Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Spent Grain Bread

Now that Christmas is over and I've eaten more Italian food than I ever thought possible, I have a question for you. And it's an important question. 

Are you a beer brewer? Do you have any friends who brew beer? If not, it is my professional suggestion that you change that. Quickly. Seriously because not only is home-brew really good beer, so is bread made from the grains used to make the beer. Lucky for me I'm married to a home-brewer and I have several friends and family members who brew their own beer.

I made this a few weeks ago with some spent grains I got from one of our beer-brewing friends. He was making a Chocolate Stout, so the bread had a really delicious rich grainy chocolaty flavor. You could use any kind of grains from any kind of beer-making adventure you embark on. It would be really fun too, because the type of beer would dramatically change the flavor and consistency of the bread.

I brought two giant muslin bags full of spent grain home and then had to figure out what to actually do with them. After a little bit of Googling I found a few recipes for Spent Grain Bread. A lot of them seemed to use the grains as an accessory to the typical bread ingredients, except this one which highlighted the grains and used a ton of them (which was great because even after making this is still have ¾ of the grains left in my freezer). I wanted the bread to be really dense and grainy and that's exactly what I got.

Spent Grain Bread
Source: Adapted from Beer At Joe's

The grains can be frozen until you want to make the bread. It might be a good idea to grind them up in the food processor first and then freeze them, but I thawed them in the refrigerator and then put them through the food processor and it worked just fine. The dough can also be frozen in loaves on a cookie sheet and then thawed and baked later. Or you can just freeze the baked bread and thaw and eat later.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
3 cups spent grain
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup melted butter
1 cup milk at room temperature

To prepare the grains, pulse them in the food processor until they are the desired consistency. I left mine a little chunky instead of grinding it into a finer mix (see above picture).

Mix the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, salt and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer (if you're making it by hand just use a large bowl). Add the yeast and the spent grains and combine. Add the melted butter and mix until combined. With the mixer running add the milk, just until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl (you might not use the whole cup, depending on how wet the grains were). If the dough gets too wet, add more all-purpose flour. If it's too dry, add more milk. If using the electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for 5 minutes. If not, knead for about 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Let rise for about 1 1/2 or 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size.

After the dough has risen, separate into thirds and form each third into balls. Let rise on a cookie sheet for 1 hour, covered with plastic wrap.

Preheat oven to 350. Score the loaves and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 40 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through.

Let the bread cool for about 30 minutes on a wire rack.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Post Christmas Day Food Coma

Oh. My. Gosh. Dinner last night was incredible. Seriously, I don't think I've eaten so many different delicious things in the span of two and a half hours before.

It was amazing. And we all were (mostly) able to keep the gorging to a minimum so that we could actually make it through all seven courses.

Course 1: Chicken Soup

Course 2: Antipasta

Course 3: Lasagna

Course 4: Italian Sausage, Braicole, and Meatballs

Course 5: Roasted Capon and Brussel Sprouts

Course 6: Fruit

Course 7: Cream Puffs

There are so many leftovers. We're all going to be living on this food for weeks.

And of course, it woudn't be a traditional Italian Christmas dinner without several bottles of wine and champagne.

Yum. Seriously seriously good food. And it was an awesome experience. I'm not sure if it will happen again, but I wouldn't be opposed to cooking that much food again just for the experience.

And now, I'm going to eat a giant meatball sandwich now and try to recapture last night. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day Italian Dinner

Merry Christmas!!! 

What are you eating for your Christmas Day feast?

Here's a sneak peak of what I'm eating:

Ohhh yeah.

Today I'm eating my first multi-course traditional Italian dinner. I can't even begin to explain how much food there will be.

John's grandma is a first-generation Italian American and therefore the authority on all Italian food. This year we decided to do the traditional Italian Christmas dinner because it's fun and nostalgic and awesome in every way.

