Friday, November 27, 2009

How Did Your Thanksgiving Go?

I hope your Thanksgiving went well Julie- and I bet it was nice to not have to worry about the turkey this year. However, I've had your famous turkey before and it seems you have it down to a science! You will have to share what else you had at your friend's house and if you were introduced to any new recipes.

I am thankful for so many things this year, one of them being that this was our first Thanksgiving as a married couple! It was also the first Thanksgiving that we hosted ourselves, but it was a nice introduction to the whole process since there wasn't any pressure to make everything perfect. We had Chris (our nephew) and a couple of friends over to our apartment. Let me tell you, it certainly is a challenge making a complete Thanksgiving meal in the world's tiniest kitchen, but we made it happen!

It was our first time making a turkey, and Daniel volunteered to take on the lead of "makin' the bird." We decided to use Alton Brown's recipe for "The Perfect Roast Turkey" using the brining method. Check out the very funny video of Alton Brown showing how to do it, its worth a watch and a few laughs.

We had a few hiccups along the way... like not having a large enough container to submerge the turkey in the brining liquid (resulting in having to brine it one half at a time) and a smoke filled apartment for some mysterious reason (we still can't figure it out!) that left our eyes watery and red Thanksgiving morning. Thankfully we did not have any guests over yet at that point!

Daniel putting in the "aromatics"

Well, how did it turn out you ask?

I am very proud to say that it was a success!!! It was perfectly cooked , and moist and flavorful. Good job Daniel!

Here is what the rest of our menu looked like:

1. Sourdough Stuffing with Sausage, Apples and Golden Raisins
  • I couldn't find any golden raisins, so I used cranberries instead. A very good recipe, but I would recommend using maybe a cup less chicken broth (it was little too soggy at the bottom)
2. Spiced Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar

3. Rose's Baked Artichoke Hearts
  • Wow, was this good. A recipe from my good friend Elissa over at The Painted Peach. I think it will become a regular fixture at Thanksgiving from now on.
4. Brussels Sprouts with almonds and lemon juice

5. Garlic and Rosemary Mashed Potatoes
  • Daniel insisted on having both this AND the sweet potatoes. Yikes. We made this with a few Yukons and some purple potatoes. Just saute some garlic and dried rosemary in some olive oil and blend in with the potatoes, milk/cream and butter, salt and pepper. Very tasty.
6. Cranberry Sauce
  • Of course. We just made the sauce according to the directions on the back of the package but substituted spiced apple cider for water, and added in some cinnamon. I made two batches of this, I LOVE cranberry sauce and it makes great leftovers (turkey and cranberry sandwich anyone? Ice cream topping? Chocolate cake filling?) I have yet to try out making your recipe yet, but maybe next year!
7. Frozen Biscuits from Trader Joe's- these were actually the best pre-made biscuits I think I have ever had. Of course nothing beats out homemade, but these were incredibly flaky and buttery.

8. Last but not least, Pumpkin Pie of course. I decided to use a waistline friendly version from Weight Watchers, and you would never be able to tell the difference!

Here it is all together!

I know, not the most elegant of table settings, but our goal wasn't to be pretty this year. Maybe next time!

Well, we stuffed ourselves silly and then went out to a movie afterwards. I am heading off to the gym now, I think I will need to burn off about 5,000 calories!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What are your Thanksgiving plans? (and a recipe for Cornbread Dressing with Smoked Sausage and Green Chiles)

Are you cooking any food this year, Beth? I'm sure you are super busy with school this weekend, but I hope you'll be able to relax at least a little bit! I'll be thinking of you and everyone else in our family, thankful that we love each other so much, even across all these miles.

We are having Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house this year, which means no turkey wrestling for me this year! Fantastic - I'm also thankful for that! Our friends are smoking the turkey, mashing the potatoes, and making a few other sides. We'll bring the dressing, sweet potatoes, and pie. And some adult beverages. I'm a little sad that I can't make my favorite cranberry sauce since our friends apparently have a favorite recipe they want to make instead, but that's okay. I look forward to trying something new!

