Friday, December 31, 2010

Espresso Banana Muffins

I've been sick for the past week.  Horribly sick.  I haven't cooked ANYTHING all week.  We've eaten a lot of random takeout and a few things from the freezer, or simple stuff like pasta.  I've been dying to cook something, but still don't have all my energy back.  We had a whole bunch of bananas going brown on the counter, so I wanted to bake something with them.  It was between these Espresso Banana Muffins from Super Natural Cooking and the Moosewood brownies on the 101 Cookbooks website - both use espresso powder, which I got for Christmas and really wanted to use.  The muffins won (obviously).

The flavor profile is genius, but the texture is not for me.  That being said, I made some adjustments, so maybe I ruined them.  Or maybe they are just like that.  I only had sweetened french vanilla yogurt, so I reduced the sugar and vanilla to 1/2 cup and 1/2 tsp.  I'd like to try it the right way next time, and maybe add baking soda to see if I can get them to rise more.

See you in 2011!  :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Coconut Cookies

Every year, my mom has a cookie exchange, and I make several dozen cookies to trade with a group of people.  Last year I made Carrot Oatmeal Cookies full of coconut.  This year, after much deliberation and a somewhat last-minute decision, I settled on the Coconut Cookies from Good to the Grain.

Let me tell you - I do not want to see another cookie recipe for quite some time after this ordeal.  My head is spinning.  This recipe has you do things in such a strange way.  If you know a bit about the ingredients you're working with, it will probably make sense to you (as it did to me after an a-ha moment) but it makes for quite a difficult experience.  You basically cream sugar and eggs together, add the dry ingredients, add room-temperature butter (here's where it starts to get difficult - I could hear my poor little mixer begging me to stop torturing it), THEN you add coconut milk.  In the recipe's defense, I was making double batches, but go over to your mixer, fill it 2/3 of the way with dough, then add 2 1/2 cups of liquid, and see where it goes.  Not into the dough, that's for sure.  I won't be surprised to find spots of coconut milk in some unusual places.  That being said, I can understand why this is done this way.  Coconut flour is very absorbent and it sucks in liquid fairly gradually.  I'm sure the internet could explain it to you better.

Naturally, when you are making eight batches of an unusual cookie recipe (in my case, four double batches), something is bound to go wrong.  With the unusual order of adding ingredients, I completely forgot the butter for my second batch.  I went all the way through to the coconut milk before I realized it.  The only thing I didn't waste was two cups of shredded coconut.  So I tried to put the butter in anyway.  Eventually I accepted that it was not salvageable and now I've got several dollars sitting in the bottom of my garbage can.  Wonderful.

I was up very late making dough.  It was my plan to scoop the balls of dough, roll them in coconut, and put them in the fridge that way to bake this afternoon, but when I rolled one out, it just kind of melted everywhere, so I decided to just put the dough straight in the fridge and turn it into cookies today instead.  This worked out well because the dough was firm to start with and got softer as I worked through the container, but not quite as soft as it had been when it was first made.  I made one cookie sheet with a 3 tablespoon scoop, as the directions told me to, but I panicked and switched to a 2 tablespoon scoop so that I wouldn't be short on the number of cookies.  Unsurprisingly, this also shortened the baking time (an even 16 minutes worked perfectly) so this process took a very long but surprisingly quick 3 hours.

I was skeptical about the expensive ingredients and the amount of work I was doing for these ridiculous cookies.  But when that first batch came out of the oven (the bigger ones, obviously they couldn't be used for the exchange and therefore absolutely had to be eaten immediately) they were pillowy soft inside, with a crisp coconut-flaked outside.

I now had five dinner plates and three cooling racks covered in stacks of coconut cookies.  My plan for wrapping them up was to use a fold-over plastic sandwich bag (got those by accident and need to use them up) placed inside a paper bag with the top folded down, holepunched, and tied with a ribbon.  I ended up putting them in fold-over plastic sandwich bags and put those inside paper bags.  11 cookies in each.  I folded them over and tied a ribbon vertically and called it a day.  (I don't even own a holepuncher!)  By that point it was time to leave so I was really cutting it close!  But I made it, with all my cookies.  And people seemed to like them.  :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cherry Vanilla Smoothie

Today's breakfast was the Cherry Vanilla Smoothie from So Easy.  It tasted pretty good, but as-is, I feel like it's more of a dessert.  It tasted like cherry vanilla ice cream to me.

I'd make a ton of adjustments to the recipe.  First, it was too sweet, so I'd cut down on the honey.  Maybe take it out entirely if still using the vanilla yogurt.  Second, I think it's really strange that the vanilla is so prevalent here, but was completely lacking in the oatmeal - I think it could use a bit less vanilla here, maybe even none with vanilla yogurt.  Ken suggested just a drop of honey and plain yogurt, and he usually likes things sweeter than I do.  Finally, I think the serving size is too large.  Maybe you need a piece of almond butter toast or something to go with it, but I'd cut down the serving size.  For comparison, the serving size is equal to the mid-size cup at Jamba Juice - 2.5 cups or 20 ounces.  Way too much!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Vanilla Spice Oatmeal

We're going on vacation in a few weeks, to a warm place where people wear bikinis, and after trying some on at the mall, I realized it was time for a little calorie-cutting.  I went through Ellie Krieger's books and picked out a bunch of recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and even a few for dessert.  I'm also planning to try to work out every day from the day after my last final to the day before I leave for vacation.

For breakfast yesterday, we tried the Vanilla Spice Oatmeal from So Easy.  It was easy, but it wasn't very vanilla-y or spiced.  I probably should have trusted my instincts and added more of the vanilla and cinnamon, especially since those wouldn't contribute much in terms of excess calories.  I used currants instead of raisins, and those plus the chopped toasted pecans are what gave the oatmeal its flavor.  I like how oatmeal is inherently creamy anyway, but it did need a bit more flavor.

