Wednesday, December 31, 2008

In this week's CSA box

A head of cauliflower
a few small broccoli florets
a bunch of kale
2 bunches of cilantro
a head of cabbage
2 oranges
4 grapefruit
2 small bunches of baby bok choy
a bag of mixed greens
a bunch of radishes
a dozen eggs

Mmm....the menu for the next few days:
Wednesday: Leftovers for supper and for New Year's Eve-strawberries, bananas, chocolate pudding, angel food cake, cheese, sausage and crackers plus Green Punch and Blood Orange juice with sparkling water
Thursday: Traditional Southern New Year's Meal: Black-eyed peas, cornbread, and greens with sauce (using the kale)
Friday: Turkey pot pie (using leftover turkey) and fresh broccoli

The family leaves early Thursday morning so I am going to try to get back to a normal schedule and back on track with blogging recipes. I can think of lots of sides I am eager to make: braised root vegetables, bok choy salad, roasted brussels sprouts and cauliflower. I just need to come up with a few more main dishes! Maybe it's time for more cabbage bread soup using some of that leftover cheese I have in the refrigerator and the loaf of whole wheat bread. We'll see how things pan out over the weekend!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Roasted Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts

Even though I've said this a lot, I never really liked brussel sprouts or cauliflower before joining a CSA and being forced to find ways to eat them. This is hands down my favorite recipe for both. The flavor is wonderful. Nothing is soggy, mushy, or overcooked. Curtis enjoys this recipe quite a bit as well. J didn't eat any and M stated she doesn't like cauliflower cooked in the oven. We finally got her to eat a little by rinsing it off in the sink (Curtis told her it was rinsed and he steamed it). Then she liked it just fine. 3 year olds.... We served this as a side for Delilah's Macaroni and Cheese (a half recipe was tons!!) that my brother made for supper.

The recipe recommends marinating this overnight. I wasn't so organized so it didn't marinate at all and was still really tasty. I am sure marinating would only make it better but it's ok if it doesn't happen.

Roasted Cauliflower and Brussel Sprouts
1 medium cauliflower, cut into 1" florets
2 c brussel sprouts, havled lengthwise
2 T olive oil
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 t fresh rosemary
1/2 t pepper

Combine cauliflower and brussel sprouts in a large bowl. Drizzle olive oil over top. Add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 450. Spread vegetables in a single layer on greased cookie sheets. Sprinkle with 3/4 t coarse salt. Roast at 450 until vegetables are crisp-tender and beginning to brown at the edges, 15 - 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

White Bean Soup and Celery Salad

The meal my sister decided to make was White Bean Soup (from Epicurious) and Celery Salad. I must admit, I was a little hesitant about the celery salad, especially the dates, but it was really, really good. The white bean soup recipe recommended drizzling white truffle oil on top, but next time I will skip that part--I couldn't tell any difference when the white truffle oil was added and at almost $20 for a bottle, it's too expensive not to notice (thankfully, my sister bought that and not me!). However, when Sunday came around and my sister was supposed to make lunch, she was sick with the stomach bug which went around our house. My mom and I followed the recipe closer than my sister would have. We used canned beans instead of dried beans (3 cans to be exact) and used some of the leftover homemade turkey broth from the turkey we made for Christmas day. We didn't quite puree all of it, but I think next time, I will. I love pureed soups!

Here's the celery salad recipe:

Celery Salad
1/2 of a large bunch of celery
1/2 c chopped dates
3/4 c pecans or walnuts, toasted or chopped

1/2 lg shallot, minced
1 T sherry or red wine vinegar
3 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 c Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan or Asiago) cheese, shaved

Combine celery, dates, and nuts. In a small jar or dressing shaker, vigorously shake together shallot, vinegar, oil, and salt and pepper. Stir into celery mixture. Top with grated cheese.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


My grandparents lived in Japan for a year (or two?) working in a school there. One of the things we gained from that experience was the festive dish of Skiyaki. I found this recipe a year ago. It is similar to skiyaki in that it is a communal meal--a hot pot in the center of the table to cook the food in. However, the cooking sauce is water and seaweed based instead of soy sauce based which reduces the salt considerably! I also like how this recipe uses more ingredients that may be found in Japanese cuisine instead of our very, very Americanized version.

All the work of this meal takes place in cutting the food for eating and making the dipping sauce. When it's time to eat, new ingredients as the old ingredients get eaten right out of the pot! It's a fun, festive, healthy meal. This time of the year, a lot of the ingredients can be found at the farmer's market. We used our leftover vegetables the next evening (mushrooms and leeks) on top of a pizza. We sat the kids at the end of the table, farthest away from the hot pot to prevent them from burning themselves. They both loved it. M especially liked the shrimp.

Dipping Sauce
1/2 c fresh lime juice
2/3 c tamari soy sauce
1 T sake (or mirin)
1/2 c daikon, finely grated
2 t ginger root, peeled and finely grated
1/2 c chopped scallions

Liquid for hot pot
3 c water
8 -inch piece of dried konbu

Ingredients for cooking in hot pot
2 medium bok choy, cuting 2 inch pieces
4 bunches scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
3 leeks, well rinsed, tender white parts cut into rings 1/4" wide
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 pound spinach, washed and stemmed (we omitted and just used more bok choy)
1 cake tofu, pressed and cut into 1/2" cubes (I may or may not use next time....)
1 pound scallops
1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined

4 - 6 servings of cooked rice

Slice and prepare vegetables, putting each a separate bowl. Prepare tofu and seafood, putting each in separate bowl. Refrigerate until everything is ready to cook.

For the dipping sauce, combine the lime juice, soy sauce, and sake in a saucepan and heat on low heat. In each of four individual bowls (or however many people that are eating--this will comfortably feed 4 - 6 adults), put 1 T grated daikon, 1/4 t of grated ginger root, and 1 T chopped scallions. To each bowl add 3 T of soy sauce mixture. Some extra dipping suace and garnishes will be left to freshen each bowl during the meal.

In a large shallow pan on a hot plate (or I've found a large electric skillet works great!) in the center of the table, heat the water and konbu until it begins to boil. Let it boil slowly for 2 minutes. Remove the konbu. During the meal, heat more water in the microwave to boiling and add to the skillet as needed. (The electric skillet should be set to around 250 degrees).

Once everyone is seated, beging cooking, adding the scallops and shrimp first, then the leeks and tofu, then the bok choy and mushrooms, then the scallions, and finally, just when everything is ready to eat, add the spinach.

To eat, remove desired ingredients from hot pot, dip into dipping sauce and put on top of rice (in a small bowl for each guest). Keep adding and removing ingredients as long as everyone is still hungry.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Orange Cinnamon Rolls

It is a long standing tradition in my family to have cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning before we open presents. I know craziness, to do anything before presents , but that's how we do it. Whether we are at my parents' house or ours, cinnamon rolls come first. It's always a debate about whose recipe we are going to make--my brother's, my dad's or mine. We've come to an understanding that whatever state is hosting gets to make the rolls. This year, I got to make my cinnamon rolls. I think this is one of the best tasting roll recipes I've had--I've even gotten my brother to convert to my recipe!

To make preparation easier on Christmas morning. I let the formed rolls rise overnight in the refrigerator. In the morning, when I preheat the oven, I remove the rolls from the fridge and let them warm up on the counter before putting them in the hot oven. This extends the cooking time slightly. Another option would be to form this into a bread loaf of cinnamon swirl bread (also very good!).

Orange Cinnamon Rolls
1/4 c warm water
1 T active dry yeast
2 c whole wheat bread flour (or regular whole wheat if you can't find w.w. bread flour)
1 c milk, scalded
3/4 c orange juice
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c butter, melted
1 egg
1 T orange peel, grated
1 1/2 t salt
3 1/2 - 5 1/2 c bread flour

2 T butter, melted
2/3 c sugar
2 T ground cinnamon

Combine warm water and yeast in a small bowl and stir to dissolve. Combine whole wheat flour, milk, orange juice, 1/2 c sugar, 1/4 c butter, egg, orange peel, and salt in a large mixing bowl and mix well. When cooled to lukewarm, add yeast mixture and mix. Add enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead 8 - 10 minutes or until smooth. Place in a greased bowl, turn to grease both sides, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours. Punch down and divide in half. Roll or stretch each portion to a large rectangle.

