Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another Weeknight Keeper!

Almost every week I am trying out new recipes.  Sometimes 3 or 4 new ones make the menu and sometimes we stick with the o'll standbys.  I love it when I try a new recipe and it becomes an o'll standby.  Bucatini with Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts is one of those for sure.  If you are not in love with Brussels sprouts or cauliflower, this may just be your gateway dish.  Phoebe has been trying a Brussels sprout or two here and there and every time she likes them a little bit more.  She had a whole pile of them when I made this (and I even said it was okay to pick around them if she didn't want to eat them). 
Like I always say, get all your prep done first then cook, things will run much smoother and you will finish much quicker.  Start by peeling off the outer leaves and halving or quartering (if large) your Brussels sprouts and wash them off (these were from our garden-go us!).
Now cut and clean your cauliflower and set aside.
Next chop an onion, some fresh rosemary and thyme and slice some garlic.  You will also need to mince a few anchovies.  No, the anchovies are not pictured because lets face it, they're not very photogenic.  Speaking of anchovies, don't let them scare you off (if my sister is reading this she has completely checked out at the mention of anchovies.  Doesn't matter though because I'll feed them to her when she doesn't see it coming).  I waited to tell Phoebe about the anchovies until she had already made several declarations of approval for this meal.  Its important to know that sometimes things we don't like by themselves can really add to the flavor of a dish.
I will mention again how great fresh herbs are to have on hand.  They really can have a big impact and some, like this rosemary will last quite a while in the fridge.  While prepping all this good stuff get that salted water boiling for your pasta.
In a large deep skillet heat some olive oil.  Then add your veggies along with some salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned and crisp tender.  Get your pasta in the water when boiling and cook until the package indicates for al dente.
See how nice and brown the sprouts are getting? Oh man, those are good.
Next you add another 1/4 cup of oil (Nelsy was mildly horrified by the amount of oil but it is olive oil and we all know how healthy those Mediterranean's are do we not?  And its not like we're making one serving here so I think we're okay.  Along with the olive oil goes the anchovies, onions, garlic, rosemary and thyme.  Cook stirring until onions have softened and then lower the heat and keep warm.  When I make this next time I will add a little lemon zest at this stage.  Hayden and I both agreed that a little lemon would be a nice touch.
Writing this and looking at these pictures is making me very hungry! Once the pasta is done, reserve a 1/2 cup of cooking water before draining the pasta.  Add the pasta and reserved cooking liquid to the veggies and toss until most of the liquid is absorbed.
You will see in the actual recipe that it calls for toasted breadcrumbs.  We did toast some, and burnt them and didn't eat them.  I thought it was great without them and won't bother with them next time either.  Like I said, I will add a little lemon zest.
And there you have it, one super tasty quick meal for any night of the week.  Check it out at Food & Wine and let me know what you think!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Beets Me

It seems to me that beets are not the most popular vegetable around.  I'm not sure why that is exactly, but I'm sure the reasons vary.  Some may not have been previously exposed to beets (maybe their parents didn't like them), maybe they think they taste like dirt (as a client once said) or maybe they've only had them boiled (in which case I don't really blame them)!  A few years ago I asked Nels about beets, I figured being a farm kid he must have eaten a ton of them (turns out most of my "farm kid" assumptions are wrong).  He said they didn't eat a ton of beats but when they did they were just boiled.  So we opened a can one night, boiled them up and I could then officially say I did not like beets.  Then the o'll CSA came along.  I've written many times about our beloved box of veggies that we pick up every week from Early Morning Farm (which by the way are offering a discount if you sign up by 11/30/13 for next season).  This box contains all kinds of amazing veg and often contains a few beets.  Since I was feeling less than lucky to have all these beets I started looking for other ways (besides boiling) to make them.  Luckily beets hold up really well in the fridge so its okay if you don't get to them right away.  I did remember that many moons ago I tried some pickled beets that my friend Danielle made, so I found a recipe and now keep a jar or two in the fridge to eat on salads.  My current favorite is roasted beets tossed with arugula, pistachios and bleu cheese crumbles.  I made them for Thanksgiving last year and they (spoiler alert) will be on the table again this year.  Its an easy side dish, I think you should try them out.
Get yourself a few beets and scrub the dirt off of them.
Put them in some foil with a little drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.
Make sure you wrap them up nice and tight.  Those suckers are juicy and you don't want all of that on the bottom of your oven (just trust me).  Roast in a 425 oven for about 45 min or until fork tender.
When they're done let them cool enough to handle and rub off the skins.  They should slip right off.

