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Preview: The Happy Mouth Experience

The Happy Mouth Experience

A blog about the things we eat and drink -- by Julie and Jeremy

Updated: 2014-10-04T23:59:07.401-05:00


Yes, we still live


Time keeps on ticking, ticking, ticking. Now that summer is approaching, I imagine there will be many posts coming. I have a bunch of photos on the computer, but haven't dedicated the time to writing about them.
Hopefully that will change soon. Thanks for sticking with us!

Yes, we live


Man, we are behind on posts! I breezed through a whole bunch that have been sitting in the Draft pile for months now. I promise we'll try to get missing recipes added soon. I started graduate school and Jeremy is in the last two months of writing. Needless to say, we're a bit busy. More soon....

Spaghetti with (fake) meatballs and pan roased broccoli


Despite years of being a vegetarian, I still crave meat sometimes. It's not the flavor so much as all of the nostalgia I have wrapped up in food. It's also my need for protein, so I appreciate tasty meat substitutes like Nate's Meatless Savory Mushroom Meatballs. They're great in a pinch and add a really nice flavor to spaghetti. It's very important, however, that you brown them first in a little olive oil. It will not only enhance their taste, but keep them from falling apart when you toss them with the pasta.

Roased radishes, red curry soup and watermelon


When I was in Atlanta, my friend Leah told me about how she tried roasted radishes and that they were fabulous. I was suspect, but threw them into the roasting pan. The radishes lose most of their color and, believe it or not, taste like slightly green cauliflower.
Jeremy made this marvelous Thai red curry soup with lots of vegetables and gluten. The coconut milk lends just enough richness. Hopefully he will post the recipe soon!

Tomato beet salad, sweet corn bisque, spicy corn cake


During my last ceramics class, I started signing my pots with drawings of rabbits. This one was on the bottom of a summer soup terrine--not sure why he looks so sad.
Jeremy has slowly been shifting to a pro-beet stance. He still prefers the younger roots because they are more tender and taste less dirt-like. Here we grilled them in butter, salt and pepper and tossed them in a salad.
Below is a sweet corn chowder with tofu. The corn cake was a disaster--gooey, soft and unpleasant. I'll spare you the recipe.
3 c whole milk
3 ears fresh corn, cut from the cobs, cobs broken in half and reserved
2 T butter
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 c water
2 sprigs thyme
2 springs rosemary (we used sage)
1 bay leaf
Bring milk and corncobs to a boil in a heavy pot. Remove from heat, cover and let steep while sauteeing vegetables. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium. Add onion and sprinkle with salt. Saute about 5 minutes, but don't let the onion brown. Add corn kernels, carrot, celery and garlic. Cook until soft, about ten minutes. Add water, herbs and milk with corncobs. Bring to a boil. Partially cover and reduce to low, simmering 20 minutes. Remove corncobs, herb sprigs and bay leaf. Puree soup in batches in food processor or blender. Strain into a bowl (very important--it's quite stringy). Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can also garnish with creme fraiche, scallions or additional corn.

Heirloom tomato salad, cibatta and rombi with tomato eggplant sauce


My new favorite pasta is rombi--a rhombus shaped pasta that resembles baby lasagna noodles. It's great for thicker sauces and has a nice texture. Hooray, carbohydrates!

Mama Trish's produce, and Squeak's okra surprise


This year we grew eggplant for the first time. (See giant purple globe in the photo.)
They were tasty and not as seedy as other kinds. Definately something we will repeat next year.
One of Jeremy's mom's friends gave her some okra. We don't use it much, but have tried a few dishes this summer. (See other okra related posts.) Here is Squeak, checking it out.

