12.11.2011

Five Ideas to Spice Up a Vegetarian Menu

I've been a rather negligent blogger of late.  I could blame it on being tired during my first trimester, but really I think I have written up all of our everyday recipes.  (With the exception of vegetarian lasagna, which I always seem to be in a hurry when I making. Then there isn't good light for photos. Then it turns out a little runny and I don't blog about it. Someday, I'll write it up for you. It's a recipe worth sharing.)

Also I have been on a baking kick and cookies and cheesecake really don't fit the whole "healthy, responsible" eating message. 

Here on my blog I get to be the Foy who makes thought out, smart food choices that turn into beautiful meals.  What you are witnessing when you read one of my blog posts is the fruition of a promise to myself.  I will actively seek out delicious nutritious food that is socially and environmentally responsible.  Recently our weekly menus have been relying on recipes I've already blogged about and the same five dinners just repeat themselves.  When I hit a rut, that's when the posting slows down. 

It's time for me to start searching again.  I will work on finding more healthy happy recipes to share with you all. 

Here's some thoughts that have been on the back burner.  I'll have to add them to recipe rotation.
Ladopsomo
Greek Nachos, when we were in Peace Corps we would go into Panama City once every three weeks or so and we often ate at a place called Athens that had Ladopsomo.  I've never seen it anywhere else, but it was delicious.  Basically pita bread with tatziki sauce (garlic dill yogurt) over a ton of diced cucumber, tomato, onions and olives.  I think a reincarnation of this could definitely be made at home.
Old Country Pie
This is a recipe Jeff found in the Moosewood Cookbook that we eat every so often.  It's wholesome and filling and uses lots of winter vegetables packed into a pie crust and held together with cottage cheese and yogurt.  I took a picture of it once before it went in the oven, but then forgot to get any photos of it baked. 
Vegetaran Pad Thai I love wide rice noodles and I have found a source.  Nothing should be holding me back from figuring out a meatless version of this quick dinner. 

Grilled Veggie Sandwich
I even have the pictures for this one, I just never got around to writing it up! Although the fresh tomato and basil give it away as a summer recipe.  Perhaps I'll have to make the winter version. 

Vegetarian Lasagna
It's about time this favorite of ours got a moment in the sun. Even though lasagna does take some time to assemble and then a whole hour to bake, we get a dinner and several lunches out of it, earning it a place on our menu about every two weeks. 
Any sage advice from anyone out there.  What do you do when you hit a rut in your kitchen?

11.22.2011

Bread Stuffing with Sausage, Pecans and Dried Apricots - Recipe


Since it is Thanksgiving week it's a good time to share one of my favorite turkey sides, stuffing.  I've been told it is stuffing when it is stuffed into a bird and dressing when it is baked separately.  I personally like both.  The stuffing has more turkey flavor and is evenly moist, but I also love the crunchy top of the dressing. You can do either or both.  I vote for both.

Since I am pregnant, although still in the first trimester for two more weeks, I am not going to worry about how much I'm eating.  Plus since I can't drink I won't be getting any calories from wine, beer or cocktails.  I'm a little sad about that. Not the lack of calories, rather sitting around while sipping on something late into the night around the dinner table is part of family tradition.  I am trying to look on the bright side by thinking "well now I can eat those calories instead." Writing that statement seems funny.  I am not going to think about it too hard. 



My families traditional stuffing recipe is a simple sage with onions and celery affair.  It's absolutely delicious, but it is definitely a side dish and is only enhanced by gravy and cranberry sauce.  This Sausage, Pecan and Dried Apricots stuffing can be a meal unto it self.  Gravy would just cover up the subtle sweet apricots and earthy pecan flavor.  This is the stuffing you want if you aren't doing a million recipes and you want a stand out. 

This stuffing recipe comes from my favorite cookbook: Cooks Illustrated New Best Recipe and in the notes it mentions that, "The stuffing can be cooked inside the holiday bird if you prefer; just reduce stock to 1 cup. Stuff a 12 to 15-pound turkey with 6 cups of stuffing. Then add an additional 1/2 cup of chicken stock to the remaining stuffing and bake it separately in an 8-inch pan."

For the base of stuffing, I like a combination of wheat and white for bread crumbs.  Start by making stale bread crumbs. Then, you can do this either the fast more effort way or the lazy long way.  
Lazy long way: First cut the bread into 1/2-inch slices, and lay them in a single layer on baking sheets or cooling racks, b and leaving them out overnight. The next day, cut the slices into 1/2-inch cubes and allow them to dry for another night.

Fast but more effort way: If you are in a hurry, rush the process by drying the slices in a 225-degree oven until brittle but not brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Then cut them into cubes and proceed.
Bread Stuffing with Sausage, Pecans and Dried Apricots

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, removed from the casings and crumbled
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (you will also use the sausage grease, so you made need less depending)
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium ribs celery, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried sage or (1 1/2 teaspoon of the fresh herb)
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or (1 1/2 teaspoon of the fresh herb)
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram or (1 1/2 teaspoon of the fresh herb)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped fine
2 cups pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup dried apricots, cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon salt
12 cups dried bread crumbs (from about 24-36 slices of bread)
1 cup homemade turkey or chicken stock
3 large eggs, slightly beaten 

  1. Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Transfer the sausage to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Pour the grease off that remains and measure it.  (Don't scrape the pan you want the fat to be clear.  Then measure the grease and add enough butter to bring it up to six tablespoons.  That sausage fat will add great flavor.  Waste not, want not!  That's the Thanksgiving way.  I doubt the Pilgrims or the Indians ever threw meat fat away. 
     