I'm not sure whether I'll make this exact recipe again, but I like the formula it presents.  Oats and water, plus a dried fruit, a nut, and a spice.  This could go in many directions!  I'm already thinking of flavor combinations.  Apricots and pistachios come to mind.  Dried cherries and five-spice, too.  So I look forward to playing around with my oatmeal flavor profiles.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Orzo Soup

We've been participating in Meatless Mondays with Georgie at  For Ken, it's a challenge not to eat meat all day - he'll eat whatever I make (or tell him to make!) for dinner, so that part's not hard, but lunch seems to be the big challenge for him.  For me, it's hard because I can't eat Sunday's leftovers, and because it's the beginning of the week - I start off strong with my meal planning, but then get sidetracked when I realize I have to plan meatless for Monday.

Choosing a meatless meal, however, is not a challenge at all.  I cook mostly vegetarian anyway (I don't like touching meat, ew) and most of the recipes I want to try are vegetarian.  My favorite site for vegetarian recipes is  I've been procrastinating on my studying for finals by going through the archives of the site, starting with the very first post back in 2003.  (I'm somewhere in 2009 now.)  I've come across some recipes I've never even seen before, and others I had forgotten about.

This Orzo Soup was one I had seen in my pre-soup days, and the pretty picture appealed to me.  When I scanned the recipe I realized it would be super quick and easy, which is necessary for my Monday night meals, especially at this time in the semester when I don't have time during the day to get started on dinner before class.  So on my way home from work I stopped at the grocery store, where I picked up a can of fire-roasted tomatoes and a bunch of spinach.  When I got home, I got started right away, and dinner was on the table in 20 minutes.  (I find that I can pressure myself into making meals quickly by starting the cooking process before I'm ready - I try to time it so that it doesn't backfire and end up overcooked, but you can't win them all...)

I decided to try to make my bowl look just like the one in the picture on 101 Cookbooks, and I think I got pretty close.  You can cut the calories here by excluding all mentions of olive oil and using just a tiny dusting of Parmesan (it's a bit boring if you exclude it altogether).  I also recommend starting off with half the red pepper flakes and working your way up - it's got quite a kick to it.  I'm sure I'll make this again since it was so easy - with whole wheat orzo or another whole grain pastina, if I can find it, because I've grown to prefer the flavor of whole grain pastas.  You can use any green you've got sitting around, though cook the heartier ones a bit longer.  In the future I might try the fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic - I picked up that can first (without realizing) but opted for the plain ones this time.  The "egg drop" was a great protein option, I might add one more egg white next time (I halved the recipe, so I used only one).

I'm hoping to be posting more often starting a week from yesterday - my finals will be over and I will finally be able to do something I like to do (COOK!!!) so there should be some fun stuff coming up.  I still haven't picked my cookie for the annual cookie exchange, which is also a week from yesterday, so stay tuned for that.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Coconut Macaroon Pancakes

I don't get much natural light in here - all our windows are on one side of the building and it's a side that never faces the sun - but I think I've managed to get good shots overall.  I think this lead photo may be my best shot so far.

I was looking for a recipe that would use the remainder of the coconut milk that I had opened for the roasted banana bread, but I wasn't able to find anything that would use ALL of it.  So, I adjusted a recipe for Coconut Macaroon Pancakes to use the amount I had left.  I used 1/2 cup or 4 ounces of coconut milk for the banana bread, so I had 10 ounces of coconut milk left.  I used a ratio to change the amounts in the recipe to be appropriate for the amount of liquid I had.  I had to round in some places but tried to stay as close as possible to the original ratios without adding any insanely precise measurements.

Coconut Macaroon Pancakes
10 ounces of coconut milk
1.5 Tbsp agave nectar (or honey)
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp whole wheat pastry flour (I expect you could use any type of flour)
2 cups unsweetened dried shredded coconut
1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
1.5 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs whisked in a medium bowl
2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp natural cane sugar or brown sugar (I omitted this the first time around)

Follow the instructions here.

I attempted to do a banana-muscovado variation here which I encourage you to try if you make these.  I put a small pat of butter in my pan along with a small spoonful of muscovado sugar.  As the butter melted I mixed them together.  Then I put banana coins down in the bottom of the pan and spooned the pancake batter over top.  This would have been successful if I stuck with a pancake small enough to flip, but I tried to make a bigger one, and now I'm eating caramelized-banana-coconut-macaroon-pancake-crumble.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Swiss Chard and Pork Dumplings

Since I struggled all year to use the chard that we get from our CSA almost every week, I was happy when I saw this recipe for dumplings made with chard and ground pork.  Making the dumplings was very easy.  You just mix together the filling, scoop a bit onto the wrapper, wet the edges, and seal it up.  I enjoyed doing it.  I made them in mid-September and froze them for later.  Now that I'm working on eating my way through the freezer, I wanted to try them.

They turned out to be very tasty.  The filling could have used a bit more salt.  We steamed them and ate them with a dipping sauce made of 1 clove pressed garlic, 2 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 2 Tbsp vegetable oil, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.  I whisked it together so it became somewhat emulsified.  Now we have one quart bag left, a different shape dumpling, so I look forward to having them again.  Maybe we'll try a different dipping sauce.  Also somewhere in my freezer I know I have several wonton wrappers, so maybe I will make the shrimp and chive variation suggested at the end of the recipe.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Roast Banana-Pumpkin Breakfast Bread

I've been making a list of possible edible gifts for Christmas, and I came across a recipe for Roast Banana-Pumpkin Breakfast Bread.  The picture looked amazing.  At first I thought it had pumpkin in it, but it turns out to be only pumpkin SEEDS.  (I'm considering a variation for the future already!)  I figured I'd try making it in mini-loaves to see if it might be a nice Christmas gift for some of my family members.