Cheese tortellini with pitty pans, tomatoes and pesto and swiss chard


Four weeks ago at the farmer's market, I came upon an older guy with a tiny table of tiny vegetables. They were adorable, but I felt sort of bad for him, surrounded by bounty and only selling a few vegetables. I bought his tiny orange tomatoes and brought them home. Little did I know that we'd soon be eating the BEST DAMN TOMATOES EVER!!!!! Oh my god, they were so good--sweet like candy, firm and juicy with a deep, rich tomato taste. The next week we returned, and I gushed about his tomatoes. We bought two quarts, and he dashed us nearly a whole quart more. We ate so many tomatoes that week I had cancer sores. We went back the next week, but he had disappeared. How can I handle tomato harvest without anymore of his orange heavenly droplets? Jeremy searched online for possible tomato varieties--we think they're either sun gold hybrids or sunsugar FT hybrids. Guess what seeds are going on my Christmas list?
Here they play a supporting role with pitty pan squash, frolicking with pesto covered tortellini. This chard grew in Jeremy's mom's garden--we're nearing the end of our backyard splursh.

Pecan plum cake, with cardmon ice cream and ganache heart


This summer's farmer's market has been a feast of fruits. Sadly, that time is ending. One of the last decent fruits has been the plum. We made this dessert a long time ago, and hopefully Jeremy can find the recipe for both the cake and the ice cream. In the meantime, here's a very easy recipe for chocolate ganache (pictured below on the plate with the cake.)
1/2 c whole milk
2 T butter
1 package chocolate chips like Ghiardelli (the better the chocolate, the better the ganache)
Heat milk and butter in a double broiler over medium low until milk boils. Turn off heat and add chocolate chips. Let sit until chocolate is mostly melted. Stir until smooth.

Chocolate zucchini cake


I'm a big fan of combining vegetables and cake. Even if they're weird--if it tastes good, I like it. Jeremy thinks it's lame and arbitrary. But I encourage any extra vegetables in my diet. (Not like I don't enough right now...)
Months back I tried a recipe from my mom for saurkraut cake. Because I squeezed out all of the juice, the cabbage had the consistency of coconut.
This recipe is from Clotilde Dusoulier's Chocolate and Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen. It's rich, dense and delicious, even though you can't really taste the zucchini.

Summer minestrone


I used a combination of this recipe and this one. Sort of. Here's the actual recipe, which was light and summery and satisfying. (Although don't cook too long or the zucchini makes the whole thing bitter.)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
5 small red potatoes, cubed
5 small carrots, chopped
1 big green zucchini, cubed
2 small yellow squash, halved and chopped
1 1/2 c frozen peas
1 big can low salt whole tomatoes with basil
big handful of beet tops, chopped
1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
a bunch of basil, thyme and oregano (maybe 2 T, 1 t and 1 t)
2 c leftover zucchini stock from the squash blossom risotto the night before plus
about 2-3 c more water
In the dutch oven, heat 2-3 T olive oil on medium heat and add onions. Saute until soft. Add the garlic and potatoes. Cook 3-4 minutes. Add the carrots and cook another 4-5 minutes. (I added some stock several times in this period to deglaze the pan and keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom.) Add the liquid (and a bay leaf if you one..we didn't, so I used a bouillion cube) and boil for 5-7 minutes. Add everything else and boil for about 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
You might want to add salt....I didn't, and I didn't want to add cream or blend it. I like chunks in my minestrone.
Eat with toasted bread with melted cheese and an extra sprinkle of pepper. Then eat vanilla ice cream with some of Jeremy's cherry sauce for dessert and scream out in ectasy.
Three cheers for food!!!!

Plantain salad and squash blossom risotto


I love summer salads. You can throw one of these suckers together in less than five minutes, with tons of fresh veggies, some fruit and nuts. As you've guessed by now, one of my compulsions is use-up-that-thing-we-have. I bought two plantains last week at the farmer's market, and here they were, turning black and soggy. Why not throw them in the toaster oven and put them on a salad? Brilliant! (Jeremy didn't think so, but what does he know?)


Okay, he does know some things, because as he predicted, the crystalized ginger chunks were weird on my salad.
Jeremy, my creative and wonderful husband, felt inspired to try squash blossom risotto. I was thrilled after seeing them at the market for two years and being clueless as to what to do with them. A word of caution: after you buy them, they will wrinkle and close, but it's very important to wash them before cooking them. The blossoms will actually open up, so you can rinse away the dirt and bugs hiding inside. After Jeremy started cooking, we discovered we were out of arborio rice. We did have orzo. What the hell.