Then just cut them up to what ever size is manageable.
Clean a nice bunch of arugula.  If you're not familiar with arugula, it has a peppery taste to it.  If you're not a fan, try using fresh spinach or kale or what ever leafy greens you like.
Next, grab some pistachios and some crumbly bleu cheese.
Toss it all together while the beets are still warm.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  In case you're wondering, that is feta in the picture, I was out of bleu cheese but this tasted pretty darn good too.  Bleu is better though if you ask me.

With the high number of vitamins and minerals found in beets (potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A, B and C, fiber and folic acid to name a few) its worth playing around with them to find a recipe that you like.  I even had one in my smoothie this morning.  I feel like a rock star.
So if you want to live a long active life like these old geezers...OK, I couldn't resist a Halloween picture.  These are a couple of funny kids!
Bon Appetit!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Where Have You Bean All My Life?

One reason I never would have made a good vegetarian over the years (aside from the fact that I love meat) is that my taste for beans just wasn't always there.  Of course this statement makes the assumption that to be a vegetarian one must love beans.  Of course this is not necessarily true, but it couldn't hurt, especially if you wanted to be a healthy vegetarian.  I've been eating black beans for years with my favorite Mexican dishes but slowly have grown very fond of all varieties of white beans (Great Northern, cannellini, small white (?), etc.).  Kidney beans not so much.  They are still too big and beany for me.  I've posted a few good white bean recipes on this blog and today I have another (and one more coming soon.  Wow. I'm like some kind of bean freak or something.).  This one is a perfect warming soup for a chilly fall/winter afternoon.  It's quick and delicious.  Two years ago I'm pretty sure I would have never thought that I would get fired up about a White Bean and Ham Soup but here I am.  Already looking forward to the next batch.  I still think that I will never love a split pea soup, for the record.  This recipe is from my beloved Food & Wine website and I think you should whip some up this weekend.  Or tonight.  It only takes 30 minutes!
To get started preheat your oven to 350.  Then melt a tablespoon of butter in a soup pot.  Shred a couple of carrots, smash a clove of garlic and chop an onion.
Cook it in the pot with a few sprigs of thyme and a little coriander.  I am fully aware that this picture is blurry but can't we just call it an action shot?  Cook for about 3 min or until softened.
Then you add some chicken stock, 3 cans of white beans (drained and rinsed) of your choice, along with one piece of bone in smoked ham (1lb).  Bring to a boil  then lower the heat and cook partially covered for 20 minutes.
While the soup is cooking and smelling fantastic, cube a baguette and toss with olive oil and paprika and a touch of salt.  Spread them on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
They may look the same, but now they are crunchy! 
When the 20 minutes has passed, take the ham out and cut it up, remove the thyme sprigs and hit that soup with the immersion blender if you have one.  This makes it a very simple process.  If you don't have one (put it on your Christmas list) puree it in batches in your blender until smooth.
Add the ham back in, top with croutons and scallions and dig in!  This is really good stuff.  So click the link to the Food & Wine website and enjoy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mmmm Beer Gravy....

Okay, so it's been over a week since I've wanted to share this recipe.  I have about five reasons as to why I'm just getting to it now, two of which are pretty good ones but I'll spare you the details.  A few weeks back I was chatting with a friend at a soccer game about food and dinners (shocker) and the topic of the o'll Crock Pot came up.  The slow cooker is just so fantastic in theory but I feel like I rarely find a recipe that excites me.  I do have a few posted on this blog but they tend to be a variety of Asian pork or the all time fave of the whole chicken which I re posted from 100 Days of Real Food. This recipe, Slow-Cooker Stout & Chicken Stew from Eating Well does involve a little bit of prep but not too much.  They do give tips at the end of the recipe to do some of the prep ahead to save time in the morning.  There are two things I love about this, there is no canned soup involved and there is canned beer involved.  Who doesn't love an excuse to have an extra Guinness on hand?  OK, maybe a few but just work with me here.  You can click the link above for the recipe and I will include it again at the end.
One of my least favorite things to do is browning meat for a recipe.  I will say however, it is must less annoying to brown a few chicken thighs than to brown some big hunk of pork or beef.  You get some flour for dredging and a little salt and pepper.
Lightly coat your boneless, skinless chicken thighs, shaking off the excess.
Next, of course, comes the browning.  Just heat a little bit of oil in the pan and get to work.
When they're brown, you place them in the bottom of the slow-cooker in as close to a single layer as you can.
Next up, bacon.  Mmmmm.  Bacon.  This is just three slices.  I find it so much easier to cut raw bacon with some kitchen scissors rather than trying to chop it with a knife.  Raw bacon sticks to the knife.  This is quicker and easier if you have them.
Now cook the bacon for a couple of minutes until it starts to crisp up a tad.
Add flour to the bacon and cook a couple of minutes more.
Now you add that can of stout.  Mmmmm.  Stout.  Did you know that Guinness only has 125 calories per serving?  It's really not horrible as far as beer goes.  And this is spread around an entire recipe that makes 8 servings so better yet.
Once you add the stout, stir it up and scrape all the yummy bits off the bottom of the pan.
Then pour it over the chicken in the slow-cooker.
Add garlic and thyme....
carrots (these colorful lovelies are from our garden)....
mushrooms (which I don't particularly like, but I do like the flavor they add to the ensemble)....
(get them all in there on top of that chicken)
And top with chicken stock or broth.  I've been talking a lot lately about reading labels and this is a big one.  You will notice that some brands of stock report "lower sodium" all over the front of the can or carton.  Read the numbers.  Turns out it's just lower than their regular one.  This brand is lower than all of them (in our store anyway).
So that's it.  Put the lid on and let it cook all day.  You can go 4 hours on high or 8 on low which is usually the more convenient option. 
About 10 minutes before serving, add a cup of peas.  Another thing I'm not crazy about but I was a big girl and ate my peas AND mushrooms (thank you very much).
And there it is all finished.  My kids loved this, especially the boy.  The boy who's favorite meal to request is chicken pot pie.  Chicken pot pie takes about three days to make (in my experience...).  I hate making chicken pot pie but luckily this satisfied his craving!  I think next time I'll make some biscuits and that should really do the trick.
We had it over rice with a nice side salad.  So if this looks good click the Eating Well link and get cookin.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Get The Creep Out Of The Kitchen

