Sunday, October 28, 2012

100th Post: Sweet and Salty Manchego Corn Muffins

Ladies and gentlemen, it's my 100th post!

I started this blog over a year ago as a summer project. It's become a way for me to keep track of all my culinary creations while sharing them with my friends and family. It's really helped me expand my cooking arsenal. I've made lots of things from scratch and tried lots of new ingredients. Thanks for sharing it all with me.

Notes: This recipe is an altered version of Smitten Kitchen's corn muffins. Scott is not crazy about kernels of corn in his muffins so I left those out. I also didn't have any buttermilk, but I did have yogurt. I had some leftover manchego cheese that needed using up, so hey, why not? They turned out great. 

Ingredients:
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 teaspoons raw sugar
1/3 cup shredded manchego cheese
1 cup vanilla yogurt
2 eggs
3 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

Heat your oven to 400. Line your muffin tin with paper cups.

Pour melted butter and olive oil into a large bowl. Beat the eggs slightly and add those in with the yogurt and the cheese. Mix the wet ingredients together.

Add flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar into the bowl. Once all the dry ingredients are in the bowl, then mix everything together. Don't worry about getting it perfectly smooth, just combine everything.

Scoop out the batter into the muffin tin and bake for 15-18 minutes until a tester comes out clean and the muffins are very lightly golden brown on top.

Store in an airtight container and enjoy!




Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Do you love yourself? Because if you do, you should do something very nice for yourself. You should make these cinnamon rolls.

I followed Smitten Kitchen's recipe exactly, so I won't retype it here. I put everything together the night before and just baked them up the next morning. They're made from scratch, so it's a bit of work, but the results are so worth it. These would be a great Thanksgiving breakfast or dessert.

Just make them. You won't regret it, I promise.



Slow Cooker Apple Cider BBQ Chicken

This semester has been pretty busy, so I'm experimenting with more slow cooker recipes. We have some long days during the week and it's nice to come home to a meal that's already made. Some of my recipes have turned out well, some not so well. This one is not great for a week night, but it is great for a weekend. It has a short ingredient list and the results are delicious.

Notes: Scott and I prefer dark meat, but if you want white meat, by all means use chicken breasts.

If you don't have fresh apple cider, you could easily substitute apple juice.

Ingredients:
1 lb of boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 cups of your favorite BBQ sauce
1 cup fresh apple cider (or apple juice)
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Add the chicken thighs to the slow cooker and season them with salt and pepper. In a large bowl whisk together the BBQ sauce and apple cider. Pour over the chicken, making sure all the meat is covered (if you need some more liquid, just add a little water). Set the slow cooker for 4 hours on high.

30 minutes before the cooking time is up, take the chicken out an shred it with two forks. Put the shredded chicken back in the slow cooker to finish up. Serve and enjoy!

Pictured here with French roasted potatoes



Homemade Pizza, Take Two

Hoo boy. Am I ever behind on posting recipes!

Remember when I made homemade pizza for the first time? Boy was it good. What could be better than a recipe for homemade pizza crust? Well, an updated version of said pizza crust would be good (camera battery ran out, so none of my terrible photos for you).

Ingredients:
3 cups all purpose flour (unbleached preferred)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons raw sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 heaping tablespoons herbs de provence
1 cup lukewarm water
1 packet dry active yeast.
1 cup of your favorite pizza sauce
1 ball fresh mozzarella
8 slices of sandwich style pepperoni

Directions:

Start with the dough. Add flour, salt, sugar, olive oil, herbs de provence, water, and yeast to a bowl. Mix it together with your hands, stirring at first and then switching to kneading. Dump the dough out onto a floured surface and knead into ball. Wipe your bowl out with a paper towel and oil your bowl. Roll your dough ball around so that it's coated, then cover it with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let it rise for 2 hours.

When the 2 hours is up, heat your oven to 450. Dump your dough out onto a floured surface and press the air out. Shape it back into a ball and let it sit under the bowl for 20 minutes. Then roll it out (start from the middle pushing outward, do a quarter turn, roll out from the middle again, repeat) to a 12-inch circle.

Lay it out on your pizza pan (dust a little cornmeal on there if you want). Spread the sauce out over the dough, add your pepperoni. Thinly slice your mozzarella ball and lay the slices on top.

Arrange your oven racks in bottom third and top third of the oven. Start on the bottom and bake for 10 minutes. Move it to the top and bake for 10 more minutes. Slice and enjoy!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Manchego Orzo with Spinach and Corn

The cooking gods were telling me I needed to make orzo, so I did it.


Two of my regular cooking blog reads had recipes for orzo. Both of them looked delicious, so I decided to create my own.

Notes: Cheeses like manchego are Scott-approved. Perhaps you cook for someone who is suspicious of cheese? Trust me, if Scott likes it, your picky cheese eater will like it too.

Ingredients:
1 box orzo pasta
Approx. 4 cups baby spinach
2 tablespoons prepared pesto sauce
1.5-2 cups shredded manchego or similarly-flavored cheese
2 ears of corn
Salt
Pepper
Butter for sauteing

Directions: Fill a stock pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add a small handful of salt to the water. Cook pasta according to directions (mine was 10 minutes).

Strip the kernels off the corn and collect them in a bowl. Heat a large skilled on medium and melt the butter in the skillet. Add the corn and saute. Season with salt and pepper.

Roughly chop the spinach and add it to the skillet with the corn. Saute until just wilted. If the pasta isn't done, go ahead and turn the heat off.

Once the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet. Stir in manchego and pesto sauce until everything is well-combined.

Enjoy!


Roasted Portabello Sandwich


This started out as 80/20's faux BLT. But, I had less time and different ingredients. It didn't taste like bacon, but it sure did taste good.

Notes: I would have marinated my 'shrooms for the full time, if I had had it. It would have made them even more flavorful.

You could probably also put these under the broiler, though you'd want to watch them to make sure they don't burn.

Ingredients:
2-4 portabello mushroom caps, cleaned and stems removed
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 large tablespoon whole grain mustard
3-5 drops of liquid smoke
1/4 cup olive oil

For topping:
Baby spinach
1 avocado
1 teaspoon prepared pesto
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Goat cheese
Tomato slices

Directions: Heat the oven to 425.

Slice the mushrooms into 1/4 inch pieces and lay them in a shallow dish (I used a pie pan). Whisk together soy sauce, liquid smoke, mustard, and oil. Pour over the mushrooms and marinate for 30 minutes.

When 30 minutes is up, lay the mushrooms on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through.

Serve topped with baby spinach, tomato, goat cheese, and avocado pesto spread. To make the spread, halve one avocado and scoop the flesh out into a bowl. Mix together the avocado flesh, pesto sauce, and salt.

Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Royal Tacos

In ancient Rome, the color purple was associated with royalty. Purple dye was made from crushed sea shells that were only found on the shores of Phoenicia. Because the shells were rare, the dye was very expensive, so only royals or high-ranking aristocrats could afford it.

Lucky for you, you don't have to be royalty to enjoy these tacos. But they are purple nonetheless!



Notes: Scott said these were the best tacos he's ever had. That's a ringing endorsement! I loved them as well.

I'm a huge fan of the blue taco shells. To me, they have more flavor and they're just more fun.

Here's a fun trick: make these tacos for people and don't tell them what's in the mixture. I bet you they'll never guess that pumpkin is one of the ingredients. The pumpkin adds a creamy texture like refried beans, but you up the vitamin content and lower the fat content of the dish. But it doesn't taste like pumpkin.

Cooking the rice is the thing that takes the longest, so if you used minute rice, this could easily be Q.E.D..

I decided to make a little dressing for the cabbage, but you could leave it plain if you're not into mayo.