The recipe calls for 2 cups of cake flour, so I made some adjustments.  I wanted at least half whole grains here, so I used half all-purpose flour and half white whole wheat flour.  A substitute for cake flour, which I found online, is to add two tablespoons of cornstarch to the bottom of the measuring cup, and fill the remainder of the one-cup measure with flour, so I did this for both cups.  Since I was baking mini-loaves, I baked them for 40 minutes.

I started making this around 8AM, so just the smell of the rum-soaked raisins nearly knocked me over.  I was nervous about how they'd turn out in the bread.  One of the four mini-loaves fell apart, so of course I had to eat the piece that broke off.  At first, I thought my concerns were warranted and I thought to myself that I would use less raisins next time or cook a bit of the alcohol out of the rum.  But as I took a few more bites, I decided that wouldn't be necessary.  This is DELICIOUS.  I love banana bread as it is, but I think roasting the bananas gave an extra dimension to the flavor, plus the plentiful add-ins made it more interesting.  My cake flour substitution seems to have worked, and I may try all white whole wheat flour next time.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crunchy Slaw Salad

We've still got some cabbage to use up from my last CSA pickup.  (There's also some turnips, rutabaga, and sweet potatoes, and some parsley and cilantro that are holding up very nicely.)  The cabbage soup used half a head, and we used the other half for this Crunchy Slaw Salad from Super Natural Cooking.  It was part of a meal that used something from the freezer, something leftover, something that's produce, and something on the counter that needed to be used up.

The something from the freezer was my Orange Cauliflower and Butternut Squash Soup.  I think it thinned out a bit.  (However, this whole moving soup to the fridge, spooning some chunks out, and putting it back in the freezer is working out really well.  I wasn't eating any soup for a while because I thought I'd have to finish the whole 2 or 4 cups, but that apparently isn't the case.)  The something leftover was the marinated onions used in the "Classic" Grilled Cheese sandwich we had a few days ago.  The something produce was, obviously, the cabbage, but we also had some questionable apples on the counter.  I took the firmest one and had to toss the rest.  :(  And finally, the something on the counter was the delicious bread I got from Panera for those same grilled cheese sandwiches.  (I want to note also for my own future reference that I omitted the cream from the cabbage salad dressing.)

So we were left with a very nice meal: an orange vegetable soup, a cabbage slaw with some apple shreds and walnuts, and a nice slab of bread toasted in the oven with Gruyere and marinated onions.

I'm enjoying the challenge of trying to use food from the freezer.  I made a breakfast polenta with some defrosted raspberries to sweeten it up.  It was a nice breakfast but not a "recipe" worth sharing.  Something that is, though: a helpful holiday cookie guide :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Strawberry Oatmeal

I like to mindlessly read health and fitness articles, and last night I came across a "program" with a "menu" of healthy meals and snacks.  Half of them were boring or contained things I won't so much as look at (canned tuna makes me want to throw up) but I got a few little points of inspiration.  The article also made me want to eat yogurt, which I will go out and get today.

Right now, I'm eating breakfast.  I have resolved (sort of "end-of-year resolutions") to eat more oatmeal and to eat bigger breakfasts in general.  I'm also trying to eat more fruits and vegetables.  I took some inspiration from the article I read last night for this oatmeal recipe (really just the strawberry part) and from an old Cooking Light recipe that had you add wheat germ to oatmeal (I do it all my own way now).

Strawberry Oatmeal
Makes 1 serving

1. In a small saucepan/pot, put 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup vanilla soymilk.
2. Take out a 1/2 cup dry measuring cup.  Spoon in 1 tablespoon wheat germ.  Fill the rest of the cup with old-fashioned rolled oats.  Add this to the saucepan when it starts to simmer, plus a pinch of salt.
3. Put 8 frozen strawberries in a small microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute.  Drain as much liquid as possible (careful, I lost 2 strawberries in the process) and squish them up.
4. When your oatmeal is cooked to your desired consistency, mix in your strawberry smoosh.  Transfer the contents to a small bowl.
5. Take out the spoon you will use to eat with - you should be eating with a small "teaspoon" silverware (regular spoons).  "Measure" one spoonful of sliced almonds and top your bowl with it before digging in.

Optional: add a small spoonful of ground flaxseed.  This is another resolution of mine that I always forget about until the bowl is empty :(

Monday, December 6, 2010

Classic Grilled Cheese with Marinated Onions and Whole-Grain Mustard

This "classic" grilled cheese recipe comes from Nancy Silverton's sandwich book.  I know her name from mentions in Kim Boyce's book, Good to the Grain, which has not made an appearance here in a while but is a huge inspiration to me.  I asked for this book for my birthday because I like sandwiches.  I like going to a cafe and having some delicious panini-pressed goodness oozing with flavor.  I wanted to try some at home, but it's always easier when you have a bit of guidance.

This wasn't the first recipe I intended to make, but it was actually kind of spontaneous.  I had everything on hand except the bread.  I stopped at Panera for something crusty, since it was on the way, and took home a "country loaf."  This was not only delicious but ended up being perfect for what we were making.

I didn't actually make this myself, which always makes things taste better.  The sandwich has four main elements: the thick, crusty bread is smeared with whole-grain mustard and layered with slices of Gruyere and marinated onions.  Then you spread some butter on the outside and clamp down your grill press for some tasty crunchy brown grill marks, which also melts all the cheese and softens the onions up a bit.