As it turns out, not only is the orzo a very effective substitute for short grained rice, it reheats much better than traditional risotto. The blossoms we delicious and bright orange! They taste very much like the squash that they were once attached to, but add textural fun. Go look in your gardens or farmers markets, becasue soon they will be gone.

Zucchini Strata and Potates Bravas


So we had some potatoes to use from the great new potato extravaganza at the markets two weeks ago, and after using them in any number of other dishes, we decided to try out a recipe from the beautifully illustrated Accidental Vegetarian book that we had from the library. It's essentially potatoes roasted in tomatoes and chilies. We were a bit impatient for dinner and Julie was a bit overzealous in her desire to use up all of the tomatoes from the can, so they were bit wet and a bit over done, but still quite tasty, and the concept was sound (dammit!). Maybe we'll make some more for the next picnic we choose to attend.
The potatoes sounded good and all, but not like a full meal in themselves so we decided some form of egg dish would work well with the zucchini proliferating in our fridge. We also had half of a stalish whole wheat baguette that need to be used up or fed to fish, so I decided to try making a strata for the first time.
Oh my god, how did we never try this before? I used this recipe, substituting a mix of sharp cheddar and asiago for the Swiss, added a few beet tops to the zucchini for good measure, and used a mix of fresh oregano and sage for the herbs. The bread became soft and pillowy (in a good way; not like chewing on your pillow at night), the zucchini and cheese complemented each other wonderfully. The whole thing was somewhere between a crustless quiche and a savory bread pudding -- satisfying but also light.

Finally, because what is a good Spanish and Italian(?) meal without a Belgian beer?
Sixth Glass was rich and slightly sweet. A very complex and smooth ale.

Chocolate dinner party


At Jeremy's part time job, he works with such fun, nice people, some of whom happen to also be vegetarians. We started a veggie potluck, which meets about every other month, and so far it's been a roaring success. Jeremy and I decided to invite just three of the girls, Sheena, Jessica and Katie, to our house for a smaller dinner party. Always ready for a theme, I proposed a few options, including my-favorite-recipe and chocolate. Jeremy scoffed at my chocolate idea, but it quickly became the preferred theme. Chocolate it is!

Sheena volunteered for "salad" before she realized it was a chocolate themed dinner. But, trooper that she is, she found this recipe, which uses white chocolate as the base for the salad dressing.


Like most dinner parties, I take photos of the first course and forget to photograph the rest.

Oh well.

Jeremy made chocolate bread (substituting walnuts for the chocolate chunks), a lightly sweet treat that paired perfectly with the salad.

Jessica made vegetable chili with cocoa. The chocolate flavor was subtle, but nice (especially with extra cilantro.)

We made the main course--bean enchiladas with chocolate mole sauce. The heat was freaking intense....I mean, my god, it had nearly 10 chiles in it...and the chocolate flavor was quite pronouced. Thankfully I'd made guacamole, which strangely had a cooling effect on the enchiladas (no chiles in the guac, just lots of lime). I don't know many people who could actually eat this without passing out from the spiciness, and I needed to take breaks after each bite. Yowza!

Katie made chocolate almond mousse for dessert.

It was actually difficult to find savory chocolate options--if anyone has any suggestions, please send them our way for the next chocolate dinner party.

