Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Sweet Pea's Kitchen is taking a little hiatus. Check me out at a Penderful in the meantime.

Here's the deal: the whole idea when I started Sweet Pea's Kitchen was to keep track of all my kitchen adventures while I was living in my first apartment all on my own. I was blogging everything, whether it was totally delicious or less than edible.

But when I graduate from college in August 2011 and now I'm living back at home with my parents. We still eat, but I'm not doing as much of the cooking and definitely far less of the planning. It just doesn't seem to fit in with the Sweet Pea's Kitchen schtick anymore. So until I'm living on my own in my second apartment, come visit me at a Penderful! I sure would love to have you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Meatless Monday: Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Tomato Basil Soup and Grilled Cheese Croutons

Surprisingly, I never ate this as a kid. Maybe it was my serious aversion to tomatoes (except for ketchup, of course) or maybe it was my "I don't like that" phase. It's really nothing short of a miracle that the picky eater that I was turned into such a food lover. Whatever it was, I didn't realize grilled cheese and tomato soup was a "thing" until college.  Yes, I said college. I wasn't into it in college, either, because somehow the cafeteria couldn't make a decent grilled cheese. At some point, though, my mom started making lots of soup. We're a skiing family, and god knows we can't afford to buy lunch at the ski resorts every weekend, so my mom would make soup at home and pack it in a thermos. Every time was better than the last. She was (and is) always finding new ways to build flavor.

Well one day she must have made soup and a grilled cheese and that's how I got hooked. Unfortunately for Campbell's I'm still not into the canned tomato soup. My grilled cheese and tomato soup combo tends to be a bit fancier: Tomato Basil soup and a grilled cheese with red onion and basil. 

I know. 
It's amazing.

Thank goodness for Pinterest or I may never have thought to make grilled cheese croutons! You don't even have to dip- just scoop one up with your spoon. We kept it simple by serving this with veggies and dip, pickles, and fruit salad. Sometimes simple is better.

We kept it simple by serving this with veggies and dip, pickles, and fruit salad. Sometimes simple is better.

Tomato Basil Soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • butter or olive oil
  • 2 big cans of tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • chicken stock
  • basil, chiffonade 
  • salt
  • 1 jar roasted red pepper
  • milk, cream, or half and half

1) Saute 1 onion until soft in a pot with a bit of olive oil or butter. Add canned tomatoes, tomato paste, some chicken stock, and basil to the pot. Season with salt to taste. The soup is going to cook down to concentrate the tomato flavor. Feel free to add more chicken stock as needed. 
2) After the tomato has cooked down and seems thicker and has a strong tomato flavor, add some pieces of roasted red pepper. The whole jar may be too much red pepper flavor, so you may want to start with half the jar and add more to taste.
3) Put the soup in a blender or use an immersion blender to make it smooth (or smoothish if you like chunkier soup). Be VERY careful not to splatter hot soup on yourself.
4) Slowly stir in some milk, cream, or half and half to the soup and enjoy!

Grilled Cheese Croutons

  • Thinly sliced bread
  • butter (salted)
  • herbs (whatever you have- thyme, rosemary, basil, etc)
  • cheese (whatever melts well, like cheddar or gouda)

1) Let some butter come to room temperature and mix in chopped herbs.
2) Heat a skillet over medium heat. While it is getting hot, butter one side of each slice of bread with your herb butter.
3) When the skillet is hot, lay half of the bread slices in the pan butter side down. Layer cheese on top of each piece of bread. Top each slice with another slice, butter side up.
4) When the bread is golden and crispy and the cheese is melty, flip.
5) When the next side of the grilled cheese is done, take them out of the pan and let them cool for a bit. Cut with a large knife into 1/2" squares. 
6) Put them on your soup and devour!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

More soosakooki, please!

Greek Pita w/ Lamb and Tzatziki

"May I have some more soosakooki, please?"

Um... what?

Last night we stuffed greek salad into a pita with mini lamb burgers and tzatziki. Or if you're my dad, you slathered it with "soosakooki". This recipe came from Great Food Fast and it's just that: it tasted great, it was food, and it was totally fast. Plus, with the unseasonable 60-something temperatures we've been having here in Michigan, grilling up those lamb burgers on the grill was a real treat!