My one criticism of this sandwich is the salt factor - I would at least halve the salt in the marinated onions.  I suppose they were sort of quick-pickled, but it's worth a shot as I was super thirsty eating this sandwich and the salt was just at that point where it starts to detract from the flavor.

We had this soup with a tiny bit of Smoked Tomato Bisque, a perfect accompaniment to grilled cheese.  The soup seemed to have lost a bit of its salt content in the freezer, but with the saltiness of the sandwich, it was good.  This also helped me to discover something interesting/important about frozen soup.  I had read that you can refreeze something you defrost in the refrigerator, so I put the soup in the fridge this morning to thaw with the intention of serving some and re-freezing the rest.  When I took it out of the fridge, I was disappointed to find that it was still frozen.  However, I decided to try to scrape a bit out with a spoon, at which point I discovered that although still frozen, I could scoop large flaky chunks out.  So I did that and put the rest of the soup back in the freezer.  Now I know I can have small portions of my soups with just a bit of advance planning.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Rustic Cabbage Soup

I must be making up for my dislike of soup all these years.  The parade of soup continues with a Rustic Cabbage Soup.  After a few weeks in the fridge I brought out a cabbage and it was cut into bite-size pieces.  A pound of Great Northern beans, thanks to my pressure cooker, split perfectly between this soup and the next day's batch of Ribollita.  I used the recommended 1/2 cube of Rapunzel w/ herbs, which is growing on me (I usually use the plain veg one).  A few very old but viable potatoes were made into matchsticks and tossed in.  Of course, there's always an onion, and garlic too.  As I'm looking at the original recipe again I'm noticing that I missed the grated cheese on top, but oh well, less calories right?

While I'm loving the soups I do occasionally crave solid food, so this week we revisited those delicious scallops we had a few weeks ago, and I'm counting on some lemon pepper shrimp soon too :)

As of right now I'm all caught up on my posting.  I'll be eating from the freezer a lot this month thanks to school/finals, but expect some fun things soon: my cookie exchange pick (still trying to decide between several whole-grain options), a few health-food experiments, probably some holiday-themed nonsense, and (surprise!) more soup.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wild Rice Flour Pancakes

When I made the Mixed Mushroom Soup the other day, I made wild rice to go in it instead of barley specifically so I could make this Wild Rice Flour Pancake recipe from Super Natural Cooking.  That's how I can tell I really want to make something - it lives in a dusty corner of my brain, waiting for something to remind me of it - I don't forget about it until I'm flipping through the book again.  The head notes of the mushroom recipe suggested wild rice as an alternative to barley (and I am kicking myself a little for not going with barley, after the lemon-barley stuffing from Thanksgiving, which was delicious).  So I cooked some up in my pressure cooker (by "I" of course I mean "Ken" because I am still a little bit scared of it exploding and I need supervision), and I portioned out amounts for the soup recipe and this pancake recipe.  Then I put the rest in freezer bags, 2 cups each, and popped them in the freezer for another time.  I turned the small bit of uncooked wild rice into flour to make these pancakes the next day.

These pancakes stayed with me for quite some time.  I cooked the wild rice and flour one day.  The next day I made the pancake batter and a few pancakes.  The next day Ken made the rest of the pancakes, and I ended up finishing the last ones maybe 5 days after they were cooked.  (And they were still good!  There's nothing wrong with leftovers!)  I don't typically add to things - I don't add salt, I don't add butter, etc. - but a tiny sliver of butter to melt on these was pretty crucial.

I'm not sure I'll be making these often since they turned out to be a bit of a hassle, but we'll see.  Now that I have wild rice flour already ground up and wild rice cooked in the freezer, they may make a repeat appearance in my kitchen.  If I remember, I'll probably make half a batch, because even if I had frozen a few (and my poor freezer is a bit overloaded at the moment) I think this recipe made a few too many for two people.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Butternut Squash Muffins

I wanted to make a particular Butternut Squash Muffin recipe last year, but never managed to carve out the time to do so.  This year I made it a priority.  I still have plenty of squash from the CSA, so I cut up the right amount of butternut squash and put the remaining cubes in the freezer for another use.

This recipe is complicated.  After making it, I think I can say it is unnecessarily so.  I boiled the spiced apple cider syrup down for HOURS and I'm not sure I can say that those spice flavors really came through.  Beating the eggs separately seemed like an unnecessary step as well.  My muffins came out looking much more dense than those in the original photo, and not so cake-like.  They tasted good, though.

The recipe yielded me 12 regular-size muffins plus 12 mini-muffins as well.  I baked the mini muffins for about 20 minutes and the full-size for about 25, but I think both could have used 2-3 minutes less in the oven.

I can't say I'll be making this again, as it was quite complicated and there are many other butternut squash muffin recipes out there, but I'm glad I finally gave it a shot.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving 2010 was cooked for only 7 people, so we didn't go too overboard.  It was a lot less stressful this way.  We had no appetizers to worry about, either.

Pumpkin and Feta Muffins
These are first because they are the coolest thing we made.  I got the recipe from 101 Cookbooks a few weeks ago and they were the first thing on my Thanksgiving recipe list.  I followed the directions exactly and got excellent results.  The only thing to note was that we ended up with 18 muffins instead of 12, but that's certainly nothing to complain about.

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts
When my sister got wind of the menu (the day before Thanksgiving, of course) she greeted me with: "Can we PUHLEEEAAASE make a DIFFERENT VEGETABLE?!?!"  Right after these were cooked, I saw her stick her hand right in the skillet to try one - and of course she loved it.  Super simple, and the caramelized edges were the best part.  This is another recipe from 101 Cookbooks.

