Friday, December 28, 2007

Goat Cheese, Lentil and Potato Salad

We had this last week, maybe the week before. I was really excited about it because it was cold and icky outside, and I like to think that this was a decently healthy dinner. Sure, I crumbled a ton of goat cheese on top.... and then topped the goat cheese with a poached egg (not pictured because it didn't photograph well.) But other than cheese and egg, it was totally healthy! :)

Now, I try to keep a decent amount of herbs on hand... its easier in the summer, when I have them potted outside... but if you have parsley and mint, and also have a decently stocked pantry, you could make this for dinner in a pinch. Try it, you'll like it.

Goat Cheese, Lentil and Potato Salad
c/o Food & Wine magazine, October 2007

1 1/4 cups French green lentils (9 ounces), rinsed and drained
2 Yukon Gold potatoes (about 14 ounces), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces fresh goat cheese, crumbled (1 3/4 cup)

In a large saucepan, cover the lentils with cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, about 18 minutes. Drain the lentils well and transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water and bring to a boil. Cook over moderately high heat until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Drain very well and add to the lentils. Add the scallions, tomatoes, parsley, mint, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and toss. Spoon the lentil salad onto plates and top with the goat cheese. Serve at once.

Make ahead: The cooked lentils and potatoes can be refrigerated overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Wine: Though lentils are earthy, the tangy dressing and goat cheese are natural partners for Sémillon's lemony, zesty flavors. Stephanie Toole's lively 2006 Mount Horrocks Sémillon is a classic example.

See the recipe...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

That Hungry Blonde Girl

In early November, Janet posted about these yummy cups. I knew as I was reading them that we'd be eating them. This recipe has all you could ask for... ease of preparation, mexicany-ness, and single serving sizing.

I'd linked the blog to my husband, so he knew what he was getting into... and so he'd stop asking me what we were having for dinner. :)

I got home, whipped these together and I think we ended up gobbling them all up. (Or we at least finished them off at lunch the next day.)

I'll close with what Dave said after he had his first one, once he'd asked me where she got it, and I explained that I think she made it up on her own: "That Hungry Blonde Girl is smart!!!" So true, so true.

Find the recipe here!

See the recipe...

Meyer Lemon Curd: The Cure for Nightmares

I had a whole list of things I was assigned to do tonight. Dave went off to the hockey game and made me promise that I would sharpen knives and research steam cleaners and cameras, that I would do laundry and figure out what to do with the black truffles that Santa brought us yesterday.

Did I do any of those things? Maybe a couple. The truffles I took care of (and I even grocery shopped for the dinners these truffles have shaped.) But that's where it stops.

Let me tell you about the dream I had last night. In my dream, I was running. Not running FROM something, just running for fun. I remember it was on a college campus, and the buildings were old, the trees full and leafy. I remember the thrill of the run, how much I was enjoying myself. And then I took a wrong turn, a shortcut down a "dark alley." I made another turn down another alley... thought nothing of it. Until I saw the gang of unsavory men. Of course it was dark outside and I was alone. I turned around and tried to flee out the way I came. When I arrived to the first alley's entrance, I found the men had blocked my path. I was trapped.

To escape, I climbed a fence and over a wall. I found myself on a strange woman's roof. She'd seen what was happening and offered to hide me. She did.

She turned me into a cookie. And I was terrified.

I woke up at that point. Scared to pieces that I was trapped in a cookie. I relayed this dream to my husband hours later, and then wondered aloud if that's how the Gingerbread Man felt... and he just patted my knee and said, "O, honey."

Thank goodness the holidays are over! :)

My point with that silliness is that if you ever need to snap out of a weird dream, a bad day, traffic, whatever... I highly suggest this lemon curd! (Totally round-about way of getting here, eh?) My in-laws were kind enough to gift me with Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food for Christmas, and the first recipe I chose was a lemon curd. I can't explain why, because I don't know. I saw it and it called to me. I wish you could have been with me in the kitchen.... you could see the oils as I grated the lemons (and my hands are still scented with them) or the way the steam seductively rose off the pan as I stirred... As I listened to my (also new, but from my mom) Amelie soundtrack, I really felt... happy... safe... You know you've had those cooking moments.. when everything works and you're just so present to be almost in love with what you're doing? Ah.

Alice Waters suggests swapping out three Meyers for regular... and says that you only need 1/2 cup juice... my lemons were so big, I only needed two. This means I have two spare for something else... I'll keep them on my bedside table, in case I have any more bad dreams.

Lemon Curd
c/o The Art of Simple Food, by Alice Waters

Makes 2 cups

Wash and dry:
4 lemons

Grate the zest of one of the lemons on the small holes of a grater. Juice the lemons; there should be about ½ cup juice.

Beat until just mixed:
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter)

Stir in the lemon juice and zest and add:
6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces.

Cook the mixture in a small nonreactive heavy pan, stirring constantly, over medium heat until it is thick enough to coat a spoon. Do not boil or the eggs will curdle. When thick, pour into a bowl or glass jars to cool. Cover and refrigerate.

With their sweeter juice and perfumed peel, Meyer lemons make an especially good curd. Make the recipe with the juice of 1 regular lemon and 3 Meyer lemons and the grated zest of 2 Meyer lemons.
To make frosting, fold lightly sweetened whipped cream into lemon curd. I usually use equal parts whipped cream and curd.

See the recipe...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Merry Christmas!!!

To those of you that celebrate Christmas, and even to those that don't, may you have a joyous day!

Sleep in, eat well, take a nice nap and hug your family.

See the recipe...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Ho! Ho! Hoho?

Merry Almost Christmas!!! The lovely and amazing leaders of the Daring Baker clan chose for your pleasure the traditional and charming Yule Log. I got a little silly with my planning and decided to try to model my log after the much loved Hoho snack cake: marshmallow filling, chocolate cake, chocolate icing... in my mind, this log came out perfect and round and amazing... instead.....

I think the theme (for me) for this month's challenge is: Thank goodness for icing!!!

I wish you could have all been here with me as I whipped this cute little "log" together. The hubs and I have been sick for a week, so I put this off as long as possible. I didn't even go out to get the 10x15 inch pan until this afternoon... didn't get started until 4... but I had the cake baked and the buttercream done by 5... the marshmallow filling by 6... and let me tell you... each piece is delicious. You really can't go wrong with Dorie's marshmallow recipe, and seriously, butter and chocolate make EVERYTHING dreamy....

O wait, did I leave out the marzipan mushrooms? Erm... well... they were weird and smooshy and well... wouldn't stay looking like actual mushrooms for long... which is why there are only two with my Hoho yule log.

Anyway.... everything was grand until I tried to actually roll my genoise up... my guess is that my addition of cocoa powder and hazelnuts dried out my cake a little too much, because the cake cracked on each roll... which is why it's more plank-shaped. Oops!

No worries! I just covered the whole thing with the tasty icing! Yay! Now, I know the recipe called for coffee-flavored buttercream... but neither my husband nor my mom care for coffee (and they outnumber me)... and I have a smell-aversion to it now (from the last time I got sick), so I went chocolate instead. To the buttercream, I added about 1/3 cup of melted and cooled bittersweet chocolate.

Once the yule hoho was covered in buttercream, I ran a knife around on it to make the "bark" of the log. Yah, its sloppy, but I think it's cute.