Dinner with Monique--salad, beet soup and sangria


Back in the early days, before we lured Monique into our "So You Think You Can Dance" addiction, we had her over for dinner. On this particular evening, an otherwise bleak day for all of us, we had beautiful summer salad, with radishes and stripy beets. My god, aren't they GORGEOUS??? To cheer her up, I gave her a new bee finger puppet, shown here with the shockingly fuschia spicy coconut milk beet soup. The recipe comes from The Accidental Vegetarian, one of our new favorite cookbooks. In the future, I would strain the soup, unless you like strings, but it was light and flavorful. In fact the beets were secondary to the lemongrass and lime leaves.Here's the recipe:Take just over a pound of beets, trimmed and cleaned, and place them in a roasting pan. Rub some vegetable oil into their skins, spinkle them with salt and cover the pan with foil. Roast them in a preheated 400 degree oven until the beets are soft, about 40 mins, then allow them to cool. At this point it shoud be possible to skin them easily and with a minimum of finger staining. Cut them into 1-2" pieces and set aside.Take 2 stalks lemon grass (outer layers peeled and the remaining stalks cut into managable pieces), 2 cloves garlic, 3 red chiles, a 1" piece of peeled ginger, 4 kaffir lime leaves and the juice of one lime and place them in a blender or food processor. Blend them until they form a smoothish paste, adding additional water if necessary to blend. Saute 2-3 shallots and 1 tsp cumin seeds in a little vegetable oil, until the shallots are translucent and the cumin fragrant. Then add half of the above paste and gently cook together for about 5 minutes. Add half of the beets and stir them together for a couple of minutes, then add 2.5 cups vegetable stock. Bring this mixture to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the remaining beets, paste and one can of coconut milk, and puree in a blender or with a hand blender. Strain the resulting soup to get rid of any remaining lemongrass chunks and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve the brightest fuschia thing you've ever put in front of someone with cilantro, mint leaves, and/or diced cucumber and enjoy. Sangria is easy to make, and it's a lifesaver in the summer when fruit turns so quickly (at least it does in our oven-of-an-apartment). Our version here is a mixture of blueberries and strawberries, covered with a bottle of cheap white wine (reds good too), a few splashes of liquor (vodka, rum, fruit liquor, Cointreau, whatever) and topped with fizzy water.[...]

Veggie pie and Peach tart


Crusts! Crusts!
My mother used to make homemade pie crusts all the time. I’ve used her recipe many times, but it leaves something to be desired in terms of flavor. It’s fine, but bland. We’re busy people, and our kitchen is small, so these days I get lazy and prefer to buy store-made crusts. Recently, we discovered that the pie crusts we’ve been buying for the past year contain lard. (Blech.) (Also, see here for more information on store-made crusts.)
Since then we’ve experimented with different recipes. I’d still rather run to the Wedge and buy one, but Jeremy likes to use his elbow grease and make crusts at home. While the ones with cream cheese are tasty, it’s a pain in the ass to make and adds a bunch of extra fat and calories. What works best for us is to use part butter, part shortening, both chilled. Make sure your water is ice cold, and don’t over-mix. Also, I’ve found it’s easiest to roll the dough on a piece of parchment paper/wax paper, or in a pinch, a large plastic bag. Our table is sticky and I end up using a large spatula to remove it from the table, which rips and warps the crust and makes everyone sad.
Jeremy made this version for the veggie pie (just add par boiled or sauteed veggies and about a cup of roue sauce (thinner is best…thick roue just clumps up on the top, which is tasty, but the lower vegetables get lonely.)
Before baking:
After, in all of its golden glory:

This crust (a slightly sweetened version of the above) was made weeks later for a different fruit tart, and then lived in a Ziploc in the refrigerator for far too long. I rolled it out, covered it with some homemade lemon curd (a few tablespoons), sliced fresh peaches and drops/small clumps of ginger preserves. Fold over the edges, sprinkle with some sugar and a little butter and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the crust starts to brown and the peaches look soft.
Ooooooh, yes......

Curry beans, beet tops and blueberry tart


As part of the bean present, we finally made curry beans. Eh. It was sort of weird...beans and curry....and it felt like they really needed something to cut the flavor. Not the winning recipe, I'm afraid, but we still love our Rancho Gordo beans!
Jeremy tried yet another crust to make this blueberry tart. They were wet little bastards and ran all over the place, but paired with fresh strawberry martinis, the taste was magnificent.
(image) For the martinis, crush a bunch of strawberries.
Mix about 1 c strawberry juice with 2 shots vodka in a shaker with ice. If you're feeling extra zesty, add a squirt of lime.