Here's the run-down for dinner:

Course 1: Chicken Soup
Course 2: Anitpasta
Course 3: Lasagna
Course 4: Meatballs, Sausage, Braicole
Course 5: Roasted Capon and Vegetables
Course 6: Fruit
Course 7: Italian Pastry

Only seven courses. Just seven. (Seriously seven courses?!?!?)

I might explode. I can't wait.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Gingerbread Cookies

To me, it's hardly Christmas without Gingerbread cookies. It's another thing my Mom used to make when I was a kid. Between the Zucchini muffins and these I'm getting all nostalgic up in here. I'll try to keep the ramblings about Christmases past to a minimum here.

I made these this year for John's and my family and took them with us on the annual Christmas tour and I'm pretty sure they're almost gone now. I think that means they were a success.

Gingerbread Cookies
Source: Adapted from Simply Recipes 

3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ tsp baking soda
¾ cup unsalted butter
½ cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
1 large egg
½ cup molasses

½ cup powdered sugar
2 tsp milk 

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, black pepper and salt. Set aside.  

In an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and combine on low speed. Slowly add the flour mixture, mixing after each addition. You might need to work the dough with your hands after the last addition to make sure the dough is combined. Divide the dough into thirds and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 350. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface and cut with desired cookie cutters. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes on the pan then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. 

To make the icing, mix the powdered sugar and milk together until the two just come together. You want the icing to be stiff so that when you pipe it onto the cookies it won't puddle out and make the gingerbread men look like they have googly eyes. If your icing is a little too runny, keep adding powdered sugar until the lines from mixing it don't sink into the rest of the icing. Spoon the icing into a piping bag or a Ziploc bag with one corner trimmed off. Pipe onto cooled cookies as desired. 


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Zucchini Muffins

These are my favorite muffins ever! I'm so excited to share them with you!

My Mom used to make these when I was a kid and I was always so exited about them. When I got older and went to college she sent me care packages full of these. As soon as they arrived my roommates and I devoured them. After I hid half of them and stashed them for myself.

Just kidding on that one guys.

Kind of...

Speaking of roommates, this was one of them! She still comes around when she gets word of zucchini muffins.

She brought her adorable little son with her to spread the muffins on to the next generation. I think he liked them.

Zucchini Muffins

3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour
3 cups shredded zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350. Mix together the eggs and sugar in a large bowl. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and flour. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until combined. Add the zucchini and mix until combined. Pour the batter into greased muffin tins or muffin cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins in the middle of the pan comes out clean.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

It's mini break time for me while the turkey is in the oven and before side-making-madness begins. What are you doing today? Are you cooking for your whole family? Spending a quit Thanksgiving with friends? Providing support while someone else does all the heavy lifting?

I hope you all have a fantastic Thanksgiving! Eat lots (that's what I'm doing)!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sweet Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin

I am not at all opposed to slathering butter and sugar on something healthy and turning it into something delicious that doesn't resemble health food in the least. In fact, it looks more like candy than anything else. This year though I wanted to take my sweet potatoes in more of a savory route away from the pecan crusted sweet potatoes I've had for years. So, I'm slathering them with butter, cream and cheese. Ohhh yes.

Seriously, sweet potatoes and swiss chard ("healthy") + butter, cream, cheese ("unhealthy", yet delicious) = perfection. I'm just going to tell myself that eating all that healthy stuff on the far left of this equation negates all of the fat and excess calories consumed by the addition of the "unhealthy" portion. Win win!

This is my last post in the pre-Thanksgiving posting spree, since tomorrow is Thanksgiving and it might be slightly counter-productive to post Thanksgiving recipes after the fact. So happy eating to all tomorrow!

Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin
Source: Smitten Kitchen

I also cut this recipe in half since I don't want to end up with mountains and mountains of leftovers for Thanksgiving. The original recipe should feed 12, so mine should feed 6. (Great job on the math there, Val. That took some real hard brain-thinkin'.) Scale this one up to feed more if you need!

I did learn that cutting the ingredients for the sauce in half means you should cut the cooking time in half as well. My sauce was super thick and as a result my gratin was a little dry. I adapted that in the recipe, so you should be good to go!