Greek Pita w/ Lamb
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp. dried)
  • S&P
  • 4 Pitas
  • Greek salad (follow your heart on this one)
1) First, make the lamb patties. Put the lamb, onion, parsley, and oregano in a medium bowl and mix it together with a fork. Gently form the mixture into about 16 small patties being careful not to over-handle them. They should be about 3/4" thick.
2) Start the grill. While it is heating, put salt on the cucumbers for the tzatziki to draw out the water. Combine the rest of the tzatziki ingredients in a bowl while the grill heats up.
3) When the grill is hot, put the lamb burgers on and cook until medium-rare (about 2-3 minutes per side). When those are done, put them on a clean plate and "tent" it with foil (don't cover it tightly- leave the sides not pressed down). Go back to the cucumber and squeeze it to get the water out of it. Mix it in with the rest of the tzatziki ingredients.
4) Put the pita on the grill for a quick minute to get it warmed up. And now it's time to eat! Spread some tzatziki in the pita, stuff some greek salad in there, and add a lamb burger or two.

Note: This is supposed to serve 4, but I found that there were lots of extra lamb burgers.

  • 1/2 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and grated
  • 1/2 c plain yogurt
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh mint
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • S&P
1) Sprinkle the tzatziki with salt. Let it sit for a few minutes on a paper towel and then squeeze out all the liquid.
2) In a medium bowl, combine the cucumber, yogurt, lemon juice, mint, and garlic. Season with S&P to taste. Cover and refrigerate until you're ready for it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meatless Monday: Pizza

Pizza Margherita + Salad Pizza

Once again we embark on another Meatless Monday. This time we're bringing you everyone's favorite delicacy... PIZZA!

Pizza Margherita is a classic combination of tomato, fresh mozzarella, and basil. It's a little tangy from the tomato and a little creamy from the cheese and, well, it's delicious.

As for Salad Pizza, it's something we sort of made up that was inspired by a pizza from California Pizza Kitchen. Basically, it's a yummy mixed greens salad thrown on top of a pizza crust. Really. There's nothing to not like about salad pizza. My favorite combination is mixed greens, balsamic vinaigrette, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and goat cheese. However, you could easily put any salad at all on top of a pizza crust and call it Salad Pizza.

Making pizza at home is a lot of trial and error, especially with stretching the dough from a ball into something that resembles pizza. Be patient. You'll get it. Here are some tips:
  • Turn the fan on above the stove if you have one. 
  • Making pizza is a great way to test your smoke detector. Be ready because it WILL go off.
  • Use plenty of cornmeal underneath the uncooked pizza dough. You should be able to shake the cookie sheet and have the dough slide easily.

Pizza Margherita
  • tomato pizza sauce (recipe follows)
  • fresh pizza dough from the store or your local pizza shop
  • fresh mozzarrella
  • fresh basil
  • corn meal
1) Preheat oven to as high as your oven will go. Put a pizza stone in there and let it heat up for about 45 minutes.
2) Spread your pizza dough into a pizza shape. First, pat it into a disc shape. Use your knuckles and gently stretch the dough at the ends.
3) Sprinkle corn meal on an edgeless cookie sheet. Put the pizza dough on top and make sure it will easily slide off.
4) Spread some sauce on the pizza dough, layer slices of mozzarella, and tear basil on top.
5) When oven and pizza stone are preheated, with a quick, swift movement, slide the pizza dough onto the pizza stone.
6) Let the pizza cook until it looks delicious!

Salad Pizza

1) Make a salad and keep it in the fridge so it doesn't get soggy.
2) Cook the pizza dough the same way as above.
3) When the pizza crust is golden and looks tasty, take it out of the oven.
4) Toss salad with dressing and pile it on top of the pizza crust.
5) Enjoy!

