Potato Gnocchi - Recipe

Making gnocchi has been on my list of things to try making since Panama. Oddly Panama is where I learned about gnocchi. There is an Italian restaurant in Panama City called Rino's. Jeff and I found excuses to go to Rino's. It wasn't an amazing restaurant, but it had classy decor and reasonable prices. And they had carbonera sauce on the menu that you could pick your own pasta or gnocchi. It's the best comfort food: gnocchi a la carbonara.

Then I met Danielle, a volunteer for another NGO in our valley who was Italian, but her parents were Swiss bankers and she was living in the community west of ours almost in the Kuna Yala; a very interesting gal. She mentioned she had made gnocchi for her host mom. She said it wasn't hard. And I mentally filed away gnocchi as something I could try making myself.

A couple years passed and then this New Year's Sarah and I chose an Italian theme for our dinner party. Gnocchi was on the list of food to try. It got cut when we finalized the menu because we already had ravioli which kind of covers the time intensive pasta dish. I guess gnocchi isn't technically pasta. It generally gets defined as potato dumplings.

I still had gnocchi on my mind and yesterday I finally got around to trying my hand at it. I checked all my cookbooks for recipes. They all called for using potato ricers which I don't have - this is supposed to give you a dreamy light pillow of potato. So I turned to the internet. Man, there are a lot of sweet potato gnocchis out there! I finally found Smitten Kitchen's Gnocchi blog post and recipe. Deb lives in a tiny New York apartment and she doesn’t have all those extra kitchen gadgets either. Her recommendation was to grate the potatoes. So that's what I did.

Gnocchi is only three ingredients and is conceptually easy to make. It just takes a lot of time to bake the potatoes, then grate them and create the dough, knead then shape all those little dumplings. I started at 2:30 and we finally ate dinner at 7:00. I'm thinking it might be easier to bake the potatoes a head of time and then make the dough and form the gnocchi on another day so I don't feel like I spent the whole day on it.

I used these Russit potatoes that I bought in December. I stored them in the basement, but you can see they are starting to sprout! Sprouted spuds are actively converting their starch to sugar to energy to grow out their eyes. Not ideal, but I didn't want to waste them. I broke off their eyes before I baked the potatoes. (I like the one that looks like its got vampire fangs. I think he was in the dark too long.)

The gnocchi did turn out like little bites of creamy potato goodness. They are easily as good as Rino's gnocchi. And the bacon butternut squash carbonara sauce I made to go with it was delicious.

Now here's how to make gnocchi with a grater - I did adjust the recipe slightly from Smitten Kitchen.

Gnocchi - Italian Potato Dumplings
6 medium Russit potatoes
1 1/2 cups flour
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
Step 1: Bake the potatoes in the oven. Pierce the potatoes with a fork, then place them on a tray in the oven at 375 degrees for about an hour or until the potatoes are soft. Check to make sure the potatoes are done by sticking them with a knife. The blade should go in and come out easily when the potatoes are baked through. Allow the spuds to cool.

Step 2: Peal the potatoes and then grate them using a coarse (large holes) grater. Make sure the potatoes are cooled so you don't burn yourself. Consider baking the potato a day ahead of time.

Step 3: Using a wooden spoon mix the egg and salt with the grated potato. When this is well mixed slowly add in the flour and keep mixing.

Step 4: On a floured countertop turn out the potato dough and knead like a yeast bread for about 5 minutes. Add flour as needed to keep the potato from sticking to the counter. Then divide the dough into eight balls. Use your hands to roll each dough ball into long skinny rope (about 1/2 inch in diameter). Cut the rope into 1 inch cylinders.

Step 5: Using the tines of a fork press the gnocchi to give it ridges. You may need to dip the fork in flour so it doesn't stick. Place the gnocchi on a cookie sheet in a single layer as you finish shaping them. You can cook them now or freeze them on the cookie sheet then move them to freezer storage container once they are frozen solid.

Step: 6: To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. When the pot has a nice rolling boil, drop the gnocchi in. The gnocchi will sink and then after a couple minutes float to the surface. The gnocchi is done one minute after it starts floating. Strain out the gnocchi and your ready to serve!


Apple Spinach Feta Pizza - Recipe

Pizza is another one of my staple recipes. I make my own sauce and dough. I have yet to try making my own cheese. It's on my list - again perhaps when I have my own kitchen.

