Posts filed under ‘Recipes’

Blue Cheese and Crispy Sage

Though I didn’t know it a few years ago, I love sage, particularly when it is cooked to a crisp in a lot of butter. I also have a serious love for blue cheese, the more flavorful, the better.

That said, sage isn’t exactly something one eats in quantity on its own. The same can largely be said for blue cheese. So tonight I made a dish that I thought was just going to be a good way to use my kabocha squash and a few leeks I had in the fridge, but quickly realized is mostly an excellent vehicle for eating crispy sage and blue cheese. At the same time. Yum.

Enter the recipe for Squash Risotto with Blue Cheese and Crispy Sage. I had this recipe stored in my Springpad account, a resource I suggested to readers a while back as an excellent way to organize your recipes. Luckily, I also had all the ingredients at home, so no shopping was required. 

MY NOTES: This recipes makes a lot of food, so either make it for a group or with the intention of having leftovers. Most of the cooking time is in baking the squash, so be sure to start that right away. And don’t forget to save the seeds for roasting! Otherwise, there really isn’t a lot to comment on this one except to say that it is exceptionally easy, and that you definitely want the blue cheese and sage, as there isn’t a lot of flavor in the squash and risotto. In other words, that part would be pretty plain without the straight-from-heaven toppings.

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December 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm 2 comments

Happy as pie

I love baking pies. I find them to be the most satisfying creations to pull out of the oven. Cookies are fun, but easily overdone. Sweet bread is comforting, but substitutions have often led to gooey middles and disappointment. But pies, well, pies are pies, and as of yet, I’ve yet to bake one I didn’t like.

I think part of the reason I like pies so much is, at least for me, they offer opportunities for a lot more creativity than other baking. I’ve found a crust recipe (kind of a mix of several) which I really like and usually use for both sweet and savory. Beyond that, it’s all up to my imagination as to how the pie will end up. Generally speaking, I’m talking fruit pies, but I’ve got a few other fun ones I like to pull out especially around the winter holidays (Frozen Pumpkin Mousse Pie, anyone? Note: I make my own pumpkin puree, much tastier than canned.)

Tonight the fruits were peaches and strawberries. The peaches are from the order I made from a chemical-free grower in Washington, and the strawberries were picked by my mom, my husband and myself on Saturday at my favorite organic PYO (pick you own) farm called Sam Kedem Nursery and Garden, in Hastings, Minnesota.

The recipe I used was pretty basic: 

1 cup sugar (I used about half this)
1/3 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups sliced strawberries
3 cups sliced peaches

MY NOTES: Per the idea of another baker, I opted to not mix the fruit, but put the strawberries in the middle, surrounded by the peaches. For the crust, I had a homemade one frozen, so that made things pretty easy. I decided not to do a complete top crust, but instead some crust art, inspired by searching for top crust alternatives. This gave the pie a bright and beautiful look that almost makes me not want to cut it. But seriously, who am I kidding? Because if I didn’t cut it, I couldn’t do the thing I love best about pies – eating them!

September 6, 2011 at 12:47 am Leave a comment

Pickle, pickle, pickle starts with “P”!

This is a time of year about which I feel very mixed. The weather is really quite lovely, most of the “work” in the garden is done and the harvest is abundant. But that’s the thing, the harvest is here. As in, it’s the end of summer folks.

However, with the end of summer comes one of my favorite summer activities. Canning. The preservation of the harvest for colder and darker times. A bit of winter “sunshine.”

Growing  up, my mom did quite a bit of canning. There were always quarts of peaches and pears which we devoured with dinner. I never liked pickled beets until I was an adult (I know, crazy, right?), but my mom canned oodles of them. In the winter she pressure canned freshwater salmon. Yum. I remember watching this happen, but can’t say I have any recollection of really helping. But kids do tend to learn by osmosis and I seem to have a part of my brain which retained at least some of the information, or interest, in any case.

I started canning as an “adult” in 2007. I can’t say exactly what inspired it, but the idea called to me loud and clear – now is the time to learn this. With my own mom over 1,500 miles away, I turned to two other mom’s here in the Midwest. With my husband’s mom I learned to can applesauce, pickles, salsa, and tomatoes, and with a friend and her mom I learned to pickle beets (yes, I LOVE them now). This inter-generational learning is of such value and with many of my generation’s grandmothers now gone, much of the passing on will fall on the shoulders of those women – now in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s – who were lucky to learn these skills. Some of them may be mothers, others may be working for their local extension service and others still volunteering in community centers. However it is being passed on, there seems to be a whole new wave of interest among young people eager to learn.

