Posts filed under ‘Recipes’

Sage butter makes the Brussels better

Very often when I tell people that two of my favorite vegetables are beets and Brussels sprouts I get a look as if I just grew a second nose. “You can’t be serious” and “REALLY??!” are some of the most comment responses, along with “I can’t stand _____, I used to have to eat them as a kid, and….yuck!”

Sadly, I find that frequently both of these vegetables end up with an “F” grade because they aren’t cooked well AT ALL. Think of the last time you (or someone you know) cooked beets or Brussels sprouts. How many of you boiled a pot of water as the first step? If the second step was putting either of these veggies into that water, I can tell you already, you went wrong from the beginning.

You see, water is amazing. It gives us life, grows our food, washes away dirt and germs, however it can also steal away valuable and irreplaceable nutrients and flavor in cooking. With beets, this is easy to see. Almost immediately the water turns brilliant pink when beets are added. As you heat and boil these roots, the nutrients and flavors (especially the sweetness) trapped inside the veggies seep out into the water. When the cooking is done, where does that water go? Unless you’re using a bit of it for the recipe, the likely answer is “down the drain,” and with it most of what makes the beets taste good. The same can be said for Brussels sprouts. The results are flavors described as “bitter,” “bland,” and generally disgusting. I know there are other reasons people don’t like these two veggies including texture and smell, but cooking them poorly doesn’t help.

There are many great suggestions for roasting, sautéing and otherwise NOT boiling both beets and Brussels sprouts. By far, the best method for beets is roasting, but I will leave those directions for another day. Today I want to focus on the sprouts.

A few years ago a colleague introduced me to sage butter. Sage was an herb I previously shied away from, feeling completely incompetent in its use. But combine it with butter and… heaven. Add sprouts, yeah, awesome.

Sage butter brussel sprouts

Sage Butter Brussels Sprouts

  • Butter, half stick or more
  • Fresh sage leaves, half cup or more
  • Brussels sprouts, 2-3 cups
  • Sea salt

In a large pan, add a lot of butter (seriously, don’t be stingy, a good half stick or more is appropriate). Using fresh sage, tear up about a half cup up of rinsed leaves, more if you like  – they will cook down, so it’s important to at least cover the bottom of the pan once, but I like closer to twice. Turn the heat to low, cover and let alone for 30 minutes minimum, I suggest 45 mins to an hour if you have time. Stir a few times  to coat the leaves, otherwise, as long as the butter does not bubble (too hot!), you should be able to set a timer and walk away.

While the butter is doing its thing, rinse your sprouts. You’re going to want enough to cover the bottom of the pan once when they’re cut in half, but up to two layers deep will work. Slice each sprout in half. Remove bad spots and trim ends if brown. As a veggie with several layers, I recommend soaking and/or rinsing them again once cut in half.

The next part is something I experimented with many times, but it seemed hit or miss on getting just the right texture, flavor and color. Last fall, however, I found this recipe for Golden-Crusted Brussel Sprouts. It’s quick and delivers just the right tenderness, maintains the lovely bright green color and adds a touch of mouth-watering caramelization. While the referenced recipe uses oil, we’ll continue with our sage butter.

Once your butter is ready (give it a taste, should be infused with sage-y goodness), dump in the sprouts. Turn the heat up to medium and stir to cover the sprouts with butter. Sprinkle with a shake of sea salt and cover. The moisture on the sprouts (from rinsing) and in the butter will “steam” the veggies. Cook for 5-7 minutes, uncover to stir and taste test. Depending on the size of your sprouts and how many you’re cooking, they may take a few more minutes to be tender. You’re going for something similar to “al dente” in the pasta world, or “just tender” as the other author put it. If they’re not quite ready, put the lid back on and allow to cook for a few more minutes. When ready, remove the cover, add another shake of sea salt, turn heat to high and allow to caramelize. I suggest turning a few times, so you can get browning on both sides, but the main thing is to not let the butter burn (browning is ok). This heat will also cause the sage to get a little crispy – one of the best parts, in my opinion.

IMG_0676[1]While I know this recipe won’t convert every person who despises sprouts, I promise it will convince at least some of the “sprout curious” or those open to giving them a second chance after childhood trauma.

October 20, 2013 at 6:23 pm Leave a comment

Bebop-a-rebop rhubarb… jam

Though the calendar says June 10, most people in Minnesota would tell you that it feels like early April. Personally, having spent my college years in the state of Washington, I’ve been describing this month as “late February in the Pacific Northwest.” Cold and wet. A drizzle to be exact. Generally miserable for gardeners and lovers of the sun alike.