Overall, this was a real learning experience for me. I'd never made buttercream before (totally easy) and I'd never made a genoise before, much less rolled it up. I'm more than happy to try again with another, but I'll make sure to stick to the directions!!

I'll check in again before/on Christmas, but in case you don't, I hope you all have a safe, happy, and relaxing holiday!!

Click here to see what the other Daring Bakers came up with!

The Yule Log Recipe

Plain Genoise:

3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
pinch of salt
¾ cup of sugar
½ cup cake flour - spoon flour into dry-measure cup and level off (also known as cake & pastry flour)
¼ cup cornstarch

one (1) 10 x 15 inch jelly-roll pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

1.Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

2.Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.

3.Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger - it should be warm to the touch).

4.Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.

5.While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.

6.Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.

7.Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

8.Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.

9.While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.

10.Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

Coffee Buttercream:

4 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
24 tablespoons (3 sticks or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons rum or brandy

1.Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.

2.Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth. Dissolve the instant coffee in the liquor and beat into the buttercream.

Meringue Mushrooms:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup (3-1/2 ounces/105 g.) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (1-1/3 ounces/40 g.) icing sugar
Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

1.Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.

2.Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each ½ inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, ¾ inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and ¾ inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced ½ inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.

3.Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.

Marzipan Mushrooms:

8 ounces almond paste
2 cups icing sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons light corn syrup
Cocoa powder

1.To make the marzipan combine the almond paste and 1 cup of the icing sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat with the paddle attachment on low speed until sugar is almost absorbed.

2.Add the remaining 1 cup of sugar and mix until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

3.Add half the corn syrup, then continue mixing until a bit of the marzipan holds together when squeezed, adding additional corn syrup a little at a time, as necessary: the marzipan in the bowl will still appear crumbly.

4.Transfer the marzipan to a work surface and knead until smooth.

5.Roll one-third of the marzipan into a 6 inches long cylinder and cut into 1-inch lengths.

6.Roll half the lengths into balls. Press the remaining cylindrical lengths (stems) into the balls (caps) to make mushrooms.

7.Smudge with cocoa powder.

Assembling the Yule Log:

1.Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.

2.Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.

3.Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.

4.Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).

5.Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.

6.Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.

7.Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.

8.Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.

9.Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.

10.Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.

11.Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

See the recipe...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tender is the Daring Baker

Look at me. Only my second month in the Daring Bakers, and already I'm a day late!! I feel terrible about it, but I simply couldn't fit it in yesterday (first day at the new job followed by a hockey game led to a really late night). I know, I know, I totally should have written it up early, and that's what I'll do going forward... I honestly meant to on Sunday... but then was one with the couch in an amazing bout of mopiness... From this day on, I will be a better DB! (Especially considering how badly I wanted to be a part of this marvelous group!!) This go around, the lovely Tanna chose for us a Tender Potato Bread. I don't know about you, but I LOVE potato bread! I was so happy to tackle this challenge!!

Now, I'm no bread maker. I'm frightened of yeast. I try to hide my feelings from the yeast, but its like a dog.. or a bear... or those scary jumping spiders... it smells my fear. However, being a Daring Baker means fighting that fear, forging on, taking charge, trying something new. So I took my potatoes and got a move on. [Some advanced warning... I followed the recipe plainly. I have comfortable-ness issues tweaking unfamiliar recipes until I've made them a couple of times... so I def. plan to try this again, but sassed up.]

Plain, peeled and diced.

I don't have a food scale... this recipe called for between 8 and 16 ounces of potato... I kinda went with it, figuring that I'd know when to stop with the flour. For the most part, I think that worked out ok for me.

Boy, was this dough sticky!!! Sticky and TOTALLY FUN!!!! I always use my stand mixer to knead in dough, so the actual process of kneading by hand was a new experience for me. Yah, you'll read about hour therapeutic it can be... how relaxing... and while you might think its weird or bunk... it isn't. (unless, of course, you have hand/arm problems, and then I can see it being much more of a chore.) I worked about 8 cups of the flour called for and it came together in a nice, elastic dough. (And as you can see, my rise was big and poofy!!

I don't think I took shots of my loaf and rolls after the second rise. The rolls came out funny-looking... I think I either fiddled with them too much getting them into roll-shapes, or they didn't rise enough.

The bread was thick and chewy yet nicely soft and tender. I don't have enough experience with breadmaking to be able to tell you how this is possible... chewy yet tender... but it defies science. Defied-Science that tasted great slathered with ham salad! :)

Please head on over to Tanna's site, My Kitchen in Half Cups, for the delicious and satisfying recipe. To see almost 400 other versions of this bread (because mine is certainly way less interesting than theirs!!), head on over to the Daring Baker Blogroll!!

(and again, my apologies for being Ms. Late-ypants!!)

See the recipe...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Chipotle Chicken Tacos

This might not be the best photo in the world... You're lucky you have a photo at all, actually. I'd piled my toppings on these babies and was headed out the door when the little quiet voice in my head said, "Take a picture, fool!!"... so I tried to push some of the lettuce and cilantro out of the way so you could see the actual filling... O well. Just trust me that there is some tasty chicken, pepper jack cheese and sour cream under all that greenery.

Photo snapped, I proceeded to join the hubs in front of the tv (football was on!!!). I took a bite, looked at him and said, "Dif if dewifuff!!!!" (yes, Mom, my mouth was full.) Seriously dewifuff.

The filling was nice and spicy, but the cool, creamy sour cream cut it so that it was the right amount of hot. (Meaning, it didn't make me cry this time!) Now, I did mess with it a little. (Big surprise.) Rather than add the can of diced tomatoes, I used an already-opened jar of salsa. Same difference, I thought. The salsa was "chipotle" flavored, so I kept to the theme. My suggestion to you would be: Use tomatoes if you have them or if you want milder tacos, but feel free to use whatever salsa you have on hand or like. My other suggestion: Make sure you get quality corn tortillas. Ours split down the middle, leading to rather messy eating.

I cannot fully express my love for these tacos. They were the absolute perfect meal for us last night. It was cold outside and in and I was in one of those Pajama Sunday kind of moods. You cannot go wrong with this recipe.

Chipotle Chicken Tacos
c/o Culinate,vt=top,q=chipotle+chicken+tacos/2188

For the chicken
2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
¾ tsp. dried oregano, freshly crumbled
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 (14½ oz.) can whole tomatoes, chopped, with juice
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts if you prefer)
1 to 2 chipotle peppers canned in adobo sauce, finely chopped
1 cinnamon stick
1 whole piece of star anise
Salt to taste

For the tacos
8 to 12 corn tortillas
1 cup grated jack cheese
1 cup fresh cilantro, washed, dried and destemmed
1 cup romaine lettuce, washed, dried and cut into shreds
Sour cream (optional

In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil. Add onion, garlic, oregano, and pepper. Cook until the onion begins to soften and turn brown on the edges; add the stock, the juice from the tomatoes, and the chicken.

Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to cool.

Add chopped tomatoes, chipotle peppers, cinnamon, and star anise to the pot, and simmer 15-20 minutes, until the liquid is reduced in half, and more saucy than brothy. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred the meat into bite-size pieces. Return chicken to the pot and simmer until it is heated through. Remove the whole spices before serving.

To make the tacos, first warm the tortillas. You can fry them in oil if you like, following the package instructions, or wrap half of them in a paper towel and cook them for 40 seconds in the microwave (the tortillas seem to warm better in smaller quantities, plus your second — and third — tacos will be just as hot as the first if you warm them in batches). For each taco, spoon some of the chicken filling into the tortilla, top with grated cheese, cilantro, and shredded lettuce, and sour cream if you wish.