I've been making this cornbread dressing for a few years in a row, now. I think we had it when you and Daniel were here for Thanksgiving two years ago, right? It is really good! It is sort of a mish-mash of three different recipes from Joy of Cooking, with a couple of my own twists for good measure. Anyway, I'm making it today so we can bring it to dinner tomorrow.

Smoked turkey and cornbread dressing from last year's Thanksgiving spread on our backyard patio

Cornbread Dressing with Smoked Sausage and Green Chiles

(Any cornbread will work for this recipe, but I prefer to use a Southern-style unsweetened cornbread, made with only cornmeal and no flour.)

8 cups cubed cornbread (about one standard recipe of cornbread)
4-8 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped celery
1 red bell pepper, cut into small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound smoked sausage, diced
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 four ounce cans of roasted mild green diced chiles, like Hatch, drained
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1/3 to 1 cup chicken stock
1-2 large eggs, well beaten

Toast the cubed cornbread in a 400F oven until golden brown. Turn into a large bowl. If you like a crumbly texture, break up the cubes with your fingers.

Heat the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, and sausage. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper. Stir into the bread cubes and add the chiles and corn kernels. Toss until well combined. Depending on how much butter you started with and how firm you want the stuffing, stir in the stock and egg a little at a time, until the dressing is moist but not packed together. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Turn the dressing into a large, shallow buttered baking dish. Bake uncovered in a 350F oven until the top has formed a crust and the stuffing is heated through, 25 to 40 minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Crusty Bean Cakes with Garlic and Herbs

♪ ♪ Beans, beans, the magical fruit...
(Come on, you know the rest.)

I think beans have an undeserved bad reputation. As the childish ditty implies, they can make some of us gassy, but they are also often looked down upon as "poor people's food." However, when cooked the right way, beans are so good and satisfying!

Cook a pot of beans, and you can do many different things. Take the plain, underrated pinto bean, for example. You can make chili and cornbread. Refried beans for burritos. Or tostadas. Or huevos rancheros. How about pintos with swiss chard and goat cheese (I need to try that one soon)? Or beans and rice ala the "whole bowl." One of Dad's favorites is a simple ham and bean soup served with fresh, buttered dinner rolls. Heck, I've even seen recipes for "fudge" using pinto beans, though I haven't been brave enough to try it myself.

Or try making these fun little crunchy bean cakes. I can't tell you how much I love these! They are very versatile; you can experiment to find your own favorite bean/cheese combination. I usually make these with black beans and cheddar or Parmesan, but I tried them this last weekend with pintos for the first time, and they turned out yummy. The recipe is actually an adaptation of the original crusty lentil cakes recipe from (my well-worn-falling-apart-at-the-binding copy of) Rick Bayless's Mexican kitchen, so apparently lentils are good here, too.

Yes, you could make these with canned beans instead, but they wouldn't be nearly as tasty. Besides, have you read about the recent tests on BPA in canned foods, conducted by Consumer Reports? Scary stuff. We're better off cooking our own beans. Beans freeze really well, so you can always cook up a big pot and use some now and freeze the rest for later. Click here for a good primer on how to cook dried beans, if you're not sure about that part.

Here's the recipe:

Crusty Bean Cakes with Garlic and Herbs

4 cups of any cooked, drained beans
1 medium onion
Vegetable or olive oil, for sauteing the onions and for pan-frying the bean cakes
6 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/4 cup cheese (like crumbled Mexican queso anejo, dry feta, Parmesan, or even pepper-jack or cheddar)
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Salt, about 3/4 teaspoon
2 eggs
3 tablespoons milk
About 2 cups dry bread crumbs
Plenty of salsa, for serving

Chop the onion and saute over medium heat in a little oil, until browned and tender.

Roast the unpeeled garlic in a dry pan, turning occasionally, until soft and blackened in spots, about 15 minutes. Cool, peel, and finely chop.

In a large bowl, mix beans, onion, garlic, cheese, cilantro and pepper. Taste and season with salt, usually about 1/2 teaspoon.

