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.

Menu and Grocery List

Monday: Mexican Polenta-Stuffed Bell Peppers
Tuesday: Sesame Tofu with Wilted Greens (using Mizuna or Bok Choy or both!)
Wednesday: Left open for CSA inspiration
Thursday: Vegetarian Chili
Friday: Pizza

Grocery List:
Texas valley lemons
organic butter
canola oil
cheddar cheese
whole and skim organic milk
2 loaves white bread
polenta cornmeal (bought bulk)
green olives with pimentos
16 oz firm tofu
organic cereal
Asiago cheese
local organic plain yogurt

I love fall/winter in Texas because it means you can buy citrus like lemons, oranges, and grapefruits somewhat locally. The lemons don't look quite like the shiny yellow California or Mexico lemons. These lemons are sweeter and the skins are a dull yellow to green (almost a lime color) and are closer to Meyer lemons. I wanted to buy some lemons at the Farmer's Market on Saturday, but ran out of money. This is what I did get at the Farmer's Market though:
A loaf of whole wheat bread
sweet potatoes
Cameo apples (my favorites!!!)
a couple of butternut squash
a couple of zucchini (for vegetarian chili)

If the two loaves of white bread threw you for a loop, allow me to explain. About once a year or so, I buy white bread. The reason? My grandma's recipe for stuffing/dressing/filling (call it what you may) tastes best with the total devoid of any nutritional value white bread. For my kids' Thanksgiving feast at their preschool, I am taking two pans of stuffing. Thus, the white bread. I am not a southern so this cornbread dressing stuff just doesn't cut it for me. Recipe and pictures to come later in the week. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Scrambled Eggs with Kale and Raspberry Chipotle Sauce and Broccoli Salad

I was feeling like we were a little bit stuck in a rut and did a close repeat of egg fu yung omelet tonight. Being inundated with greens has caused me to get a little more motivated to find ways to use the likes of kale, bok choy, and mizuna (not your normal salad greens here!). Tonight I adapted a vegan recipe that used tofu for a recipe that also addressed my massive amount of eggs (I am down to only 13!!! after having about 28 or so on Wednesday!).

I started by making the broccoli salad. I chopped into very small florets enough broccoli to equal 3 cups. I wish I could have added 1 c raisins, but the dried fruit monsters at my house had finished the raisins sometime. I also fried and crumbled 5 slices of bacon which I added to the broccoli along with 1/3 c sunflower seeds (or you can also use 1/3 c chopped peanuts). I drained most of the fat out of the bacon skillet, but left just a little for my scrambled eggs. Then I set the broccoli and other ingredients aside to make the dressing. For the dressing, I mixed 3/4 c mayo (or you could use plain yogurt for something slightly healthier), 2 T sugar and 1 T apple cider vinegar. I poured everything over the broccoli mixture and stirred together.

For the scrambled eggs, I sauteed the 1 c chopped onions in the leftover bacon fat for a couple of minutes or until they began to soften. I added 2 chopped garlic cloves and cooked for another minute. I stirred in 3 c chopped kale, covered, and steamed until the greens began to wilt. While the greens wilted, I mixed together 5 eggs and 1 T soy sauce. I uncovered the skillet once the greens were ready and poured the eggs into the greens. I stirred to scramble the whole thing. That's it. I served with some Raspberry Chipotle Sauce I found in the refrigerator. (If you were curious, the original recipe called for no leftover bacon fat and 1 cake firm tofu instead of eggs).

We also had some Texas orange slices with the meal as well. Curtis and I thought it was great. M wouldn't touch anything between not eating the kale with the eggs and not liking mayonnaise on her broccoli. She did eat orange slices. J ate the scrambled eggs and kale and orange slices. I love the broccoli salad, it's the only way I will eat raw broccoli. After much tears and crying, Curtis and I caved and washed some broccoli salad off for M. Then she ate broccoli (and the bacon) just fine. Go figure. Next time, I'll put some plain broccoli aside for M to avoid all the tears. I guess I shouldn't complain that she doesn't like mayo.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pho Bo

I had been planning on making beef stew tonight for supper based on the weather forecast from Monday---I expected a cold front to have made its way here by now. However, with the cold front just now starting to blow in, I decided to save the beef stew for tomorrow night instead. I have been craving Asian food lately and decided on pho bo or Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup for tonight. I realized I didn't have all the ingredients so I made a quick run to Central Market this afternoon to grab less than $6 worth of groceries. My short grocery list? 6 whole star anise (pictured at left, they are actually the size of a dime or smaller and for all 6 I paid less then 20¢. They smell absolutely wonderful, like licorice), a bunch of cilantro, a bunch of green onions, and a 8 oz package of thin rice noodles (which may also be labeled vermicilli---just make sure it's rice).