2 tbsp butter
1 small onion, diced
1.5 lbs swiss chard (2 bunches), cleaned and leaves and stems separated and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup whole milk
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp flour
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/8 in thick rounds
1/2 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/2 tbsp fresh thyme
3/4 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook onions in 1 tbsp butter until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add swiss chard stems and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add the chard leaves. Cook, stirring, until wilted. Transfer the greens to a colander and press the excess liquid out with the back of a spoon. Set aside.

To make the sauce, add the milk and the minced garlic to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Melt 1 tbsp butter in a medium saucepan and aff the 1 tbsp flour. Cook the roux, whisking constantly for about 30 seconds. Slowly pour in the warm milk, whisking constantly. Keep whisking for another 30 seconds, then remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Now we assemble the gratin! We're going to make two layers of sweet potatoes/salt/pepper/herbs/cheese/swiss chard/sauce. So, first butter an 8x8 baking dish. Layer half of the sweet potatoes evenly on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, 1/4 of the herbs and 1/4 cup of cheese. Spread half of the greens on top of the cheese, then pour half of the sauce on top. Repeat this once more. Then sprinkle with more salt and pepper, the remaining herbs and the remaining cheese. Press the vegetables down into the sauce as much as you can.

Bake in a 400 degree oven (preheated) for about 30-40 minutes, until bubbly and slightly brown on top. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I had a roommate in college who showed me the way. The way of garlic. Her philosophy was always that more garlic is better. Seriously, she would eat whole slices of raw garlic while chopping it for dinner. And while I think there are some garlic-free dishes that are perfect as they are, potatoes can sometimes use a little pick-me-up and garlic+potatoes is an awesome combination. Especially when that garlic is browned and nutty and delicious. Seriously, who knew that simply roasting garlic could make something that is already delicious be so much more amazing?

This is how I'm spicing up my mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving next week. I love regular mashed potatoes, in my opinion it's one of the best comfort foods around, but since this is my first time making the whole Thanksgiving dinner, I wanted to do something a little special.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes
1 head garlic
2 lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup whole milk
2-3 tbsp butter
salt pepper

First you need to roast the garlic. Preheat the oven to 350. Chop one end off the top of the head of garlic so that all of the individual cloves are exposed and put the garlic in an oven-proof pan. I usually use a small cake pan or a pie pan. Drizzle the cloves with olive oil and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until the cloves are lightly browned and starting to squeeze out of their papery little cases. Let them cool a bit, until you can handle the garlic, and squeeze the individual cloves into a small bowl. Be sure to pick out any of the papery cases that come out with the cloves of garlic. Set aside.

Meanwhile, add the potatoes to a pot and cover with cold water. Add about 1 tsp salt. Boil for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain and return to the pan.

Using a potato masher or a hand mixer, mash the potatoes in the same pot. I usually turn the heat on low while I'm mashing up the potatoes. I think I read somewhere that this helps the steam release from the potatoes so they're not so watery. Or something. Once the potatoes are mashed add the roasted garlic, butter, milk, salt and pepper and work everything together using the potato masher. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Add more milk if the potatoes seem too dry.

You can either serve these potatoes just like this, or you can put them in the oven to keep them warm while you get everything else together on the big day. I stuck these in  my oven for about 20 minutes while I was waiting for the rest of our dinner to cook. They got a little browned on top and had a slightly crispy top, which I really liked.


Monday, November 22, 2010

No Knead Dinner Rolls

Alright kiddies, it's time to bust out those Thanksgiving recipes because we're only a few days away! I'm cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the first time this year. The whole thing! Granted there will be a maximum of 5 people there. I guess this is a nice start for me to ease into cooking the Thanksgiving feast! I'm so excited!

Since this is my first time to do the whole thing myself, turkey, sides and all, I'm kind of going all out. I'm making these rolls, this pie, along with a few other sides I'll be posting in the next two days.