Lemon-Barley Stuffing
This recipe from the New York Times was kind of a wild card, but it worked out in the end.  The mushrooms shrunk into ribbons when roasted, and I thought there wouldn't be enough lemon, but it shined right through.  The chive butter was fun to make and pretty much made the dish.  This is where I gained a deeper knowledge of where the line lies between browned and burned.  Note to self: more liquid next time, trust your instincts.

Sandra Lee's Turkey
Well, of course there was a turkey.  This one had butter massaged into it.  I never liked turkey before, and I still only ate a very small bit of it, but it was very good.  This picture is gross.  (Thanks to Haley for the photo.)

Mashed Potatoes
Yuck.  That's all I have to say about that.  This is a picture of what later became mashed potatoes.  There's no finished picture because there's nothing pretty about mashed potatoes.  (Thanks to Haley for the photo.)

Garden Vegetable and Potato Lyonnaise
I've got these giant rutabagas sitting in my fridge, plus a few turnips, and I've never had these things before, of course, so I had no idea what we could do with them.  I found this recipe through the "look inside" feature of Amazon - it's in Homegrown Pure and Simple by Michael Nischan.  Naturally, Amazon wouldn't let me look at the second page, but I found an adapted version online and used it to sort of wing it, and it turned out alright.  The strong flavors weren't appreciated by all, but I finally got to try a bunch of things through this dish.

Pumpkin Cornbread
When we were little, my dad used to make us biscuits.  Of course, they came from a box, but I had to remind him to channel those times from the past when my mom asked him to help us by making the cornbread.  This alone was the most hectic time of the day, as he insisted on lining up each ingredient, did not know the difference between liquid and dry measures, and refused to stop whisking even when I said he was finished.  Then we ended up having to bake it in the microwave (it makes sense if you've seen my mom's space-age microwave) and since we're all too short to see the top it got a bit toasted.  Fortunately, it tasted fantastic.  This was another New York Times recipe.  (Thanks to Haley for these photos.)

Winter Green Salad with Sugared Walnuts, 
Crispy Pears and Pomegranate Vinaigrette
I made this last year, but did a different candied walnut.  Though we had to make some substitutions, these walnuts were delicious.  Everyone kept walking by them and snatching a few - we're lucky we had any left for the salad.  The vinaigrette was my favorite part.  This recipe is from Clean Food.

"Best-Ever" Apple Pie
Haley made her famous apple pie with lattice crust.  It's the best-ever apple pie!  This particular pie contained a variety of apples known as "whatever we had lying around."

Spice-Kissed Pumpkin Pie
This pumpkin pie recipe is from 101 Cookbooks.  It features a special spice blend and a hazelnut paste between the filling and the graham-cracker crust.  Delicious.

Pumpkin and Ginger Scones
These were not for Thanksgiving, in particular, but they were there when I arrived to cook on Thanksgiving, and they were delicious.  I liked them plain, but they were very good with Haley's cinnamon glaze.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mixed Mushroom Chowder

I'm waiting on a few pictures for my Thanksgiving post, so in the meantime, here's a recipe for mushroom soup.  I think many of the mushroom soup recipes I've seen are creamy.  This is a chunky recipe.  I used a mixed bag of local mushrooms from the market for this one, which I made last weekend.  The major departure I made from the recipe was to add 1 1/2 cups finely chopped spinach.  I added it in the last 5 minutes of (intended) cooking, but then I added another 3-5 minutes onto that time, so maybe I should have put it in a bit later.  The flavor wasn't too strong but it added a huge nutritional boost.  I liked the soy sauce and sesame oil flavor combinations.  This made maybe a bit less than 2 quarts.  I froze two 2-cup portions, I think, and had not quite a quart left to eat the next day.  I don't think I'll make this again, since it wasn't my favorite, but next time I'm craving mushrooms I will be glad to have some frozen on hand.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts and Feta

I got two large heads of cauliflower from my final CSA pickup, but I didn't want to make another cauliflower soup.  I searched my favorite blogs and found a recipe for Pasta with Cauliflower, Walnuts, and Feta.  I've finally got my pasta stash under control, so I don't feel so obligated to use up the many cheap varieties and save the fancier ones.  This recipe called for a strong flavor from the pasta, so I reached for a spelt rotini, which stood up quite well to the cauliflower and feta.  The walnuts added a nutty crunch - I only wish there were more of them.  The salty feta went perfectly with the sauteed onions and cauliflower.  I was happy that the cauliflower had both flavor and crunch thanks to the sauteeing rather than boiling.  This was a nice change of pace for all that soup (don't worry, I still love soup) and it reheated nicely for a weekday lunch.

This was easy enough for a weeknight, though there is a bit of work breaking down the cauliflower and slicing the onion - that could be done in advance.  One recommendation I would make is to ignore the white wine vinegar in the ingredients - go with all lemon juice.  The white wine vinegar soaked in quickly and left almost a chemical-y taste, at least compared to the lemon juice.  I can certainly see this appearing on my table again in the near future.

UPDATE (11/26/2010): Here's a picture of this dish the second time I made it (earlier this week).  I used a small-batch artisanal local whole wheat pasta and purple cauliflower and skipped the vinegar in favor of more lemon juice.  Delicious.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


My soup making streak is far from over.  I can't get enough.  It also gives me a great deal of satisfaction to have so many soup options in my freezer, although every time I find a new favorite, like Ribollita, I know I would reach for that first.

This is my first chunky soup.  It's also my first soup with beans.  I found it while trying to figure out what to do with my lacinato kale.  And it's my new favorite.  The slightly spicy tomato flavor, creamy white beans (and here I thought that beans were always grainy - now I know you need to cook your own! forget cans!), and a great change in texture from the kale.  The torn up bread made little pockets of liquid that squish in your mouth.  The celery, carrots and onions were tiny nourishing bites.  I even liked the chopped oily black olives on top - I bought just a few at the olive bar, next time I need to see if they come already pitted, but they added a great saltiness and a contrasting flavor.  Are you hungry yet?

