Friday, December 31, 2010

Pasta with butternut squash and lamb: a recipe

Mark Bittman's butternut squash and lamb pasta ... sort of
In looking over my blogs posts from the past few months as well as my menu plan for the week, I think I'm a wee bit obsessed with butternut squash.

But it's not entirely my fault. Being a current seasonal vegetable, it just keeps showing up in all the recipes I've come across lately.

Today's comes from Mark Bittman, although I must admit that, since I had to modify it to accommodate the only ground lamb I could find this week, I will need to try it again, using Bittman's suggested ingredients, to see which version I like better.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A very ninja xmas: some handy kitchen tools

Happy holidays from The Ninja and The King!
Santa was quite good to the Ninj this year.

Let me start out by saying I'm not trying to push you into buying any products and I'm certainly not being paid by the manufacturers to do so (I wish!!); I just received some neat kitchen gadgets for xmas that I thought you also might find cool and/or helpful.

  1. Scraping beater blade for Kitchen Aid stand mixer:

    Don't you hate that there's always a wee little bit of ingredient that doesn't quite get incorporated at the very bottom or on the sides of the stand mixer, once you think you're done mixing? (I can see you, nodding your head wildly in agreement) So you always have to do a final mix with a spatula anyway? Well, this little bad boy solves that problem. It has rubbery, spatula-like sides and a tip that incorporate every last bit of your ingredients automatically. I love this, and I love that it's inexpensive, too!
  2. Adjustable-thickness rolling pin:

    This is a superfluous gadget, I admit, but I love a clever idea when I see one. This is a regular old rolling pin, with handy size markings on the barrel so that you can use it and not a nasty, 20-year-old grade-school ruler (ahem) to see when your dough has achieved 10-inch perfection, or whatever your recipe calls for. However, here's the neato gadgety part: it has three interchangeable side rings that ensure consistent thickness of your dough as well! Clever, clever, clever! However, be forewarned: do not transport this in your airline carry-on bag because it apparently, according to the nice BWI TSA agent, looks a lot like a pipe bomb in the xray machine (ahem).
  3. Perfect Portions nutrition scale:

    Essentially, this is a small, sleek digital food scale, capable of displaying amounts in grams or ounces, with a handy zeroing feature (to account for the weight of whatever container you may be using) -- far snazzier and more accurate than the analog, looks straight-from-the-1950s-butcher-shop hulking garage model that I confiscated from ... well, frankly, the garage a few years ago. But this beauty can also give you portion-sized nutritional information! It comes with a extensive guide that lists every kind of natural (e.g., apple, raw without skin) and pre-packaged (e.g., Campbell's Chunky Chicken Corn Chowder) food option you can think of -- you just put your food on the scale, enter the corresponding code and it displays the nutritional information in the same format that you see it on product packaging. I think this is going to be very handy, come Detox January (more on that next week, dear reader).

What did Santa add to your kitchen collection this year?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cranberry cordial, three ways: 3 recipes

Cranberry cordial with Kitchen Ninja label
Boozy leftovers: what's not to like?

Let me explain. A few weeks ago I decided to try making a batch of cranberry cordial that I saw featured in an article in Yankee magazine on all things cranberry for the holidays. As long as it didn't suck, I planned to give bottles of it to a group of my husband's co-workers as holiday gifts.

So I simmered up some Shiraz, sugar and cranberries, steeped it for a few days, added brandy and voila! (Recipe #1)

Verdict? It didn't suck. In fact, it was quite yummy, especially when combined with Prosecco to make what I'm calling a "Cranberry Royale." (Recipe #2)

But here's the fun part.

As a hard-core recycler, it was paining me to think that I had to just throw away all those lovely, booze-soaked cranberries. They tasted tart and sweet and were a such a beautiful scarlet. What could I make with these?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Butternut squash and mushrooms -- a winning combination (2 recipes)

Butternut squash and mushroom tart
Some combinations just seem made for each other: Bert and Ernie, Siegfried and Roy, Hall and Oates ... you get my point.