When I asked Jeff what I should make for dinner this week his answer was pizza. I generally just kind of wing my pizza dough. But this time I decided to use a recipe I saw in Earth to Table. It looks beautiful in their pictures. But the method was kind of odd. It said to use the hook attachment on my Kitchen Aid. I don't have a hook attachment or a Kitchen Aid so I just mixed it the old fashion way. The weird part was instead of mixing in all the water and then adding flour until the dough was the right consistency, the recipe says to add all the flour and then work in extra water. This is really hard to do by hand; super sticky and I never got a great constancy.

I was pretty disappointed in the results. The dough was tough, chewy, dry and I missed the hearty flavor I get from adding in whole grains. This recipe was all white flour.

I was not disappointed with the toppings. Homemade pizza sauce is easy and oh so tasty. I'll put the recipe at the bottom of the post. Now on to the exciting part, I chose feta, spinach and apples for the toppings.
I had some fun making this animated gif on gifninja.com

1. Crust
2. Sauce
3. Apple and Cheeses (Feta, Provolone, Parmesean)
4. Spinach
5. Finished Pizza

Making the animated gif was really easy and surprisingly quick. 

But back to the food.  Yum.  The sweet crunch of the apple with the salty sharp feta cheese and the stretchy stringy provolone makes this my favorite vegetarian pizza.  The spinach really just adds some nice green color and makes the pizza look healthier.  There is probably only a tiny nutrition boost with the spinach.  But I'll take what I can get.

Quick and Easy Tomato Pizza Sauce

1 can diced tomatoes (15oz)
1 can tomato paste (6oz)
1 medium carrot, grated
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon - the secret ingredient
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
Salt to taste (1/2 teaspoon or so)

Step 1: Sauté the onions in a little bit of olive oil until transparent. Then add in the shredded carrots. Keep sautéing until the carrots start to soften. You may need to add a little water so things don't get dry and burn. 

Step 2:  Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and all the spices.    The cinnamon may seem a little odd, but it adds more smell than flavor.  It goes well with any topping, but it is particularly good with the apple.  Add enough water to the pan to make it saucy, cover and let simmer.  If you have the right amount of water the sauce will make big bubbly plops.  That's why you have to cover the sauce so it doesn't plop and splatter sauce everywhere.  This needs to simmer for a while now for everything to cook together.  Taste your sauce to see where it's at.  If it tastes too acidic add a teaspoon of sugar to balance things out.  If it just tastes too bland add a little more salt.
Step 3:  You can be done at this point, but if you want a smoother sauce you can let the sauce cool and then puree it a bit in a blender or food processor or if you have an immersion blender this is the perfect time to employ it. 

This recipe makes enough sauce for two 14" pizzas.

I'll put up my pizza dough recipe the next time I make it.  I promise it's tasty and much easier to make by hand than the Earth to Table one. 


Oatmeal Molasses Bread - Earth to Table Cookbook

Oatmeal molasses bread is a slightly sweet and soft with a thin crust. It's the first recipe I've tried out my new cookbook Earth to Table by Jeff Crump and Bettina Schormann.

The cookbook itself is has lots of pretty pictures of rustic wooden slats with perfectly ripe, dewy, produce grouped aloofly as if just placed there by the farmer.  And, of course, it includes lots of recipes. The first thing I do with a new cookbook is skim through and mark all the recipes I might want to try with a slip of paper.  This cookbook is bristling with little pieces of paper.  The cookbook is arranged by seasons.  Oddly the things I have marked are mostly breads and a couple pastas.  A lot of the recipes call for meat or seafood.  And as I have chosen to avoid ocean fish particularly tuna and salmon as well as meat that isn't locally produced, well, I have limited options.  This is not a cookbook for vegetarians. 

The book's premise is made from scratch food that is good for people and not necessarily good for sustaining the earth.  I run into this a lot actually.  I choose to eat food that is produced in a responsible way that has less stress on our environment.  This choice often aligns me with people who are eating pure food that is the healthiest option for their bodies. Both views fall under the Slow Food Movement.  However, shrimp, scallops and meat heavy dishes are one of the things that we don't agree on.  But, back to the making of the bread. 

The oatmeal molasses bread caught my attention with a beautiful photo of three lovely but imperfectly shaped loaves on a rustic baking sheet on a wooden countertop with oats sprinkled around them.  This recipe is a new approach to oatmeal bread for me.  The opening step is to cook a cup of oatmeal in two cups of water with butter and molasses.  When I've made oatmeal breads in the past I usually added dry oats.  This method makes for a moister bread.

