Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

Over the weekend Curtis smoked 2 chickens--Rockingham County, VA style (which would be a vinegar baste and cooked low and favorite chicken in the whole world). Now what my family needs with 2 chickens for one meal, I am not quite sure. Needless to say, I have leftover chicken I need to figure out how to use. We also went every other week with our CSA box in September, so I've needed to use a little more thought to plan meals (because I don't have a fridge full of vegetables I don't want to go bad).

The result--Pulled Chicken Sandwiches. I used some of my remaining onions (the onions are dwindling--so sad. I may need to buy onions at the store before too long again) and the challah I made in the afternoon. Mmm...a great way to use leftover cooked chicken (and I'd imagine turkey around Thanksgiving time). Everyone liked it. M even ate the onions without mentioning them, which was an accomplishment. I used two chicken quarters (dark meat sections) for this. I think it was around 2 c of chicken. Instead of the tomato paste and water, you could also use 1/2 c tomato sauce and 2 T water. With 2 c chicken, it barely made 4 sandwiches.

Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 1 3/4 - 2 lb purchased rotisserie chicken (or leftover, cooked chicken from another meal)
1 med onion, sliced 1/4" thick
1/3 c cider vinegar
2 T concentrated tomato paste
1/2 c water
1 T molasses
1/2 t salt
3 - 4 T serrano or jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (optional--I omitted)

Remove the chicken from the bones, discarding skin, fat, and bones (and other misc parts you don't want). Pull meat into shreds. In a large skillet cook onion in hot oil over medium heat about 5 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally to separate slices into rings. Add vinegar and cook another minute. Add tomato paste, water, molasses, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Heat through. You can keep warm on the stove until you are ready to serve it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What We've Been Eating Lately

Here's what we've been eating the past week and a half, plus what I am planning on making in the next week.

Monday: just the kids and I--hotdogs and peas (I know, not my finest effort)
Tuesday: Chuck Roast (recipe coming)
Wednesday: Macaroni and Cheese, Applesauce, and a salad
Thursday: Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs
Friday: Homemade Pizza
Saturday: Attended a party, didn't eat dinner at the house
Sunday: Rockingham County, VA-style BBQ chicken
Monday: Pecan Crusted Salmon with Mango Black Bean Salsa and a salad
Tuesday: Pulled Chicken Sandwiches and Potato Gratin (recipes coming)
Wednesday: Chicken and Rice Casserole (recipe coming)
Thursday: Lamb and Eggplant Shepherd's Pie (original recipe on Epicurious here)
Friday: Kabocha Squash Soup with Sage and Pancetta (original recipe on Epicurious here)
Saturday: Spiced Lentil Tacos (original recipe on Epicurious here)
Sunday: Breakfast for Supper: Arugula Bread Pudding
Monday: Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes
Tuesday: Maybe fish??

For lunches: Pann Bagnat and leftovers
Baking: Challah, Snickerdoodles, Pumpkin Muffins, and either Zucchini Whoopie Pies or Filled Madeleines
Preserving: Applesauce
Desserts: Split-Level Puddings

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Pumpkin Muffins

Cookbooks are my weakness. I love them. I can devour them like a wonderful meal or a good book. I love the pictures. I love the descriptions of the recipes. I love reading ingredients lists and descriptions on how to create something wonderful to eat. Can you tell I've gotten a new cookbook?

After my brioche, I looked up this Dorie Greenspan person who provided me with the wonderful recipe for happiness. Turns out, she is rather accomplished--she wrote the Baking with Julia cookbook (from the PBS TV series with Julia Child). I also discovered this entire online cooking club that is cooking a different recipe from her baking cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours, every week. I was intrigued and decided that the rest of birthday money would be well spent on THAT cookbook.

I was excited to find this pumpkin muffin recipe in there. I used my kabocha squash I cooked down on Wednesday (I steamed instead of boiled it so it would be thick enough). We loved these muffins, I didn't even follow the recipe very well because my spice cabinet needs to be restocked with fall spices (allspice, whole nutmeg, ginger...) Curtis summed it up perfectly, "These taste like fall."

Pumpkin Muffins
from Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 c flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
3/4 t cinnamon
1/2 t ground ginger
1/8 t fresh grated nutmeg (I used a pinch of store bought ground nutmeg)
pinch of allspice
1/2 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 c pumpkin (or other orange winter squash, pureed and unsweetened)
1/4 c buttermilk
1/2 c raisins
1/2 c pecans, chopped
a few unsalted, unroasted sunflower seeds

Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside. Using a mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until soft. Add the sugars and continue to beat until light and smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after the eggs are incorporated. Beat in the vanilla. Lower the mixer speed and mix in the pumpkin and buttermilk. Slowly add the dry ingredients and beat only until they are just combined. With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir in the raisins and pecans. Divide the batter evenly between 12 greased muffin cups and sprinkle a few sunflower seeds over top each one.

Bake in a preheated 400 degrees oven for about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for minutes in the pan and then remove from pan and cool on rack.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

Spaghetti Squash still remains a slight mystery to me. I am intrigued by it. I love the idea of it....using a fork and scraping it into spaghetti like strands. It's just fun to do. However, I have yet to do it so that it is tender and not somewhat crunchy. Thankfully (or maybe not, maybe if I got more I'd have figured it out) I only get about one spaghetti squash a year. This year, I thought I would bury it under a large mound of sauce and meatballs.

