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Swiss Chard Cakes and Accidental Omlettes

August 7, 2015
Chard Cakes with Horseradish Sour Cream

Chard Cakes with Horseradish Sour Cream

The Esalen Cookbook inspired these delicious vegetarian fritters. Esalen Institute is a fantastic place on the West coast that has incredible everything- including a fantastic kitchen. One day I hope to visit there. Until then I’ll peruse the beautiful cookbook, make these amazing fritters-meditate and visualize myself soaking in the healing waters while looking up at the stars.

I was given an exciting gift at the end of testing the recipes for these chard cakes, and that was an accidental omelette!
The first recipe I tried was directly from the Esalen Cookbook, It doesn’t call for flour or buttermilk, only eggs, a little bit of water and some salt. Super simple, but a “runny” batter.  Once I finished cooking the first batch I had a decent amount of egg mixture with tiny bits of chard and onion left in the bowl. I decided just to toss it into the pan and make a little egg treat for the dogs. I ended up not sharing it at all! It was delicious! An inspiration to make thin, delicious omelettes on purpose for brunch! Perhaps right along with the chard cakes.


(not a beautiful photo- totally at the moment iPhone stuff)

Below is the second recipe I tested. I combed through the web and found Heather Hardcastle’s blog with her take on these famous cakes. I followed her lead on the flour and buttermilk to hold things together. I think it worked out more to my liking. Of course, if you were gluten intolerant you could use a GF flour. Try out this yummy recipe!

Chard Cakes
4 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup flour (your choice)
½ medium-sized onion
½ pound Swiss chard washed and patted dry with paper towel
Sesame oil for frying

In a large bowl, mix eggs, buttermilk salt and water. Beat with a whisk or fork until light and fluffy. Add the flour to the liquids and mix well.
Cut the onion into small half-moon slices.
Cut stems from the leaves of the chard and slices the chard leaves into fine ribbons.
Add the chard and onion to the batter/binder and mix to coat.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and, with a large spoon, scoop up the egg and veggie mixture and drop into the pan.
Cook until golden brown about 3 minutes; carefully turn with a spatula and brown the other side.
Serve with Dill & Horseradish Sour Cream

Dill and Horseradish Sour Cream
½cup sour cream
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon fresh dill
¼ teaspoon sea salt

Mix the sour cream with the milk and horseradish to a smooth sauce-like consistency. Then add the dill.
Serve over Chard Cakes.

Green Hearts- for Allergy Dogs

July 4, 2015
Green Hearts

Gluten-Free Minty Peas Dog Treats


Simmer aged parmesan rind in 2 cups of filtered water or add a few tablespoons of grated aged parmesan in to boiled water. Steam sugar snap peas, shock in an ice bath and chop in food processor. Add mint, parsley and dill – pulse a few more times.

Gracie is always happy to know what's happening on

Gracie is always happy to know what’s happening on “treat -cooking day”


Add to your favorite gluten-free flour blend and as much of the parmesan water as needed to make a cohesive dough. Use a pastry bag or cookie press to create treats into your desired shape. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until they are cooked through. Your sweet dogs will love them and have healthy fresh breath!

Vanilla Extract: Simple Luxury

June 27, 2015

vanilla 2015

If you make this soon, it will be ready for your holiday cookies (and gifts!) It’s so easy, and so worth the wait. I just packed this one up for a friend so it seemed appropriate to mention it to you here again. Simply add the beans to the vodka, put in in the dark and shake it every once in a while. After a few months you have something really special. Buy a gallon of vodka while you’re out, and order the vanilla beans from Amazon now. Once they arrive it will take you 5 minutes. The original post is here. Make this awesomeness happen. 