Ingredients:
2 ears fresh corn
1/2 small red cabbage
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 cup pumpkin puree
4-6 oz. Spanish cheese or white cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon mayo
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon brown or raw sugar
1 tablespoon chipotle power
1 teaspoon oregano
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
2 tablespoons butter, divided
Salt
1 box blue taco shells

Directions: Start with the rice. Add the rice, 1 tablespoon butter, and 2 cups water to sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium and let it cook for 35-40 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350. Rinse and drain the beans. In a large bowl, strip the kernels off the corn cobs and set aside. In another bowl, add mayo, milk, and dill and whisk together. Thinly slice the cabbage and add it to the bowl in with the dressing and toss to combine. Season with salt and put the bowl in the fridge to chill.

When the rice has about 15 minutes of cook time left, heat a skillet on medium. Add the rest of the butter to the pan. When it melts, add the cumin, sugar, oregano, and chipotle and stir. Add in the beans, corn, and pumpkin. Stir everything together and turn the heat to low. If the mixture starts to look too dry or stick to the pan, add a little water.

When the rice is done, add it to the beans and pumpkin. Heat the taco shells according to the box directions (mine said bake for 5 minutes). While the shells are in the oven, grate the cheese.

When the shells are done, assemble the tacos and enjoy (royally)!

Farmer's Market Creation: Heirloom Eggplant Lasagna


Check out these babies! You're used to seeing the big dark purple eggplants, no doubt, but eggplants can come in a lot of varieties. I saw these at the farmer's market and I simply had to have them.

Notes: Oh sweet lasagna. Is there anything better than that layered, cheesy goodness? No way. I much prefer veggie lasagna to the meat variety. You don't have to cook the veggies beforehand, so it saves time and dishes. Lasagna takes enough time as it is.

Heirloom eggplants don't have the same bitterness that their large purple cousins have, so there's no need to salt these beforehand. Even more time saved!

Ingredients:
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
3 small eggplants
1 26 oz jar of marinara sauce
15 oz. of ricotta cheese
1 large or 2 small balls of fresh mozzarella
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Salt
Pepper

Directions: Heat oven to 375.

Thinly slice your eggplants. Put the ricotta cheese in a bowl, season with salt, pepper, and oregano, and mix well. Set aside.

Grab your 9x13 baking dish and pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom. Layer the lasagna as follows:
4 pasta sheets
slices of eggplants
1/3 ricotta mixture
more sauce

Repeat until you get to the last four sheets of pasta. Pour over the remaining sauce (you might need to add a little water to the jar to get out every drop -- you need the liquid to cook the pasta). Slice the fresh mozzarella and lay the slices on top.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 35 minutes. After the time is up, take the foil off and bake for another 5-7 minutes. Serve and enjoy!


Q.E.D.: White Bean, Mushroom, and Kale Crostini

No one ever said that a Q.E.D. meal can't look and sound impressive. Quick need not equal boring!

Notes: I loved everything about this dish. It's fast, it's delicious, it's hearty, and it's pleasing to the eye. I allotted 3 pieces of bread per person, so if you need to feed more people, just keep that in mind.

This could easily be made into an appetizer if you used a small baguette. If you end up with leftover kale and mushrooms, you could mix them with rice or pasta and have a different meal the next day.

If you don't have an immersion blender or a food processor, you could just mash the beans with a fork or leave them whole and add them to the mushroom kale mixture.

Ingredients:
6-8 slices of sourdough bread
1/2 lb mushrooms
1/2 bunch kale leaves, de-stemmed
1 15 oz. can white beans
1 tablespoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Directions: Heat the oven to 350.

Thinly slice the mushrooms and kale. Drain and rinse the beans.

Put the beans in a pot with just a small amount of water and heat on medium. Season them with the dill.

Heat a skillet on medium-high and add a tablespoon or so of olive oil. When it's hot, add in the mushrooms and saute until they start to brown. Season them with the cumin and stir. Add the kale to the mushrooms and stir to combine. Season the mixture with salt and pepper and turn the heat to low.

Put the slices of bread on a baking sheet. Brush them with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake for 5 minutes.

While the bread is toasting, use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the beans into a smooth mixture.

When the toasts are done, spread on a layer of beans and top with mushrooms and kale.

Enjoy!


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Rosemary Apple Roasted Chicken with Kale Cauliflower Mash

Julia Child once said that the test of a great cook is a good roasted chicken. I have never roasted a whole chicken before. If I am to be a good cook in the eyes of Julia, then I suppose it is time to pass that test.

Notes: I have never understood why people insist on stuffing the cavity of a chicken with onions or lemons. I honestly have never been able to taste them. Since people pair pork and apples together, why not apples and chicken? I thought it was good, though I wouldn't claim to be able to taste the apples.

There's no big secret to roasting a chicken. People think you have to tie it up with twine and brine it and such. I mean, if you did brine it, I'm sure it would be delicious, but there's no need to fuss. If you ask me, only four things are essential: salt, pepper, butter, and a rack. And by "rack" I mean something with holes in it that you can set down inside a roasting pan. I use one of my stainless steel cookie cooling racks. Again, think about how long people have been roasting meat -- long before Crate and Barrel was telling you that you needed a special pan. My biggest fear about whole chickens are the innards, but nowadays the giblets are all packaged together in an envelope and stuffed in the cavity. You just pull out the envelope and either toss it or use the giblets however you please.

For me the hardest part is carving the chicken. In my kitchen, the butchering starts after the cooking is over. Carving a bird just takes practice.

So I finally made a dish with cauliflower. There are very few foods I dislike and until tonite cauliflower was one of them. But mashed cauliflower was quite good. I did not originally puree the cauliflower and kale together, but I did it later. I forgot that cauliflower does not have the starch that potatoes do and so a mere whirl around the Kitchen Aid bowl wasn't going to cut it.

Ingredients:

For chicken:
1 4-5 lb chicken, giblets removed
1 tablespoon butter
3-4 whole sprigs of rosemary
1 apple quartered with the seeds removed
Salt
Pepper

For the mash:
1/2 bunch kale leaves, destemmed
1 head of cauliflower
4-5 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/4-1/2 cup of milk
2 tablespoons butter
Salt

Directions: Heat the oven to 400.

Allow the chicken to come to room temperature (approximately 30 minutes). Line a baking pan with foil (just for easier clean up) and set a rack down inside the pan. Set the chicken on the rack. Season with salt and pepper and rub the outside of the skin with the butter. Put the apples and rosemary in the cavity. Roast for 15 minutes per pound. The chicken will done when (a) a thermometer reads 165-170 in the breast, (b) the juices of the chicken come out clear, and (c) when the leg wiggles easily away from the body of the chicken. When it's done, let it rest for 15 minutes.

When the chicken has about 30 minutes of cooking time left, start the mash. Add a small amount of water to a skillet with a lid and bring it to a high simmer. Break the cauliflower up into florets and place them in the skillet. Put the lid on and steam them until fork tender (about 20-25 minutes). While the cauliflower is steaming, thinly slice the kale leaves and chop the rosemary. When the cauliflower is done, transfer it and the kale to a large bowl. Add in milk, butter, salt, and rosemary and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Serve just like mashed potatoes.


Enjoy a roast chicken dinner any night of the week!


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Farmer's Market Creation: Okra and Corn Summer Stew

The days of summer are waning. Our local blueberries and strawberries have already exited the farmer's market. I am sad to see them go. While I still have the vegetables of summer, I'm trying to enjoy them.

Notes: Is there anything better than fresh okra and fresh corn? Nay. I've heard a lot of people claim that they don't like fresh okra because it's slimy. I've never understood that. Oysters are slimy. Okra is merely sticky. If you stew it with tomatoes, the stickiness goes away. So if you're trying to learn to like okra, by all means, try this dish.

Ever seen purple okra? Neither had I.

Purple and green okra with fresh corn
 I couldn't resist. Funny thing is, the purple color was gone after I cooked it. Who knows? It's just fun to experiment!

