Friday, September 23, 2011

White Bean and Butternut Squash Stew

Obviously on a soup/stew kick.

This recipe from The Kind Diet, a spin on Black Soybean and Kabocha Squash stew, was super, super sweet.  My fault since I left out the 2 cups of tomatoes it called for.  Those tomatoes would have cut the sweetness.  I just was tired of tomatoes in my soup.

Even with tomatoes though it would have been sweet. One cup of [expensive] mirin made sure of that.

I'm thinking of draining and rinsing the remaining squash and beans and eating them like that.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fried Brown Rice With Kale and Scallions

This dish (recipe here) is just one version of what might be my favorite meal in the world - brown rice with veggies, sauce, and garnish.

The sauce can be anything - tahini, umeboshi vinegar, miso, soy sauce, even barbecue sauce.

The garnish can be sesame seeds, nuts, and/or herbs.

The veggies can be practically anything you can think of.

This particular version is brown rice, lightly fried with chopped kale, garlic, and scallions.  It is drizzled with soy sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds.  It came from Gwyneth Paltrow's cookbook, My Father's Daughter.  Her kids call it "green rice" and apparently gobble it up.

That's because it's delicious.  Perfection in a bowl, if you ask me.  Proof that food can, and should be, healthy and addictive.

A Gift of a Lemon Whoopie Pie

My friend's friend is kinda famous. Her name is Erin Hall and she owns Bitter Baking Company where they sell cookies with really hilarious messages on them (perfect for gifts).

Erin made some whoopie pies and shared them with my friend, who shared one with me, and now I'm sharing with you (sorry you can't taste though).

I came in to work this morning to find a little gift of a fresh-baked lemon whoopie pie on my desk.  It was a perfect compliment to my cup of coffee this morning.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mushroom, Onion & Swiss Chard Phyllo Rolls and Roasted Garlic-Cauliflower Mash

Not quite the beautiful photograph, but thought I'd share dinner last night.  Using this recipe as inspiration, I filled my phyllo roll with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and sauteed swiss chard.

They were okay, but you know what was better?  The odd pile of cream-colored mash on the side.  Yes, my roasted garlic and cauliflower mash was pretty delicious.

I'm not on a low-carb diet (though I am on a low-processed-carb diet), but I like how the cauliflower has such a creamy texture, it requires much less butter and sour cream type stuff to make it creamy, than potatoes do.
Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower Mash
8 cloves garlic
1 large head cauliflower
1-2 Tbsp butter (to your liking)
kosher salt and pepper

Coat the unpeeled garlic cloves in oil and roast in the oven on 400 for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop and steam the cauliflower until soft (you can even do this in the microwave - microwaving vegetables is my new trick for freeing up the stove!)

Puree the hot cauliflower and now-peeled roasted garlic in the food processor, with butter, salt and pepper to taste.

Voila! Tasty, creamy, mashed cauliflower.  It feels like you're eating a big bowl full of sinful carb-y stuff, but you're not.  You're eating steamed cauliflower.  Pretty healthy right?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Curry Tempeh Salad with Green Apples and Golden Raisins

I like to make this curry tempeh salad from Blissful Chef, but I add to it one diced green apple, and I find that there’s still plenty of the sauce mixture to cover the salad and then a little.

I also simmer the tempeh in water, soy sauce, maple syrup, and a drop of liquid smoke for a few minutes, and find it really gives a nice flavor to the tempeh.

We had this flavorful “chicken-esque” salad on a bed of mixed greens, with one half a cheddar dill scone each.  The cheddar in the scones was a perfect complement to the green apples and raisins in the salad.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tomato Soup and Cheddar-Dill Scones

This tomato soup is otherwise known as perfect tomato soup and I am giving you the recipe (however, DO use your own judgement if you try my recipe, because I'm not 100% confident in my recipe-writing skills).  If you have a vitamix, well, your soup might reach “velvety” status, and if you remove the seeds, well, it might be silkier then too, but in a normal blender and without removing the seeds you can have a tomato soup that easily converts you from Campbells (though I am not dissing Campbell’s tomato soup).

I served our soup with my little spin on grilled cheese for the night – warm, fresh-baked cheddar dill scones.
These were a rare treat, since I don’t cook or bake with cheese, much less epic proportions of butter, cream, and white flour, that often.  I have to add that the scones were delicious, but I’ve made many a healthier version of baked goods that tasted just as good.  Either way, we really enjoyed this simple but yummy dinner!

