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Monday, October 5, 2015

The Great Migration -- TCC has a New Home!

Hello!  At long last, I have started back on the path of fun food stuff and with that comes a new home base so please come check out The Culinary Creative on Wordpress.

Big favor to ask, for those who subscribed to TCC on blogspot, will need to have you re-subscribe on Wordpress. There is a box on the right side where you can easily do that. I hope you will continue to follow me.

In the process of moving everything these past few weeks I realized that over the past eight years, TCC has put out some sweet stuff (and not just meaning desserts) that even I had forgotten about.{There has been a lot of drooling going on lately.} So I think in the new fad tradition of TBT, TCC maybe re-featuring some dormant recipes, so stay tuned for those.

Again, many thanks for your patience these past few months.  It feel great to be back in cooking mode and I look forward to having you join me for this next phase of The Culinary Creative.

See you soon!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Updates on TCC

Hello all!  I know it's been radio silent for a bit now and I apologize for that.

Have been experiencing some technical difficulties with access for non-subscribed followers and since I want recipe access to be easy and non-painful for everyone I am working on a plan to make that so.

Please don't give up on TCC yet, there is still plenty of good food and fun times in the kitchen ahead. So stay tuned for fresh and new and I will keep you posted when we are ready to relaunch.  Until then bon appetit!

Happy Food Thoughts,

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vietnamese Bánh mì Sandwiches with Fresh Pickled Radish & Carrots

My plate has been super full these days, but I am most fortunate to have foodie friends willing to help out. This post came about because on a recent food-filled trip to Charleston we saw a stall at the Saturday morning Farmer's Market selling Bánh mì sandwiches (Bánh mì is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread). Turns out my pal Deborah is a BIG Bánh mì sandwich fan and actually makes them at home (a lot). So for your eating edification, she offered to share not only the How To process but her recipe for crispy, Fresh Pickled Carrots and Radishes.

Vietnamese Bánh mì Sandwiches  

If you've ever had a Vietnamese Bánh mì Sandwich, you're probably already a fan. They are brilliantly magical! Starting with the lightly crisped bread, to the layered flavors of condiments, tangy crunchy vegetables, pungent fresh herb, the zesty bite of a chile pepper, and of course the savory protein star of the sandwich, everything about this sandwich is right.

The genius of the Bánh mì sandwich comes from its cultural fusion of French and Vietnamese flavors (from France's colonial period in Indochina). The Bánh mì sandwich pairs a sturdy French baguette, sausages and even pate with distinctly Asian flavors resulting in a portable meal that is both hearty and delicate. Bánh mì sandwiches can be made with any meat, from a thin-sliced garlicky chicken sausage or Asian-spiced pork tenderloin medallions to seasoned tofu or beef sate. You get the idea.

For many, the magic of these creations lies in the fresh vegetable pickles. Crisp and tangy, they elevate a humble sandwich into something sublime. Luckily, they are ridiculously simple to make and to experiment with. No canning or processing -- just slice up the veggies, add a hot sweet brine, wait at least an hour and voila! You've got fabulous pickles that are perfect for Bánh mì sandwiches, or to perk up any salads or antipasto plates.

Fresh Pickled Carrots and Radishes

2 large carrots (or 3 medium)
about 1 lb (16 oz.) Daikon or red globe radish both types of radish are easy to find in supermarkets
1 tsp salt preferably fine sea salt
2 tsp plus 1/2 cup sugar you can use Splenda or other substitute, you just need to experiment a bit to get the sweetness to your liking
1-1/4 cup white vinegar
1 cup water
Quart jar

Peel the daikon radish and carrots, then slice into matchsticks of roughly the same length and width. If using red globe radish, you can cut it into thin rounds vs. matchsticks. These radishes also give the pickles a beautiful pink tinge.

Place the vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 tsp of the sugar. Gently massage the vegetables for around 3 minutes. They will release some liquid and soften up.

Rinse the vegetables and drain in a colander. Then transfer them to your quart jar. You can also make these in a tupperware container if you don't have a jar.

For the brine, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar with vinegar and water over medium head until the sugar dissolves. No need to boil. Be sure all bubbling has stopped, you want the brine to cool a bit before pouring into the jar. This is important because you want to brine the vegetables -- not cook them! Fully cover your veggie pickles and discard any remaining brine.

Let them sit for at least an hour and then taste to adjust for seasoning. If you want them to be a touch sweeter, add more sugar. If you like them more tart, add a bit more vinegar. Play around!

You can use your fresh pickles after an hour, but the flavor is best after at least 24 hours. These pickles will keep in your fridge for up to a month, but I bet they don't last that long.