No Knead Rolls
Source: The Pioneer Woman

I cut the recipe in half since I'm only feeding a few people for Thanksgiving and I didn't want 10,000 rolls left over. Just scale this up or down to feed as many as you need. This recipe would have made about 18 rolls. I only made the 12 that fit in my muffin pan and then froze the rest of the dough for later.

2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
4 1/2 cups flour
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp salt

In a large pot, combine milk, sugar, and vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When the mixture just starts boiling, turn off the heat and let it sit for about 20 minutes. I waited until the side of the pot felt warm to the palm of my hand. You want the milk mixture to be warm enough to create a nice happy environment for the yeast, but cool enough so that it doesn't kill the yeast the second they touch the liquid.

Next, add 2 cups of the flour and the yeast. Stir this mixture to combine, then add the rest of the flour and keep on stirring. Once you have everything mixed, cover the pot with it's lid and let the dough rise for about 1 hour.

Once the dough has doubled in size, add 1/2 cup of remaining flour, along with the baking powder, baking soda and salt. This will be tough to stir in, so use a good sturdy spoon or knead it just a few times right in the pot. Butter a muffin pan. Tear off small walnut sized pieces of dough and form into balls between the palms of your hands. Drop three of these into each of the muffin cups. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Rolls

As promised, this recipe does not contain potatoes. But look out. This week I'm going to be trying out some Thanksgiving recipes. And we all know that the best part of the entire Thanksgiving meal is the sides. And that's a lot of potatoes, my friends.

What today's recipe does contain is apples, cinnamon, flour, yeast and caramel. Yay!

And let me tell you: These. Are. Awesome. However, they were pretty time consuming to make. Between making the dough and the various rising and baking times, I spent most of the morning and early afternoon making this one Sunday. It wasn't a ton of actual work time, but they do need a little attention every so often. But believe me, one bite made me completely forget about how long these took to make. I was simply planning on when I could make more.

Seriously, make these tomorrow morning. You'll be happy you did.

Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls
Source: Annie's Eats

6 1/2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp  cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
5 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 large egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp lemon zest
3 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tsp instant yeast
1 cup plus 2-4 tbsp whole milk

1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp  cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

3 tbsp plus 1 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon

4 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp caramel sauce
1 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar

About 1/2 half hour before you start making the dough, set the butter, egg and milk out so that they are about at room temperature when you start cooking.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter on medium speed, until smooth. Add the egg and lemon zest, and mix until combined. Next, add the four, yeast and milk and mix until a dough forms. You may need to add a little extra milk or flour to get it to the right consistency. If your mixer has a dough hook, switch to that and knead on low speed for about 8 minutes. If you do not have a dough hook, transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. Drizzle a little oil into a new large bowl and transfer the dough. Turn to cover the dough in oil and the cover and let rise in a semi-warm place for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Since my kitchen is a little cold and drafty, I usually let my dough rise in the oven (make sure it's off) and it's pretty happy in there.

While the dough is rising, make the filling. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, cinnamon, sugar, corn starch, nutmeg, and salt. Stir to combine and thoroughly coat the apples in the cinnamon-sugar goo (ohh delicious goo). Cook for about 18 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together the rest of the sugar and cinnamon.

Once the dough is done rising, lightly spray a work surface with oil. Using a rolling pin or your hands, spread the dough into a large rectangle, with the wide end of the rectangle facing toward you. If the dough is sticking to your hands or the rolling pin, lightly dust with flour. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture all over the dough. Spread the apples evenly over the surface of the dough. Now get ready to roll!

Starting at the end closest to you (this should be the wide end of the rectangle), start rolling the dough away from you. When you get to the end of the dough, pinch the seam closed so the rolls don't unravel apart after you bake them. You should have one very long log of cinnamon apple goodness.

With the seam side down, cut the log into equally sized rolls. You can cut them as large or as small as you want. Make sure they're roughly the same size though so they bake at the same pace. Transfer the sliced rolls to a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about 90 minutes.

(This is one place you can stop and put the rolls into the refrigerator and save them for a few days. This would be a great place to stop if you're making them the day ahead of time.)