Herby Fresh Tomato Toast

June 22, 2015

bon appetit bruschetta

Lately most of the things I venture to cook in my tiny San Antonio kitchen never get talked about here. The oven is quick to go from almost ready to almost burned. And I have yet to find a nice “go-to” spot for taking pictures of what might be interesting. But I keep trying.  For instance, yesterday while making ricotta I dumped a quart of warm whey on myself, the rug, and most of the cabinets.  I bumped it while putting away dishes  so I could wash dishes. (One counter top. A tiny 24″ of counter space.) It was a sad wet mess. There will be laundry!

I cheered up quickly because the cheese was delicious! I couldn’t wait for it to drain overnight, so after I cleaned up the floor I had some. Still warm, the creamy  cheese sat on top of the most delicious easy little bread. I toasted the super grainy bread in the oven- I was recreating  an herby tomato water, red wine vinaigrette. The whole dish was inspired by this recipe from Bon Appetit.  I knew I would make my own version. It was yummy! Ripe tomatoes with fresh dill and basil go a long way these summer months.
And I’ll have the house-made ricotta on fresh bread whenever possible!

P.S. You can always pop over to my Facebook page, I will often post a photo there even if it never sees the blog.




2 Breads-One to make now!

January 18, 2015
Popovers are easy, impressive and  delicious. I predict  a mini-popover trend! #mykitchen

Popovers are easy, impressive and eggy- so very delicious. I predict a mini-popover trend! #mykitchen

4 hour baguette bread. Looks amazing! Tastes young, bready, not great. Maybe half beer half water would help?

4 hour baguette bread. Looks amazing! Tastes young, bready, not great. Maybe half beer half water would help? Sad. These were so easy I hope to tweak it and make them better soon. BUT but for now.

The winner of this “bread off”  is: (click play)

Steamy Dreamy Dashi

January 8, 2015



First try in kitchen window.

It’s the easiest cooking liquid ever. It’s tasty and briny-earthy. It’s not pretty but considering the process it’s one of those miracles that make me love cooking. Lush and simple. It’s liquid umani- not vegetarian, but not too intense. Dried skipper-jack shavings (bonito) and seaweed (kombu) broth. It’s a new flavor profile around here so it must be eased into the menu. With so many health benefits and the easy peasy intensity adjustments (just add water) it’s worth a close look. There are vegetarian versions with seaweed and dried mushroom broth. Easy. Believe me, it’s on the list!

Yesterday, it was cold outside and the broth made it warm and soupy inside. The steamy kitchen intensified the unfamiliar smell of the ocean in the house. The process went over quite well with the canine crew. They apparently already knew about bonito! I am fascinated with these ingredients, so curious to taste them!

Here’s what you do: Wipe the dry seaweed gently with a damp cloth. Bring some filtered water in a stock pot and soak the seaweed for a few hours at room temperature. Remove scum from the surface as it forms. After a while, bring the water and sea veg to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat and remove kombu. Reserve seaweed. Skim any scum. It tastes like it sounds.

soak some seaweed.

soak some seaweed. remove those bubbles with a spoon or a paper towel.

Bring the skimmed seaweed broth up to a simmer and add the bonito flakes. Stir to incorporate them. When the bonito comes to a boil reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow fish to steep for 15 minutes. Remove any scum that forms on the surface. Pour broth thru a fine sieve lined with cheese cloth. Don’t squeeze the bonito. Tie the cheese cloth into a bundle. Use your bundle to make a second batch with the cheese cloth “tea bag” of bonito and the same seaweed from the first soak. The second soak is delicate and light. I can’t imagine a better go-to broth than this. It comes together quickly and is much more than the sum of its parts. Keep it in the fridge a few days. Freeze your leftovers. One day you might need magic in a hurry!
I am trying to think what I can’t do with it!!

Bonito flakes. You’re going to need more than you think.

Bonito flakes. You’re going to need more than you think.


Dogs haz bonito too please?


skimming and straining are easy tasks that make the magic


Second soak on the left- first soak on the right.


First, Make dashi.