Note: radish pickles can seem a bit stinky when you first open the jar. Don't worry! They are still good. Just let them air out a bit before assembling your sandwich.

Now it's time to assemble your Bánh mì sandwich!

BREAD -- Slice open your bread roll, lightly toast, and take out some of the crumb on one side to make room for your vegetables. The only rule here on bread choice is don't pick a bread that is going to scratch up the top of your mouth when you eat the sandwich! You know what I mean. So use what works best for you: hoagie roll, ciabatta roll, baguette, etc.

FAT -- Use a homemade mayo, salted butter, garlic aioli, mashed avocado or my favorite -- sriracha mayo. Be sure to spread from edge to edge on your bread.

CONDIMENT -- Here's where you can get creative! Use hoisin sauce, Maggi seasoning (a wonderfully flavorful version of soy sauce), Sriracha sauce, or just a light sprinkling of fish sauce. Most any Asian sauce will work, it all depends on what you like. Again, be sure to spread from edge to edge on your bread so that every bite is perfectly flavorful.

PROTEIN -- You can use just about anything that makes your mouth water, just be sure it is sliced thin so it is easy to bite through. My favorite is a flavorful chicken sausage sliced on the diagonal.

CUCUMBER -- Thinly slice the cucumber of your choice. You can use any kind of cucumber, and peel them or not, as you wish.

CHILE PEPPER -- It's traditional to use thin slices of a chile pepper, but if that's not you're thing, no worries. Think jalapeno, thai chile, Anaheim or your personal favorite. I'm not so into the hotness, so I skip this part.

PICKLES -- Now it's time to use your favorite pickled vegetables! Drain them slightly before adding to your sandwich so it's not drippy and messy.

FRESH HERB -- Think cilantro, Thai or sweet basil, mint, or any pungent fresh herb that makes you happy.

Now take a look at your colorful, savory delicious masterpiece and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Check It Out: The Yunnan Cookbook

I have a fabulous cookbook recommendation to share with you, I am very giddy about this book and can't wait to dive into it further.

The Yunnan Cookbook: Recipes from China's Land of Ethnic Diversity could just as easily be a coffee table presentation piece as it is a book of recipes. Located in southwest China where it borders Vietnam, Laos, and Burma, the Yunnan Province has an ethnic diversity that is reflected in the dishes presented in this book. Coupled with essays and vignettes of the people and food of Yunnan are gorgeous photos (read: food porn) of featured dishes.

Some of the treats you will find inside are Steamed Pumpkin with Walnut and Herb Salad, Pan-fried Spicy Squid, Crispy Spring Onion Cakes, Stir-fried Pork with Jicama and Asparagus.  If you are a fan of condiments, there is a chapter on Preserves, if you are interested in Street Foods, they have that covered too, and if you love Mushroom, they've got you covered.

The authors have done amazing research and have modified the recipes (only slightly) to make it more general-user friendly in terms of being able to find what you need. Fresh ingredients are the key and these days most are pretty accessible, especially if you have an international market near you, so you don't have to worry about not being able to find ingredients. Whether for yourself or the cookbook-collecting foodie in your life, I think you should definitely check it out.

The Yunnan Cookbook: Recipes from China's Land of Ethnic Diversity
Annabel Jackson and Linda Chia
Blacksmith Books, 2014
ISBN-10: 9881613973
ISBN-13: 9789881613973
List price: $26.95

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cooper's Super Soup -- Four Mushroom Barley

With all the rain we’ve been getting lately in NC (sorry West Coast!), it seems like an excellent time to feature another of Cooper's Super Soups...Four Mushroom Barley. This one goes great with a grilled cheese sandwich on the side, though it's certainly hearty enough to stand on its own. However you want to do it, it's mmm mmm great. This soup got the Two Thumbs Up from Dad.

Four Mushroom Barley Soup

1/2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup boiling water
4 tbsp butter
2 cups (16 oz.) small white mushrooms, whole
2 portobello caps, cut in half, thinly sliced
3/4 cup (6 oz.) shitake mushrooms
1/3 cup sherry
1 large onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup pearl barley
2 bay leaves
1/2-1 tsp ground marjoram
pinch of dried dill weed
7 cups mushroom stock (see recipe below)
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper, to taste

Place porcinis in 1 cup of boiling water, cover and set aside for 20-30 minutes. Once rehydrated, drain the porcinis, but reserve the water. Once the mushrooms are cool, chop them up.

Melt butter in stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Throw in mixed mushrooms and cook about 10 minutes or until softened and reduced.

