A Bouncy Tip for Cranberries

Well, it looks like cranberry season has arrived.

Do you know how to test a cranberry for freshness?  You simply bounce it on the counter. If it bounces skyward, it’s a keeper.  If it rolls sluggishly, it’s probably a dud. Predictably enough, kids  love trying out this test for freshness. I’ve had many sessions in the kitchen during the holidays when my “helpers” spontaneously started bouncing cranberries hither and yon in order to test for freshness.

For additional ideas on serving cranberries or creating cranberry crafts this holiday season, check out Ocean Spray’s recipe section for ideas! Warm Cranberry Wassail, Cranberry-Ginger-Soju Fizz or Cedar Planked Salmon with Spiced Cranberry Relish look good…

Salmon 101: Reach for Frozen and Fire Up the Grill Pan

Grilled Salmon and Kale Risotto

Do you want to eat more fish but you hesitate to give it a shot?  Do you tend to feature more seafood on your menus during the summer months when it can be quickly grilled outside?

Well, understandably, seafood, salmon in particular, lends itself to warm weather dining. During the summer, salmon is literally landing on our Pacific Northwest shores fresh and practically still flapping…that being said, a hefty chunk of the salmon that hails from Northwest waters is processed and frozen for the off season.

Over the years, I’ve cooked a lot of frozen salmon and without a doubt those frozen fillets offer convenience beyond compare. Easily found in the frozen food cases in the seafood department and sold pin boned, portioned and packaged, they can simply be pulled from the freezer on short notice and defrosted in a flash by submerging the package in cool water.

One of my favorite ways to cook these convenient fillets is to grill them INDOORS on my Le Creuset ridged grill pan. I inherited my small red ridged pan from my father and it’s a great pan for quick one person seafood dishes. After preheating my grill pan over moderately high heat and simply sprinkling my salmon with a little sea salt and spraying it (and the pan) with oil, I plop my defrosted salmon fillet on the ridges and savor that initial sizzle. I let the fillet, which is probably about 5 to six ounces, sear for about a minute or two. I then flip it and let the other side sizzle and sear. (I sometimes cook it with the skin on and other times I take the skin off prior to cooking.) After about a minute or two on the other side, I cover the fillet, turn down the heat to moderately low and let the fillet cook for another minute, checking for doneness.

This super quick grilled salmon is then ready to be served on top of rice, potatoes, grains or even a lightly dressed salad or a medley of sliced tomatoes. Alternatively, it can be turned into a simple sandwich or even a decadent Salmon BLT.

Note:  And, if you are Caesar Salad fan, try my recipe for Blackened Sockeye on Kale Caesar Salad, which I developed for the Bristol Bay Sockeye website last spring. For additional information on frozen, check out this section too.

Celebrate Seafood with The Dillingham Salmon Melt!

Dillingham Sockeye Salmon Melt

October is National Seafood Month so without a doubt you are seeing a lot of press swirling around this highly nutritious protein. To celebrate, I could certainly feature an array of ideas, species and dishes but in an attempt to keep things simple I’m going to share my recipe for an affordable, quick and comforting dish–the Dillingham Salmon Melt.

I created this simple lunch dish for myself last spring while I was researching, developing, and testing recipes for canned Alaska sockeye for the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. This recipe was created early on in my adventure, and I made it one cold and rainy Seattle day. It was ridiculously easy and incredibly comforting for lunch so I am happy to share it with you here.

I’ve dubbed the recipe the Dillingham Salmon Melt because Dillingham, Alaska is home to the Peter Pan Cannery, one of the longest continually operating salmon canneries in Alaska. I’ve toured that  historic blue clapboard cannery twice and it’s a true maritime icon…not to mention a salmon processing workhorse!

The Dillingham Salmon Melt

Prep Time: About five minutes

1. Get a can of Alaska sockeye salmon, which can easily be found in the canned fish section of the supermarket.  You can get a small or large can, and I should note that the salmon will most likely contain the skin and the bones, which do NOT need to be picked out because they were cooked and softened during the canning process. Open and drain the can, discarding the liquid.

2. Preheat the broiler. Put the salmon, with the skin and the bones, into a food processor or mini chopper. Add some fresh dill, chopped scallion, and a hefty squeeze of fresh lemon. (I find that the lemon really brightens the salmon flavor.) Run the food processor for four or five seconds, pulsing the button as necessary in order to process the fish evenly. Add two or three blobs of low fat mayonnaise and pulse two or three times to combine. (If you don’t have a food processor, don’t worry. Just use a fork and combine thoroughly.)