Form the bean mixture into 12 to 14 2-inch disks, each about 1/2 inch thick (packing the mixture into a 1/4-cup measuring cup is an easy way to do this; gently tap the cake out of the measuring cup to dislodge it. Transfer the cakes to a baking sheet lined with foil or wax paper. Freeze for a half hour or so, to firm for easier breading.

Beat the eggs, milk, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish, and spread out the bread crumbs on a plate. Dip both sides of each bean cake in the egg mixture, then dredge in the crumbs, pressing the crumbs into a firm coating completely covering the cake. Refrigerate covered if not frying immediately.

Turn on the oven to the lowest setting. Heat a 1/8-inch coating of oil in a large, well seasoned or nonstick skillet over medium heat. In batches, fry the cakes in an uncrowded single layer until brown and crusty, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove and drain on paper towels, keeping the fried cakes warm in a single layer in a low oven while finishing the others. Serve each portion of your crusty cakes on a warm dinner plate in a pool of spicy salsa or sauce, decorated with cilantro sprigs.

Advance preparation: The bean cakes can be shaped and frozen several weeks ahead. Bread them while frozen, then let them defrost for several hours in a single layer in the refrigerator. Another option is to reheat them gently in a 300 or 350 degree oven; they will crisp up again nicely, but you do need to be careful that the oven isn't too hot or they will get too brown on the outside.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Baking

The pace of life never seems to quite slow down. If anything, it is only steadily speeding up. We returned from our weeks-long vacation to Oregon back in July, but I still don't feel like things are back to "normal." What is "normal," anyway? Does such a state even exist? Perhaps this is the new normal, and I just need to accept it.

I've known for a while that I really need to do something to take back the control of our increasingly hectic family life. For me, a big part of it centers around feeding my family. When things are too crazy and there is no plan, we end up eating out more or purchasing more convenience-type foods at the store, which results in spending more money than we need to (or should), not feeling our physical best, and getting into the general rut of unhealthy habits, from which it can be hard to break free. And my jeans are getting tight, which is not how I want to start the holiday season.

Beth, I know your schedule has only gotten more full lately, too. I've recently discovered a couple of websites I'd like to share that lately have provided me with some inspiration to eat well again, while still accommodating the reality of life.

The first is actually an article from Mother Earth News on how to make the best ever artisan bread at home. It is, quite literally, Five Minutes a Day for Fresh-Baked Bread (it is a long article worth the read, but the directions for the master recipe begin on page three). Beth, the technique is similar to the one outlined in the New York Times article on No Knead Bread that you mentioned in your post a while back on No-Knead Sourdough Bread, but without the added complication of using a heavy pot with a lid to bake it (I mean, really... you don't need a lidded pot to bake artisan bread). And the sheer beauty of this recipe is that you mix up enough dough for at least three loaves of bread, and then store it in your refrigerator for up to two weeks (!) while using only as much dough as you want, whenever you want to bake it. A time-saving genius! The article also gives proportions for mixing up a larger batch of dough, should you feel it is necessary to do so. The first time I made this bread, everyone at the table swooned and declared the the Best. Bread. Ever. Which is really saying something, since I've baked a lot of good bread. I don't think I'll ever need (or want) to use another recipe.

The other website is Linda Watson's Cook for Good. The thing that intrigues me about this site is the premise - and proof - that it really is possible to eat healthily, consciously, and conveniently, without spending a fortune at hoity-toity grocery stores, like the one that rhymes with "Mole Dudes" (also often referred to as "Whole Paycheck"). There are lots of good ideas here, and Linda also has several ebooks for sale if you are looking for more specific guidance with even more recipes and meal plans.

Sunday is my day off, which is when I am mostly (but not always!) inspired to do the things I enjoy most, like creating extraordinary meals out of ordinary ingredients. Today I baked an apple-cranberry pie using Linda's Sneaky-Wheat Butter Pie Crust. I also baked a loaf of fresh bread, which we will enjoy with tonight's dinner of salad and crusty bean cakes with garlic and herbs. And, of course, a modest slice of pie for dessert.