Now, you’ll notice I’ve only mentioned mothers, but I want you men out there to know you are more than welcome into the kitchen to test your hand at the water bath. To be fair, it was pretty much just womens work for a very long time.  However, canning is an incredible way for everyone to learn about buying from farmers or picking your own, realizing the realities of how long fresh fruits and veggies really last and how to safely handle and prepare foods for a longer shelf life.

The canning I have learned thus far has been hot water bath canning, which can only be used for acidic foods, such as tomatoes, jams and pickles. Vegetables and anything with meat must be pressure canned, which gets the food to a high enough temperature to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum, which causes botulism. Canning is a lot of fun, but food safety is to be taken seriously, as the results can be fatal if it is not done properly. Most of the time, if you follow recipes which have been tested for safety, this is easy to avoid. Unfortunately, this means that, while many of the techniques we learned from grandma are still be applicable, some of her recipes may not be. If you’re not sure what kind of canning you need to do, this webpage offers some basics on how to decide.

For the last three summers, I have been doing almost all my canning with a good friend and we continue to expand our repertoire and skills each season. First on the agenda this year – dill pickles, of the cucumber kind to be exact (the term “pickle” can refer to any number of things which are made with a brine, often involving vinegar). We tried our hand at pickles last year, but weren’t quite satisfied with the “crunch factor” so this year we did a few things different including fresher, smaller cukes and a larger ice bath. Crossing our fingers.

After pickles, we did salsa (37 pints to be exact)! It’s a great recipe we’ve been using for three years now and it never fails to please. Next week, when my mom is in town, we’ll try our hand at peaches. And somewhere in the next month we’ll squeeze in beets, applesauce and hopefully some pepper jam.

In case you’re looking to do some canning yourself, here is the salsa recipe we use, courtesy of Ana Micka:

Ingredients

  • 10 cups tomatoes (peeled, cored and chopped)
  • 1 cup green pepper
  • 2 cups onions
  • ½ cup hot peppers (mixture of banana and jalapeno peppers with seeds removed)
  • ½ cup celery
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • Lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Start boiling water in the canner.
  2. Sterilize mason-type jars and lids (pint sized best for salsa)
  3. Add tomatoes to large, stainless steel pot and cook for 30 minutes, until tomatoes are very soft and the large chunks are gone.
  4. Remove excess liquid from the pot, then add additional ingredients.
  5. Continue to cook at a low boil for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Fill sterilized canning jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Add 2 tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar and process in a hot water bath for 35 minutes.

Makes 5 pints

MY NOTES: Great flavor, excellent texture too. The big thing I will say is more about safely canning salsa than this recipe. When you are using a recipe you know has been tested, DO NOT change the ratios of the ingredients. Basically, its tomatoes to everything else. You can increase the overall amount, but the volumes need to remain the same ratio to keep the pH at a safe level. And don’t forget the lemon juice!!

August 24, 2011 at 12:07 am 3 comments

Are you Italian? No? Me neither.

But sometimes I sure wish I was, at least when it comes to PESTO!

Kale pesto ingredients

That’s right, it’s that time of the summer. The basil is high and ready for picking and we’re all craving something aromatic and tastebud pleasing from the garden. Enter one of the world’s finest, yet simplest, and honestly most flexible, “sauces” around. Traditionally made with basil, pine nuts, hard cheese, olive oil and garlic, “pesto” can be made with a variety of herbs, greens, nuts and seeds. Over the last few years, the price of pine nuts has sky rocketed, so many alternatives have become popular. One of my favorite cheap options is Kale Pesto. This “poor mans” pesto is a great way to use up kale when you’re not sure what else to do with it (or need a way to convince those who “hate” kale to eat it) and also save some money – this recipe uses no cheese and substitutes sunflower seeds for the nut. It also allows for some creativity, depending on how you’re using it, when it comes to the herb flavor. Choose basil for a more traditional taste or branch out and try oregano or marjoram.

If you grow your own basil and have an abundance, I highly recommend making LOTS of pesto and freezing it. This allows for enjoyment all winter long and it takes very little space to store. One option for freezing is in little jars, saved from jams or jellies, but the best way I have found is to make your pesto (some people recommend leaving out the cheese and mixing that in when you us it. I could go either way on this) and then freeze it in ice cube trays. Once the pesto is solid, take the cubes out and put them in freezer bags or whatever container you like. These are the perfect size for single servings and are much easier to use than a large amount frozen in a jar. However, if you do go the jar route, the best way to defrost the pesto – if you’re not using the entire jar – is to put it in a pot of close to boiling water and allow it to thaw from the outside. Heat until you have enough for your meal and then pop the jar back in the freezer. This limits the amount of pesto that is thawed and refrozen each time you use it.