That said, there is one staple of the early spring that is excelling in this cool weather. The ever popular rhubarb. Though technically a vegetable (we’re using the stalk, not the “fruit” of the plant), most eaters think of rhubarb more as a fruit, as it is often found in sweet desserts like pies. I grew up with a mom who regularly made rhubarb crisp, sprinkled with oatmeal and sugar crumbles and of course, a packet of strawberry or raspberry Jell-O, so I would generally be in agreement with the “fruit” designation (though the biologist side of me balks at this misclassification).IMG_0141

The simplest way to eat rhubarb, yet the most difficult for some, is straight out of the garden. I have vivid memories of my brother and I eating stalks of rhubarb, dipped in a small plastic cup of sugar, the stringy skin always a challenge, but the tart and sour treat worth the effort. This method is not for everyone, particularly those who don’t love the “pucker in the far back of your jaw” feeling.

That said, a bit more sugar and maybe a few other ingredients and you’ve got yourself  a much more palatable sweet and sour combo. As previously mentioned, this often manifests itself as dessert, but another incredibly easy option is jam.

Having gotten what I consider incredibly lucky, I discovered this spring that the house we bought this winter had a garden already planted with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR rhubarb plants, all of which, given the cold weather previously mentioned, have done very well so far this year. Not wanting to waste this early season bounty, last night I set to the task of preparing a bunch for freezer jam. For those of you leery of canning, I highly recommend freezer jam as an easy, and more or less “fail safe,” way to get into home preserving. With rhubarb, you don’t even need pectin, just a knife, a pot and a bunch of sugar. The recipe I followed was one my mom found online and you can find it here.

MY NOTES: The recipe calls for six pounds of rhubarb. If you’re like me, I don’t have a scale to measure that small of an amount, so I used the rough conversation suggested by the original blog author of one pound equaling about four cups of rhubarb. Knowing I didn’t have enough for 24 cups (six pounds x four cups), I opted to cut the recipe in half. After I measured my 12 cups, I started adding sugar. Five cups of sugar seemed like it would be an awful lot, being someone who prefers the sour to the sweet in a rhubarb jam, so after three cups, I stopped, seeing the chunks were thoroughly coated and a nice juice was forming. If you have a bigger sweet tooth, you may prefer more. If you use less as I did, you might have to cook it a bit longer to help with gelling, but really, since it is freezer jam, it doesn’t matter as much as canned jam.

Once you have cooked the jam, you have a couple options. Some people will recommend you let it completely cool in the pot before you fill your jars. Personally, I put it in jars and let it cool on the counter for a while, then put it in the fridge overnight to cool completely. Either way, there are two things you should NOT do and they are: do not put hot jam in the fridge (this warms other items in the fridge and isn’t good for food safety or fridge efficiency) and do not put hot or warm jam in the freezer (mainly because this big change in temp can cause your jars to break, and like the fridge, it isn’t good to warm up the freezer).

IMG_0143

Another nice thing about freezer jam is you don’t need official canning jars, you can really use anything you want, though I personally recommend limiting the use of plastic and only freezing in glass, such as old jam or condiment jars. I also recommend going with smaller jars (half pint or less), unless your household goes through a lot of jam quickly. Mine does not, so the smaller jars are better for making sure they don’t go bad in the fridge once thawed.

As expected, this jam was right the right balance of sweet and tart for me. It was perfect on a slice of toast and I can only imagine it will be divine on chocolate or vanilla ice cream.

June 10, 2013 at 10:13 pm Leave a comment

“Anything goes,” so they say.

If you’re like me, you get a lot of emails, many of them not personal. Most of them I bring upon myself as a consequence of my apparent inability to resist the “Subscribe here” urge. I’ve clicked those buttons, or signed up at events, often enough that I created a secondary email address for all of these emails to go to. In turn, this means that just a few actually get read. This is kind of sad, I’ll admit, having written enewsletters myself, because I know the time that goes into them at the other end, with all the concern about format or images or color schemes. That said, the reality is, what I open each month has little to do with any of that. In all honestly, the likelihood that any one of these emails will be read by me is kind of like a game of roulette – one month Organization X gets lucky, the next it might be Retail Store Y.