  2. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until soft and translucent, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the herbs and pepper, and cook for another minute. Transfer to the bowl with the sausage; add the parsley, pecans, apricots and salt, and mix to combine. Add the bread cubes to the bowl. 
     
  3. Whisk the stock and the eggs together in a small bowl. Pour the mixture over the bread cubes. Gently toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. Stuff the bird or bake the dressing, covered with foil, at 400° F until hot throughout, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the foil; continue to bake until a golden brown crust forms on the stuffing, about 15 minutes longer. 
This is such a good recipe you don't have to save it for just Thanksgiving.  Anytime you are craving a fall comfort food make this dish. 

What's in your favorite holiday stuffing?

11.20.2011

Big News



Wait? Does that make me a mommy blogger?

There's so much to blog about. I'm concerned about my diet. I think most pregnant women want to do anything in their control to give their baby a healthy beginning. I know so very little. None of my close girlfriends have had a baby. I've never been very interested in babies or the gestation of them. I prefer growing plants to growing people.

We did a good job getting pregnant when we wanted.  First try!  Whoohoo! Doubt that will happen again.  I'm due a couple weeks after finals. Jeff will have time to get his grading done and then he'll have the whole summer to hang out with baby and me.  The life of a professor is a pretty good deal. 

I've got a lot of learning to do. On this blog for the next seven months, in addition to recipes, I'm going to write about what I learn and how I apply it to what I am eating, how I am exercising and dealing with baby stuff.

Jeff and I intend to stay true to our tasty, healthy, responsible eating roots as well as be mindful of how this little bump will change our lives. We plan to keep baby possessions to a minimum and buy as few new things as possible.

Want to see how this goes? So do I. Come along for the ride as I explore Garden. Cook. Write. Repeat. ^Pregnant. Don't worry this will still be a mostly recipe blog just with another flavor mixed in.

11.03.2011

Daily Bread - My Simple Bread Recipe


I make a simple wheat bread a couple times a week.  This is a versatile recipe and becomes the base for sandwiches, an accompaniment to soups and a side for curries.  Or I just put some butter on it to hold me over until dinner!  Depending on what I want I make round rustic loaves, traditional pan loaves, hamburger buns, bread bowls or dinner rolls. 

I didn't really get into bread making until we did Peace Corps and lived in the middle of nowhere without electricity or a grocery store.  One of our splurges was an oven that ran off a propane tank. 

I had a simple soft pretzel recipe that I learned in eighth grade home-economics that became the basis for my bread.  Lots of trial and error and four years later, making bread is a natural part of making dinner.  I wish I hadn't been so isolated when I was starting out.  A post like this would have really sped up my learning curve!

I've been tweeting with @ChrisKamprath trying to help him trouble shoot his bread making.  This post was inspired by him.  It takes way more than 140 characters to explain bread.  Although I think the best way would be to teach someone in person.  Here's my attempt to blog about it!

I should warn you all that this bread does not keep particularly well, once cut it gets dry over night. But it is perfect fresh out of the oven. The two of us, I have a very hungry husband, we can usually eat most of a loaf by ourselves.  I use any left over bread for eggy-in-a-basket, peanut butter toast or to make bread crumbs in the next day or two. 

This bread recipe is easy. The last time I bought bread it was because I had stitches in my hand and couldn't do the kneading for a couple weeks.  It does take some time to do two rises, but if you plan it right, it is perfectly practical for daily dinners even if you hold a full time job.  Plus it is cheaper and healthier than anything you can buy at the grocery store.  Here's how you do it. 

Simple Daily Bread Recipe
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus or minus a bit)

  1. Start by proofing the yeast.  Proofing means to make sure the yeast is growing before you start making the bread.  First warm a cup of water.  You want the water as warm as you can stand to touch it.  Yeast loves water about 115 degrees F.  If it is too hot the yeast will die and if it is too cold the yeast won't bloom quickly. 


    Pour the warmed water into a large bowl and mix in the sugar.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top.  The sugar is the food the yeast will consume to start growing.  Cover the bowl with a towel and let it set a couple minutes.  The yeast will bloom becoming fuzz over the water that's how you know it is alive and growing.
     

  2. I usually wait until the fuzz covers the water before adding the salt and oil.  Depending on the day I use olive or canola oil or if I have any chicken or bacon fat on hand I use that.  You could also use butter, really any fat will do as long as it is in a liquid form.


    Next, mix in the wheat flour with a wooden spoon.  I find wooden spoons are excellent for mixing dough.


    Then cover the bowl again with a towel and let it sit another five minutes.  This allows the wheat flour a chance to hydrate before adding in the white flour.  If you skip this step it is easy to wind up with a dry, dense loaf.
     