Combine 1/3 c sugar and cinnamon. Put 1/2 of melted butter on each rectangle. Top with cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll up lengthwise and cut into 1 - 2 inch slices (the easiest way to do this is with a string. Loop the bottom of the string underneath the dough. Cross the ends and pull until the string cuts the dough). Place in greased 9 - 13 inch baking pan. (If making this a day ahead, put in the refrigerator now). Let rise until doubled in size. Bake in a preheated 350 oven for about 20 - 25 minutes. Leave in pans for 5 minutes, then cool on wire rack. Top with favorite cinnamon roll icing (either cream cheese/confectioners sugar or just confectioners sugar/water icing) if desired. We usually eat these without icing. However, as M believes, icing never hurt anything! This will make 18 - 24 rolls depending on size.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Caramel Pecan Sauce

For years, I was sure I didn't like bread pudding. Then, I tasted some from a local restaurant and promptly fell in love. Oh my goodness. Ever since that fateful evening in June I've been wanting to try my hand at bread pudding and have been on a look-out for a good recipe. Sunday evening, I took the plunge and attempted making my own.

I must say, I was pleased with the results. The original recipe calls for bourbon, but since alcohol infuriates me these days (mostly as a result of not being able to partake myself) I decided I didn't want to buy a bottle of bourbon for 2 T (and consequently watch Curtis drink some every evening). I left it out and the sauce was still divine. At first I thought it was too sweet, but now, I don't think so at all. I am still learning how to caramelize sugar on the stove top. The directions called for the sugar/water mixture to be a dark amber, however, I wasn't very clear on exactly what a dark amber looked like. I think I could have cooked it a little longer.

I will make this again and again and again. I need to have more people to feed it to though. I am scared we won't be able to eat all the leftovers before it goes bad (although I am definitely trying! I have discovered it is GREAT!!! comfort food). For leftovers, I put a little on a plate topped with some hard caramel and then I just microwave it all for 30 seconds. Perfect.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Menu for the Week

As we all know, it's Christmas week. For me that means lots of family coming into town. Here's what we are planning on eating. I am going to try to post daily, but I can't promise anything. :)

Sunday (I know it's past, but it was an awesome meal so I need to tell about it!): Roasted Chicken, Collard Greens with Sauce, Mashed Potatoes, and Chocolate Bread Pudding with Caramel Pecan Sauce for dessert. I hope to post about the bread pudding sometime today....
Monday: Sallie (mother-in-law) is cooking supper---probably tortilla soup using some of the broth and leftover chicken from Sunday's roasted chicken
Tuesday: Mizutaki (mmm....a Japanese one pot, cook at the table meal which is perfect for winter vegetables)
Wednesday (Christmas Eve): Bread and cheese platter, fresh citrus and apples, hard salami, and green punch and probably popcorn for the kids
Thursday (Christmas): Orange Cinnamon Rolls and fruit salad (for breakfast before opening presents). The rest of the day we will probably have leftovers--we will be switching out guests and I suspect all will need some rest...
Friday: Roasted Brined Turkey, Sweet Potatoes and Apples, a green salad, bread stuffing, cranberry salsa, and pies (plus whatever else my family decides they need for their Christmas meal)

After Friday I hope to have my family sign up/volunteer to cook some meals over the weekend and the following week. We'll make a farmer's market trip on Saturday to stock up on veggies since there is no CSA box this week. It's a busy food time!

Lentils with Fennel and Sausage

I was excited to get a fennel bulb (complete with fronds) in the CSA box last week and promptly started looking for a recipe. I love fennel--it tastes somewhat like black licorice and smells absolutely wonderful when you are cutting it. This recipe looked perfect for what I was looking for.

For the most part I loved the recipe. I ended up making it on an evening when neither Curtis or M were at home. I followed the recipe pretty closely, except I used only 1 lb sausage instead of 1 1/2 pounds. Even with reducing the sausage, I still thought there was way too much sausage and not enough lentils. Overall though, the recipe was great. It was pretty with the orange from the carrots and the fennel gave it a wonderful flavor. J loved it as well. He felt the same way about the sausage I did and didn't eat his sausage either. However, when Curtis ate the leftovers the next day, he thought the sausage was great. I will definitely make this recipe again (and may even buy fennel if I need to in order to make it!).

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Black and White Mandelbrot

This is the plate of cookies teachers, etc got this Christmas. Going around the plate (starting at about 10:00) is Black and White Mandelbrot, Chow Mein Cookies, Sand Tarts, Linzer cookies (the star shaped ones), Chocolate Crinkles, Molasses Sugar cookies, Buckeyes and Pecan Sandies. Below are the recipes for the mandelbrot and chow mein cookies.

Again, another cookie that goes great with coffee. These are the Jewish equivalent of biscotti. I don't tend to make them as hard as biscotti tends to be. I have never quite figured out what my "logs" are supposed to look like so they tend to vary from time to time. This time I misread the directions and only made two logs so they turned out looking more like long biscotti.

Black and White Mandelbrot
1/2 c unsalted butter, melted, still warm
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
3 eggs
2 t vanilla
2 T brewed coffee
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 c white chocolate, in coarse chunks
1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate, in coarse chunks

4 oz white chocolate, melted and cooled

In a large bowl, stir the butter with the cocoa Blend in the sugars, then the eggs, vanilla, and coffee. In a separate bowl, blend together the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Stir the solids into the wet batter, then fold in the white and semi-sweet chocolates. Divide the batter into 4 equal parts. Form 2 logs on each baking sheet that is coated with parchment paper, approximately 8 inches long by 3 or 4 inches wide. Bake sheets in a preheated 350 degrees oven, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Bake until the top seems set, about 25 - 30 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes.

Transfer the logs to a cutting board and cut them on the diagonal, into 1/2 - 3/4"-thick wedges. Reduce the oven heat to 325. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets and return them to the oven. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes to dry out, turning them once midway to brown both sides evenly. Since the cookies are dark, it is difficult to see when they are done. They should seem almost dry to the touch when ready. If you want, drizzle melted white chocolate over the top of the cookies or spread over the top.

There are no easier cookies than these. I am not quite sure if this falls in the category of cookies or candy. My grandma made them every year at Christmas and they were one of my favorites. M tried one today and thought they were very good. These are also sometimes called Haystacks.

Chow Mein Cookies

1 (12 oz) pkg butterscotch chips
2 c chow mein noodles
2 c miniature marshmallows
1 c chunky peanut butter

Melt the butterscotch chips and peanut butter. Add noodles and marshmallows. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment paper and cool to set.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Reuben Sandwich

I discovered this recipe last winter while I was trying to use up all my cabbage. The original recipe suggests this a vegetarian recipe---obviously it left out the pastrami. I decided since I love pastrami (or corned beef), I would try this with the meat included. Wonderful! The easiest way to prepare this is on a comal (a flat, low sided black skillet) and to heat everything at the same time. That way everything is all toasty and hot (and I am left with deli meat that's even safe for a pregnant woman to eat!). I had one for lunch today and am contemplating a second....bring on the cabbage!

Reuben Sandwich
3 c grated cabbage
1/4 c mayonnaise
1 T ketchup
2 t cider vinegar (or plain white vinegar works too)
pinch of salt
dash of pepper (to taste)
pinch of sugar

swiss cheese
pastrami or corned beef

To make the cabbage, combine mayo, ketchup, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar. Pour over grated cabbage and mix well.

Butter one side of each piece of bread. Top one piece of bread with a slice (or two) of Swiss cheese. At the same time, fold a couple (or more, depending on how much meat you want) of slices of pastrami to the size of your bread and place on the comal. Let the meat sizzle and shrink a little, then flip over and top with the cabbage mixture. Transfer the hot meat to on top to the cheese and top with the second slice of bread. Toast on comal until both sides of bread are crisp and brown.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pecan Sandies

These are one of the best cookies to go with coffee that I know. The dough is somewhat strange to work with---you need to convince it to hold together. However, they are pretty easy to make. They do harden very quickly, but that is easily remedied by putting a slice of bread in the container the cookies are stored in (or just dipping/eating them with coffee). These cookies are also sometimes called Russian Tea Cookies.