Chard, pecan quiche and strawberry/rhubarb crisp


Last year, one of Jeremy's mom's friends gave her a 50 pound bag of pecans that had lived in the back of her truck over the winter in Mississippi. They then lived in Trish's closet for a while, until we hauled them out on the porch one night and started shucking them. Miraculously most of them weren't rancid, and after an hour we had a few ziplocs of pecans (and we'd only done half the bag!)
We were having dinner that night and combined the pecans with the chard, arugula and herbs in the quiche we were making. It was damn good--the nutty crunch of the pecans was a tasty addition and one I would recommend.

I'd made the dessert ahead of time (standard crisp recipe) and the rhubarb and berries were so ripe and wet, that they made this messy pool of juice that sloshed all over the back seat of the car. Tasty, but damn sticky.

If you want specific recipes, email us and we'll send you the details.

Jeremy had found a new recipe for the quiche crust and had some left over. My mom used to roll it in a mound and sprinkle it with sugar and bake it. Because I grew up on the Betty Crocker recipe for crusts, it was usually pretty damn bland. What I like to do instead is use whatever fruit is handy (in this case some squishy cherries from the grocery store) and spread it on the rolled out bit of crust. Drop little bits of jam/jelly and a bit of butter on top (or spray the whole thing with a good burst of Pam), sprinkle with sugar and bake until the fruit is soft. My god it was good----so don't throw out that leftover chunk of crust. Make a mini-pie!

Muttar paneer and strawberry tart


Last night we had our friend, Monique, over for dinner. We made muttar paneer with fresh peas and this strawberry tart from one of the many Martha Stewart magazines given to me by my Aunt Kathy.


Paneer is faster and easier to make than expected, although it's very important to use high quality whole milk. We used non-organic cheap milk and it was a mess. The paneer disintegrated when I tried to fry it and it felt sticky and difficult to deal with.

To make:

Heat a half-gallon of whole milk in a saucepan over medium heat. When it's just coming to a boil (steaming), add 4 T lemon juice (or lime juice, in a pinch) and stir gently. The lemon juice will make the milk curdle, separating the curds from the whey. Remove from heat and pour through a (cheese)cloth-lined mesh strainer over a large bowl. The whey will be a yellowish liquid and can be kept for a few days in the frig to add to soups, rice or to deglaze pans while cooking. The curds will be white and chunky. Wrap the curds in the cheesecloth, place it between two plates and then rest something heavy on top of the plates (a cast iron skillet or a bunch of books will do nicely). Let this sit an hour or so, until the curds have been compressed into a flat, dense slab. Cut the slab of paneer into squares and fry in a skillet with hot oil. Brown on both sides and then move to a paper-towel lined plate to drain. (You can fry right away or keep in the frig until you are ready to fry. You don't even have to fry it, but it keeps it shape better if you do.)

Our paneer kept falling apart and sticking to the pan, so I had a messy pile of overly greasy paneer. Thankfully, muttar paneer is a forgiving dish, and the paneer worked out just fine when added to everything else.

Wisconsin peas and strawberries....95 cents to $1.05 a pound


It's pea season. Last weekend we drove to a farm near Clintonville, WI to pick peas and strawberries. (See the next post on the berries.) We went a little nuts and bought a whole flat of peas, which were gigantic and sweet, and two flats of berries, which were ripe as hell.


After the 4 hour drive home, we spent three hours processing fruits and vegetables. That night for supper, I made a lettuce salad with strawberries and a side of garlic sauteed beet tops. Jeremy made fresh pea risotto. How is it possible that we can eat so well???

Summer pasta salad


I dislike mayonaise based pasta dishes, especially in the summer. (Who wants to eat that when it's hot?) I started making this pasta salad back in Atlanta because it's flexible enough to add just about anything, and it's easy to make.
1 package penne pasta (or whatever kind you like), boiled until al dente and rinsed in cold water
1 head broccoli, broken into smallish stalks
1 head cauliflower, broken into smallish pieces
3-4 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
garlic, chopped
mushrooms, sliced (if you like)
1 c cherry or plum tomatoes, halved
1 c almonds (or nut of your choice), toasted
1 c dried cherries (or cranberries, or blueberries, or whatever dried fruit you like)
Fresh spinach and/or arugula
Herbs (we use about a tablespoon of oregano, basil and a teaspoon of thyme, but you can also use cilantro and a bit of mint) and salt/pepper
1 to 3 ratio of oil to vinegar/citrus juice (about 1/4 c total...we usually use a mixture of balsamic, regular vinegar and a bit of either lime juice or orange juice with olive oil)

