Hye Thyme Cafe: August 2013

Welcome to the Hy
e Thyme Cafe. Although not all of my recipes are Armenian, the name is a little nod to my Armenian grandmother who is no longer with us. The Hye refers to all things related to her homeland, and she represents all things food-related to me, so the two just seemed to go together. I can't even claim that my Armenian recipes are truly Armenian, since Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, and even Egypt share so many foods that they've all sort of morphed into one over thousands of years.

Whether you like to cook, bake, have never done either, or just like to play with your food...come on in and join me! :)

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto : Hye Thyme Cafe

Red bell peppers are one of my favorite things for dipping and stuffing, but I don't typically think to use them in a sauce/dip. As with a traditional green pesto, you can use this version on bruschetta, pizza, pasta, salads, chicken, etc.

2 large red bell peppers
1/2 c almonds
1/2 c grated Parmesan
2 cloves garlic
1/2 t crushed red peppers flakes
1/2 c basil leaves
1/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
2 T olive oil

Slice the peppers in half lengthwise, removing the seeds and pith. Place on a baking sheet, cut-side down, and roast at 450° for about 20" until the peppers start to blister and break down. Turn on the broiler for a minute or two at the end, and they will char nicely, lending the peppers a slightly smokey flavor. The heat from the broiler will cause the peppers balloon, starting to separate the skin from the flesh. When you take them out of the oven, transfer the peppers to a covered dish to give the steam a chance to finish separating the skins. When they are cool to the touch, you should be able to pinch the skins and have them slide right off.

Cut peppers in half, remove pith and seeds and place cut-side down on tray
Broil 2" to char skins

Transfer to covered dish to steam
Pinch to slide skins off

In the bowl of your food processor, pulse the almonds until they form a fine crumb.  

Blend in the Parmesan, garlic, crushed red pepper, basil, salt, and pepper, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  

I tend to go light on the olive oil when making pesto because I'm never using a whole batch at one time, and I like a different texture for different uses. Maybe I'm using some on pizza right now, so I want it on the thick side, but next week I'll be using it in a salad dressing or marinade, so I'll want to increase the oil. You have more control this way. Use what you want, then freeze the remainder. You could use an ice-cube tray for this, but since I'm usually pulling out more than one at a time, I prefer to use cupcake tins. I'll fill them about half way, freeze them, then transfer the blocks to a zip-top bag.

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto : Hye Thyme Cafe

Monday, August 26, 2013

Blueberry Cake

Blueberry Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

Oops, I did it again ... 

A friend of my Mom's passed along a recipe for her Blueberry Cake a bazillion years ago, so I grew up with my Mom baking it fairly regularly. Since I'm in New York, and Mom is in New Orleans, I figured if I wanted Blueberry Cake, I'd have to fend for myself and dug out the recipe. The problem? I wrote it down wrong. How do I know this, you wonder? The tip off was that there was NO SUGAR. Not sure what else I may have botched in transcribing, but rather than call and ask (and since it called for milk and I was out), I decided to wing it and come up with my own recipe.

In all things blueberry, I defer to wild blueberries. I find them to be vastly more flavorful than those huge cultivated berries. I can't find them fresh all that often, but there is no problem with finding them in the freezer section. If you use frozen berries, just be sure to thaw them first, then drain and blot them dry so you don't end up with a soupy mess and gray batter (something like when I attempted a blueberry panna cotta - not pretty!)

4 T butter, softened
1 c sugar
1 egg
1 ½ t vanilla
1 c plain yogurt
2 t baking powder
¼ t salt
2 c flour (reserve 2T)
1 ¼ c wild blueberries
PAM Baking

  1. Cream together the butter and sugar – because of the high ratio of sugar to butter, it will be on the sandy side
  2. Stir in the egg until evenly distributed, then add the vanilla and yogurt
  3. Whisk together the baking powder, salt, and flour, then add to the wet mixture, a little at a time
  4. Toss the blueberries with the remaining 2T flour, then gently fold into the batter
  5. Pour into sprayed loaf pan (or in my case, a vintage aluminum ice-cube tray) and bake at 350 for 1’ 15”, or until toothpick tests done

If you have some cream and a lemon in the house, it would be great with a dollop of lemon whipped cream. I love blueberries and lemon ... hmmm, reminds me of blueberry vodka with lemonade. Haven't had that in a while. Might have to stop at the liquor store later.  

Blueberry Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

Blueberry Cake : Hye Thyme Cafe

Friday, August 23, 2013

Finish the Sentence Friday: "I wasn't really myself when I ... "

The only time I can recall when I really wasn't myself was in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Even though we weren't trapped like so many, it was such a frightening time, not knowing what was going on or what we would be going back to.