I have to say the texture of this bread is perfect, a tender small crumb.  The recipe calls for light molasses, but I used the original dark stuff. Overall the bread might be too sweet. I think next time I make it I'll cut the brown sugar in half. I'm not sure why it calls for both brown sugar and molasses. I also didn't use all six cups of flour. I kneaded in 4 1/2 and the dough looked good so I didn't add more. Perhaps it tastes too sweet because there isn't enough flour? Jeff really likes how soft this bread is. We managed to eat one loaf between the two of us with some soup for dinner.

I'd love to post this recipe so you could all try it, but it's not really mine to share.  You'll have to get Earth to Table.  I'm sure you could reserve it at your local library.

Update:  I've been playing with the recipe and here's a version I think I've modified enough to share with you all: Seven Grain and Brown Sugar Bread - Recipe


Yellow Split Pea Soup - Recipe

This is one of those soups that will warm you to the core. Yellow split peas are rich and buttery. They cook down to a thick porridge like consistency.

I've noticed that split peas are kind of hard to find.  They are usually located near the canned and dry beans, in one pound bags.  If you can't find them near you stock up the next time you get to a bigger grocery store.  These little unassuming peas are worth the trouble.

Normally I use a chicken stock as the base however, I have some locally produced bacon on hand for a recipe I want to try that I saw over on Closet Cooking.  Buying bacon was a bit of splurge, but I'm doing really good with the grocery budget.  The bacon adds some savory smoky flavor that I am really enjoying. It makes the soup heartier. It makes me think of Gone With the Wind when Scarlet finds out Johny Galigar is selling off the food she sends over for the men working the saw mill. "Without side meat, beans have got no strength," she tells him. Well this soup has strength.

I fried up the bacon and left all the dripping in the pan to sauté the vegetables.  To add some different textures I also threw in an onion, garlic, carrots and spinach.  (I think chard or kale would be even better, but they were out when I went to the store.) Then I added water and the yellow split peas.  And let everything cook together until the peas were falling apart.  Then I took the soup off the stove and added the bacon back in.  I didn't cook the soup with the bacon because I wanted the bacon to retain its own flavor.  Meat that has been in a soup too long imparts all its flavor to the soup and winds up just being chewy no-flavor bits. 

The finished soup is just what I want on a cold winter's day, or a mild spring day, or a cool fall evening, but probably not a hot summer's lunch.

Yellow Split Pea Soup

1 pound dry yellow split peas
5 strips bacon
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon garlic
1 bunch fresh spinach
3 carrots, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons thyme, dry
2 bay leaves

Step 1:  In a five quart pot, fry up the bacon.  Then set the bacon aside and leave all the grease and drippings behind.  Then add three quarts of water, salt, bay leaves and the yellow split peas. Bring the peas to a boil, then reduce heat and cover and let simmer for an hour or so. 

Step 2:  When the peas are starting to turn translucent and fall apart, sauté the carrots, onions and garlic together than add them to pot.  Throw in the spinach, thyme, black pepper and stir it all together.  Continue to let it simmer - until the peas have lost their form and are mush. 

Step 3:  Finish the soup by crushing the bacon into small bits and then stirring it back in.


How to Make Chicken Stock - Recipe

There is no substitution for real stock.  Luckily it is easy to make when you are eating mostly whole and fresh food and it's a great for the frugal chef.  The hardest thing about making stock is finding the time to let it simmer on the stove.  It takes about five hours start to finish.  It's definitely worth the time.  Stock will not only add incredible flavor to your food but it is very nourishing.  Diane over at Spain in Iowa did a very detailed report on the health benefits of homemade stock

If I ever get a deep freeze I would love to make a big old vat of stock and keep it frozen on hand.  I know it is also possible to can stock.  I may look into this more once we have our own place.  For right now I just make one big pot worth at a time. 

If you eat rotisserie chicken or anything that still has the bones save the bones and freeze them until you have enough to make stock. 

I haven't been buying meat - it's too expensive for our budget.  I insist we only buy local chicken, which is about twice as expensive as the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) chicken you will find sold in the average grocery. 

But I did find I can buy very inexpensive chicken carcass which is sold as Chicken Soup Bones.  For about $3 I get 2 pounds of bones (two chicken's worth of bones, necks included).  Here's the recipe I use to make stock:

Homemade Chicken Stock

 2 pounds chicken bones
1 yellow onion, quartered
2 carrots, chopped
5 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon white or apple cidar vinegar

Step 1:  In a 5 quart pot add all the ingredients then fill the pot with water about an inch from the top. 

Step 2:  Bring the pot to a boil and then cover and reduce to a simmer.  Allow the pot to simmer for 2-3 hours. 