I tried a different recipe this year for cooking the squash from It was cool, it had a step by step slide show and everything. However, I ended up with crunchy spaghetti squash again--despite baking it at 375 for an hour and then, in desperation, microwaving it for 12 minutes (covered with a bit of water in hopes of steaming it). The meatballs and sauce were absolutely awesome. M only ate the squash when we told her it was the only way she would get more meatballs. I think Curtis and I tolerated the squash and J loved the meatballs.

That said, I am not giving directions on how to prepare spaghetti squash because I consider it a failure. Maybe I am under the wrong impression and it never actually gets soft.

For yet another year, spaghetti squash remains a mystery.

Sauce with Meatballs
from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 c onion, chopped
1/2 c green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 c celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
4 c tomatoes, chopped (or 1-28 oz canned diced tomatoes)
1 (6-oz) can tomato paste
1/3 c water
1 t salt
1/2 t black pepper
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 t dried oregano
1 t sugar
1 T fresh basil, chopped

1 egg
3/4 c bread crumbs
1/4 c onions, finely chopped
2 T green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 t salt
1 lb ground beef

For the sauce: In a Dutch oven, saute the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic in hot oil over medium heat until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, oregano, sugar, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes or to desired consistency.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl combine egg, bread crumbs, onions, green bell pepper, oregano, and salt. Add the ground beef and mix well. Shape into 16 - 24 meatballs (depending on desired size). Arrange meatballs on a cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 15 - 20 minutes or until done. Stir meatballs into sauce. Add fresh basil. Serve hot on top of pasta.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Baby Food

Baby I is getting older and that means he is almost ready to start eating solid foods. This is yet another reason I love being part of a CSA and shopping at Farmer's Market. I know exactly what food goes into my baby's body and where it came from. I know the farmer and I know nothing unwanted is sneaking in with the food, thanks to the organic produce.

As far as I am concerned, he is ready to eat solids at the perfect time. Apples are at the farmer's market. I am buying 2nds (the apples with spots that need a little work before they're ready to eat) and making applesauce (here's how to make applesauce using a KitchenAid and attachment). That will be followed by some of that wonderful orange winter squash I am currently processing (here's how to do that). I can also find pears at the farmer's market now and soon we'll be getting sweet potatoes in our CSA box. Perfect. When it's time, I'll get a small amount of local lamb (from the farmer's market) to introduce Baby I to meat and then chicken as well. By the time the rich leafy greens and broccoli are in season, he'll be ready to conquer those as well. I can't think of better way to get a child off the right start of eating.

Here's what I am up to on this cool fall day (which we so rarely get in September. September!! I love thee this year!). Applesauce and processing winter squash. I hope to make Kobacha muffins later this week! :)

Pictured are the apples before cooking and after I've cooked them down. They're now ready to process.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Soft Pretzels

Rainy days make me want to bake. I think this is probably because when I was a kid, on every snow day (or at least the first snow day of every snow day vacation), my dad would make homemade doughnuts. Here, we don't get snow days nearly often enough (hardly ever, in fact) and so those days the cool fronts roll substitute for snow days. Rainy days, work too, as long as it involves cooler temperatures and the gray clouds that roll and hang out for awhile.

Having kids changes the whole love of rainy days. After a while, when my kids on our their 4th pair of clothes for the day, I need something for them to do inside. Pulling them into my baking schemes makes the most sense and pretzels are the perfect way to do that. (M shaping a pretzel is pictured) Using the dough blade for an electric mixer makes this dough come together quickly (a little too quickly--I like to get my hands dirty when baking!). You could also do this by hand, it will just take a little elbow grease. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Needless to say, everyone loved these pretzels. We ended up baking them on the Big Green Egg and they were wonderful. (Pictured is the last pretzel, which was the only one I had a chance to take a picture of--the rest disappeared too fast).

Soft Pretzels
from the Food Network, courtesy of Alton Brown

1 1/2 c warm water
1 T sugar
2 t salt
1 pkg (1 T) active dry yeast
4 1/2 c flour
1/4 c butter, melted
10 c water
2/3 c baking soda
1 lg egg yolk beaten with 1 T water
pretzel salt (or coarse sea salt or kosher salt)

Combine the water, sugar, and 2 t salt in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and allow to sit for 5 minutes or until mixture starts to foam. Add the flour and butter, and using a dough hook attachment on your mixer, mix on low speed until well combined. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 - 5 minutes. Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 50 - 55 minutes or until the dough is doubled in size.

Bring the 10 c of water and baking soda to a boil in a large pot (I used my large soup pot---the pot should be wide, not tall and skinny). Meanwhile, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and divide into 16 pieces (8 if you want enormous pretzels). Roll out each piece into a 12" rope. Make a U shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to make the pretzel shape. Place on a parchment lined baking pan. Place the pretzels in the boiling water (one at a time) for 30 seconds. Remove from the water and put on a cooling rack. Brush the top of each pretzel with beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the coarse salt. Transfer back to baking pan and bake in a preheated 450 degrees oven for 12 - 14 minutes, or until dark golden brown in color. Cool for 5 minutes until serving.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

In all my cooking with eggplant this summer, I've yet to make the classic eggplant dish. After getting an ample supply of eggplant this week, I decided I didn't want summer to pass me by without making this meal.