Pecan Sandies

2 c flour
1/4 c pecans, finely chopped
1/8 salt
3/4 c sugar
9 T butter, at room temperature
2 t vanilla

1/4 c powdered sugar

Combine flour, pecans, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and butter with a mixer until they are fluffy (about 2 minutes). Beat in vanilla. Beating at low speed, gradually add flour mixture and beat until just combined (dough will look very crumbly) Shape dough into 1" balls. Place balls on cookie sheets (they won't rise so they don't need to be very far apart). Bake in preheated 350 oven for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. While cookies are still hot, roll in powdered sugar. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Salmon Bulgogi with Vegetables

We liked this pretty well. M loved the fish and I thought the vegetables and glaze/sauce was pretty yummy. Curtis liked it as well. J had to be coerced to eat (he would rather just drink milk for supper), but he did eat rice with the glaze and fish once he realized he was not going to be allowed to drink milk for supper. I found this recipe on Epicurious and pretty much followed the recipe with the exception of omitting the chili-garlic sauce (avoiding spicy so M would eat it).

In this week's CSA box

I was actually disappointed this week not to collards or cabbage. I think I will probably at least get some collards at the farmer's market this weekend. The eggs were exciting as was the head of cauliflower (M was even excited about that), the fennel, and the sweet potatoes. At this point, I don't think I am going to change the week's menu up at all--we'll see about Thursday night, but I suspect things will stay the same, leaning away from the spaghetti carbonara for the tofu with wilted greens (using the remaining bok choy plus bok choy from my garden).

a bunch of baby beets
a bunch of radishes
a fennel bulb and fronds
a bunch of parsley
a small bunch of kale
a large head of bok choy
a head of cauliflower
3 sweet potatoes
2 grapefruit
2 oranges
a bunch of mint

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Menu for the Week

At long last, here is this week's menu.

Monday: Valle d'aosta soup aka Cabbage Bread Soup
Tuesday: Macaroni and Cheese and Bok Choy Salad
Wednesday: Salmon Bulgogi with Vegetables
Thursday: Sesmae Tofu with Wilted Greens or Spaghetti Carbonara
Friday: Sausage and Lentils with Fennel and Braised Root Vegetables
Saturday: Pizza that someone else makes for me

The next couple of weeks menus will be a little different. Starting on Sunday we have 10 days worth of family visiting. This is also the last week for a CSA box until after New Year's. I am not quite sure what I am going to do---I'll need to plan ahead and do some serious farmers' market shopping the next two Saturdays.

Linzer Cookies

I love how these cookies look and taste, which is good because these are by far the most time consuming and work of all the cookies I make. They are absolutely wonderful though and the perfect cookie to have with coffee. One of the keys to these is to be sure to find a nice thick raspberry preserves. I actually bought a couple of jars of raspberry preserves just to be sure I found one that wasn't too thin and runny (you don't want jelly because it will run right off the cookie). This is another cookie you need to refrigerate at least 2 hours before baking. Because these are double layer cookies, this recipe yields only about 2 dozen cookies at the most.

Linzer Cookies
2/3 c hazelnuts
1/2 c packed brown sugar
2 1/2 c flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large egg
1 t vanilla

raspberry (or strawberry) preserves
confectioner's sugar

Toast the hazelnuts in shallow pan in preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until fragrant and skins begin to loosen. Rub hazelnuts in kitchen towel to remove any loose skins. Cool to room temperature. Pulse nuts and 1/4 c brown sugar in food processor until nuts are finely ground. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Beat together butter and remaining 1/4 c brown sugar in a large bowl at medium high speed in a blender until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add nut mixture and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

With floured hands, form dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 5-inch disk. Chill disks wrapped in plastic wrap until firm, at least 2 hours.

Roll out 1 disk of dough into an 11 inch round (1/8" thick) between 2 sheets of wax paper (keep remaining dough chilled). If dough becomes too soft to roll out, rewrap in plastic and chill until firm. Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with a larger cookie cutter and transfer to ungreased baking sheet. Using smaller cookie cutter, cut out the centers from half of the cookies (this is easier to do once they are on the baking sheet), reserving centers and rerolling along with scraps. Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking in a preheated 350 degrees oven until edges are golden, about 8 - 1 0 minutes total. Then transfer to cool completely on a baking rack (baking time depends on thickness of cookies. Try for uniform thickness of all cookies for the most even baking). Repeat the process until all the dough is used (cooling off dough in the freezer as necessary).

To assemble cookies, spread preserves on flat side of 1 cookie and sandwich jam with flat side of 1 windowed cookie. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

Mac and Cheese

I was out of velveeta tonight and wanted macaroni and cheese so I went searching for a recipe that used more or less of what I had on hand and wasn't too time consuming. My brother suggested checking out Alton Brown's version. I did and I loved it. (Curtis was working late---the key indicator of when that happens is the occurence of mac and cheese for supper---I think it's a main, he thinks it's a side). The kids weren't too impressed, I am not sure what their problems were tonight (but there were definite problems all around!). I will definitely make this again when I don't have velveeta on hand. It wasn't much more work than my simple version, but it took about twice as long, which wasn't a big deal because I planned on it taking longer. I omitted the egg because I used my last three eggs last night on black and white mandelbrot (which is a softer cousin of biscotti). A note about eggs---it's this time of year when I always go through more than a dozen eggs a week....the last two weeks I've had to cut M off of her "an egg for breakfast" habit.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Molasses Sugar Cookies

This recipe is from my Southern aunt. I only started making these for Curtis because I really don't like molasses. This year though, when hot out of the oven, even I couldn't resist them. They may just be changing my mind about molasses. The spices used give these cookies a taste similar to gingersnaps. This recipe should also chill, 2 hours or longer, before baking. This recipe makes 4 dozen smallish cookies.

Molasses Sugar Cookies
3/4 c butter, at room temperature
1 c sugar
1/4 c molasses
1 egg
2 c flour
2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t cloves (opt--I omit because Curtis isn't a big cloves fan)
1/2 t ginger
1/2 t salt

Cream together butter and sugar. Add the molasses and egg, beat well. Combine (ideal would be to sift, but I sure don't do that!) in a separate bowl flour, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and salt. Add to first mixture. Mix well and chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Form 1" balls, roll in granulated sugar, and place on cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Bake in a preheated 375 oven for 8 - 10 minutes.

Chocolate Crinkles

These are also sometimes called wagon wheels. I make my cookies small to stretch the recipes. Each cookie ends up being about 1 - 2 inches in diameter and the recipe makes 4 dozen cookies that size. This is a recipe that needs to be refrigerated a while before baking--at least one hour, but you wait over night or even several days (which is how it worked for me).

Chocolate Crinkles
1 3/4 c flour
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 c butter, at room temperature (if not at room temperature, beat rock hard butter in a mixer until it is soft and creamy)
1 1/4 c sugar
2 T light corn syrup
2 squares (2 oz) unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 eggs
2 t vanilla

1/2 c confectioners' sugar

In a small bowl combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large separate bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter, sugar, and corn syrup until well combined. Reduce speed to low and beat in chocolate, eggs, and vanilla until well blended. Beat in flour mixture until combined. Cover dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

Shape dough into 1 - 2" balls (I did the smaller size) and roll in confectioners sugar (this is also a great part to have a kids help with. M did an awesome job of rolling the cookies in the sugar and I could keep my fingers a little cleaner). Place cookies 1 " apart on a cookie sheet. Bake until set in preheated 350 degrees oven, about 8 minutes.

Cabbage Bread Soup

The soup has a much fancier name that makes it sound more appealing if you like Italian names: valle d'aosta soup. However, it means nothing to me, so I renamed it. It was great comfort food for this cold evening and it used up 3/4 of my cabbage. Curtis and I loved it, as did M. I had forgotten that Curtis had gotten her hooked on cabbage on our road trip. She had 3 bowls of soup. J thought the cheese and cabbage was pretty good, but for a change, he didn't eat the broth laden bread. The only changes I would make in the future would be to use a saltier cheese (I used cheddar instead of the fontina it called for) or add a lot more salt to the soup. Other than that, it was perfect for a cold December day.

Cabbage Bread Soup
4 c cubed bread (about 1/2 pound)
5 T butter
5 - 6 c cabbage, thinly sliced or grated (easiest way to grate is using a food processor slicer or shredder attachment if you have one)
1/2 t ground nutmeg
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 t salt (or more) to taste
6 c broth (I used 5 c chicken broth and 1 c water)
2 c grated cheese

Spread the bread cubes evenly in a 2 -qt ovenproof dish If the cubes aren't dry (mine weren't), toast them briefly in a preheated 350 degrees oven. Melt 3 T of butter and drizzle over the bread. Set aside.

Meanwhile, blanch the cabbage until just tender in a boiling pot of water, about 2 minutes. Drain well. Spread the cabbage over the bread. Melt the remaining 2 T butter and stir in the nutmeg, black pepper, and salt. Pour the seasoned butter on the cabbage and bread. Pour the stock over everything and evenly spread the cheese on top. Bake until the cheese melts and the starts to brown (in a preheated 350 degrees oven), 25 - 35 minutes.

