Thursday, December 29, 2011

Greens, White Bean and Barley Soup

My wonderful niece and nephew gave me this cookbook:  Favorite Brand Name Recipes Country Soups.  The recipes are really easy to follow, and the soups are delicious.  I'll be cooking out of this book for a while, and then maybe get back to my casserole cookbook.  I made two soups before I remembered to take pictures so I could blog about it -- oops! (I think we all know my New Year's Resolution will be to do a better job of blogging.)

Last night I made Greens, White Bean and Barley Soup -- so good!  And now for my substitutions/additions:  I had some Polska Kielbasa that needed to be used up, and it made a great addition to the soup.  I used my veggie/bean stock to cook the barley, and after draining the barley I had 3 cups of barley infused stock to use in the soup!    I used baby Portobello mushrooms, about 4 cups stemmed chopped kale instead of the greens, added 1 tsp salt, and omitted the sugar.

Greens, White Bean and Barley Soup
Yield:  8 servings

2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 pounds carrots, diced
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
6 cups vegetable broth
2 cups cooked barley
1 15 ounce can (or 2 cups homemade) Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained.  (If using homemade beans save liquid to use with stock, and do not rinse beans.)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
7 cups stemmed, chopped collard greens (about 24 ounces)
1 tbsp white wine vinegar

Optional garnishes:  Hot pepper sauce, and sliced red peppers.

    Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add carrots, onions and garlic; cook and stir 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms; cook and stir 5 minutes more or until carrots are tender.
     Add broth, barley, beans, bay leaves, salt, sugar and thyme.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer 5 minutes.  Add greens; simmer 10 minutes.  Remove and discard bay leaves.  Stir in vinegar.  Season to taste with pepper sauce.  Garnish with red bell peppers.

Stocking the Pantry for Soup

My niece and nephew gave me a cookbook for Christmas:  Favorite Brand Name Recipe Country Soups.  The recipes came from food product companies whose brands are featured in some of the recipes.  I really like this cookbook -- I've been making soup all week and every recipe so far has been a home run with the family.

The recipes are divided into six categories.  I picked recipes out of the Vegetable & Grains, and Beans & Legumes sections to prepare so first I had to stock up on my beans.  While I keep a few cans of beans in the pantry for emergencies I prefer to cook my own beans.  Home-cooked beans take some time but are not difficult to prepare, and they're definitely worth the effort.  They taste better than canned beans, and you get to control the salt and seasonings.  In fact the hardest part for me is to remember to soak the beans overnight!

I prepared Great Northern Beans, Lima Beans, and Black Beans.  (The recipe for the Great Northern and Lima beans are the same.)

White Beans
Yield:  approximately 8 cups beans, and 4 cups stock

To prepare beans:
Sort through 1 lb bag of white beans (Great Northern, Lima, etc) and remove any rocks or debris, rinse, and put into large pot of water with 6 to 8 cups of water.  Cover and set on counter overnight (at least 12 hours). Drain water, and rinse beans thoroughly.

To cook beans:

Soaked white beans
2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped (approximately 1 1/2 cups)
2 medium celery stalks, cut into 2"-3" pieces
2 medium carrots, halved and cut into 2"-3" pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
6-8 cups water

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat.  Saute onions until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic, celery and carrot stalks, and cook for additional five minutes stirring occasionally.  Add beans and water, and bring to boil.  Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook beans 30 to 40 minutes skimming off any foam.  Beans are ready when they are just cooked through but not mushy.  Discard carrot and celery stalks.  Beans and stock are now ready for use or storage.

Black Beans
Yield:  approximately 6 cups beans, and 2 cups stock

To prepare beans:
Sort through 1 lb bag of black beans and remove any rocks or debris, rinse, and put into large pot of water with 6 to 8 cups of water.  Cover and set on counter overnight (at least 12 hours). Drain water, and rinse beans thoroughly.

To cook beans:
Soaked black beans
2 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 serrano chilies, seeded, and finely diced
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 tsp dried oregano
Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Saute onions until soft and translucent (about five minutes).  Add garlic, chilies, and spices and cook for 2-3 minutes stirring (almost) constantly.  You can add a little water as necessary to keep spices from scorching.  Add beans and water, and bring to a boil.  Lower heat to simmer, cover, and cook 20 to 30 minutes until just cooked (but no mushy).  Beans and stock are now ready for use or storage.

I like to freeze my beans in 2 cup storage containers with just enough stock to cover the beans.  I freeze the remaining white bean stock in four cup quantities for future use.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

One Day to Thanksgiving! My Get-It-Done-Early Thanksgiving Timeline

Today's to-do list:

*  Make the No-Knead Onion Rolls; store at room temperature.