3. Cut your English muffins in half and toast lightly in the toaster, transferring to a baking sheet. With a tablespoon, scoop up the salmon mixture and place it on the English muffins.

4. Take 1/2 cup or so of panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and toss in some grated cheddar or Parmesan. Sprinkle this evenly over your salmon sandwiches and drizzle the sandwiches with a little melted butter if desired. Put the salmon melts under the broiler and watch carefully, cooking until they are browned and heated through.

5. Serve on a bed of lightly dressed greens and enjoy!

If you’d like more information on canned Alaska sockeye salmon as well as my recipe for Three Minute Salmon Salad, head over to Bristol Bay Sockeye.org.

Super Simple Salsa–Better than Store Bought


Let’s talk about salsa. Of course, there are endless options on the market these days…jarred, canned, fresh and refrigerated.

Deliciously versatile and a staple in most households, salsa can quickly and easily be made at home. I started making my own many years ago.  Admittedly, I don’t always make it from scratch but when I do, it’s far superior to any that I can purchase on the market. I developed this super simple salsa when my children were very little. Back then their peewee taste buds were purer  and more sensitive. They didn’t always like the harsh and fiery salsas being sold. Rather than skip the salsa all together, I developed this basic version, which allowed me to leave the hot peppers out of the picture while at the same time allowing me to sneak tomatoes and corn (precious nutritional commodities aka vegetables!) into my children’s diets.

I also love this recipe because it can be quickly and easily made in my Cuisinart mini chopper or food processor. Using only a few basic ingredients and lots of fresh coriander, this refreshing and bright salsa is great with tortilla chips, in burritos and cheesy quesadillas or dolloped on top of a fish taco or grilled salmon.


Missy’s Super Simple Salsa

1 large garlic clove
1/4 small red onion
10 fresh coriander sprigs, leaves and stems included
one 28-can Fire-Roasted Muir Glen diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon olive oil, or to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
1 cup fresh or defrosted corn
With the metal blade in place and the motor running, drop the garlic clove into the food processor, letting it bounce around and get diced. Add the red onion and coriander sprigs through the feed tube and pulse the mixture seven or eight times.

Drain about half the liquid from the tomatoes and add the tomatoes to the work bowl with the olive oil, the cumin and a little salt and pepper to taste.

Pulse the motor again about seven or eight times. (Note: Do not let the machine run continuously because this would puree the mixture and prevent your salsa from being characteristically chunky. )

Season the salsa taste with additional seasonings if necessary. Add the corn and pulse once or twice to mix.

Makes about 3 cups.

A Seasonal Tool for Apples!

A hefty haul of Gravenstein Apples from a local NW orchard.

A hefty haul of Gravenstein Apples from a local NW orchard.

Have you tried the Apple/Potato peeler from Back to Basics located in Draper, Utah?

I have one of these nifty contraptions and now that apple season is in full swing, I am cranking my peeler at full speed.

I don’t know the history behind this wonderful invention, but it is absolutely astounding the way it can peel, core, and slice an apple in seconds. My children are always amazed at the instantaneous transformation and without fail they smile when I hand them a beautifully sliced and peeled apple. Somehow, I think those thin peeled slices taste so much better than peeled apple chunks.

While in the mood for a basic buttery apple cake one evening, I gathered an array of apples, readied my peeler, positioned my KitchenAid, and printed the recipe from the awesome Land O Lakes website. The apples were peeled and sliced in a heartbeat, and the finished product looked exactly the same as the one in the website’s photo. I plan to make this buttery baked good again. Thankfully, the Back to Basics peeler makes the whole process a snap!

Potimarron Squash–Kitchen Garden Victory with a French Heirloom

I love my little kitchen garden. Admittedly very small at only about 400 square feet, my garden produces a vast array of produce year round—tomatoes, figs, cucumbers, squash, beans, micro greens, and lettuce during the summer months and kale, cabbages, broccoli, garlic and shallots through the winter and into the spring.

Last June, I purchased a vintage book called Vegetable Gardening in Wartime. Published at the height of World War II and meant to be a reference for newbie patriotic gardeners who wanted to transform their yards into productive kitchen gardens, the book features an array of charts and illustrations designed to educate the reader on how to extend the season, maximize the harvest, and plant in succession. I studied these charts and although I didn’t follow them to a T, they inspired me to rethink how I garden and use my precious kitchen garden real estate each summer.  One of my gardening goals this year was to utilize the space throughout the bright and sunny months of summer. This involved planting a little earlier, harvesting conscientiously each day, and pulling the plants once they were spent in order to vacate the space and get going on another fruit or vegetable.