Ingredients:
1 bunch carrots
1 bunch celery
4-5 pieces of fresh okra
2 ears of corn
1 small onion
4 garlic cloves
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes + half a can of water
1 1/2 tablespoons dried herbs de provence
10-12 drops Tabasco sauce
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil

Directions:

Dice carrots, celery, and onion. Mince garlic. Slice okra and remove kernels from the ears of corn. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to a large pot. Saute all the veggies for about 4 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence.

Pour in the tomatoes and water. Add hot sauce and stir. Simmer for 30 minutes. Taste the broth and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Serve hot and enjoy!

Pictured with a homemade parmesan crouton



Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Carrot Apple Ginger Soup with Spinach Gruyere Toast

Given the whole viral colitis incident, I've been feeling very picky about what I eat. While I was sick, all I wanted was carbs: bread, pasta, pretzels, and that was about it. Now that I'm feeling better, it's time for fruit and veggies to come back. One of the blogs I subscribe to had a link to this soup. It's apparently good for stomach upset. I do know it was tasty.



Notes: This meal is not only healthy and delicious, it's cheap! If you just made plain toast, you could probably get out of the grocery store under $10. That's budget-friendly!

I got a new toy: an immersion blender! I have been wanting one for a long time because I love creamy blended soups. Hopefully it will become a cornerstone of my kitchen. You'll need some sort of blender for this recipe.

You could easily double this recipe if you needed to feed a crowd. This easily yields 4 servings. 

Ingredients:
For soup:
1 lb of carrots
4-5 apples
1 piece of fresh ginger (approx. 2 inches)
2 cups of water
Salt
Butter or olive oil for sauteing 

For toasts:
2 slices of sourdough bread
3/4 cup baby spinach leaves
1/2 - 3/4 cup of grated Gruyere cheese

Directions:

Dice your carrots and apples and mince the ginger. Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium-high. Add the apples, carrots, and ginger and saute until just tender. Season with salt. Add the water and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to simmer and simmer for 30 minutes.

Right before the soup is done, heat the oven to 350. Place two slices of bread on a baking sheet. Put spinach leaves on top of the bread and top with grated cheese. Bake for 5-7 minutes.

While the toast is baking, blend the soup with an immersion blender or regular blender. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Serve and enjoy!

Watermelon Granita

It's been awhile, eh? I wish I could tell you that I had a great reason for not posting any new recipes, like a fabulous vacation or something like that. Not so much. I was out of commission for a week with viral colitis. Not fun! I'm healing now (slower than I'd like) and feeling better everyday.

I made this recipe before I got sick. We had been invited to a cook out and asked to bring fruit as a side dish. I bought a watermelon. Because I'm an anal person who loves to cook, I couldn't just slice the watermelon and put it on a platter -- not good enough! I decided to use a melon baller to scoop out bite-sized pieces of watermelon. I scooped out all the flesh and then placed the balls back in the empty rind. Neat, huh? It looked nice.

Trouble was, I was left with two things: extra watermelon juice and little strips of watermelon flesh that I scraped out of the rind. Watermelon leftovers = watermelon granita!

Notes: This recipe helped me out with the process. When I made this recipe, I was sans blender (not any more, stay tuned for the next recipe!). Thus my granita was chunkier than normal granitas. I didn't care; frozen watermelon is delicious.

If you wanted to make more, you could use more watermelon flesh.

This is so easy, but it does take time to make. It's a great summer time dessert.

Ingredients:
The juice and leftover flesh from 1 watermelon
2 tablespoons of sugar

Directions:

Add the watermelon flesh and juice to a 9 x 9 glass baking dish. Using a fork or your hands, break the flesh into small pieces and mix it well with the juice. Add the sugar.

Freeze for two hours. After two hours, use a fork to break up the mixture so that it's fluffy like shaved ice. Put it back in the freezer for two more hours and then fluff it again. Repeat the process until the whole mixture is evenly frozen.

Scoop out and enjoy ice cold deliciousness!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Peanut Butter Oat Mini Muffins

Because it's been so hot, we've been waking up early to walk the dogs. We take them on a pretty long walk every morning, so sometimes we both get really hungry before we get home to eat breakfast. I decided we needed a small pre-walk nibble.

Notes: These are designed primarily for energy. If you want a sweet treat, this ain't it!

These were very tender, which I like, but even more so than normal. I think the natural peanut butter's oil is to blame. You might need to add a tablespoon or two more of flour. Give it a try and see what you think.

Ingredients:
1 cup oats
1 cup spelt or whole wheat flour
1 cup yogurt
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water (or 1 egg)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla


Directions: Heat the oven to 350.

Heat the butter until it just melts and add it to a large bowl. Add in brown sugar and whisk together into a homogenous mixture.

Mix together chia seeds and water in a small bowl and set aside. When it gets sticky (about 5 minutes), add it to the bowl with the butter and sugar. Add in yogurt, milk, vanilla, and peanut butter. Whisk together until relatively smooth.

Add in the flour, oats, salt, spices, and baking soda. Stir in the dry ingredients until the batter is just combined.


Spoon into mini muffin tins and bake for 10-12 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Summer Salad Series: Caprese Pasta Salad

I am slowly winning Scott over to pasta salad.

For many years, he operated under the assumption that pasta salad came in only two varieties: vinegary and doused with store-bought Italian dressing or gloppy and drowned in mayonnaise. Since he likes neither vinegar nor mayonnaise, he was hesitant to try any pasta salad. And by "hesitant" I mean that he adamantly told me he did not like pasta salad: no way, no how.

After I convinced him that there were more varieties besides vinegary and gloppy, there remained the "but it's cold" hurdle. Pasta, in Scott's estimation, was not supposed to be cold. It took a warm Louisiana graduation to change his mind. I made some for the parents during graduation weekend. He tried it and -- surprise! -- it was tasty. Ever since then, he's been much more open to pasta salad. The verdict for this dish? "I wish I'd known how to make this myself when we lived apart!"

Notes: This dish was so very delicious. It's refreshing and mild -- exactly what you need on a hot summer evening.

The only reason this isn't Q.E.D is because it takes time to chill in the fridge. Otherwise, it's barely cooking at all.

If you wanted to up the nutritional content, add some chopped baby spinach.

I bought lemon basil because that's what the co-op had, but it didn't change the flavor enough for me to notice. I've just written it with regular basil.

Ingredients:
1 pound penne pasta
1 bunch fresh basil
1/2 pound of cherry tomatoes
1 fresh mozzarella ball
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil

Directions:

Fill a stock pot with water and bring it to a boil. Add a small handful of salt and drop the pasta. Cook according to box directions, it should be between 6-7 minutes.

While you're waiting for the water to boil, quarter the cherry tomatoes (or if they are small, just cut them in half). Chiffonade the basil (or just chop it if you're lazy like me). Dice the mozzarella ball.

When the pasta is finished, drain it in a colander. While the noodles are still in the colander, drizzle them with olive oil and season them with salt and pepper. Toss the noodles to coat them with oil. Repeat the process once more: drizzle more oil, season, and toss the noodles. Periodically stir the noodles until they stop steaming. If at any point they seem sticky, drizzle on more oil.

Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Toss to combine and pour the salad into the container that you plan to store it in. Chill for at least two hours or overnight.



Serve cold and enjoy!



Farmer's Market Creation: Summer Corn Soup

Summer is the time for farmer's markets and that means the challenge of a farmer's market creation!

Pictured here are my farmer's market finds:



Wax beans, a golden zucchini (which I had never seen before), a regular zucchini, fresh corn, an onion, and fresh thyme.

Scott and I had some corn chowder at lunch the other day and I decided I'd like a tomato-based version a little better. So here you have it!