I have a confession to make.  Besides not baking the pie yesterday, I also did not prepare the scalloped potatoes -- I just ran out of time!  So today as soon as I got back from my volunteer time at our food co-op I grabbed some lunch and starting cooking.  I finished the pie (it looks great), and the scalloped potatoes are chilling in the fridge, but once again the time monster is messing with my plans!  I needed three hours to prepare the rolls (including the rising time) but I only had an hour before I picked up my husband, and then dinner to make, and I just ran out of energy.  So tomorrow with all the wonderful made-from-scratch food I will serve store bought dinner rolls.  I think the family with be just fine with that!

Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Nut Cream
Serves 8

1 pound sweet potatoes (2 medium)
12 graham crackers
5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 large eggs
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
pinch ground cloves
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup chopped candied nuts or peanut brittle

Heat oven to 400.  Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork, place on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until very tender, 50 to 6o minutes.  Let cool, then halve and scoop out the flesh (discard the skins).
     Reduce oven to 350.  In a food processor, process the graham crackers until fine crumbs form.  Add the butter, sugar, and 1/4 tsp of the salt and pulse until moistened.  Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie plate, using a straight-sided dry measuring cup to help.  Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until dry and set, 10 to 12 minutes.  If the crust puffs while baking, press it down gently.  Let cool.
     Wipe out the food processor and add the nutmeg, cloves, and the remaining 1/4 tsp of salt and process until smooth (do not over process).  Pour the mixture into the crust and bake until set in the center, 45 to 55 minutes.  Let cool completely.
     Before serving, using an electric mixer, beat the cream on medium-high until soft peaks form.  Gently fold in the nuts and serve with the pie.

TO MAKE AHEAD:  The pie can be made up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, loosely covered.  Bring to room temperature before serving.  The cream can be whipped in advance; refrigerate, covered.  Fold in the nuts just before serving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Two Days to T-Day! My Get-It-Done-Early Thanksgiving Timeline

Today's job list:

* Prep the vegetables for the turkey; refrigerate.
* Prep the Sausage and Apple Stuffing but do not bake; refrigerate
* Make the Scalloped Potatoes, but do not bake; refrigerate
* Prep the Brussels sprouts for the Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds; refrigerate
* Prep the carrots for the Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots with Rosemary and Pecans; refrigerate
* Toast the pecans for the Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots with Rosemary and Pecans; store at room temperature
* Make the Sweet Potato Pie; refrigerate

I ran out of time, and wasn't able to bake the pie today -- I'll bake (and post the recipe) tomorrow.  My house smells so good right now!  I can't wait to try all of these dishes!

Sausage and Apple Stuffing
Serves 8

1 tbsp olive oil plus more for the baking dish
4 links sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (about 1 pound)
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 medium onions, chopped
2 tart apples (such as Granny Smith or Pink Lady, cored and chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
Kosher Salt and black pepper
1 large baguette (about 3/4 pound), cut into 3/4 inch pieces (about 7 cups
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 large eggs, beaten

     Heat oven to 375.  Lightly oil a 9x13 inch or some other shallow 3 quart baking dish.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned, 6 to 8 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a large bowl.
     To the drippings in the skillet, add the celery, onions, apples, sage, 3/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.  Cook, tossing often, until the vegetables are tender, 7 to 9 minutes.
     Add the vegetable mixture, baguette, broth, and eggs to the sausage and toss to combine.  Transfer to the prepared baking dish and cover with foil.
     Bake the stuffing for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake until browned, 20 to 30 minutes more.

TO PREP AHEAD:  Prepare the stuffing up tot he point of baking (but do not bake) up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered.  On Thanksgiving Day bring the stuffing to room temperature and bake as directed.

Scalloped Potatoes
Serves 8

2 tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for the baking dish
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups whole milk
1 bay leaf
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Kosher salt and black pepper
4 pounds russet potatoes (8 medium), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch think
6 ounces Gruyere or Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)

     Heat oven to 375.  Butter a 9 x 13 or some other shallow 3 quart baking dish.  In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes.  Add the cream, milk, bay leaf, thyme, nutmeg, 2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper and bring to a simmer.
     Add the potatoes to the saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
     Discard the bay leaf and transfer the potato mixture to the prepared baking dish; sprinkle with the Gruyere.
     Bake until bubbling and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

TO PREP AHEAD:  Prepare the potatoes up to the point of baking (but do not bake) and refrigerate, covered, up to 2 days in advance.  (Alternatively, prepare up to 1 month in advance; free, tightly wrapped.)  On Thanksgiving Day thaw the potatoes (if necessary) and bring to room temperature.  Bake at 375, covered with buttered foil, until bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.  Uncover and bake until the top is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots with Rosemary and Pecans
Serves 8

1/2 cup pecan halves
3 pounds carrots-peeled, cut into 2 inch lengths, and halved lengthwise if large
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

     Heat oven to 375.  Spread the pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven, tossing once, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes.  Let cool, then roughly chop.
     Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine the carrots, brown sugar, butter, rosemary, cayenne, 1/2 cup water, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the carrots begin to soften, 8 to 10 minutes.
     Uncover the saucepan and cook, stirring often, until the carrots are tender and the liquid has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes more.
     Discard the rosemary and toss the carrots with the lemon juice and pecans.