Step 3: Strain out the bones and bits. I compost the vegetables and throw out the chicken bones.  I don't know of any good use for them.  Return the stock to the stove and continue simmering uncovered for an additional couple hours.  This reduces the stock to about half its volume, making it really potent.  I often dilute the stock when I use it - but it takes up much less room in the fridge or freezer this way.  I usually let the bones cool then pick the extra meat off the bone to use in future soup. 

Step 4: Take the pot off the heat and let it cool to room temperature before pouring it into a container and putting it in the fridge. 

Step 5: When the stock has chilled it will turn very gelatinous.  Like the picture below.  A skim of solid fat will form at the top.  Once the stock is chilled it is easy to scrape the fat off with a spoon.  I use the fat for baking breads and browning vegetables.  It adds some great flavor.  Don't throw it away it's good stuff!

Step 6:  The stock is ready to use.  It will keep in the refrigerator for up to three days or in the freezer for 4 months.  I use my stock to make polenta, soup, as the liquid in making the filling for enchiladas, and in almost every savory sauce I can recall. 

Below is a picture of the chilled finished stock.  Interesting, it almost looks like apple sauce. 


10 in 2010 - Ten Weeks to Healthy in 2010 week 4

Many of my favorite blogs are participating in the online challenge Ten in 2010. The challenge is to incorporate new methods of healthy living into your life over ten weeks. Each Saturday participating bloggers write about their weekly progress. What are the new methods of healthy living you might ask? Whatever you choose to make your goal.

My goals for the ten weeks are:
  • Write down what I eat every day
  • Weigh myself every day
  • Be able to do the yoga pose Downward Dog with my heels on the floor
 It's the third full week of working towards these goals.  It's slow but steady progress. 

Write down what I eat every day:
I've been using my iGoogle application called "WW Point Tracker" to keep a food journal. I love it. It even records your daily history so you can see what you have eaten over time and how many Points you have consumed. I took the data and made a chart out of it. I can see that my daily average is right around 30 points per day. For non Weight Watcher types this means my calorie intake is about 2100 calories per day. I would like to drop my average down to about 1800 calories or 26 points. So this week that's going to be my goal to drop down my points just a bit.

Weigh myself every day:
I know there are a lot of opinions on whether or not weighing every day is a good idea. I always get lots of comments on this practice. I will say it depends on the person. For me it is good motivation and I do not get obsessive. For me it is a reminder at the beginning of the day to be mindful about how I eat. I am very careful to weigh myself at the same time every day in the same situation. This lends consistency so my weight fluctuations are less effected by water weight or temporary gains and losses.  

So that being said, how did this week go? Not too great. You can see I had a big weekend and Monday had a weight spike. Then I got myself back in gear. I really want to get out of the 140's. If I get out of the 140's I will officially have a healthy "normal" BMI.  Right now I am in the "overweight" category.

Since I started tracking my weight on New Year's Eve I have lost 5.6 pounds. My jeans are looser and I actually feel better about myself. I considering this a victory.

Be able to do the yoga pose Downward Dog with my heels on the floor:
I've been working on this one, but it doesn't seem to be going very well. I don't seem to be any closer.  I'm not the most flexible person. The way I have been trying to get my heels on the floor is to do Downward dog and stretch my heels towards the floor. Perhaps I should try something else. Anyone have any suggestions?


The Best Ever Banana Bread - Recipe

This is Grandma Jone's banana bread recipe.  It is the best!  I know there are a lot of banana bread recipes out there, I've even tried a few of them.  This is the winner.  Look no further for the best tasting and best crumb banana bread. (Unfortunately it is not the healthiest, but it does use real butter and a real banana!)  It's terribly rich and buttery with a crisp crust and tender moist inside.  It is the right amount of sweet, just sweet enough to qualify for a dessert in my cook book. 

The secret to Grandma's banana bread is buttermilk.  It adds a little bit of acidity so the baking soda reacts and the bread raises well. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, I listed some easy substitutions in the ingredient list. 

The perfect banana for banana bread is when the banana has black speckles all over and the peel has turned soft and crepe-y. I was a little impatient.  I had a stressful morning and I felt like baking.  I won't eat a banana that's not the perfect ripeness (just a hint of green left in the peal).  So what else was I going to do with it.  I only had one banana so I scaled the recipe for one banana.  It made a nice little loaf of the Best Banana Bread Ever. 

It was really tasty.  The smell of baking bread brought Jeff out and as soon as I got my pictures he was into it.  There might be 1/3 of the loaf left.  I had two slices then I made myself stop.  That took some serious will power. 