  3. Next add in the all purpose flour slowly mixing it in until you can't mix with a wooden spoon anymore. 


    Then, use clean, dry hands to kneed.  Start by kneading in the bowl to incorporate all the loose flour. 


    If the dough is sticking to your hands, add a little more flour.  Then turn the dough out on to the table and kneed for five minutes.  (I've got some tips at the end of this post for how to know when you've reached the right consistency and troubleshooting if you have dry, dense, flat or other issues.)


  4. Lightly cover the dough with oil and let rest in a bowl covered with a towel.  Put the dough in a warm place and let rise until double.  I don't usually keep very close track to how much time this takes.  This time I used a stop watch and I let it rise 40 minutes. 


     
  5. Then punch down the dough and shape into your final form.  I often just make a ball for a round loaf.  Today I wanted bread bowls for chowder so I cut the dough into quarters and shaped it into rounds.


    The most important thing to remember when shaping is to get all the air out so you don't have any air pockets in your bread.  When I bake bread on cookie sheets I put down corn meal underneath to keep it from sticking to the sheet.  For a loaf I roll it out with a rolling pin into a rectangle, roll it up into a log and then tuck the ends under.  Then I put it into a well greased loaf pan.
     
  6. Let the dough rise again until double. I let it rise for 50 minutes which was actually longer than my first rise, but I was working on making the chowder and time got away from me.  Bread making is not an exact science if you go over or under with raising time, it's usually not a big deal.
     
     
  7. Bake the bread in a 350 degree oven.  For my four bread bowls it took 28 minutes to get a nice even golden brown all the way around.  The larger your loaf the longer it will need to bake.  I can usually tell when my bread is done by smell.


  8. Remove your loaf from the pan or sheet and put it on a cooling rack.  This will keep condensation from forming and making the crust soggy.  Allow the bread to cool at least 5 minutes before cutting into it.  Then enjoy your daily bread however you choose. 



    Today's daily bread was bread bowls for corn chowder.  I froze whole kernel and creamed corn this summer just so I could make this soup when sweet corn isn't in season.  It is divine in a bread bowl! Simply cut a circle out of the top of your bread and then use your fingers to pull out the soft insides being careful not to puncture the walls of your bowl. 
How to adapt bread making to a 9-5 schedule:

Make the dough in the morning and put it in the fridge to rise.  It will rise slower when it is cool. By the time you come home from work you can take it out of the fridge and do the second rise.  Putting the dough it a warm place will help the yeast get moving and raise the bread for a second time.  Bake as normal. 

Why the ratio of wheat to white flour?  I know 100% whole wheat is healthier, but in order to get a 100% whole wheat bread I have to add almost a half cup of oil.  Otherwise the bread is super dense and dry.  Through experimenting, I've found the most wheat flour I can add without increasing the oil is one cup of whole wheat.  I make sure to add it in the beginning and allowed it to hydrate before mixing in the rest of the needed white flour.  I've also found seven grain cereal to be excellent in bread instead of the wheat flour.  I usually make the seven grain cereal first so it is completely hydrated. One cup cooked cereal works well.   You can even use the leftovers from breakfast.  If you don't have wheat or don't want a wheat loaf just use all white flour. 

Crispy crust: If I'm feeling naughty I add extra oil to the loaf pan so the bread is sitting in a couple millimeters of oil.  As the bread cooks the bottom gets a crispy almost fry-bread like brown.

Why use corn meal under loaves when baking?  Cornmeal can handle higher heat than wheat flour.  I learned this trick from making pizza dough.  Think about your favorite pizza I bet it has cornmeal underneath!  Pizza is often baked at very high temperatures, think at least 500 degrees F.  Cornmeal can take it, wheat flour would burn. 

How to make this recipe into pizza dough: Simply up the oil to 1/4 cup.  After the first rise shape into crust and then only rise 15 minutes for the second rise.  Prebake in a 375 degree oven until just starting to brown.  Then pull out the crust put on the sauce, toppings and cheese and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  The extra oil makes for a crispier crust.  Make sure to put cornmeal underneath your crust!

Why cover with a towel?  The towel allows the yeast to breath but keeps the humidity high so the dough doesn't dry out.  Some folks use plastic wrap, but I like a towel better because it is reusable. 

Options for warm places to raise dough: I like to use a sunny spot if it is to be found otherwise I'll put it in the oven with it set to "warm".  I've been told the ideal temperature for yeast growth is 82 degrees.  In Panama I would put the dough in the cold oven with a lit candle.  The warmth from the candle was enough to get a good rise.   Just make sure to keep the towel and the candle well apart.  My mom would put the bread to rise on the hot air vents in the winter.  I've also had friends tell me they put it next to the fireplace; just remember to rotate the bowl so the yeast grows evenly.  If you really want to know your bread, keep it in your lap; body heat works too. 

How to know if you have added enough flour to your dough?  There is no exact amount, it is a range.  Slightly sticky, lighter dough will rise faster, have a courser texture and tend to be taller.  If the dough is no longer sticky and hard to knead it probably has too much flour.  Add a tablespoon of oil and knead it in.  It will take a bit of work, but it should save your dough.  I tend to err on the side of sticky if I want good bread for soaking up soups or curries.  If I want sandwich bread that will hold up to juicy tomatoes and be denser I add more flour.