TO PREP AHEAD:  Toast the pecans up to 2 days in advance; keep at room temperature, covered.  Peel and cut the carrots and combine with the butter, rosemary, cayenne, salt  and pepper up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered.  On Thanksgiving Day transfer the carrot mixture to a large saucepan, add the water and sugar, and proceed with the recipe.

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds
Serves 8

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
Kosher salt and black pepper
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp poppy seeds

     In a food processor fitted with the slicing disk, slice the Brussels sprouts.
     In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
     Add the Brussels sprouts, 1 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper to the skillet and cook, tossing often until the Brussels sprouts are tender, 4 to 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar and poppy seeds.

Slice the Brussels sprouts up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate, covered.  On Thanksgiving Day proceed with the recipe.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Get-It-Done-Early Thanksgiving Timeline: 3 Days till T-Day!

I am a little embarrassed that I never thought to prep some of the dishes before the actual Turkey-Day.  I mean I consider myself to be of at least average intelligence but it just never occurred to me not to try and do everything all in one day!

So here we are three days before Thanksgiving, and these are my jobs today according to my timeline:

* Make the cider glaze for the Cider-Glazed Turkey; refrigerate.
* Make the gravy base for the Bourbon Gravy; refrigerate (Alternatively, make and freeze up to one month in advance.)
* Make the Jellied Cranberry-Ginger Sauce; refrigerate. 

The cider glaze was a snap to prepare, but making the gravy base for the Bourbon Gravy?  I think I'll wait until Thursday.  I mean how long does it take to make gravy?  Five, 10 minutes tops?  I'll take my chances and make the gravy all at once on Thursday. 

Now the Cranberry-Ginger Sauce should have been easy-peasy (look at that beautiful color!) but I noticed when I was typing the recipe that I only used one packet of gelatin instead of two so I jumped up, dissolved another packet of gelatin in a tiny bit of water and whisked it into the sauce.  I guess I'll find out on Thursday if it worked!

Cider Glaze 
Yield:  Approximately 1 cup

4 cups apple cider
2 tbsp cider vinegar
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

In a large skillet, boil the cider until reduced to about 3/4 cup, 25 to 30 minutes.  Add the vinegar, butter, salt and pepper, and stir until butter has melted.  Refrigerate.

Jellied Cranberry-Ginger Sauce 
Serves 8 (makes 2 cups)

2 0.25ounce packages unflavored gelatin
1 12 ounce bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp peeled, grated fresh ginger

Place 1/2 cup water in a small bowl; sprinkle with the gelatin and let sit for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the cranberries, sugar, ginger, and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, until the cranberries begin to burst, 3 to 5 minutes. 

Transfer the cranberry mixture to a blender and puree until smooth.  Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl.  Discard the solids.  You should have about 1 1/2 cups of liquid.  Whisk in the gelatin mixture and transfer to a 2 cup mold.  Refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. 

To unmold, dip the mold in a bowl of hot water for 10 to 15 seconds, then turn out onto a plate. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Ultimate Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Plan!

I have been eating the same dinner for Thanksgiving and Christmas my whole life:  Roast Turkey with sage dressing, whipped potatoes with giblet gravy, sauteed green beans, mashed sweet potatoes with mini-marshmallows sprinkled on top, and the inevitable canned cranberry circle of mush artfully arranged on top of a leaf of ice burg lettuce.  Now don't get me wrong -- I love a nice roasted turkey dinner and the holidays are the only time I seem to eat it but it's the SAME MEAL EVERY TIME!  Okay, every once in a while there's a ham with scalloped potatoes so let's say up to now I've 81 turkey dinners, 15 ham dinners, and then there was the one Thanksgiving I baked trout.  Oh, yeah, and one time at Christmas I made Teriyaki chicken with sweet potato and black bean casserole.

So a couple weeks ago I was skimming through my Real Simple magazine when I stumbled upon  "The Ultimate Make-Ahead Thanksgiving with these crowd pleasing recipes that you can prep in advance - plus an easy-to-follow timeline - your table will be deliciously composed come November 24.  As will you." and I thought, well who could pass that up?  Not me!  I'm gonna make the whole turkey dinner featured in this magazine!  Well everything except for two of the cranberry dishes because really -- do you need cranberry jelly, cranberry relish, AND cranberry compote?  They supply a list of ingredients that they assume I may already have (which was amazingly accurate) and a list of things I'll need to buy, but the most exciting list for me is the "Get-It-Done-Early Thanksgiving Timeline".  Wait -- did you hear that?  Every time I say "Get-It-Done-Early Thanksgiving Timeline" I swear a hear a choir of angels sing.

