Olive Flatbread with Hummus to Dip (or Spread)

If you've been following my blog for a while, you probably know I favor salty, tangy or spicy over sweets . . . (although I do like a little sweet snack or dessert once in a while.)

Hmmm... salty... as in olives? 
When it comes to olives, I love them all.  I haven't met an olive I have not liked. Particular favorites are Greek Kalamatas and Dry-Cured olives  ~ so naturally I was immediately drawn to this recipe for Olive Flatbread.


It's another recipe from Christina's Orchid's cookbook "Christina's".  I've previously posted about Christina, and her 25+ year career with her very successful restaurant on Orcas Island, off the coast of Washington state... here and here.

This flatbread is incredibly flavorful; it is at its' best when served warm (which I recommend.)  

You can use any kind of olive or a mix of olives that you prefer, although the watery canned or bottled ones probably will not work so well in this recipe.  I use pitted Kalamatas in brine from the market. You can usually find them at the olive bar in the store, or in the refrigerated Deli case. If you cure your own olives ~ all the better!

The olives become a bit more assertive after being baked, a perfect paring to the smooth (yet garlic laced) hummus. And even if you don't care to serve it with hummus, it is fabulous served along with some fruity olive oil for dipping. Even the less expensive second pressing of olive oil, when warmed and steeped with some flavorful herbs and/or a garlic clove makes this one a winner as well.  A little dish of Balsamic vinegar and olive oil to dip the warm bread? Oh that works, too!

Note on the hummus: After making hummus a few times, you won't even need a recipe. Two good recipes to get you started is one from 
The Barefoot Contessa, and another
from Giada DeLaurentiis.

I generally use garbanzo beans (or cannellini beans), some tahini (ground sesame seed paste/spread), olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and a little water to thin it out, if necessary and a couple of shakes of hot sauce if you like it a little spicy.  The tahini is optional in some recipes, but I like to add it for the depth of flavor it provides. Cook your own dried beans, or simply used canned.

If you would like a printable copy for the flatbread, you'll find it on my recipe blog HERE.

Reminder ~ It's not too late ~ to enter
the drawing for the $50. gift certificate. 
(See details at the top of the right hand column.)
Contest ends at 9PM (Pacific Time) TONIGHT!
(March 31, 2011)

Thank you for visiting today! ~m.


Homemade Pasta with Marinara and Charred Cherry Tomato Sauce

This is a delicious and easy meal to put together if you have some marinara sauce in the house ~  It's quite budget friendly, too.

For this dish I always make it with my favorite homemade tomato sauce, which I posted about a couple of years ago:
  Arturo's 25 year old Marinara Sauce.  

That link tells the story of the name of the sauce and has step-by-step photos.  

For the printer friendly version of the recipe,  you can find it on the Once Upon a Plate recipe blog, HERE.

The ingredients for the homemade Marinara Sauce.  (Dried herbs are perfectly acceptable, too.)

I usually always have a quart of it in the refrigerator or freezer.

I like making homemade pasta ~  But by all means, if you don't make your own ~ or if you're simply short on time use store-bought.

I used the food processor to mix up the dough this time--it goes together in less than 3 minutes. But you can make it right on a work surface, by hand, using the well method if you prefer.

I use my trusty old hand-crank pasta roller to roll and cut the noodles. I barely knead the dough by hand before putting it through the pasta roller (rolling and folding the dough takes the place of kneading and cutting the pasta by hand.)  

If you're looking for a hand-crank pasta machine, I recommend selecting one that is made in Italy (check the label before purchasing).  Sturdy and very well made.

Or you can skip the machine and roll the pasta dough by hand using a rolling pin then cut the pasta into noodles with a knife.

For the charred cherry tomatoes, just place the tomatoes (as many or as few as you like) on a shallow, rimmed baking pan lined with parchment, or a silicone baking mat, drizzle with olive oil and roll them around so they are well coated in the oil.  