See the recipe...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Taste & Create 3: Spanish Churros

Are those churro fries? What? Let me explain!

Taste & Create, started by Nicole at For the Love of Food, is a great way for bloggers to interact. Sure, we read each other's work, and we often try out someone else's creations... but this event is specifically designed for that purpose. Participating bloggers are paired together and they make a dish from the other's blog. Sounds fun, right?

I was paired with the delightful Kelly at Sass & Veracity! Woowoo!! I have enjoyed her blog for as long as I've been reading food blogs, and it was a joy to rifle through her archives!

Scrolling through all her tasty entries... I kept coming back to one - her churros. Dave and I are completely smitten with churros. I'll admit, the ones we are in love with happen to come from Costco... for a dollar... but still. Sweet and crunch and tender.... and only a dollar??!?! I'll take it! Add to it that the ingredient list and directions are short and sweet, and you're looking at the perfect dessert (or snack!)

Now, this is where the trouble begins. Kelly's recipe calls for a pastry bag and a star piping tip. I thought, "I have that cake decorating kit... that should be ok..." Ha! I happily stirred my dough, let it cool a tiny bit, and then jammed it into my eeny-weeny icing bag. If you can imagine that, you can probably also imagine the eeny-weeny tip on it, too... maybe 3/16ths of an inch (and she called for a tip twice that size!!!) I have no idea what I was thinking. The dough is far to thick for such a small tip... the squeezing involved to get my thin little lengths of dough into the oil... yikes.

However, all was not lost. I managed my way through getting the tasty little churro-fries fried, drained, and rolled in cinnamon-sugar. All the work was worth it once we were able to nibble on them - and their sheer cuteness STILL has me smiling!

I will totally make these again - but not until I get a bigger tip! :)

My thanks goes out to Nicole for creating this fun exchange and to Kelly for her delicious blog!

Spanish Churros
c/o Kelly @ Sass & Veracity

1-1/2 tsp mild olive oil
1/4 tsp kosher or sea salt
1 cup unbleached flour
Oil for frying
granulated sugar for dusting

To make the churros, bring 1 cup water, the oil, and the salt to a boil in a saucepan. Add the flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until a smooth ball forms. Lower the heat and cook, flattening and turning the dough for 2 minutes. Cool and transfer to a pastry bag equipped with a 3/8-inch star tip (the fluted edge is essential).

Pour the oil to a depth of at least 1 inch in a skillet (or better still, use a deep-fryer heated to 360 degrees) and heat until the oil quickly browns a cube of bread. Squeeze 5-inch lengths of dough through the pastry tube into the oil -- as many as will comfortably fit.

Reduce the heat to medium-hot and fry until the churros puff and have barely begun to turn golden, about 20 seconds. Do not overcook -- the churros should be crunchy outside and still soft within.

Drain on paper towels. Dredge them in sugar while they're warm.

See the recipe...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Orzo with Chicken, Corn, and Green Beans

This meal might not look like much, but it was soooooo yummy. And amusing. Why? Because it says it serves 4. Make it as made, and you'll end up with a large bucket of the stuff... so... while it may feed four, it serves them more than once. Dave and I had tons of it, and then we each had it for lunch the next day, and then I think we had it again for dinner...

I almost think of it as being akin lemonade... we could make a batch of this, and then set up a stand on the side of the road... Pasta with Chicken and Veg, $1!!! We'd be rich. RICH!

Psst! Head on over to Ruth's Once Upon a Feast for more tasty pasta dishes!! She has a terrific weekly roundup of everything pasta - which is just what you need in this cold cold weather!

Orzo with Chicken, Corn and Green Beans
Everyday Food Magazine, May 2005

Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/2 pound orzo
8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 package (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 whole roasted chicken, (3 pounds), skin discarded, shredded (about 3 1/2 cups)

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook orzo until al dente, according to package instructions; add green beans during last 6 minutes of cooking. Drain; rinse under cold water until cooled.

Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add corn and 1 teaspoon salt; cook until warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes.

Toss pasta and green beans with corn mixture and chicken. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Serves 4.

See the recipe...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Butternut Dumplings with Brown Butter and Sage

I feel all out of sorts. As though I've stepped out of time, really. I mean, how how how has it gotten to be mid-November already? What is this craziness? I honestly don't know where the time has gone. I hope that some of this changes after Thanksgiving, when I start my NEW JOB(!!!), because not only are the hours a little better, but my daily commute will consist of a walk across the street. In addition to the regained time, I hope to get a little sanity and happiness back.... both of which are necessary, I think, for a more present life. More present, more awareness of time, more blogging. I am counting the days.

Something you will have to forgive me for in the meantime is the disconnection of my entries to when they actually happened. I'd cook, I'd photograph, I'd even enter the recipe and picture into blogger... and then I'd walk away from the computer. I have our anniversary cakes from the end of October, I have Dave's birthday dinner and cake from early November, I have... maybe 28 other entries from day-to-day life just piled up... so... yah. Lots to post about... but the timing will be all off. I want to share everything with you, and catch up, because Lord knows, I'll still be cooking... ]

Now, I don't remember exactly when this dinner happened... maybe three weeks ago? I made the dumplings on a Sunday afternoon during football... or it could have been while Hubs was off at the hockey game... either way, it happened during sports. :) This was my second go at the dumplings.. I'd tried them last winter, and they were miserably bad. It was before I got a handle on how to do gnocchi/dumplings and added waaaaaay to much flour... blech! This time around, I knew what consistency to look for, I knew when to stop messing with it.

The squash and potatoes meld beautifully together. Oooh, and the brown butter sauce? Divine! What I really enjoyed about this was how warm and satisfying it was. It's finally cold outside, and these dumplings are creamy and soothing and super-yummy.

And whats better, is it makes bags and bags of dumplings, so our freezer is two bags fuller!! So on nights I don't feel like going to the trouble of putting something new together, and I don't want take-out, I can just pop them into some boiling water and we have dinner! Sweet!

Butternut Dumplings with Brown Butter and Sage
c/o Alton Brown, Food Network Channel,1977,FOOD_9936_17864,00.html

1 1/2 small butternut squash, halved and seeded
4 medium baking (russet) potatoes, pierced
1 egg
11/2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 pinch nutmeg
11/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional, for dusting
1 bunch sage, leaves chiffonade
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

On a sheet pan, place the squash flesh side down and roast until very tender (about 45 minutes). At the same time, bake potatoes directly on the rack of oven for 1 hour.

Split the potatoes and allow to cool slightly, or until you can handle them. Don't let them cool completely. Scoop the flesh of the potatoes and the squash into a bowl and mash with a hand masher. Mix in the egg, salt and nutmeg. Then add the flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Do not do this in a mixer, it will overwork the dough. Add flour by the spoonful if it's still too moist.

Turn out onto a floured board and divide into 8 portions. Roll out into ropes and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Line the pieces up on a floured sheet pan as you work. At this point you could freeze them on the pan until solid, then transfer to zip top bags and store in the freezer.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water gently drop in the dumplings. Don't overcrowd. As they begin to float, remove them with a slotted spoon and toss them into an ice bath.

Drain off the water and toss in a little oil. Store loosely in containers until ready to use.