What's the menu?  Thought you'd never ask!

Cider-Glazed Turkey
Bourbon Gravy
Sausage and Apple Stuffing
Scalloped Potatoes
Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots with Rosemary and Pecans
Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Poppy Seeds
Jellied Cranberry-Ginger Sauce
No-Knead Onion Rolls
Sweet Potato Pie with Candied Nut Cream

So today I shop for ingredients.  Tomorrow I pick up my turkey (an organic free-range turkey bought at the Tacoma Food Co-Op!), and I have three things to prepare.  Tuesday will be a busy day:  six sides to prep, a pie to bake, and I have my piano lesson at 5:30!  Luckily for me I only have one thing to make on Wednesday since that's the day I volunteer at the Food Co-Op.

I have to admit I'm pretty excited about this dinner.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Cast Iron Skillet: Steak and Guinness Pie

Earlier this month I won a cookbook:  Cast Iron Skillet Big Flavors by Sharon Kramis and Julie Kramis Hearne (thanks TNT Diner).  I'm pretty excited about this cookbook since I have a cast iron skillet and am always looking for recipes specifically for them.

The book has the usual section about pantry staples, and I was pleased to see a section covering how to care for your cast iron.  The recipes seem easy to follow and sound delicious.

For my first recipe I tried the Steak and Guinness Pie.  I think it was a stretch calling this dish a pie -- it's really a stew with a puff pastry top -- but it was tasty.  I cut the carrots and onions a little too fine and they practically dissolved into the sauce (next time I'll cut them chunkier), and I used crimini mushrooms instead of button.  So, did I like the dish?  Yes, but it was a little too rich for me.  Next time I think I'll cut the butter and oil by a third -- maybe even by half.   

Steak and Guinness Pie
Cast Iron Skillet Big Flavors
Yield:  Six servings

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp water
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck or beef brisket cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
4 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
1 1/2 cup button mushrooms, cleaned and cut into 1/2 inch slices (I used crimini)
1 medium onions, coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup beef broth
1 cup Guinness stout
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 425F.

Take the puff pastry from the freezer and allow to lightly thaw (to not quite room temperature).

Gently roll out the puff pastry to smooth any creases.  Combine the egg and water in a small bowl.  Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet and brush with the egg wash.  Bake on the middle rack until the puff pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Cut the puff pastry into 4x4 inch squares and set aside.

Lower the oven temperature to 325F.

In a shallow dish, combine the flour, salt, and pepper.  Add half of the beef cubes and dust with the flour. Shake off any excess flour.  Add 1 tbsp each of the olive oil and the butter to a 10 or 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Once hot, add half of the beef cubes, being sure not to crowd the pan.  Cook until the meat starts to brown, about 3 minutes.  Using tongs, turn the meat and cool for 3 minutes more.  Transfer to a platter and repeat with another 1 tbsp each of the olive oil and the butter to cook the remaining meat.  Transfer to the platter.

In the same pan, add another 1 tbsp each of the olive oil and the butter and cook the mushrooms until they start to brown and release liquid.  Transfer to a small bowl and reserve.  Add the remaining olive oil and butter to the skillet, and cook the onion, carrots, and celery until the onions become translucent.  Return the mushrooms to the skillet.  Add the garlic, thyme, and oregano, and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add the beef broth, Guinness, and Worcestershire sauce and stir.  Add the beef cubes and gently mix in, coating well with the onion-mushroom mixture.  Cover tightly with foil and/or a lid and place in the oven for 2 hours.  remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the stew in warmed bowls, each sprinkled with cheese and topped with a puff pastry square.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Beef Mushroom and Onion Tart

I love to skim through magazines to find new recipes  When I find one that looks good I save it -- or rather I save the entire magazine which is how I ended up with a huge bundle that stacked up three feet high!

Tonight's dinner is a recipe I found in Better Homes and Gardens (3/10).  With the weather getting grayer and cooler I was looking for a hot and hearty meal.  Really delicious and easy to make -- I served it with some garlicky sauteed spinach.