Now that you’re dreaming of green, go make some! Try making some with arugula. Maybe some lemon basil (we did this once and put it on grilled fish – yum). Walnuts or almonds are both grand, and there is nothing that says you have to use Parmesan for the cheese. Try it on pasta, fish, veggies and bread. Use a bunch fresh and freeze even more. Basically, when it comes to pesto, think outside the box and have fun!

August 7, 2011 at 10:39 pm Leave a comment

Blend, baby, blend

This year for my birthday, I received a gift I’ve been wanting for some time now. There aren’t many big ticket items out there that I desire, but this is one thing I had begun to talk about to friends, family, co-workers, anyone who would listen. I may have even told strangers. I’d first heard of this item through my brother and was beginning to have what I referred to as a serious case of “blender envy.”

Yes, that’s right. The item I coveted was a blender. What kind you ask? A serious one. There seem to be two prevailing “high end blender” camps out there and I fall on the Blendtec side of things (Vitamix is the other). This thing has settings for smoothies, soups, sauces and spreads. While not recommended to try at home, it will even blend golf balls.  It has revolutionized our lives. I would go as far as to say I love this blender. May seem a little Enemy of the State, but seriously, this blender is amazing. And after way too many episodes where I only ended up uttering curses at our previous two blenders – brands to remain unnamed – it was time to splurge.

Most of the blender’s work thus far has been fruit drinks in the morning. My husband has concocted a wide variety of combinations, experimenting with strawberries, pineapple, raspberries, mangoes, apples and more. It is fantastic how little work is required and on items like kiwi, you don’t even have to remove the peel – which I have learned is actually quite high in fiber and very good for you. This has been a really great way for us to ensure regular fruit intake, especially on days when time is tight.

Tonight, however, I ventured into the world of soup. The most amazing part of making soup with this blender is the fact that it gets going so fast that the friction – or whatever physics are going on – actually heats it up. No cook soup. Genius. I’ve made one other soup so far, based on a recipe in the handy cookbook that comes with the blender, and tonight I tried a modified version of the “Bacon Cheddar Potato Soup.”

Here is the recipe:

  • 2 c milk
  • 1 medium potato – baked and cut in half
  • ½ c cheddar cheese – shredded
  • 1/4 c onion – steamed
  • 1/4 tsp dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions: Place above ingredients into blender jar and secure the lid. Press the Soups button. If soup is not hot after first cycle, press the Soups button a second time.

Add:

  • 3 slices bacon – crisped and broken into bits
  • 1 baked potato – cut in half

Directions: Press the Pulse button approximately 5 times to blend in added ingredients.

MY NOTES: The most obvious change for this pig free diet was removing the bacon, but I also had to improvise on the milk. As I mentioned in my post about French Toast a few weeks ago, we rarely have milk in our house, so alternatives require some creativity. Tonight my two cups of milk looked like this: a fourth cup half and half, a fourth cup plain yogurt and one and a half cups water. Might sound weird, but it worked. In addition, I didn’t have enough cheddar so I used some brick cheese we picked up in Wisconsin and it added a nice creamy flavor. Also adding to the flavor was a bit of parsley I had picked from our garden and had left over from dinner a few nights ago.

The other thing I learned tonight is that baking potatoes in a toaster oven – even when you’re using little potatoes and have the temp at 375º – isn’t the most time efficient idea. I could have popped them in the microwave for a quick cook, but the more I learn about microwaves and how they affect our food, the more I want ours to die so I can take it to the recycler and be done with it forever. So, in the future, I think I’ll need to plan ahead and either start them in the toaster oven earlier or find some other stuff that needs baking and fire up the regular oven for a bit.

And for a final few thoughts. I love dill – my favorite soup is Borscht – so this recipe caught my eye right away. Even with only a fourth of a teaspoon, the dill did not disappoint. And, while August 1 may seem like an insane day to have a hot creamy soup, today we had a huge rain storm and it was rather overcast much of the day, so it seemed appropriate. Overall, this soup had a wonderful rich taste and I look forward to blending up more potato soup combinations in the future.

August 1, 2011 at 9:42 pm 1 comment

Un-beet-able

It’s 9:15 pm and I’ve just now finished eating dinner. I came home later than planned and was then distracted by other things, so by the time I got around to contemplating my options, I needed something fast. Having already eaten a salad for lunch, I steered clear of the lettuce, but beyond that, pickings were slim.

Sliced cheese and tortilla chips got me out of more than one dinner fix this winter, but with all the veggies now available, I felt too guilty to go that route. There is plenty of pasta in the cupboard, but with no pesto or sage butter, that didn’t sound appealing. And roasted beets, while amazing (and a favorite), are too time consuming for as late as I was starting.