Put a large stock pot on to boil with plain water. Par boil the broccoli until bright green and still crunchy, maybe a minute or two. Rinse with cold water and drain well. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat with cauliflower (might take a minute more than the broccoli). Add the carrots (you can par boil these as well, or leave them raw so they're a little more crunchy) and tomatoes in the bowl (don't boil the tomatoes).
In a skillet with 1-2 T olive oil, saute onions over medium heat until almost carmelized. Add garlic and mushrooms, cooking a few minutes more with a splash of soy sauce. Add to the bowl of veggies. Repeat with spinach and arugula until just wilted. Add to the bowl. Mix well, but gently.
In a separate bowl, mix oil, vinegar and herbs.
If you aren't eating it right away, add 1/3rd of the vinegrette to the pasta salad, stirring to coat and cover with Saran wrap. Keep in frig until ready to use.
Keep vinegrette in the frig too. When ready to eat, add the rest of the vinegrette, the nuts and dried fruit. Stir well and serve.

Spring rolls and orange pecan bundt cake


I am truly addicted to spring rolls. I could eat them every day if I could, and then I would weigh a thousand pounds and still want more spring rolls.

Unfortunately, it's another food we've ruined for ourselves, because no restaurant's rolls are as good as ours. (Why can't they use a spicy marinade instead of just dry noodles and lettuce??)

Jeremy was gone for the night, so I made myself some, using black rice noodles instead of white. (We've posted on these guys before, so the recipe already lives on this blog.) Don't they look creepy?


I also made orange pecan bundt cake. I messed up the praline topping by using too many nuts and not enough butter/rum, but they make a nice addition along the top.


Rancho Gordo beans


Jeremy and I are true nerds. In early June, we celebrated our 10th anniversary (of dating, not marriage). What did we get as presents? Jewelry? A travel package to somewhere fun? Fancy dinner out at a restaurant? Nope. Beans.

Months ago, Jeremy bought this issue of Savuer magazine at the Atlanta airport, and we've been loving it ever since. They hailed Rancho Gordo as this fabulous heirloom bean-town, and after reading the descriptions of their merchandise, I knew that we were getting beans this year. They're not cheap at $5 a pound, but damn, they're worth it. I selected four types as a surprise for Jeremy: the borlotti, yellow-eye peas, scarlet runner beans and cranberry beans. Aren't they BEAUTIFUL???????


We used the scarlet runner beans first. The package instructed us to soak them overnight, but we soaked those damn things overnight, boiled them for nearly three hours with beer (the epazote smelled too much like burnt tires for us to ruin the beans), soaked them for two more days and boiled them another two hours. After all this, each bean is as big as your knuckle. The skin was starting to burst open, and the meat didn't have a particularly nice flavor. We made this bean salad:


Initially the salad was just okay, but the longer the beans sat in the frig, they better they tasted.
Next came this soup, a basic pasta fazool, and dear god, it was soooooo good. My only complaint was the pasta, which expanded to gigantic proportions, sucked up all the liquid and eventually disintegrated into the soup.

More beans are soaking today so we can try this recipe for curry beans.

Beans....the perfect anniversary gift!!

Scallion chickpea wraps with tofu and veggies


This recipe is god knows where...but here's a pretty picture.

Apricot Rhurbarb Crisp


The above arpicots were on there way to become yet more compote, but I really wanted to tell you about the wonderful dessert that their sibling fruit joined.

This was another occasion where we let the internet provide a recipe to conform to our desires and ingredients. With an abundance of rhubarb and apricots to use up/savor our friends at food network provided this recipe, that with a couple minor subsitutions (apricots and a couple of spare mangos for peaches, and shortening for lard) became one of the most delicious dishes of early summer. It's really closer to a broken pie than a traditional cobbler, but so so tasty, and the lime zest in the dough brlliantly sets off the fruit around it.