Do try the bread soon; I can't wait to hear what you think!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Whole Bowl

The large bowl (without sour cream)

Right now I'm in the middle of a crazy whirlwind "vacation" in Oregon; we came at the end of May for Beth's and Daniel's wedding on the beach (so perfect, by the way!), and since then we've been driving up and down the state to spend time with various friends and family members. Currently I'm at my mother-in-law's home on the coast, helping her get settled back in after spending the winter with us in Austin. All-in-all, we will spend seven weeks traveling away from home!

Remember Beth's post on the Portland food carts a while ago? While I was in Portland last week, my friend Dawn met me downtown for lunch, and we headed over to the food carts near Pioneer Square. Dawn works downtown and raves about one cart in particular; in fact, she loves it so much she's never gotten around to trying any of the others lined up there on SW Alder and 9th. It wasn't hard to convince me that I must give it a try, but thank goodness there was also a hot dog stand among the cart offerings; while it all looked tempting to me, everything else was way to exotic for my kids.

image from
The mid-day lunch rush at the Whole Bowl on SW Alder and SW 9th.

The Whole Bowl offers a simple but deliciously satisfying combination of brown rice and red and black beans with various toppings. The secret ingredient, and the reason people will wait outside in line for ten minutes and pay $5 for a bowl of such simple fare, is the mysterious Tali sauce. Apparently, the recipe is a a closely guarded secret. No one except the owner Tali Ovadia knows what's in it. A bright yellow hue, the secret sauce has been described as lemony-garlicky... something. It's vegan, and gluten free. But it's top secret.

I'll be heading up to Portland one more time before we hit the road back to Austin; perhaps I'll get a chance to try out another cart, like maybe Garden State, which I hear is located in my old neighborhood of Sellwood.

And Beth, yes, I promise that when we get back to Austin, I'll whip up some migas to share here!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Baked Squash Blossoms with Goat Cheese, Chocolate, and Orange

The weekend before I got married, one of my best friends (Elissa, who has an amazing food blog called The Painted Peach) bought me a ticket to come visit her in San Francisco to have a gloriously indulgent weekend in celebration of my last weekend of singledom. I am so lucky to have such a great friend like her, it really was a weekend to remember. One restaurant in particular was especially memorable, called Pizzaiolo. There, I had my first fried squash blossoms. They were so amazing, I could have eaten twenty of them.

When I saw squash blossoms at the Dupont Circle Farmer's Market this morning, I had to get some. I knew I didn't want to fry them since I am trying to get back to being somewhat healthy after a long hiatus of eating and drinking whatever I wanted over the few weeks during my wedding and honeymoon. I also decided to see how they would do as a dessert rather than a savory appetizer. They turned out rather well, though not the most beautiful little things in the world! The goat cheese, orange and chocolate compliment each other nicely. The sugar probably cancels out the trying to be healthier thing, but oh well. Nonetheless, without further adieu...

Baked Squash Blossoms with Goat Cheese, Chocolate, and Orange

5 oz. goat cheese, fresh chevre (the best you can find)
½ cup powdered sugar
1 egg white
10 squash blossoms
1 whole egg, beaten with a tablespoon of water
2 oz. dark chocolate, chopped into tiny pieces
Orange zest from 1 orange
Orange juice from 1 orange
Brown sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Combine cheese, powdered sugar, egg white, chocolate, orange zest, and orange juice. Using a pastry tube or a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off, squeeze the goat cheese mixture into the squash blossoms, twist the petals closed and place on a greased cookie sheet. In a small bowl, beat egg with water and then brush each blossom with the egg wash. Sprinkle each blossom with brown sugar. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp. Enjoy!

P.S. I had some left over goat cheese mixture, so I mixed it with some cut up plums and baked it in a dish along side the squash blossoms and then chilled it. Turned out to be a really nice treat later on.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Perfect Breakfast

What do you get when you combine baked polenta slices layered with melted fontina cheese and a fresh tomato slice, and a dutch baby sprinkled with orange sugar, all the while listening to Nick Drake? A lazy Saturday morning and a perfect breakfast, that's what. If you aren't convinced yet, then just ask my soon-to-be husband. While scarfing it down in about 5 minutes, I think I might have heard him mumble something like "OMG, I die." Just kidding, that would only have happened if Rachel Zoe was my fiance. eeeeew! But really, it was pretty darn near a perfect breakfast. No joke.