Once the rolls have finished rising, preheat the oven to 350. Bake the rolls for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown. (Note: In the picture above I did not let my rolls bake quite long enough. If you pull yours out of the oven and they look like mine, throw them back in for about 5 minutes.) Once the rolls are cooked, let them cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

(This is another place you could halt this whole process. I actually make a TON of rolls, way too many for John and me to eat without gaining 30 lbs. each.  I froze a few of these in a large Ziploc bag to save for later. When you want them, just pull them out of the freezer and bake at 350 for about 30-35 minutes. When they're done baking, add the glaze.)

While the rolls are cooling, make the glaze. Combine the cream cheese and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and heat at 15-20 second intervals until you can whisk it together. Add the caramel sauce, milk, and vanilla and whisk until combined. Whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth. Drizzle over the rolls. Cool the rolls for another 15-20 minutes.


Phew, I told you that was a long one. But seriously, these were some of the best things to come out of my kitchen in a long long time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sweet Potato Fries

Is it just me or are sweet potato fries one of the best inventions of all time? I mean, normal old french fries are amazing, but throw in sweet potatoes??? Whaaaa??? It totally blew my mind the first time I saw these. Granted the first time I got them was after I moved and lived somewhere other than the middle of a cornfield for the first time in my life. Maybe all that corn blocked the inspiration needed to dunk a bunch of sweet potatoes into a vat of grease and fry them until they were crisp and delicious.

This is a slightly healthier version of your typical sweet potato fries. I neither had a large vat of grease nor wanted to commit myself to the clean up after. I read this post on Smitten Kitchen and decided that this was one of the best things you could do to any kind of potato. They're really simple to make and so so good. John and I devoured them in approximately 3.29 minutes. No joke, I totally timed us.

Sweet Potato Fries
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400.

If you're into neat clean peeled fries, peel the sweet potatoes. If you don't care, leave the skins on and cut the sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch sticks. Dump the sweet potatoes into a pot of cold water and season with 1 tbsp salt. Bring the water to a boil. As soon as the water boils, check the potatoes. If you can easily stick a sharp paring knife into them, remove them from heat and drain carefully. The potatoes will be a little soft, so be careful not to break them apart.

Allow the potatoes to cool slightly. Brush a baking pan with about 1-2 tbsp of the olive oil, enough so that the potatoes don't stick. Then toss the potatoes with remaining olive oil, 1/2 tsp kosher salt and about 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper. Spread into a single layer onto the greased baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, or until the potatoes are slightly browned and crisp.


P.S. I promise to not post anything about potatoes next time. Instead I will be talking about sugar. And yeast. And caramel. And it will be good.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Potato Leek Soup

Fall is confusing me this year. One week it's freezing every day and I'm tempted to pull out my giant puffy winter coat. Then on my drive home from Washington, DC last week it was snowing up in the hills of Pennsylvania. Snowing. And now, this week it's supposed to be in the 60's. I really with it would make up it's mind.

I made this soup a few weeks ago during one of the first fall cold snaps. It's one of the few things that can make the first freezing days of fall better to me. Make it on the next cold days that you have. It will make those cold fall days that much better.

Potato Leek Soup
Adapted slightly from David Lebovitz

3 tbsp Butter
4 leeks
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp chili powder
6 cups water
1 1/4 pounds potatoes
2 bay leaves
freshly ground pepper

Melt butter in a medium size dutch oven or pot (I used a 5 quart dutch oven) over medium heat.

Add the slides leeks and salt. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes until soft.

Add the thyme and chili powder and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds.

Add the potatoes, water, and bay leaves. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender, 15-25 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and turn off the heat. Using a food processor or a blender puree soup in batches or puree right in the pot using an immersion blender. I prefer the immersion blender, but use whatever you have.If the soup is too thick, thin down with water.