Notes: Fresh tomatoes would have been great in this dish, but none of them looked good to me. Also, I would have wanted to roast them to bring out more flavor and with the heat I've been adhering to a strict no-oven policy. So, I just used canned tomatoes.

I already had carrots and celery on hand, so I added them to the soup as well.

Stripping the thyme leaves is a little time-consuming (get it?), but since it is the only herb you need, it's worth the effort.

Ingredients:
3 ears of corn
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes
1/2 pound wax beans
1 large zucchini
1 large golden zucchini (you could sub yellow squash)
1 onion
4-5 celery stalks
4-5 carrots
1 bunch fresh thyme
Salt
Pepper
Butter or olive oil for sauteing

Directions:

Dice the carrots, celery, onion, and zucchini. Trim the ends off the wax beans and cut them into dice-sized pieces.

Heat a stock pot on medium-high and melt your fat of choice in the pot. Add the veggies and start sauteing them. Season with salt and pepper. Meanwhile, strip the kernels of corn off the ears of corn by standing the ear on end in the center of a large bowl. Run your knife down the side to separate the kernels from the cob. The bowl will collect the kernels for you. Add the kernels to the pot.

Pour in the canned tomatoes. If the soup looks thick at this point, add about a 1/2 cup of water. Stir everything together. Strip the leaves off the thyme stems, chop the leaves, and add them to the soup. Season with salt and pepper again and stir. Bring the soup to a boil and then turn it to a simmer. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, but more is always better.

Serve and enjoy the bounty of summer!


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Maple Chia Corn Muffins

What goes well with red beans and rice? Some corn muffins, of course!

Notes: These are a little on the dry side, which makes them great for crumbling into a broth. If you like yours a little on the moist side, add about 1/2 cup of olive oil.

Chia + water = egg substitute! If only you could scramble chia seeds...

Ingredients:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon chia seeds
3 tablespoons water
1 cup milk


Directions: Heat the oven to 425.

Add the chia and water together and stir. Let stand 5 minutes until it becomes sticky like an egg.

Mix the corn meal, flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add in milk, syrup, and chia mixture. Stir until just combined.

Spoon into muffin tins lined with paper cups or sprayed with cooking spray (use an ice cream scoop to help you keep them equal). Bake for 15 -20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Serve with red beans and rice and enjoy!


Red Beans and Rice

Scott misses Louisiana, so I wanted to make a dish that reminded him of Cajun country. He misses it more than I do, to be sure, but I do miss the food. It's the epitome of low country cuisine. But low country has something going for it. It may not be impressive to look at, but it is made with lots of love and care.

Case in point: red beans and rice. When I was looking up recipes for this dish, it seems way too simple. The ingredients are few: beans, veggies, rice, meat. The directions said cook it for what seems like way too long (2 hours?!). "But red beans and rice is so flavorful," I thought, "how could this be all there is to it?"

I don't know what happens in that dish in the two hours, but it's something magical. The key to it all seems to be the thing most low country cuisine has figured out that the rest of us have yet to really take in: good food takes time.

Notes: The holy trinity for all Cajun cooking is onion, celery, and bell pepper. Scott doesn't like bell pepper, so I switched it out for carrots.

Don't be mad, vegetarians. This one has sausage in it. Sorry, dears, but I'm afraid most southern dishes do. I wish I could tell you it's optional, but the flavor is not easily replaced. If you insist, play around with a spice blend that will mimic andouille.

Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice
2 1/4 cup water
4-5 carrots
4-5 celery stalks
2 shallots
1 1/2 -2 cups stock (veggie or chicken)
1 15 oz. can red beans (I used aduki)
1/2 pound cooked andouille sausage (I used a chicken andouille)
Butter or oil for sauteing
1 tablespoon oregano
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Dice your carrots, celery, and onion. Melt the butter in a large stock pot on medium-high. Toss in the veggies and saute until just tender. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the stock. Add the oregano. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 2 hours.

During the last 30-45 minutes of cooking time, bring the rice and water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Turn the heat back down and simmer for 30 minutes until most of the water is absorbed.

Drain and rinse the beans. Mash about 1/3 of the beans with a fork (this will thicken the veggie mixture). Dice the sausage and add it and the beans to the pot. Let the whole pot simmer together for the final 30 minutes.

When the rice is done, add it to the pot. Serve and enjoy some low country cookin'!

Quinoa Stuffed Patty Pan Squash

Ever seen a patty pan squash? They look like little vegetable UFOs. I kept passing by them in the store wondering what you do with them. I finally looked it up one day. They taste very similar to yellow squash or zucchini. They're just a different shape, a shape that happens to lend itself to stuffing!

Notes: This would a great dish for entertaining. It looks very impressive and everyone gets their own little bundle of goodness.

This recipe makes more filling than you'll need to serve two. It makes enough to serve four. The filling is great on its own!

Ingredients (adapted slightly from this recipe):
2-4 patty pan squash (depending on how many you are serving)
1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cup water or stock
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 bunch of kale leaves, cleaned and de-stemmed
1 15 oz. can chickpeas
2-4 tablespoons butter (optional)
Salt
Pepper

Directions: Heat your oven to 375.

Slice the tops off the squash and scoop out some of the innards. Be sure not to poke a hole in the bottom or in the side. Season the cavity with salt and pepper. Place them in a glass baking dish. Thinly slice your kale and drain and rinse the chickpeas.

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil. Turn to medium and simmer for 10-15 minutes until tender. When it's finished, stir in the kale, tomato paste, and chickpeas. Season with salt and pepper.

Scoop the filling into the squash. Put a tablespoon of butter into each squash (squish it into the filling). Replace the squash "lids" and cover with foil. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the squash is tender. Enjoy!

With lid!
Without lid!

Gnocchi Rosa

Remember when I made gnocchi from scratch? I froze half of it to use later. Well, later is now!

This dish is a different take on penne rosa. It has the same basic structure with just a few substitutions.

Notes: The frozen gnocchi worked like a charm. I didn't bother thawing them. They cooked very quickly (not as quickly as fresh, of course), so the hard work of making them from scratch at least gets you a little convenience in the future.

If I had had more time, I would have used a combination of canned tomatoes and herbs to make a fresh tomato sauce, but alas this week was busy. I had a jar of marinara on hand so I just used that. Sometimes you need a little help from the pantry.

I used shitake mushrooms, but you can use your favorite.

This got a big thumbs up from Scott, who has a somewhat less adventurous palate than I do. So if you're looking for dishes to help expand someone's food horizons, give this one a try!

Ingredients:
1 batch frozen (or fresh) gnocchi (see link above for directions)
1 26 oz. jar marinara sauce
1/2 bunch kale leaves, cleaned and de-stemmed
1/2 pound shitake mushrooms
8-10 fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons butter + 2 more for sauteing
3 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flake
Salt
Pepper

Directions: Put a large stock pot of water on to boil. If you're using frozen gnocchi, take it out of the freezer.

Thinly slice the kale and mushrooms. Chop the basil. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a skillet and heat on medium-high. When the butter melts, add the mushrooms and kale. Season with salt and pepper and saute until tender.

Move the kale and mushrooms to the sides of the skillet. Add the rest of the butter to the pan. When it melts, add the flour and whisk together. Whisk in the milk and stir everything together. Let the mixture thicken and then add in the marinara sauce and basil. Stir everything together and simmer.

When the water is boiling gently, drop in the gnocchi. When it floats to the top, scoop it out and add it to the sauce. When all the gnocchi is in the sauce, let it warm through for just a minute and then serve.

Enjoy!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Salad Series: Kale Salad with Avocado Lime Dressing

I am sans photo for this summer salad, but I had to share anyway. It's so easy, which makes it perfect for your hottest and laziest summer day.

Notes: When I made the recipe initially, I failed to add the honey and the lime juice was pretty overpowering. You could also use agave if you'd rather. You could use sugar, but you might want to use a little less to start out with and give the dressing a taste. You can always add more.