This recipe gave me 8 cups frozen, plus a full quart for the fridge, and that's not including the bowl I ate for dinner.  And I'm going to make it again.  :)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter Pasta

I'm always happy to find an easy, healthy weeknight recipe.  When this Winter Pasta recipe was posted over on 101 Cookbooks, it reminded me of pesto and the pictures made me hungry!  In fact, I was so hungry that I couldn't even make this for myself.  :)

I love the flavor of kale.  I also love garlic.  And feta.  You can use any kind of cheese here - feta, Parmesan or Pecorino Romano, Asiago could be great, or even ricotta.  It's simple enough for a weeknight dinner, but fancier than tomato sauce from a jar, or pesto from a packet (ick).  You could probably even make the pesto the day before if you want.  And while I love the flavor of kale, this would be great with spinach or maybe another leafy green - or maybe a mix of greens.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Apple Pie Oatmeal

The first time I made this... well, it was gross.  There was way too much liquid, including 1.5 cups of apple juice, which was just not appetizing at all.  I should have listened to my instincts!  I tried it again with less liquid and used a small amount of apple cider.  It's still a little sweet for my liking, but would be the perfect sweetness for most people. 

Apple Pie Oatmeal adapted from Bob's Red Mill CookbookServes 4-6.

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp packed brown sugar
1 apple (peeled, cored, sliced)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup apple cider
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

1. Combine butter and sugar over medium heat, stirring frequently until melted and blended together, about 2 minutes.
2. Add apples, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and stir until the apples release juice, about 4 minutes.
3. Add the oats, stirring to prevent sticking and help them absorb the juice, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the apple cider and water and bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Let it rest with the top on for 2 minutes, then serve topped with the pecans.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Roasted Scallops with Breadcrumbs and Bacon

Roasted Scallops with Breadcrumbs and Bacon
Roasted Scallops with 
Breadcrumbs and Bacon

Full disclosure: I did not make this.  It was made for me, which I enjoyed very much.  I wanted to mention it anyway because it was delicious :)  We had it with spinach and pasta and it was great.  It's nice to have a glass of wine with a home cooked meal that you didn't have to make yourself.

This was simple and so, so delicious.  Some frozen scallops, slightly old parsley and panko breadcrumbs that have been in the pantry for at least a year came together to make something special.  The bacon really made the dish.
To make it more substantial, we sauteed spinach and garlic, and served it all on top of some whole grain spaghetti.

Easy enough for a weeknight, nice enough for casual company.  And extra delicious when it's made for you :)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

CSA: Final week of 2010

Week 26 (11/4/2010):
- 2 lbs turnips
- 4 rutabagas
- 1 lb arugula
- 1 lb spinach
- 1 lb lettuce mix
- 1 lb braising mix (donated)
- 8 heads green lettuce
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch red Russian kale
- 2 bunches lacinato kale
- 2 bunches carrots
- 2 heads cabbage
- 2 heads cauliflower

Well, this was our last pickup.  I went all by myself.  It was pouring, and freezing too!  I had a great time doing this... but I'm also glad it's over.  It's been a real challenge to cook all of this stuff, but I enjoyed that challenge.  It was fun to try new things, make new recipes, cook with my mom and with my friends, save a few things for the winter.

I'd like to do this again next year.  Now that I've seen how it works and what it's like, I feel more prepared.  I have learned a bit about how to preserve some of these things, in the freezer for example.  While my freezer couldn't contain all the things I wanted to fill it with, I still stocked away a few things.  Next year, I plan to be more prepared when spring comes.  I like the challenge of trying to eat as locally as possible, so I want to stuff my freezer with excess.  I want to try to waste less.  That was rough for me - sometimes there is just too much, and I was too ambitious with what I was able to do.  If I'm more organized and plan ahead a bit, I can do a lot better waste-wise AND be more creative.

I still have a lot of the above produce in the fridge, so I will be posting some recipes while using them in the next few weeks.  When they're all gone, I plan on doing some kind of "challenge" to myself to use up things from the freezer and my pantry.  Plus, with colder weather coming in, I look forward to a lot of baking, something I haven't done since I had more free time in the summer.  I also want to learn a little more about preserving and canning to get ready for next year.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Roasted Delicata Squash Salad

I waited forever to be able to make this Roasted Delicata Squash Salad.  Seriously!  I got the delicata squash from the CSA a few weeks ago and then I picked up the other ingredients - potatoes, radishes.  I had the miso already, I always have almonds on hand, and I totally forgot about the kale.  When I went to Whole Foods to pick up harissa, the missing link... they didn't have it.  After about half an hour of searching I asked customer service and they informed me that it was discontinued due to low sales, just like the muscovado sugar I was looking for a few weeks earlier.  People don't know what they're missing by not buying this stuff.  Unbelievable!

So anyway, I had to turn to Amazon for my harissa, which cost me more to ship than the actual tube.  Luckily, it's a condiment you don't need to use much of, and the handy tube means you don't have to use it all right away.  (I buy tomato paste in a tube too - unless you have a recipe that actually calls for a whole can, it's much more cost-efficient and convenient.)

Since I got some kale in my CSA share this week and picked up some more radishes at the market, I decided today would be the day.  It turned out great!  I should have cut the potatoes smaller, but otherwise I thought it was delicious.  The one change I made was to roast the radishes instead of slicing them and adding them raw to the salad.  The potatoes were my favorite part, but Ken liked the squash and radishes better.  It would be a great side for a harissa-marinated chicken!  The marinade could be used for a variety of vegetables, too.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Hazelnuts and Brown Butter

Since I have been on this soup kick lately, I've been trying to use it to my advantage by using up things that are already in my fridge.  This soup used up two heads of cauliflower approaching their last days as well as some leeks I've had for almost a month.  And, it was tasty too!