The Easiest Pizza Sauce Ever

1) Saute some chopped onion in a pan until soft. Add chopped garlic and cook for about 30 seconds so it doesn't burn.
2) Pour a can of San Marzano tomatoes (or any kind of tomatoes) into the pan, add some tomato paste, and some torn fresh basil. Let it simmer for a good while until it's a nice consistency.
3) Cool sauce before using on pizza

Monday, March 5, 2012

Over here!

I'm over here today! Just a little something about the next big thing in tasty treats!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Merci, MBC

French Dip from Michigan Brewing Company

I have a one track mind. When I get a craving for something, it's all I can think about until I fulfill said craving. Last week I had a taste for a French dip and was trying to find any opportunity to go out and get one.

Well the time finally came. My boyfriend and I went to the Michigan Brewing Company in downtown Lansing and alas! I got my French dip.

Those little geniuses know how to make a French dip! They had all the basics: hoagie, roast beef, melted cheese, au jus.  AND AN ONION RING. It was like finding a $5 bill on the ground but way more delicious. I don't think I can ever go back to French dip sans onion rings ever again.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

Meatless Monday: The Colin Clark of Burritos

Colin Clark Black Bean Burritos
(c/o Colin Clark)

Sometimes I visit my friends Beth and Colin and they always feed me. On one particular visit, Colin had made black bean burritos. Upon entering their home, I was immediately given one of these burritos and my one night visit turned into two nights and 4 burritos. These babies are seriously delicious (the burritos and the friends)!  I did a little schmoozing and begging and got Colin to share the recipe with me! (Okay, I didn't really beg. He shared the recipe willingly.) And now I'm sharing the love with all of you!

This is one of those recipes you can make a lot of or a little of and use as much or as little of the seasonings as you want.  You can also make a huge batch of the beans and keep some in the freezer for the future.  

Colin Clark's Black Bean Burritos
  • 3 lbs. black beans (presoaked and rinsed)
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 3 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 tsp. liquid smoke

1) Add all ingredients to a big pot.  Fill pot with water just to the top of the beans. 
2) Cook on low, covered, for 2 hours. During the last half hour, monitor moisture.  If too wet, increase heat and stir often, uncovered.
3) Put inside a burrito with all the fixins! (*see below)

Colin Clark's Pico de Gallo
  • 8 lbs. tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 cilantro bunch
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 4 Tbsp. lime juice

1) Remove tomato seeds and dice.  Dice onion and chop cilantro.
2) Combine tomato and cilantro. Slowly add onion until it "looks onioney enough"
3) Add salt and lime juice, stir it a little, and let it hang out in the fridge for a couple of hours to let the flavors come together.  
      When using this pico de gallo, squeeze moisture out of it to prevent a soggy burrito. 

  • Flour tortilla (Colin swears by Don Marcos brand)
  • Sour cream
  • Mild white shredded cheese (like mozzarella or even queso fresco)
  • Cilantro lime rice
  • Guacamole
  • Frank's hot sauce

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mindful Eating

I came across this New York Times article, Mindful Eating as Food for Thought, and wanted to share! We're all busy these days, so stopping to take a full 30 minutes to enjoy your lunch break is almost unheard of. Even a food lover like me scarfs her food, leaving me wondering "hey, wait a minute! What did that actually taste like?"

I love the concept of dedicating yourself to the enjoyment of a meal, eliminating distractions and focusing on the tastes, textures, and smells. It lets us enjoy the food more thoroughly, it's better for our digestion, and it prevents over-eating.

I think this is something we should all incorporate into our lives to some extent, but it's not something I would want to do for every meal. Part of what I love most about food is sharing it, sharing the experience of tasting, and sharing in the joy of company. Having friends over for a meal is a time to celebrate life. Coming together for dinner each night is my family's time to catch up with each other. This isn't to say that coming together for a mindful meal wouldn't be a bonding experience. Surely, it would. But a meal can take the form of a reflective meditation or an exciting gathering of celebration.

However you decide to conduct your mealtime, may you value all it has to offer.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How romantic...