Reheat over low heat to warm the soup back up. Serve with a nice salad and a big slice of crusty bread.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Lentils

This was my first experience cooking lentils. It's something I've been wanting to do for a while. Well, "a while" is sort of relative. I was standing in the bulk bin isle at the grocery store two weeks ago and realized everything was 10% off. So I started loading up on everything I'd been wanting to cook. And then I saw lentils and though "I should cook with lentils. Wouldn't I be super cool if I made something out of dried lentils?" And yes, thank you, I realize that the word "cool" in that phrase is also relative.

This dish is a little sweet from the sweet potatoes and ginger but it's also spicy from the jalapeno and the garam masala. It also made a giant batch and it was the perfect lunch for the rest of the week.

Curried Lentils with Sweet Potatoes
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen, originally from the New York Times

2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (or grated, but I always just mince mine)
1.5 tsp garam masala
1.5 tsp curry powder
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
4-5 cups vegetable broth (I used all 5)
2 lbs sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 1/2 cup dried lentils
1 bay leaf
1 lb Swiss chard, center stalks removed and torn into pieces
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, jalapeno, garam masala and curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Stir in 4 cups of broth, sweet potatoes and bay leaf. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 25 minutes. Add up to 1 cup of stock as necessary if lentils look too dry. Stir in chard, salt and pepper and continue cooking until lentils are tender, about 30-45 minutes total.

Stir in parsley and serve.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Oh boy it's soup season. I love soup season. I love soup.

Who remembers using chat rooms? I feel like in the mid 90's they were awesome. Well, they were awesome if you were a nerdy 10 year old and thought that getting on the internet was awesome. And I might just have been one of those nerdy 10 year olds. My oldest friend, Rachel, and I would log on to chat rooms and say extremely random stuff until people tried to kick us out. One of our favorite annoying phrases was "I love soup". We would then proceed to list all of the soups we liked. When you're a nerdy 10 year old, this is completely hilarious. Not that I was a nerdy 10 year old or anything.

If you were in any of those chat rooms, I'm sorry. Please don't hate me.

And... I love soup.

Butternut Squash Soup
Adapted from Emeril Lagase
This is one of my favorite soup finds. It is so warm and hearty and squashy. It make it feel like fall. And it makes me happy. I hope you like it!

I've tried making this vegetarian, using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth, and while it's good, I really think it's better with chicken broth.

Serve it up with a salad to make it a complete meal.

1 butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 small carrots, sliced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 jalapeno, minced
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup heavy cream

Peel and chop the butternut squash into 1/2 inch cubes. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot. Saute onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add carrot, cumin, salt and pepper, and jalapeno and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add stock and butternut squash. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 25 minutes, or until squash is tender. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor. Return to heat, add the cream, and salt and pepper to taste.


Also, I love soup.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Squash Fest Continues With Roasted Acorn Squash

Is it just me or does the title of this post make anyone else think about mosh pits at a giant outdoor punk rock music festival?


Did no one else experience being slammed against your will into other sweaty people while holding on to your 6'5 friend with a death grip so you don't get completely trampled by a group of rowdy teenagers?

Anyone? Bueller?

OK, so I went to the Warped Tour once back in my teenage years. And I "moshed" as much as you can call suddenly being in the center of a bunch of guys with mohawks jumping, pushing and shoving their way into everything and everyone within a 4 foot radius while you frantically flee for you life. I'll admit it. But can't you just hear, "And now Squash Fest 2010 continues with the Roasted Acorn Squash!!! Yeeeeaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!" booming over the sound system?

I'll take that looming awkward silence as a no.

I can't help the random things my brain spits out. It just happens.

Let's all just forget that happened and return to the main topic, the continuation of Squash Fest 2010, for it is yummy.

We bought these two little acorn squash from the farmer's market last week. I'd been wanting to try this recipe even since I first saw it. And I was happy I did. A quick warning: this is such a sweet dish that you could practically have it for dessert instead. It reminded me of the candied sweet potatoes that my Mom serves with Thanksgiving dinner. And since she serves candied sweet potatoes with dinner, I decided I could serve candied acorn squash with dinner. It made eating near-dessert for dinner seem much more acceptable.