Victory Garden

Found at an estate sale, this vintage book is a treasure trove of information and advice for those who want to maximize their kitchen garden yields.

My best example of this ruthless approach occurred with my Costata Romanesco zucchini and Potimarron Squash. I planted the Italian heirloom zucchini in early May and by late June/early July the plants were five feet tall and producing far more zucchini than I ever imagined could come from a few plants. At that time, I also purchased a packet of Potimarron Squash seeds at PCC.  Produced by Uprising Seeds, the packets were on sale and the description of the winter squash was alluring—a small French heirloom that tasted like a cross between a pumpkin and a chestnut. I also liked the fact that the squash were small and grew on compact vines. I decided to push the envelope so to speak and plant a few seeds. Admittedly, I was doubtful that my French heirlooms would REALLY produce. After all, they were getting a very late start and I wasn’t sure they could possibly grow to maturity before fall set in.

Well, much to my delight, my Potimarron squash did great in the sunny corner of the yard where I had grown those Italian zucchini. The vines grew vigorously, the squash fruit set and last week we pulled the vines. Although the squash weren’t the exact telltale red, they continue to turn that gorgeous deep red color as they sit outside on my little sunny deck. I probably only got about six or seven squash of varying sizes but from a culinary perspective, I’m thrilled to discover that these little French heirlooms don’t need to be peeled because the skin doesn’t get that tough. (A true time saver in the kitchen and a score for thrifty cooks!) I’m also tickled that the squash store well, which means I can keep them handy for the colder rainy days ahead. And, because they are relatively small in size compared to some other monster winter squashes on the market, the Potimarron are great for individual serving sizes and small families.

So, if you want to savor a little victory in the garden, seriously consider planting in succession throughout the season and be brave, exploring new varieties of fruits and vegetables.

Potimarron Squash

After harvest, the squash continue to turn that telltale rich color…

Jumbleberry Jam Bars-A Simple and Thrifty Baked Good!

Jumbleberry Jam Bars

A simple bar made from a jumble of jam! A thrifty family favorite!

Note: This blog post and recipe originally appeared on my old website on September 1, 2010. Indeed, this simple concoction has withstood the test of time and remains a family favorite. My daughter is now in college and loves sharing these sweet bars with her college buddies! One boy said he’d buy a whole tray JUST so he could eat them ALL by himself!

What do you make with a couple of half empty jars of jam?   Jumbleberry Jam Bars, of course!

Earlier this week, I was clearing the pantry and the fridge. Many items were being evicted simply because they were past their prime.  When I surveyed the “jam department” on the top shelf of my fridge, I realized I had quite a collection of jam at hand– Bonne Maman blueberry preserves, Bonne Maman strawberry preserves, Huckleberry Haven Wild Huckleberry Jam, and Maury Island Boysenberry Jam!  I decided that I needed to deal with this motley collection of rather expensive jam.  Jumbleberry Jam Bars were the simple sensible  solution for my no nonsense housekeeping task.

When I make jam bars, I like to use my 8-inch-square Pyrex Storables pan with lid. The pan bakes the bars beautifully. The lid makes it easy to store the bars right in the pan.

Missy’s Jumbleberry Jam Bars

2 ½  cups flour

1 cup sugar

1 cup butter, at room temperature

1 egg

½ cup miscellaneous jam, such as blueberry, boysenberry, huckleberry, and strawberry

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Butter an 8-inch-square baking pan.

In the bowl of the food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse together the flour, sugar, and butter until it resembles coarse meal. Add the egg and pulse a couple more times.

Pour half the mixture into the baking pan and press the mixture into the pan.   Spread the jam over the crumb crust, being careful not to reach all the way to the sides or the jam will burn during baking.

Add the cinnamon and the pecans to the other half of the mixture, which is still in the food processor work bowl. Pulse four or five times to chop the pecans. Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the jam.

Bake the jumbleberry jam bars in the middle of the oven for about 35 to 40 minutes, or until the crumb topping is brown.  Let the jam bars cool completely before cutting into 24 bar.

Note: I think ½ cup jam is about right, but some other members of my family think I could increase the jam quantity even further. It’s your choice.


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