One made-for-each-other taste combination that has been showing up around our house lately is butternut squash and mushrooms. I think it's the earthiness of both and the different textures of each. Throw in a healthy dose of butter and cheese and you've got the makings of some delish pizza, pasta, casseroles and tarts.

So, lucky you, today I'm giving you two ideas for using this winning combination: a Mushroom, Butternut Squash and Gruyere Tart and Butternut Squash and Mushroom Gnocchi.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Eggnog cookies: a recipe

Eggnog cookies
I have never participated in a cookie swap.

[ Sniff. So sad. ]

Maybe I just don't have enough local baker-type friends. I certainly have baker friends, but they tend to live a plane ride away, which would make a cookie swap a wee bit challenging.

But I have recently been asked for cookie recipes for said swaps. I think this one is ideal, as it has all the usual holiday-ish spices (nutmeg, cinnamon) but also eggnog. And, hey, nothing says "happy fattening holidays" like eggnog!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Figgy pudding: a recipe

Figgy pudding!
I am not remotely religious but am seriously crazy in love with christmas.

I over-the-top decorate in and around our home (3 trees), even though I have yet to spend an actual christmas in my own home (somehow we are always the ones in the family that get stuck doing the traveling -- even when we had a house with three guest rooms. Go figure.). And now, what with the whole ninja gig, I'm cooking up a christmas storm as well.

Fa la la la la la la la la!

This year, egged on by my dessert-loving husband, I thought it might fun to try to make some of the treats that are mentioned in traditional christmas carols.

Enter figgy pudding.

Friday, December 10, 2010

What we ate this week

After a brief hiatus, I'm back.

I spent a few days this week back in North Carolina, checking on my still-for-sale house (make me an offer -- we are motivated sellers) and catching up with friends. But don't fret, it was still a ninja-filled week, as evidenced by the ninjabread men I carried on the plane with me. (Thanks to Lisa for turning me on to the cookie cutters, which I purchased at Serendipity Boutique of New London, one of my favorite kitschy little stores since I was 10 years old. But you can also find them at Amazon.)

I also finished up Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential. I so want to go on vacation with him and eat lots of pork. I love you, Tony -- even more so now that your hair is steely gray.

It was also a good-for-the-soul visit for this blogger because nearly everyone I reconnected with mentioned reading this blog, even referring to specific recipes. Yay -- lurking readership! This means my blog is not, as it often feels, just a very public conversation between my sister and me.

But enough about my trip. Here's what we've been eating:

Finally, a fun fact: living in a 100+-year-old house means you actually get to see "frosted windowpanes", just as described in the carol. Wicked!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Turkey tetrazzini: a recipe

UPDATE: Make my new, even better turkey tetrazzini without canned condensed soup!

turkey tetrazzini - great for Thanksgiving leftovers

I don't know about you, but I have a whole line-up of post-Thanksgiving recipes that call for leftover turkey. In fact, I purposely cook an extra-large bird every year to ensure I have enough.

I actually get excited thinking about these dishes that only make an annual appearance -- sort of like Santa.

When I start cooking the bird on Thanksgiving day, I want to shout out the names of all the recipes it will become, like the scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie bemoans all the leftovers that will never be, thanks to the Bumpus hounds.

Turkey stock! Turkey tetrazzini! Turkey magiritsa! Turkey enchiladas!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Rösti casserole with baked eggs: a recipe

To keep the whole Thanksgiving-induced food coma rolling right along, I give you this rösti casserole.

(Geek sidebar: perhaps the greatest thing about this post is that I remembered the HTML special character code for generating a lowercase o with an umlaut!)

According to Wikipedia, the source of all unquestionable truth on the always unquestionably truthful internet, traditional rösti is a Swiss dish, made primarily of shredded potatoes, that ultimately ends up looking like a big potato pancake or latke. This riff on it is a hearty casserole, courtesy of Cooking Light.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Deep-fried turkey: a Thanksgiving adventure

Nothing says "Thanksgiving" quite like cooking the big bird in the driveway with a fire extinguisher nearby.