To reheat, in a saute pan over high heat add 1 tablespoon of soft butter. Cook until the butter begins to foam and turn brown. Add 2 teaspoons sage leaves and 1 cup of dumplings. Cook for an additional minute until the dumplings are heated through. Repeat until you have desired amount of servings. Plate and top with freshly grated Parmesan.

See the recipe...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Eco-shopping Tip

I don't normally do this, but this deal is almost too good to be true!!

I just love my Envirosax's. I keep one in my purse for shopping "emergencies," I tote things to work in it, I take it with me to the farmer's market on weekends... They are super sturdy and can hold a TON of stuff!!!

If you are in the market for some re-usable shopping bags (and produce bags and a water bottle), check out the deal at Delight.

(No, I'm not affiliated with them, I just really really like my bags and think everyone should have them. Earth friendly AND stylish!)

See the recipe...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Butter Beans with Parsley, Tomatoes and Chorizo

I wanted to like this more than I did. And I think its all my fault. I thought it was weird that only the chorizo got a turn in the pan... and I wanted to have warm beans and tomatoes... So... once the chorizo was browned a little, I tossed everything else into the pan. Do not do this at home. What ended up happening was all the chorizo oil got onto everything else.. so every bite tasted like it, regardless of what you put into your mouth. Now, if you like that sort of thing, feel free to replicate.

Now, what I would do differently is: Follow the instructions. Now that I've had some time to think about it, I think the differences in temperature would have been a nice contrast... or maybe I would heat the veggies in a separate pot... either way... don't let your chorizo oil ruin your dinner. Again, unless you're into that. ;)

Butter Beans with Parsley, Tomatoes and Chorizo
c/o Food and Wine Magazine, May 2007

1 14 oz can butter beans with their liquid
½ pound chorizo, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise ¼ inch thick
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small saucepan, heat the butter beans in their liquid. In a large skillet, cook the chorizo over high heat until it is lightly browned and most of the fat is rendered, about two minutes.

In a medium serving bowl, whisk the oil and vinegar. Stir in the tomatoes, onion and parsley. Drain the beans and chorizo and add them to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Serve warm.

See the recipe...

Roasted Fish Fillets with Brown Butter Corn Sauce

This meal had us surrounded. I first read about the brown buttered corn on Molly's site, Orangette. She says she doubled the recipe for a party of 6, but doubled, this corn made three people very happy. Then I saw the fished-up version on a round-up on Apartment Therapy: The Kitchen... Or vice-versa... the dates of each article would imply that I found it on AP before Orangette... but I don't remember.. doesn't really matter. What does matter, is that this corn has made it around (and if the no knead bread or the snickerdoodle muffins are any indication, this lovely corn will be around for a while!!)

Now, with corn out of season, I used bagged frozen organic corn - two bags, in fact. A ton of butter, lots of thyme... This meal is another example of how just a few simple ingredients can make a lot of impact. The blitz in the blender with the lemon and garlic really made the corn pop. Really. Really pop. (Please make this and eat it.)

Now. I did struggle with the fish. Choosing the fish, to be specific. I took the suggested fish list with me to the grocery, and while there I pulled out my handy Seafood Watch Regional Guide to determine the best choice... Wegmans didn't have any striped bass... and the other two fish are in the naughty "avoid" column... so I went with the flounder because it didn't have the extra-naughty red (mercury) star next to it. I wish I knew more about fish to know what other fishes we could have had in its place, that would have fit in as well.

Yes, the fish was evil. However, it was really really tasty (jerks!!). The flavor was light and delicate and went so so beautifully with the corn sauce on top and side-corn. It baked merrily away in the oven while I prepared the corn and green beans.

I was extra stressed out about the naughty fish because my lovely and wise friend Marcie was over for dinner. She has suggested so many things to us... the friendly light bulbs, the re-usable grocery and produce bags, my rock-star hair dresser, the Amazing Race and Top Chef, Wasa crackers and my favorite farmer's market... so imagine my dismay when I'm having eco-Marcie for dinner, and I have to give her unsustainable fish. Thank goodness she forgave me!

I would love to make this again, but not until I know which fish would make a good substitute... if you have ideas - I GLADLY welcome them!

Recipe: Roasted Fish Fillets With Brown Butter Corn Sauce
c/o NY Times

6 fish fillets such as striped bass, flounder or red snapper, each about 6 to 8 ounces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, optional
Brown buttered corn (recipe follows)
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste
Chopped fresh soft herbs (basil, mint, parsley, cilantro).

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Season fillets with salt and pepper and place in a baking pan, skin-side down.

2. In a small bowl, mash together the butter, about two-thirds of the garlic, and the lemon zest if using. Smear on top of fish fillets. Roast until cooked through to taste, 7 to 12 minutes depending upon variety of fish and thickness of fillets.

3. Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, purée half the brown buttered corn with broth or water, oil, lemon juice and remaining garlic. Stir in remaining corn. Serve sauce over fish, garnished with herbs.

Yield: 6 servings.

Recipe: Brown Buttered Corn
c/o NY Times

3 ears corn, shucked
4 tablespoons butter
4 sprigs thyme, preferably lemon thyme
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh soft herbs (basil, mint, parsley, cilantro), optional.

1. Break ears of corn in half and stand one half vertically on a cutting board. Using a sawing motion, run a knife between cob and kernels to remove kernels. Using back of knife, scrape denuded cob to release corn’s juices. Transfer kernels and juice to a bowl. Repeat with remaining corn.

2. Melt butter in a saucepan; add thyme. Let butter cook until you see golden brown specks in bottom of pan and butter smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Add corn, juices and a large pinch of salt and pepper; stir well and cover pot. Let cook until corn is tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Remove thyme sprigs, add more salt and pepper if desired, and serve hot, alone or as a side dish, garnished with herbs if desired.

Yield: 4 servings.

See the recipe...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Daring Baker Bostini Cream Pie

Do you know what it feels like to have 200+ new friends? Friends that ALL have similar interests? Similarly-interested friends that are supportive and hilarious and real and dreamy? If you're part of the Daring Bakers, you know it feels! I have been welcomed in as part of the October Class, and I couldn't be happier about it! I encourage you to go through that blogroll. Sure, you'll see a TON of Bostini Cream pies today, but stick around, each and every site has something scrumptious for you!

(I get to post a DB badge now, woohoo!)

Right, onto this challenge. The lovely Mary at Alpineberry, Hostess with the Mostest for October, chose for us this lovely Bostini Cream Pie. My first reaction was, "Huh? What's this? A typo??!?!" Not at all, my friends. The best way I can describe it is: The bostini cream pie is the boston cream pie's daintier cousin. Take one bowl of luscious vanilla custard, top with a lighter than air orange chiffon cake, smother sassily in chocolate.... it's ok, you can have a minute. :)

Now, I don't have any sexy ramekins. No trendy, time period custard cups...No presentable shot glasses... but I DO have a collection of cute teacups! Nice! I halved the recipe, which left me with 4 very generous fillings of teacups, that you see above. I took a couple of my new round cutters and sliced out some rounds of cake... I cut a round out of the middle, to make it a little silly, but to also give the chocolate somewhere to pool... and who can resist a pool of chocolate? In teacup, I even filled it with the cake-holes, so when chocolate glazed, it looks fun and bumpy.

The orange in the chocolate is so subtle as to be just a whisper on the tongue, and it played fantastically with both the custard and chocolate sauce. Dave and I enjoyed this happily two nights in a row (I didn't want to try out my first DB challenge on company - too much pressure!) You too, can make this at home - traipse on over to Mary's site for the recipe!!