Ever since the Hazelnut Muffins (<3) I've been especially attracted to hazelnuts and brown butter.  They added a nice change of pace to this soup - I like to have a little crunch in there.

So when I came across the recipe for this Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Hazelnuts and Brown Butter, I was excited to try it.  A few notes: it would still be great with a lot less butter, or even none, and the excessive salt added when you boil the cauliflower pretty much eliminates the need for salt at the end.  White pepper adds an interesting flavor.  I followed the recipe exactly, and the resulting soup was a bit indulgent - a great addition to a holiday menu or for guests.  You don't need much to feel full.

This soup got me thinking - how many servings of vegetables are in a cup of soup?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Roasted Tomato Marinara

I first used this Roasted Tomato Marinara recipe at my mom's from her copy of the November 2010 issue of Cooking Light.  We loved it and were sad to have just now found it.  When I went to go find it on the website to make it myself at home, I found that the ingredient list was the same, but the directions seemed slightly different somehow.  None of the helpful tips were included.  As I looked at the page I noticed that the recipe had a horribly low rating, 2 or 2.5 stars, and when I checked the reviews, I saw that no one was having success with this recipe.

I feel bad saying this, but those people are dumb.  Really, they are.  Now, mostly I feel bad because I was that dumb once.  But I've since learned that YOU CAN CHANGE A RECIPE!  You don't have to follow it to the letter.  I've kept all the same ingredients and their proportions, with the exception of less water added, and I prefer to salt and pepper to taste.  What I'm doing differently that makes this, to me, a 5-star recipe, is all about the method.

Let's keep the ingredient list the same.  Now, the new steps:
1. Blanch and peel the tomatoes.  Then halve them and squeeze some of the seeds out and put them in a bowl.  Toss with the basil, oregano, sugar and olive oil as in the original directions.
2. Roast them at 450* until some of the edges start to darken.  You can take them out after 20 minutes, minimum, but longer is better (if you're able to watch them closely).
3. Smash them up if you like a chunky sauce, or puree them in the food processor for a smoother sauce.  I was doing double and triple batches, so I was able to use an immersion blender.
4. Follow the instructions for cooking the onions and reducing the wine as written in the original directions.
5. When you add the tomatoes, add half the recommended amount of water (about 1/3 cup for each batch).  Simmer for 15 minutes or longer until the sauce is a consistency you like.  Salt and pepper to taste instead of using the amounts provided.
6. Let the sauce cool - you can refrigerate it overnight if you want - and ladle 2-cup portions into labeled freezer bags.  We found it easiest to line a tall measuring cup with a bag and add a little extra, above the 2-cup mark, to compensate for the space taken up by the bag.

I made six times the recipe this way, yielding about 27 cups of sauce.  Sure, it took me three agonizing days - that's what 24 pounds of tomatoes will do to you - but it results in something delicious.  Those reviewers need to loosen up, take a step back, and adjust based on their needs.  I'm surprised I'm able to do this - I wasn't always - but it makes cooking infinitely easier on a person.

Marinara is a great staple to have on hand.  The first time we made it, we used some as a diavolo sauce, adding shrimp and crushed red pepper flakes.  You can use it in lasagna, eggplant rollatini, etc.  You can use it with spaghetti and meatballs.  There's a lot you can do with it, and as I use up my 27 cups this winter, I'll try to add some more ideas.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

CSA: October 2010

Week 22 (10/7/2010):
- 3 lbs heirloom tomatoes
- 8 winter squash (2 acorn, 2 delicata, 1 butternut, 1 buttercup, 2 ambercup??)
- 1 pumpkin
- 1 lb chard
- 1 lb baby bok choy
- 1 lb arugula
- 4 eggplants
- 4 peppers (did not take)
- 2 heads broccoli
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 2 bunches kale
- 1 bunch scallions
- 3 bunches carrots
- 2 quarts cherry tomatoes (took 1)
- 2 quarts snap beans
- 4 quarts sauce tomatoes
- sage, marjoram, lemongrass

Friday: I froze 4 eggplants (last week's).  (See this post on localkitchen if you're interested in freezing anything.)  My mom came back from Florida, so I made my family dinner - sweet dumpling squash with orange-scented quinoa stuffing.  I only had 2 dumpling squash so I used a kabocha as well.  The stuffing had cremini mushrooms in it, which I got from the market (and had been meaning to buy all summer, since the market ends in October).  I also made some basil pesto and froze it - my Nonna brought me a ton of basil from her sister's backyard.
Saturday: I made and froze even more basil pesto, ending up with a total of five 4-oz containers. (Note to self: I used pine nuts.)
Monday: I made myself a bowl of sauteed baby bok choy with rice for lunch.
Wednesday: I made a baked pasta dish with cubed kabocha squash, torn pieces of kale, and some broccoli florets.