Roasted Acorn Squash
Adapted slightly from The Pioneer Woman
The only thing that I do differently from this recipe is not to score each of the squash before roasting them. I think this would allow the buttery sugary liquid to seep further into the squash flesh, but it thought it was just fine without it. I liked being able to taste some of the squash after dipping it into the vat of deliciousness at the center. I'm sure it would be completely amazing either way though. And mostly I forgot to do it.

2 acorn squash
4 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp butter
Pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400.

Cut each squash in half, lengthwise. The skin on these is super tough though, so be careful. Once you've gotten through the skin, the knife should slide easily. Scrape out the seeds and the gooey membranes.

Lay each of the squash halves skin side down onto a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle each with salt. Add 1 tbsp butter to each of the squash halves, followed by 1 tbsp brown sugar. Drizzle each of the squash halves with a little maple syrup. Add 2 cups of water to bottom of the pan to give the squash some moisture while they roast. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 30 minutes, or until fork tender.

Turn the broiler on for about 5 minutes to let the squash get slightly browned and the sugary mixture to bubble. Remove from the oven and transfer the squash to a serving platter. Scoop a little bit of the brown-sugar butter mixture over the edges and sides of each of the squash halves.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Delicious Homemade Pumpkin Pie

I did it again.

Another week or more has gone by since I've even thought about blogging. That whole hitting the ground running thing I had to do after my last post was more like hitting the ground sprinting in a uphill three-legged race.

And then there was the recovery time, which was absolutely and completely necessary. I spent three days staring at the wall in my living room while basic functions seeped back into my pathetic brain that had been wrung out too many times.

But, slowly I regained the ability to make eye contact with people and even communicate. Although that last one took a while. Once I stopped blabering at John like a toddler and actually started forming coherent sentences, I knew I was back to being me.

Contributing to my road from brain-in-a-blender to normal functioning adult was this pie. We made it Saturday night during Squash Fest 2010. With the leaves falling and digging out all of our old sweaters, this topped off our welcome to fall party.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Delicious Homemade Pumpkin Pie

This was my first attempt making pumpkin pie completely from scratch. It takes a lot longer than opening a can and dumping pumpkin puree in, but the taste is amazing. It's the best pumpkin pie I've ever had. If you're not in the mood, then simply dump in 16oz of your favorite pumpkin puree and call it a day. I won't judge. Especially if you share with me.

My mother-in-law e-mailed me this recipe while I was standing in the baking goods isle at the grocery store so I don't have a source, therefore

Adapted from the back of some can of pumpkin puree

Thanks Donna!

1 pie crust (I always use this one)
2 cups pumpkin puree
12oz. evaporated milk
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Prepare Pumpkin Puree
Preheat oven to 350.

Cut the stem out of the pumpkin just like you're getting ready to carve a jack-o-lantern. Scrape the seeds and the gooey bits from the pumpkin. Save the seeds and roast them later!

Carefully cut the pumpkin in half, and then cut each half into thirds or quarters. Lay each piece of pumpkin skin side down on an ungreased baking sheet. Roast for at least 45 minutes, or until the pieces can easily be pierced with a fork.

Cool until you can handle them comfortably (do not be like me and nearly burn half of your fingers because you're so impatient to make pie) and peel the skin off each piece of pumpkin. Throw the skinned pieces of pumpkin into a food processor in batches and puree until smooth. If it looks too thick, drizzle enough water so that the puree is smooth and creamy.

If this makes more than 2 cups of pumpkin puree, freeze the rest and be rejoice in the fact that you get to make another pie later with minimal effort.

The Pie
Combine all ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined. If there are any leftover chunks of pumpkin that didn't get pureed well, you can always remove them for a smooth and consistent texture. Or you can leave them in and call it a rustic pumpkin pie. Or a lumpy pumpkin pie. I left them in. I'm like, totally rustic. Or something. Anyway, they were delicious.

Pour the filling into the prepared pie crust. Bake at 425 for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until a knife put into the center comes out clean.