A few days ago, my random email read of choice was from a store in Minneapolis called Local D’LishOpened a few years ago in downtown, the owners state on their About Us page that “Every purchase from Local D’Lish is helping to support our own local farmers and small businesses.” For those of you who know me, you can guess that this strikes a chord with my commitment to buying local food and supporting the businesses that, in my opinion, are most valuable to our communities. Due to the location, however, I’ve only made it into the store once, about a year and a half ago, but from what I remember, they’ve done an excellent job of connecting with local growers and food creators, mostly small and medium-sized operations, to stock the shelves of the small store with all sorts of culinary delights.

What I discovered in the Local D’Lish enewsletter last week is that each month they feature a recipe (something I guess I either forgot or didn’t know, given the infrequency with which I have read the emails). The quasi-recipe this month was called “Anything Goes Soup.” This one specifically caught my eye because I’ve been working to clean out my freezer and cupboards in anticipation of the coming growing season (yes, I know, I know, we are still several months out from harvest time – a girl can dream, right?). I also had a goal this last year of using everything from 2012 before the 2013 season (or at least by the end of the 2013 summer), and I found that somehow I was still using things from 2011 (I am guessing this is not a phenomenon specific to myself), so I’ve had some extra motivation this winter. As part of this effort, a few weeks ago I made a chicken chili and was quite proud of myself for only using ingredients I already had – it really does speak volumes to the idea of “shopping at home” first before making your next meal, both as a way to save money and waste less food.

As you might guess, a recipe called “Anything Goes Soup” is really more of a guide than a specific set of directions, which made the recipe even more appealing because I’ve been trying to feel a bit more brave with experimenting in cooking versus just doing what other people have already done. Nothing wrong with following a recipe, but there is much to be said for being able to create your own kitchen masterpieces sans a cookbook.

So, here’s the recipe as presented by Local D’Lish:

Ingredients:

  • a can of stewed tomatoes (from your mom’s garden or wherever…)
  • a bag of frozen corn (that you blanched last August and dutifully froze and forgot about)
  • an old yogurt container full of turkey stock from Thanksgiving (or beef stock from Christmas, or chicken stock from who-knows-when)

  • any and all of the wilty celery and slightly wrinkly potatoes that have fallen to the back of your crisper
  • a can of pinto beans that’s been sitting under your kidney beans long enough

  • the tail end of 3 different kinds of pasta, not enough on their own, but who cares if you have rotini, macaroni, and rigatoni in your soup?
  • pretty much anything else that needs to get used up (can of tiny shrimp from that cheese dip you never made, ham hock from your meat CSA, garlic that started to sprout little green tails…). You get the idea.
  • SALT.

  • Ground black pepper
  • any seasoning you like, but hearty dried herbs like oregano, thyme, and rosemary are great with most thrown-together soups

Directions:

  1. Thaw your stock either by putting it in the fridge the day before. OR put it in a warm water bath for an hour or two.
  2. Cook any savory bits (like onions, garlic, ginger…) in a sauce pan with a bit of oil until tender.
  3. Add stock and any juicy stuff (like canned tomatoes).
  4. Add raw/frozen vegetables and cook for a while.
  5. Add any meat.
  6. Save already cooked veggies (like beans) and pasta until the end so you don’t overcook them into mush. Unless you like mush. Which can also be tasty.

Knowing I had plenty of “anything” in the list above, I assessed my freezer, fridge crisper drawers and spice shelf, and assembled the following:

  • onion and garlic, both stored from last fall

    DSC_0291

    A few of the ingredients used

  • quart of homemade veggie broth, frozen in late 2011
  • about one cup of homemade chicken broth, frozen in late 2012
  • gallon bag (about 1/3 full) of homegrown Sungold tomatoes, frozen in 2011
  • half dozen medium, and very wrinkly, blue potatoes
  • two carrots from our fall CSA
  • a few pieces of antelope jerky, made by my parents last fall, that had somehow gotten a bit too salty for straight eating
  • a few handfuls of store-bought SnoPac frozen peas
  • part of a very sad-looking green cabbage
  • store-bought bag (about 1/4 full) of shelled organic edamame
  • half dozen mushrooms
  • two handfuls of penne pasta
  • herbs/spices (all dry): parsley (homegrown), thyme (from our CSA last fall), rosemary, Trader Joe’s Salt Free Pasta Blend seasoning, garlic salt, black pepper
  • small shake of cornstarch to thicken

Following the order of ingredient addition above, the whole process took me about an hour (including gleaning everything from the various nooks and crannies of my freezer and cupboards) – not bad for a soup.