With the exception of M, this meal was hit. M is in a "I don't like anything with eggplant in it" phase right now, so that didn't surprise me. (It cracks me up though because her favorite snack is Baba Ganoush!). J ate two servings and Curtis and I both thought it was good---although Curtis did thing I could have fried the eggplant a little longer (he was right. For a change, I actually had my pan too hot instead of too cool, so they got dark on the outside before the inside turned into creamy goodness). This dish is basically just as good as the pasta sauce you use--I used my canned pizza sauce (I am a little nervous how fast I am going through the stuff. There is no way we'll make it to tomato season next summer!) I didn't have a full 2 lbs of eggplant so I just used what I had and adjusted the cheese and sauce as I went. We ate this with an arugula salad.

Eggplant Parmesan
from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

2 medium to large eggplants, 2 - 3 pounds total, peeled and cut into 1/2" thick slices
olive oil
flour, for dredging eggplants
2 c tomato or pasta sauce (homemade is best...)
2 c mozzarella cheese, grated
1 c Parmesan cheese, grated
fresh basil leaves

Heat 3 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, dredge the eggplant slices, one at a time, in the flour, until both sides are coated, shaking off the excess flour. Cook in hot olive oil for 3 - 4 minutes on each side, until nicely browned and soft on the inside. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as they cook, remove from pan, and drain on paper towels. Repeat process until all eggplant slices are cooked, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Add more oil to the skillet as needed.

In a lightly oiled 9 x 9" inch pan (for 1 3/4 lbs of eggplant, if you use more eggplant, you'll either need a bigger pan or more layers) or casserole dish, spoon a little tomato sauce onto the bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant, followed by a thin layer of each of the cheeses and a few basil leaves. Repeat layers (sauce, eggplant, cheeses, basil) until all ingredients (except basil) are used up. End with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 20 - 30 minutes, or until the dish is bubbling. Mince a little bit of basil and sprinkle over top. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcakes

As I've said many times, I am not a fan of the summer squash. Early in the season I'll cook it in identifiable forms with pasta, in sautes, grilled, or in a quiche. I'll make zucchini cakes and occasionally chilled zucchini soup. By September though, my patience has waned and I look only for those recipes that hide the zucchini and involve sugar, butter, and baking. I think zucchini was the original motivation for the whole Deceptively Delicious/The Sneaky Chef/ hide healthy foods in other dishes movement. People had the need to use zucchini that just coming and coming and coming.

In my shameless avoidance of cleaning this week, I stumbled onto another food blog after my own heart (Real Mom Kitchen, click here to see all her posts labeled with zucchini) There was a whole host of zucchini recipes involving baking and not knowing that zucchini is in it at all. This recipe was one of them. I also hope to make the zucchini whoopie pie that she has on her blog, however based off the picture, I'll want to tweak it a little to make it into one of those great Pennsylvania Dutch (ie Amish) whoopie pies I grew up with. (Don't get me started on those flat things that stores are now calling whoopie pies that are the size of saucers).

The cupcakes were really good. Curtis thought they were the best chocolate cupcakes I've ever made. I wouldn't go that far, but I do like them and can totally ignore the zucchini. The chocolate cream cheese frosting is awesome. The kids like them pretty good too.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cupcakes
from Real Mom Kitchen blog

2 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate, cut into chunks
3 eggs
1 3/4 c packed brown sugar
1 c vegetable oil
2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 c zucchini, grated
1/2 c chocolate chips

Toss zucchini with 1/2 t salt and place in sieve over a bowl. Let set until it is added to cake batter, squeezing out excess liquid before adding it to the cake (see middle picture).

In a double boiler, bring water to a boil. Turn off heat, place chocolate in bowl, cover, and let set until chocolate is melted. Set aside. (See top picture for my method of using a double boiler, setting a small metal mixing bowl inside a pot of boiling water).

In a mixer, beat eggs with sugar until pale and thickened, 5 - 10 minutes depending on mixer speed and strength. Blend in oil and cooled chocolate into the beaten egg mixture. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to egg mixture and combine until just blended. Stir in drained, grated zucchini and chocolate chips. Spoon batter into 24 paper-lined muffin cups, filling cups 2/3 (or slightly more) full. Bake in preheated 350 degrees oven for 20 minutes or until tester inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool on pans on rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely before icing.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8-0z) pkg of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 c butter, at room temperature
3 c sifted powdered sugar (you may need as much as 4 c depending on how thick you want your frosting)
1/2 c cocoa powder

Mix cream cheese and butter until smooth and creamy. Mix in powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Mix in cocoa powder and frost cupcakes.

Friday, September 18, 2009

What We've Been Eating Lately

Here are our menus and links to recipe from the last 2 weeks. We'll see how much I can remember!