January 5, 2015



UPDATE: Everybody Knows

November 11, 2014

It’s as if he’s here:

Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody have got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody want a box of chocolates
And a long stem rose, everybody knows.   -L.Cohen


A Fine Kettle of Fish! (bones)

August 17, 2014


The title of this post is somewhat deceptive, as my first semester winds down at the Culinary Institute of America I’m really having a great time. As I mentioned in my previous post there are some challenges, but I’m happy to report that in spite of my lifelong fear of “all things math”, classes are going quite well! As of today I’m sitting on a solid B in Culinary Math with high hopes of turning that into a real life A!! (after the final exam is graded) Of course there are lots of numbers and tons of studying to do for the final, but between my “team of tutors” and my collection of lucky pencils things look pretty rosy on the old culinary math horizon.

We have learned quite a bit in the kitchen since the last time I’ve posted. We continue to practice the classic sauces and “small sauces.” One that I have found the most fun to work with and of course the most challenging is hollandaise. While I don’t like the flavor by itself it does transform food into amazing delicious creations. Ohhh! And taking Béchamel into Mornay might be my favorite. There’s something about cheese…

There was also pasta day. I’ve made fresh pasta at home a few times but making it “the CIA way” always takes things to a better, more refined level. I adore learning the details- the small and sometimes large pieces I’m missing. I am (almost) always pleased with the results. The pasta was delicious! We ate a little at school, and I took the remainder home for dinner. YUMMMMM! It’s not all cooking in the kitchen-there are days when we spend a few hours on “product knowledge.” In the first semester  this is learning all about produce; how to select it and what it ‘s uses are. Chef Sartory gathers us all around a huge farm table and we taste as he talks about each product and their varieties. It’s interesting to see how different students who have not seen or tasted some of the produce get excited (sometimes not so excited) to try what’s new to them, rhubarb (raw) offered a few particularly hilarious moments!

There were a couple of breaks from all of the studying and books, we took field trips! One of the most beautiful places that we visited was Bluebonnet Hydroponic Farms. We met with the owner David Anderson, “the gentleman farmer” and he took us on a tour of all of their greenhouses. If you’ve ever bought fresh live basil in the South it was probably from Bluebonnet Farms. They have an amazing operation growing basil, lettuce, micro greens. You can see in the photographs I shot there how incredible it is. I’ve never seen so much basil in one place! And you can’t even imagine the fragrance!

We also went to Sysco food services of Central Texas. Sysco is the distributing company for food and dry goods used by many commercial kitchens. It’s a massive operation. The New Braunfels, Texas location is the largest distribution center in the corporation. It was quite interesting; there were robots in HUGE warehouses, a couple of test kitchens, and I got to meet Robert Irvine of the food network! He’s much taller than I expected! 😉 We also visited Chef Sartory’s personal garden. It was wonderful to see how so much food can be grown in a small space and yield enough to feed several families. Urban gardening truly is the future of “eating local.”

I continue to practice my knife skills and a found the perfect at-home dish for doing so, TABOULI! I love the stuff and it’s all about the chopping. If prepared correctly it’s essentially a parsley salad with a little bit of wheat bulgur. I love the fragrant “green-ness” of the prep work. I usually sneak several bites as it all comes together. (no surprise there!) It’s delicious.

The last couple of weeks remaining are all about finishing up projects and reviewing for finals. It’s a little stressful, but I think our class will do quite well. The majority of my fellow students take the days quite seriously and we are all ready to see how this first semester ends. It’s been challenging and fun and often times filled with laughter. Mostly, it’s been an amazing experience. I anticipate next semester will be just as thrilling.

bechamel sauce

Béchamel sauce

Cauliflower Gratin


Product Knowledge day




Rhubarb Faces!

abi beet

Abigail’s first beet!




Hydroponic Lettuces


Basil for days!


Robert Irvine levitates!


Chef Sartory in his garden


Tabouli shadows


Sartory Selfie #2




Rainbows and Unicorns

June 8, 2014

It’s (not) all rainbows and unicorns at the CIA- even if the sign says so!