I hope this encourages you all to make more bread!  Good luck and happy baking! 

** I love that I am getting your tips and hard won bread knowledge in the comments!  Please share your special tricks for making bread. 

Nutritional information:

11.01.2011

Extravagant Grilled Cheese - Simple Recipe


The onion bread is baking right now its aroma is making my stomach growl.  Bread baking can only be improved by the smell of roasting onion.  However, I'm going to try by adding extra sharp aged cheddar, some thin slices of the last of the season's tomatoes and grilling the whole thing.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it. 

The onion bread recipe is Rosemary Onion Bread, minus the rosemary, as their isn't any fresh rosemary and dried rosemary just isn't the same.  I also substituted a cup of whole wheat flour for some of the unbleached. 


Cut off some fairly thin slices of bread.  Thin is good because it allows the heat to get to the cheese.  Assemble your sandwich: bread, cheese, tomato, bread.  Butter the bottom of the bottom piece of bread. 


On a grilled cheese sandwich it is important to cover it with a thin even coat of butter so it browns up and has that nice crunch!  I usually butter the top side while it is in the skillet.  Then when the cheese is starting to melt and the bottom is a lovely golden brown, flip! Toast up the other side and then eat while the cheese is still gooey and the bread is still crispy.  A nice glass of ice cold milk is also recommended. 

In hind site, I might have grilled the tomatoes separately first because they kept popping out side as I ate.  Luckily I have plenty of ingredients to try again.  Perhaps next time I'll make some tomato soup too!

10.18.2011

Lemon Bars - From Scratch Recipe


When life gives you lemons, make lemon bars! My original plan was to make these for a get together over the weekend with new students. However, Jeff convinced me students would prefer chocolate chip cookies and we should have the whole pan of lemon bars to ourselves. I didn't take much convincing.
 
Never having made the lemon curd filling before and I was a little nervous because it calls for the use of a candy thermometer. Although I have one I'd never used it. It's actually Jeff's grandma's I believe. And I think it has Mercury in it. I mentally created a "just in case it breaks" plan in my head and then started cooking. In hind site, I should probably just get rid of the old mercury thermometer and get a digital one. If you're not convinced read this Cleaning Up Houshold Spills of Elemental Mercury.

If you don't use an ancient candy thermometer this is a pretty easy recipe. A little extra work will ensure curd that sets and tender crust. Many lemon bar recipes call for baking the lemon curd on the crust in the oven, which resulted in under cooked lemon and rubbery crust. Cook's Illustrated found the crust didn't get soggy if the crust was pre-baked and the curd was cooked on the stove. Then the curd goes into the crust and a final baking in the oven brings it all together!


Lemon Bars

Crust
1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into 1-inch pieces
Lemon Curd Filling
7 large egg yolks, plus 2 large eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice (from 4-5 medium lemons), plus 1/4 cup finely grated zest
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
3 tablespoons heavy cream
  1. Fold two 16-inch pieces of parchment paper lengthwise to measure 9 inches wide. Fit 1 sheet in the bottom of the greased pan, pushing it into the corners and up the sides of the pan (overhang will help in removal of baked bars). Fit the second sheet in the pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet. Butter the parchments to ensure a no stick situation. 

  2. Place the flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt in a food processor and process briefly. Add the butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then process until the mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second pulses. Sprinkle the mixture into the prepared pan and press firmly with your fingers into an even layer over the entire pan bottom. Put the crust in the refrigerate for 30 minutes.
     
  3. Prebake the crust: Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350°F. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yolks and whole eggs until combined, about 5 seconds. Add the granulated sugar and whisk until just combined, about 5 seconds. Add the lemon juice, zest, and salt; whisk until combined, about 5 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a medium saucepan, add the butter pieces, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the curd thickens to a thin sauce-like consistency and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer or candy thermometer, about 5 minutes. Immediately pour the curd through a single-mesh stainless steel strainer set over bowl. Stir in the heavy cream; pour the curd into the warm crust immediately.


      
  5. Bake until the filling is shiny and opaque and the center 3 inches jiggle slightly when shaken, 10 to 15 minutes (Mine actually took longer more like 30 minutes).
     
  6. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about for at least 45 minutes. Cut into at least 16 pieces because these bars are rich!

10.17.2011

Butternut Beet Soup - Fall Recipe


A cold rainy day is a perfect day for soup made with butternut squash, carrot and sweet potato.  The starchy vegetables become a velvety puree and the coconut milk adds a rich depth. 

This time I didn't have sweet potatoes, but I did have beets. The sweet earthy flavor of the beets didn't change the flavor much but the color is redder. 

What color would say that is?  Persimmon?  I downloaded the Sherwin Williams paint sample color matching ap and it suggests Gladiola, Coral bells, Ardent coral or Heart throb.  While I don't want butternut beet soup as a wall hue, I enjoyed it as a vibrant colored soup. 


Add a dollop of yogurt, lime, cilantro, sriracha sauce to balance the sweet rustic flavors of the soup and you've got a meal.  (A slice of fresh baked wheat bread is an excellent side.  Never turn down fresh bread.)