Coming this week....

In addition to menus and dinner recipes....I hope to post some of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes. We've been baking up a storm in our house! Just need to get some pictures of those cookies! :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Italian Meatloaf and Skillet Collards with Sauce

I love collards. As I have stated many times, I am not a southerner. I can't stand okra, I like my dressing/stuffing/whatever with bread and not cornbread. I can't make flaky buttermilk biscuits to save my life. I am not a fan of fried foods (I tend to pick the breaded/fried parts off). However, I love collards. Maybe there is hope for the other things if I am a collards fan. Between Curtis and I tonight, we easily ate a pound of collard greens and fought over the last bites.

All tonight's meal was missing was some nice thick mashed potatoes. I didn't plan ahead early enough to have potatoes, so we stuck to the comfort foods of meatloaf and greens (without the mashed potatoes). Next time, I am definitely also making mashed potatoes.

The meatloaf:
In 1 T olive oil, saute 1 seeded and minced red bell pepper (I omitted this because I had no more bell peppers), 1 diced onion, and 3 minced garlic cloves until they are tender. Allow to cool briefly. In a separate bowl, combine 1 lb ground beef, 2 eggs, 3/4 c bread crumbs, 1 c grated Parmesan, 1 T Worcestershire sauce, 1 T balsamic vinegar, 2 T chopped fresh basil (2 t dried basil), 1 T chopped fresh parsley, 1 t salt, and 1/2 t black pepper along with the sauted veggies. Pack into an oiled loaf pan. In a small bowl, combine 1 T brown sugar, 1 t Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 c ketchup, and 3/4 T prepared mustard. Spread evenly on top of meatloaf. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 5 0 - 60 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 160 in the middle of the meatloaf. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

The greens (recipe adapted from January's Bon Appetit magazine)
Dissolve 1/4 c sugar in 1 T water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Increase the heat; boil without stirring until amber, brushing sides with wet pastry brush occasionally (I am not sure what this does, but I did it), about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 c apple cider vinegar and 1 t dried crushed red pepper (optional, I omitted, but will use next time). Stir until caramel bits dissolve. Cool. In a skillet, saute 1 c chopped onions in olive oil until brown. Add 1 T bacon drippings (if you don't save the drippings--I have a can in my fridge that drippings go into--fry a few slices of bacons until you have enough drippings). Add half of collard greens (a total of 1 lbs of collard greens will be used. To prepare them, remove the stems and cut crosswise into 1/2" strips) and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and pepper. Toss until wilted. Add remaining greens, toss to wilt, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until greens are tender, adding water 1/4 cupfuls if dry. This will take between 20-45 minutes depending on how hot your pan is and how tender the greens start out. It took me closer to 20 minutes than 45. Season with salt and pepper. Rewarm apple cider sauce (technical term-gastrique). Transfer greens to a large shallow bowl. Drizzle some gastrique over top (I used around 1/2 or less of the gastrique and it was plenty sweet). We sprinkled some chipotle Tabasco sauce over top to make up for omitting the crushed red peppers.

The meatloaf was a hit with M and both Curtis and I. However, like I may have mentioned earlier, the collards stole the show for both of us. I can't wait to get collards again!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In this week's CSA box

A head of cabbage
a head of tatsoi
a bunch of collards
2 grapefruits
3 oranges
two bunches of radishes (I got a bunch from the trade box)
a small bunch of cilantro
a small bunch of mint
two sweet potatoes
a large bag of mixed field greens (for salads)

Mmm....I think the recipe for the rest of the week may look like this:

Wednesday: Sun-dried tomato soup with Oatmeal muffins and a salad
Thursday: Possibly a meatloaf with a salad or a cabbage main dish (possibly cabbage tacos?)
Friday: leftovers (my fridge is full!!)
Saturday: shrimp and tatsoi stir fry
Sunday: an egg dish--omelet or egg sandwiches
Monday: something with lots of collards---maybe a Spanish Bean Soup
Tuesday: we'll see what's left and decide then.

I have been stashing my sweet potatoes for Christmas. We are having lots of out of town family coming in and I hope to have enough sweet potatoes to make a sweet potato and apple dish. I miss arugula and broccoli. I may need to pick up a little of each of those at the farmer's market on Saturday. We'll see. M and J have enjoyed oranges for snacks. I would like to see if I can't find a recipe for something with grapefruit because they are multiplying on my counter. I love grapefruit, I just don't like the work involved with eating them.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sausage Penne Bake and Braised Young Root Vegetables

Braised Young Root Vegetables is quickly becoming my Tuesday night clean-out-the- fridge-in-prep-for-new produce standby. I've experimented each time I've made it with a different combination of vegetables and I've loved it every time. J even ate a little tonight and M at least wanted some on her plate (although she didn't eat any---she didn't eat a lot for supper though). Curtis commented that he never liked turnips until he ate this and I said the same about turnips and radishes. In the picture, the radishes are the vegetables with varying hints of colors (except obviously the carrots). Tonight I made this with carrots, a small kohlrabi, three smallish turnips, and a handful of radishes. Mmm! It was great. I could have just eaten this for supper instead of the main course. Click here for the recipe.

Main course was Sausage Penne Bake which whipped up pretty fast because I opened up a jar of my homemade pizza sauce to use instead of the diced tomatoes the recipe calls for. If you choose to use premade sauce, just stop adding the ingredients once you get to tomato paste through the diced tomatoes. Everyone enjoyed this. M was slightly dismayed to see that the pasta and sausage were mixed together, but she got over that. I didn't use enough sauce when I made this because I didn't read the recipe closely enough. It still tasted great, just not as saucy as it would have been had I done better at following directions.

Sausage Penne Bake
Cook 1 lb penne pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat 1 T olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 1/2 c chopped onion, 3/4 c diced red bell pepper, 12 oz basil and parmesan chicken sausage (0r other Italian seasoned chicken sausage) that has been halved and cut into 1/2" slices, and 2 cloves minced garlic. Saute 5 minutes or until sausage is browned. Add 1 T tomato paste, 1 T balsamic vinegar, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t dried oregano, and 3 (14-oz) cans diced tomatoes (undrained). Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. (If you use pre-made pasta sauce, simmer until you are ready to assemble the dish). Combine the pasta and the tomato mixture and spoon into a greased 13 x 9" greased baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 c shredded provolone or mozzarella cheese and 1 c grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25 minutes or until bubbly.

A Note on Crispy Kale--a day later

I stored the crispy kale last night in a ziploc bag. This morning I went to have a snack of kale goodness and instead of crispy kale, I got chewy, tough kale. To fix this problem, I preheated the oven to 350, spread the chewy, tough kale on a cookie sheet and toasted for 5 minutes. Voila! I had crispy kale all over again! 5 minutes was all it took to return the kale to its crispy state that I enjoyed eating. Some of the pieces almost seemed to melt in my mouth.

I want to play with the seasonings for this a little more (do a little research...). The kale had a slight bitterness to it which at first was a little disconcerting. However as I ate more, I didn't really care about the bitterness as much.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Crispy Kale

This was a different way to use kale than what I've tried before. I served it on the side, but the places I've seen versions of this recipe suggests using it as a snack food or sprinkling on any savory dish. To go with the crispy kale, we had egg noodles with lemon butter on top. None of our stomachs were completely recovered from the stomach bug so some of us got noodles with lemon butter and others of us just got plain noodles. We also had some applesauce on the side. I know, a hodge-podge meal, but I'm trying to get everyone healthy and nourished again! The only tricky part of this recipe is getting the kale crispy, yet not burned. Frequent stirring helps aid in this. Curtis thought this was a good way to use kale. I thought it was ok. Neither child ate any. However, all M ate was the 4 bites of plain noodles we made her eat before we would give her any applesauce and J ate nothing for supper.

Crispy Kale

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a large cookie sheet with foil, then brush or spray with oil. Toss 1 large (about 1 pound) bunch of chopped and stemmed kale with 1 T olive oil and 1 t salt (you can adjust those amounts to your preference). Bake kale for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring it every 5 minutes or so to prevent it from burning. Remove from oven, let cool, and serve.

