Jeanette - Off The Cuff

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Blogger at: and -- My name is Jeanette, and I was born in Sweden, but unlike the famous Muppet, I am not a professional Swedish Chef. I actually studied design and photography. I also was a freelance indie-rock critic for several magazines from 1998-2005, and had an in-house PR company for a while. Cooking is in my DNA--my dad's brother was a chef and their father was a pastry chef, my mom's mother was a caterer, who published a cookbook of traditional Finnish breads and pastries when she was 92. Everyone else in my family loves to cook, and we're not afraid to experiment. I have a yen for interior design and remodeling.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Finished Quiche I love Quiche, and usually have good success in making it… this one turned out a little bland, but I think it was mostly just lack of salt, so aside from that, it was fine.  Also, whole wheat flour does not make the best pastry crust, I’ve discovered, since it’s not very elastic and hard to roll out without it just crumbling & cracking.  So use at least half of the portion of white flour, if not all.




Crust, prior to bakingPie Crust:
1 stick of salted butter
2 cups flour
2-3 tablespoons ice cold water

Soften butter at room temp for easiest crust making.  Mix flour and butter together until distributed evenly.  Sprinkle in ice cold water, one tablespoon at a time, pausing to knead together in between.  Add more water as needed, but the dough should be firm, and fairly dry to the touch, not squishy or sticky like a pizza dough.

Chill the dough for about an hour (another step I lazily and hastily omitted last night for lack of time) which helps it be more malleable.  After it’s chilled, roll it out on a flat surface into a round, and place it in a pie plate.  Crimp the edges if you are a fancy-pants sort of pie crust maker.  Me, I was just hungry and wanted my dinner, so I didn’t bother with a decorative edges last night, plus as I said earlier, the whole wheat flour wasn’t working very well.  I basically had to just press it into the pie plate and try to make it hold together… It almost reminded me of a graham cracker crust in texture.

Use a fork to poke lots of holes in the bottom so it doesn’t bubble up too much.

Bake the pie crust at 400 for ten minutes, and then take it back out.  If you have fancy fluted edges to your crust, take a long strip of aluminum foil to cover the edges with it so they don’t burn during the second bake-time when you fill the pie.

Quiche Mixture:
6 eggs
Approx. 1/2 cup of milk and/or cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 cup of shredded cheese (I’ve tried various cheeses, and they all have their own benefits.  Cheddar, feta, gruyere, Swiss, and last night I used Mozzarella)

Mix all together in a large bowl with a whisk

Vegetable or meat fillings:
Any number of veggies work well, but be aware that most veggies are high in water content and can make the quiche very soggy.  I usually solve this by sautéing my veggies in a skillet first, to let some of the water evaporate out.  Options on the veggies are bell peppers, chives, green onions, mushrooms, onions, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, asparagus… chop them up finely, and sauté them for five to ten minutes in a little bit of oil until they’ve “reduced” a bit. Add veggies and meats

Meats that are good in quiche could be anything from smoked salmon, bacon, black forest ham from the deli, sliced into thin shavings & slivered, or even shrimp (although I’m not a huge shellfish fan…) Just making suggestions.

In my quiche last night, I used up the rest of the green onions and bell pepper from my Pad Thai the other day, as well as sautéed baby spinach leaves.  I didn’t have meat, but bacon would have been really good with this combo.  

Scoop the veggie and/or meat fillings into the pre-baked pie crust, and then pour over the egg mixture.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes at 400. Pour on cheese & egg mixture

Half the fun of a quiche is just experimenting with combinations, of cheese, meats and veggies.  It’s really just a glorified omelet in a crust, but it’s so good, and can be as good for dinner, breakfast or lunch.


Thursday, July 22, 2010


I am seriously a cheese-addict. I eat cheese almost daily in some form or another, and tonight seemed dow
nright autumnal for July (it was about 65 and overcast, and breezy) so I opted for a 'comfort food' meal of grilled pork chops, mac & cheese, and some steamed summer squash.

This mac & cheese is loosel
y adapted from one that I got from my husband's mother, although I use real sharp cheddar instead of Velveeta, and I usually just put in a pinch of nutmeg instead of pepper.


1/2 stick of butter

2-3 tbsp flour (I actually used whole wheat today with fairly good success)
1- 1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup grated cheese (sharp ched
dar makes the most 'classic mac & cheese' flavor)
pinch of nutmeg

8-10 oz of uncooked pasta of your choice (I had bowties, so that's what I used)


Bring water to a boil and cook pasta while you prepare a 'roux' to make the cheese sauce.
(Roux is a flour & butter based sauce which helps emulsify cheese better than just stirring cheese into hot milk -- which, for the record, I've tried once, and got a giant ball of stringy cheese, floating in a pot of milk.)