Butternut Beet Soup

3 medium beets
4 medium carrots
1 medium butternut squash
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (14 oz)
2 onions, chopped
10 cloves garlic, peeled
4 oz fresh gingers, peeled
2 bay leaves

2 limes
2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon sriracha (Thailand chili vinegar hot sauce)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I use Greek) 

  1. Start by cleaning and pealing your carrots, beets 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.
     
  2. In a large pot over medium heat add the carrots, squash, beets, broth, coconut milk and bay leaves. Cover and allow it to come to a boil.
     
  3. Mean while, sauté the onion with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Mince the garlic and ginger. When the onions are translucent add the garlic and ginger. Sauté for an additional minute then add the onion mixture to the pot of stewing vegetables. 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.
     
  4. While the soup is simmering make the lime cilantro yogurt sauce. In your food processor add the juice from the two limes, yogurt, cilantro and sriracha. Puree until smooth. Pour into a small serving bowl and refrigerate until you are ready to serve the soup.
     
  5. 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 processor. 

  6. To serve the soup pour into bowls and top with a dollop of the yogurt sauce. You can even make a design if you want.  I made a smilely face in my first bowl and then figured why not something more discriptive like a beet?  No special tools needed.  I used a spoon and a chopstick. 

10.12.2011

Roasted Vegetables with Polenta - Fall Recipe



Fall is the perfect time of year to enjoy seasonable roasted vegetables with creamy polenta.  Polenta is just the Italian word for grits, or perhaps the even less glamorous sounding corn mush.

I’m not sure why I came to polenta so late in life. Perhaps because I have a predominately German heritage and not Italian or even Southern. Or perhaps it was my less than stellar experiences with “tube polenta” or the grits we were served with maple syrup for breakfast in Savannah, GA. I guess I should be grateful I gave polenta a chance at all.

Soft polenta is the perfect accompaniment to roasted veggies. I've got a great assortment of vegetables from the farm. 

There's leeks, banana peppers, Brussels sprouts, onions, potatos, beets, carrots and something I've never tried roasting before radishes.  We had a ton of radishes that were getting overgrown.  I'd never thought to do anything but eat them raw, so I looked on tastespotting.com for ideas for radishes and saw that folks were roasting them.  They are actually quite delicious.  They are sweeter and the peppery bite isn't as pronounced.  It's a nice way to use the radishes.  It's good to try new things. 


I believe our first attempts at polenta included a recipe that ended with a can of black beans and salsa on top. It was one of those “30 minute meals” that yes was quick, but wasn’t very satisfying. 

In our kitchen, who gets the credit for discovering polenta remains up for debate. I pretty sure it came out of a Weight Watchers recipe I tried and Jeff thinks he found it while researching quick dinners.  However, we both agree it should be in regular rotation on our fall and winter menu.

It took some trial and error to figure out the best way to make polenta. Here’s some tips we picked up along the way:
  1. Start by boiling your broth then when you add the cornmeal, reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting on your stove. This keeps the polenta from bubbling and splattering hot cornmeal goo all over you and your stove top.
     
  2. Stir the mixture vigorously at least every 5 minutes and make sure to scrape the edges and bottom of the pan. Your polenta won’t be lumpy or burn to the bottom of the pan.
     

  3. Don’t use pre-grated cheese. To keep the cheese from sticking to itself at the end of processing it gets dusted with some sort of powder that also makes it melt unevenly. Get a block of cheddar and do the 30 seconds of grating to get nice and creamy polenta.
     
  4. We like a combination of coarse and fine ground cornmeal; not too pasty, not overly textured.  About 1/3 coarse Bob Red Mills to 2/3 corn maza is our favorite ratio.

Roasted Vegetables and Polenta

Once the vegetables are in the oven roasting begin making the polenta. 
Polenta

4 cups of stock (divided into 3 cups, 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups fine ground corn meal (maza)
1/3 cup coarse ground corn meal (dry polenta)
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar 
  1. In a large sauce pan bring 3 cups of stock to a boil. In a medium bowl combine the two corn meals with 1 cup room temperature broth. Use a fork or whisk to combine to stir the mixture until the corn meal is no longer lumpy.
     
  2. Reduce the broth to low. Slowly pour the cornmeal mixture into the hot broth stirring as you go. Cook and stir over low heat for 10-20 minutes, stirring vigorously every 5 minutes. How long you cook will depend on your coarsest corn meal.
     
  3. Taste your polenta, when it is creamy and no hard bits remain, stir in cheese. Check the consistency. The polenta should slowly fall from the spoon. If it is too think add a little water until the desired consistency is achieved. The polenta will thicken-up as it cools.
     
  4. Let the polenta set 5 minutes and then serve.
     
Roasted Vegetables

3 medium potatoes
2 full size carrots
1 bell pepper or a handful of sweet banana peppers
3 beets
7 small leaks
1 small yellow onion
1/2 pound of Brussels sprouts
7 large radishes
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Italian spices: 1 teaspoon each of parsley, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, oregano, tarragon
  1. Clean and cut your veggies into roasting chunks. Divide them into two groups. The veggies that roast quickly like onions, leaks, Brussels sprouts, and peppers; and the group that will need more time like potatoes, beets, radishes, and carrots.
     