Thanks again to the Daring Bakers for taking me in!! :)

See the recipe...

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Grilled Wild Boar Chops. You heard me - WILD BOAR!!!!

I picked up two big, thick wild boar chops from my butcher on a whim a few weeks ago. No plan for them, but I knew I could have a plan... some day... and I really liked the idea of being able to whip up a wild boar chop dinner on the fly. 'Cause like... who does that? :)

Well, we had the perfect occasion tonight. You see, today is our Second First Wedding Anniversary. If you recall, we had our First First Anniversary in Las Vegas in August... and today, a year ago, we had our second wedding in our church with our closest friends and family in attendance.

Now, we'd never had wild boar before. We like pork well enough, so I thought this wouldn't be too much of a stretch. I had no idea I would like these wild boar chops SO MUCH, though. The flavor of the meat is nice and delicate and not wild-animal-ish at all. The lemon/rosemary/garlic marinade didn't overwhelm it at all.

I served the chops with some buttered and rosemary red potatoes and green beans, both fresh from the morning's farmers market. We followed dinner with a lovely chocolate cake, but it gets its own post!!

I tried to work in a third wedding somewhere, but Dave wouldn't have it. I guess two is enough. ;)

Grilled Wild Boar Chops

4 servings
6 hours 5 hours prep

4 wild boar chops
3 meyer lemons, juiced
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salt and pepper the chops. Place chops in roomy, non-metal container so each chop lays flat.

Whisk all ingredients (sans chops) for marinade. Pour marinade over chops. Cover and refrigerate at least (4) hours, turning every hour or so.

Prepare grill/fire for direct heat on high. Sear chops on both sides for 2 minutes. Turn heat down or place chops on cooler part of grill for remaining cooking. Close lid and cook about 5 minutes on each side for medium rare.

Let chops rest at room temp for 10 minutes before serving.

See the recipe...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Goat Cheese Ravioli with Bell Peppers and Brown Butter

Obviously my brains have shut off... or else I would have posted this sooner... because we had it weeks ago! Maybe I saved it because all we were eating was pasta... wanted to spread it out... Except that that phase hasn't really stopped... we're still pasta-crazy! There are worse things to be.

Right. So. I won't lie, I made the ravioli some Sunday afternoon while the Mister watched football. Weeks ago. I might have had football on the radio, but its more likely I had my ipod going. I'm not sure what got into me, but I was in a mood, so I made my own dough and then rolled it out and then filled it. Oh wait, I know what it was... I got this multi-pack of cookie/biscuit cutters... (notice the cute little scalloped edge?)... Why make my own pasta when the recipe so happily calls for wonton wrappers? I don't like wonton-wrapper ravioli. I don't know if I'm just doing something wrong, but they come out all weird and squiggly... not my favorite. That, and I find the production of pasta to be soothing... all the repetitive actions... I can get lost in the process. And in the end, I had a big bag of ravioli for my freezer! Woo!

The ingredient list to flavor quotient was high. This dish was a breeze to prepare and tasted like it took me all day. I blistered the peppers on the stove and messed with them the evening before... popped them in the fridge until I needed them. Because of all that miscellaneous prep, this dinner was the ultimate fast food. Sauteed some veggies, browned some butter, boiled some water... bam bam bam, done and delicious. Yah, sure, I totally would eat my flip-flop if I tossed it in some brown butter... but still. You'll note that I left out the olives and chives... neither float my boat, and the meal didn't suffer for it.

I'm barely on time to submit this to the lovely Ruth at Once Upon a Feast for her Presto Pasta Night roundup this week... I can't wait to see what she has in store for us (now that I'm re-smitten with everything pasta!)

Goat Cheese Ravioli with Bell Peppers and Brown Butter
Bon Appetit, September 2007

Bell peppers:
2 small red bell peppers
2 small yellow bell peppers
1 small green bell pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup diced seeded tomatoes
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

Cornmeal for sprinkling
8 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese plus additional for sprinkling
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons chopped assorted fresh herbs (such as basil, chives, mint, and tarragon)
18 wonton wrappers

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

Toasted pine nuts
Thinly sliced pitted Niçoise olives*
Chopped fresh chives

For bell peppers:
Char all peppers over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Place in paper bag; seal and let stand at room temperature 15 minutes. Peel and seed peppers; chop.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and tomatoes and cook until onion begins to brown, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low; cook until vegetables are very soft and onion is brown, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Add chopped peppers and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.

For ravioli:
Lightly sprinkle rimmed baking sheet with cornmeal. Mix 8 ounces goat cheese, 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, and next 2 ingredients in medium bowl. Arrange 6 wonton wrappers on work surface. Place 1 tablespoon cheese filling in center of each wrapper. Using fingertip, dampen edges of wrappers with water. Fold all 4 corners up to meet in center, forming pyramid shape; seal all 4 edges tightly. Pinch top to seal. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. DO AHEAD: Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill.

Cook butter in large skillet over medium heat until beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

Cook ravioli in pot of gently boiling salted water until tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer ravioli to skillet with browned butter. Toss over medium heat.

Meanwhile, re-warm bell pepper mixture; divide among 6 plates. Using slotted spoon, top peppers on each plate with 3 ravioli. Drizzle with any remaining browned butter. Sprinkle with Parmesan, toasted pine nuts, olives, and chives.

*Brine-cured black olives; available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Italian markets.

See the recipe...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Taste and Create: I Finally Don't Knead

I am late to the No Knead Bread party. Like, over a year late. I no longer qualify for being fashionable about it, either. O well. Better late than never!!!

How did I get here? Well, via Abby over at Plate Tectonics! We are participating in Taste & Create - an event in which we each pick a recipe from the other's blog, make it, and post about it! I waffled on what I was going to make - Abby had so many delicious things to choose from! Halloween being only a week away, I almost made her severed finger cookies... Yet... what I needed this weekend was the smell of baking bread... that o-so-comforting aroma permeating the apartment... Not to mention, I needed to see how fantastic this no knead bread was for myself!

I started the dough late Friday night. Sure, I'm still pretty new to yeast, but there are only three ingredients, what could I do wrong? Seriously people, this dough is a snap to make. And the way it smelled as it baked... omg. I could very well end up making this bread every weekend. Maybe.

Only one part frightened me. When I took the rolls out of the oven, they were rock hard... solid... stiff... and scary. I thought, "The whole world loves this recipe, how could I have killed it???!?!?!" But once they'd had a chance to settle, they softened. Not too much, though - they still retained a nice, chewy crust! Yay!

I can personally say that these rolls are terrific with just butter or with butter or jam. Tonight I will find out if they are as tasty with pasta (I'm sure they will be!) If you are another latecomer to this bread, consider this your invitation. These rolls are super easy and they smell and taste great!!

Thanks to Nicole for hosting this tasty little event. I look forward to next time!!

No-Knead Dinner Rolls
This recipe is adapted from Jim Lahey/Sullivan Street Bakery’s recipe published in the New York Times on November 8, 2006
Via Abby at Plate Tectonics

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (I like Bob’s Red Mill white bread flour)
¼ teaspoon instant (“quick rise”) yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly gather dough into a manageable lump. Divide ball into 12 equal size pieces, approximately the size of a large plum. (An easy way to do this is to cut it in half, then half again; then cut each of those pieces into thirds.) Using your fingers, tuck each piece into a ball shape. Generously coat a Silpat baking mat or a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Be sure to space dough balls an inch or more apart so they don’t stick together as they rise. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When they are ready, rolls will have significantly increased in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

About a half hour before baking, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Get a nonstick 12-cup muffin pan and use aluminum foil to make a tented lid that fits around the pan. The tenting part is important—if the foil doesn’t rise well above the pan, your rolls will stick to it as they rise. You may need to join two pieces of foil. Set the foil “lid” aside and put the pan in the oven so that it, too, preheats.