This is the fourth year that we've fried a turkey and I think we finally got it right. The first year we did it strictly for the novelty and found it a bit dry. After that, it became a challenge.

Year two was still too dry. Year three we went so far as to cook up a marinade and inject it directly into the breast meat -- still not very moist, believe it or not.

This year, we read the instruction manual a wee bit more closely and lowered the oil temperature just a tad. Success! An amazingly moist bird.

Not to mention the quality family time spent on the driveway.

I mean, while you're waiting for the turkey to achieve that crispy-yet-moist delectable goodness, why not launch some skeet into the woods and see how many trees you can hit?

Hope your turkey day was just as much as fun.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Butternut squash and chard bread pudding: a recipe for Thanksgiving leftovers

I know, I know -- Thanksgiving isn't until tomorrow and I'm already giving you a recipe for leftovers.

You will thank me this weekend, I guarantee it.

I had some cooked butternut squash, half a loaf of italian bread and the last of the swiss chard from my garden on hand last night that I wanted to use up, so I turned to Google to figure out what to make.

Lo and behold, I got a sweet hit. One of my favorite food bloggers, Molly from Orangette, had published a recipe in Bon Appetit last year for a bread pudding that I could adapt.

I think the best part about this recipe is that there is very little cooking prep involved, short of soaking the bread -- the perfect level of effort for Black Friday, if you've just spent several days preparing a Thanksgiving feast. And you will likely have some kind of leftover squash, greens (spinach or kale would also work in this pudding) and bread with which to work.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pasta with chicken-liver sauce: a recipe

I really, really hope you like pate.

Late to the game, as usual, I only got turned on to pate earlier this year but I am hooked. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea but I just love the rich, slightly earthy flavor.

This pasta, therefore, is really my cup of tea. It combines the basic elements of pate only melted down into a creamy pasta sauce.

And I love that it also meets two of my other favorite recipe requirements: it can be made in advance and it's easy but elegant!

Friday, November 19, 2010

What we ate this week

The Ninjette and I took a walk yesterday to a different part of town and encountered this building. I love it because it reminds me of the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleberg from The Great Gatsby, one of the greatest books ever written; that book and F. Scott Fitzgerald influenced my life in too many ways to talk about in this post -- it's that important to me.

I've got some cool recipes lined up to try this weekend, so be sure to check back next week. Until then, here's what I ate this week -- maybe it will tide you over.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Smoked salmon terrine: a recipe

I'm not a born entertainer.

No, I don't mean a Sammy Davis Jr., tap-dancing, singing entertainer (although I personally think I would make an excellent backup singer, despite the fact that I can't sing). I mean a host-people-in-my-house entertainer.

Some people are really good at it, appearing very relaxed and non-plussed about cooking more and for more people than usual.

Guess what? I'm not one of those people.

I obsess too much about ensuring that everything is perfect for my guests and often over-extend myself when it comes to preparing dishes. Martha Stewart I am not -- but that's not a bad thing because she drives me batty. But I'm getting better at it. The best trick? Recipes that can be made (fully or partially) ahead of time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hard cider adventure: racking day!

After three weeks, fermentation finally appeared this weekend to be finished in my 5-gallon cider bucket, which meant it was time for the next step: racking.

Racking is the term for transferring the cider from one vessel to another, via siphon, to allow the fermented juice to clarify, away from all the gunky sediment that settled out during the fermentation process.

Racking day was our first chance to get a good look at and a taste of the cider in progress. Right now, it's very, very dry (read: tart) but we'll be adding some sugar to it to sweeten it up a bit just before bottling. But BOY HOWDY -- it's strong!

I'm just relieved that it didn't spoil and turn into vinegar. So far, so good.

Now we wait ... again.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Molasses ginger crackle cookies: a recipe

Confession: I'm not a dessert person. Give me cheese over cheesecake every time.

When I was little, my sister used to love to sit next to me at family birthday parties because I would only eat the cake part of the cake, not the icing, which of course I would give to her. And I mean none of the icing. You know the skinny little layer of icing between the cake layers? Yup -- I would eat around it.