  2. In a large bowl combine the ingredients that take a short amount of time to roast and add half the olive oil and spices. Give it a couple quick stirs to combine. Then arrange the veggies in a single level on a foil lined baking sheet. Repeat with the veggies that need a longer cook time.  I should note, I don't toss the onion or the leeks because they fall apart and become too small and then they dry out and burn rather than roast.  Instead I just put them on the roasting sheet with no oil or spices. 
     
  3. Set your oven to broil and put your veggies in the oven. After 5 minutes switch your veggies from top to bottom. Broil for another 5 minutes. Check your veggies that don’t need much time to cook. They should be a nice roasted golden brown (if they aren't go for another round of broiling).  Once nicely browned pull them from the oven. Reduce your temperature to 350 and bake the veggies that need a longer time to cook an additional 20-25 minutes or until a knife easily cuts into the carrot.
     
  4. Turn the oven off and put both sheets of veggies back in the oven to keep them warm until the polenta is done and has cooled for 5 minutes.

10.10.2011

Creamy Arugula Pesto - Vegetarian Recipe

A mere handful of arugula and parsley.
There are a couple things you need to know. First, there is a row of arugula about 80 feet long that hasn't been harvested at my local CSA. Second, I only made 15 of the desired 24 batches of pesto I wanted to freeze for the winter before I ran out of basil.

Since I've been looking at the pesto recipe in my New Best Recipe Cookbook by Cook's Illustrated for the last couple weeks I've had time to notice that there are several variations on the Classic Basil Pesto. One of those variations is Creamy Arugula Pesto. I decided to give it a go.

The arugula and parsley base with the cheese ready to be mixed in.
Basically it is the same recipe as regular basil pesto except switch out the basil for one cup arugula and one cup parsley then add in a 1/3 cup of ricotta to get the creaminess. I whipped up a batch for dinner tonight. It came out this lovely light pea green color; much lighter than basil pesto.
I added some sauteed onion and slightly re-hydrated sun dried tomatoes because I figured the bitter, peppery arugula could use some sweet relief. Couldn't we all use some sweet relief?


As we sat down to dinner I explained to Jeff that we were eating a variation on pesto, but with arugula. During his first bite he looked confused. Then he decided it needed more salt. Then he told me it tasted, "like rubber in the back of my throat". His verdict, it was too bitter. That didn't stop him from eating a huge heaping plate full - wouldn't want to waste food.

I didn't mind arugula pesto. I thought it was good; definitely bitter, but in a nice-change-of-pace way. I'd make it again for myself.

Jeff is not a picky eater.  If he doesn't like arugula pesto that's saying something.  I guess I won't make nine batches of it just so I can get up to the 24 I wanted to freeze.

Twenty-four was a specially calculated number of batches. It's how many batches it would take for us to eat pesto once a week until basil is ready to pick in the garden again next summer. I guess we will have to settle for pesto every ten days or so instead.

I also wonder if this arugula isn't particularly bitter. It was planted when it was hot out and it's huge. The hotter, dryer and older a green the more bitter it generally becomes. I'd bet baby arugula greens would be less potent. Perhaps something to try next year.

If you like a little bitter in your life, give this recipe a go.

Creamy Arugula Pesto 
1/4 cup pine nuts (you could also use walnuts, pecans or almonds)
3 medium garlic cloves
1 cup packed fresh arugula leaves
1 cup fresh parsley leaves
7 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup ricotta cheese

1 tablespoon salt
1 pound of pasta
  1. Toast the nuts in a small heavy skillet. Don't add oil, just do it dry. Pine nuts in particular will go from toast to burnt very quickly so use low heat and mix them around frequently until they are golden brown and fragrant. It shouldn't take more than 4-5 minutes. Set the nuts aside to cool.
     
  2. Using the same skillet brown the garlic with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
     
  3. Pick the parsley leaves off the stems and take the rib out of the arugula. All you want are nice tender dark green bits.
     
  4. Next bruise the arugula and parsley to bring out their flavor. Place the arugula and parsley in a large zip-lock bag and seal it most of the way. You want to leave a little opening for air to escape. Now the fun part, use the flat side of a meat pounder or a rolling pin to bruise the basil. You will know when you are done when all the basil has turned a darker, wet looking green color.
     
  5. Combine the pine nuts, garlic, arugula, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt and the remaining 6 tablespoons of olive oil in the food processor. Process until smooth. You can also use a blender for this part. Or if you are really dedicated do it the old fashioned way with a mortar and pestle. Once everything is smooth transfer your basil mixture to a small bowl and stir in the ricotta and Parmesan cheese.
     
  6. Now at this point you can package and freeze your pesto if you like. Some folks like to freeze it in ice-cube trays so they can pop a cube out to throw in a soup or season up a sauce. I like to put mine in small freezer bags.

    You can also keep pesto in the fridge by covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Make sure to press the plastic wrap right down onto the top of the pesto so there is not air to oxidize and lose flavor. The recipe says it will keep this way for up to three days. If you want to eat that pesto right now, continue on to step seven.
     