I had to start the broth hours before it was dinner time, which didn't prove to be a problem. In a large pot, I put in 3 quarts of water, 2 soup bones (probably 2 pounds worth), 3 beef bouillon cubes, and 1 onion I cut in half. I covered that and let it simmer for 2 1/2 hours or so. After 2 1/2 hours, I attempted to skim some of the fat off the top, I am not sure how successful I was, but I tried. An hour before we were planning on eating, I added 4 of the whole star anise. I let it simmer some more (so far, very little of work, just a planning ahead). At some point while the broth simmered away, I got ready the rest of the ingredients. I chopped 1/3 c cilantro and combined that with 1/3 c of thinly sliced green onions. I set that aside. Then I thinly sliced 1/2 lb of NY Strip Steak (the recipe suggests tenderloin or boneless sirloin but both of those pieces that I had were way too big. You can use as little as 2 oz of beef). The easiest way to thinly slice beef is to slice it while it is still partially frozen. I set the beef aside. Finally, in a medium pot, I brought a pot of water to a boil. Once it boiled, I dumped in the rice noodles and cooked them for 3 minutes. I then drained them, returned them to the pot off the heat, and covered them until we were ready to eat.

Just before serving, I removed the soup bones from the pot and took the meat off of them. The dog got the soup bones (man, was she happy!) and I cut the meat into as small of pieces as I could and returned them to the broth. I also added to the broth 1 T sugar, 2 T fish sauce, and 1 t salt. I made sure the broth was boiling vigorously and then served the soup.

To serve, I put noodles in the bottom of bowl, added a layer of cilantro/green onions, and then a few slices of raw meat (yes, raw). Then I ladled the soup on top of the meat. As I ladled the soup, I could see the meat cooking (that was pretty cool). If that method freaks you out, you can just throw the meat in the pot of broth and cook it for a little. On the table, I had a small bowl of freshly cut mint and sliced lemons for garnish. You could also add sliced chiles or bean sprouts as well.

The family's review---they loved it! M ate 2 bowls, which is rather unusual for her and soup. J ate his whole bowl and then scooped what he spilled off his placement to eat. Curtis and I ate two servings as well. We also had bok choy salad on the salad. It was a wonderfully light, yet flavorful and filling meal.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Egg Foo Yung Omelet

It took me forever to decide on supper tonight. I am not kidding, but it took about 2 hours of scavenging through cookbooks and recipes online before I finally found something that both looked good and I had the ingredients for (thankfully J took a long nap and M was entertaining herself as I sent myself on my almost wild goose chase). I ended up finding egg foo yung omelets.

I still had some bok choy left from last week which amazingly had not gone bad. It was a little wilted, but since I was cooking it I wasn't too worried about it (and I am ignoring the fact that lots of its valuable nutrients had left too). The omelet was pretty easy. I thinly sliced about 1/2 c onion, 1 small bell pepper (I used an orange one--the color and sweetness was nice), and a small head of bok choy (about 1 - 1 1/2 c worth). From the bok choy I used both the stems and the leaves. I heated some olive oil in a black skillet (about 8 -10 inches or so, it actually matters in this recipe), and cooked the veggies for 7 minutes with the cover on, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables were tender. While the vegetables cooked, I whisked together 5 eggs, 1 T soy sauce, 1 T water and 1 t ginger. I also combined 1 T cornstarch in 1 c of water and the added 1 T soy sauce and few drops of sesame oil to that. The cornstarch/water/soy sauce mixture I transferred to small pan on the stove and attempted to thicken it (my cornstarch thickening skills leave a lot to be desired) by bringing it to a boil and then simmering until it was clear and thickened. (I ran out of patience before that happened so our sauce was rather runny, but still good!). I poured the eggs over the tender vegetables, covered and slightly reduced heat and let the eggs cook, about 5 - 10 minutes. To serve, I removed the eggs from the skillet and topped with the soy sauce mixture.