Beef, Mushroom, and Onion Tart
Yield:  4 servings

12 oz. lean ground beef
8 oz package sliced mushrooms (I used baby portabellos)
1/2 medium red onion, cut in thin wedges
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
13.8 oz package refrigerated pizza dough
3 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
Fresh Oregano and/or pizza seasoning (optional)

     Preheat Oven to 425F.  In a 12" skillet cook beef, mushrooms, and onion over medium heat until beef is browned and onion is tender, stirring occasionally.  Drain off fat.  Stir in salt and pepper.
     Meanwhile, grease a large baking sheet or line with parchment.  Unroll pizza dough on baking sheet.  Roll or pat dough to a 15x12 inch rectangle.  Top dough with beef mixture, keeping filling within 1 1/2 inches of all edges.  Fold edges over the filling, pleating as needed.
     Bake tart 15 minutes or until crust is golden.  Top with blue cheese, oregano, and pizza seasoning.

Changes/Substitutions:   I cooked the ground beef with some oregano, 3 thinly sliced garlic cloves, red onion wedges, and salt/pepper to taste.  I removed the beef mixture, reserving the cooking liquids which I used to cook the mushrooms (I really hate an overloaded skillet).  I didn't have any blue cheese on-hand so I sprinkled a handful of shredded Parmesan before I put it in the oven (delicious!) and I made my own pizza dough -- really easy to do, and tastes so much better.  (You can find the recipe here.)  I didn't roll my dough out to a rectangle -- just tossed it into a round and baked on my greased air bake sheet.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

I need a snack!

I was craving a salty snack, and as luck would have it my house has been purged of any kind of salty treat.  That's right -- you'll not find one potato chip, corn chip, salted peanut, or kernel of popcorn for me to eat.  So I decided to make some kale chips.  Paul and Kevin thought I was delusional when I went outside, plucked some kale leaves, and began my preparation.

Making kale chips is super easy, but you have to start with a big bunch to end up with just a few servings.  I used about 20 leaves, and divvied it up into three servings (honestly I could eat the whole batch by myself).  

First you need to preheat the oven to 275.  Then wash the leaves and remove the stems.  Cut leaves into smaller pieces (not too small -- about 2").

Drizzle a small amount of olive oil (maybe 1 tbsp) and give the kale a good toss.  Gently massage the leaves to make sure they get a even coating.  Sprinkle with sea salt and spread a single layer on baking sheet (I had to use two baking sheets).

Bake ten minutes, and carefully "fluff" the kale so it crisps nicely (and doesn't stick to the sheet).  Return to the oven for another ten minutes, and voila!  Okay, maybe it's not the prettiest snack but very tasty with some serious crunch!  Delicious!

Now what to do with all those beets in my garden?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Oh, the things you do for family!

 I have something shocking to confess.  Maybe you should sit down.  Okay, here it is:  I am not a big fan of desserts.  [insert gasp here]  Of course if you put a piece of cake, slice of pie, or a scoop of ice cream in front of me I'll wolf it down like everyone else 'cause I'm a hypocr-, er, I mean polite person.

So while Stephanie is visiting me she asked if we could make something sweet -- a reasonable request to which her reasonable aunt agreed.  Now what to make?  Well last year when she visited we baked a cake (a vegan chocolate cake -- yum!) so this year we decided to bake pies.  Stephanie has fond memories of tasting a bite of strawberry rhubarb pie so she asked if we could make that.  Of course as fate would have it guess what I hate more than anything else in this world?  You got it -- rhubarb!  Oh, the things you do for family!

I am convinced the only reason people say they like rhubarb is because it's prepared with a ton of sugar.  Case in point:  we also made a peach raspberry pie (just to shut me up about the rhubarb) and it called for HALF the amount of sugar for the recipe.  Okay.  Just saying.

We used the rhubarb from our garden (Paul loves rhubarb.  I know, right?), and bought local strawberries, raspberries, and peaches from Tacoma Boys.  We used two recipes I found online, and the pies went together easily and quickly, probably because I used prepared dough.  That's right.  I feel no shame in admitting that I totally suck at pie dough preparation so I use the kind that comes rolled up in a box.

The pies looked beautiful, and tasted great.  Of course I can only vouch for the peach raspberry pie because the other had, well you know.  Paul said they both tasted great but his favorite was the strawberry rhubarb, and Stephanie?  Well her favorite was the peach raspberry.  I love that girl!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (from  The pie was pretty runny, but Paul said it was delicious.,1837,153188-255201,00.html

Peach Rasberry Pie (from  The pie had peaches and raspberries!  Do I really need to say more?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Stephanie Comes To Visit

My niece Stephanie will be staying with us this week.  I try to plan enough activities so she doesn't get bored, and our number one favorite thing to do cook!  Last year I gave her a notebook to write down the recipes of dishes we prepared, and she'll be able to add several dishes from this visit.  I also bought her a cookbook from the editors of Eating Well:  Comfort Foods Made Healthy which gives a healthy makeover to many comfort food dishes such as Sloppy Joes and Chicken Pot Pie as well as appetizers, soups, sauces, and side dishes.