While stirring the mushrooms, add the sherry and let cook for a minute or two so the mushrooms can soak up the flavor. To intensify the flavor, allow the liquid to reduce a bit.

Stir in onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.

Mix in barley, bay leaves, marjoram, and dill then cook for another 5-10 minutes.

Add the reserved water from the porcinis, the mushroom broth, and crushed tomatoes. Let simmer covered for about 50 minutes, or until barley reaches desired level of cooking.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cooper's Thoughts

Lessons I learned from my first attempt making this soup:

  • Barley grows a lot and is very thirsty. First try had 1-1/2 cups of barley. It made for a great risotto.
  • The first time, I used some "fancy" mushrooms (maitake and white beech) in this soup, but they were too mild in flavor to notice. They weren't worth the extra expense.
  • Porcinis might be the only fancy mushroom worth spending the extra money on and should not be left out.
  • I would make a couple of minor modifications only if you are planning on serving most or all of the soup the day/night of. A little more barley could be added (no more than a 1/4 cup) if you cook the barley to al dente. It will continue to grow in the fridge overnight though (you were warned!). Also, diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes might be better the first serving. After chilling, however, the crushed tomatoes made this soup perfect!
  • For the stock on this soup, I had about 6 cups of my sweet and spicy mushroom broth left over and a cup of boxed chicken stock sitting in the fridge. Hopefully you saved the scraps from the Root Vegetable Soup, because that's what goes into the yummy stock (below).

Mushroom Stock

3 quarts of water
All the trimmings from the sweet potato, parsnip, turnip, carrots, and celery root (remove the stems from the celery root, but add a few leaves back in, maybe 4-5).
1 onion, quartered
4 portobello stems
Stems from 8 oz of shiitake
Gills from 2-4 portobellos
2 jalapenos, cut in half

Toss all ingredients in a stock pot and simmer for an hour.

Strain and set aside for later. As an aside, when I made this stock it was for another soup. I almost stopped at just the stock because it was so tasty!

This stock is incredibly flavorful, so it will overpower mild flavors (such as the dill that was added), but it really highlights the mushroomy flavor and adds a bit of heat that keeps everyone wondering where the peppers are.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Peeps Potato Pie

I don't often toss out the word "genius" when I describe my cooking, but I'm making an exception this time.  This was one of my drive-home-from-work-thinking-of-food inspirations.  If you love Peeps as much as I do (and you know you do) and are a fan of sweet potatoes, then you will love this Just in Time for Easter dessert.

The best part about it, sweet potatoes rank number one in healthiest vegetables and Peeps inspire happiness so this pie is both good for your body and your soul.  You're welcome.

I'd like to dedicate this post to my peep Mary BB whose love and appreciation of Peeps is only match by my own.

Peeps Potato Pie

2 large sweet potatoes (approx. 1 lb.)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 (9") deep dish pie crust

Boil sweet potatoes (with the skin on) for 45 minutes or until very fork tender.

When done, drain boiled water and replace with cold water.  Allow to sit for about 3-4 minutes.

Remove sweet potatoes from water and peel off the skin. Should come off very easily.

Mash sweet potatoes in a large mixing bowl, add butter and cream until fully incorporated.

Add the sugar, milk, eggs, vanilla and spices.  Mix until batter is smooth.  It will be very liquidy but that's what you want.

Pour batter into the pie crust and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

In the meantime, pull apart your Peeps and if so inclined, plan out your Peeps pie layout. I found this made the transition to pie top much easier.

After pie has been baking for 45 minutes, add Peeps layer to the top and continue baking for 10-15 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool and set. Garnish with Peeps if desired.


I chose orange bunnies because they complimented the color of the sweet potatoes. But as you know there are many options available so if you feel like blue chicks will work better for you, then go for it.

I call this one "Last of the Mohpeepkins"

If you want your Peeps less melty as not to traumatize the children with so many toasted bunny corpses then bake pie for 50 minutes, top with Peeps and put back in oven for 5-10 instead. When you put them on is entirely up to you.

Good Friday everyone and Have a Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fruit Gazpacho

No foolin' -- this is a great cold soup to enjoy as the weather is getting warmer, and just one of the many delicious recipes you'll find in Eat Raw, Eat Well.

Fruit Gazpacho
from Eat Raw, Eat Well (p. 110) with notes by K2

2 cups chopped hulled strawberries
1 cup frozen raspberries (see Tips)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup chopped kiwifruit
1 cup coconut water (see Tips)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice*
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
pinch fine sea salt

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and kiwi until chopped and broken down (it is important to keep the texture at this point). K2: I was a little too enthusiastic so lost some of my texture.