DSC_0297MY NOTES: What a great soup! I am very happy with the way mine turned out. It has a rich savory flavor, but also a hint of sweetness which I think is probably from the Sungolds and maybe the peas. Though I didn’t use much meat (just the cut up bits of jerky) or pasta, both add some nice variety to the veggie medley. Had I thought more about it, I probably should have added the jerky about ten minutes earlier so it could hydrate more, but I’m hoping overnight in the fridge will do the same. The color of the blue potatoes is a bit odd with everything else, but I’m glad I opted to use them. I also decided to add the cornstarch to give it a little more of a stew feel.

Soup really is a great way to use veggies that are still edible but are maybe a bit soft, have bad spots which can be cut off or are a little frosty from too long of a stay in the freezer. So, for those of you out there who are constantly digging through bags and containers of frozen or otherwise preserved and stored foods, now is the time to bring them all out and see what you can create. And don’t worry – as they say, “Anything goes!”

February 17, 2013 at 10:09 pm 1 comment

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous

The end of the season is here. Sad to say, but after a beautiful 75º day Wednesday, I’ve conceded that fall is here and by the time Saturday night arrives, we’ll have a hard frost. Sigh.

That said, we’ve had an amazing growing season and I feel abundantly blessed to be harvesting tomatoes the first week of October. Lots of tomatoes. Which brings me to last night’s dinner: Moroccan Vegetable Couscous. I found this recipe through our local co-op publication called Mix, which is always a good source of tasty seasonal dishes.

As I mentioned, I’ve got a lot of tomatoes. And given how many are on my counter starting to soften and get beyond the point where they are very usable in raw form, I’m on the lookout for new recipes that require cooked or canned tomatoes. Though I appreciate canned tomatoes in January (usually ones I’ve put up myself), I find no reason to use them now, when I can simply boil some water, quick blanch, slip the skins and voilà, better than canned. So, I took those on the counter most needing to be used and did just that.

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous by Beth Dooley

  • 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15.5-ounce can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup canned or boxed chicken or vegetable stock
  • 2–4 teaspoons jarred curry paste, or more to taste
  • 1 10-ounce bag frozen vegetables, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice or more to taste
  • 2 cups couscous
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 ½ cups boiling water
  • 1 cup Greek-style whole-milk yogurt or feta cheese

Combine the tomatoes, beans, stock, curry and vegetables in a large pot over high heat. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are warmed through.

Moroccan Vegetable Couscous

Into a large bowl, mix the couscous with a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir in the olive oil with a fork to coat evenly. Stir in the boiling water, cover and let stand for about 3 minutes; remove the cover and break up any clumps.

Serve the vegetables over the couscous and top with the yogurt or crumbled cheese.

MY NOTES: First, as mentioned, no canned tomatoes. Since the tomatoes I used included some heirlooms, they had a decent amount of moisture, which worked well in this recipe for creating a perfect sauce.

I also didn’t have or want to buy frozen veggies, given all the things I need to use in my fridge, so here’s what I came up with (all grown in my garden):

  • Eggplant – 4 very small ones, sliced and steamed
  • Beet stems and greens – stems steamed, greens added at the very end
  • Pepper – half a yellow bell, raw; whole Melrose Italian pepper, slightly steamed
  • Onion – half a small one, raw

Continuing the list of substitutions, I didn’t have any chicken stock and my frozen veggie stock was in quart sized volumes, so I opted for some of the turkey stock I made and froze last winter, since it obviously needs to be used up too. I had frozen it in muffin tins, which generally are about a half cup, and then stored them in plastic containers – works pretty well and is much healthier than most store-bought stocks which are often chock-full of sodium.

For the garbanzo beans (aka chick peas), I soaked dry beans all day (about 12 hours, though you only need to do 6-8). I then put them right in the pot with the tomatoes, realizing later I should have boiled them for a bit to soften them. I actually decided to separate them all out and cook them, a rather tedious but worthwhile process, because I didn’t like the texture. Post cooking was definitely better.

The directions on this never really say when to add the lime juice, so I put it in the tomato-garbanzo bean mix, near the end of cooking.

Last, I cut the amount of couscous in half, as I knew we wouldn’t need the suggested amount, which really does seem like a massive amount of couscous.

Overall this dish has great flavor. I like it a lot better than another Moroccan Veggie Couscous recipe I’d gotten off a couscous box a few years ago. I love curry and being new to the world of curry paste, it was great to learn another way to use it, since this isn’t something I would normally have thought of. I also liked finding a way to use whole garbanzo beans, since I feel seriously “legume illiterate” and these beans are super healthy for you, high in protein and fiber. So, if you’re like me and enjoying the last bits of the harvest, try this recipe out with fresh ingredients, or save it until winter for a good warm-me-up meal on a cold day.

