly impossible to peel your egg.  I think this is very cool and am awfully grateful that someone (thank you, Kenji)  took the time to figure this out. 

And if you’ve been reading this blog for very long, you’ll remember a post I did back here in which I touted the wondrous benefits of baking your eggs instead of boiling them to achieve a nicely cooked, easy-to-peel egg.  And even though I’ve modified my stance just a bit on that, I am still on board with this method and here’s why… 

I understand now that placing an egg in a preheated oven does just about the same thing as plunging one into a pan of boiling water.  The extreme temperature change is at work in both methods.  But if you’re after a beautiful hard-cooked egg for say, deviled eggs, I’d go with the boiling water method.  These eggs come out so perfectly lovely.  But if you need to cook up a bunch of eggs for egg salad or potato salad or a similar recipe in which the eggs are going to be chopped, I’d go with baking them. 

Baking large batches of eggs in the oven is a breeze.  Just stick em in and let em go.  After about 25 minutes, you just take em out and plunge them into the ice bath and you’re done.  You can place them directly onto the oven rack or in a muffin tin, but where they touch the metal surface, there will be a small brown blemish.  Also eggs baked in the oven tend to have rather odd shapes as they do not move during the baking process and the egg sort of settles in the shell at weird angles. 

Conversely, while the boiling method turns out a nice-looking egg, it takes just a wee bit more babysitting.  Nothing too terrible, mind you, but you have to keep an eye on that water so that it stays at a nice, well-behaved simmer for the cooking time.  Once you get it there, you just have to check on it now and then to be sure it hasn’t gone from gentle simmer to raging tantrum while your back was turned. 

Now, here’s what makes me ever so doubly excited about all of this.  In spite of having 7 chickens out in the coop, I’ve always had to buy eggs for hard boiling because a fresh egg from the coop just will not peel properly.  I’ve never had any luck with it anyway.  Not until now, that is.  I’ve been hard boiling eggs from the coop by the dozens with this new method, and I’m happy to report that they’re as easy to peel as older, store-bought eggs  which saves me money, which makes me happy and want to cook up even more eggs. 

As to the photo way up top there, I pulled the eggs out of the simmering water at different times, starting at 9 minutes.  So the first egg was simmered for 9 minutes, the second one for 10 minutes and so on.  That last egg was cooked for 12 minutes, so you can decide how long to cook them depending on your preferences.  A soft-boiled egg will take 6 minutes.

So there you go, people!  Boil up as many eggs as you can this weekend.  Peeling just got a whole lot easier.  Here’s the recipe…

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

Click here for a printable recipe

3 quarts water
1 to 6 large eggs

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Carefully lower eggs into pot and continue to boil for 30 seconds. Cover tightly, reduce heat to low (water should maintain a bare simmer), and continue cooking for 11 minutes. Serve immediately if serving hot. If serving cold, immediately place eggs in a bowl of ice water and allow to cool for at least 15 minutes before peeling under cool running water. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Click here to ask a question or leave a comment

Saturday
Mar282015

Mom's Honeyed Almonds

 

It just seemed sort of right that the first recipe I post after my long “sabbatical” should be one of Mom’s.  (Thank you, Lisa, for that inspiration).  There were several recipes Mom made often and had perfected to the point of being legendary, but she was perhaps best known for her honeyed almonds.  Her fudge was a very close second, followed by her tortilla roll-ups and last year’s popcorn balls.  Oh, those popcorn balls.  Simply sublime, I tell you.  Best I’ve ever had.  I found a recipe in her book that I’m hoping is the one she used, but it’s become just another one of those questions I wish I could ask her and could kick myself for not doing so sooner.  Of course I thought she’d be here to make them for us again. 


But I honestly can’t think of a better way to pay homage to Mom than to share her honeyed almonds recipe with you.  These are so addicting and so delicious that I often had to tell her I just couldn’t have them in my house.  One bite led to 24 and the slippery slope down that hill was just way too, well, slippery.  Her argument was always that they were good for you!  Almonds are most definitely healthy and the little bit of honey and raw sugar were scarcely cause for alarm.  She didn’t even count the 2 tablespoons of butter.  I would usually give in, and at any given time you could probably find a bag of these on my kitchen counter, in the pantry or stashed in a drawer where I would play the “out of sight, out of mind” game. 