Best Banana Bread Ever

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (one banana)
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans
1/2 tablespoon butter milk*

**If you don’t have butter milk on hand add a couple drops of lemon juice or vinegar to milk or use sour cream in the same amount.

  1. Start by setting out the butter and eggs. Bringing them up to room temperature will make the batter better. Let them sit for at least an hour at room temperature. If you are in a hurry, microwave the butter for 10 seconds and stir it to distribute the heat. Try not to liquefy the butter. And in the end cold eggs, won’t make bad bread.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg, vanilla and butter milk and mix it until smooth.
  3. In a large bowl mix together all the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the dry mixture and the banana to the butter mixture. Add a little at a time and mix after each addition. Stir in the nuts. Ideally you will mix just until all the ingredients are moist. Over mixing will react all the baking powder and soda. This makes the texture of the bread dense and heavy. So less work equals better bread. That’s the way it should be.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan (9×5x3″). Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until a sharp knife poked in, comes out clean.
  6. Remove the bread from the pan immediately to avoid soggy crust. Let the bread cool on a rack for at least five minutes before cutting. When cool, cover and store.
This is my last bite I swear!

How to Thicken Up Runny Pie Filling

Your pie may look great until you cut into it and all the delicious filling runs out like juice. Now you have pie soup. This is pretty common with fruit pies. There are a couple of things that could have gone wrong and a number of ways to fix a recipe that is always runny and still have a great tasting pie.

Make Sure Your Recipe is Baking Correctly

Your pie may not have cooled enough. Pie should be served just above room temperature. If it is too hot the filling may not have had time to set up. So put your pie in the window sill and let it cool it takes at least 3 hours. Also note Pyrex or ceramic pans take longer than metal ones.

Your pie may not have gotten hot enough in the oven or had enough time to boil. The bubbling of the filling is what activates the natural gelatin in fruit and the thickeners you may have added. You want to see big syrupy thick bubbles before you pull the pie out of the oven.

Fix a Pie Recipe that is Always Runny

Instant Pudding – Add a package of instant pudding. This will actually improve the flavor of your pie by giving complexity and the gelatin in the pudding will help the filling set up. A good combination is lemon with fruit fillings.

Tapioca – Use tapioca flour, not granules to thicken things up. The granules take a while to fully hydrate and you could wind up with weird grit in your pie and have the filling still be runny. Instead use tapioca flour or use a blender to pulverize tapioca granules. Read the back of the package to find out how much you should add per cup of fruit. Mix the tapioca with the other filling ingredients. Allow it to sit for 15 minutes to dissolve the tapioca.

Corn Starch - You can add corn starch to your pie filling. About 1 teaspoon of cornstarch per cup of fruit. 9 inch pies should hold 6 cups of filling.

Flour – I dislike adding flour because it makes the filling cloudy and does nothing for the flavor. However sometimes it is all you have on hand. Use 2 teaspoons per cup of fruit to thicken up your pie. Make sure you use a sieve to sprinkle the flour into the fruit filling or when you mix it you will get clumps of flour. Dumplings don’t belong in pie.

Macerate then mix boil down your fruit in its juices - Mix the fruit, sugar, lemon and a pinch of salt in a bowl, if it is a watery fruit like strawberries or blueberries you may want mash it a bit with your hands to help get the juice out. Pour the fruit mixture into a colander and let the sugary juice pass through. Do not press the juice through, let it set for 30 – 60 minutes to let gravity do the work. In a small sauce pan on medium low heat simmer the juice down until you have a 1/3 cup. The juice should now be a syrup. Be careful not to let things get too hot and burn the sugar. Now mix the syrup back in with the fruit. And you are ready to put your filling in the pie crust. If you’re still having problems, add in corn starch to the drained fruit. About 1 teaspoon per cup of fruit. Put your now thickened fruit mixture into the pie shell and pop it in the oven.


The Best Ever Vegetarian Enchiladas - Recipe

Enchiladas are one of the mainstays in my cooking repertoire. I don’t remember where I learned to make them, my guess is sometime during the fall of 2003 when Jeff and I first lived together. Back then I made them with ground turkey.

These days I make them vegetarian style. They are so good and filling. And with a side salad of lettuce, avocado and cilantro to balance out the heaviness of the beans, well, I could eat these every day.

They are a little bit of work to prepare, but I get two meals and a couple lunches out of a 9x13 pan, so I figure it is time well spent.

I make everything but the tortillas from scratch. I know how to make tortillas, but there was a package of tortillas in the freezer that I wanted to use up. They are very convenient. 