When dough is ready, remove muffin pan from oven and quickly drop one dough ball into each cup. Cover with foil lid—and if you’re feeling frisky, spray some water under there just before covering (increasing the humidity under the foil tent). Bake 15-20 minutes, then remove foil and bake another 15 minutes, until rolls are beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yields: 12 crusty, golden dinner rolls.

See the recipe...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My "I Got Canned" Pancakes

Ok, ok, they aren't my pancakes. (Though you probably guessed that.) Sure, I made them, but the lovely Kickpleat at Everybody Likes Sandwiches provided the recipe. She only posted about them a few days ago, so I won't totally steal them. Click through to her site, you won't regret it.

These pancakes are delightful little things. I've really been into citrus zest lately... the luscious, clean scent and flavor really speaks to me. I know this is true for the rest of you, too, I think I just wasn't listening before. The pancakes are dainty and fresh, and just the thing to start me on the first day of the rest of my life. I topped them with a little butter and maple syrup, but then I had more un-topped, and I can't decide which way I like better. I'll def. have to make these again... ya know, for research.

I got canned, you ask? Sortof. I got the "you aren't a good fit with our firm" talk yesterday, and I have 30 days to find a new job. I knew I wasn't a good fit for the firm. Well, moreso, I knew the firm wasn't a good fit for me. At all. But this happening isn't an altogether bad thing. I've been miserable there for a long time, which has seeped into the other areas of my life (I've been totally disinterested in cooking and blogging, for one, and I LOVE both!!), so I feel free now. Liberated.

Check back in with me in 30 days, and we'll see if I feel the same way. :)

See the recipe...

Monday, October 15, 2007

You Do What You Can - But Can You Do More?

Another day I'd like to bring to your attention is... Today!

Today is Blog Action Day: The Environment. Today is about raising awareness. It's about those little things you and I and your next door neighbor can do to make this world a better place. It needn't be complicated. You don't need to be stressed out about it. You don't have to do a lot all at once. Just promise to do something. Start with a small ripple; make big waves.

Remember those Breck commercials? In 5 seconds of tv-time, that woman had a screen full of friends using that shampoo... and you know what, they all had great hair. (Work with me, here.)

Well, let's say you read my blog. And I tell you about what I'm trying to do to be more environmentally sound... and you think, "I can do that!"... so you do... and then you tell your mom or your coworker... and they do it too... Soon, we'll all have great hair! (And water, and air, and so forth.)

Let me start by saying I take no credit for any of the things I'm going to tell you. I'm a great follower... a copier of others... So when I hear a great idea from someone else, if it makes sense to me, I embrace it. I'll try to give props to those that earned it.

[Click through for more]

I want to say I've been trying for a while, but in a passive way. I would recycle when possible.. I'd try to turn lights off when I wasn't using them, I turn the water off when I brush my teeth.. But sometime last summer, I read a lot about CSA's. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, it stands for Community Sponsored Agriculture. I'd read about the super-fresh and interesting vegetables bloggers were getting each week, and I wanted that for myself! Thing is, each CSA takes subscribers early in the year - say, February. The subscriber submits payment and the CSA then takes those payments and gets their farming supplies for the season. You essentially pay it forward, with the hopes that they have a fruitful, productive season. So I'd missed my chance. I did, however, do a lot of research, so that when the time came, I could get in on the action. While I waited, I made weekly trips to my local farmers markets. You can too - find yours at Local Harvest. Joining a CSA means you will get veggies, fruit, eggs, flowers, and sometimes meats, that are local, often organic, and wholesome. You can feel good about the food you put on your table.

Let me tell you what I loved about being a part of a CSA this year. I looked forward to my pick-up every week. I never knew what would be in my re-used green bag, and often, I'd never purchased or prepared some of the vegetables. Before this summer, I never knew I liked Swiss chard. Now I have some seeds so I can try to grow my own!

My CSA season is over, so I'm back to the weekly farmers markets. I think I've mentioned before that I'm completely smitten with them. The quality and quantity of the produce and the friendliness of the growers keeps me going back.

When I go to the market or to the grocery store, I try to take my envirosax's in with me. In fact, I keep one in my purse at all times - just in case. What I also have, and what I wish I used more, are these neat little ecobags. I do use them at home, to store onions and the like in my pantry. Both were recommended to me by my friend Marcie. She tried to get me to switch to eco-friendly cleaners and toilet paper... but I haven't yet made the switch. (Maybe soon.)

We've also made the switch to organic, humanely raised meats - and really, I couldn't be happier about that. Yes, happier animals, raised in the way the animals were meant to be raised (running amok in grassy fields, feeling the sun on their backs) really do taste better. But they're also much easier on your conscience. We watched a very informative (and really scary) documentary last week, which only made me happier with our decision. That, and now we have a butcher. I always wanted a butcher.

Because I've already yammered on this long....We've changed out our light bulbs, we commute together to work more days than not, I try to use reusable water bottles and coffee mugs as much as possible. We also bring our lunches in reusable lunch bags.

Changes I'd like to make: I want to be even better about the shopping bags. Because I keep one in my purse, I'm good about using it for small purchases... but there have been a few times I've forgotten to bring the other bags in with me - and I keep them in my car for crying out loud! I couldn't make it too much easier on myself, but still I forget. I look forward to moving into our condo and to all of our new energy-star appliances. I look forward to our new car (someday - but it will be a hybrid.) I'd like to try out some of the newer household cleaners that aren't as full of creepy chemicals. I am also going to cut back on my magazine subscriptions. I get way too many, more than I can read. And what do I do? I go through and rip out the pages I want, tossing the rest into the trash. It's wasteful and silly, in this Internet age. My friend Marcie also suggests signing up with Green Dimes. Not only will they help you cut down on your daily junk mail, they plant trees for you. Winner!

Lastly, and I haven't really discussed it with Dave, is I want to look into offsetting our carbon footprint. It doesn't strike me as being terribly expensive, if anything, it seems like it's a bargain.

Okay, so if you're still reading (and I know that was a lot of ramble), this is easy. Get a reusable water bottle. See how you like it. Then maybe visit a farmers market regularly for your produce. Make friends with the farmers... feel the warm fuzzies... then maybe get the reusable grocery bag... you can do this. Start small, ease into it... see how it makes you feel.

You might be surprised.

See the recipe...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

National Meatloaf Day: Buffalo Meatloaf with Spinach and Roasted Baby Potatoes

Did you know that Thursday, October 18th, is National Meatloaf Day? (not to be confused with Meat Loaf.) I bet you didn't. (But if you're a food blogger, you probably did. You get credit.) I feel its my obligation to keep you informed. I totally forgot to mention that it was National Recess week a few weeks ago, and I also forgot to share that sweet potato greens fight cardiovascular disease in hamsters... I'm failing my public! But not this time!! (I would do any-thing for youuuuuuuu...)

The folks at Serious Eats (created by Ed Levine) declared 10/18 Meatloaf Day, and frankly, I'm disappointed we don't get the day off from work!!