Arugula Autumn Salad

This is a nice way to use those huge bags of arugula you may be getting in your CSA box (or at the store, or grown in your backyard). Arugula has a different taste, but this salad is a great way to learn to appreciate it. The apples and caramelized pecans help the you not to notice the peppery taste of the arugula as much. I usually make a complete recipe of the pecans and dressing, but only use about 1/2 the arugula, apples, etc that is called for. I put the leftover pecans and dressing in separate containers in the refrigerator which makes the next salad a lot easier!

Carmelized pecans:
Mix together 1/2 c coarsely chopped pecans (or walnuts), 1 T corn syrup, and 1 T sugar. Toast in oven at 350 degrees until sugar begins to melt and nuts are toasted and coated. Watch carefully to avoid burning. After the nuts are done, remove them from baking pan promptly and transfer to parchment (or wax) paper. This will keep the nuts from becoming stuck to the baking pan.

The salad:
Toss together 1-2 thinly sliced tart apples (or pears) and 2 T lemon juice in a bowl. Add 6-8 c arugula (or any other mixed salad greens), 1/2 c Asiago cheese (goat or feta cheese are also good), caramelized pecans, and 1/2 c dried cranberries (optional). Toss gently with dressing (see below for dressing recipe).

Shake together in a jar with a tight lid 1/3 c olive oil, 1 T Dijon mustard, 1 T sugar, 2 T lemon juice, 1/2 t salt, and 1/4 t pepper.

Sick Weekend

We had a sick weekend at our house, with the kids and I all having a stomach bug over the course of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We dined mostly dined on take out (the ones who weren't sick at the time), eggs and toast. There will be a post later today on an autumn arugula salad I made to go with spaghetti and puttanesca sauce on Saturday. Hopefully we are all done being sick and food/eating can resume to its normal patterns.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Swiss Chard and Chicken Enchiladas

Before I dive into the recipe, a little about Swiss Chard. It is pretty similar to spinach when cooked. When you are looking for recipes, any recipe that calls for spinach (cooked or wilted) you can substitute chard for the spinach. Depending on your source, it may be called Swiss Chard or just plain chard. I am not exactly sure what the difference is. I have heard some people say it has to do with the color of the stem (white vs. red), but I also have heard the multi-colored Bright Lights or Rainbow Chard referred to Swiss chard as well. When planning menus and searching recipes, just keep in mind there is a lot of flexibility.

As far as enchiladas go, this is a very easy recipe, especially if your chicken (or turkey) is already cooked and if you use store brought enchilada sauce (which I did this time, I know, total slacker!). I used leftover Thanksgiving turkey instead of chicken and couldn't tell any difference. This is also a recipe that is geared to chard (instead of some of my spinach turned chard recipes) and it uses both the stems and the leaves. It was just the kids and I tonight for supper so Curtis missed out. M loved it. I was worried she would find the sauce to spicy, but she didn't. I also made some cranberry salsa for on top and some rice on the side. J didn't eat much, but I am not sure if it was the meal or just him. Enough said, here is the recipe.

1 lb chard, rinsed and well drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
2 c cooked chicken or turkey
1 t cumin
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
2 c grated cheddar cheese

8 flour tortillas
15-oz can enchilada sauce or 2 c of your own homemade enchilada sauce
1/2 grated cheddar cheese

Cut the stems from the chard leaves and chop. Keep them separate from the leaves (which you should also chop). In a large skillet, saute the garlic in oil over medium heat stirring until it is fragrant. Add the chard steams and 1/4 c water and cook, covered for 5 minutes. Add the leaves and cook, covered for an additional 3 -5 minutes or until the leaves are tender. Drain the chard. Return to medium-low heat and add the chicken (turkey) and cumin and heat until warm. Stir in 2 c cheddar cheese and cilantro. Put 1/4 - 1/3 c chicken/chard mixture inside each tortilla and roll up (to soften tortillas, microwave for a few seconds). Top with enchilada sauce and the 1/2 c additional grated cheddar cheese. Bake in preheated 350 for 15- 20 minutes or until heated through.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sesame Beef Stir-Fry (again)

I got a late start on supper tonight due to a little accident (no big deal, no stitches for anyone required), but this supper lent itself better to be started late than others. The beef just got to marinate longer. Again, we loved this meal. This time around M ate a couple of servings as well. For the recipe, click here. Something I did slightly different this time was that I added the bok choy stems with the bell peppers and the leaves at the very end (as the recipe suggests). You can't go wrong with this meal.

In the CSA box today

I'll just cut to the chase today. I was thrilled about our box and think I have plans for everything already! :)

large bag of arugula
a bunch of kale
one red bell pepper
bok choy
2 grapefruit
4 oranges
a few radishes
a few turnips
one kohlrabi
cilantro hand, I think I am going to stay with the menu for the week. At some point I want to use the radishes, turnips, and kohlrabi for braised root vegetables. I think I may make some of the arugula into a salad. The red bell pepper has already been used in tonight's supper and we'll have no problem making the oranges and grapefruit disappear (nor the cilantro-yippee!!). It will be easy to go through this week's box in a hurry without even trying to.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Spinach Souffle

This is a classic my mom discovered for us when M was born. This is one of my go to dishes when I have lots of spinach I don't know what to do with. In the cookbook my mom found, this is listed as a side dish or appetizer, often served cold or at room temperature. We like it as main dish straight out of the oven.

To make this, wash and stem 1 1/2 lbs fresh spinach (I used only a pound and it worked just fine with that amount). Steam the spinach until it is just tender and wilted. Drain, squeezing out extra liquid. Meanwhile (you can start this when the spinach is steaming or you are waiting for the water to boil), thoroughly beat 6 eggs. Combine that with 1/4 c bread crumbs, 1 1/2 c cheddar cheese, 1/2 lb feta cheese, 1/2 lb cottage cheese (or you can use a pound of either or any combination to equal 1 lb of soft cheeses), 1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese, and 2 T olive oil. When you are ready, stir in the cooked spinach. Oil a 9 x 13 inch baking pan. Dust the bottom of the pan with 1/4 c bread crumbs. Spread the spinach mixture evenly in the pan. Sprinkle the top with 1/2 c grated cheddar. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the top is golden and firm to touch.

This recipe makes a lot, but the leftovers were great. Curtis worked late tonight, so just the kids and I ate it. Both M and J liked it enough that they had two servings and did not bother to pick the spinach out (small victories!). We finished the meal with apple slices. I topped my piece(s) with chipotle Tabasco sauce. I am looking forward to the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Menu for the Week

I am dropping the grocery list. I am not sure exactly how helpful it is since I may have things in my pantry that you don't have (or in my refrigerator). If you miss it and want it to return, let me know and I can arrange for that.

Menus get to stay though. The fact that I spent most of today being cold (because I didn't want to wear a jacket for some reason. Stubborn me!) inspired the soup for dinner tonight. Other than that, the meals are based upon a lot of greens that we got last week in our CSA box.

Monday: Sausage and Kale Soup (or Mel's Minestrone)
Tuesday: Spinach Souffle
Wednesday: Sesame Beef Stir Fry (using bok choy) and rice
Thursday: Chicken and Chard Enchiladas
Friday: Kids are eating pizza and we are eating out! (not pizza)
Saturday: Waiting to see what's in our box and the weather....

Sausage Kale Soup (or Mel's Minestrone)

I spent way to much time searching through cookbooks and the internet for the perfect minestrone recipe. My requirements weren't too rough: 1)It contains link sausage 2)It has kale 3)I don't have to buy things like zucchini--however carrots and potatoes were ok to need to buy. 4)It also has pasta and cannellini (white) beans. Aaaahh...the joys of trying to cook while pregnant....very definite ideas of what I need to eat tonight emerge quickly. Amazingly enough, in my searching, I couldn't find a recipe that fit my demands (I hate it when that happens). It did dawn on me that maybe what I was looking for wasn't really minestrone soup at all, but I thought it should be called that.

Saute 1/2 chopped onion and one link (about 3 oz) of mild Italian sausage in a soup pot until sausage is browned. Add 2 chopped carrots and saute briefly before adding 1 c tomato juice and 4 - 5 cups chicken/turkey broth. If you have the rind (the hard part you can't eat) off of Parmesan cheese, throw that in now too. Simmer for 20 minutes (or longer). Add 2 c (one 15-oz can) cannellini beans and continue to simmer. About 10 minutes before serving, add a bunch of chopped kale and 1/4 - 1/3 c small pasta (like small shells or orzo). Remove the parmesan rind and serve hot.