The Mexican Red Sauce is adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook by Molly Katzen. The filling I usually just make up as I go along. This time ‘round it came out particularly delicious, so I thought it was blog worthy. I used yellow summer squash, mushrooms, black beans, carrots and some onion.

The Best Ever Vegetarian Enchiladas

Bold Bean Filling:

4 yellow summer squash, diced
2 carrots, grated
1 onion, diced
1 basket of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
3 cups of black beans, cooked and rinsed (from about 1 cup dry beans)
2 cups stock
Mexican Red Sauce:
2 cans of diced tomatoes (15 oz each)
1 can of tomato paste (6 oz)
1 medium onion, diced
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup water
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
10 borrito sized tortillas
1 cup of Mexican (or Jack or Cheddar) shredded cheese
Step 1: Start by roasting the veggies for the filling. In a 9x13 pan place the diced summer squash, sliced baby bella mushroom and diced onion. Pop them in the top shelf of the oven with the broiler on. Leave the door slightly ajar so the steam can get out. This will brown the veggies and add a roasted flavor while reducing the water content so the enchiladas aren't soggy. Becareful not to let anything burn. It should take 10-15 minutes and you will need to stir the pan about every 5 minutes.

Step 3: In a large pot over medium-low heat on the stove add the stock, black beans, garlic, grated carrots and roasted vegetables. Allow the pot to come to a simmer and keep stirring things together. It will take up to a half hour to reduce down to a clumpy mixture. Season with cumin, salt and pepper then set aside. The filling is ready to go.

Step 4: While the filling is simmering you can work on putting together the Mexican Red Sauce. In a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat sauté the onion in a little drizzle of oil. When the onion is transparent add the tomatoes, tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, and salt. Cover and bring to a simmer. Allow this mixture to cook for at least 30 minutes so the flavors meld.

Step 5: Assemble the enchiladas in a 9x13 pan. First pour half of the Mexican red Sauce into the pan and spread it around until it is evenly coating the bottom. Then take a tortilla and fill it with ¾ cup of filling, roll it into a burrito shape and place it in the pan with the seam side down. Fill all 10 of the tortillas and line the up in the pan so they all fit in one level. This may require some scrunching to get them all to fit. Then pour the remaining Mexican red sauce on top and use a spoon to smear it around. Take special care to make sure every part of the tortilla is covered in sauce. Exposed parts will dry out when baked. Sprinkle the cheese on top and cover the pan with aluminum foil.

Step 6: Bake the enchiladas at 325 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove them from the oven, uncover and let cool for five minutes before serving.

Step 7: Serve the enchiladas with a large salad, some fresh cilantro and a dollop of sour cream.

As the Pioneer Woman would say, “This recipe will make your skirt fly up!” Enjoy!


How to Toast Squash or Pumpkin Seeds - Recipe

Sometimes I hear pumpkin seeds called "pepitas" the Spanish word which sounds much more glamorous than squash seeds. While we were in Panama I learned the phrase "ella esta cargando una pepita". She's carrying a pumpkin seed, which is an indirect way to say she's pregnant. I, of course, learned this because all of our neighbors were convinced I had a bun in the oven. "What? You're married and you don't have kids? Surely you are working on making a pepita?" Anyway, now when I see bags of pepitas on the shelf at the grocery store, I imagine a bag of potential babies. Kind of weird, I know.

One of my goals for making my life and kitchen use fewer resources is to use what I do have more efficiently.  I love winter squash.  I buy a butternut, pumpkin or kombocha squash almost every time I go to the grocery store.  The flavor and texture are sweet and velvety and they are so good for you.

In Panama I would save the squash seeds and dry them - as much as it was possible to dry seeds in 95% humidity - and package them for the Seeders, Peace Corp's Panama's seed exchange program.  Back home in the Midwest I have been composting the seeds.  Then I realized what I should have been doing was toasting the seeds!  The only problem is, I only get maybe a cup of seeds out of any squash.  It seems like a waste of time and energy to bother toasting them. 

Then I remembered I have a refrigerator.  I have discovered I can clean the squash seeds and hold them in the refrigerator until I have enough to toast.  I put the cleaned seeds in a single level on a cookie sheet.  Toss them with a little oil and salt for a snacking seed or leave them plain for use in baking or granola.  Here is a mixture of the big kombocha squash seeds and the smaller butternut squash seeds. 
Toast the seeds at 200-250 degrees for about two hours.  Every half hour or so stir the seeds around to help them dry evenly.  Let the seeds cool and you are ready to eat or store them. The smaller seeds need less time to dry than the big ones.  I had no trouble toasting them together.