To show my support, I present to you this lovely buffalo meatloaf with veggies from Bon Appetit magazine. The loaf was delightfully easy to make, was moist and delicious, and super healthy! Buffalo is generally better for you than beef (lower fat and calories), and with the addition of mushrooms to the mix, you can be happy to serve this to your family. The potatoes were simply roasted, and the spinach wilted with garlic... the flavors were straightforward and wholesome.

I will say that if you are making this meal for more than two people, you're going to want to use more than 1 pound of potatoes. I couldn't find any baby yukons, so I sliced up two large ones... and I think it was the perfect amount for us. I can't wait to have my leftovers for lunch, and I will def. save this recipe for future use.

Buffalo Meatloaf with Spinach and Roasted Baby Potatoes
Bon Appetit Magazine, September 2007

1 pound baby Yukon Gold or Dutch yellow potatoes
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 1/2 cups chopped crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
1 cup chopped red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 pound ground buffalo meat
1 large egg
3/4 cup tomato sauce, divided

1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)*
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1 garlic clove, pressed
2 5-ounce bags fresh spinach

Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss potatoes with 1 tablespoon oil in medium bowl. Place on 13x9-inch rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt. Roast 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and onion; sauté until mushrooms are beginning to brown and onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat; mix in sage and thyme. Cool slightly.

Mix buffalo, mushroom mixture, egg, 1/2 cup tomato sauce, panko, salt, and pepper in large bowl. Push potatoes to sides of baking sheet; shape buffalo mixture into 6x3-inch loaf in center of sheet. Roast 30 minutes. Combine 1/4 cup tomato sauce and red pepper in small bowl. Pour over top of meatloaf. Roast 20 minutes longer. Remove from oven; let rest while preparing spinach.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil and garlic in large pot over medium-high heat. Add spinach, and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Slice meatloaf; serve potatoes and spinach alongside.

*Available in the Asian foods section of some supermarkets and at Asian markets.

See the recipe...

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Chocotofu Pudding

Tofu what? You read correctly, chocolate pudding made with tofu. Unsquinch your nose, please. Give this darling little pudding a chance, would you?

The very same day I read about this pudding on Kate in the Kitchen's blog, I had to make it. In fact, as I was reading the post I thought, "I have tofu at home... I could do this..." I planned it out... my darling husband had an errand to run after work, so I sneakily made it while he was away... so that I could present this tofu-pudding to him without any preconceived notions in his head.

The pudding came together like a dream... a minute in the food processor made the tofu nice and creamy. The addition of the maple syrup and vanilla removed the beaniness of the tofu, allowing the chocolate to shine through. The resulting pudding was thick and smooth. Once refrigerated, the pudding's texture was similar to that of gelato! Yum!

Dave seemed to like it ok at first. I think the texture put him off, as it wasn't quite the same as normal pudding. He even made that "What? I'm eating tofu??!?!?!" face... More for me, I guess!! (Which rocks, because I adored this pudding!!)

I mean, really, if you're craving chocolate but trying to be healthy, this is a lovely vehicle for it.

Chocolate Soy Surprise Pudding
from the July issue of Taste For Life, a magazine supplement of Healthy Foods & Healthy Ways natural foods store.

1 container silken firm tofu
1/2 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c. dark chocolate chips
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 T. natural vanilla

Melt chocolate over low heat, a double boiler or in the microwave.

In food processor, blend tofu smooth, scraping sides as needed. Add in syrup and vanilla, blend to mix well. Add melted chocolate all at once, and blend to mix well, scraping if needed. Pour into a bowl and chill. Serve with fruit, angel food cake or by itself.

The chilled texture of this is similar to fine truffles. It is thick, dense and firm. Soften in the microwave before eating if you prefer.

235 cal/ serving; 6 g. protein; 37 g. carbohydrates; 2 g. fiber; 11 g. total fat(5 sat, 5 mono, 1 poly) 9 mg. sodium

See the recipe...

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Deborah's Sneaky BBQ Pizza Recipe

Remember those Cornish pasties?

Well, I only used half of the dough for them and froze the rest. I'd thought I might make more pasties with it, but when I read Deborah's post on bbq chicken pizza (and not just any - its from CPK!!), I saw my plan come together.

I have a particular love of barbecue chicken pizza. Sure, my new love of white pizza may have pushed it aside a little, but still, the love remains.

I rolled out the dough I already had, making two pizzas. I'd only thawed the one chicken breast, so I augmented the pizzas with a little leftover cooked pancetta. I also didn't use Bullseye... I had a jar of sauce I'd wanted to try from my Bacon Guy (the guy that sells bacon from happy pigs at my farmers market). The last difference is that I didn't marinate my chicken in the sauce for 2 hours. I didn't plan ahead very well, and we were too hungry to wait! :) Oh, and I think I'm going to try to find more reasons to put cilantro on my pizza! Yum!

Despite the fact that I edited all those things, this pizza was still dreamy. We shared most of one of the pizzas and then we had the leftovers for lunch the next day. (Reheated well!) If you're a fan of bbq chicken pizza, I highly recommend it!

California Pizza Kitchen Original BBQ Pizza
From Top Secret Restaurant Recipes
c/o Deborah at Taste and Tell,

1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water (105 - 115 degrees F)
3/4 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast half
1/2 cup Bullseye Original bbq sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup grated Gouda cheese (smoked, if you can find it)
1/2 cup sliced red onion
2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh cilantro

Start the dough one day before you plan to serve the pizza. In a small bowl or measuring cup, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let it sit for 5 minutes until the surface of the mixture turns foamy. Sift together the flour and the olive oil and yeast mixture. Use a fork to stir the liquid, gradually drawing in more flour as you stir, until all the ingredients are combined. When you can no longer stir with a fork, use hour hands to form the dough into a ball. Knead for 10 minutes. Form the dough back into a ball, coat it lightly with oil, and place it into a clean bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 2 hours. Punch down the dough and put it back into the covered bowl and into your refrigerator overnight. Take the dough from the refrigerator 1 to 2 hours before you plan to build the pizza so that the dough can warm up to room temperature.

Cut the chicken breast into bite sized cubes and marinate it in 1/4 cup of the bbq sauce in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

When the chicken is marinated, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Heat a small frying pan on your stove with about 1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil. Sauté the chicken in the pan for about 3 to 4 minutes or until no longer pink.

Form the dough into a ball and roll out on a floured surface until very thin and 10 inches in diameter. Spread the remaining 1/4 cup of bbq sauce evenly over the crust.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup of mozzarella and all of the Gouda cheese over the sauce.

Add the chicken next, then the red onion. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella around the center of the pizza. Bake the pizza for 10 to 12 minutes or until the crust is lightly brown.

Top with cilantro.

See the recipe...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Pasta with Ham, Pine Nuts and Rosemary Sauce

I'm not sure what happened. The clock ticked Autumn, and all we've had to eat since is pasta. Pasta pasta pasta. Sure, it would be one thing if it were actually cold outside... but since we're setting temperature records... I have no good excuse. What's nice about it is that I get to participate in Ruth's weekly Presto Pasta Night more often! Woowoo!

In this instance, I'm going to blame the Washington Post Food Section. I've started grabbing it on my way out of work (it would end up in the trash anyway), and I look through it on the ride home (but only when Dave drives!). I clipped out this recipe as soon as I got home. The photo won me over. That, and its non-tomato-based sauce. I've been smitten with those lately.