Sprinkle with coarse salt and roast in a 450* F, preheated oven until the tomato skins begin to char and burst. (about 12 to 20 minutes ~ depending upon your oven.)  I roll them around on the pan once or twice while they are roasting so they roast evenly.  

As you probably know, roasting tomatoes brings out the sweetness in them, and can make even anemic winter-crop tomatoes taste flavorful and delicious.

To serve ~ Place the hot, cooked fettucini (or other cooked pasta) on warm plates, ladle some hot marinara sauce over the pasta, place several charred cherry tomatoes on top of each serving and pass the freshly grated Parmesan cheese at the table.  I always garnish with some fresh herbs... Italian flat-leaf Parsley from the garden this time.

It's very good, (and full of healthful anti-oxidants,too.)

If you would like a printable copy of the marinara recipe, you can find it HERE on my recipe blog. 

Thank you for visiting today!


Super Yummy Peanut Butter and Chocolate Oat Squares

Ya, well we've been doing quite well with our healthier eating habits for the past several months . . .  SO . . .

Every once in a while I'll make some kind of treat as a reward for our efforts ~ it's okay to do that, you know. ;)

See the thin layer of peanut butter between chocolate topping and  the peanut butter-
 & oat cookie base ?!  Yummy.

I was in the mood to make something sweet, but the pantry is kept rather bare of "dessert-making" ingredients since we revamped our way of eating . . .  However, I do keep peanut butter, rolled oats, and always a bag of chocolate chips, (for emergencies) on hand.  So I went hunting for a recipe that matched my ingredients.  


This looked like a good one ~  I found the recipe on Calli's blog  "Make-it-do".  Besides being a wife and mom Calli is quite talented.  If you have a moment stop by and take a look, I think you'll like her style.

The squares (or bars) are really easy to make ~ just mix up the ingredients for the cookie base (butter, sugar, peanut butter, eggs, vanilla, baking soda, salt, flour and rolled oats), press mixture into a jelly roll pan and bake it for about 15 minutes.

As soon as it is finished baking, remove it from the oven and drop spoonfuls of peanut butter on top. As the peanut butter begins to melt, spread it out evenly over the hot surface of the cookie base with a spatula.  Allow it to cool thoroughly, then just make the chocolate topping and pour it over.  As soon as the chocolate sets up cut into squares or bars . . . and enjoy!

(See below for link to printable recipe)

~  * ~  * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Something worthy to share with you bakers out there!

If  you've been following my blog for any length of time, you probably know I've been a home cook & baker for many, many years.  Because I bake a lot, I have gone through my share of baking pans (sheet pans, cake pans, bread pans, etc.)  ranging in quality from middle to premium and commercial grade. I like to bake cakes, cookies, breads, muffins, cupcakes, etc. in metal pans (but I avoid traditional 'non-stick'.) I've never been 100% satisfied with any of them after a using them for a a few years. 

BUT,  I have finally found a line of baking pans that are sturdily built, which I recommend ~ and the bonus is, they are made in the USA.  (Come on peeps, our economy NEEDS all the help it can get ~ and YOU can make a difference by buying products made in the USA.)  

And the brand name is EASY enough to remember ~
 "USA Baking Pans"! 

 In fact, I baked these squares in the  15 x10-inch USA Baking Pan. 


USA Baking Pans Product Features

  • Commercial grade, heavy gauge jellyroll pan
  • Made of aluminized steel; corrugation provides even cooking, extra strength
  • Coated with Americoat; silicone coating on top and bottom; non-stick surface
  • Americoat is environmentally friendly; does not contain PTFE's or PFOA's; silicone is a natural substance
  • Made in USA by American Pan in Pittsburg, PA; largest worldwide manufacturer of commercial bakeware

Absolutely no sticking, and the pans practically wipe clean.  I simply hand wash & dry them ~ they clean up in a flash.

The company make all kinds of high quality baking pans; here's a LINK if you would like to take a look at a selection.


BUT . . .  Back to the Squares . . .


If you would like a printable copy of the recipe, it is HERE on my recipe blog.