Jeff and I both like the taste of the butternut squash seeds better than the kombocha. The butternut seeds are very similar to sunflower seeds in flavor. The kombocha have more shell and less of the nutty meat. 
I was planning to mix these seeds into a scone or maybe a salad, but while I've been working on this post I've also been snacking on them.  There's not that many left.  Guess I'll just have to finish them! 


Blog Reader Mania!

Oh my goodness! I got up this morning and read the nine new posts in my iGoogle reader. I always read blogs while I drink my coffee. Then I did some things and came back to see what new blog posts there were to read. I had 54 new posts in under six hours! I think I am following too many blogs! Yeah, I can’t read 63 posts a day, I won’t have time for anything else!

I have recently added new blogs to my reader; quite a few actually. I’m working on building up my blog so anyone who has left a comment here, I’ve gone over to check out their blog. I leave a comment and subscribe to their feed. I figured this would be great, perfect. I could keep up with the other movers and shakers of the food and garden blog worlds. I would be inspired so I can keep putting up two posts every day. It’s a hectic schedule I’ve got going on over here at Foy Update.

My old plan is not scaling well.  I need a new plan. I’m going to have to be a little more selective. Or perhaps do some skimming of posts. I have to manage my time better. I haven’t even gotten through half of those posts and I’m about ready to assemble some enchiladas and I want to get this post up before people start heading home from work.  I'm not sure what my new plan of action will be. 

For those of you who have left a comment on my blog, I appreciate it. I will return the favor I promise. Comment sharing is my top priority right after putting up quality blog posts.

Anyone who is currently managing a blog have any ideas to help me balance my time?

Seed Catalog Wishful Shopping

I love Seed Savers Exchange. I had one of their catalogs while we were in Panama. I couldn't order from it (you can't ship seeds across country boarders without special permits). But I loved looking at all their beautiful pictures. Plus they have useful planting information.

Jeff and I are both looking for jobs right now so we anticipate moving *hopefully* soon. It would be nice to have incomes, but it would be even nicer to be settled somewhere for at least a growing season so I could have a garden. I've already started picking out the seeds I will need for my hypothetical garden.

If I take the trouble to plant a garden I only want high yield vegetables. This means no bell peppers - they just don't yield enough for the effort - at least for me.

I do want lettuce, snow peas, tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, patty pan squash, zuchini and basil. Those are my must haves. I have gone through the catalog and decided these are the top 10 things I want to order:

1. Parade Pickling Cucumber - They are nice and small (5" long by 2" diameter) and are listed as "one of our favorites at the Heritage Farm". And it says the fruit matures at relatively the same time, making them excellent for canning. I can't wait to do another round of dill pickles. This time I'll go easier on the salt.

2. Forellenschuss Lettuce - "It's hard to find an all around better lettuce." It's a really pretty lettuce and it's supposed to have a superior flavor and hold up well to summer heat. In the Midwest holding well in hot weather is a huge plus.

3. Dwarf Grey Sugar Edible Podded Pea - This one caught my attention because it is supposed to be stringless and the vines are 2-2.5 feet and don't require staking. I love edible pod peas and I rarely buy them because they are so expensive in the grocery.

4. Patty Pan - I actually couldn't find a patty pan summer squash in the catalog. I guess I'll have to look somewhere else. These delicious squash are so good grilled. They are heavy producers like zucchini but they have a denser flesh and don't get slimy like zucchini when cooked. I love them in stir fry or brushed with olive oil and grilled.

5. Mexico Midget Tomato -If I only get to pick one tomato, I am going to pick an indeterminate (produces fruit continually vs. determinate that produce in one big flush) small tomato. The small ones yield earliest. I want a super prolific tasty tomato. There are 8 pages of tomatoes to pick from! My choice is the Mexico Midget. It is billed as prolific, rich, and one of our bests. Sold!

6. Genovese Basil - I always go with Genovese. This is the classic big green leaves, super flavor, grows really big and makes great pesto and bruchetta.

7. Empress Green Beans - Seed Savers describes this one as "Incredible flavor. our very best snap bean for fresh eating, freezing or processing. A true work-horse! Heavy yields of large straight green, stringless pods." This is a bush bean so I won't have to mess with fencing or trellis.

8. Fordhook Giant Swiss Chard - I like the look of the rainbow chard, but I've never been that impressed with the taste. Fordhook is a white veined chard that produces "all season and even after the first light frost".