So, how many of you are reading labels on your food?  I'll admit, we haven't always paid a ton of attention to labels in our house, but in recent years it has become more and more important to us.  I'm not talking about calories and fats (although my kids now love to report the number of sugar grams in any given packaged food....doesn't mean they won't want to eat it of course but they are at least aware I guess....) and serving sizes.  While those are important pieces of the picture, today I'm talking ingredients.  When I held a kids cooking class this summer, the first thing we did was to look at the ingredient lists on some foods that some kids eat regularly.  Doritos, Oreos, and Ritz crackers.  Doritos, have close to 30 ingredients including MSG, 3 dyes and "Artificial and Natural flavors" whatever that means (actually I know what that means but its disgusting and for another day).  The Oreos contain the dreaded high fructose corn syrup and in recent days, articles are popping up online about studies that show they can be as addictive as cocaine.  Great.  The Ritz crackers contain partially hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. trans fat) as well as high fructose corn syrup (and more of those natural flavors).  These examples may not surprise you, as hopefully even if you're not super careful or on top of what you're eating you probably didn't expect these items to be good for you. 

On Monday, Nelsy and the kids had the day off for Columbus Day.  Nels and Hayden went to get some groceries and to pick up a couple of ingredients to make pot stickers.  We had a bunch of cabbage from our CSA box and some ground pork from our meat box and basically needed some won ton wrappers to complete the meal.  He just happened to read the label (honestly this might be one of those things that I would not have thought about looking at) and sees that propylene glycol (also found in break fluid and antifreeze) was in the ingredient list.  OK, so the FDA considers it "generally recognized as safe" for consumption but really?  Must we have all this creepy stuff in our food? Yuck.

When they returned from the store Nelsy dug out our Blue Ginger cookbook by Ming Tsai and found a simple recipe for the dough that contains 3 ingredients.  One of them is water.  Of course making the dough added some steps to the process but we all agreed that they tasted way better and we liked them better than the ones we get from our Chinese take out place (admittedly this is not saying a whole lot).  It was a day off, he started on them a little early (time for the dough to rise) and wrangled a cute little helper to assist (not me, Phoebe). 

It's fun to cook with your kids.  It's like doing crafts but with out a bunch or glitter and googly eyes all over the place.  You get to eat the project when your done.  They actually learn something and they feel very accomplished when it turns out.  Don't they look happy with their big pile of shredded cabbage?
Here they are wringing out the water.  (Disregard dirty dishes)
Here we have chicken marinating for the stir fry, bok choy ready to go, and little dough circles getting rolled out to be filled.
All wrapped up we had enough for dinner plus two more dinners that we froze.  There you go, another added bonus.  Stir fry is a super quick week night dinner and having homemade pot stickers in the freezer makes it that much better!
There is nothing creepy about this dinner!  I had posted these pictures on the Who's Got The Thyme? Facebook page and at least a couple of you wanted to give it a shot.  I found the recipe on Food Network which seems to be the same recipe as our cookbook but the book called for four cups of cabbage and the website says two so....I'd go with four.  Or as close to four as you can. So click the link and get cookin!  And for Pete's sake read your labels!