Tonight we made Chicken Divan.  Now this is the first time I've tried the dish so I have no idea how Eating Well's version compares to the original recipe, but I do know that everyone thought tonight's version was delicious!  

We served the Chicken Divan over egg noodles, and used fresh broccoli instead of frozen.  We substituted vegetable stock for chicken, and chicken tenders instead of chicken breast.  I didn't see the need to dirty two skillets so we cut the tenders into bite sized pieces and cooked them with a little olive oil, and transferred the cooked chicken to a plate while we made the broccoli sauce.  

Serves six

EatingWell Comfort Foods Made Healthy: The Classic Makeover Cookbook (EatingWell)
1 1/2 pounds bones, skinless chicken breast
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups diced leek, white and light green parts only (about 1 large)
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp all purpose flour
1 14 ounce can reduced sodium chicken broth
1 cup low-fat milk
2 tbsp dry sherry
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
2 10 ounce boxes frozen chopped broccoli, thawed, or 1 pound broccoli crowns chopped.
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup low fat mayonnaise
2 tsp Dijon mustard

     Preheat oven to 375.  Coat a 7"x11" (2 quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray.
     Place chicken in a medium skillet or saucepan and add water to cover.  Bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the center, 10 to 12 minutes.  Drain and slice into bite size pieces.
     Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add leek and salt and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, 3 to 4 minutes.    Add flour; stir to coat.  Add broth, milk, sherry, thyme and pepper and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.  Add broccoli; return to a simmer.  Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan, mayonnaise and mustard.
     Spread half the broccoli mixture in the prepared baking dish.  Top with the chicken, then the remaining broccoli mixture.  Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan.  Bake until bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cook for 10 minutes before serving. 

Nutritional information per serving (w/o pasta):  308 calories; 10g fat (4g sat, 4g mono); 76mg cholesterol; 20g carbohydrate; 35g protein; 4g fiber; 712mg sodium; 401mg potassium.

Nutritional bonus:  Vitamin C 70% daily value, Vitamin A 35% daily value, Calcium 30% daily value, Folate 19% daily value. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Farfalle with Spicy Broccoli

Of course the day after I post a note saying I'll be away for a while I get this amazing cookbook, A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, and find a great recipe for Orecchiette with Spicy Broccoli (I didn't have any Orecchiette so I'm substituting with Farfalle).  I mean, I have to start cooking sometime, right?

One of the neat things about Calorie Count is that I can create recipes.  This feature helps me figure out the nutrient content of my recipes -- pretty cool.  So after entering in the information for this dish I see that it's 434 calories a serving, provides 32% of my daily requirement of carbohydrates, and 28% of my dietary fiber -- based on a 2,000 calorie diet. I think I'll start adding this info at the bottom of each recipe.

I liked the dish but I did have to add one thing to my serving-- 2 teaspoons of shredded Parmesan cheese!  Pasta without Parmesan is just a travesty (in my humble opinion).  The recipe suggests adding some capers, olives, or lemon zest for variety which all sound good, but I think next time I make it I'll add some roasted red peppers.  I've changed the nutritional information listed below to include the added cheese.

A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen: Easy Seasonal Dishes for Family and FriendsFarfalle with Spicy Broccoli
A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen
Yield:  4 Main Course Servings

1 1/2 pound broccoli
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 cup water
Kosher salt
1 pound Farfalle

     Follow directions of packaging to prepare pasta, and reserve 1 cup of the cooking water when draining the pasta.
     Separate the broccoli florets from the stalk.  Remove woody end from stalk, and peel.  Cut the stalk in half lengthwise, and then again into small bite-sized pieces.  If necessary separate the florets into smaller segments.
     Heat the oil, garlic, and pepper flakes in a large skillet over medium heat.  Cook until the garlic is golden, about 2 minutes.  Add the broccoli and stir to coat well with the oil.  Cook until the broccoli is well seasoned, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the water, cover the pan, reduce the heat, and steam until the broccoli is tender, about 4 minutes.  If the broccoli is not tender and the pan runs dry add a few tablespoons more water and throw the cover back on.  Adjust the seasonings, adding salt and pepper flakes to taste.
     Toss the pasta with the broccoli and 1/4 cup of the cooking water.  Add more water as needed to moisten the pasta and serve immediately.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
Calories: 43
Total Fat: 16.4 grams
     Saturated Fat: 2.1
Cholesterol: 1 gram
Sodium: 70 grams
Total Carbohydrates:  96.8 grams
     Dietary Fiber:  7 grams
     Sugars: 5.4 grams
Protein: 19.4 grams
Vitamin A: 21%
Vitamin C: 255%
Calcium: 10%
Iron: 10%

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Hiatus, if you will...