Melt butter in another small sauce pan over medium heat, and stir in flour one tablespoon at a time, to keep it a smooth texture.

Stir in milk, very slowly, just an ounce or so at first. If you pour the milk in too fast, it will cool off the butter & flour mixture and make it lumpy.

Gradually whisk in the rest of the milk, keeping heat at medium, and taking care not to boil the sauce.

Next add a handful of grated cheddar cheese at a time, stirring it to melt it into the hot milk & butter roux.

Pour cheese sauce over coo
ked & drained pasta and either serve as is, or bake in the oven for ten minutes at 350 to "congeal it all" into its sticky, cheesy goodness.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Hummus is something that I generally make myself, although past experiments have never yielded such a creamy result as a store-bought one. So tonight I decided to whip some up, and while I lacked one CRITICAL ingredient (tahini -- which I subbed with sesame oil, for a very similar outcome), I also determined to try a trick I once heard about; the idea is to blanch the garbanzo beans first to remove the hulls (which float to the top, so you can skim them off with a slotted spoon.) That proved to be a tedious time-suck, but it did really make the hummus smoother.

I also inadvertently put a tad too much lemon juice in, (because I really only use measuring cups when I'm baking, and my eyeballing it didn't quite work out) but it wasn't detrimental -- just tangier than it usually is.


1 can garbanzo beans (i.e., chick peas)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini (here I used sesame oil, since tahini is just sesame seed paste and the flavor is very similar)
1-2 cloves minced garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 - 1 tsp salt (to taste)
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp parsley (fresh or dried)
1/2 tsp cumin

Blend all ingredients together in a blender until smooth & creamy. Blanching the hulls off the beans is optional, but it doesn't disappoint! Also, it's very useful to keep some pita chips or crackers handy for "sampling" your hummus as you go along, making sure the seasoning mix is "just so."

Serve with crudites like cucumber slices or carrot sticks for a healthy snack, or slather it in a pita pocket with some grilled chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, and feta cheese... top with some tzatziki if you have it.

Pad Thai

pad thai 006 I absolutely love Thai food, but I have really thus far only learned a few recipes. My mainstay is Pad Thai, which is delicious, and I've found that I've got a decent grasp of making my own sauce for the noodles, which is really half the battle of making a good Pad Thai.

I also incorporate bell peppers (because I love them and buy a bag of six of them every week at CostCo, and you can put them in Mexican Food, Italian Food, Asian food... you name it).

This recipe is sort of an amalgam of the directions on the back of the noodle-package, as well as some various pad-thai sauce recipes that I've fused together the last couple of years.

pad thai 002INGREDIENTS:

1/2 package Thai rice noodles -- prepare according to directions and set aside
1 lb of chicken meat, cubed** (See Short-Cut below)
2 eggs
1 red bell pepper, sliced thinly into strips
6-8 green onions, trim ends and tops off about half way, and slice lengthwise)
1 bag of fresh Asian bean sprouts (or 1 can, if pad thai 001fresh can't be found)
1-2 limes, washed & wedged
1/2 cup crushed peanuts
1 cup fresh chopped cilantro (rinse & drip-dry first)


4 tbsp Fish Sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp paprika
1-2 tbsp lime juice
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (more if you like super spicy!)

Mix sauce ingredients together in a small bowl, and set aside until last minute.

pad thai 003 pad thai 005 DIRECTIONS:

Heat a wok (or large, deep skillet) to medium high, and add 1 tbsp of sesame oil. When oil is hot, crack 2 raw eggs into it and IMMEDIATELY stir-fry the egg. It will get an interesting, bubbly texture from being fried in oil. Scoop it out and set it aside in a small bowl for now.

Add cubed chicken into wok, (or chicken tenders which can be cut up once cooked) and stir fry until nearly cooked through.

Add all ingredients in this order: Bell peppers and green onions, (stir fry for 3-5 minutes until softened),
the noodles, (stir fry 1-2 minutes to heat up the cold noodles.) Then add bean sprouts, the fried eggs, distribute sauce evenly by drizzling it over the wok as you keep turning the ingredients, and lastly top the whole thing with cilantro and stir it in. Top with crushed peanuts, lime wedges and serve it up piping hot.