Winter Squash including Delicata, Butternut, Acorn, and Buttercup

Week 23 (10/14/2010):
- 2 or 3 lbs tomatoes
- 1 lb arugula
- 1 lb chard
- 2 lbs baby bok choy
- 1 lb spicy mix
- 2 heads lettuce
- 4 peppers (to turn red)
- 1 head cauliflower
- 4 heads broccoli
- 3 bunches kale (Red Russian)
- 1 bunch parsley
- 1 cabbage
- 1 bunch scallions
- 1 bunch radishes
- 1 bunch kohlrabi
- 4 winter squash (2 butternut, 2 sweet dumpling)
- 1 quart cherry tomatoes (did not take)
- 4 quarts sauce tomatoes
- lemongrass, chives
- 6 hot peppers
- 2 quarts snap beans
Thursday: I used an acorn squash, scallions and corn to make Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash.
Friday: I had lunch at my mom's - a salad with lettuce, carrots, heirloom tomato, red wine vinegar and olive oil.  We also broiled some slices of a delicious parmesan provolone cheesy bread I got at the market.  My mom and I made a new sauce recipe with our sauce tomatoes: Slow-Roasted Tomato Marinara from Nov. 2010 Cooking Light.  I later used it with some spaghetti, shrimp and crushed red pepper flakes for a diavolo-style pasta dish.
Saturday: For lunch I made Cashew Curry with green beans, cauliflower, and red onion.  For dinner I made Mushroom Bourguignon using cremini mushrooms I got at the Rutgers Gardens market (plus an onion) - it was delicious.
Tuesday: I made the curry again, using more cauliflower, green beans, red onion, and this time some carrot shreds as well.

Week 24 (10/21/2010):
- unlimited sauce tomatoes - we ended up with over 24 pounds (PYO)
- herbs & hot peppers & 1 quart cherry tomatoes (PYO - did not take)
- 2 lbs tomatoes
- 1 1/2 lbs arugula
- 1 lb baby bok choy
- 1 lb spicy mix
- 4 peppers (3 purple, 1 that might turn red!)
- 2 heads cauliflower
- 2 heads red lettuce
- 1 bunch scallions
- 2 bunches radishes
- 2 bunches turnips
- 1 green cabbage
- 2 bunches cilantro
Thursday: I roasted some old eggplants, tomatoes, and an onion for roasted eggplant soup.
Friday: I finished making the roasted eggplant soup.  (It was delicious!)
Saturday: I made a delicious winter squash soup (butternut and acorn squash, plus onion and sage) and some Gruyere croutons topped with some chopped sage and thyme with my friend Hilary!
Sunday: For breakfast I made apple pie oatmeal with a pink lady apple.  My mom and I made a lasagna with the Red Russian kale for dinner.  We also used the ripe sauce tomatoes to make more of the marinara sauce.
Monday: I used a butternut squash, a head of orange cauliflower, a leek and three carrots for a delicious soup.
Tuesday: I was feeling too lazy to cook, so I cut some broccoli for use (probably) tomorrow and I made croutons out of the rest of the whole-grain bread I bought last week at the market.

I made this teryaki stir fry with salmon, 
baby bok choy, purple peppers, onions, and 
carrots... but I can't remember when I did it!

Week 25 (10/28/2010):
- PYO herbs- lemongrass, sage, thyme
- 6 peppers (took 4 orange, donated 2 green)
- 1 lb arugula
- 2 heads broccoli
- 2 lbs spicy mix (donated)
- 8 heads lettuce
- 2 bunches collards
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1 bunch scallions
- 2 bunches carrots
- 1 rutabaga
- 1 head cabbage
- 1 bunch turnips
- 1 fennel bulb
- 2 bunches celery 
Friday: I had a great salad for lunch with lettuce and tomato from our CSA, plus some of those croutons I made (I rubbed two sides of each with a cut garlic clove which made delicious garlic croutons).
Sunday: We finally got to do our Smoked Tomato Bisque project :) (and so used some of our unlimited sauce tomatoes and onions).  Later on, in a 5+ hour period of misery, we slaved away to turn almost all the rest of those tomatoes and the last of my local onions into Roasted Tomato Marinara (though we only made it to the end of the roasting part).
Monday: Made the roasted tomatoes into sauce!  I also had some lettuce on a sandwich.
Tuesday: Froze all the tomato sauce (about 27 cups - so glad to be done!) and had another sandwich with lettuce.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Smoked Tomato Bisque

It makes me very sad to say that many people will never try the Smoked Tomato Bisque from The Soup Peddler's Slow and Difficult Soups.  Either they don't know about it, or they just turn the page when they see the use of a smoker in the directions.  I, however, was determined.  First, I tried to find a way around the smoking part.  I thought I could broil the tomatoes instead - blacken them on the outside and blister the tomato paste as the recipe suggests.  But one day, I mentioned my plan to some friends.  "Oh, we have a smoker."  What?  Who seriously has a smoker?  Well, my friends live in a little cottage on a horse farm, and the guy who lived there before them left a whole bunch of odd stuff behind - including a smoker.  After several scheduling conflicts, Halloween turned out to be the perfect day to use some of the very last tomatoes for Smoked Tomato Bisque and to make some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches.

I should note that this recipe should not take you 4+ hours like it did for us.  Figure out what you're doing ahead of time.  Figure out what a smoker is, that you need charcoal AND wood chips.  Figure out where you can buy those things before driving around to several different stores.  Figure out whether you need newspaper to light it up and why you don't have any in the house.  Once you've done those things, the rest is easy.  Put the tomatoes in the smoker, then chop up the onions and celery.  Start caramelizing the onions when you think the skins of the tomatoes might start to split soon.  (You can just turn off the heat if you're done too early.)  When they're done, make soup.  You could be done in much less time than we were.

The consensus at the table was that the recipe was worth the time we spent on it.  Time goes by quicker when you're with friends anyway.  The smoky flavor of the soup was amazing - it tasted like fall to me.  It was pretty strong, though, so I couldn't eat too much of it.  The recipe says it serves 6, but we ate some and each kept at least a quart - I don't know how six people could eat all of that.

The soup was great, and I hope we can make it again next year when the tomatoes come back.  Seeing how easy to use the smoker was also inspired some more smoking project ideas - including some with meat.