So I'm taking a break from cooking from books.  I'm starting a program to track my food to help me lose some weight (I've posted a long explanation here).  After a few weeks to get used to my new food requirements I can hopefully incorporate my diet into my love of trying new recipes.

I'll keep you posted!

Black Beans in Chipotle Sauce...without the Black Beans

I've had to cook from pantry goods the past few days, which makes it pretty challenging to make meals from my cookbooks.  Fortunately I was able to find a recipe I can use today -- with one exception.  Black Beans in Chipotle Sauce from Recipes from the Root Cellar will become Pinto Beans in Chipotle Sauce, and that's fine by me because I love pinto beans!

I followed the recipe as written, but I think next time I'll make some minor changes to the cooking instructions.  I prefer to saute onions and garlic in a bit of oil until they are soft and sweet before adding liquid, and I think that's what I'll do next time.  And I'll leave out the adobo sauce -- the chilies provided enough heat and smoky flavor to the dish for me!  The addition of apple cider vinegar to the beans was a new spin for me, and I loved the little kick it gave to the dish.  

These beans can be served by themselves with a dollop of sour cream, on a bed of rice, or inside a tortilla.  Actually my favorite would be beans and rice rolled in a tortilla with a dollop of sour cream!

Black Beans in Chipotle Sauce
Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter VegetablesRecipes from the Root Cellar
Yield:  4 to 6 Servings

2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight and drained
6 cups water
1 large onion, diced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups unseasoned tomato sauce or puree (or one 15 ounce can)
2 chipotles canned in adobo sauce, minced.
2 tbsp adobo sauce (from the can of chilies)
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

     Combine the beans, water, onion, and bay leaves in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are completely tender but not mushy, 1 to 2 hours.
     Check the water level in the saucepan.  The beans should be just barely covered by water.  If there is more water than a slight covering, drain off the excess water and reserve.  Remove the bay leaves.  Add the tomato sauce, chipotles, adobo sauce, garlic and vinegar.  Season with salt and pepper.
     Simmer until the liquid is reduced to a saucy consistency and the flavors have blended, about 30 minutes.  Add some of the reserved cooking liquid if the beans become dry.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Serve hot.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Meatless Monday: Pasta with Cauliflower in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

And I'm back!  It's Monday, and we're eating meatless.  Tonight I chose Pasta with Cauliflower in a Spicy Tomato Sauce from Serving Up The Harvest.  Really quick and easy dinner that the boys loved -- they had seconds!  The recipe says it serves four but, as I said, Paul and Kevin had seconds (I only had one serving) and there was still some left over.  Truth be told, I was not as crazy about this dish as the boys.  I'm not a fan of spicy food, and this was a little too much for my tongue.  There wasn't much of a "sauce" to this dish.  It was pretty much chunky cauliflower, tomatoes and olives over pasta.  If I do make it again I think I'll use crushed tomatoes.  I think it'll coat the pasta better.

Serving Up the Harvest: Celebrating the Goodness of Fresh VegetablesPasta with Cauliflower in a Spicy Tomato Sauce
Serving Up the Harvest
Yield:  Serves 4 (I say 6)

1 head cauliflower broken into florets
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 anchovy fillets (optional)
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup pitted cured black olives, such as Kalamata
1 tbsp capers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound rotini or other short pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan for serving

     Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the cauliflower and boil until just barely tender, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the water and set aside.  Return the water to a boil for the pasta.
     Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Gently saute the onion, garlic, anchovy fillets, if using, and crushed red pepper flakes in the oil until the onion is tender, about 4 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, and cauliflower.  Taste, then season with salt and pepper (the anchovies and olives may contribute all the salt needed).  Simmer for about 15 minutes while you cook the pasta.
     Cook the pasta in the boiling water until al dente, and drain well.
     Serve the pasta with the sauce spooned over the top.  Pass the Parmesan at the table.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Paul Cooks!

I have the best husband!  I haven't been feeling well this past week, and haven't cooked much of anything (at least that I can blog about).  Yesterday Paul told me he was taking care of dinner -- nice!

We had a roast from Paul's two for one shopping extravaganza and he, unlike me, pulled it out of the freezer in plenty of time to defrost, and made Roast Pork with Gravy, Basmati Rice, and Mixed Green Salad with Balsamic/Garlic Dressing!  He found a recipe on E How Food -- it was delicious!  You can find the recipe here.

I'm hoping to get back on track this week -- cross your fingers!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables

It's not often that I have a whole chicken in my freezer but several months back there was a killer sale (77 cents a pound!) so I bought a couple birds.  I roasted one of them in January following Jonathan Waxman's recipe (you can read about it here), and I defrosted the other one to prepare today.