Add coconut water, lime juice, mint and salt.  Pulse to combine.

Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.


(from page 110) You may use any blend of frozen fruit in this recipe. I also like using blackberries, gooseberries or cherries. When making this soup, make sure to use at least 2 cups frozen berries to give the soup body.  K2: I used a frozen berry mix that had blackberries, black raspberries, blueberries and cherries. 

(from page 21) Coconut water, which is the watery liquid inside a young coconut, is nature's electrolyte replacer. It is full of naturally occurring salts and sugars, which help to regulate many bodily functions. It is also a great source of potassium. The best kind is straight from a young organic coconut, but if that is not available the next best thing is pure organic coconut water in cans not lined with biphenol A (BPA) or Tetra Paks. If you're purchasing coconut water, look for high-quality products that don't contain additives or preservatives (many prepared coconut waters have added sugar and other ingredients).

* two small limes will yield 1/4 cup fresh squeezed juice

Monday, March 30, 2015

Check It Out: Eat Raw, Eat Well

Spring is sprunging! theory that is...but that means fresh garden produce is just around the corner. Can't wait.

And that idea brings me to a new cookbook I have to share with you. Eat Raw, Eat Well: 400 Raw, Vegan & Gluten-Free Recipes. I've had friends who have taken the raw diet path, if even for a short spell, and I've always been intrigued by it. There are so many vegetables that lose something in the cooking process so I definitely understand the benefits, but wasn't sure if there were really that many decent recipes that you could survive off of...come to find out, there are at least 400.

Some of the recipes that caught my eye were the Kale Waldorf Salad, Mango and Pineapple Gelato, Red Beet Ravioli, Sweet Potato and Zucchini Mac'n'Cheese, but the one the parents and I decided to experiment with was the Fruit Gazpacho. YUM! (Recipe to follow soon.)

The book does a nice intro to navigating a raw good diet and equipping your raw food kitchen. If you are going to commit to an all raw diet, investing in a good food dehydrator is key. At least half of the recipes called for use of one, but there were still a LOT of recipes that did not.

So if you want to branch out and try something new, Eat Raw, Eat Well will be a great guide to discovery.

Eat Raw, Eat Well: 400 Raw, Vegan & Gluten-Free Recipes
Douglas McNish
Robert Rose Inc. 2012
ISBN 978-0-7788-0295-2 ($24.95)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cooper's Super Soup -- Sausage and Winter Root Vegetable

FACT  my friend Cooper makes super soups. He and I and another work friend used to do soup exchanges in the winter. Always looked forward to seeing what he would come in with next because they were always D-licious. Then I left for another job and the soup exchange was no more (insert sad face here). So when Cooper approached me about doing a guest post and featuring one of his soup recipes I was totally on board. So now I present for you culinary enjoyment, a super soup.

Cooper’s Super Soup
Sausage and Winter Root Vegetable

1 lb. Italian turkey sausage (spicy!)
2 tbsp. butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. fennel seed
~ 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper
3/4 cup white wine
2 large carrots
2 small-medium turnips
1 large or 2 small parsnips
1 medium celery root
1 large sweet potato
Salt n pepa (push it to taste)
4 Roma tomatoes, 1/4" dice
~1 tbsp. dried basil
~2 tsp. dried oregano
8 cups vegetable stock

Wash and peel all root vegetables. Cut all into 1/4-1/2" cubes. Set aside for later (see note).

In 2 gallon stockpot/Dutch oven, melt 1 tbsp. butter over medium heat. Remove turkey sausage from casing and brown. Stir to break up chunks. Once browned, remove to paper towel-lined plate with slotted spoon to drain.

Add remaining butter to pot and melt. Add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally until translucent.

Add fennel seed and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir until strongly aromatic, then deglaze with a splash of wine.

Add root vegetables, salt and pepper to taste. Stir until root vegetables until all take up the reddish tint from the sausage grease, and let cook for 5-10 minutes.

Stir in tomatoes, remaining wine, basil and oregano. Add sausage and stock, mix and bring to boil.

Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, or until veggies are tender. Remove lid and simmer for up to an additional 15 minutes to reduce stock if necessary.

Cooper Notes

As far as stock goes, this is a free veggie stock soup.  All scraps can be frozen for a future vegetable stock, and the variety of root veggies should make for a broth no one can quite put their finger on.

From my raw taste test, the leaves from the celery root are delicious yet potent, but the stems are very bitter (including the base of the leaf). I think the leaves would make for a very nice addition to a stock (or a garnish) with discretion as they are strongly flavored, but the stems are compost.