Monday: ate at friend's house
Tuesday: Eggplant Baked Ziti
Wednesday: Macaroni and cheese and green beans
Thursday: Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Arugula and Chile Cheese Gratin with Sausage
Friday: leftovers
Saturday: Beef Roast with Mushrooms
Sunday: Brisket
Monday: Spaghetti with Found Bolognese Sauce (found in the freezer)
Tuesday: Tilapia with Chile Lime Butter
Wednesday: Prosicutto and Arugula Stromboli
Thursday: Poblano Chicken Enchiladas (recipe coming, I was sure I had already posted this, but I can't find it now!)
Friday: Eggplant Parmesan (recipe coming if it's worth repeating)
Saturday: Eating at a birthday party (leftovers for lunch)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Roasted Poblano Peppers

Before roasting

Or in fact, roasted red bell peppers or roasted hatch chile peppers or roasted anaheim chile peppers. The process is the same for all pepper roasting--char and peel the skins.

I prefer to use our gas grill for this venture, but you could use the oven, any grill, or even the flame of a gas stove top (I haven't tried this one personally, I just know it could be done...). Lightly spread oil over the peppers. I use olive oil that is in a pressurized spray bottle, but you could toss them in bowl with oil as well. Place over high heat (about 400 - 450 degrees in the oven), and char skins. Turn as needed until all sides are charred. Don't over char or you won't be able to peel the skins off (the flesh will be burnt as well and you don't want that). Once all sides are charred, steam the peppers to loosen the skins. To do this, either throw in a bag (ziploc or paper, just make sure if you use a ziploc type bag, it is freezer quality, otherwise it will melt the bag) or place in a bowl and cover. Let set for 10 minutes or so. Remove and carefully peel off the skins. It's ok if some of the flesh is darkened, as long as the skin peels off. Remove stem and seeds (if desired, I always do because that's where most of the heat is). Use as the recipe directs.

After roasting (the light pepper isn't done yet).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tilapia with Chile Lime Butter

I am still searching for ways to use my peppers--one pepper at a time when it comes to the small spicy ones. Tonight's dinner felt like a wild goose chase--I started out looking for tuna (canned) and pasta recipes and ended up with pan-seared tilapia, rice, and green beans. The search definitely went in the right direction. Serving rice with this was perfect because it meant I could slather some of the butter on the rice too.

We all loved this recipe. I can't go wrong with fish in my house--both M and J love fish. The chile lime butter was fabulous. I am looking forward to finding things to put the chile lime butter on (I know, not the healthiest....). Be sure to pat the fish dry (I step always skipped in the directions until I learned why it was important to do it). Drying the fish, or whatever you are frying, allows the food to brown. The only problem is that it didn't put a dent whatsoever into my stash of hot peppers. Oh well.

Tilapia with Chile Lime Butter
from Gourmet Magazine

Chile Lime Butter
1/4 c unsalted butter, softened (not melted, just softened--room temperature is about right)
1 T finely chopped shallot (optional--I left this out, didn't want to mess with cutting an onion)
1 t finely grated lime zest
2 t fresh lime juice
1 t serrano or jalapeno, minced (preferably red)
1/2 t salt

The Fish
24 oz (4 - 6 fillets) skinless tilapia fillet
1/2 t salt
2 T oil

To make the chile lime butter, stir together all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pat fish dry and sprinkle with salt. Heat 1 T oil in a 12" heavy nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until just smoking. Saute the fish, turning over once with a spatula until golden and just cooked through, 4 - 5 minutes. Do this in two batches if necessary, do not overcrowd the skillet. Serve each fillet with a dollop of chile lime butter.

Chile Cheese Gratin with Chorizo

All summer I've struggled with how to use all the peppers I've been getting from our CSA. My kids don't eat spicy foods (what a bummer!) and since I don't make a separate meal for the kids, I don't usually use the peppers, unless they are the bell peppers (I've found even some of the so called sweet peppers are too hot for my kids). Then, I found this recipe. I was excited to find a side dish that used lots of peppers. In fact, I bought a couple of Hatch chile peppers to supplement the peppers I had in my fridge.

Curtis and I both really liked this. I don't know how often I'll make it, especially with the chorizo, because between the chorizo and cheese, it is rather greasy. I was glad I served it with a meal that otherwise had no meat and low fat. M wanted to eat it too, because of the tortilla chips on top, so she ate the top cheesy tortilla layer. The original recipe doesn't call for the chorizo (it is listed as a variation), so feel free to leave that out. This recipe serves 3 - 4 people as a side.

Chile Cheese Gratin with Chorizo
from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

1 T olive oil
6 poblano peppers or other mild fresh chiles or bell peppers, roasted and cleaned
up to 1/2 lb Mexican chorizo, crumbled (optional)
1 c tomatoes, chopped (canned tomatoes work great too)
1 1/2 c cheddar, Monterey Jack , or cojita cheese (or a mixture), grated
1/4 c fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 c tortilla chips, crushed

Cook the chorizo in a skillet until browned. Cut the chiles into large chunks. Layer the chiles, then chorizo, tomatoes, and cheese, sprinkling layers occasionally with cilantro, in a 1 1/2 qt casserole or gratin dish. Top with the tortilla chips. Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 25 minutes until cheese is melted, bubbling, and browned. Serve immediately with a dollop of cream cheese (optional)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Beef Stew with Dried Mushrooms

We had a wonderful weekend with lots and lots of rain. We needed it so I didn't complain about how muddy and wet my kids stayed constantly all weekend long (ok, I only complained a little). With the rain came cooler weather and we were anxious to make beef stew. Our original plan was smoke the stew on the Big Green Egg. However, in our move back in January, we lost the cast iron dutch oven. Our beef stew was instead made on the stove top in a traditional manner. Maybe by the next time we get cool, beef stew weather we will have found the dutch oven.