Curtis and I really enjoyed it. J liked it pretty well too. M has been unusually picky about food lately so we were not surprised that she didn't eat any of it. I also served leftover poultry pasta primavera with the meal. I discovered that the soy sauce on top of that is also very tasty!

A Fall Quesadilla

I know I don't usually blog about lunches. Why is that? Well, when we eat at the house (or if I pack a lunch) it is almost always pb&j, whatever fruit is in season, occasionally crackers and baba ganoush, and whatever good crunchy vegetables I can round up. Today was different though!

We are currently out of bread. Back up lunches tend to be either leftovers or quesadillas. We opted for the quesadillas today. For the kids, I put leftover barbeque chicken (we got a chicken from the Mexican chicken trailer close to our house last Sunday) and cheddar cheese inside their quesadilla. I decided to use some of my mizuna in mine. I thinly sliced some apples we had and put those on top of the whole wheat tortilla. I grated Asiago cheese I found in our deli drawer on top of that and then topped that with some mizuna. Finally I put on the other tortilla. was good! The apples being on the bottom meant they were warm and slightly softened. The sweetness of the apples counteracted the saltiness of the cheese. I had gotten salsa out to eat with the quesadilla, but found that salsa was entirely unnecessary (which is rather unusual for me). Too bad we are now out of Asiago cheese and tortillas or I would repeat these quesadillas for my lunch tomorrow!


I am working on my Christmas list (yes, my family still does Christmas makes things so much easier!) and thought maybe I could use a new cookbook. I've been browsing on for cookbooks and thought Deborah Madison's cookbooks looked good. Does anyone have any of her cookbooks and have thoughts on them? Do you have a favorite cookbook that features vegetables/produce in recipes (meat is fine, but I need more bok choy and eggplant recipes for starters!)? My favorite cookbooks I have are Simply in Season and the Moosewood Restaurant cookbooks. I am also looking for ethnic cookbooks-especially Asian or Mediterranean (because let's face it, most other cultures do better at cooking seasonly than our typical "American" cuisine and these cultures have some of the produce we are inundated with from our CSA). Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pappardelle with Roasted Winter Squash and Mizuna

I substituted mizuna for the arugula this time around and everything turned out just fine. The mizuna in fact was not as flavorful (translated peppery or even as bitter) as the arugula. I didn't like it quite as well, but Curtis said he liked it better. (The recipe was posted earlier....if you can't find it, use the butternut squash or arugula label and it should be easy to find).

The squash was just as wonderful as last time. Not quite all of it made it into the pasta because it was done before the rest of the dish and I found myself snacking on it occasionally. What a tasty snack!

In the CSA box today

Lots of greens---it's looking more like winter and early fall! I had to do an online search to identify them all! :)

Bok Choy (or maybe it's tatsoi. I use them the same)
2 small heads of broccoli
Mizuna (a leaf courtesy Cook's thesarus is pictured)
4 small rather sad looking tomatoes (but we have tomatoes in November!)
4 bell peppers
eggplants (that I left behind because let's be honest, they're just feeding my compost anyway)
baby beets
baby turnips (I think....)
hot peppers (left behind)

A few notes:

When getting CSA broccoli, it's good to soak it in a bowl of salted water first. Soak it floret side down. This will kill the little green worms that like to make their home in the broccoli. You will still need to go through the broccoli and pick them out, but at least they are dead. Aaahh...the joys of organic!

Mizuna, from what I understand, is a Japanese green, similar to Arugula. I am using it tonight for supper in place of arugula so I'll let you know how that is. I've also found some interesting recipes on Epicurious I look forward to trying using mizuna.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Poultry Pasta Primavera

I was excited to cook with broccoli and decided I could buy a couple of carrots to use for the recipe (even though they aren't quite in season here yet).

To make this I cooked 1/2 lb capellini pasta along with 2 c broccoli florets, 1 c julienned carrots (cut into little matchstick shapes), 1/2 c sliced red bell pepper, and 1/2 c chopped sweet onion in a pot of boiling water. I cooked the pasta and vegetables (all together) for 5 minutes or until the pasta was al dente and the vegetables crisp tender. (If you use different pasta that cooks longer than 5 minutes, just add the vegetables for the last five minutes of cooking time). Drain and set aside.