(**My favorite short-cut is to just saute the "chicken tenders" and then use tongs and scissors to cut them into bite size pieces while they're still hot & cooked... less messy that way, since you're not handling raw poultry. )

Grilled Teriyaki Ahi Tuna with Pepper & Kale stir fry

One of the things I’m fairly skilled at is shopping in bulk for a variety of basic ingredients and reusing them in various combinations. So last week, I made a grilled pork tenderloin, with sautéed kale, bell peppers and tomatoes. Tonight I used the remaining kale & peppers, and a few tweaks, plus the Ahi for my protein, and now I suddenly had a delicious, Asian-fusion teriyaki seafood dinner, and it was fast and easy, and entirely cooked outside on the grill.


2 ahi tuna steaks, (I started with frozen, which I defrosted in their vacuum sealed bags, in a sink full of cold water for about an hour)

Place tuna in a shallow dish with the below marinade, for at least half an hour before grilling. Drizzle plenty of the marinade on top.


2 tbsp Mirin
2 tbsp Sake
1/2 tsp ginger
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

Stir Fry:

4 stalks of kale, washed, stemmed and chopped
1 red or yellow bell pepper, julienned
6-8 stems of green onions, chopped (either length-wise or across)
1 cup of sliced shiitake mushrooms (I used dried mushrooms, which I reconstituted in hot water for ten minutes, before adding to my stir fry)
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp crushed red peppers

Start the side burner on your grill (if you have one) and continuously stir fry the veggies, until the peppers are tender, & kale is wilted. Simultaneously, pre-heat the grill, and when it’s hot, grill the tuna on each side for 2 minutes for rare, or 3-4 minutes for well done, spooning the left-over marinade continously over the top side while it’s grilling. I say this with a chuckle, because I never quite manage to keep the middle “raw” even though I would love to eat it that way. So alas, it was fully grilled, but still very good. Serve the tuna on top of the stir-fry veggies. Delish.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Potato and Carrot Frittata

The subheading on this blog says recipes are more of a recommendation, and since I’m not a trained chef, and often learn by experimenting, I have to share this funny little anecdote which eventually led to the development of my potato and carrot frittata. A few years ago, when I was a newlywed, I tried making hash browns, even though I had never made them before. (It is rather funny since it’s one of the most simple things in the universe, and I had at that point already been cooking for over a decade, and making delicious dinners and whatnot. Breakfast foods were just a new endeavor for me, after years of being single, and eating cereal or bagels in the morning. ) Back to the story: What I ended up with was a gray, gluey mess. As I deduced from my grave error, when you grate potatoes, you should always rinse them in a colander to get the extra starch off. At that point, most people would have gone to Denny’s for hash browns, but I wanted to figure out how to fix that. So the next time I rinsed them, drained them, and then I heated up some olive oil, and threw my spuds in the big cast iron skillet. Within a few minutes, they started to brown up nicely. On ONE side. But I still had poor luck in flipping them over.

So the next time, I made one more tweak, which was to pour scrambled egg mixture over the top of the browned potatoes, and cook that through. I tried flipping that as well. Not so easy. Then I finally started researching frittatas online, and discovered that it’s quite okay to ‘finish’ them in an oven to get the top solid.

The moral of the story is that learning is part of cooking, and if hadn’t made those mistakes, I wouldn’t have come up with this, which is easily one of my favorite breakfast foods.

INGREDIENTS (enough for 2 people who eat a large breakfast, or 4 diminutive breakfast eaters.)

6 eggs, and 1/3 cup milk whisked together in a bowl

3-4 medium sized red potatoes, peel still on
1 carrot
5 fresh basil leaves or 1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp fresh chopped chives
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2-3 tbsp olive oil


Peel and grate the carrot, and then grate potatoes either by hand, or with a food processor with a grating attachment if you have one. (This speeds up the process greatly when you’re really starving for breakfast, not to mention saves you from having bits of your knuckles in the frittata!) Rinse grated potatoes thoroughly in a mesh sieve or colander until the water runs clear. Let drain until the potatoes are fairly dry. Meanwhile, preheat a large skillet on medium high (cast-iron would be preferable, but any skillet with an oven-proof handle will do.)

Mix the carrot & potato gratings together before adding them to the hot oil. Spread them out in the skillet so they’re evenly thick.

Lower the heat to medium, and periodically check that the potatoes and carrots are not burning or sticking. Adjust heat as necessary. When things seem to have heated & cooked through fairly well, and the bottom starts to brown (check with a spatula along the edges) pour egg mixture over the top, making sure to coat everything. Lower heat a little more, and let the egg mixture set up. Sometimes this is sufficient and the top of the egg mixture will set up just fine, but if the bottom cooks faster than the top, preheat your oven to 375 and put the whole skillet in the oven for a few minutes until the top is firm.