Wait impatiently while the pie cools for at least 30 minutes (ok, I waited 10) and serve.

Oh, and make sure you whip up some of this to go with it.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Simple Sauteed Spinach

I know I know. I haven't been seen around here in a while. Between work, life, and everything in between I've hardly had time to sleep lately. This is the first weekend I'm actually home out of the last 3 weeks and I have absolutely nothing to do. Except finish that grant I'm supposed to be writing. But everyone procrastinates during grant season! (Right? Fellow scientists back me up here.) And the last 12 hours was the longest stretch of time I've had where I didn't receive one grant-related e-mail out of the last 4 days. I'm reveling in my "free time" before I have to hit the ground running again tomorrow.

To celebrate, I'm cooking up a squash filled dinner tonight with these gooodies:

The menu for tonight's dinner:
Grass-Fed Sirloin Steak a tiny little stand at the farmer's market
Roasted Acorn Squash
Collard Greens
Homemade Pumpkin Pie from scratch

I can't wait to share it with you tomorrow!

In the meantime though, I'll leave you with this tiny little recipe to hold you over until the squash explosion that will occur here over the next few days.

This is one of these things that I throw together at the last minute when I realize the only thing on our dinner plates is cheese and carbohydrates. That's usually when I usually feel a small sharp pain in my chest and realize that if I don't consume something that isn't entirely made of cheese and pasta I might just have a heart attack right then and there.

OK, that's not true. In my opinion, a dinner consisting of only cheese, pasta and bread is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it's one of my favorite dinners of all time. But if that isn't your style and you want to increase the nutrition factor in your meal without a lot of effort, you've come to the right recipe.

Simple Sauteed Spinach
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
5 oz spinach

You can easily add other fancier things to this dish like slivered almonds, shallots, anything at all really.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, just to release the flavor. Be careful not to burn! Add the spinach in bunches and cook until completely wilted. Eat and feel healthy!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Whatever You Have Stir Fry

We always have a random bunch of vegetables left over every week form the CSA that I can never figure out what to do with. And most weeks, unless I'm feeling especially creative, they usually all get dumped into a giant stir fry with tofu. But, everything I've tried with this always tastes good! You just have to switch the cooking times and styles based on what you're cooking. You want the vegetables to get nice and brown. So, if you're cooking with a zucchini the size of your forearm (which are the only ones I can find at the farmer's market) you want to cook it a little longer so that it releases its water and browns. Or, if you're making this with eggplant, it will cook a little faster. So far, I've used zucchini, eggplant, green beans, broccoli, and Asian greens, among other things in combination with each other.

Here I'm giving you the recipe for the latest batch we made with zucchini, broccoli, Asian greens. If you follow a similar method, you can try this with anything you have on hand!

One note on making stir fry, you really want to have everything ready to go when you start cooking. Stir fry uses high high heat and cooks everything quickly and you don't want to be mincing garlic while your vegetables burn. Trust me, I know from experience. I've burned many batches of stir fry trying to multitask.

Whatever You Have Stir Fry

2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 zucchini, cut into pieces
1 head broccoli, chopped
1 bunch Asian greens (such as Bok Choy), separated
1 small onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 package super firm tofu, cubed and drained
1 recipe stir fry sauce (below)

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Once the oil is HOT carefully add the zucchini to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes, depending on the size and water content of your zucchini, stirring often. You don't quite want to brown the zucchini at this point, but you want to get it close. Add broccoli, and cook for 1 minute. Add Asian greens and cook until wilted. Remove the vegetables from the pan and keep warm.

Add the other tbsp oil to the wok and let it get hot. Add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Next, add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant. Add tofu and cook for several minutes on each side, until lightly browned. Next, add sauce and cook, stirring constantly until thick. Return vegetables to the pan, and stir to coat evenly with sauce. Cook together for about 1-2 minutes, until combined and heated through. Serve immediately over white rice.


Stir Fry Sauce
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

2 tbsp cooking sherry
2 tbsp white sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp corn starch

Whisk all ingredients together until well combined.