You can double this recipe to make more salad. This makes enough for one person.

I used red kale, but you can use whatever kale you prefer. Or whatever your store has that day!

Ingredients:
1/4 bunch kale leaves, cleaned and de-stemmed
1 avocado
2 limes
1 tablespoon of honey
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Slice your avocado lengthwise and remove the pit. Scoop the innards out into a bowl (just use the bowl you plan to eat out of.

In the bowl, mash the avocado. Juice both limes over the avocado and drizzle in the honey. Whisk everything until the mixture is relatively smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice the kale leaves and add them to the dressing. You want to work the dressing into the leaves, so toss it really well (it's OK -- kale is tough, it can take it!). Taste to make sure you have enough salt and pepper.

Serve on a hot day and enjoy!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Spelt Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Who bakes cookies in the hottest part of the heat wave?!

The impulse baker does.

That's right, kids, she strikes again. I was piddling around online when I suddenly remembered that we had a giant can of oats in the cabinet. Scott normally makes oatmeal for breakfast, but since it's been hot, he's been eating granola.

You can't have oats just sitting around in the kitchen, waiting to be added to chewy delicious cookies, can you?!?

Notes: I replaced some of the flour in this recipe with some cornmeal. It added just the tiniest little crunch. So good!

 I used my new favorite egg replacement (1 tablespoon chia seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons of water) in these. Worked like a charm.

Ingredients (slightly adapted from this recipe):
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 cup oats
8 tablespoons softened butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup raisins
1 tablespoon chia seeds + 3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Add butter and sugar to the mixing bowl and cream them together. Mix together chia seeds and water and set aside. Add the raisins to a small bowl and cover with water (so that they plump up).

Add the flour, baking soda, cornmeal, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt together in a bowl and stir them together. To the butter and sugar, add vanilla and chia seed mixture. Add in dry ingredients a little at a time until everything is combined.

Stir in the oats and raisins. Spoon tablespoon-sized balls of dough on to two cookie sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies. Bake them for 10-12 minutes until the bottoms and edges are golden brown, but they're still slightly doughy on top. Cool for five minutes on the the hot baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack.


It's never too hot for cookies! Enjoy!

Summer Salad Series: Brown Rice, Zucchini, and White Bean Salad with Lemon Basil Dressing

I promised a summer salad series, didn't I? Well, here's salad #2!

Scott was a fan of this salad for its heartiness. He's not always the biggest fan of citrusy or fruity salads, but this one is more substantial.

Notes: This salad turned out really well. Remember that brown rice is chewy, so cold brown rice will likewise be chewy. It's OK -- the chewy texture is great mixed in with the light veggies.

As with the last salad, this one involves the oven. If you'd rather not turn it on -- even at night -- you could leave the corn raw and just saute the zucchini.

This salad is also, like the last one, VTMK! I'm on a roll!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup brown rice
1 1/3 cups water
2 small zucchini
1 15 oz. can navy beans (or any white bean)
2 ears of corn
10-12 basil leaves
1 lemon
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt
Pepper

Directions: Heat oven to 425.

Slice the zucchini into half-moon shapes. Toss on a foil-lined baking sheet with salt, pepper, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Pull off any dried leaves from the corn husks and slice off the tassels at the top. Bake them in the oven right on the oven rack. Bake the zucchini until it is fork tender. Both will take about 20-30 minutes.


Bring the rice and water to a boil, turn it to a simmer, and let it cook for 30-35 minutes.

While the rice is cooking, chop the basil, zest the lemon, and drain and rinse the beans.

When the zucchini, rice, and corn is done, add the rice and zucchini together. Strip the kernels off the ears of corn and add those to the pot. Add beans. Season everything with salt and pepper.

Juice the lemon and whisk the juice with the herbs de provence. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in 1/4 cup olive oil while whisking.

Pour the dressing over the salad, add the basil and lemon zest. Toss to combine well.


Chill for at least two hours or overnight. Serve cold and enjoy!

Summer Salad Series: Quinoa and Black Bean Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

As you might have heard from the apocalyptic tone of the weather channel, we're in a heat wave right now. So, is it hot in the professor's kitchen? Oh yeah, it's hot. It's move-your-mattress-downstairs-and-sleep-in-the-dining-room hot. It's break-down-and-buy-a-portable-AC hot. It's blow-untold-sums-of-money-on-iced-coffee hot. More importantly, it's no-I-don't-want-to-turn-the-oven-on hot.

When it's too hot to cook, it's also too hot to go out to eat, which is why you need an army of cold dishes in your cooking repertoire. As such, I bring you the first in the summer salad series.

Notes: My lone complaint for this dish is that my delicious dressing was a bit understated in the finished product. I should have made a little more so that it really shined through. Other than that, this salad is exactly what you need for a hot day!

So I'm cheating a bit when I say no oven because to prepare the squash you do have to turn the oven on. The trick to this salad is to prep it at night when the house is cooler. Pop it in the fridge so that it chills overnight and it'll be ready for you the next day. Or you could make it the day before the heat arrives, which I did. If you really don't want to use the oven, swap the squash out with a mango. That was my original plan, but there weren't any mangoes at the store.

This salad is also VTMK. Healthy and refreshing!

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cup water
1 15 oz can black beans
1 small butternut squash
1/2 bunch kale leaves, cleaned and de-stemmed (I used red kale)
1 bunch cilantro
2 limes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large tablespoon of coconut oil (you could use olive oil too)
Salt
Pepper

Directions: Heat the oven to 425.

Peel the butternut squash and remove the seeds. Dice it and toss it with the coconut oil, then season it with salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes until fork tender.

Meanwhile, add water and quinoa to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Turn it down to a simmer and let it cook for 10-15 minutes until tender and the little grain inside unfurls like a tail.

While you're waiting on the quinoa and the squash, thinly slice the kale, drain and rinse the beans, and chop the cilantro. Zest the limes and add the zest to the cilantro.

Once the quinoa and squash are cooked, add the squash to the quinoa pot. Add in the kale and beans and stir everything together. Season with salt and pepper.

In a microwaveable bowl, heat the honey for about 10 seconds. Add in the spices and whisk together. Juice both limes into the bowl and whisk again. Drizzle in the 1/4 cup olive oil while you whisk. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour the dressing over the salad, add the cilantro and lime zest, and toss everything together until well combined.


Chill for at least two hours or overnight. Serve cold and enjoy!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Broiled Portobello Burgers with Crispy Potato Coins

Happy July, everyone!

When you think July, you think grilling. Nothing says Fourth of July like a cook out with burgers and brats. It's the perfect time to be outdoors!

But is it really? I mean, if your July is anything like ours (and the rest of the country), it's HOT. You may say, "Why yes, no need to make the house any warmer by heating up the oven." But your house (probably unlike ours) has air conditioning. It's OK to turn the oven on. Think about the poor person watching the grill. She has to stand outside in the heat next to a giant open flame. No fun for her! And no fun for your guests who have to slather on sunscreen and fight off bees, mosquitos, and flies.

Nay, I say to you! Make this July 4th an indoor affair. Buck the system! Fight the man! It's what our forefathers would have wanted. Win everyone over to your indoor revolution with this recipe.

Notes: My choice of bread for the burgers was a bit...well, comical. I really wanted to put them on English muffins and as far as taste goes it was a good choice. But the burgers were much larger than I anticipated; I thought they'd shrink more. So there was a very skewed mushroom-to-bun ratio. Other than that, these were delicious!

I topped these with sliced tomatoes, baby spinach, crumbled goat cheese, and mashed avocado mixed with pesto sauce. You MUST try it.

If you want to make the potatoes with a vegetarian fat, you can always use butter or coconut oil. I'm sure it will be tasty, but there's just no replacing that bacon fatty goodness!