This probably explains why I prefer cookies that are a little spicy or packed with fruit, rather than lots of chocolate. Case in point: these molasses ginger cookies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ham and leek bread pudding: a recipe

(I wish that little chive wasn't sticking out like a flag...)
When I baked this bread pudding for the first time last year, a friend of mine from Louisiana told me that I couldn't call it bread pudding because there was no bourbon in it. (Actually, she shouted that out in horror.)

Trust me: this bread pudding doesn't need bourbon to be wicked good.

This recipe comes to you third-hand. I adapted mine from Deb's at smitten kitchen, and she adapted hers from Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home. So feel free to adapt it again to suit your own tastes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stuffed pumpkin: a recipe

Wow. All I can say is ... WOW.

In promoting her new cookbook, Around My French Table, Dorie Greenspan showed Michele Norris of NPR how to cook what she calls "stuffed pumpkin with everything good" (well, as much as you can "show" someone on the radio, right? For all we know, they were standing around pretending to cook).

She is NOT kidding with that name.

And I am not kidding in saying that this is one of the best dishes I've eaten in a really, really long time, either at home or in a restaurant.

Imagine bread pudding tucked into a creamy roasted pumpkin -- holy crap. And did I mention that it's easy to prepare?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reusable snack bags: a sewing tutorial

Monkeys in underpants: cracks me up every time
Since moving to Vermont, I have been doing things other than cooking and eating. Really, I have.

My sister has been a big sewer and quilter for years and lately she's been making all sorts of really cool bags. She inspired me to take up sewing again. Well, "again" being about 30 years after learning how to use a sewing machine in Mrs. Charpentier's Home Economics class, although I can't remember if it was the unit before or after learning to cook by making meat loaf cups that swam in oil. But I digress.

As a refresher, I took a beginner's sewing class at a CUTE CUTE CUTE fabric and yarn shop here in Burlington called Nido (go ahead, say it out loud -- get it?). We made simple tote bags and I caught the sewing bug in a big way.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cookies, for you and your little dog, too: two recipes

I've been on a cookie-baking jag lately, since I found some slightly-less-bad-for-you cookie recipes that don't taste like a cardboard box top.

Most of the cookies I've made have been dog-safe, so I haven't minded slipping one to the Ninjette every once in a while, but the last batch I made were cherry-chocolate chip (see recipe below) -- a veritable dog-killer. So I baked her some of her own.

Yes, I'm one of those crazy people that cooks for the dog. But my doggie meatloaf is to die for, I've been told.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Celery and pear bisque: a recipe

It snowed again yesterday. Yes, I said again.

OK, I'm being slightly dramatic, as these have been snow showers that don't last long and don't leave any evidence behind, but still: yesterday was only Halloween. Last year at this time I was sporting a new sleeveless dress and sandals for my 40th birthday party in North Carolina. This year? Boots and a turtleneck.

All this is just my way of explaining why I've been posting a lot about soup. Thank god I bought fleecy boots or you might catch me soaking my feet in some of these recipes.

Friday, October 29, 2010

DIY tube pan: a baking trick (and a cake recipe)

I really wanted to bake a cake yesterday.

Not just any cake, though -- What Julia Ate has a recipe for a moist but not-too-sweet jam cake that I like to make for breakfast. I love it because it is simple, fast and calls for a jar of jam, which I now seem to have too much of in my pantry, given that I started making my own.

The one I had my eye on was a Japanese plum jam made by my friend Meredith. I knew it would be perfect in this cake.

So what was the problem, you ask? No tube pan.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Butternut squash gnocchi: a recipe

For the record, the word is not nor should ever be pronounced "nocky." That drives me batty.

If you can't say it, you shouldn't be allowed to eat it.

Usually made from little else other than potatoes and flour, gnocchi is surprisingly easy to make yet quite time-consuming, what with all that fork-tine-rolling on each little piece of dough. So when I do make it, I like to make a LOT of it, because it freezes very nicely.