Way-Better-Than-Campbell's Tomato Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp margarine
1 large onion (or 2 small), diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
½ bell pepper (any color), diced
1 carrot, diced
8 sage leaves, chopped finely
Kosher Salt
½ cup wine (red or white)
10 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 large tomatoes, blanched and skins removed, chopped
1 28-oz can San Marzano tomatoes, broken up in pot with spoon
2 cups homemade vegetable broth (amount may vary according to liquid in tomatoes)
big handful fresh parsley
fresh ground black pepper

1. Heat the olive oil and margarine in a large pot over medium-low heat, and begin caramelizing your onions with a generous sprinkle of kosher salt. This should take about 20 minutes, and they will be golden.  (If they start to stick, turn the heat down a little.)

2. Add the celery, bell pepper, carrots, garlic, and sage to the pot, with another sprinkle of kosher salt.  Cook until soft, about 15 minutes. (if they are sticking or browning because the pot is too dry, you can add a tablespoon of broth, but try to coax them into cooking on their own in the remaining oil and with their natural juices – you can do this by not stirring unless you absolutely have to and making sure the heat isn’t too high or too low.)

3. Deglaze the pot with the white wine and let the vegetables absorb most of it. Meanwhile, add the peppercorns and bay leaf.

4. Add your fresh and canned tomatoes. Add the broth, using your judgment as to how much, depending on how much liquid the tomatoes contained and how thin/thick you’d like the soup to be.  (It will thicken slightly as it cooks, but you’ll be cooking quickly and lid-on, so it won’t reduce much.)

5. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, cover and simmer until the tomatoes are cooked to your liking (for me, about 20 minutes).

6. When the soup is cooked, remove the bay leaf.  Add the fresh parsley.  Puree the soup in batches in the blender until smooth.  Return to the pot, season to taste with ground black pepper and more kosher salt, and simmer for a couple of minutes just to meld.

 7. Garnish with more fresh chopped parsley and serve with garlic toast, grilled sandwiches, or as I did, with Ina Garten’s cheddar dill scones.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I didn’t do the best job of shaping this one, but we (I) ate the pretty cookies before I decided to take a photo.  These cookies only require 1/3 cup of oil and no eggs or butter, use ground walnuts, ground oats, and spelt flour in place of white (wheat) flour, and call for maple and brown rice syrups instead of granulated sugar.

And you know what?  They’re delicious!  Chewy and addictive, just like an oatmeal cookie should be.

Potato and Rosemary Soup with Sage

I made this soup because tomatoes and potatoes seemed a somewhat odd and underwhelming theme – for that reason, I suspected it might surprise me, since it is the very first recipe in the Fall Soups section of Anna Thomas’s cookbook, Love Soup.
It did surprise me, a little.  The addition of two caramelized onions, a little white wine, homemade vegetable broth, and fresh sage make everything come together nicely.

Think, potato soup with a spin. And without cream.

I guess I wasn't too surprised though, because tomatoes make pretty much any soup more flavorful.

I think by now I'm a soup-making expert and it takes a lot to impress me, if you want the truth.

I did take Anna's (and everyone else's these days, it seems) advice and drizzle the top with a fruity olive oil.  I didn't think it enhanced the flavor enough to justify the extra calories, but that's just my opinion and my bottle of olive oil.
On to the next!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Green Soup from Love Soup by Anna Thomas

As I said, Chris was in Boston for work this week, so I had a few days to myself.  Currently, I think he travels the perfect amount.  I love having a night or two to myself.  I think that’s healthy.  I also love trying to think of things to surprise him with when he gets back.  Sometimes it’s a clean closet, other times it’s a new shirt, and sometimes it’s just a meal I know he loves.  But there are also times when I get busy or lazy and the best I can manage is a sink with no dishes in it.

Either way, after a couple of nights of waking up to every bump in the night and listening out for nonexistent intruders, I’m ready for him to come home.  The house gets a little quiet, even with Meeks and NPR podcasts to help.

Anyway… this picture was my Monday night in a nutshell.  After I’d stood in my clean kitchen slicing kale, chard, onions and cilantro while sipping wine and listening to The Splendid Table.  The green soup comes from Love Soup by Anna Thomas.  It was good.  But not as good as one I made up just over a year ago.