As with every other evacuation, we all planned for maybe three days away from home and had packed accordingly.  Boy, were we wrong!  We never expected what really happened.  Although I certainly got off easy in comparison to others, it was quite a while before I knew that.

The abridged version is that I evacuated with some family members to a cousin's house in TX and then (because of the number of people who turned up) moved on to her beach house in another part of the state, having to follow the news on a tiny battery-operated TV until we could pirate cable from a neighbor to keep us informed until getting cable installed.  With phone lines being tied up and then out of commission, trying to reach family to let them know we were OK was a nightmare, and it was even longer before I could locate and get in touch with my employer.

Those weeks were filled with fear and dread, not knowing what was to come.  Did I have an apartment to go back to?  A car?  Any of my belongings?  An office?  What about my friends and other family members in the area?  Did anyone I know get stuck in the City?  Did they survive?  What about those who sneaked back in to take stock and see what they could salvage – were they OK?  What kind of nightmare were they walking into?

It was the one time in my life when I felt completely out of control.  I was living in someone else's house, driving someone else's car(s), getting shafted by not only FEMA but the Red Cross, couldn't access my own bank account, so I was living off a credit card, had to evacuate yet again because of Hurricane Rita.  You name it – if it could go wrong, it did!

I'm usually a roll with the punches kind of person, but jumping from car to car, state to state, motel to motel, finding out I had to give up my job because it had relocated and I had neither the means to get to it nor a place to live if I did really took a toll.  Then we were finally able to get back into the city and I found I still couldn't access my bank account.  Because of the potential for fraud, you had to go to your home branch so they could physically identify you, but mine was still closed, and I was never actually in the bank for anyone to recognize me; I always used an ATM.  I couldn't even get to my money to move out of state or to buy a new car (having carpooled, mine was left behind on "higher ground" but didn't make it).

I could go on for hours about the whole ordeal, but like I said, it was pretty much a cake walk for me in comparison to what others suffered, so as out of control and "not myself" as I felt, I can't even begin to imagine what they went through!

Then, on the back of all that, I moved to NY and was faced with the reality of my Dad's decline into Alzheimer's, then his death (thankfully not due to the Alzheimer's), and what seemed like an endless parade of deaths that whole next year, followed by the economy tanking, etc.  It was a pretty rough time.  Hopefully I'll never have occasion to feel quite that untethered again.

That's the root end of the big tree that was standing in my front yard when I left.  Behind the chain-link fence is a beautiful, 2-mile around park.  That was my side yard.  Not sure if you can make out that mess in the background, but when I got back to town, I found that they were using the park as a big wood chipper for debris.  That's the beginning of a ginormous wood pile.  It already covered a baseball and soccer field and was more than ten feet high.  I was told at the other end of town were similar piles, but of garbage.  I suppose I lucked out being on this end.

Found a shot of the park from the other side - this might give you a better idea of how massive it was ... and they were just getting started.  I did a hit and run - went back as soon as we were allowed, rented yet another vehicle, packed up what I could salvage, and left. 

The strange thing is that to this day, whenever I got "home" to Massachusetts for a visit, on my way past Albany when leaving New York, there is a trailer lot that makes my skin crawl.  All I can think of is the trailers people were living in after the hurricane, so it brings it up all over again.  It's gotten to where if someone calls me while I'm driving, I'll say "I just passed Katrinaville," or "I haven't hit Katrinaville yet," and they'll know where I am along the way.

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Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's sentence will be:  "If I had a magic wand, the first thing I'd do is ..."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Finish the Sentence Friday "I used to love..."

The #FTSF prompt for this week is "I used to love ..."

I used to love participating in theatre, in both school and community productions.  As a kid, I was involved in well over 20 productions, sometimes acting/singing, sometimes assistant directing/teaching, and sometimes working with the crew.  I've done lighting, make-up, costuming, sound effects, performed multiple parts in the same production, played a guy, you name it.  I even had an opportunity to choreograph a few numbers once, but that didn't go so well.  Although I was actually shocked to be paid for my efforts (completely unexpected, especially since I was in the 10th grade), I was frustrated that the cast (friends/peers) were not inclined to follow my instruction and basically winged it.  I think it was our age at the time – they didn't want someone their own age telling them how it should be done, and I wasn't comfortable asserting myself in that way with them.  I was fine with that when it came to acting, but not with choreography, which was definitely not my forté.

One of the funniest things I remember was during a dress rehearsal for Guys & Dolls.  The marching band was using the auditorium for an event that night, so we were relegated to the cafeteria, and the director had wanted to make a hasty retreat before the crowd let out from the band event, so he was rushing us through.  I was assistant directing and also filling in during the opening scene as a street walker (a/k/a hooker).