This spin on gnocchi, a Lidia Bastianich recipe from the October issue of Bon Appetit magazine, uses butternut squash rather than potato for lovely fall flavor.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hard cider: an adventure in the making

I have dipped my toe into the homebrewing pool -- sort of.

Because I love to drink it, I decided to try making my own hard cider this year. This past weekend, we drove to Chapin Orchard in Essex to procure 5 gallons of freshly pressed apple juice.

After adding some yeast and turbinado sugar, I'm happy to report that the airlock is bubbling ... we have achieved fermentation!

Now we wait.

And wait.

And hope it doesn't turn into vinegar.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shortcut apple galette: an original recipe

I am a normal person with a normal, busy life, just like you, which means that I do not turn up my nose at cooking shortcuts or other time savers. One of my favorite shortcut secrets is refrigerated pie crust. Now here's the kicker: I don't actually like pie.

Let me explain. I like the inside of the pie (apple, blueberry, whatever) and I don't mind the soft crust on the bottom, but I just can't abide the edge or top crust. I know, it seems very OCD, but that's the way it's always been. So for years, I just didn't eat pie. Period.

Until I discovered the galette.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cooking from Mr. Latte, or, beet salad and carrot-fennel soup: two recipes

As a food writer wannabe, I love to read real food writers' stories. As I've mentioned before, what really appeals to me is being involved in an engaging, well-written story while also scoring some great new recipes.

Earlier this year I read Amanda Hesser's Cooking for Mr. Latte, the story of her courtship with her now-husband, replete with recipes for things they ate along the way. I pulled out my much-dog-eared copy this week and tried my hand at a couple of her recipes (some of them come across as pretty snooty, so I focused on the ones that seemed more accessible ... you know, the ones that can be made with ingredients that don't require that you live in New York City and shop only at obscure multicultural markets).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Crockpot comfort, or, slow cooker chicken stroganoff: a recipe

All this crisp fall air could only mean one thing: it's time to break out the crockpot, friend to busy home cooks everywhere!

With just a wee bit of time and effort in the morning, you can have a lovely meal waiting for you at the end of the day. It's nearly effortless. It's like having your own personal chef who has dinner waiting for you when you get home. It's like ... like being OPRAH!

Well, except for the home in Hawaii and craploads of cash. But close!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Food is not love but these cookies might be, or, pumpkin hermits: a recipe

Pumpkin hermits
In our home, when it comes to the pets, we have a good cop and a bad cop: I'm the bad cop, the rule and order imposer. My husband is the good cop, the one that rolls around on the floor with them and gives them more treats than they should have.

A number of years ago, we had a couple of chubby Shelties that we adored. During one routine visit to the vet, we got into a friendly argument about their weight and eating habits, at the end of which I shouted, in exasperation, "Food is not love!" Much to my chagrin, our vet responded by saying, sheepishly, "Actually, when it comes to dogs, it pretty much is."

And when it comes to baked goods, these pumpkin hermits might make me rethink my stance as well.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Farewell, basil -- hello, pesto, or, summer recycling: a recipe

Fresh summer veg really is the best, and there's nothing quite like walking outside to the garden to pick what I need for a meal.

But -- turn, turn, turn -- everything has a season and the summer garden has come to an end.

But not all endings are sad -- not when it means pesto!

And enough pesto to freeze for use throughout the winter! Whoot! Whoot!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Curried cauliflower soup: a recipe

Yes, that says "cauliflower" -- but keep reading, I swear it's actually good!

I cannot believe the tremendous support I've received since starting this blog a few months ago. Not only is my husband jumping up to take pictures of our meals before we eat them, but readers have also made requests (yes, Amy, the crockpot recipes are coming, really) and sent recipes suggestions. But I suppose that's really the whole point: to share and enjoy food with friends and strangers alike, albeit virtually.