Thanks for stopping by today, please leave me a comment ~ I LOVE your company!  xo

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Two Natural Pacific Northwest Treasures ~

Ann Thibeault Signature, hand-crafted Vancouver Island Big Leaf Maple serving and cutting boards, and Dungeness Crab.
Both are valued treasures of the Pacific Northwest.

The Dungeness crabs are common on the west coast and fairly easy to come by during crab season here.

However, the unique boards ~ each made with one single piece of hardwood Vancouver Island Big Leaf Maple are one-of-a-kind, and not common.


My friend Ann authors one of my favorite blogs, Thibeault's Table. She and her husband Moe, are a very talented couple who reside in British Columbia, Canada.

Besides being an extraordinary cook, baker and photographer, she and her husband also handcraft beautiful one-of-a-kind Vancouver Big Leaf Maple boards. The sandwich boards above, are just one example of their fine work.

Along with sandwich boards, they also offer Baguette Boards, Cheese Boards, Presentation Boards as well as Butcher Blocks.

You must see them in the Gallery ~ And keep in mind, as lovely as the photos are, the boards are even more impressive in person.

These are no ordinary mass-produced boards; each one is skillfully finished, allowing the beautiful natural wood grain to reveal itself. These are not boards you will hide in a cabinet or cupboard ~ they are works of art!

The pieces are available at the finest gift, kitchenware and cookware shops in Vancouver, British Columbia. And recently The Wickaninnish Inn and Spa, (the world-class Tofino resort) decided to include one of Ann Thibeault's signature cheese boards in each of the gift baskets given to their holiday guests.
What lucky guests! ~ And what an honour for the Thibeault's, I'm sure.

The good news is, even if you can't get to Vancouver, BC immediately, you can purchase their boards via the web. Click below to browse the abundant selection at their on-line Gallery.
Learn more about the
'Ann Thibeault Signature Cutting and Serving Board Collection' at:

The boards can be shipped to Canada and to the U.S. as well.
If you are outside of these areas please inquire through the Gallery email (on the site), to see if other options are available.


Dungeness Crab
(pronounced: DUN-ge-NESS)

Metacarcinus magister (formerly Cancer magister) named after a small town and the shallow bay inside of DungenessSpit on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State.
Dungeness crabs are harvested along other parts of the west coast as well.

As far a sustainability, SEAFOOD WATCH, has given Dungeness Crab a rating of "Best Choice".

Usually we enjoy our Dungeness as shown above (after being cleaned of the inedible parts*), then after being cracked everyone picks the crab meat themselves, (aka~ a "Crab Feed"). But there are so many other ways of serving this delectable crustacean . . . as crab cakes, in seafood crepes, seafood omelets, quiche, as a substitute for Canadian Bacon in Eggs Benedict, or a Crab Louis, etc.

This is yet one more way ~ a simple but very tasty sandwich.

A (now long gone), small local restaurant chain in my hometown of Palo Alto, California would serve these beauties up every Friday during Dungeness Crab season in the SF Bay area. A sublime treat!

After many years, the little chain sold a couple of their restaurants and several years later, eventually closed their doors for good. BAH!

What were we to do?!

Well, make our own at home, of course. You don't need a "recipe" ~ here's how you do it~

All it takes is a good quality French Roll, split lengthwise. I used a baguette this time...
Preheat the oven to 350*F.

In a bowl mix the crabmeat with a generous amount of GOOD quality (non-sweet) mayonnaise; Best Foods/Hellmann's for example. A little squeeze of lemon and a few shakes of traditional Red Tabasco (TM) sauce. Mix that up and slather on the bread, being as generous with the crab meat mix as you like.

Place the sandwich halves on a shallow baking sheet (helps with clean-up if you line with parchment, or foil) Sprinkle generously with grated cheddar cheese. Place in the oven until the crab is hot, and the cheese is melted and bubbly.
Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little Cayenne pepper before serving ~ and offer more Tabasco (TM)
Be careful! They will be uber HOT right from the oven.

Note: I like the rolls a little crispy, so I place them in the oven for a few minutes after splitting them (before the crab goes on them), then continue the recipe from that point.