What double-won me over was the aroma. Between the orange zest, chopped rosemary and garlic, and sautéed pine nuts, my nose was in heaven. I really enjoyed the mix of scents, and for me, it really added to the dish. I know, I know, I should feel that way all the time... because smell has such a strong influence over our enjoyment of a meal... but this one really stood out.

This took little time to prepare (I used packaged, fresh pasta sheets). I zested, chopped, and cooked away.. and ta-daa, dinner. We ended up splitting the 4-serving pot of pasta... it was that tasty. While I loved the super-wide ribbons of pasta, they weren't Dave's favorite. I'm not sure this dish would have worked as well with a different cut, though. I'll have to explore more pappardelle recipes to see if I can win him over.

Any suggestions??

Pasta with Ham, Pine Nuts and Rosemary Sauce
c/o The Washington Post Food Section

8 to 10 ounces pappardelle pasta, preferably fresh
1 small orange
1 sprig rosemary
1 ½ medium cloves garlic
8 ounces smoked ham
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup pine nuts
Freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat; cook the pappardelle according to package directions. If using fresh pasta, cook 3 to 4 minutes or until the pasta’s color has lightened and the noodles are slightly larger; be careful not to overcook.

Meanwhile, grate the orange zest from the orange (about 1 ½ teaspoons) and set aside; reserve the orange for another use. Finely chop the rosemary leaves (about 1 tablespoon total), mince the garlic (about 2 teaspoons total) and set aside; trim the ham of excess fat and cut the meat into ¼- to ½-inch dice. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the pine nuts and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring often, until they are fragrant and have picked up some golden color. Add the garlic, ham, orange zest and rosemary; cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is fragrant and the ham has darkened in color. Season with pepper to taste; remove the sauce from the heat or reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting if the pasta has not finished cooking.

When the pasta is done, drain and transfer to a large bowl; pour the sauce over and toss, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and gently toss until well combined. Divide among individual plates and serve immediately, spooning equal amounts of the ham and pine nuts for each serving.

Nutrition per serving: 545 cals, 31 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 33 mg cholesterol, 822 mg sodium, 22 g protein, 45 g carbs, 2 g fiber

See the recipe...

Sunday, October 7, 2007

British Food Fortnight: Cornish Pasties

Bring on the miners and fishermen! (Except, I think pasties are bad luck for fishermen, I'm not sure why!)

I've never given "British" food much thought. Aside from fish'n'chips and pea puree, I'd really have to think about what constitutes British food... I called my mom (she lived in GB for a while) and I googled it... and I found that there is a slew of food I'd never associated with the UK.

For British Food Fortnight, I knew I wanted to make something accessible and with a fun name. In fact, the fun name was key. I chose the Cornish Pasty because, yes, it sounds a bit silly, but also because it had a history I could get behind.

Seems that the lovely wives in Cornwall would send these pasties off with their husbands to work in the mines. They were often filled with both savoury and sweet, at opposite ends, so that the men could get a couple bites of dessert. What I found charming, and unable to recreate, is that their initials would often be cut into the corner, so each man would be able to identify his breakfast/lunch/dinner. I read, also, that the miners would sometimes leave little corners of the pasty as an offering to the mine's mischievous inhabitants, hoping for good luck.

I tried to remain true to the rules... I didn't mix the ingredients together before I filled the dough, I didn't include sauce - just the salt, pepper, flour, and butter, so it could sauce itself as it baked. I even tried the "crimp," but I fear I mangled that entirely.

I will say that following the rules led to rather boring pasties. (No offense to the housewives of Cornwall.) That said, I found them entertaining enough, and soothing to make, that I want to try again, but with sussed-up fillings. Dave was already daydreaming about ways I could tweak the recipe. I froze half of the dough, so I'll keep you posted!!

Nigella’s Pasty Dough

2 cups milk (not low fat)
2 tbsp (30g) fresh yeast
3 tbsp crème fraiche
1 tsp sea salt (not iodized)
4 tbsp sugar, divided
5 cups flour (some more if you need it)
1 - 2 tbsp softened butter
vegetable or olive oil for greasing of bowl

Heat up the milk in a pan to the point when you can comfortably hold your finger in. If it is hotter, leave to cool to the finger friendly temperature.

Divide the milk roughly in half, pour one half into a roomy bowl, leaving the other half in the pan.

Add 2 tbsp of sugar to the pan, mix until sugar dissolves. Add the fresh yeast. Stand covered until yeast gets frothy.

To the milk in the bowl add crème fraiche, salt and 2 tbsp sugar. Sift in about 3 cups of flour, mix. It does not look pretty, and you should not be worried about lumps.

When the yeasty milk is frothy and you have mixed it so that it is homogenous, add this to the bowl. Mix. Sift in about 2/3rds of the remaining flour. Mix again with a spoon and start kneading. It will be very sticky. Add more flour by spoonfuls. When the dough gets less sticky and almost manageable, knead in the butter. Sprinkle over a spoonful of flour, knead, until you start feeling the dough becoming springy. To a clean bowl, add in about a spoonful of vegetable or olive oil, turn the doughball in it until it is all shiny. Press a cross with your fingers on top (this is traditional and I always do this - should help the dough to rise!) Dust lightly with flour, cover with a clean teatowel and leave in a warm place for about 1 hr.

Prepare your filling.

After 1 hr punch the dough, and leave it to raise for about 30 mins more.

Roll out the dough as needed.. Continue to make the pasties. When you have filled up a baking sheet, brush with beaten egg. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until golden. Take out and brush with water (this helps to make the pastry feel really light).

If you have some left over for a day or two and they have gone slightly stale, brush with water and reheat in microwave.

Cornish Pasty Filling
From Connie’s Cornish Kitchen

1.5 lb beef, not stewing beef
2 raw potato
2 raw swede (also known as rutabaga or yellow/swedish turnip)
2 small onion
salt and pepper
a walnut sized piece of butter

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut the steak into small pieces but do not mince. Slice potato and swede into thin, small pieces about half an inch across. Chop onion finely. Dust the work surface with flour. Roll out the pastry to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Using a small plate cut out circles (Picture 1 & Picture 2). Moisten the edge with milk or water (Picture 3) and support half of the pastry nearest to you over the rolling pin (Picture 4). On the other half, put a small layer of prepared vegetables then a layer of beef (Picture 5 & Picture 6). Repeat this once but be careful not to have too much filling which would cause the pastry to burst during the cooking process (Picture 7).

Sprinkle sparingly with salt and pepper then add a small bit of the butter (Picture 8 & Picture 9). Sprinkle a dusting of flour over the filling (this helps to make the gravy).

Fold the other half of pastry which has been resting on the rolling pin over the filling and squeeze the half circle edges firmly together (Picture 10 & Picture 11). Starting at the right side whilst supporting the left side with other hand, using first finger and thumb turn the edge over to form a crimp (Picture 12 & Picture 13). Repeat this process all along the edge (Picture 14). This will come with practice but you must get a good seal.

Brush pasty with beaten egg wash to help with browning process and put a small one inch cut in the centre of the top to allow steam to escape (Picture 15, Picture 16 & Picture 17).

Bake in a hot oven 425°F for about 20 minutes then reduce temperature to 325°F for a further 40 minutes. Smaller pasties need less time.

If they are browning too quickly cover loosely with greased paper.

See the recipe...