Sprinkle with minced herbs, salt and pepper, and serve up with a side of breakfast meat like bacon or sausage. Sometimes I also put cheese on top, like cheddar, or feta, which is also quite good.

Lemon-Dill Beurre Blanc over pan-fried mahi-mahi and brown rice

I have never made a Beurre Blanc before. I’ve eaten it, admired it, and always thought to myself that it can’t be as easy as a gravy (and I make many other kinds of gravy and sauce, among them my favorite chantarelle mushroom gravy which is WAY GOOD) but alas, I found that a beurre blanc is quite a cinch.

And since I still had mahi mahi in the freezer which I used in last week’s Thai-dish, I wanted to do something a little more traditional. Plus I had organic snap peas, and dill in the fridge, which just calls for traditional seasonings.

So online I went to find a recipe, and this Beurre Blanc video tutorial by Billy Parisi was most helpful. I would suggest you watch it, even if only for the cute Italian chef making it!  (Now, now, I’m happily married so it wasn’t like that.)

I’m no authority on sauce so he is definitely a guy to take a cue from. Now then, here is my variation on his sauce (since I didn’t have shallots, and added the dill.)


Approximately 2 tbsp finely chopped white onion
2 tbsp olive oil

Sauté the onion until caramelized, and then add in:

1/4 cup white dry wine
3 tbsp or so of lemon juice

Keep simmering that until it’s “a glace” or the liquid is almost gone. At that point, add a pinch of salt and WHITE pepper (so as not to discolor the sauce) and take it off the heat, and stir in 4 tbsp of COLD butter and 2 tbsp fresh dill. Serve immediately.

Since the timing is so critical on a beurre blanc (maybe I just like to TYPE beurre blanc, because I can pronounce it all French-y in my head at the same time, and feel cultured) I want to emphasize that I started my brown rice about forty minutes earlier so that it would finish cooking, and while I was caramelizing my onions and deglacing the pan of sauce, I was pan-frying my mahi-mahi. You could use just about any mild, non-oily fish. I suspect it would be great with Sole, or trout, too. The sauce is so buttery, you just would be better off with a non-rich fish.

FRYING THE FISH—I just heated my trusty cast-iron skillet to quite hot, and seared each side until browned, and then turned the heat down a little to finish cooking the fish throughout.  If you like your Mahi Mahi rare in the middle, don't exceed 2 minutes per side.

I also served it with steamed snap-peas, which was a good match, although now in hindsight, I think asparagus would have been a better pairing.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Kale Sauté

So tonight’s dinner is so absurdly simple that I hesitate to even blog about it. I mean, there was very little prep of any kind. Just some chopping, some seasoning and that’s it. But it was delicious. So for those of you who think putting a few raw ingredients together constitutes “cooking” I share with you my excessive wisdom. Ha ha ha.


1 pork tenderloin (I happened to have bought an organic, farm fresh pork tenderloin from a co-op-type place.)

5-6 stems of kale, de-stemmed, and roughly chopped

1 bell pepper, preferably red or yellow (and you will find that bell peppers are in most of my foods), julienned

2 Roma tomatoes, cut into small wedges

Olive oil, fennel seed, salt & pepper


Sprinkle liberal amounts of fennel seed, salt & fresh ground pepper all over the pork. Grill it on high the first 3 or 4 minutes, turning it once to the other side.

Turn down heat to medium, and keep grilling until internal temp is about 155-160 F. Slice into medallions.

A few minutes before the pork is done, sauté the veggies in a skillet with olive oil, and some salt & pepper sprinkled on. Serve like a “hot salad.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My Rad Berry-Spice Whole Grain pancakes

Yes, I will just say they’re my rad pancakes, because I don’t know for sure what the original recipe was, or whose it was, and so many modifications have gone into this that I’ve created something fairly different and healthy! Rather than a lot of refined carbs, this is mostly whole-grain and delicious. And we eat these, or variations of these, almost every Saturday morning while watching Spongebob. Yes, we’re 36 and home-owners. We like SpongeBob.
1 cups flour (I usually do half white/ half whole wheat)
2 tbsp ground flax
1 tbsp brown sugar or honey (if using honey, add it when all wet ingredients have been mixed in)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
A dash of nutmeg
1 cup milk + 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 egg
2 tbsp oil (although this can be omitted with good success)
1 cup berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, huckleberries...whatever sounds good to you!)

Beat all ingredients together, and fry pancakes on buttered griddle or skillet at medium heat. Drop berries into the top of the pancakes as they’re frying. Flip when edges are bubbly.