This is an all afternoon type of recipe. The longer you cook it, the more tender the beef. I think Curtis cooked this for 3 - 4 hours and the beef just fell apart on your fork. It was wonderful. I am sure you could also do this in a crockpot. Our stew meat came already cut (part of our split quarter cow we bought in April), which took out a step. For the broth we used 2 c of beef broth (leftover from when we made beef zucchini enchiladas) and then added red wine part way through cooking because the stew looked dry.

We liked this recipe--all 4 of us. My only complaint that the version we made didn't seem stew like as much as it seemed liked a thick brothy stroganoff type thing. We served it over rice, but I think it would also be really good on top of some nice wide egg noodles. We'll make this again, either as a stroganoff or we may add some potatoes and carrots to make it more stew like.

Beef Stew with Dried Mushrooms
adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 - 2 1/2 lbs stew meat, trimmed of surface fat and cut into 1 - 1 1/2 inch pieces
salt and black pepper, to taste
2 lg (3 medium) onions, cut into eighths
2 c beef stock (or chicken or vegetable stock or water, wine, or a combination as needed)
1 bay leaf

Heat the stock until steaming. Soak the porcini mushrooms in the hot stock until soft, about 30 minutes. Heat the oil in a large soup pot/Dutch oven on medium high heat until hot. Add the meat to the skillet, a little at a time, and brown well on all sides, about 10 minutes total. (The meat browns best if it is not overcrowded. Brown in batches if necessary). Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pot, spoon off most of fat left in pan (if you are using grassfed beef, there may not be much fat left in the pan--if that's the case, don't take any out). Add the onions and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the mushrooms from the stock and cut out any hard spots. Add the warmed stock, porcini mushrooms, and bay leaf to the pot. Cook until the meat is tender (At least one hour, longer makes more tender meat). If the stew looks dry (like ours did), add extra liquid. Serve hot over a starch like rice or noodles.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Experiments in Baking--Brioche

I have a subscription to Bon Appetit magazine--that probably surprises no one who checks the blog regularly since my favorite place to get recipes online is Epicurious. This has been a very good thing for my cooking. It encouraged me to try cooking Julia Child recipes and, even better, it introduced me to brioche.

Brioche is wonderful French bread, supposedly up there with croissants as a breakfast bread in France. It is buttery and has eggs in it, moving it slightly over into the realm of cakes. It is flaky and light. It is incredible warm with some nutella smeared over top. It is very time consuming to make as far as breads go (which usually take a lot of hands off time and just a little hands on time), both in letting sit--overnight in the refrigerator in fact--and in hands on time--turning the dough every 30 minutes for 2 hours.

The recipe is long and pretty detailed. I would make no changes to the recipe. So instead of repeating the whole thing here, I will instead send you to Bon Appetit's website so you can look up the recipe yourself. (Click here for accompanying article about brioche with some helpful hints). Try it. One Friday or Saturday late afternoon start the dough. Finish it the following morning and have a little vacation to France, right in your own house.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Creamy Baked Noodles with Eggplant

As I assembled this meal, I thought, "This seems a lot like moussaka." A cheesy white sauce custard on top of eggplants and tomatoes seasoned with cinnamon. I was a little disappointed.

Then I ate it. It reminded me more of baked ziti than moussaka--yay! (Not that I don't love moussaka--I do--I just didn't want a recipe that was simply a variation of it). My only complaint was the time it took to make it, not quite as quick and easy as I would have liked, due mostly to the white sauce. I didn't have quite a pound of eggplant, so I evened out the pound with some mushrooms I had leftover from when we made pizza. (You could also substitute mushrooms entirely for the eggplant if you preferred). I also mistakenly used a different mystery cheese instead of Parmesan and it was just fine. The family loved it. M thought it was tasty, her only question was, "Why did you have to put eggplant in it, Mommy?" (She picked the eggplant out, as usual). Definitely repeatable.

Creamy Baked Noodles with Eggplant (or as I think of it: Eggplant Baked Ziti)
adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 pound eggplant (or mushrooms or a combination), peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 small red onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 t ground cinnamon
a pinch of paprika
2 c tomatoes, chopped (or 1 15-oz can of diced tomatoes with some of the juice)
4 T butter
8 oz penne pasta (or other chunky pasta)
2 T bread crumbs
1 1/2 c milk
2 T flour
2 eggs beaten
1 c Parmesan, freshly grated

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook until the eggplant is softened and browned, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside. Add more oil to skillet if necessary and add onion and garlic. Cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in cinnamon, paprika, and tomatoes. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens, about 10 minutes. Return the eggplant to the pan and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a pot of boiling water until it is al dente. While the pasta is cooking (and the sauce is simmering), heat the milk (microwave or on the stove) until small bubbles appear. Melt 2 T butter in a small saucepan. Add flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns golden, about 5 minutes. Slowly add the hot milk, whisking continously, and cook until the mixture thickens (3 - 5 minutes for whole milk, longer for skim milk and depending on high the heat is). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir a couple of T of the white sauce into the beaten eggs, then a little more. Pour egg mixture into remaining white sauce and stir in half of the Parmesan.