My Sunday

Does anyone else ever try to take on too much?  Early Sunday morning, I dropped Chris off at the airport for a work trip, and returned home to sit on the rug with my coffee, Meeks, and about ten cookbooks spread out in front of us. My plan: choose some recipes, make a shopping list, go to the farmers market.

Then I thought, “and when I get back, I’ll reorganize all the cabinets and fridge while doing all the laundry.  And I’ll make some vegetable stock for the freezer. Yay!”

My eyes went to the corner where my little butcher block island stands, happily carrying some of the load for our bursting-at-the-seams cabinets and pantry.  We sure could use one of those big, open, industrial-looking shelves to display prettier items and free up some more cabinet space.  Did I dare go to IKEA alone and try to select, carry, then put together a shelf, while Chris was in Boston?  On top of all the other items on my agenda for the day?

Oh, but this is exactly the sort of thing I do.  I even thought I would do it all, and have time to go for a six-mile run, after which I’d luxuriously make green soup for dinner and even bake some oatmeal raisin cookies to take to the office in the morning. At the end of it all, I’d curl up on the sofa with Meeks, a new book, and a glass of wine.

I thought I would do all this, and maybe even more, on Sunday.

Obviously, I did not get it all done, I did not sit down on the sofa for that glass of wine until 12:00am, and my dinner was popcorn with Cholula hot sauce, not green soup; there was no desert.

But after seven back-and-forth trips to the car, I have all the things I need to cook to my heart’s content for a long time, including a precious stockpile of homemade broth.  And lots of sweat, plundering through Chris’s tool boxes, and jimmy-rigging later, my shelf is pretty darn cute!  Though some parts will have to be brought back to IKEA and exchanged for the correct parts, and the shelves themselves will probably benefit from actually being screwed into the frame.

I think I’ll wait until Chris gets back.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

White Bean and Collard Green Soup

It was the Tuesday after Labor Day Weekend, and an abrupt end to summer.  All day long, it was rainy, dark, and chilly.  Chris was sick with a cold.  Suddenly, the idea of a big pot of simmering soup seemed exciting!

With visions of hot, creamy, white bean soup in my head, I left work at 6pm and went straight to the grocery store to grab the items I needed:

white beans
collard greens (pre-chopped)
tiny multi-colored potatoes

(Other items, like vegetable broth, dried herbs, S&P, and olive oil I had at home already)

I forwent the whole “sauté the mirepoix” step for time’s sake, instead slicing everything into the pot while the water worked up to a boil.  I reduced it to a simmer, covered it, and ran out the door for my first Fall Weather Run of the season.  It was glorious.

Back from my run, I showered and checked my soup.  The beans were still hard!  If you don’t know, bean cooking time varies from bean to bean, and batch to batch.  You just never know.  However, these dried navy beans were obviously of the “simmer all day” variety.

Besides that, while waiting impatiently, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  Anyone knows beans combined with aromatic veggies and allowed to simmer luxuriously are going to taste just perfect.  But I kept tasting and tasting and tapping my foot.  This led to my adding a can of rotel tomatoes, which, despite the fact that tomatoes can never do anything but good to a stew, defeated my goal for creamy, uncluttered white bean stew.  The collard greens didn’t help either, as they colored the broth with their dingy green.

Ah well.  It simmered until bedtime.  The next night, I pureed a little of the soup with the immersion blender to thicken it and warmed it on the stove.  It hit the spot, with a side of garlic toast.

Still, I have a vision of creamy, silky, white bean stew in my head that will not go away.  I almost hope it storms on Saturday, just so I can make it, the perfect way.

First Fall Run

The first Fall run is nice.  You realize you’re faster than you thought, without 100-degree weather draining you of all but the minimal energy required to maintain running status.  Everything feels lighter and all bouncy, and you run like you’re running away from something the entire 7 miles or whatever distance.

If some mal-intending bum or crazy person spotted you towards the end of your run and thought you an easy target, thinking you’re probably all worn out from that running, he’d be wrong!  You have more energy than when you started an hour ago.  You are almost sprinting.

There’s something else, too.  Change, literally, stirs the air.  You feel a distant nostalgia for moments that took place long ago, for seconds, days, people and opportunities you’ve lost forever.   But you also wonder, excitedly, what’s to come.

You take long, rhythmic strides, leaping over obstacles (because you remember), with your chin up (you breathe better that way).  You take it all in, because it is ever so brief.