I used my turkey broth from my skinny turkey. It was all the seasoning the soup needed! The flavor was incredible. Assuming you aren't using broth made from a chicken/turkey stuffed with sage and rosemary aromatics, you will want to season it a little---possibly a sage leaf or two thrown in and a rosemary sprig when you add the liquid or a different route completely--the classic oregano/basil/thyme seasonings would work great too.

The family loved it. As it is to be expected now, on the first bowl J ate everything but the kale. For the second bowl he picked out the sausage first and then ate some of the beans/pasta/carrots. M ate two bowls as well---excluding the kale from both. With so little sausage, it was quite exciting for both kids to find some sausage in their bowls. I found I didn't need a lot of sausage to get a lot of flavor. Curtis and I also had a couple of bowls and I was sad to relinquish the leftovers to his lunch tomorrow.

An Anorexic Turkey that Gets Around....

(thanks to Justin for that apt description) is what best described the heritage turkey we tried brining and roasting this year. Needless to say, I was somewhat disappointed in the results. I used the brine and aromatics recipe that I used last year for our free range organic broadbreasted white turkey. The flavor was great---there just wasn't much meat.

Before I get too far, let me explain exactly what a heritage turkey is. Turkeys were everywhere when the first British settlers arrived in the early 1600's. (This could be why Ben Franklin wanted our national bird to be the turkey). However, now only five breeds of turkeys exist that existed in the 1600's. These birds are the heritage turkeys. A couple of criteria generally define the marking of these as heritage turkeys---the big one is that they have to mate. This may sound strange, but very few turkeys mate all by themselves....the poultry industry artificially inseminates turkeys and so turkeys have become very poor at mating and consequently reproduction. (For a hilarious read about trying to teach turkeys to mate, check out the chapter on turkey love from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle). Heritage and organic turkeys tend to have less white meat because traditional Butterballs are pumped full of stuff to make more breast meat (thus, making it more difficult for them to even walk, which is why any free range poultry will have less breast meat).

Last year I tried a free range organic turkey and decided to experiment with a heritage this year because I was so pleased with the free range organic turkey. I had to pre-order the turkey and this was the first year the farm had raised and sold heritage turkeys. When we picked up the turkey at the farm, I learned that they were 6 pound turkey was on the large side of what was available. I think the bird was just too small for there to be good meat. If I do go with a heritage bird, I think I may try ordering from a different farmer who has more experience with heritage turkeys and ask some more questions.

I ended up throwing the turkey carcass into a pot and boiling down until I was left was some very flavorful broth that I can't wait to use. I wish I would have taken a picture of the sad looking turkey, in the rush to get food on the table before the kids lost it from hunger the idea to take a picture was lost.

Brine for turkey (makes enough for a 14 - 16 lb turkey):
1 c kosher salt
1/2 c light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 T black peppercorns
1/2 T allspice berries
1/2 T pickled ginger
1 gallon iced water

Bring all the brine ingredients except the ice water to a boil in a large stockpot. Stir to dissolve solids and remove from heat, cool to room temperature and then refrigerate overnight. On the day of cooking, combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket (a Home Depot construction bucket works great). Place thawed turkey breast side down in the brine, cover, and set in cool area (refrigerator or outside if it's cold enough) for 6 hours, turning turkey over once halfway through brining.

1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 c water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 sage leaves
Canola oil

Preheat oven to 500. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon, and cup of cold water in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 5 minutes. Remove turkey from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine. Add steeped aromatics plus rosemary and sage to the cavity of the turkey. Coat turkey liberally with oil. Roast on lowest rack in oven at 500 degrees for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 350, and roast until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. (a 15 lb free range turkey will take about 1 1/2 hours). Let stand 15 minutes before carving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cranberry Salsa

This uses local peppers, oranges, pecans, and cilantro. Too bad there are no nearby cranberry bogs! :)

Roast 1 red bell pepper (if you can still find them) and 1 poblano (or other green) chile until blackened on all sides on a grill. Enclose in a plastic bag and let stand 10 minutes to steam. Pell, seed, and chop peppers. In a saucepan over medium heat mix 1/2 c sugar and 1/4 c orange juice, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Mix in 2 c coarsely chopped cranberries. Transfer mixture to large bowl and cool to room temperature. Mix in roasted peppers (bell and chile), 1/4 c chopped and toasted pecans, and 2 T grated orange peel. Mix in 1/3 c chopped cilantro just before serving.

If you want, you can prepare this the day before, cover and refrigerate. Just wait until right before serving to stir in chopped cilantro.


As you can tell, I am kinda flying by the seat of my pants this week menu wise. With it being Thanksgiving and all, it seemed like a good week to do that. Instead I am going to share some of my favorite recipes to make around Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the ultimate eat locally holiday. Think about it. That's why the first Thanksgiving took place. Those pilgrims managed to keep themselves alive by learning what foods grew locally, learning how to grow/cook with them, and changing their diet. Unfortunately, here in Texas we don't have local access to all the foods those in New England did, however, many of the foods are easier to find in season right now. (New England had their first freeze over a month ago). At the farmer's market these days it is easy to find sweet potatoes, apples, and butternut squash (or pumpkins). Not so easy to find are white potatoes, green beans, and cranberries.

The recipes I post will have some local produce in them, some of them can be made using entirely local produce. That's something to be thankful for right there---all the good local food we have available this time of year---from root vegetables to leafy greens to apples to fresh citrus. It's good to be from Texas at Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stovetop Cassoulet

This meal was a learning experience for me. I learned several things:

1) If you don't know what you are making or how it's supposed to turn out, maybe you should figure that out before you start making it (or else just don't make it).

2) I don't like cookbooks that tell you to put in 1 T minced garlic. I mince my own garlic, there is no way I am going to measure it after mincing. The 1 T reeks of using canned garlic instead of just pressing your own (which takes no time at all).

3) If a recipe ever calls for 3 c of bread crumbs, ask questions. Either should I be making my own bread crumbs or do I really want 3 cups of bread crumbs?

As you have probably figured out, this meal wasn't one of my best recipe experiments. The 3 c of bread crumbs almost made the meal inedible. After supper, I ended up scraping off as much of the bread crumbs as possible before saving it as leftovers. As leftovers (minus all the extra bread crumbs plus a little thickened tomato juice on top) it was pretty tasty. I debated this recipe up, but with a few modifications, I don't think it would be a bad way to use kale. Here goes.

In a soup pot or dutch oven, saute 1 c onions in 1 T olive oil and 1 T butter and cook about 10 minutes. Stir in 3 c diced potatoes (about 1 pound). Add a little water (to prevent scorching), a little salt, and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in 1 T fresh oregano, 1 T thyme, 1 c dry wine, 2 - 3 c chopped carrots (chopped into large chunks), and 1 clove minced garlic. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes over low heat. Add 1 chicken bouillon cube and 3 cans of white beans (I only had 1 can and that was sufficient if you want to use less) and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and cook until the potatoes and carrots are completely tender (the length will depend on how big of chunks the potatoes and carrots are--any where from 10 minutes to 25 minutes). Stir in kale or other greens, cover and remove from heat. Let set for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 1 T butter in a skillet. Add the 1 c bread crumbs and saute over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until the crumbs are toasty. Either sprinkle the bread crumbs over top and serve or serve the cassoulet and sprinkle each individual serving with bread crumbs (that is probably the better option---go easy on the bread crumbs because this is the make or break part of the recipe).

None of us really liked it last night. M wouldn't touch because of the bread crumbs. J picked out the potatoes and carrots. Curtis and I ate it. However, once I pulled off as many bread crumbs as possible we liked it much better. We'll see if I make this again. The cookbook, Vegetable Heaven by Mollie Katzen is definitely going back to the library....there is just something a little off about a cookbook that suggests you use jarred garlic and cook your own dried beans in the same recipe.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Scallion Crepes with Bok Choy, Braised Root Vegetables, and Hazelnut Crisps

Tonight's meal was out of one of my library books---Local Flavors by Deborah Madison. Of the three things I made, the scallion crepes were by far the most work--the other two were simple (the hazelnut crisps are not pictured).

A little overview about how I jigsawed prep for this meal together. The hazelnut crisps (cookies) need to chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour, so I mixed those up first. Then I prepared the crepe batter and let it sit for awhile. As the crepe batter sat, I got the braised root vegetables started. While they cooked (they have a 15 minute cook time at one point), I cooked the crepes and the crepe filling. Yep. My kitchen was crazy busy. It was a disaster area when I finished, but it mostly fell together. I think if you make a single recipe (I doubled the recipe because we were having friends over), the timing would be just right. Also, if you son decided to nap when he should instead of 4:15, supper also probably would be ready on time. Since I have 3 recipes, I will write them out in more typical recipe form (and let me know if you would prefer that in the future or if the narrative is preferable) to make things a little clearer. At the end, as usual, I will include reflections on the meal.