October 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm 1 comment

Rosewater and Cardamom Yogurt Lassi

Until about a year or so ago, I had never heard of lassi, let alone tried it. When I finally noticed it on the menu at our favorite Indian restaurant (which, by the way, is Great India in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota), I decided to give it a go. I started with sweet lassi, as the salty option, while more traditional, didn’t sound as appealing. I loved it and the next visit I opted for the salty version. While I didn’t enjoy that one as much, I knew I was hooked on this wonderful yogurty goodness.

So, when I was skimming an article on ways to use yogurt this last week, I was instantly drawn to the recipe for “Rosewater and Cardamom Yogurt Lassi” and bookmarked it for making soon. I had no idea what rosewater was (though it seemed simple enough), but I guessed correctly that I could find it at our local Indian grocery store, Namaste PlazaI had all the other ingredients including plain yogurt, sugar and cardamom, so once I picked up the rosewater, I was set to go.

MY NOTES: Yum.

Really, that’s all I need to say, but I’ll add a few notes about my process. For the yogurt, I opted for a mix of Greek and regular. No reason, other than I already had both for another recipe, so thought I’d give it a try. As the recipe suggests, lassi is also about the texture, so if you mix this up and aren’t quite ready to serve your beverage, I would suggest waiting to blend in the ice until just before you pour it.

August 20, 2012 at 9:45 pm 1 comment

A trio made in heaven: zucchini, eggplant and tomato

When I did an online search for “zucchini, eggplant and tomato” the results went on for at least thirty pages before I stopped clicking through looking for something that wasn’t a recipe. From ratatouille to gratin and ravioli to grilled kabobs, the possibilities of combining these three lovelies are endless. This time of year is an especially good time to try some of these recipes with all three of the leading ingredients in abundance in home gardens and farmers markets.

This morning I knew I needed to find a recipe to use the two Japanese eggplants I had harvested from our garden last week, so I did a quick search for eggplant on Pinterest. One of the most tantalizing options that appeared was called “Teglia Di Melanzane, Zucchine E Mozzarella Di Bufala” which roughly translated to “Pan of Eggplant, Zucchini and Mozzarella.” Yum.

After reading the translated ingredient list, I knew I had all I needed except fresh mozz. Luckily, I had heard from a friend they were having a 2-for-1 sale on fresh mozzarella logs at one of the grocery stores, so I stopped by and got four. 🙂

Tomato sauce in the bottom of the baking dish.

Here is the rest of the ingredient list:

  • 2 eggplants (360 gr)
  • 2 zucchini (300 g)
  • 360 g red tomatoes
  • 12 slices of mozzarella 1 inch thick
  • 1 clove garlic
  • olive oil
  • basil, chopped
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Here is my edited version of the translated instructions:

Wash the eggplant and cut into slices one centimeter thick. In a bowl, cover the slices with coarse salt and put a weight on top. Let stand for about an hour.
Wash the tomatoes and score the skins. Boil a pot of water and add the tomatoes. After about 20 seconds, remove and peel the tomatoes. Remove all the seeds and chop.
In a skillet, saute the garlic in a tablespoon of oil. Pour in the diced tomatoes, reduce heat, add salt, cover and cook for about ten minutes. Turn off the burner and add the basil.
Rinse the eggplant slices.
Wash the zucchini and cut them in slices.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (this is 350º F).
Brush the zucchini and eggplant with oil and saute in a hot cast iron skillet.
Pour a little oil on the bottom of a baking dish.
Place the tomato sauce on the bottom. Arrange alternating slices of eggplant, zucchini and mozzarella on top of the sauce.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Remove from oven, pour a little olive oil, pepper, garnish with fresh basil and serve.

MY NOTES: This recipe was very easy. It takes a bit of time to wait for the eggplant to “sweat” but otherwise, it is pretty “low tech” and fast. For the garlic, the original translation said to remove the garlic. Maybe that didn’t come across from the Italian correctly, but I can’t imagine any reason to remove garlic, so that stayed in. It also said to add “one leaf” of basil, which seemed silly, so I added about three tablespoons.

The taste on this dish was excellent. Smooth, salty, rich from the oil, but also very much something I would describe as friendly for many palates. Like ratatouille, but in a casserole dish. Overall, a perfect choice for a late summer dish for the whole family.