Dutch Baby with Orange Sugar

adapted from Gourmet April 2009

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon grated orange zest (I used all of the zest from a large orange, about 3tbs)
  • 3 large eggs at room temperature 30 minutes (I ran them under warm water)
  • 2/3 cup whole milk at room temperature (I used skim and it was fine)
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick butter, cut into pieces

Put skillet on middle rack of oven and preheat oven to 450°F.

Stir together sugar and zest with a fork in a small bowl until evenly combined, and set aside.

Beat eggs with an electric mixer or hand mixer at high speed until pale and frothy, then beat in milk, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and continue to beat until smooth, about 1 minute more (batter will be thin).

Add butter to hot skillet and melt, swirling to coat (don't burn yourself!). Add batter and immediately return skillet to oven. Bake until puffed and golden-brown, 18 to 25 minutes.

While the dutch baby is baking, slice up some pre-made polenta (I got mine from Trader Joe's) and layer on some shredded fontina cheese, a tomato slice, some more cheese, and then sprinkle with paprika. Place them on a baking tray, and slide them into the oven with the Dutch baby. The two should be done at about the same time.

Serve immediately, and sprinkle the dutch baby with a generous amount of orange sugar. Slice up the orange you used for the zest and place it on the plate if you like.

*I wish I had pictures, but my camera broke (again)!!! You can trust me though, this was one memorable breakfast.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Portland Food Carts

image from On Portland

If you live in Portland Oregon, or are planning on visiting there any time soon, then you need to check out these food carts dotted around the city. I used to live in Portland, it is such a great city. I would not mind moving back if circumstances allowed one day. Julie says that it's a lot like Austin Texas, and from the one time I have been to Austin I would have to agree. For one thing, both cities have great food! Hey Julie- I have been wanting to make Migas (is that how you spell it?) for breakfast, you should totally post a recipe for it on here; I have never seen it offered anywhere on a menu in DC.

Anyway, go check out this article on some great food carts that are really popular in Portland. The article also offers some recipes to recreate some of the dishes at home. I think I might have to give the Eggs and Greens a whirl. I will be up there soon and will have to revisit a couple, especially Samurai Bento (I used to live right near there).


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Citrus Rice Pudding

I have a thing for homemade pudding (not out of the box either). So I have been trying out a few different methods, and I think this is the one I will be sticking with and working out the kinks until it gets to exactly the way I want it. If you like rice pudding at all, then you need to try this method; baking it slowly in the oven as opposed to over the stove top lends to and amazing consistency where the rice just melts in your mouth, and the citrus peel infuses itself throughout and absorbs the sugar so it is easily edible. Next time I think I might try making it with coconut milk.

Citrus Rice Pudding
adapted from More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin

2 citrus fruits of a different variety (lemon, tangerine, grapefruit, lime, etc)
1/2 cup white rice, jasmine or Basmati
4 cups whole milk
7 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs pure vanilla extract
2 Tbs rum (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250F. Peel the citrus with a vegetable peeler and cut the peel into very fine short strips. Be sure not to get any of the pith with the peel, otherwise it will make the pudding somewhat bitter. As you can see I accidentally got a little pith in mine.

Mix the peel, rice, sugar, milk, vanilla, and rum (optional) in an ovenproof dish. Put in the oven and cook uncovered for about 2 1/2 hours, stirring every 45 minutes or so. By the way, it will make your kitchen smell heavenly. If you use skim or low fat milk, you may want to keep it in there longer.

It will thicken considerably as it cools. It's great straight out of the oven, or cooled in the fridge.