In a large frying pan, I sauted 1 clove minced garlic, 2 T fresh chopped parsley, 1/2 t dried basil, 1 1/2 t fresh chopped oregano (1/2 t dried) in 1 T olive oil. I added 2 T flour and stirred briefly. I then added 1 c milk and stirred constantly until thickened (it didn't take long because I used a pretty large pan and had the stove on medium). I added 1 c chopped cooked chicken (you could also use turkey which would make this a nice post Thanksgiving meal) and cooked until heated through. Then I added 1/2 c cream cheese and 1/4 c Parmesan cheese and heated, but did not boil. The most difficult part of the whole preparation was mixing the white sauce over top of the pasta and vegetables.

The family liked it. I ate out with friends so I tasted it, but didn't eat much (I'll eat it Wednesday for lunch). I think it could have used a little more seasonings, probably more parsley and some salt and pepper. J ate it very well, M decided that she didn't want to eat broccoli (which was strange because until yesterday that was her favorite vegetable), but she liked the pasta and chicken. Curtis thought it was great.

Menu and Grocery List

Monday: Autumn Vegetable Soup and Cinnamon Topped Oatmeal Muffins
Tuesday: Poultry Pasta Primavera
Wednesday: Butternut Squash and Arugula Pappardelle
Thursday: I'll see what's in the CSA box for this week
Friday: Beef Stew

Grocery List:
organic whole and skim milk
YoBaby yogurt
organic unsalted butter
organic pappardelle
organic capellini (angel hair pasta)
two onions
cream cheese
2 organic potatoes
3 organic carrots
a bunch of organic celery
stoned wheat crackers

Monday, November 10, 2008

Autumn Vegetable Soup and Oatmeal Muffins

We came back from our trip with colds (at least Curtis and I) so I decided tonight was a good soup night. I needed to use the kale from last week and the autumn vegetable soup (look back in the posts for that recipe) was sounding pretty yummy! To go with it, I made cinnamon topped oatmeal muffins.

M, Curtis and I loved the soup and the muffins. J held out for only the muffins. I am glad they at least had oatmeal in them to make them a little healthier!

To make the muffins, I stirred 1 c sifted flour, 1/4 c sugar, 3 t baking powder, 1/2 t salt, and 1 c rolled oats together (you could also had 1/2 c raisins here, but I am not a raisin girl). In a measuring cup, I combined 3 T oil, 1 beaten egg, and 1 c milk. I mixed everything together until it was just moistened. I filled greased muffin tins 2/3 way fill (it should fill about 12 depending on how small/big you make them) with the batter. Then I topped it with 2 T sugar, 2 t flour, 1 t cinnamon, and 1 t melted butter I had combined in a small bowl. I sprinkled a little of the cinnamon mixture on top of each muffin and baked in a preheated 425 oven for 15 minutes.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Camping Food

In our CSA box on Wednesday we received some vegetables that wouldn't last until we got back on Sunday. Here is a little bit of an idea of how we ate some of our produce:

Arugula: In pimento cheese and hummus sandwiches, plain, and as a salad

Green beans: Raw as a snack food while traveling, in tin foil dinners (two cabbage leaves stuffed with thinly sliced potatoes, carrots, green beans, ground bison, mild hatch chile peppers, and cream of mushroom soup)

Radishes: Raw as a snack food while traveling (we have some of those left over)

Salad mix: As a salad with our hotdog/bratwurst dinner

We also took some of our Texas apples to snack on and a couple of sweet potatoes that we wrapped in foil and cooked over the fire for our hotdog dinner. Adding our CSA veggies to our meals definitely contributed to some of the best camping meals we've ever had!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

In the CSA box today

Fall keeps popping up in our CSA box:

Baby Arugula
Mixed Salad greens
Green Beans
Eggplant (ok--those don't signal fall)
Bell Peppers
Hot Peppers (left those behind again)

We are headed out of town this evening for a nice long weekend away. I'll be without cell phone service or internet (ahhh...I can't wait!) for days. I should be back posting again on Monday.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Cashew Chicken and Bok Choy Salad