August 14, 2012 at 10:37 pm 4 comments

Chicken with Bok Choy

Last night for dinner I made one of our household favorites, Chicken with Bok Choy. I originally found the recipe online several summers ago when we first received bok choy (also known as pac choi or “Chinese cabbage”) in our CSA share. I had never heard of the stuff, let alone cooked with it, so I turned to cooks.com, a fantastic recipe resource I discovered during my senior year of college when I was no longer on a student meal plan and had to fend for myself in the cooking realm. The database is made up of culinary creations – some excellent, others never to be repeated – from people all over the world, and one can simply enter in a few ingredients you’d like to use and all sorts of ideas pop up. Have some carrots, kohlrabi and cream, as I did? You might find this great recipe for “Kohlrabi and Carrots.” My husband will hate the Lynn Rossetto Kasper reference, but consider it an online solution to “Stump the Cook.”

So, this Chicken with Bok Choy recipe was one I came across and it seemed very simple. Few ingredients and a great use for a green completely foreign to me. I followed the original recipe the first time and have made some adaptations since then, namely rearranging the recipe to make it more readable. Here is my version:

Chicken with Bok Choy

  • 8 oz boneless chicken
  • 1 lb bok choy (pac choi)
  • 1 slice ginger root (or substitute: ground ginger)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • oil
  • Marinade: 3/4 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari, 3/4 Tbsp cornstarch
  • Sauce: 1½ Tbsp soy sauce or tamari, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp cornstarch, ¼ c water

Slice chicken and put in a bowl.  Add Marinade and mix; set aside.

Chop bok choy into slightly larger than “bite-size” pieces, separating the stems and leaves.  Heat wok (or large pan), then add 3 Tbsp oil. Add bok choy stems and ½ cup water and stir fry, approximately 7 minutes.  Add leaves and cook until limp.

In a separate wok (or pan), heat 3 Tbsp oil.  Stir fry ginger root and garlic until fragrant.  Add chicken and stir fry until cooked. Add Sauce, turn heat to high and stir quickly to mix.

Remove and mix with bok choy.

MY NOTES: As I mentioned, this recipe is adapted from the original. One of the main things I did was the step about separating the bok choy stems and leaves. I found when I added them both at the same time, either the stems would not get cooked enough or the leaves would become mush. Separating them might take a little more time, but this recipe is so quick anyway, it is worth it. I also removed the salt from the recipe, as it seemed very unnecessary, especially when you have soy sauce or tamari. Personally, I only use tamari, as the sodium is much lower and it is 100% soy, where as “soy sauce” often contains wheat, so isn’t edible for gluten free folks out there. Additionally, while the original calls for thighs or legs, I usually use chicken breast, and I often add more garlic and ginger. In a pinch, if I forget to get fresh ginger, ground does work, though I usually don’t add it until I add the chicken. When selecting the oil you will cook with, be sure to choose an oil suitable for cooking on medium to high heat (higher smoke point), like refined canola.

This summer when I was home visiting my family, we made this recipe, but were a little short on bok choy, so we increased the veggie volume with a few peas and celery. This last time, I threw in a little cabbage left from another recipe. You can definitely experiment with adding additional veggies, though I would stay away from things that have really strong or contrasting flavor (like sweet bell peppers). The bok choy flavor is rather delicate, and you might lose some of what really makes this recipe enjoyable. Of course, this is all up to personal tastes.

I’ve shared this recipe with friends and family probably more than any other on my favorites list, and I hope you enjoy it too!

August 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm 1 comment

Grapefruit and Chicken Thai Style Salad

Salads are a popular dinner in our house. Usually it is a typical tossed salad – lettuce and whatever random veggies I have chopped or shredded as mix-ins, a sprinkle of cheese, seeds or nuts and topped with a light dressing often of oil and balsamic vinegar, or Italian for my husband. Lately, however, I’ve had an interest in mixing things up and bringing together new flavors in the salad bowl.

Last weekend we went to a restaurant in Minneapolis where we had never eaten before and ordered the spring roll. Unlike many I’ve had before with shrimp, this was a vegetarian one, and when it came out, it was about twice the size of most spring rolls I’ve had. Filled to the brim with lettuce and other veggies, my husband and I agreed it was almost more like a salad in a sheet of rice paper, not a bad idea actually. That got me thinking I’d really like to make some sort of Asian inspired salads, so when the greens start growing in the garden this summer, I’ll have a few salad options up my sleeve.

Enter the Wedge Co-op and their handy “What’s for Supper?” recipe cards! A few weeks ago I had picked up one for a Grapefruit and Chicken Thai Style Salad and knowing I had most of the ingredients, I decided it was a good option for dinner last night.