When the pasta is al dente, toss with 1 T of melted butter and 1 T of bread crumbs. Set aside (this will probably be done before the white sauce is). Put half of the pasta in a 9" square buttered baking dish. Cover with half the tomato sauce. Cover with remaining pasta and then, tomato sauce. Pour all of the cheese sauce over top. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and bread crumbs. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees oven for 45 minutes, or until the top turns golden brown. Let rest for a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Kabocha Squash

I am assuming these are Kabocha squash---it seems to be the closest thing I could find to it. I am using them accordingly.

Kabocha squash are often called a Japanese Pumpkin. They're smaller than pumpkins (at least the ones we're used to carving) and have a lot of green on them. However, they can be used in any recipe that calls for pumpkin or butternut squash (I love the interchangeability of vegetables!).

I went ahead and processed mine yesterday. I didn't have a good storage place for them and was worried about them going bad. Kabocha squash likes to be at a warm temperature (like the temperature of my house in the summer) for the first couple of weeks and then at a cooler temperature (between refrigerator temp and "room"--68 degrees--temperature). I don't have that in my house, so I couldn't completely ripen the Kabocha. One of my kabochas did go bad--rotted and grew mold around the stem, so I wanted to process them before I lost any of my others. I thought about cooking with them now, but the thought of lots of "winter" (called winter squash because hypothetically they'll keep part of the winter) squash in 90 degrees weather wasn't appetizing to me. Curtis and I are having fun dreaming up our root cellar we want to dig in our backyard to help the summer/fall vegetables like potatoes and squash last longer. Won't happen, but one can dream.

The easiest way to process (or preserve) any pumpkin-like squash, which includes pumpkins, butternut squash, and kabocha, is to cook, puree, and then freeze them. They are difficult to remove the shell/skin from. Here's what I did. I cut the squash and half and removed the seeds. (middle picture) The seeds can be difficult to scoop out with a spoon so I use a grapefruit knife (or spoon) or any utensil with a serrated edge, even the utensil I use to spread frosting on cakes. Then, I cut the halves in very large chunks. I steamed them for 30 minutes to an hour. Once the flesh was easily pierced with a fork, I removed them from the steamer (steamed squash--bottom picture) and cut the shell off of them. I put the chunks in freezer containers and mashed them with my pastry blender (I use my utensils for many purposes, it prevents me from buying too many individualized tools!).

In the past, I also boiled the squash down in a little bit of water. That works too. However, frozen squash tends to get a little liquidy when thawed so I wanted to avoid putting any extra water in. Thus, I steamed them. We'll see how it works when I pull it out of the freezer to make butternut (kabocha) squash bisque or pumpkin (kabocha) chocolate cheesecake.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Curtis' Apple Pie

I love August/September/October because of apples, Crispins in particular. For the few weeks, Crispins show up at the Farmer's Market, we buy lots and lots of Crispins and store them into the refrigerator, saving them up for apples pies.

A couple of years ago, Curtis perfected his apple pie recipe. (Last year was an off year for Crispins, so we didn't have many apples pies). Here it is, a family classic, which I have never made---yet another reason why I love apple pie.
(Pictured is our handy, dandy apple peeler/slicer/corer)
Curtis' Apple Pie
adapted from Shenandoah Valley Recipes

2 9-inch pie crusts

6 - 8 firm apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 T lemon juice
3/4 c brown sugar
4 T flour
1 1/4 t cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
2 T butter, melted

Place apples in a pie crust. Mix together lemon juice, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter. Sprinkle over apples. Place second pie crust over pie. Prick top so air can escape. Brush top of crust with milk and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Bake in preheated 375 degrees oven for 50 - 60 minutes.

I Heart Michael Pollan or Health Care Reform and Food

I do, I really love Michael Pollan. His latest published article/essay in the New York Times looks the monster in the eye and really gets at the heart of a lot of our health care and health issues. Our food choices are affecting our health and maybe, health care reform should look at that aspect as well. Here's the article.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cappucino Brownies

Mmmm...brownies and coffee all in one. I love these brownies. Curtis does too, M doesn't because they are too chocolately, but I am just fine with that. I found this recipe in Bon Appetit and then saw it on a food blog. I decided I needed to make these.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe. Next time I make these, I'll leave off the white chocolate ganache. It adds a little of over the top sweetness and in general, I just think white chocolate is a waste. Per Curtis' suggestion (and a good one it was), I added some dried tart (sour) cherries.

They were wonderful. Brownies can be divided into two categories, fudgy and cakey. I am in the fudgy camp and these are dense and fudgy--a little gooey in the middle. I can't wait to make these again! I think I'll rename these Mocha Cherry Brownies and skip the ganache.

Cappuccino Brownies
adapted from Bon Appetit

1/2 c butter, diced
3 oz unsweetened chocolate (or you can substitute 9 T unsweetened cocoa plus 3 T vegetable oil)
1 1/2 c sugar
3 large eggs
1 T instant espresso powder (or 1 T instant coffee)
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1/4 t salt
3/4 c flour
1/4 - 1/2 c dried tart (sour) cherries (optional)

Stir together butter and chocolate in heavy saucepan over low heat until chocolate is melted (do this even if you are using the cocoa and oil). Remove from heat. Pour into a medium bowl and whisk in the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time. Whisk in espresso powder, vanilla, and salt. Stir in flour until just blended. Stir in tart cherries. Pour batter into 9 x 9" pan lined with aluminum foil sprayed with nonstick spray (the foil makes the brownies easy to remove from a pan). Bake brownies in a preheated 325 degrees oven until puffed and dry looking. A tester inserted into the center should come out with moist batter (not wet, but some batter will slightly cling) attached, about 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack. Pull brownies out of pan onto foil and invert onto parchment paper to cut.