The director would instruct everyone as they passed, but when he got to me, he said "OK, Chrissy's a pro – she knows what she's doing."  I proceeded, and as I crossed the stage, a ripple of laughter began to take hold.  It took a few seconds for my brain to catch up, and I stopped center stage with my hands on my hips … "Ahhh, Mr. H, would you care to retract that last statement?!?"  "What?!  Come on, we're trying to get through…GASP! Oh my God, I'm soo sorry!"  Yup, he had inadvertently referred to me as a "pro," as in a real hooker.  I still had a few more years with him, so I made sure to never let him live that one down.

Another funny one for me was when assistant directing a production of Annie Get Your Gun.  A good friend of mine was playing the lead, the Ethel Merman role of Annie Oakley, and went blank on opening night, forgetting half the songs.  I ended up belting them out from offstage.  Lucky for her, I was right there working on lights ... and I'm VERY loud!

There were a number of factors leading to my giving up the theatre, but I do think about it often and sometimes contemplate dipping my toes back in the water some day.  Those were fun times!

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Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's sentence will be:  "I wasn't really myself when I ..."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Chewy Nutella Oatmeal Cookies

Chewy Nutella Oatmeal Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

OMG, someone please take these away from me. I can't stop eating them!  

I somehow ended up with two jars of Nutella in my pantry, so I decided I better do something with Nutella before I completely forget about them and they expire. Strangely, I don't remember what I had in mind for them when I bought them. Maybe I was going to make a batch of Peanut Butter and Nutella Yeast Rolls, but even that doesn't explain why I had TWO jars?? Maybe I just caught a good sale and couldn't pass them up that day.  :) 

I love oatmeal cookies - crispy, chewy, or fat and pillowy. Either way, I do like to mix the types of oats I use. The old fashioned oats are a coarser texture, while the quick oats are smaller. I just like the textural difference, but you could certainly use all of one - just keep an eye on the first tray to see any difference in baking time.

1 c butter, softened
1/2 c light brown sugar
3/4 c sugar
2 eggs
2 t Kahlua liqueur
1/2 c Nutella
1 1/2 c flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1 c quick oats
1 1/2 c old fashioned oats

  1. Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy
  2. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated, followed by the Kahlua
  3. Next mix in the Nutella
  4. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt, then add to the butter/sugar mixture a little at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary
  5. Stir in the oats
  6. Drop by rounded teaspoonful onto parchment-lined baking sheets
  7. Bake at 350° for 12"

When they first come out of the oven, the cookies will look like they're not quite done yet, but just let them cool on the tray, and they will finish baking and set nicely.

Cookie batter
Drop by rounded teaspoonful onto parchment-lined trays.

They won't look done when they first come out of the oven.

See how the cookies on the left don't look done yet? That tray just came out of the oven, while the cookies on the right were the last tray to come out and are now set.

Chewy Nutella Oatmeal Cookies : Hye Thyme Cafe

I think these are my new favorite! You can eat cookies for dinner when they're oatmeal, right?? Oatmeal is good for you.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Kale Egg Noodles with Candied Corn Garnish

Kale Egg Noodles with Candied Corn Garnish : Hye Thyme Cafe

Making Lemon-Candied Kale Chips left me with extra kale in the fridge, and I already have a batch of Kale-Mint-Almond Pesto in the freezer, so I needed to come up with another use for the rest but was too lazy to go to the grocery store. I took a look around to see what I had available and came up with this. Luckily, I remembered the review I did of Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park's cookbook - Tiny Food Party a while back and how I wanted to try their Homemade Candied Corn.

1 ear of corn
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
Chili Powder
1 pkg large egg noodles
1 T olive oil
1 vidalia onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 t salt
1/2 t fresh ground black pepper
1 T white balsamic vinegar
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
1 T dried sweet basil
1/4 c grated Parmesan

Carefully cut the corn off the cob. Over medium heat, cook the sugar and water until the sugar dissolves, then add the corn and let simmer for 30".

Drain the liquid and transfer the corn to a parchment-lined baking sheet. (I decided to dust mine with Chili Powder before baking.) Bake at 300° for 5" to dry slightly. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the tray.  Set aside.

Cook the pasta in lightly salted water to al dente, then drain, reserving one cup of the pasta liquid (optional). Set aside.

Saute the garlic and onion in the olive oil until the onions are translucent. Season with salt and pepper, then add the balsamic and stir in the kale to coat. When the kale wilts down, add the roasted red peppers and basil and continue to cook until the kale is tender. Stir in the Parmesan at the end.

Kale Egg Noodles with Candied Corn Garnish : Hye Thyme Cafe

Serve the greens over a bed of the pasta, and sprinkle with the candied corn. If you want a bit of a broth, pour a little of the pasta liquid over the greens before adding the corn.