(from Giada DeLaurentis)

When I was about 13 or 14, my friend, Kendra, and I were babysitting and, obviously, we raided the fridge.  It wasn't one of the better stocked houses we had visited, but there were a couple of options, amongst them, mint jelly.  Kendra and I looked at each other, bewildered, because mint jelly could not possibly be good on toast.

Fast forward a few years...
My dad has been going to The Sugar Bowl in Gaylord, Michigan since he was 8.  I have been going there for as long as I can remember.  When I finally graduated from the kid's menu, my life improved greatly with the introduction of rack of lamb.  They season it with greek seasoning and grill it so that when you take a bite it sort of crackles and then gives way to such tender, flavorful meat and leaves your lips tasting like greek deliciousness.  And on the side: mint jelly.  Finally it made sense!

Anyway, all this led up to the Valentine's Day dinner menu.  Yeah, I crashed my parents' romantic evening together, but at least I suggested a nice dinner menu.  Crispy Rack of Lamb with Honey and Mascarpone (from Giada DeLaurentis) and Sweet Potato Fries with basil salt and aioli.  The sweet potato fries were also a recipe from Giada, but it's one of those recipes we made once and it was so simple that I have just always remembered it.  

The lamb itself was delicious.  We all agreed that we could do without the sauce.  It wasn't bad, we just like our lamb sauceless.  We are always trying to figure out how to get our sweet potato fries crispy without them getting burned, so this time we tried a little trick with an egg.  There was a slight improvement, but I think we still need to do some tweaking.  

Crispy Rack of Lamb with Honey and Mascarpone

3 (1-1 1/2 pounds each) racks of lamb, trimmed, with 1/4 inch of fat left on meat
1/4 c olive oil
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. herbs de Provence

1/2 c creme fraiche (or sour cream)
1 tsp. honey (plus more to taste)
3/4 Tbsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint leaves
1/2 c mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
salt and pepper

1) Set mascarpone out to come to room temperature.
2) Start grill.  Drizzle lamb with olive oil, season with herbs de Provence and S&P.
3) Cook lamb on the grill, making sure the coals are hot enough to sear the meat and give it a nice crust.  Cook until medium rare (or longer if you're crazy enough to like it that way).  Allow lamb to sit 10 minutes before slicing.
4) sauce: in a small bowl combine creme fraiche, honey, cumin, and mint.  Add mascarpone and stir until combined.  Season with S&P.  Add honey to taste.

Sweet Potato Fries with Basil Salt and Aioli

sweet potatoes
1 egg white
mayonnaise (or plain yogurt)
lemon juice

1) Preheat oven to 350℉.
2) Wash sweet potatoes.  Cut into fry shapes, keeping them all about the same size so they cook evenly.
3) Beat one egg white until frothy.  Toss potatoes with egg white, plus S&P if you would like.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and lay potatoes out in a single layer, not too close or else they will get soggy.
4) Bake fries until they are getting crispy, turning them halfway through cooking.
5) Meanwhile, finely chop basil, combine with salt, and reserve.  Mince a clove of garlic, combine it with mayonnaise (and/or plain yogurt for a healthier approach) and lemon juice.  
6) When fries are finished, sprinkle them with basil salt while they're still hot.  Serve with garlic aioli.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Will you be my Valentine?

Chocolate Donuts

Last weekend was my friend Jake's birthday. My Michigan friends and I made the trip to see our Chicago friends to celebrate Jake's special day! Jake and his fiancé, Sarah, were even kind enough to let us take over their living room with futons and air mattresses and in the morning a certain sneaky friend quietly escaped through the front door. The rest of us were starting to stir when in walks sneaky friend with a giant Dunkin Donuts bag. Our sleepy little eyes widened with joy as she pulled out 2 huge boxes of donuts and a bag of bagels. Talk about a great hostess!

I was thinking about how special it felt to indulge in those delicious sprinkled pastries and since Valentine's Day is around the corner (yes, it's this Tuesday, in case you forgot), I decided to regale my loved ones with homemade donut treats!