I was happy to remember I had chicken breasts in the freezer this evening. I was having a hard time coming up with what's for dinner until I realized chicken stir fry was an option. I thawed 1 lb of chicken and then cut it into small pieces. I stir fried it in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil for a few minutes (don't cook the chicken all the way yet). I added 1/2 large onion cut into 1/2 inch wedges, 1 sliced green pepper, 2 cloves minced garlic, and 2 t grated fresh ginger root (1/2 t ground ginger) and stir-fried everything until the chicken was cooked and the onions were crisp-tender. Then I added the seasonings: 4 t soy sauce, 1/2 t ground coriander, 2 t fish sauce, 3 T water, 1 T lemon juice, and 1/2 t ground cumin. I stir fried for just a minute more before stirring in 1/2 c of unsalted, roasted cashews. I served immediately over rice and with the wonderful bok choy salad on the side.

Everyone ate this well. I was quite pleased because M even ate the bell peppers--I think that is the first time that has happened. Unfortunately, the cashews were a little freezer burnt from being in my freezer too long. It was still good, I just didn't eat the cashews.

Menu and Grocery List

Monday-Cashew Chicken and Bok Choy Salad
Tuesday- something with shrimp and Kale Gratin
Wednesday-sandwich supper
Thursday-Hotdogs, Brats and Sweet Potatoes (camping food)
Friday- Foil dinners: with cabbage, ground bison, potatoes, and carrots
Saturday-Taco Soup

As you can tell, the later part of the week is not typical food fare. We are going out of town for a long weekend and eating dinners over a campfire or with a camp stove. Thus, M got to walk through the grocery store clutching her beloved hotdogs that her mother never buys unless we go camping.

That said, the grocery list this week is a little different. I found fresh large gulf shrimp on sale (about half price!!) so I got some extra and froze it for a later time.

Grocery List:
YoBaby yogurt
organic whole and skim milk
organic carrots
ground bison (we only have one package of hamburger left from our 1/8 of a cow--what will we do!!)
Hebrew National All Beef Franks
Barbara's Bakery Cheese Bakes
Cream of Mushroom Soup
organic potatoes
3 pounds fresh Gulf shrimp

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake

..because Butternut Squash Chocolate Cheesecake doesn't sound as good! That's right, butternut squash made another appearance in a dessert.

Cheesecakes still remain a bit of a mystery to me, but I am getting it a little more figured out....reading up on them helps a lot. To make this cheesecake (which was supposed to be lighter than some...), I started by crushing 1 1/2 c of chocolate wafers (a little more than half of a 9 oz package) in my food processor. I transfered the crushed wafers to a bowl and combined 2 T brown sugar and 2 T melted butter and mixed well. I pressed the wafers into the bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan and up the sides about an inch or so. I set this aside until later.

For the cheesecake, I pureed 3 c low-fat (not non-fat) cottage cheese in the food processor until it was smooth. I then added 12 oz cream cheese at room temperature, 1 1/4 c sugar and 1/4 c cornstarch and pureed until smooth. I poured this into a mixing bowl and added 2 beaten eggs, 2 t vanilla, and 1/4 t salt and then beat (with an electric mixer). I removed 1 1/2 c of the cream cheese batter and put it in a separate bowl for later. To what remained in the mixing bowl, I added 1 1/2 c of cooked, pureed butternut squash (or pumpkin), 1/4 c brown sugar, 3/4 t cinnamon, and 1/8 t ground nutmeg and mixed well.

In the bowl I had set aside, I stirred in 1 c melted chocolate chips and 1/3 c cocoa powder and mixed until it was thoroughly blended.

I poured the pumpkin mixture into the crust-lined pan and then spooned in the chocolate mixture on top (I tried to spread it out, but it ended up really close together). I swirled everything together gently with a knife, being sure not to mix the two together but to just leave streaks of chocolate through the pumpkin. I baked in a preheated 325 degrees oven for 60 - 65 minutes or until just the edge of the filling was set. I turned off the oven and left the cheesecake in the oven for 30 minutes with the oven door closed. Then I removed it from the oven and let it cool on rack at room temperature for 3 hours. Then, I finally covered and refrigerated over night before serving. All of this gentle cooling is supposed to prevent cracks on the top. I have yet to achieve a cheesecake without cracks, but maybe this helps.