Ingredients for the burgers (serves 2):
2 large portobello mushrooms
2 scallions
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
Salt
Pepper

Ingredients for potato coins:
1/2-3/4 pound of small Yukon gold or fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons bacon fat
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
Salt
Pepper

Directions: Preheat your broiler (mine only has one setting, which seems to be high)

First, make the marinade for your burgers. Slice the scallions and garlic and add them to a bowl or a zip top plastic bag. Pour in the oil and soy sauce and season with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence. Whisk or shake to combine. Clean your mushrooms with a wet paper towel, remove the stems, and add the caps to the bowl or bag making sure that they are well coated. Let stand about 10-15 minutes.

Thinly slice your potatoes into 1/4-1/8 inch thick coins. Heat the bacon fat over medium high in a large skillet. Peel the garlic cloves and let them brown in the fat while it heats up. When the garlic is golden brown, remove it and discard. Lay the potato coins in the skillet as best you can in one layer. Let them cook on one side until they develop a nice golden crust (approx. 7 minutes). Season with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence. Then, as best you can, flip them over just once and do the same with the other side (approx. 5 minutes).

Once you get the potatoes in the pan, put the mushrooms under the broiler. They'll take about 8 minutes to cook. Start them gill side up and flip them every two minutes or so.

Top your mushroom burgers with your favorite burger toppings and enjoy your indoor celebration!

Photo courtesy of Scott -- he had to work for his dinner!



Friday, June 29, 2012

Curry Honey Fried Rice

It looks like I'm on a bit of a fried rice kick. I think it's because there are so many delicious veggies in season and fried rice showcases their flavor.

Notes: The sauce I made for this had only a hint of the curry honey flavor, so I upped the amounts in this version. You might have to play with it to find the right balance.

It's best if the rice has been refrigerated, so leftover rice works great. If you don't have leftover rice, even if you put the rice in the fridge for 30 minutes, you'll be better off.

Ingredients:
2 cups cooked rice (I used brown rice)
1 cup cooked broccoli florets
1 cup chopped bok choy
1/2 cup carrots, diced
3/4 cup cubed baked tofu (optional)
4-5 scallions, sliced
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 bunch of cilantro
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon curry paste
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons of oil for stir fry
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Prep all your veggies first. Mince the garlic, slice the scallions, cube your tofu (if you're using it), dice the carrots, and chop the bok choy. Chop your cilantro and set aside.



Arrange all the ingredients next to the stove. Add your oil to a large skillet and heat it on high (or use a wok if you have it).

While the skillet heats, add the soy sauce, curry paste, and honey to a measuring cup and whisk the sauce together.

When your skillet gets hot, add in the broccoli and carrots. Stir fry until tender, about 4 minutes. If the veggies start to brown, just add a few tablespoons of water (watch out -- it will smoke and spatter). Next, make a hole in the center of the pan and add the bok choy, garlic, and scallions. Stir fry for 2 minutes and season everything with salt and pepper. Make another hole and add the tofu, stir for a minute. Make another hole, add the rice. Let the rice sit undisturbed for a minute and then stir it around. Pour the sauce over everything and stir together for another 2-3 minutes. Top with cilantro.



Serve hot and enjoy!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Famous Veggie Chili

It's probably not accurate to call this "famous" veggie chili, but it has routinely been a crowd pleaser. Scott and I have entertained with it on several occasions and it always goes over well. I'm kind of surprised I haven't put this on the blog before. It's one of my oldest recipes.

Notes: The key to this chili is a balance of flavors. You want a combination of heat, depth, and sweetness.

The beans are easily swappable: use pinto beans or red kidney beans if you prefer. I happened to have fresh corn, but you could use frozen (about 1/2 a small bag) if it's not in season.

This chili is not particularly hot. If you want extra heat, look for the diced tomatoes with green chiles in them!

Ingredients:
5-6 small or medium carrots
1 onion
2 ears of corn
2-3 garlic cloves
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 large tablespoons cumin
10-12 drops Tabasco (I used the chipotle)
1 capful of liquid smoke
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar (or honey)
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Chop your carrots and onion in a small dice. Strip the kernels off your ears of corn by standing them up on end in a bowl and running your knife down each side. Mince the garlic. Drain and rinse your beans under cold water.

Heat your fat of choice in a large stock pot on medium-high. Add in carrots, onion, and garlic. Saute about 2 minutes and then add the corn. Saute for another 2 minutes. Add in all your chili powder, cumin, tomato paste, salt, pepper, and brown sugar. Stir until the veggies are coated. Add in the Tabasco, liquid smoke, beans, and diced tomatoes. Stir to combine.

Bring everything to boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. Let it simmer for as long as you have time to wait, but at least 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.


Serve hot and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Quinoa Risotto

Is there anything more comforting than risotto? And if you can make it with brown rice, why not make it with quinoa?

Notes: This is the first time I've tried making quinoa risotto-style and it worked well. I think it even took a little less time than regular risotto does; it may have been 30 minutes rather than the usual 45. Obviously the quinoa won't be as creamy as arborio rice, but it will still be creamier than it would be if you just boiled it.

The new ingredient this time was coconut oil. Now, the jury is still out on whether or not coconut oil is healthy, but it isn't the evil fat that everyone used to think it was. The New York Times has a nice primer on it, if you want to read up. It worked really well for sauteing and I really liked the flavor it gave to the greens.

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa
4 cups stock or water
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or other fat of your choice)
1/2 bunch of kale leaves, stemmed
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
2 garlic cloves
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

In a small sauce pan, heat the stock or water to a simmer. Keep it simmering. Rinse the quinoa under cold water and drain. Chop the rosemary, mince  the garlic, and thinly slice the kale.

Add coconut oil to a large skillet and heat on medium-high, add kale, garlic and rosemary. Saute for 30-45 seconds. Add the quinoa and toast for a minute. Add four ladles of stock and stir. Season with salt and pepper.

Allow the quinoa to absorb the liquid and then add more. Add roughly two ladles of liquid at a time whenever the dish starts to look dry. Repeat this process until the quinoa is cooked -- it will be tender and the little grains inside will unfurl like little tails -- it should take about 30-40 minutes.


Serve hot and enjoy!

Monday, June 18, 2012

(Almost) Vegan Gnocchi with Kale and Fava Beans

Ladies and gents, it's time for some fine dining here in the professor's kitchen!

As my cooking skills expand and improve, I find I'm getting pickier about restaurants. Don't get me wrong -- I like simple food. But if I go out to a nice restaurant, I have high expectations. If I plan to pay a lot of money for dinner, I want it to be a meal that I can't make (or make as well) myself.

Case in point: a friend arranged a lovely private dinner at a local eatery for a group of us. The food was, for the most part, quite good. One of the side dishes, however, was supposed to be gnocchi. Trust me, nothing about this dish was gnocchi. I knew I could do better myself, so I started planning this dish.

Notes: This bad boy is a labor of love, no doubt about it. It's great for a weekend or a day off, but don't plan it for week night.

My new ingredient in this dish is fava beans. I've never used them before, but the co-op had some and my curiosity triumphed. They were delicious! They take a little prep work, but they really aren't hard to use. Here is a great run down of how to prepare them. There are really only two steps.

Step one: Remove the beans from their pod.


Step two: Steam the beans in simmering water for about 3 minutes to loosen the outer casing. Remove the beans from the water and let them cool. As they cool, the outer casing will buckle and you'll be able to peel it off, revealing the emerald green bean inside.

Shelled fava beans on the plate
Once they're fully shelled, they're ready to put in whatever dish you want. Soups, dips, or in my case, pasta!

You can prepare the fava beans and the gnocchi ahead of time if you were entertaining with this dish. And boy would it be an impressive meal to show off!