Case in point: the recipe below was sent to me this past weekend by a friend.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What we ate this week

I think we ate well this week. Give some of these a try and let me know what you think:
  • Broiled tilapia with apple salad and mustard-parsley sauce (I blew off the brining step on the fish and substituted baby greens from the garden for the frisee -- still wicked)
  • Mark Bittman's apple crisp (heh, you knew there'd be at least ONE apple recipe here)
  • Red pepper soup (I love this one because you just use the peppers as-is -- no peeling)
  • Roasted halloumi, bacon and tomato salad (if you've never cooked with halloumi cheese, you are in for a treat -- you can even grill it!)
  • Pasta with hot italian sausage and swiss chard (you should have seen me, harvesting chard from the garden in the dark with a headlamp -- but it was worth it!)
  • Ham, apple and arugula pizza with fontina cheese (no recipe needed -- just layer these ingredients on to a store-bought pizza shell that's been spread with a 2:1 mixture of mayo and dijon mustard and bake at 425 for about 10 minutes -- my policy is that you can pretty much make a pizza out of any ingredients that taste great together)
Last but not least, today is our 10-year wedding anniversary, so I'll be making ze duck... I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A fall meal, with recipes: maple pork tenderloin fillet with carmelized apples and baked goat cheese salad

Still working my way through the apples, but I can proudly say I'm down to six!

I used several in this recipe for maple pork tenderloin fillet with carmelized apples, which comes from one of my favorite, go-to blogs for dinner ideas, I can honestly say that this was one of the tastiest things I've made in a long time. Even if you don't like maple or apples (What are you, some kind of FREAK? Who doesn't like APPLES?!), go check out the recipe simply for the sheer genius of the pork tenderloin "fillet." I mean, why haven't I seen this anywhere before?

Friday, October 1, 2010

Chicken soup: a recipe

Chicken soup
When I did my menu planning on Sunday for the week, I did not anticipate getting sick. So the meal I had originally planned for last night was a slightly fancy soup, a riff on a traditional Greek magiritsa, but using leftover roast chicken. But then I got sick, so of course all I could think about was chicken soup.

I looked for an easy chicken soup recipe online and in my favorite cookbooks but couldn't find one that was quite speaking to me. Then ... FATE STRUCK.

[OK, time for a sidebar: Have I mentioned that I firmly believe everything happens for a reason, exactly as and when it should? Nooo? Well, I'm mentioning it now, so file that away. End of sidebar.]

Monday, September 27, 2010

Applesauce cake: a recipe

I attended a board meeting at my alma mater this past weekend. While these meeting weekends are always full and tiring, they are also a lot fun because of the dynamic group of women with which I serve. So I figured, what better way to show them some ninja love than with CAKE? I mean, who doesn't love CAKE?

This is a double-whammy Kitchen Ninja recipe because it incorporates the crockpot applesauce I made earlier. And I baked it in a Bundt pan because I believe that, just like its other 70s counterparts, bellbottom jeans and crocheted ponchos, it's a classic that deserves reconsideration.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Crockpot applesauce: a recipe

It's apple season here in the Northeast and I am one happy girl. I moved away from New England about 20 years ago and haven't had a decent, crispy apple since. But all that has changed, in a big way -- a  half-bushel way, in fact.

I think the pick-your-own fruit people probably laugh their asses off over dinner at eager locavores like me who, so excited by the prospect of fresh, not-from-the-truck fruit, don't understand just exactly how many apples are in a half-bushel (or how many blueberries are in a ten-pound box, but that's fodder for another post). I think the actual number is 8 bajillion.

How to whittle away a mountain of apples? Yup -- applesauce.

Easiest way to make applesauce? Yup -- crock pot.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What we ate last week

Here's a few more for you to check out while I'm busy cleaning up after an exploded boiler and a leaky ceiling:
I'd love to hear what you think of them, if you give any a try.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Preserving tomatoes

Ripe tomatoes that don't taste like a cardboard box are one of the joys of summer. So, as the leaves start to turn and the weather grows chillier, I start to get a little spazzy about how to preserve tomatoes so we can have a taste of summer during the long winter.

In addition to putting up some canned whole tomatoes for sauces last month, I did some slow-roasting and drying yesterday.