Hazelnut Crisps
1 c hazelnuts
1 T sugar
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 1/4 c flour

Toast the hazelnuts: in a preheated 350 oven, roast the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and put them in the center of a clean dishtowel. Wrap up in the dish towel and roll them around to help loosen skins. Remove as many skins as possible, but if you don't get them all, that's ok. Grind the hazelnuts in a food processor with 1 T sugar until fine, but leave a few chunks scattered throughout. In a mixer, cream the butter, brown sugar, and salt until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat. Stir in the hazelnuts and flour. Roughly shape the dough into a log and wrap in wax paper. Run the dough through your fingers to lengthen and create a log about 1 1/2" in diameter. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Cut the log into 1/4 - 1/3 inch thick slices and place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 until lightly browned on top (about 15 minutes). For something that reminds you of a nutella cookie, melt some chocolate chips in the microwave and partially dip the cookies in the chocolate.

Scallion Crepes
3 large eggs
1 T sesame oil
1 T canola oil
1 c water
3/4 c milk
1/2 t salt
1 c flour
1 bunch scallions, sliced very thin on the diagonal
14 c toasted sesame seeds

6 (or more) baby bok choy leaves, cut lengthwise into quarters
1 c snow peas, slivered diagonally
sea salt
canola oil

Combine eggs, sesame oil, vegetable oil, water, milk and salt in a blender of food processor on high speed. Add the flour and blend again for 10 seconds, scrape down sides and blend again briefly. Pour into a bowl and set aside to rest. Heat a 9-inch nonstick pan (about 7 1/2 inches at the base. Size does matter. If you use a smaller or larger pan, use less or more batter for each crepe) with vegetable oil. When the pan is the hot, add 1/3 c batter and swirl around the pan. Scatter some scallions and sesame seeds over top and cook until golden on the bottom, about one minute. Loosen the crepe, flip it over and cook the other side until it's dry, then slide onto a plate. Repeat process until all batter is used, stacking them on top of each other. Wrap the crepes in foil and keep warm in a preheated 250 oven until the vegetables are ready. For the vegetables, bring a wide nonstick skillet of water to a simmer. Add the salt and the bok choy. Simmer for 2 minutes, and then drain. Return the skillet to the stove and heat to high. Add the canola oil and then the bok choy and snow peas. Stir-fry until crisp-tender and bright green. Season with salt. To serve, roll up some vegetables in a crepe. Add a little soy sauce if desired.

Young Root Vegetable Braise
1 bunch scallions (or 4 slender leeks), sliced
2 full grown carrots (or 6 small young ones), julieneed
12 little turnips (if larger, peel), halved (and quartered if larger)
1 bunch radishes, halved (and quartered if larger)
sea salt
2 T unsalted butter
2 T finely chopped parsley
1 T fresh lemon juice

Bring 6 c of water to boil with 1 1/2 t salt. Blanch the carrots, turnips, and radishes for 7 minutes, then scoop out and set aside, saving the cooking water Melt 1 T butter in a saute pan. Add the scallions (or leeks) and cook over medium heat for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1/2 c of the vegetable cooking water, the blanched vegetables, half of the herbs, and 1/2 t salt. Simmer until the vegetables are fully tender, 10 - 15 minutes,a dding water in 1/3 c increments to prevent sticking. There should be a little sauce. Add the remaining butter and lemon juice. Raise the heat and swirl the pan back and forth until the butter has melted into the juice. Remove from the heat and add the rest of the herbs. Serve.

This meal was very tasty! I have learned from the crepe master (Curtis) that I make the crepes too thick. His were much thinner, but he said the batter was perfect. I need to take lessons from him (he's made just a few crepes in his life---it's one of his hidden talents). Next time I will double or triple the amount of veggies or else make different fillings to go in the crepes--we ran out of filling before we ran out of crepes. The root vegetables were incredible. I now know what I am going to do with all the radishes and occasional turnips we've been getting in our box. In a couple of months when we are also getting carrots and leeks, this meal will be even more locally made than it was tonight. The cookies were great as well, especially dipped in chocolate. M and J liked the crepes (I left the scallions and sesame seeds out for them). M ate the greens, J did not. Neither ate the root vegetables, but we didn't really push it much because we had company (who incidently brought mashed potatoes so M was more than happy to eat those). The crepes were the only time consuming portion, but I think if I plan better next time, it won't feel quite as hectic and stressful.

Politics and Food

This article is a great reminder that food and environmental issues are not just liberal issues, but things that affect all of us who are concerned about what we (and our children) eat. It also seems to provide some hope that on some of the basic issues maybe we can find unity across party lines. Check it out!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Vegetarian Chili with Cashews

At the farmers market last weekend, I saw zucchini. I know it's the middle of November when I eagerly grab at zucchini at the Farmer's Market (usually I walk on by, as quickly as possible). I'd had a hankering for Vegetarian Chili with cashews for a while and the zucchini was all I needed for that little extra bit of encouragement.

First a brief disclaimer. In the Texas sense of the word chili, this is not chili. In Texas, your chili does not have beans in it. That basically means the name Vegetarian Chili is an oxymoron. If it doesn't have met it can't be chili. I am not from Texas (just reside here now) and I think chili should have beans. Thus, my love for this recipe.

To make the vegetarian chili, saute 2 small chopped onions and 1 clove of minced garlic in a T of oil in a large soup pot for 5 minutes. Add to the onions and garlic 2 diced medium zucchini, 2 diced stalks of celery, 2 diced medium carrots, 2 diced bell peppers, 2 T chili powder, 1 t cumin, 1/2 t cayenne, 2 bay leaves, and 2 T brown sugar (I actually left the chili powder and cayenne out in hopes the kids would eat it). Cover and simmer over low heat for 4 minutes. Stir in 2 (15-oz) cans of kidney beans and 2 (15-oz) cans of tomato sauce. I didn't have any tomato sauce so I used a pint jar of tomato juice I canned earlier in the summer and a pint jar of end of the garden I had canned (end of the garden is canned tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions). I since it was thinner than juice, I simmered it down for about 30 minutes before I started making supper. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, but not mushy, and flavors have blended (about 10 minutes). Remove bay leaves. Serve and top each bowl with a handful of roasted, unsalted cashews. (If you put the cashews straight in the pot, the leftovers will end up with soft, bloated cashews). This is a large recipe. It can easily serve at least 8 people.

M and J weren't thrilled with supper tonight. They both really like the whole wheat toast topped with local honey, but didn't eat a lot of soup. M said she liked it, I just don't think she was especially hungry for some reason. Curtis and I both loved it. I thought it was exactly like this cold November day needed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Not Arugula, Prosciutto and Asiago Pizza

When I planned pizza, I had hoped to get some arugula or mizuna for the very least. I was dreaming of the wonderful pizza I often I get at Mandola's. Alas, no arugula or mizuna and I wasn't quite bold enough to make a pizza with kale or bok choy on top. I had already bought some prosciutto and asiago cheese so I decided to stick with that. Upon looking through the crisper drawer and pantry, I decided to add some tapenade (a marinated olive mixture of sorts) and some roasted bell peppers to the meat and cheese.

To make supper, I made a batch of pizza dough. While the dough was raising, I chose two bell peppers from my massive collection of peppers in the crisper drawer. I sprayed them with olive oil and put them the grill. I roasted them, turning as needed, until each side was charred. (You can also roast them in a 375 oven for 35 or so minutes, turning frequently). I took them off the grill and put them directly into a ziploc bag and let them steam, this helps the skins peel right off. Once they were cool enough to handle, I peeled the skins off of them, removed the stems and seeds and cut into long strips.

Once the dough was done rising, I opened up a jar of pasta sauce I canned earlier this summer and lightly spread some on top. I then sprinkled some of the olive mixture on top, followed by the roasted bell peppers. Because I used prosciutto and asiago cheese, two very flavorful ingredients, I needed less cheese and meat then if I would have used pepperoni and mozzarella. I used 2 thin slices of prosciutto that I cut into small rectangles and then lightly sprinkled with asiago cheese. I baked it at 425 for 12 minutes and then served with the frequent side of a bok choy salad.