Tip: To serve as 'two-bite' size appetizers ~ cut the baguette into 1/4 to 1/2-inch slices (vertically), toast under the broiler on one side. Then spread the crab mix on the un-toasted side, place pieces on a shallow baking pan and continue with the recipe. It will only take a couple of moments for them to be hot and bubbly.

*You can easily clean the crabs yourself, or ask your fish monger or fish-counter person to do it for you, usually this is a complimentary service.

Thanks for stopping by today, and thank you for any thoughts you'd like to share.


Roasted-Garlic Soup with Cheddar Cheese & Mild Green Chilies

Honk if you're ready for some Spring weather!

Many of the early spring bulbs are blooming in the garden, but old man winter seems reluctant to leave us just yet... As evidenced by the nasty storm that blew through last weekend.

I like soup almost any time of year, something light, or chilled when the weather warms up ~
but for now it's still "hearty soup" time in these parts. This one is from Christina Orchid, as found in "Christina's Cookbook" ~ Recipes and Stories from a Northwest Island Kitchen.

I recently posted about Christina's recipe for (Herb Salsa and Chevre Crackers), and a couple of years ago I did a post about another of her recipes (Fennel and Oregano Breadsticks) ~ my favorite breadsticks. And they are EASY to make.

This was one of Christina's most popular soups during the 25 years she owned and and cooked at her legendary restaurant named, appropriately enough, "Christina's", located on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington state.

Chicken stock, roasted garlic, onions, potatoes, cream, buttermilk, mild cheddar and mild green chilies make this soup a substantial one that will warm you from the inside out. It received thumbs-up at my house. It's flavorful, yet mellow ~ not spicy.

Leftovers reheat beautifully (you'll need to add more stock, milk or cream though, because it thickens up after being chilled)

You can also garnish it this way:

That's the way I like it, put some more calories on top. Uh-huh! :D

Would you like a printable copy of the recipe (including my time-saving shortcuts?)

Come on over to Once Upon a Plate ~ The Recipes!

Schiacciata ~ Grilled Vegetables and Cheese

What exactly is “Schiacciata” (Skee-ach-iata) you might ask?

I never knew the proper name for this bread, I just called it Stuffed Foccacia ~ (and basically that's what it is.) The word literally means flattened, smashed, crushed in Italian.

From Tuscany, Schiacciata con "l'Uva" (crushing the grapes) is the traditional flatbread stuffed and topped with grapes during autumn (grape harvest time). The one I made is a savory variation stuffed with grilled vegetables, and cheese.

Since I have been working with my whole what sourdough starter for the past few months, that is what I used for the foccacia dough.

I can tell you with almost absolute certainty that California Brie would not be found in an authentic Italian version, but the Parmesan might be. :)

The vegetables I used ~
I sauteed the shallots, and sliced the other veggies, brushed them with olive oil and grilled them off on the stovetop grill and sprinkled lightly with sea salt as they finished cooking.

I didn't use a formal recipe for my version, I just made the foccacia dough, divided it in half and rolled it out. After grilling the vegetables and allowing them to cool I layered them with the cheeses on one rolled out piece of dough, then topped with the other piece of dough and crimped the edges.

After dimpling the top of the dough with my fingertips, I brushed it with olive oil and allowed it to rise (about 45 minutes.) Just before baking it in a hot oven, I sprinkled the top lightly with sea salt. Herbes de Provence (another non-traditional touch!)

If you use whole wheat, or all purpose flour the dough will rise much higher than this whole wheat sourdough version. (In order to reach maximum rise, sourdough (without yeast) requires a much longer rising time ~ but that wasn't practical considering it was stuffed with the grilled veggies, so I just allowed it to rise for about 45 minutes.)

It was very good ~ served warm or at room temperature. I shaped this one into a rectangle, but you can also roll the dough into rounds ~ it makes little difference.

If you would like a printable recipe for Schiacciata (or stuffed foccacia), you can find a good one HERE.

Thanks for stopping by today!

A Sampling of my food . . .


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