With no further ado, here is the recipe:

  • 1 tsp dried ground ginger
  • 1 tsp dried ground coriander
  • 1 tsp dried ground mustard
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp Sucanat® or brown sugar, divided
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast or thigh cut into strips
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1/3 c peanut butter
  • 3 Tbsp tamari (regular or wheat-free)
  • ¼-½ tsp Sriracha or other hot sauce
  • 1 head lettuce, chopped
  • ¼ c roasted peanuts
  • ¼ c finely sliced scallions
  • OPTION: ½ c cilantro leaves

1.  In a large bowl, combine the ginger, coriander, mustard, salt and ½ tsp. of the Sucanat® or sugar. Mix well. Add the chicken strips and toss well to coat.

2.  Broil the spice-coated chicken strips for ~5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

3.  Section the grapefruit and set fruit aside. Squeeze the remainder into a small bowl until you have 3-4 Tbsp juice.

4.  In a small mixing bowl, combine 3 Tbsp of the grapefruit juice with the peanut butter, tamari, 1½ tsp. Sucanat® or brown sugar and Sriracha or other hot sauce. Mix well until smooth.

5.  Arrange lettuce on plates. Top with chicken, grapefruit sections, peanuts and scallions. Pour dressing over the salads and top with cilantro, if using.

MY NOTES: I LOVE peanut based dressings and sauces, so this was a winner in that category for sure. The chicken was perfectly flavored with these spices and it is super fast with the cooking (just five minutes, once the oven is heated of course). My husband was a taste tester for me and agreed the flavors blended really well together, save one – neither of us liked the pieces of grapefruit in the salad and I will definitely not include them in the future. If you didn’t want to get a grapefruit just for the juice, I think you could easily substitute lemon or lime juice in the sauce. Also, the dressing would probably be better with creamy, but I only had chunky peanut butter, and I probably could have skipped the roasted peanuts on top since it was kind of the same thing. For a vegetarian version, this would likely be very good with “mock duck,” though I would not recommend tofu, unless you’re very good at cooking with it.

April 1, 2012 at 9:30 am 1 comment

I’m souped!

Tonight I spent several hours making soup. I know my last post was also about soup, but what can I say, it is probably my favorite category of food to make. Plus, I collected a few recipes over the last month or so that I wanted to try and had some veggies in the fridge in desperate need of using, so it seemed like a good way to spend the evening.

It just so happened that all three of the soups I made were of the pureed variety – two according to the recipes and one by my own choice. Though I love a good hearty, chunky soup, I often enjoy a good pureed soup as a way to use a lot of different ingredients to create exciting new flavors, and they generally make excellent “comfort foods.” Also, though I have done no research whatsoever on this, I feel it might be one of the best ways to help my body really absorb and utilize the nutrients in food. As my husband will tell you, I am not exactly a slow eater, which unfortunately probably doesn’t do my body any favors when it is trying to digest the foods I ingest. I’m working to slow myself down and chew my food more (that sounds ridiculous for a 27-year-old to say, seems like something I should have learned a couple decades ago), but the pureed soups (hopefully) help in the meantime.

On to the soups. First up was basically a homemade version of Cream of Mushroom Soup. My husband and I both love fungi of almost any kind, so this was a great fit for our family.

Here is the recipe for Mushroom Soup:

Cooking the mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 pound firm white mushrooms, cleaned
  • Juice from 1 medium lemon
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp minced shallots
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
Directions

  • Sprinkle the mushrooms with lemon juice. In a food processor, fitted with a metal blade, coarsely chop the mushrooms.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, and lightly saute the shallots. Add the mushrooms, thyme, and bay leaf and saute for 10 minutes, or until the liquid disappears.
  • Add cream and stock and bring to a boil. Quickly reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • In a small bowl, combine cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water and add to the soup. Continue to simmer 5 minutes longer, stirring constantly.
  • Correct seasoning to taste.

MY NOTES: This one is definitely not for the faint of heart – it is a full on mushroom fest – loved it. I made the mistake of putting the whole pound of mushrooms in the food processor at once, that did not work, definitely split it in a couple batches. Also, I opted to pureed the whole batch at the end. In the future, I will probably just puree 1/2 or 2/3 and leave a little for texture. One other random thing, when cooking the mushrooms, they looked oddly like ground meat, which could put off the die hard vegetarian. Speaking of which, this could easily be made with veggie broth – though you might lose some of the richness of an animal fat based broth, so maybe add some butter – I did use some homemade chicken broth as suggested.