I used skim milk in the recipe because that's what I happened to have and it turned out a bit more runny than I would have liked. I think next time I will use a milk with a higher percentage of fat (or coconut milk like I already mentioned). My citrus strips were a bit too thick for my liking, so I ended up picking out a lot of the big ones. I wonder how zest would work instead of the peel. Cinnamon might be a nice addition to the recipe as well, but the flavor is great simply as it is. Let me know if you try this out and tell me what works for you!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Peanut Butter and Jelly Pancakes

One of my favorite meals as a kid was a grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Our Grammy made these for us kids quite often and would always use her homemade blackberry jam. The blackberries were always from Oregon, which are quite arguably the best blackberries you will find anywhere. Living in DC, I don't have access to Oregon Blackberries, nor do I have the skill or knowledge to make homemade jam (anyone have some advice on how to get started with homemade jam making?) Every once in a while I will still make grilled PB and J sandwiches, if you have never had one i highly recommend it. This morning I was rummaging around the cupboards trying to think of something to make for breakfast: how about PB and J pancakes?

makes about 8-10 pancakes

1 1/2 cup flour
2 Tbs and 2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy)
1/2 cup jam or jelly of your choice


Measure out peanut butter into a medium bowl. Pour 1 1/4 cup boiling water over peanut butter and slowly stir until peanut butter dissolves. Add egg and oil and whisk well. Measure out dry ingredients on top of the peanut butter mixture, and mix dry ingredients together, then stir into the peanut butter mixture just until barely blended. Swirl in the jam or jelly, but do not completely incorporate, you want to keep the jam in swirls as much as possible:
If the jam or jelly you are using is too stiff, you may want to heat it up a little in the microwave or mix it with a little bit of hot water before swirling it in. Let batter sit for 5 minutes.

Lightly oil a large griddle or skillet and place on medium low heat.

You can tell if your skillet or griddle is hot enough by flicking a drop or two of water on its surface. The water should skitter around and quickly evaporate if the pan is hot enough.

Roughly measure out 1/4 cup batter onto hot skillet and cook pancake for about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes on each side. Turn when bubbles form and continue cooking until golden brown.

Serve immediately topped with jelly or keep warm on a baking sheet in a 200° F oven until all pancakes are cooked. You can also top with maple syrup and butter if you prefer.

This is a great breakfast to make with kids! (just be careful when handling boiling water of course). Goes well with a side of bacon or fried egg.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural Recipes: Cherry Chutney and Apple Cake

Happy Inauguration Week, y'all!

Inspired by the official inauguration luncheon menu, we marked the occasion with a special dinner of our own. Instead of duck, we had chicken breast topped with the cherry chutney; instead of an apple sponge cake, I baked Grammy's fresh apple cake, and we enjoyed it topped with whipped cream. No pictures today, but recipes for the cherry chutney and apple cake are posted below.

First, the cherry chutney: the list of ingredients is a bit long, but most ingredients are basic. The only special ingredients I needed to pick up from the store were the cherries and the golden raisins. I'm sure regular raisins would be equally as flavorful, if not as colorful. I made very few changes to the original recipe. Instead of shallots, I used the white parts of scallions, and instead of tarragon or chives, I used the green parts of said scallions. The official recipe mentions tomato paste, but I used a fresh, chopped tomato. The end result was fantastic. In Oscar's words, "Sweet, spicy, and delicious!"

Now, about Grammy's apple cake: I've posted the recipe exactly as she wrote it out for me in her own handwriting, many years ago. Her recipe indicates the cake should be baked in a 13x9" pan, but I always remember Grammy using loaf pans. Thus, as a child, I thought of it more like bread than cake. However, the recipe calls for plenty of sugar, butter, and white flour; clearly, it is cake, not bread. Today, I baked the batter in two loaf pans. One cake was devoured tonight, and the other goes in the freezer to enjoy another day.

And finally, the recipes...

Cherry Chutney

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp chopped scallions, white parts only
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp hot red pepper flakes
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 medium tomato, de-seeded and chopped
1/4 cup red wine
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 can Oregon brand Bing cherries, drained and quartered
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 tbsp chopped scallions, green parts only

Heat oil over medium heat, then add onion, garlic, and white scallions; cook and stir until soft and golden. Add chopped tomato, black pepper, cumin, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 tsp salt; cook for about a minute. Add bell pepper and cook until softened, reducing heat if necessary. Stir in wine, vinegar, an sugar; simmer about 5 minutes. Stir in mustard, half of the cherries, and remaining 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste); simmer 1 minute. If desired, remove 1/4 cup of mixture to a blender and puree until very smooth and reserve for glazing meat or poultry. Finish the chutney by adding the remaining cherries, the raisins, and the chopped green scallions.