These brownies are very rich. Cut into small squares (about 20 - 24 squares).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thai Beef Basil Stir Fry

I haven't been using all my basil lately and have been wanting a stir fry. I don't like a lot of the summer stir fry's because they are heavy on soggy/mushy summer squash and eggplant. This was about the simplest stir fry I've ever made. It had no soggy summer squash or eggplant. There was only beef, basil, and a little sauce. Absolutely perfect. We had this over rice and had some green beans on the side (needed a little green vegetables).

Thai Beef Basil Stir Fry
from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

1 1/2 lbs flank or sirloin steak
1/2 c loosely packed fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 T oil (peanut is recommended, I used olive)
1 - 2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T soy sauce or Thai fish sauce (or a mixture of both)
juice of one lime

cooked white rice (enough for 4 - 6 servings)

Slice the beef as thinly as possible (it's easier to slice if it is frozen slightly--either don't thaw completely or if already thawed, freeze for 15 - 30 minutes). Cut the slices into bite-sized pieces. Mix the beef, basil, and a t of peanut (olive) oil in a medium bowl, cover, and marinade in the refrigerator for an hour or so. Heat a large skillet over high heat until it smokes, 3 - 4 minutes. Lower the heat to medium and add the T of oil. Swirl it around and add the garlic. Briefly stir fry (15 seconds) and add the beef/basil mixture. Stir frequently and cook until the meat loses its red color (1 - 2 minutes). Add the soy sauce and lime juice, stir, turn off heat and serve over rice.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Beef Enchiladas (with Zucchini)

This recipe is the perfect enchilada in so many ways. (I know enchilada purists would disagree with me). It has a great beef flavor and isn't overloaded with greasy, flavorless ground beef. It has lots of protein--thanks to the beef and two different kinds of beans. AND--this is the best part--it uses up zucchini in such way I never notice it's there. This recipe is more or less one of my own creations---I wanted beef enchiladas without the ground beef so I roasted a chuck roast, shredded it, and threw about 1 1/2 cups of it into a recipe for crockpot burritos (and then changed everything else to be enchiladas made in the oven instead). The roast makes enough meat that I freeze half it so the next time I want enchilada the work is cut in half. The roast takes awhile to cook, but it is basically ignored--either on the stove, in the oven, or in a crockpot.

Everyone loved these. My cousin decided black beans were tolerable after eating this, M decided she all out liked black beans, and my other cousins was pleased she couldn't notice the zucchini or summer squash. It was a hit.

Beef Enchiladas with Zucchini

adapted almost beyond recognition of the two original recipes from Simply in Season

1 - 2 lb chuck roast
1/2 onion, chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart of water

2 c (1 - 15 oz can) cooked kidney beans
2 c (1 - 15 oz can) cooked black beans
2 c (1 -15 oz can) tomatoes, chopped
1/4 c water
1 t chili powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/4 t pepper
1 c summer squash (yellow or zucchini), shredded

1 c corn (optional)
2 c cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack or a mix)
8 flour tortillas

Saute the onion and garlic in a large
Dutch oven (stock pot/soup pot) in olive oil until tender. Add meat and brown on both sides. Add 1 quart water (or more to cover chuck roast) and simmer slowly for 3 - 4 hours (can also do this step in the oven or a crock pot). When meat is tender, remove from broth (cool broth, skim fat off, and freeze for later use--makes a great base of stews or soups), and shred meat. Set aside 1 1/2 c of beef, freeze remaining meat for later use.

In a large, heavy skillet, add beef, kidney beans, black beans, tomatoes, water, chili powder, cumin, pepper, summer squash, and corn. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Put 1/2 c meat mixture and a little grated cheese in each tortilla and roll up. Put in a 9 x 13" pan. Top with leftover meat sauce and cheese. Bake in preheated 350 degrees oven for 30 minutes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What we've Been Eating Lately

It's been awhile since I've done a week's menu. I thought I'd include some of the things we've been eating lately since a lot of them are repeated menus, in case you've forgotten them and need some dinner ideas.

When my beef-lovin'-summer-squash/eggplant-hesistant cousins were here:
Pecan Crusted Salmon with Mango, Black Bean Salsa, Green beans, and Rice
Italian Meatloaf and Peas
Shortcut Moussaka and a green vegetable
Beef with Zucchini Enchiladas and Rice (recipe coming)
Grilled Pizza--one pepperoni and cheese and one mushroom, green olive, black olive, and pepperoni pizza

This past week:
Hotdogs with Baked Beans and Peas
Summer Pasta with Beans and Sausage with Arugula Pecan Salad (I used canned diced tomatoes and omitted the roasted garlic this time for the pasta)
Pasta with Mushrooms
Thai Beef Basil Stir Fry (recipe coming)
Arroz con Pollo (I used the chorizo and the correct amount of marinade. My piminetos had grown mold, so I sliced some green olives on top instead).
Potato and Sausage Gratin and green beans
Smoked Burgers with Roasted Potatoes and Bush's Baked beans with Cappuccino Brownies for dessert (recipe coming for the Smoked Burgers and Cappuccino Brownies