For a variation on the above, omit the spices, and mash one banana into the pancake mix, and sprinkle chocolate chips on the uncooked side of the pancakes before flipping them over. Extra good.

And at Thanksgiving / Christmas time, I substitute 1/2 the cup of milk with 1/2 can of pumpkin. It’s so awesome. Just sayin’s all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Swedish Style Potato Salad

So, it's summer time, and everyone loves a big ol' bowl of potato salad. It keeps for days in the fridge, and is a nice, cool side dish on a hot day.

My take on potato salad is sort of inspired by a traditional Swedish-style potato salad.

And... it's way-hay-hay less fattening.


15 or so medium sized red potatoes
1 cup Plain yogurt (Greek would be good, since it's so thick & creamy)
1-2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
(1-2 tbsp Mayo – optional)
4-5 green onions
2-3 stalks celery
(2 tbsp chives – optional)
(1/3 cup crumbled bacon – optional)
seasoning salt of your preference (one that’s a little paprika-y is always good)


First off, make sure you start early. This is not a last minute type thing, unless you already have left over cold boiled potatoes in the fridge. Boil the potatoes until fork tender, drain immediately, and fill pot with cold water to stop cooking. Dump out cold water within 5 minutes to prevent taters from getting water-logged (which I inadvertently did last week. Boo.)

Chill potatoes for several hours or overnight in the fridge. It makes them way easier to dice. Believe me-- I tried it once with slightly warm potatoes, and it was a mushy mess.

Now then... Assuming your potatoes are boiled, and chilled, just take those cold, little potatoes, and dice them up with a nice big knife.

Then slice up approximately 2-3 stalks of crispy celery (trim the nasty ends off, first, and wash really well.)
Chop up about 4-5 green onions, and put all of the above in a large bowl.

(Optional-- for an extra kick, scissor-cut fresh chives into small pieces, and/or add crumbled bacon for a little sumpin’ sumpin’. )

The dressing is as such:

Approximately 2/3 to 1 cup plain yogurt
(It can be made entirely with yogurt, or else I often will stir in two tbsp of real mayonnaise just to help bind the yogurt and keep it from being too watery. Use a little more yogurt if not using the optional mayo.)
1-2 tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Seasoning salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Stir together and chill.

Thai inspired Mahi Mahi

I had mahi mahi in the freezer, and a variety of other Thai-ish ingredients like cilantro and coconut milk, so I thought to myself that there must be some good way to incorporate them all into a beautiful dish. I did find this recipe on Bon Appetite, Grilled Mahi Mahi with Thai Coconut Sauce , and decided it was a good base, but since I would never BUY clam juice, uh hello.... juice from a CLAM? Yuck!... I thought I'd make some tweaks and use what I had, plus added some veggies. This is what I came up with.


4 mahi mahi Fillets (fresh or frozen / defrosted)

2 cups uncooked sticky rice
1 can coconut milk
2-3 tbsp Thai Fish Sauce
1 bell pepper
1/2 yellow onion OR 6-8 green onions
2-3 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp fresh grated or powdered ginger
1 lime, juiced
1 bag or 1 can of Asian bean sprouts
1 cup fresh cilantro
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper

DIRECTIONS: Let’s start at the very beginning… a very good place to start.

So take the four Mahi-Mahi fillets and season them on both sides with some salt, a couple of squirts of lime juice and crushed red pepper, and set aside for now.

Make the rice in the meantime, by rinsing two cups uncooked sticky rice in a mesh sieve until water is fairly clear, and then follow directions on the package, but substitute 1 cup of the total amount of water with coconut milk, add about 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper.

Meanwhile, back at the Bat Cave...There's some sauce happening...

Slice up approximately 6-8 green onions
Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic
Julienne one bell pepper (color is better if it is red or orange or yellow-- green would be too bitter in this.)
And sauté all that in a skillet...
When the peppers start to get soft, add a cup of coconut milk (one can of coconut milk yields enough for the rice and enough for the sauce) and 2-3 tbsp Thai Fish Sauce, 2 tbsp lime juice, 1/4 tsp grated ginger and 1/4 - 1/2 tsp crushed red peppers

Now, fire up your grill on high, and when it reaches about 350 degrees, put your fish on there and flip when each side has nice blackened grill marks on it... Grill about 2-3 minutes on each side...

At last minute or two, while fish is grilling, put about a cup of fresh chopped cilantro and 1 bag or can of Asian bean sprouts into the sauce. . . Serve together in a bowl with grilled fish and rice.

And yummmm.