The dish is "almost" vegan because I sauteed everything in butter. But it would be vegan (to my knowledge) if you used coconut oil or a vegan butter substitute. The gnocchi themselves are vegan because I used my chia seeds instead of eggs. They worked great!

I froze half of my gnocchi since I was just making dinner for two. We ended up with almost no leftovers. So I would cook the whole batch if you're cooking for four.

Ingredients for the gnocchi (adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen's recipe):
2 pounds of Russet potatoes (I uses three large potatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chia seeds
3 tablespoons water
1 cup all purpose unbleached flour

Ingredients for pasta:
1/2 bunch of stemmed kale leaves
1 cup shelled fava beans (see notes)
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
5 tablespoons of butter
Salt
Pepper

Directions:

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake your potatoes for about an hour until they are fork tender. Let them cool some (just enough so you can handle them) and peel them. Grate the cooked potatoes over the large holes of a box grater or pass them through a ricer or food mill into a large bowl. Add salt.

In a small bowl, add three tablespoons of water to one tablespoon of chia seeds and let stand ten minutes. Add the chia mixture to the potatoes and stir to combine. A little at a time, add the flour to the potatoes. Mix to combine and keep adding flour until the dough comes together and no longer sticks to your hands.

Once the dough comes together, turn it out on to a floured surface and knead it just like bread for about three minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and then divide it into six smaller balls. Roll each ball into a rope about 3/4 of an inch thick. Using a pairing knife, cut the rope into 1 inch pieces and place them on a baking sheet (you'll fill two baking sheets).


Traditional gnocchi has little ridges. To make the ridges, roll the gnocchi pieces down the tines of a fork. Keep rolling and cutting until you use all six dough balls.

Put the gnocchi in the fridge while you prep the pasta ingredients.

Fill a stock pot with water and heat it on high. Chop the rosemary, mince the garlic, and finely slice the kale. Add the butter to a large skillet and heat it on medium. Add the rosemary, garlic, and kale, season with salt and pepper, and saute while you cook the gnocchi.

Once the water gently boils, drop the gnocchi in the water (carefully) half a baking sheet at a time. When the gnocchi floats to the top, remove it from the water and add it to the pan with the kale. Once all the gnocchi is cooked, add it all to the skillet and turn the heat up. Add in the fava beans and saute just until the gnocchi starts to brown slightly. Serve immediately and enjoy fine dining at home!


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Q.E.D.: Sardine Cakes

Time for another recipe using everyone's second least-favorite fish.* Sardines, as you may know, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and high in B vitamins. So the health benefits of this wee fish abound.

Notes: A super Q.E.D. meal if ever there was one. It might take you 15 minutes if you move at a very casual pace. And it's a pantry staple to boot!

I liked making these into tiny cakes, but you could probably make two large patties if you'd rather.

If you don't have lemon dill mustard like I do, just add Dijon mustard, a squeeze of lemon juice, and a little extra dried dill.

You can use sardines packed in oil or water, it really doesn't matter which.

This recipe can be easily doubled if you want to make more cakes. They'd be a cute appetizer (for your friends with more adventurous palates).

*I am presuming that anchovies are everyone's first least-favorite fish.

Ingredients:
1 tin wild-caught sardines
1/2 cup of Panko bread crumbs, plus more as needed
1 teaspoon dried dill
2 teaspoons lemon dill mustard
Cracked black pepper
Butter and/or olive oil for frying

Directions:

Add the sardines (plus the liquid from their tin) into a bowl. Season with dill and pepper. Mash the sardines with a fork. Add in bread crumbs and mustard a little at a time and mix with a fork until the mixture is sticky enough to form patties.

Take heaping forkfuls of the mixture and shape into small cakes. Lay the cakes on a plate and pop them in the fridge while you heat the pan.

Add enough butter and/or olive oil to the pan just to pan fry the cakes (you don't want to deep fry them). Heat it on medium-high. Once the pan is hot, take the cakes from the fridge and put them in the pan. Allow a crust to develop on one side before you flip. This will take about 4-5 minutes. Flip the cakes over (be careful, they'll be delicate) and let them brown on the other side, about 3-4 minutes.

Drain on a paper towel and serve warm.

Served here with lima beans and grits
Enjoy!




Adventures in Dough, Part Five: Homemade Biscuits and Gravy

Scott's grandmother (Maw Maw) was a traditional Southern cook. She had a large repitore of Southern classics and, depending on which grandchild you ask, a different one will be the favorite: fried chicken, banana cake, greens beans. For Scott, it was her biscuits and gravy.

Try as I might, I have never been able to recreate her recipe. I have it in a family cookbook my mother-in-law gave me. But, as it is with most Southern cooks, Maw Maw had brand loyalty. She made her biscuits always with Red Band self-rising flour, which you can only find in certain places in North Carolina. Different ingredients yield different results. And I have come to believe that only Maw Maw's hands could have produced the legendary food she made.

So while I can't recreate her biscuits and gravy, I can make them my own way. I've been making them for years, but I usually use frozen biscuits. Not this time!

Notes: As with most Southern dishes, time and measurements are never exact. A lot of these ingredients are approximate and my directions will involve descriptions of how things should look or feel.

Biscuits take some practice, so if yours don't quite turn out right the first time, don't worry. Getting the dough just right requires experience with how the dough feels and there's no way to get that unless you make it a few times.

The important thing is to not work the dough too much. You don't want to knead it or roll it like bread. The dough will be sticky, so have some extra flour around to sprinkle over the top of the dough and on your hands.

Remember, Maw Maw made her biscuits with her hands and utensils that most people have around their kitchen. No need for fancy tools!

As for the bacon and gravy, just remember: don't rush the bacon! Flip it sparingly to start with and then flip it more once it starts to get done. Bacon cooks as its own speed, so there's no neat time table for when it will be done. Resist the urge to turn the heat up or else you'll have burnt bacon.

When you make your roux for the gravy, you want equal parts bacon fat and flour, so if it looks like you have more fat than 2-3 tablespoons, add more flour. If you want to make a vegetarian gravy (Maw Maw would disapprove, but I won't judge) just swap butter for bacon grease.

Also, gravy needs LOTS of seasoning. You'll need at least 3/4 tablespoon of salt and more cracked pepper than you think you'll need. The best thing to do is season it and then it taste it. If it still tastes like flour, add more salt and pepper. I usually use what seems like a ridiculous amount of pepper and then when I taste it, it still needs more!

Biscuits ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick of butter (approx. 8 tablespoons), cold right out of the fridge
1/2-2/3 cup of milk
1 egg

Gravy ingredients:
2-3 tablespoons of flour
3/4 (approx.) cup milk
4-6 slices of bacon
Kosher salt
Pepper

Directions: Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a large skillet on medium low. Immediately add bacon to the pan. Wait until it starts to sizzle, then flip it over. You only need to flip it occasionally when it first starts to cook. You'll be making the biscuits at the same time, so just be sure to keep checking on the bacon. Once little brown flecks start to develop on the strips, you'll need to turn it more often. The bacon will be done when it shrinks, turns brick red, and starts to develop tiny white bubbles that almost look like foam on top of it. The whole process should take about 30 minutes.

While your bacon is cooking, gather the biscuit ingredients. Add the 2 cups of flour, salt, and baking powder to a large bowl and stir them together. Beat the egg into a small bowl and have your milk ready in a measuring cup. Cut the butter into small cubes and add it to the dry ingredients. Using a pasty blender (better -- your hands!) work the butter into the flour. The pieces of butter should be about the size small peas and the flour should feel slightly damp when you're finished.

Make a well in the center of the butter/flour mixture. Add in the egg and about half of the milk. Using your hand, stir the sides of the well into the wet center. Keep stirring until it starts to form a dough mass. If it seems too dry, add the rest of your milk. Then turn the dough mass around in the bowl a few times to give it some shape.