Hello dear readers! Things are really busy around here, there certainly is plenty to blog about, but I’ve found in my new adventure in culinary arts school brings me more ideas than time. My enthusiastic proclamation last month that I would “see you next week” might have been a little optimistic.  I will get here as often as I can and share with you what’s going on, at least once a month, maybe more often if only to share a photograph or two.

The first month has been quite intense. Culinary math is my biggest challenge, as well as knife skills. I think there’s something in my brain that does not like EXACT precision. I don’t mean precision within a recipe but I mean linear precision. Such as math and such as cutting multiple onions or potatoes into exactly the same size shape specified. I find this extremely difficult. There are a couple of reasons why. I’m sure part of it has to do with my hands and wrist injuries. I don’t think I am able to hold the knife exactly as I need to. The other piece is just simply my personality. I am a free flowing take it as you  go kind of gal. And precise knife cuts are not free-flowing. They are expected to be exact. Of course I know I’ll get better with practice and I do practice. (Thank goodness for the knife skills tutoring that is available once a week in the library.)  I have a couple of more weeks before the midterm so hopefully I will get better. So far my cuts have been graded as a “B” but that’s not good enough for me- I want them to be graded as perfect.

Culinary math understanding has come a little faster due to receiving tutoring three times a week. One of my my math tutors is a very nice guy who is probably almost young enough to be my grandson (!) But he is kind and smart and extremely helpful. I call him “the math  ninja” because his teaching sneaks up on me later when I least expect it and need it the most. It is such a relief to have someone helping because trust me friends, word problems are just as challenging even when they’re about food and subjects you love!

Of course we are cooking. We started off with broths and stocks, they are different you know. I didn’t really know the difference, I just thought that they were one product called two different things. Stocks are made with bones and broths are deeper flavored because of the addition of meat to the cooking process.  I’ve been making chicken broth for a couple of years now at home and freezing it. I love using it in all of my recipes instead of buying commercial broth. I know now that I got a nice result doing it “my way” at home, but my method of putting everything in at the same time and letting it simmer all day is simply unnecessary. Good broth can be made in just a few hours, putting aromatics and the mirepoix in pot the last hour or so of cooking time is the way to go. We’ve  learned how to clarify stock or broth  (Also known as consommé) by using a raft-  not the kind that you get at the sporting goods store but the kind that is made from raw ground meat and raw eggs. It’s an amazing process to watch as you put a big gloppy mess into the cloudy broth and then shortly while simmering the raft (the raw meat and eggs) begins to form and float on top – underneath is an incredibly clear beautiful consommé.We have also started making thickened soups such as potato leek, lentil, and now cream soups and volute.

Each day builds on the one before it and each week the time that we are given to complete our knife skills tray is shortened and intensified. The chef’s and instructor’s expectations of us grow with each day. I find that my own expectations for myself also grow each day. This truly is an opportunity of a lifetime for me. While living in a new city without my husband and creating a  lifestyle that works for my education is a challenge I find every day to be rewarding. I wake up excited to see what’s in store, and I go to bed each night pleased with the person that I am becoming.

Here are a few photographs from the last few weeks:

A lovely day on campus

A lovely day on campus


Lentil soup with fresh made croutons.

potato and leek soup

potato and leek soup

knife skills before

knife skills before

knife skills after

knife skills after

The Raft!

The Raft!

Chef Jerry Reed the kitchens manager. One of the nicest people there!

Chef Jerry Reed the kitchens manager. One of the nicest people here!

An amazing "family meal"

An amazing “family meal”

it was Japanese cuisine day for the family meal. (I dont eat sushi so I had a GREEN plate!)

it was Japanese cuisine day for the family meal. (I don’t eat sushi so I had a GREEN plate!)


a totally unrelated pic of Lilybelle in her new palazzo pants. ❤

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