On the topic of stock, I used 4 cups of homemade spicy chicken stock (from a white bean chicken chili I had made) and 4 cups boxed veggie stock for my first batch. The homemade stock definitely added to the soup, but boxed chicken/beef broth (and extra hot peppers) might achieve the same flavor.

On preparing the root vegetables – this recipe calls for a lot of washing, peeling, and chopping tough roots. If you don't have a razor sharp peeler/knife or a good sous chef, it can take some time. With my limited cooking space and unfamiliarity with some ingredients, it took me about 40 minutes to prep all the roots.

To keep them from changing color/oxidizing, I had a large mixing bowl with vinegar-water mixture on the side for the roots to soak in (~1 tbsp vinegar with water to cover). From what I've read, any acidic water will do the trick. Just toss in a colander to strain before adding to stockpot.

K2 Note

Thank you, Cooper!  Very much appreciate the share and look forward to more good stuff from your kitchen.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spicy Turkey Sausage Lasagna

When my friend Laurabee came into town a few weeks ago I threw together a couple small lasagnas, one for us to share and one for the Parental Units since Mom was still in recovery mode from her knee surgery.  Apparently it turned out pretty well because her first question was when was I going to post it? So finally got a chance to throw another together to share with you guys.

Spicy Turkey Sausage Lasagna

5 hot turkey sausage links
4 cups (32 oz.) crushed tomatoes
salt and fresh cracked pepper, to taste
2-1/2 cups ricotta
2-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 zucchini, halved and sliced thin
4 cups fresh chopped spinach
oven ready or regular cooked lasagna noodles (14-16)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan

Remove the casings from the turkey sausage links and tear the sausage into small pieces.  Cook the pieces over medium-high heat in a deep skillet, chopping into smaller bits with a spatula.

Once the turkey sausage is browned, add in 3-1/2 cups of the crushed tomatoes (set aside other 1/2 cup for final layer).  Season with salt and pepper to your liking.  Reduce heat to low.

In a medium bowl, mix together ricotta with 2 cups of the shredded mozzarella (set aside other 1/2 cup for final layer) and dried parsley.  Set aside.

Chop the zucchini into flat pieces (easier for layering).

Julienne the fresh spinach into smaller pieces. I actually found a spinach-arugula blend that adds another flavor note to the mix.

In a 9 x 13 pan, spread 1/4 cup of the crushed tomatoes you had set aside.  Lay down a layer of noodles.

Cover with half of the spicy sausage tomato mix.  Next add half of the cheese mixture.  Next sprinkle half the zucchini pieces and half of the chopped spinach.

Lay down another layer of noodles and repeat process.

Cover the whole thing with one more layer of noodles.  Top with last 1/4 cup of crushed tomatoes and sprinkle the rest of the shredded mozzarella and the Parmesan.

Cover with foil and bake for 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees.  Uncover and cook for another 10-15 minutes until baked through.

Buon appetito!


If you've never tried them before, oven ready lasagna noodles are pretty good. They do cost a bit more than regular, but if you're into time saving, then they're pretty handy.

The first time I made this I used regular turkey sausage.  I accidentally picked up the hot sausage this time and now I think I would not go back to regular.  It's hot, but not burn-your-face-off-hot.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cajun Spice Pecan Cheese Bites

Since my blog promoters (aka Parents) have been touting these goodies about town, I wanted to get them posted for you all sooner rather than later.  I have some guests posts coming up this week that I think you are really going to like.

Last weekend I helped celebrate my friend Dana's birthday with a mini feast of Cajun goodness.  My contribution to the eatin's were these little treats.  I really wanted to make cheese straws but much to my chagrin, I found I didn't have a cookie press readily on hand so went the biscuit cutter route.

The cheese bites have just that, a nice bite that sneaks up on you.  The pecans make a sweet complement to the red pepper and bring it all together.

Cajun Spice Pecan Cheese Bites

8 tbsp. butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded
1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped pecans, small bits

Cream together the soft butter and cheeses.

Add flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper and bring it all together as a dough.

Mine was very crumbly in the mixing bowl, so I transferred it to a rolling mat and kneaded it together until it formed a solid ball of dough.

Fold the pecan bits into the dough until evenly distributed.

With a rolling pin, roll dough out to about a 1/2" thickness and use a small biscuit cutter to cut small discs.  I split my dough in half and rolled out one half at a time, made it easier to manage.  You can re-roll the dough until all is used up.

Place discs on lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until crispy and golden brown around the edges.

Remove from oven and immediately transfer to a cooling rack.