  7. Bring four quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add the tablespoon of salt and the pasta to the boiling water. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Then reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. I used thin spaghetti because I like that it cooks in just 7 minutes but use whatever pasta you fancy. Rotini is particularly nice because it has lots of nooks and crannies to hold the sauce.
     
  8. Stir in 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water in with the pesto, then toss the pasta with the pesto. Add a little more of the pasta water if needed to get the pesto to distribute evenly. You can serve this hot or let it cool to room temperature.

9.18.2011

Photo Recipe Archive - Pinterest


I recently discovered Pinterest.com.  Pinterest is billed as:
A virtual pinboard. Pinterest allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. You can browse pinboards created by other people to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and share their favorite recipes.
When I read the bit about "favorite recipes" I had a fabulous idea.  I could use a Pinboard to create a visual archive of my recipes on this blog!  So I did.  Check it out: http://pinterest.com/foyupdate/foy-update-garden-cook-write-repeat/.  You can also choose to follow me or my board if you join the site.  Happy pinning!

9.16.2011

Blue Ribbon Corn Relish - Preserving The Harvest



Tangy and sweet this homemade corn relish is a go-to item in my pantry.  It has been incorporated into many meals over the last year.  My favorite use was to add a couple dollops to sour cream and enjoy it as salad dressing.  I've also put it on burgers and mixed it into chicken salad.  It was delicious with Thanksgiving turkey.

Not only does this corn relish bring a burst of texture and flavor, it adds gorgeous color.  The turmeric deepens the sweet corn to a lovely gold, add in the red flecks from the bell pepper, and you've got a beautiful spoonful.

I plucked this recipe out of the July 2010 Better Homes and Gardens.  I made it because I thought it was pretty and since I had green pickles and red tomato sauce I thought it would add another color to my cabinet.  I didn't really care if it tasted good. 

I have no idea what blue ribbon it won, but I can see why it won.  It is both pretty and tasty.  The only thing I changed was to reduce the amount of celery seeds from two teaspoons to just one because they were over powering.  I'm not a big celery fan.

I made this recipe last year, but I wasn't sure if I liked it so I didn't share it with you all.  Now I am sure.  This relish will liven up your meals as a topping or a mix-in. 

I have to make more while there is still sweet corn to be put up.  Here's the recipe, enjoy:


Blue Ribbon Corn Relish from Better Homes and Gardens

16-20 ears of fresh sweet corn (8 cups)
2 cups water
3 cups of celery (6 stalks)
1 1/2 cups chopped red sweet pepper
1 cup chopped onion (2 medium)
2 1/2 cups vinegar
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 teaspoons dry mustard
2 teaspoons pickling salt
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 tablespoons cornstarch

  1. Shuck the corn and make sure you get all the silk off the ears.  Cut the corn off the cobs, do not scrape the cobs.  Measure 8 cups of corn and put them in a sauce pan with 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered for 5 minutes or until the corn is almost tender.  Drain the water off. 
     
  2. In the same pot, combine the cooked corn, celery, peppers and onion.  Stir in vinegar, sugar, mustard, pickling salt, celery seeds and turmeric.  Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir together cornstarch with 2 tablespoons water; add to corn mixture.  Cook, stirring until slightly thickened and bubbly; cook and stir 2 minutes more.  The mixture will start to thicken. 
     
  3. Meanwhile, prepare jars by sterilizing them.  Ladle the hot relish into jars.  Leave a half inch head space.  Wipe the jar rims with a clean towel and top with lids and bands.  Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes. Start timing when the water returns to a boil.  Remove jars; cool on wire racks and then store in a cool, dark place.   Refrigerate after opening. 
How would you use this delicious corn relish?

9.15.2011

Classic Creamy Chicken Salad – Easy Recipe



Our cat is going crazy because the whole place smells like simmering chicken stock.

Confession: I used to buy frozen skinless boneless chicken breasts. They were dry and they had almost no taste, but the media had me convinced they were a healthy “lean protein” option. I can’t believe I missed out on all the flavor and goodness of the rest of the chicken.

Four quarts of chicken stock ready to freeze
Now, when we do eat chicken, I find a local source and I buy the whole bird.  (Try Local Harvest to find a farmer near you.) We eat the meat for dinner. Then I boil the carcass, pick the little bits of leftover chicken out for future soups or salad, strain the liquid and reduce it to make some of the most beautiful, rich stock you have ever seen. I even skim the fat off the top to use for bread making or sautéing veggies. Nothing goes to waste.

To make Classic Creamy Chicken Salad I start with this simple recipe and then I add things like apples and walnuts or some corn relish I made last summer to keep things interesting. The basic chicken salad recipe is creamy mayonnaise with acidic lemon juice, crunchy carrots and pungent onions. That’s all you need to get the right balance of flavors and textures.


Some fresh bread and a homemade garlic dill pickle doesn’t hurt either. Scale this recipe to however much chicken you have left.  If you are feeling a little adventurous mix in some of the bonus ingredients in the last step.  In the picture above I added 1/4 cup corn relish and a diced tart apple. 

Featured in Simple Lives Thursday

Classic Cream Chicken Salad

1 pound leftover chicken meat
2 medium carrots, diced very small
1 small onion, grated
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon lemon juice (you could also use dill pickle juice)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Shred the chicken meat by cutting it into one inch chunks and then using your hands to pull apart the meat into shreds.
     