But right about now I’m thinking that many of you who have been recipients of Mom’s almonds are smiling knowingly, yet simultaneously saddened to think that you’ve seen your last honeyed almond.  I may try and take up the mantle of honeyed almond maker, but not until I get as good at it as she was.  I’ll get back to you on that.  

In the meantime, if you love almonds… if you love roasted almonds, and especially if you love roasted almonds with a crunchy sweet exterior, you may want to give these a try for yourself.  Bet you can’t eat just one.  Here’s the recipe...   Thanks, Mom.

Mom's Honeyed Almonds

 

Mom made these so often that I think she could make them in her sleep.  for some reason, mine never taste quite as good as hers, but I think that's the way with most of our Mom's recipes, you know?

2 cups raw almonds
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup raw sugar

1.  Place the almonds on a cookie sheet and place in a cold oven.  Set temperature at 350 degrees and roast the almonds 15 to 18 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

2.  Spray another cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside

3.  Place the cup of raw sugar in a ziploc bag and set aside

4.  Melt the butter and honey together in a medium pan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil and continue boiling for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

5.  Add the roasted almonds to the pan, cooking and stirring for another 2 minutes.

6.  Using a slotted spoon, place the almonds on the prepared cookie sheet, spreading out to cool for 3 to 5 minutes.

7.  While still warm, put the almonds into the bag with the raw sugar.  Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal it shut.

8.  Scrunch the almonds around in the bag, separating them and coating them with the sugar. 
 
9.  Spread them out in the bag to sit until they are cooled.

10. Remove them from the bag with a slotted spoon to remove the excess sugar. 

 

Thursday
Mar192015

And Life Goes On...

It sort of seems unimaginable that life really does go on.  But it does.  Dad is living proof of this as he bravely strides into a new reality that encompasses a life without his wife of 69 years.  And at 90 years of age, it is indeed an impressive and inspiring thing to see.  If he can do it, we certainly must as well.  And it’s for sure what Mom would have wanted. 

And things are almost all in place so that Dad can do what he can do and others can pick up the pieces of what he can’t.  My role in his life is slowly becoming less of a caretaker and more of an entertainment chairman, which is how I prefer it, and I think he does too. 

And all of that means that I am slowly returning to my Circle B Kitchen; not just to throw together a quick meal at the end of a busy day, but actually plan a meal and have the time to slice, dice, chop and sauté.  Glorious!  I don’t quite have the time for baking bread or pizza yet, but I see that coming and it thrills me no end. 

I don’t quite know where to start with thanking so many of you for the support you’ve offered me over the last few weeks.  I debated as to whether and how much to share on the blog of what I was going through with Mom’s illness and her eventual passing, but all of those questions fell quickly aside as the comments and emails of caring support kept coming through day after day.  It is still difficult for me to tell you how much it all meant to me, and what a lift it gave me to hear so many of you speak of your own experiences, or just offer comfort, caring words, and inspiration.  Thank you so very much.  Each of you.  What incredibly compassionate and kind people you are.

So the dust is beginning to settle a little and it feels good to get back to work.  Mom was so very proud of this blog and she would tell people she barely knew all about it, much to my embarrassment at times.  But she loved to cook and bake, and she left a notebook full of recipes that she printed out from the Circle B Kitchen, so I know she wouldn’t want me to stay away any longer than I must. 

I brought out my camera this morning and got reacquainted with it.  I felt pretty rusty, but it didn’t take long for things to start clicking into place again.  Not sure I’m really fully functioning in that department yet, but fortunately I have photos that I had taken before Mom became ill and I’ll have that post to you very soon. 

But getting to my computer and actually writing has probably been the most difficult challenge for me.  I knew I couldn’t just jump right in and start talking about the perfect recipe for whatever, although I’m very excited to start sharing those with you again.  It’s been so hard to even imagine how to put into words what this last 2 months has been like for me and how touched I have been by your dear generosity.  But now that I’ve finally begun, it seems a little easier than I had expected.  Thank you for your kindness and patience.  I’m very much hoping to be back here next week to talk about food!  Oh the joy! 

XOXOX   

Patrice