I use Molly Wizenberg's recipe for oven-roasted tomatoes, using small yellow pear or yellow cherry tomatoes rather than romas, and roast them for about 3 hours at 200 degrees. Words cannot express the flavor. They are fantastic as an appetizer, with goat's cheese on toast. Last night I put them on a flatbread, spread with ricotta and topped with arugula and parmesan cheese for an easy, heavenly pizza.

New for me this year are the marinated dried tomatoes shown in the photo. I decided to try them as I already own the Ferrari of food dehydrators.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Never-fail popovers: a vintage recipe

I love books. Maybe too much -- just ask my movers.

(And yes, this is in fact a post about popovers, complete with a recipe -- but there's backstory first.)

I also love poking around in antique stores for books or any other little treasures I can find. Maybe it's the musty smell, or the fun of finding a reasonably organized store or booth, or trying to imagine the people that once treasured these treasures, but I'm a sucker for that ubiquitous red, white and blue "Antiques" flag. (I recently tried to share my interest with my 17-year-old stepson. His reaction to his first visit to an antique store? "Sometimes old junk is just old junk.")

So my visits are usually solitary, which gives me a lot of unrushed time to thumb through the books. Since beginning my ninja adventures, I've been drawn to the old cookbooks. It's a hoot (and wicked gross, frankly) to see calls for ingredients such as oleo, lard, saccharin, crisco and other yummy gems. However, I recently came across a whole collection of Vermont Grange cookbooks -- you know, those fundraiser recipe books, often produced by churches or schools, to which members contribute their favorite family recipes. Well, given that the Grangers were (are?) originally all local farmers, I figured that I might find some good eatin' in there. I was honestly prepared to see lots of versions of ambrosia salad but was pleasantly surprised to find instead some really interesting, tried-and-true, no-weirdo-ingredients recipes.

(Here come the popovers, I swear.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Soup's on

Alpine mushroom soup
All of a sudden, it's fall. We went from warm Indian summer (is that still politically correct?) to chilly -- well, chilly if you just moved north from the south -- in about 24 hours. I welcome the change, I really do, as fall means beautiful foliage, hot cider, snuggly sweaters, cowboy boots and the like, but the rapid change in temperature has messed with my menu planning this week.

On tap for last night was a modified caprese salad, pumped up with pesto, white beans, salami and a few other tidbits, leftovers of which were meant to find their way onto a homemade Friday-night pizza. But then I woke to 55 degrees, chilly and overcast -- clearly, this called for soup.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What we ate this week

Give some of these a try -- all very easy and very tasty:
blueberry scones

Let me know how you like these, or if you make any of your own substitutions/improvements.

Happy long weekend!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fermenting: root vegetable kimchi

One of the things I miss the most about the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area of North Carolina is the restaurants. Now, I'm not really THAT sad because I did end up in another awesomely foodie town with too many good eateries to count, but there were a couple of standouts back in Cackalacky.

One of those standouts is Lantern. Chef-owner Andrea Reusing says her goal at Lantern is to "present simple, authentic Asian food using seasonal and local ingredients" ... and boy, does she ever succeed!

So I was thrilled to see Chef Reusing and Lantern featured prominently in the September issue of Food & Wine, which highlighted new Southern cooking -- not all that "new" to those of us who lived there, but I guess "new" to editors in New York who still think the South is just about shooting stuff, being quaintly polite and eating BBQ ... not that it's NOT about all that, mind you, but there's other stuff, too.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bag o' plants

This is not a joke. It was a rental-house-warming gift from my mom. The bag contains soil-less growing medium and seeds. I sowed the seeds, misted them and gave them a jaunty ziplock hat -- a bit like seed-starting, but...

Who thinks there's any chance this will work? Anyone? No? Yeah, me neither.

Or rather, I think it may partially work -- like those chia pets that just look like they have a bad case of mange.

Don't worry -- there will be progress reports.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Homemade bread

I have never baked bread before in my life. I mean, I own a bread machine but that's not really baking bread with my own hands (although it's quite good and easy!). So I was intrigued by (and frankly, skeptical of) Jeffrey Hertzberg's and Zoe Francois' book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. Verdict? There's some dough resting time beyond the 5 minutes, but that's nearly all it takes, folks. I'm a convert!