Plus, we've snacked on an apple custard tart (didn't love the recipe, so I am not adding it), granola bars, apple cake, Queen of Sheba cake (recipe will be coming at some point), cucumber slices, baba ganoush and pita, apples dipped in almond butter, and frozen grapes (a great snack for hot days--just freeze a bunch of grapes and eat once they're crunchy). We've also made bread a time or two and blueberry jam muffins (with both blueberry and blueberry jam that I froze earlier in the summer) for breakfast.Whew. I think that sums up our past two weeks of eating.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Pasta with Mushrooms

I got a new cookbook for my birthday a couple of days ago (no, I didn't just have a birthday--my birthday is in May---my brother is just slow with presents, in fact, that's how everyone in family rolls!). I was quite excited to dive into it because it was one of those cookbooks that doesn't just have recipes, but teaches you how to cook and why to do what you do. I quickly found a recipe for supper I thought everyone would eat, was light, was easy, and I had all the ingredients for (light has been a theme for me this week after my week long beef fest when my cousins were here).

Like I expected, everyone loved it. J didn't eat the mushrooms, but M and I thought it was great. Curtis didn't love it, but he did say it was "repeatable."

Pasta with Mushrooms
from How to Cook Everything, Revised Edition by Mark Bittman

1/2 lb fresh mushrooms (shitake were recommended, I used plain ole white mushrooms), sliced or cut into chunks
3 T plus 1/2 T olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 T minced garlic
1/2 pound dried pasta (I thought a chunky pasta like farfalle would go well)
1/4 c pasta cooking water or other broth
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped

Put 3 T of oil in medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until mushrooms have released their juices and the juice has evaporated. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Set aside (turn off heat). Meanwhile, cook the pasta until al dente in a pot of boiling water. When it is almost finished add the 1/4 c pasta cooking water to the mushrooms and gently reheat. Drain the pasta and toss it with the mushrooms and parsley. Drizzle with the remaining 1/2 T olive oil and grate Parmesan cheese over top (optional).

Friday, September 4, 2009

Jewish Apple Cake-Repeat Recipe

Again, this was part of Curtis's birthday meal. He specifically requested this cake and since we had loaded up on apples (Crispins, my favorite baking apple), it was easy to oblige him. This also makes a great breakfast!

I start this post and thought I'd better double check to be sure this wasn't already on the blog. Sure enough, there is was way back in last October. So in case you've forgotten about this cake, which you never should. Here's the link to the recipe I posted a long, long time ago.

I have a feeling as I approach the year mark for this blog, I will need to double check for repeats more and more. Aaahh...the joys of eating seasonally. The old recipes are made new again every year.

Jewish Apple Cake
adapted from my Aunt's recipe

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Pecan Crusted Salmon

This was Curtis' birthday meal this year. It is one of his favorite recipes and it had been a long, long time since I've made it. Everyone liked it, even my cousin who doesn't like salmon. I heard her telling her mom that the pecan crusting hid the salmon flavor and it was really good. You can use whatever fish you like for this, but I prefer salmon. This is baked which makes it a lighter version of crusty, fried fish. I serve this with rice, a green vegetable, and covered with Mango Black Bean Salsa

Pecan Crusted Salmon
from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

4 firm fish fillets ( 5- 6 oz each, I prefer salmon)
3/4 c buttermilk
3/4 c pecans, finely ground
3/4 c bread crumbs
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T fresh parsley minced
1/2 t dried thyme
1/2 t paprika
1/2 t salt
pinch of cayenne

Rinse fish fillets and place in a shallow dish. Pour the buttermilk over the fillets. In a separate shallow dish, combine the pecans, bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, thyme, paprika, salt, and cayenne. One at a time, remove the fish fillets from the buttermilk. Dredge the fish through the pecan mixture to coat all sides. Place in a lightly oiled baking pan (I used 1 -2 9x13" size pans). Bake for 30 - 40 minutes in a preheated 375 degrees oven until the topping is lightly browned and the fish is tender and flakes easily with a fork. (Baking time will vary depending on the thickness of the fillet).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Mango Black Bean Salsa

This is one of those recipes that contain very few local ingredients. Unfortunately, we have no mangoes growing in our area. However, it seems like mangoes are in season somewhere right now because they haven't been very expensive at the grocery store, they have been juicy, juicy, and they are so sweet. This is one of my favorite salsas and whenever I make pecan crusted salmon, I serve this salsa on top or on the side.

Mango Black Bean Salsa
from Moosewood Restaurant New Classics

1 (15 oz) can black beans
1 ripe mango, peeled and diced
1/2 c red bell peppers, diced
2 T fresh parsley, minced
1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1 fresh green chile, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 c orange juice
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/4 t salt

Rinse the beans and drain well. Transfer to a large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Yikes! It's been a while since I last posted a recipe. There are some coming. We haven't been totally surviving off of hotdogs, Bush's Baked Beans, and peas (although that was a great meal on Monday night and I had a hatch chile sausage instead of a hot dog).

Hopefully within the next few days I'll get some recipes up.