  2. In a bowl combine the chicken meat with the carrots, onion, mayo, and lemon juice. Add salt and pepper to taste.
     
  3. Now get creative and throw in some pickle relish, chutney, walnuts, apple, herbs or even raisins and curry powder. I love fresh tarragon minced in with dried apricot. Taste as you go to create a unique dish every time.
How do you spice up your chicken salad?

9.11.2011

Crisp Garlic Dill Pickles - All Fresh Ingredients Recipe


I thought I had missed the pickling season entirely when Jeff got his job and we had to move at the end of August.  I was resigned to making due with leftover pickles.  Last year I made two kinds of pickles a hot water bath dill pickle from the Ball Blue Book of Canning and Preserving Recipes and a refrigerator garlic dill from the blog Food in Jars.  We ate all the refrigerator garlic dills because they were delicious and crisp.  We still have half a dozen jars of the soggy, too clove-y and sweet dills from the Ball Blue Book.  Even if we had no other pickles I'm not sure we would finish those jars.  But, I won't have to find out.  I got some pickling cucumbers! 

Several folks told me about Hawkins Family Farm which runs a co-op just outside of North Manchester.  Before we moved I contacted them and they seemed very open to the idea of me working for food.  I've driven out two mornings so far and this exchange is going swimmingly.  Last week I did a bunch of weeding in the beans and pea; harvested peas, beans, corn; and thinned radishes.  Their cucumbers are kind of at the end of the season, but I found enough to pick to make seven quarts of refrigerator garlic dill pickles. 

This recipe is based on Garlic Dill Pickles from Marisa's blog Food in Jars.  I did change the recipe up a bit.  The origonal recipe uses dried spices.  I had access to fresh, so everything but the black peppercorns are straight from the garden.  I also sliced the cucumbers into spears rather than fat coins.  I liked the coins just fine and they are much more forgiving because the length and width of the cucumbers doesn't matter.  However, Jeff likes spears.  Actually he likes the whole little pickles even better, but I couldn't fill seven pints with just whole baby cucumbers.  I did manage one jar of whole ones just for him, but the other six are spears.   also used quart jars rather than pints because they are more space efficient in the refrigerator. 


The pickles are excellent.  They have a nice salty cider vinegar brine with some spice from the jalapeno and black pepper as well as the richness offered by the fresh garlic and dill.  Plus they only took two hours to make start to finish. That includes all the time for me to scrub the cucumbers and take lots of pictures.  The only thing I'll change up next year is to double the jalapeno.  I'll go for a whole one rather than a half.  I like a little more spice. 

These pickles are crisp.  This is why refrigerator pickles are better than hot water bath pickles.  They don't get soggy from seven minutes at a boil.  Sure they take up some extra space in the fridge, but they are worth it.  They are the perfect accompaniment to sandwiches like the BLTs, Mushroom Burgers or hearty soups like Yellow Split Pea.  I even got the ultimate complement when Jeff said they taste like his grandma's pickles!

Refrigerator Garlic Dill Pickles

Makes approximately 4 quarts (or 8 pints - total yield varies depending on size of cucumbers)

4 overflowing quarts of pickling cucumbers, sliced into fat coins or spears or use whole little baby ones
4 cups apple cider vinegar
4 cups water
5 tablespoons pickling salt
16 garlic cloves, peeled (5 per quart jar)
4 jalapenos (1 per quart jar)
8 heads of dill that have just finished flowering but haven't set seed (2 per quart jar)
4 teaspoons black peppercorns (1 teaspoon per jar)

  1. Start by preparing your jars.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation recommends "sterilizing empty jars, by putting them right side up on the rack in a boiling-water canner. Fill the canner and jars with hot (not boiling) water to 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Boil 10 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft. At higher elevations, boil 1 additional minute for each additional 1,000 ft. elevation."
     
  2. Wash and slice the cucumbers into which ever shape you wish.  A quick tip when cutting spears, if the center of the cucumber has lots of seeds you can trim the seedy part out.  Here's how I did the spears:
     
  3.  
  4. Arrange jars on counter and dole out the spices (garlic, dill, black peppers and jalepeno) into each. Pack the cucumbers firmly into the jars. You don’t want to damage the cukes, but you do want them packed tight. (The first time I made pickles I failed to do this and wound up with not enough brine and fewer pickles than I would have liked.)
     
  5. Make the brine by combining the cider vinegar, water and salt in a large sauce pot. Bring to a simmer.  Immediately after the brine comes to a simmer pour into the pickles jars leaving 1/2 inch head space.  It is important to not let the brine simmer very long because the evaporation will change your ratios and make the liquid extra vinegary and salty. 
     
  6. Wipe the rims with a clean towel and apply lids and rings.  You could also use the zinc reusable freezer jar lids.  Let the jars cool to room temperature, label them and then put them in the fridge. 
     
  7. Wait until at least overnight before you try them.  The flavors will become stronger as the pickles sit.  These will keep for at least a year. 
Thanks Sarah for letting me taste your pickles and giving me the link to Food in Jars.  This recipe is a keeper!