What can I say? The family loved it. It was pizza. You can't go wrong there. We had to laugh though. M preferred to eat off the toppings and leave the crust for her second piece. J ate the crust and left the toppings scattered on his plate. Jack Sprat and his wife all over again.

Updated Menu

The change in weather and CSA box contents caused me to revise our menu for the week. I've tentatively planned through next Monday. I should get through most of our CSA box if I can stick to this. :)

Thursday: Pizza with Bok Choy Salad
Friday: Vegetarian Chili with a lettuce salad
Saturday: Scallion Crepes with Bok Choy with a side of roasted young root vegetables.
Sunday: Stove Top Cassoulet
Monday: Fajitas

I spent some time this afternoon scouring a couple of the cookbooks I got from the library earlier in the week. Vegetable Heaven by Mollie Katzen and Local Flavor by Deborah Madison. I love them both!! We'll see how some of the recipes from them turn out. The method behind menu planning? Well, especially in weeks when we are getting lots of new veggies, I make a list of all the vegetables we have. Then I search indexes of cookbooks for the ingredient (vegetable). If I draw a blank there, I turn to my favorite internet recipe sites. The ones I know that will go bad the fastest, I try to put earlier in the week. I also plan a little around weather. Soups are saved for cold fronts or cold days. Fajitas went on Monday because it is supposed to be nicer outside. Food should match the weather in my mind. With all that in mind, I have a menu.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tacos on Rice

Dinner tonight was one of my family's classics. It still is the go to meal when my mom needs a slightly nicer meal and doesn't know what to make. That being said, I decided the meal was worthy of our last package of ground beef from our 1/8 of cow. The butterhead lettuce was what pushed me over the edge for the meal. It's been so long since I've made this and have had lettuce to put on it. It seemed like the perfect use for lettuce.

Preparation couldn't be much easier. Make some rice (I used 1 c dry rice for the 4 of us). Brown a pound of hamburger. Grate some cheese. Crumble up some corn chips (which, incidentally, fit 2 of Michael Pollan's guidelines for choosing what food to buy in the grocery store: 1) Less than 5 ingredients and 2)All ingredients your grandma or great grandma would recognize. Fritos have all of 3 ingredients...whole corn, corn oil, and salt. Not healthy, but as far as processed food goes, at least I recognize everything that is in them). Chop up some lettuce (and tomatoes if you have some). Garnish with tomato juice and salsa. To assemble, put some rice on plate. Follow with some meat, then cheese, then lettuce. Top of with some crushed Fritos and moistened with a liberal dousing of tomato juice. Put on some salsa (or Tabasco type sauce) for some more flavor. That's it.

Everyone loved it. J had two servings as did M (and myself). I think Curtis managed to limit himself to one. After the bok choy incident, M has decided she now likes all salad and eagerly at the lettuce on her tacos on rice. Yay!

In the CSA box today

The farm got their first freeze on Saturday so that means the end is near for eggplant and bell peppers. Yippee!!!

In the box:
Tatsoi (laying down in picture)
Bok Choy (standing up in picture)
Butterhead Lettuce
Butternut squash
Small bag of hot peppers
3 bell peppers
1 eggplant
1 dozen eggs (gotta start baking--I'm up to 25 again. That's ok. I plan on using at least 8 eggs tomorrow!)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sesame Tofu with Wilted Greens and Roasted Sweet Potatoes

In my search for a recipe for mizuna, I came across Sesame Tofu on Wilted Greens. While the original recipe called for spinach, I decided maybe mizuna would make the recipe even more Asian-inspired. This recipe is from my Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers cookbook (as have been several recipes lately) which is kind enough to suggest side dishes for the mains. Thus, the roasted sweet potatoes were discovered.

A little about tofu. A lot of people are scared by tofu. However, tofu is one of those great ingredients that will take on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. M loves seasoned tofu sticks as a snack. Healthwise, you can't really beat tofu as a protein. It has less fat than many proteins and also has calcium. It took me a while of experimenting with tofu to be comfortable using it, but now I've learned how I do and don't like. I like it in stir fries, etc, but not as a scrambled food. A good way to try tofu for the first time would to be get some at an Asian restaurant---it's really good in Pad Thai or in Chinese dishes.

To make tofu, I first pressed the 16 oz block of firm tofu to get some of the extra water out. Pressing tofu is quite easy. I put the block of tofu between two plates and then put a couple of heavy cookbooks on top. I let it set for between 15 to 30 minutes and the drain the excess water off. (Thanks Michelle for the library suggestion by the way--I got a couple of interesting cookbooks---The Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. The verdict is still out on the vegetarian cookbook. The Julia Child cookbook is interesting to read, but that's about it). Then I sliced the block of tofu in half, making two thin halves (like you would slice a thick piece of bread). Then I cut into lengthwise into 4 rectangular slabs and then in half again (into 1/16th's). I spread 1/3 c sesame seeds on a plate and pressed each little square into the sesame seeds to evenly coat all sides.

I heated 2 T sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. I laid the tofu squares in single layer in the skillet and cooked for about 5 minutes, then I carefully flipped them and cooked them for another 5 minutes. After that I added 2 T soy sauce, turned the squares over again and cooked them until most of the liquid was absorbed. I then removed the tofu from the skillet, but left the remaining sesame seeds and pan drippings behind. I kept the skillet on and heated 1 T olive oil in the pan, then added 3 cloves minced garlic. After about 30 seconds, I threw in all of my remaining mizuna from the week (about 5 oz---the recipe calls for 10 oz of baby spinach). I cooked for a minute or two, stirring frequently until the mizuna was wilted but still bright green.

I started making the roasted sweet potatoes after I dipped the tofu in the sesame seeds (but before I cooked them). I think this may be my replacement for sweet potato fries because it is easier. I simply sliced 3 smallish sweet potatoes into 1/2" thick rounds. I tossed them in a bowl with 1 T olive oil and a couple of shakes of sea salt. I spread the sweet potatoes on a cookie sheet in a single layer and roasted them in a preheated 450 oven for 10 minutes. I flipped them over and cooked them for an additional 5 minutes or until they were tender.

The family loved this meal. M tried the greens, but didn't like them. She loved the sweet potatoes (again, a switch from a couple of weeks ago) and ate some tofu as well. While I was cooking supper, she took a square of uncooked tofu and ate most of it, which is more than I can do with tofu. J loved the tofu and sweet potatoes. Curtis gave him a little soy sauce and we discovered J loves soy sauce most of all. No more soy sauce for that boy! The greens grew on me, Curtis liked them right away. I should have made twice as many sweet potatoes.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Polenta Stuffed Bell Peppers

Seeing bell peppers on the expected list of veggies for Wednesday, I decided I better get using the bell peppers which have been multiplying in the fridge. I made a bok choy salad to go with meal to provide some green.

To make the stuffed peppers, I cut 4 bell peppers in half lengthwise and remove the seeds but leave the stems on so the peppers hold their shape. Brush the peppers halves inside and out with some olive and sprinkle with salt. Put on a greased cookie sheet and roast in a preheated 450 for 15 minutes (or until they are tender but hold their shape). While the peppers roast, in a heavy saucepan bring 4 c water, and 1/2 t salt to a boil. Add 1 c polenta cornmeal (this is different than regular cornmeal--I bought it in bulk at Central Market and was able to buy less than 2 c worth) in a slow steady stream while whisking. I cooked on medium heat, stirring it often until it was thickened. Stir in 1 1/2 c corn kernels (I omitted this), 1 T butter, 1 c shredded cheddar cheese, and 1/2 c chopped green olives (stuffed with pimentos). Remove from heat. I then stuffed the bell peppers and sprinkled 1/2 c grated cheddar on top of them. I returned them to the oven for 10 minutes. I put part of the polenta in a separate bowl and baked it for M and J. While that baked, in a saucepan I combined a jar of salsa (16-oz), a can of black beans (15-oz) and 1/4 c chopped cilantro and simmered. To serve, I topped the peppers with the black bean/salsa mixture.

I was pleased. J loved it, he didn't eat the peppers, but thought the polenta was good. He ate a couple of servings. I realized as I watched him eat it exactly how nutrition poor eating just polenta is. M ate bok choy salad for the first time. I had to fight her for the last little bit. What a switch from the last month where she wouldn't even consider eating any salad. It's a start! She wasn't too sure about the polenta, but she did eat some, although rather guarded. Curtis and I both liked it, which was also pretty good because we had mixed opinions on polenta in the past. I think making our own for change improved our opinions considerably.