Honestly, it couldn't be easier. You mix flour, yeast, water and salt in a container (5 minutes), store it in the fridge and, for up to two weeks, you can pull off a hunk of the dough and shape it into a ball (2 minutes), let it sit (40 minutes), bake it (30 minutes) and -- voila! -- bread (or pizza dough!).

Want to see?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pickles? Yes we can

I made some dill pickles two weeks ago and promised a friend that I would share the recipe, once I had tasted them and ensured that they were not craptacular. They are not.

The recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens which, quite arrogantly, calls them "Best-Ever Dill Pickles" -- frankly, I've had better but I was very jazzed that they hyphenated "best-ever" correctly so I gave them a try.
3 to 3-1/4 pounds small pickling cucumbers (Kirbys)
4 cups water
4 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup pickling salt
6 tablespoons dill seeds

Thoroughly rinse cucumbers. Remove stems and cut off a slice from each blossom end. Slice cucumbers into thick slices (the slices should be 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick). In a large stainless steel, enameled, or nonstick saucepan combine water, vinegar, sugar and pickling salt. Bring to boiling.

Pack cucumbers loosely into hot, sterilized pint canning jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Add 1 tablespoon dillseeds to each jar. Pour hot vinegar mixture over cucumbers, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Discard any remaining hot vinegar mixture. Wipe jar rims and adjust lids.

Process in a boiling-water canner for 10 minutes (start timing when water returns to boil). Remove jars; cool on racks. Let stand 1 week. Makes 6 pints.

[ For variations and additions, check out the full recipe ]

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reading is fundamental

I couldn't agree more. What have you been reading lately?

(seen on our morning walk around Burlington)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fun with avocados

In the morning, in the evening, ain't we got fun? We do if we've got avocados on hand.

Lately my favorite quick breakfast consists of mashing up an avocado, seasoning it with kosher salt and slathering it on some toasted french bread -- heaven! At first I was grossed out by the idea of avocado for breakfast, but trust me ... salty, crunchy and filling. Go try it. Really. Go ... right ... now.

But wait, there's more!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A salad so hot...

... you might get a second-degree burn!

Well, maybe not you, but I did. Well, not quite from the salad but from the croutons. Well, not quite from the croutons but from an oven that offers a bad user experience. Generally, oven racks should not tip forward and dump their blisteringly hot contents onto your arms ... I'm just sayin', Dacor.

I know, I know -- "awesome salad" seems a little over the top but it really is that good. It's like bacon and eggs comfort food, with the benefit of spinach!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Welcome ... and some book recommendations

Thanks for visiting. If you want to know more about why I've decided to blog, you can learn a bit more about me.

I've had quite a bit of time lately to read, which has always been my hobby. I used to think it was lame to call it a hobby -- skiing, rock-climbing, stamp collecting -- now those are hobbies. But, given not only how much enjoyment it gives me but also how often I do it (not to mention how much less aggravating it is than golf), I now think it officially counts as my hobby.

I'm currently hooked on the whole memoir-cum-cookbook genre -- start with Orangette blogger Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life if you're interested.  I loved loved loved Kathleen Finn's The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: recently out-of-work IT-type decides to focus on her passion for food and cooking. Can you guess why I was drawn to it? ;-) I love the combination of ongoing story interspersed with mouth-watering recipes. Speaking of which, Finn's got a completely wicked recipe for a hearty, meaty bolognese sauce that I can't wait to try, once it gets a bit more snuggly outside.

My only dilemma with this genre has actually been where to keep these types of books -- living room book shelves, alongside John Irving and F. Scott Fitzgerald, or kitchen cabinets, next to The Joy of Cooking and umpteen copies of Cooking Light? The kitchen always wins.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Grow and preserve

-- Gardening -- -- Preserving --


Soup and chili


Preserving and canning

DIY pantry staples



Detox January



Comfort food



Slow cooker (crockpot)


CSA share ideas

Breads and muffins



Easy and healthy weeknight dinners