I searched high and low for Valentine's Day sprinkles to no avail (okay, I only went to three stores) but we had red and white sprinkles that sufficed. Next year I will plan ahead and get my festive sprinkles before Michael's sells out.  Besides the sprinkles, the donuts were so delicious!  I gave some to my boyfriend, my brother, and my parents and they were a hit!

Chocolate Donuts

(Makes 12 donuts)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  1.  Preheat oven to 325.  Spray donut baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Stir dry ingredients together in mixing bowl.  Add egg, buttermilk, vegetable oil, and vanilla.  Blend until smooth using a mixer on medium speed.
  3. Put batter in a ziploc bag.  Squeeze batter into one corner and cut of the tip.  Pipe batter into each cooking reservoir.
  4. Bake about 8 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Meanwhile, combine powdered sugar, a touch of vanilla, and enough water to make a thin glaze.
  6. While still warm, dip each donut in glaze, turning with a fork, and lay on a cooling rack.
  7. When donuts are cooled, dip the to of each in chocolate glaze (optional)

Chocolate glaze

(Makes more than enough glaze for 12 donuts)
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. In a double boiler over hot, but not boiling water, combine chocolate chips, butter and corn syrup.  Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth, then add vanilla.

Friday, February 10, 2012

What's for Lunch?

Pantry Tostada
(from my kitchen)

You know that feeling when you open the fridge and think "there is NOTHING to eat" and you panic a little bit? That happened to me today.

But with a little ingenuity I came up with this little creation! I think at any given time we have enough stuff in the ktchen to create some sort of Mexican dish. Refried beans, ground beef, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, cheese, queso fresco, avocado, tortillas, tortilla chips. The possibilities are endless!

Today's creation:
  • Corn tortilla heated in a skillet
  • Vegetarian refried beans (lard free!) spread on top of the tortilla
  • Sprinkle cheese (aka: shredded cheese)
  • Queso fresco
  • (All of the above heated in the oven to get everything warm and melty)
  • Lettuce
  • Sour cream
  • Salsa
  • Avocado

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Holy Hiatus!

Salmon with Saffron Cream Sauce

Alright, kids. I know I've been away for awhile and it's no excuse. I just got stuck in a little rut, you see. But I'm back and I hope you're ready for me!

And what better way to come back than with a new recipe to try?

We ("we" being my family) prepare salmon pretty much the same way every time. It's delicious, but variety is the spice of life. So tonight's menu is salmon with brown rice, stir-fried veggies, and a saffron cream sauce. Sounds good, right?

Well here's what happened. It wasn't all rainbows and lollipops. I made the sauce and may have overestimated my estimating abilities. The called-for 1 tsp. of yellow mustard may have turned into more like 1 1/2 or maybe even 2 tsp. Woops! I'd suggest starting small with strong flavors like that. We tasted the sauce in the pan and we were all very skeptical. Since it was my suggestion for dinner, I only admitted my skepticism silently to myself. Mom, however, came right out and said it: "I don't know if I like this." We doctored it up a bit, adding a little more wine, a little more mascarpone, and some chicken stock. It definitely did the trick! The mustard flavor mellowed and it thinned out the sauce.

Final verdict: DELICIOUS!

Note: This dish is very quick and easy. It is not, however, inexpensive. Unless, of course, you happen to have saffron, mascarpone, and sundried tomatoes already in your pantry. Let's just say if you wanted to impress a special someone a little bit, maybe for a special holiday, this is your dish! (*cough, cough* Valentine's Day *cough*)

Salmon with Saffron Cream Sauce

1) Cook salmon in a greased dish at 350℉ until it's done. (Have I mentioned my rule-of-thumb for cooking any sort of meat/fish? Cook it til it's done. Now I have.)

2) Melt 1-2 Tbsp. butter in a pan over medium heat.

3) Add 1 onion, diced and cook until translucent.

4) Add 1/2 c. dry white wine, 1/4 tsp. saffron, 1 tsp. yellow mustard, and 4 oz. mascarpone cheese. Simmer until thickened. Stir in sundried tomatoes.

5) Sauté your choice of veggies and combine with cooked rice of your choice.

6) Serve salmon atop rice and veggies and spoon sauce overtop.