Grammy's Apple Cake

2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
4 cups grated or chopped apples
1/2 cup nuts
1/2 cup softened butter
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Sift dry ingredients into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and beat just until combined (the batter will be thick). Turn batter into a greased 13x9" pan and bake for about one hour.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Chocolate Chip and Molasses Quick Bread

OK, let me confess something to you all. I had the best of intentions this holiday season and was going to send all of my near and dear loved ones a homemade gift this year. It wasn't going to be anything fancy, but the busyness of the season got the better of me. Maybe next year...

Anyway, the basic idea of what I was going to make was a "bread in a jar." I bought a bunch of glass mason jars and was planning on layering all of the dry ingredients in the jar so it would look kind of like those glass jars with different colors of sand layered in. I would then print out the directions on a pretty card and tie it to the neck of the jar with some ribbon.

I did however, get around to making the bread to test out the recipe. The recipe calls for oatmeal, molasses, chocolate chips, and pecans but the best thing about this recipe is you can mix and match the ingredients to your liking. Say for instance, if you really like the combination of dried cherries and chocolate and you do not like nuts, you could do that instead. If you don't like molasses, substitute brown sugar.

Chocolate Chip and Molasses Quick Bread:
adapted from Sunset Magazine

2 cups flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup miniature chocolate chips
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup molasses
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter

In a large bowl, quickly mix together dry ingredients. In a small bowl, mix together buttermilk, eggs, butter and molasses. Stir wet mixture into dry mixture just until barely moistened (batter will be lumpy). Now mix in the chocolate chips and pecans (or whatever you want), but be careful not to over mix.

Scrape batter into a non-stick 9 by 5 loaf pan and bake for about 50 minutes at 350F. You will know when its done when inserting a wooden skewer in the middle comes out clean.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Herbed Pork Stew with Mushrooms and Carrot Greens

We enjoyed this stew on a recent Sunday afternoon, when everyone was lazing around all day with the sniffles and sneezes.

Carrot greens, surprise surprise, taste quite carrot-y. I used just the greens in this stew, and the carrots in a rice dish later in the week, but I'm sure it would be extra tasty to chop the carrots and add them along with the mushrooms.

And for those of you who know I don't eat mushrooms: they show up in our local box delivery every now and then, so I use them. Oscar loves them; I pick them out. That's one reason they are whole in this recipe - easy for me to remove, but big bites of mushroom-y goodness for Oscar to enjoy.

Herbed Pork Stew with Mushrooms and Carrot Greens


2 1/2 lbs pork loin roast, cubed
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
7 cloves of garlic, as as many as you can stand
3 tbsp flour
salt and pepper
12 oz. beer (I used a bottle of Shiner Light, which is really the only light beer I would recommend; otherwise, just use your favorite regular beer)
1 bunch of carrot greens
A few sprigs each of fresh sage and rosemary
12-15 crimini mushrooms
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, or to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat and add the pork in an even layer. As the meat begins to sear, chop the onions and garlic, throw them in the pot and give everything a stir. Once the pork has browned, sprinkle the flour and salt and pepper over the top and mix in. Add the beer, stir around, and then add enough water to cover the meat, letting the mixture come to a simmer.

While the stew is simmering, take a few sprigs of the carrot greens and use kitchen twine to tie them in a bundle with the sage and rosemary, and add the herb bundle to the stew.

Clean the mushrooms and add them whole (you can cut the large ones in half, if desired) to the stew, along with the kalamata olives.

Let the stew simmer slowly for at least 2 hours, or more, adding water as necessary to keep everything submerged.

Just before serving, chop the remaining carrot greens. Remove the herb bundle from the soup (most of the rosemary needles should have dropped off into the stew by now, which is fine), discard, and then stir in the freshly chopped greens. Add Worcestershire sauce to taste, and adjust salt and pepper as necessary. Serve!

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