Next up was Thai-spiced Pumpkin Soup

MY NOTES: If there are two things I love in food, they are squash and curry, so this was a definite winner. Also, this was a super easy recipe, largely because of the curry paste, which includes other spices, so it would be easy for any level of cook to make. I used the Thai Kitchen brand of red curry paste, which I found at my local co-op, but you can probably find many places. Your local Asian grocery will probably have a recommendation for other brands as well, but being new to cooking with curry paste, I can’t say for sure what the differences might be between Thai red curry and other red curry pastes. The flavor of this soup was superb (my husband said, and I quote: “This is probably the best squash recipe you’ve made,” which could be taken several ways – he hates squash, but I also make a lot of stuff with squash, so…)

Finally, I did some serious chopping and made a recipe I got via my weekly email from Blendtec called Roasted Root Vegetable Soup. I cannot, for the life of me, find this recipe online, so here it is:

Ingredients

1 celery root, peeled and cubed
1 large parsnip, peeled and thickly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 medium onion, thickly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled
3 Tbsp olive oil
5-6 C chicken or vegetable broth
1 ½ tsp white wine vinegar
1/16 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F. Add prepared vegetables, onion and garlic to 9×13-inch pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss vegetables in olive oil and bake for 45 minutes until roasted and tender. Add 3 cups of broth and roasted vegetables to blender and secure lid. Puree. Pour remaining broth into large saucepan and add pureed soup. Taste and adjust salt as necessary and add black pepper, if desired and serve warm.
For a creamy touch, try adding ½ cup of half and half or full-fat coconut milk before serving or garnish with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream. Serve with a sprinkling of paprika, cumin or fresh herbs of your choice.

MY NOTES: As many of you already know, I do not use olive oil ever on high heat. It is BAD to do, no exceptions! So, the first substitution I did was using canola oil on the veggies, but you could easily use other high heat oils like sunflower oil. I did not have a celery root (celeriac) and didn’t really want to buy one, so to make up for the volume lost, I increased the carrots and parsnips and threw in a couple small potatoes. Also, the directions never said when to add the vinegar (which I did not have so substituted with a bit of white wine and apple cider vinegar) or the cayenne, so I added them both in near the end. For broth, since I had both chicken and veggie thawed out for the previous two soups, I used what I had left of each. The taste on this one was also excellent, as my husband said “rooty!”

March 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

You say tomato, I say tomato soup please!

For the record, I hated tomatoes as a kid. Except for ketchup and pizza sauce, this plant with the serious fruit-veggie split personality issue never touched my taste buds (at least not that I can remember). I think my disgust with them may have been at least partially caused by an experience as a young kid at a daycare where I was forced to eat tomato soup. But I can’t say for sure.

So, I successfully avoided Solanum lycopersicum for much of the first two decades of my life. Then came college. My junior year, I spent a semester in Denmark. Unlike most Danes, my two host sisters were vegetarians, so my host mom cooked with a wide variety of veggies I had formerly despised. Among them: bell peppers, onions, zucchini and, of course, tomatoes. It was “eat veggies” or “go hungry.” Amazingly, I was smitten. My palate was thoroughly pleased with the variety of tastes I had long been ignoring.

But my new found love for the plant kingdom is not the reason for this post. This is about tomatoes. Specifically (and maybe ironically) tomato soup. Done well, tomato soup is one of the best comfort foods around. Paired with a toasted cheese sandwich and a pickle, it’s a meal made in heaven.

The best tomato soup I’ve found has a twist I would have never expected. Balsamic vinegar – another of God’s great gifts to humanity. I was introduced to the recipe for Creamy Tomato-Balsamic Soup just over a year ago by a co-worker.

MY NOTES: In making this soup, the big difference for me is no beef broth. I made the soup this week using some of the turkey broth I made and froze at Thanksgiving, and previously I’ve used homemade veggie broth. Additionally, you will find no cooking spray in my kitchen, so I use butter to grease the pan. Lastly, the only other difference in the way I make this recipe is to skip the straining step at the end. No reason to take out the best part!

One of the main reasons I like this soup in January is I get to use some of my own tomatoes. This week I used some of the heirlooms I canned in the late season when they were out of control.

In addition to the vinegar, this soup is unique in that you bake the ingredients (except the half and half) instead of cooking them in a pot. This really brings the flavors together in a way I don’t think you can achieve on the stove top. Not to mention the lovely aroma!

So, as winter (finally) sets in here in Minnesota, turn on the oven, pop open some tomatoes and bake. Soup that is.

Did I mention this is the best tomato soup ever?

January 13, 2012 at 10:20 pm 2 comments

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