9. Long Island Improved Brussels Sprouts - Well they've only got one variety, the Long Island Improved. It sounds pretty good yielding 50-100 sprouts per plant. I love Brussels sprouts. They are not a quick, high yield vegetable that I could can and freeze. But they are so delicious I will make an exception. Also they are one of the last things I get to harvest from the garden. Just like how I get all excited about my first crop of baby lettuce. I also get really excited about my last picking of Brussels Sprouts.

10. Waltham Butternut Winter Squash - I look for quick heavy producers in my winter squash. I often do not make it all the way to harvest with the big vining varieties. I don't think I've ever got a carving pumpkin. So I'm looking for a variety that fruits in under 90 days. I am also looking for a squash that doesn't have a lot of ribs. Ribbed squash, like acorn squash, are hard remove the skin from. After much debate I am going with the Waltham Butternut. It is listed as an "exceptional keeper..nutty flavor.. and high yielding" plus it was an AAS winter in 1970. AAS is All American Selection winner.

Excellent now I am prepared for when find some garden space.


Recipe Index



Panamainian Dishes

Vegetable Sides
Meat Main Dishes
Vegetarian Main Dishes 

Orange Veggies and Ginger Soup - Recipe Revisited

This is round two for carrot and ginger soup. The first time I followed the recipe exactly and the soup was overwhelmed by the earthy, bitter flavor of the carrots.  I had to add more ginger and onions to cover up the flavor.  This time round I switched out the carrots for a combination of sweet potatoes, winter squash with just a few carrots.  The results are amazingly better, the texture is smooth and velvety and the sweetness of the winter squash is carried by the savory broth and coconut milk.  That one little change and I have a whole different soup, but it is still very healthy, vegetarian, and gluten free.

I used a whole Kombucha squash (1.5 pounds), 3 sweet potatoes and 4 medium carrots in place of the 3 pounds of carrots.  Here are all the orange veggies simmering in 5 cups of chicken stock after I mixed in the can of unsweetened coconut milk and the sautéed onion, ginger and garlic.  The kitchen smelled amazing like sweet potato pie and chicken pot pie.
After about a half hour when the veggies were falling apart, I used my new immersion blender to puree everything together. It was so nice not to have to puree in batches in the food processer. It literally took 30 seconds to blend and 30 seconds to clean. I almost wish it had taken longer so I could have kept playing with my new toy. (Thanks Mary!)
I also decided not to mix the cilantro, lime, hot pepper mixture into the soup at the end. Instead I served it as a dollop on top of the soup and we mixed it into the soup right before eating. This allowed the two flavors to stand on their own. The soup is delicious and savory without the cilantro mixture, but the cilantro and lime adds a touch of sour and give more depth.  I had a hard time not "sampling" the entire bowl full when I was taking pictures. 

I think I'm done tweaking this recipe. It's a keeper. This is a healthy (low fat, high fiber, low calorie) soup that takes less than 45 minutes to put together.  It's good enough for company, but easy enough to make for a week night dinner.  Now if I can just find about 30 more recipes like this one.

Orange Veggie and Ginger Soup with Cilantro Lime Sour Cream
3 medium sweet potatoes
4 medium carrots
1 medium winter squash, butternut or kombucha
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (14 oz)
1 onion, chopped
10 cloves garlic, pealed
4 oz fresh gingers, pealed
2 bay leaves
2 limes
2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Step 1: Start by cleaning and pealing your carrots, sweet potatos and squash and chopping them into sections less than four inches long. They just need to fit in the pot, don't worry about how big they are, you will puree them after they are cooked.

Step 2:  In a large pot over medium heat add the carrots, squash,  sweet potatoes, broth, coconut milk and bay leaves. Cover and allow it to come to a boil. Mean while, sauté the onion with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. In a food processor or blender puree the garlic and ginger together with a tablespoon of water. When the onions are translucent add the pureed garlic and ginger to the onions. Sauté for an additional minute then add the onion mixture to the pot of carrots. When the soup pot starts to boil reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer covered for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir occasionally.

Step 3:  While the soup is simmering make the Lime Cilantro Sour Cream.  To a small sauce pan add the cilantro, and pepper flakes. Squeeze the juice from the two limes on top. Then sauté the cilantro mixture for a couple minutes until the cilantro wilts. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.  Then to the food processor add the cilantro mixture plus the sour cream.  Puree into a smooth sauce.  Pour into a small serving bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the soup.

Step 4:  When the veggies are soft you are ready to puree the soup. First remove the bay leaves. Then use an immersion blender to puree the mixture. If you don't have an immersion blender, puree the soup in batches through a blender or food processer.

Step 5:  To serve the soup pour into bowls and top with a dollop of the sour cream mixture.