Roasted Chicken with Root Vegetables from Recipes from the Root Cellar is your basic recipe, nothing new or exciting, but I wanted to try another roast chicken recipe to compare to my last experience.  Differences I've noticed so far?  Waxman's chicken was roasted at a much higher temperature (475 instead of 350), and also called to season the bird with salt, pepper and oil.  The recipe I'm following today just called for a few garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon of the rosemary to be put in the cavity of the chicken, but I couldn't help myself and I rubbed the outside with olive oil, salt and pepper.  The other major difference?  Smoke alarm didn't go off once!  So which one did I prefer?  I loved them both!

The chicken was so moist and tender that Paul barely had to use a knife to carve it -- the meat just fell off the bone.  For the veggies I used what I had on hand:  carrots, turnips, potatoes, onions, and I chopped up a couple celery for flavor.  I was afraid they might overcook (since they were in the oven with the chicken for almost two hours) but they were perfectly done, and so delicious I gobbled it up before I remembered the gravy!

Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter VegetablesRoasted Chicken with Root Vegetables
Recipes from the Root Cellar
Yield:  Serves 4 to 6

1 whole roasting chicken (3 1/2 to 5 pounds), neck and giblets removed
1 whole garlic head, cloves separated and peeled
2 tsp crushed dried rosemary or sage
8 cups peeled and cubed mixed root vegetables (beets, carrots, celery root, parsnips, rutabagas, salsify, and/or turnips)
1 to 2 onions, cut into wedges
2 tbsp sunflower, canola, or extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chicken broth
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp water or dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 350.

     Rinse the chicken under cold running water and pat dry.  Set in a large roasting pan.  (The pan must be large enough to hold the vegetables in a single layer surrounding the chicken.)  Insert a few garlic cloves and 1 tsp of the rosemary in the cavity of the chicken.
     Combine the root vegetables and onions in a large bowl.  Add the remaining garlic cloves to the vegetables, along with the remaining 1 tsp rosemary.  Add the oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.  Arrange the vegetables in a single layer around the chicken.
     Roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (20 to 25 minutes per pound), until the juices run clear from the chicken, a leg moves easily, and an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165.  Stir the vegetables once or twice during the roasting to promote even cooking and to baste the vegetables.
     Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and keep warm under a tent of foil.  Spoon the vegetables into a serving bowl and cover to keep warm.
     To make a gravy, place the roasting pan over one or two burners on medium high heat.  Add the broth and stir to deglaze the pan, bringing the broth to a boil.  In a small bowl, combine the flour and water, mixing until completely smooth; stir into the boiling pan juices.  taste and add salt and pepper, if needed.
     Carve the chicken and serve with the gravy, passing the vegetables separately.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meatless Monday: Black Beans and Rice with Fire Roasted Vegetables

Beans and Rice pretty boring, right?  Yup, that's what I thought before I tried Black Beans and Rice with Fire Roasted Vegetables from The Roasted Vegetable.  It's the roasted veggies that really make this dish.  Sweet, tender with a bit of a zip thanks to the chipotles in adobe sauce.  It's well known amongst my friends that I do not have much tolerance when it comes to chilies.  This meal had enough spice to keep my tongue tingling, and still add a little heat and zip for Paul and Kevin.

Make sure you allow yourself enough time to prepare this dish -- it took close to two hours to prepare.  If you're pressed for time the book says you can substitute of a 19 ounce can of black beans for the dried ones, rinse well and drain, and season with ground cumin.

The Roasted VegetableBlack Beans and Rice with Fire-Roasted Vegetables
The Roasted Vegetable
Yield:  Serves 4

1 cup dried black beans, rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight in water to cover
4 cups water
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp salt

1 medium size red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 medium size green bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 small to medium size zucchini, cut into matchsticks
1 medium size onion, halved and slivered
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 to 2 tsp minced chipotles in adobo sauce
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup homemade or store-bought salsa, or more to taste
Hot cooked white or brown rice (I used brown cooked in vegetable stock)
Sour cream

     Drain the beans.  In a medium size saucepan, combine the beans, water, cumin, and salt.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
     While the beans cook, preheat the oven to 425.  Lightly oil a large shallow roasting pan or half sheet pan.
     To make the vegetables, in a large bowl combine the bell peppers, zucchini, onion, and corn.  In a small bowl combine the oil, chipotles, and cumin.  Pour over the vegetables and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Arrange in a single layer in the pan.
     Roast for about 35 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned, stirring or shaking the pan occasionally for even cooking.
     When the beans are tender, drain off the excess water.  Combine the beans and the salsa.  taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or salsa as needed.
     To serve, transfer the hot rice to a large serving platter or individual plates.  Spoon the beans over the rice.  Top with the roasted vegetables.  Pass the sour cream at the table.