The verdict? I really enjoyed the way the flavors played off of one another - the sweetness of the corn and basil against the acidity of the balsamic, the saltiness of the Parmesan and brininess of the pepper (I used jarred). I had expected the corn to be drier, thinking it would be a slightly crunchy component. I may bake it longer next time, or use a 2:1 sugar:water ratio rather than equal amounts of each. I'm also re-thinking the construction. I'll keep the flavors but might make a puree out of the kale next time for a sauce, rather than keeping it whole. We'll see...

Kale Egg Noodles with Candied Corn Garnish : Hye Thyme Cafe

Kale Egg Noodles with Candied Corn Garnish : Hye Thyme Cafe

Friday, August 2, 2013

You Could Win an NX1100 Samsung Smart Digital Camera via Quaker®

Being a BzzAgent, I received an e-mail notifying me of a great new opportunity via Quaker®.  Between now and September 6, 2013, you can enter Quaker's Back to School Adventures Instant Win Game (daily) for a chance to win a new NX1100 Samsung Smart Digital Camera.  There will be one winner selected every day!

To enter, visit quakeroats.com and enter two (2) UPC codes from any Quaker® products you’ve purchased. No purchase necessary, for details and Official Rules go to quakeroats.com.

[No, the irony is not lost on me that you have to enter codes for something you have purchased, but no purchase is necessary.  I suppose the premise is that you would be buying those products anyhow, so the codes they come with are incidental.]

Finish the Sentence Friday "My Bucket List Includes ... "

To be honest, I don't have much of a bucket list.  There are pretty much only a handful of things that I would really like to do that I haven't yet.
  • Travel to Armenia to see where my family originated
  • Learn to speak Armenian
  • Find my Prince Charming
  • Adopt or foster at least one child (I would love to have one of my own, but my eggs are quickly approaching their expiration date)  
  • Drive across the country, spending time in each state along the way
  • Buy a little house on the beach on Cape Cod
  • Take a ride in a hot air balloon
There are other things that I would love to try, but it's not worth the pain and aggravation since I know full well that any/all of them would land me in the hospital for additional knee surgery.  You're talking about a person who had knee surgery at 16, another at 17, managed to blow out a knee just boarding an airplane, and tore an Achilles walking through the grocery store.  It's a wonder I can make it to my car in one piece on any given day!
  • Zip line through a jungle / rain forest (but only if there were no bugs)
  • Water ski (I once blew out a knee just getting out of the boat from driving everyone else around all day so they could ski!)
  • I have no desire to bungee jump, but I would love to try parasailing, hang gliding, and/or sky diving.  Hmmm, maybe I could manage parasailing without breaking anything??
  • Snowboard
  • Rollerblade - I used to love ice skating as a kid, but I could never manage to roller skate without ending up in a split somehow.  When rollerblades appeared on the scene, it occurred to me that I might have better luck with those since the inline skates are more like the blade on ice skates, but by then, my knees had grown to hate me, so I never did try them.
I'm sure as soon as I post this, a bazillion things will come to mind. Maybe I should actually put pen to paper and start a "real" list.  That would probably increase the odds of my actually completing a few of them. 

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Feel free to share in the comments below, on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #FTSF, or if you're a blogger, link up with one of the host blogs:

Next week's sentence will be:  "I have a bad habit of ..."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Lemon Candied Kale Chips

Lemon Candied Kale Chips : Hye Thyme Cafe

I was looking in the pantry one day and saw a jar of lemon curd. I don't remember buying it, but I must have had scones on the brain, because that's pretty much the only time I use it. That got me thinking about how I have seen sandwich cookies calling for lemon curd, but not much else. Having kale in the fridge at the time, I decided to try using the curd as a coating for chips. I was thinking about making the simple syrup for Paklava and how if you cook it for too long, it will turn into a candy rather than a syrup. I figured the same principle would hold here and that baking the curd in a thin layer would crisp it.

This ended up to be a case of "When at first you don't succeed, try, try again." The first time I tried it, I rubbed the curd onto the leaves (thinking about how people massage kale for salads, etc. to bring out a sweetness), but used too much, and they came out very limp and gummy. The next time, I baked them for too long and burned them. The third try was the proverbial charm.

Used too much curd this time.
See the little blobs - first try - too much curd!

Lemon Curd

Wash and dry the kale and tear or cut into bite-sized pieces, removing any large stems.

Heat a tablespoon or two of the lemon curd so it will be thin enough to spread. I zapped it in the microwave for about 20 seconds and gave it a good stir.

Using a pastry brush, brush a very thin coat of curd onto both sides of the leaves, transferring them to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake at 300° for 10", then flip and bake for another 8-10" until set.

Allow to cool on the tray.

Brush kale with heated/thinned lemon curd on both sides.
Bake at 300 for 10", flip and repeat.

Lemon Candied Kale Chips : Hye Thyme Cafe

Lemon Candied Kale Chips : Hye Thyme Cafe
See, nice and crisp, not limp.

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