Dump the dough out on to a floured surface and mound it up with your hands. Dust flour on the outside of the dough and on to your hands. Press the dough out until it's about 3/4 of an inch thick (no rolling pin!). Flip it over once or twice to make sure it doesn't stick. Dust with more flour if needed.

Use a floured biscuit cutter (or, if you're me, a floured glass) to cut rounds out of the dough (you should get about 4 rounds our of the first press). Lay the rounds on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet. Gather the scraps up into a ball, press them out again and you should two more rounds out of the second press.

Bake the biscuits for 15-17 minutes at 400 degrees.

While the biscuits are baking, finish up the bacon and make the gravy. When the bacon is done, lay it on a paper towel to drain. Add 2-3 tablespoons of flour to the bacon grease and whisk it together (in other words, make a roux). Whisk constantly for about 30 seconds (the finished roux should look like a wet paste). While whisking, pour in the milk. The gravy should start out looking a little thin, but once it cooks, it will thicken. Add salt and pepper. Wait a few seconds and give it a taste. Adjust the seasoning accordingly. Turn the heat to low and stir until the biscuits are done.


Pour the gravy on top of your biscuits, add bacon, and enjoy!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Spaghetti with Mushroom Sauce

Recipe inspiration can come from many sources -- or perhaps a combination of them. The latter is true with this dish. First, my friend Stacy posted this recipe for a vegetarian ragout. Looks delicious, right? Then I was reading a recipe in one of my cajun cookbooks for a mushroom spaghetti. My finished product is sort of a combo of the two.


Notes: I have some leftover jarred marinara sauce that I've been trying to use up. I used that in place of the canned tomatoes and tomato paste that you see here. I wrote the recipe the right way because the jarred sauce didn't work like I wanted to.

If I had a blender, I would have blended the carrots, onions, and celery into the tomatoes and then added the mushrooms. That would have made the mushroom flavor really shine. A combo of mushrooms would have worked really well (I just used crimini mushrooms).


Ingredients:
1 pound thin spaghetti
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce or diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
3 or 4 carrots
3 or 4 stalks of celery
1 onion
4 or 5 cloves of garlic
3/4 or 1 pound mushrooms (use your favorite)
3 or 4 anchovy filets
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 cup water
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil

Directions: Start by prepping all your veggies. You want a small dice on everything. Dice carrots, celery, and onion first. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a stock pot and heat on medium high. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Season well with salt and pepper. Let them saute for a good long while. You want them nice and tender, almost over cooked. Add the anchovies.

Mince your garlic and dice the mushrooms. Add them to the pot and saute until tender. Sprinkle in your herbs and red pepper and stir them into the veggies. Add in your tomatoes, water, and tomato paste. Make sure the tomato paste dissolves. Turn the heat to low and simmer for at least an hour.

Fill a stock pot with water. Once it boils add a small handful of salt and drop your pasta. Cook until al dente (for thin spaghetti, about 6 minutes). Drain the cooked pasta and add it into the stock pot where your sauce is. Stir to combine well.



Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Cornmeal Pancakes

Scott and I are celebrating finals weekend at the French Open. Because of the time delay, the matches are on in the morning. What better way to celebrate than with a championship breakfast?

Notes: These pancakes are drier and heartier than you might be used to, so just be prepared for that. As you might recall, Scott and I disagree about the roll of fruit in pancakes. As such, my pancakes had blueberries in them and his were plain. They were both delicious.

Normally, I am terrible at flipping pancakes, but for some reason I was able to get through the whole batch without messing up any. This is a first in my cooking career!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons of finely ground cornmeal
1/2 cup of "instant" pancake mix (recipe here)
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter (plus more for the skillet)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Fruit of your choice (optional)

Directions:

Start by melting the two tablespoons of butter. I just zap mine for about 25 seconds in the microwave.

Add the cornmeal, cinnamon, and pancake mix to the bowl and stir to combine. Crack the egg into another bowl and beat it slightly. Add both the egg and the milk to the dry ingredients. Stir to combine and then stir in the melted butter.

Heat your skillet or griddle on medium-high. Once it's hot, add a tablespoon of butter and swirl it around to coat the bottom of the skillet. When it finishes bubbling, wipe the butter out of the skillet. Use a ladle or a measuring cup to add the batter to the pan. If you're adding fruit, drop it on top of the pancake now.

When the batter starts to look dry around the edge of the pancake and bubbles start to form and burst on the top, flip the pancake over. Let it brown on the other side for about 30-45 seconds.

Serve hot and enjoy!



Monday, June 4, 2012

Eggplant Lasagna

Vegetable lasagna is one of my favorite things to make and to eat. I have made many versions of it and I will make boatloads more in the future.



Notes: It's that glorious time of year again when summer vegetables start to come in season. The co-op got its first round of eggplant in, so I decided it belonged in my lasagna. Eggplant can sometimes taste bitter. Salting it before you use it will help draw out some of the liquid that contributes to the bitter flavor (I've included that step in the directions).

Lasagna is labor intensive, but not difficult. The hardest part it getting everything ready to assemble.

Here's a good tip: take your ricotta out of the fridge a few minutes before you need it. If it's closer to room temperature, it will spread more evenly.

When it comes to no-boil noodles, remember you need liquid at the edges or else they will stay crunchy. Just be sure to give them a nice coating of sauce before you put everything in the oven.


Ingredients:
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce (no less than 26 oz., but more is better)
1 eggplant
1 box no-boil lasagna noodles
2 cups of washed baby spinach
12-15 oz. of ricotta cheese
1 large or 2 small fresh mozzarella balls
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt
Pepper

Directions: Heat oven to 375.

Slice your eggplant into rounds and lay them on a cooling rack. Sprinkle them with salt and let them sit while you assemble the rest of your ingredients.

Chop the spinach and add it to a bowl with the ricotta cheese. Season well with salt, pepper, red pepper, and herbs de provence. Stir to combine and set aside.

Slice the mozzarella balls into small, thin rounds and set aside.

Take a paper towel and pat dry the eggplant rounds.

Add 1 cup of sauce to the bottom of a 9 x 13 dish. Then, layer everything as follows:
4 noodles
1/3 ricotta mixture
Eggplant rounds
1 cup sauce

Repeat the layers until you use up the ricotta mixture. On the last layer, add the remaining noodles and sauce. Lay the mozzarella rounds on top. Cover with foil and bake for 40-45 minutes until bubbly and hot. Take the foil off and bake for another 5-7 minutes until the cheese on top starts to bubble.

Let stand for 5-10 minutes, serve and enjoy!

Spelt Blueberry Banana Muffins

The impulse baker strikes again.

I bought blueberries at the store this morning because they were on sale. I figured they'd be great in my museli. There were a few too many for them to all fit in my container. Extra blueberries? The impulse baker knows just what to do with those!

Notes: These muffins aren't too sweet, so they're great for breakfast.

I've read in various places that you can use chia seeds as an egg substitute. I tried it for these and it worked great. You don't even know the chia seeds are in there.

This recipe can admit of lots of substitutions. Don't have yogurt? Use sour cream. Don't want dairy? Swap the regular milk for almond or coconut. I know people think baking has to be perfectly exact, but think of it this way: people have been baking long before there were measuring cups and conversion charts. It can't be that fussy!

Ingredients:
2 cups spelt or whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon chai seeds
3 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 banana
1 cup blueberries

Directions: Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Start by adding the chia seeds and water to a small bowl. Stir them together and set aside so that the seeds become sticky.

Add the brown sugar and butter to a bowl. Whisk them together until the brown sugar is mostly dissolved. Add in the chia mixture, yogurt, milk, and vanilla and whisk to combine.

Mash your banana and add it to your wet ingredients. Add flour, salt, spices, and baking soda to the bowl and stir everything to combine. Fold the blueberries into the mix.

Spoon the mix into your muffin tin. Bake for 18-20 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Enjoy!