Which is how I arrive at beet greens. Unlike the beetroot, the greens cook up very quickly. Though largely viewed as inedible and quickly destined for the compost bin in most households, being creative with beet greens is not only healthy for you, but also helps cut down on our food waste! Tender much like spinach and swiss chard, these nutrient packed beauties are ready and waiting for your next menu.

I’ve done beet greens a few different ways in the past; usually it involves oil, garlic and some method of steaming or blanching the leaves. Wanting something a bit different this time, I turned to my trusty search engine and in the first page of results, came upon this lovely Beet Greens Salad recipe. While it still involved the aforementioned ingredients, this recipe has a few twists to what I’ve done before.

To make this salad, you will need:

Beet Green Salad

  • Greens from 2 bunches of beets
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 ripe tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 c slivered almonds, toasted until golden

1. Rinse the greens thoroughly in several changes of water.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the greens. Blanch 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water. With your hands, squeeze out the excess liquid. Chop the greens coarsely.

3. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. When it is hot, add the greens, garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes or until the greens are tender but still bright colored.

4. Transfer the greens to a bowl.

5. In a small bowl, whisk the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Pour the mixture over the greens and toss well. Add the onion, tomato, and almonds. Toss again. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if you like. Adapted from Justin Melnick, executive chef of Tomasso Trattoria

MY NOTES: First, a comment on oil. Whenever a recipe calls for cooking with olive oil, I always substitute an oil with a higher smoke point, which is the temperature at which the oil begins to break down. Olive oil to breaks down around 200-250º and at that point can actually become toxic. Options like canola, safflower or sunflower oil are much better for any medium or high heat pan cooking. So, for this recipe, I used canola oil for sauteing the greens, but olive oil for the dressing.

The taste on this salad was absolutely phenomenal. The lemon really helps bring out more of the flavor of the greens, and the onions and tomatoes add some nice texture and taste contrast. I didn’t have any almonds, so I toasted up a handful of raw sunflower seeds, which worked well, though I’d love to try this again with almonds.

So, next time you get a bunch of beets at the farmers market, before you put them in the fridge, twist off the stems/leaves and put them in a separate bag. The roots will last for a long time, but don’t wait more than a few days for the best quality of the greens.

Enjoy!

July 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm 2 comments

French Toast – No milk? No problem.

My usual weekday breakfast consists of yogurt and granola with maybe some fruit, honey, agave or maple syrup. On weekends, when I have a little more time, I like to branch out into the world of eggs and other things that require cooking. This morning I woke up and decided it was time to make some French Toast.

One problem – no milk. We rarely use milk in our house – though other dairy products like half and half, cheese and ice cream are abundant – so this dilemma has come up before. Usually it involves a craving for a milkshake. This morning, however, I got two things in my head, 1) I was going to have French Toast for breakfast and 2) I was not going to go to the store to get milk. Internet search engine, here we come.

The solution I found was easy enough. Substitute the milk with yogurt and if you need to, add a little water. The recipe I ended up making was Honey Butter Yogurt French Toast.

For this recipe, you will need:

2 eggs, slightly beaten
½ c of plain or vanilla yogurt
2 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp of cinnamon
4 slices of bread (fresh or slightly stale)
4 Tbsp softened butter

The video with the recipe walks you through the directions, but it pretty closely mirrors making regular French Toast.

MY NOTES: I used plain yogurt, so I added a small bit of vanilla extract. At the prompting of several other recipes, I included about a tablespoon of water as well. The result, a delightfully tangy and sweet breakfast. The honey butter was an excellent and simple topping. A dollop of yogurt and dash of cinnamon, superb.

July 16, 2011 at 10:55 am 2 comments

Rhubarb Ambrosia Betty

Sounds sassy doesn’t it? That and the fact that I love rhubarb meant I had to try it!

Found this recipe at a table the Seward Co-op had at a recent farmers market.

Rhubarb Ambrosia Betty

5 c rhubarb, cut in ½” pieces 1 3/4 c sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp grated orange rind (the zest)
Sections from 1 orange, cubed
4 c bread cubes (½”)
½ c melted butter or margarine
½ c shredded or flaked coconut

Mix rhubarb, sugar, flour, salt, 3/4 teaspoon orange rind and fruit. Add 2 cups bread cubes and 1/4 cup butter; mix. Put in a greased 8 x 8 x 2 inch pan. Combine the remaining bread cubes, butter, orange rind and coconut. Sprinkle over the top of the rhubarb. Bake in moderate oven (375 degrees) about 40 minutes, until browned. Serve warm. 6-8 servings.

MY NOTES: First, let me share with you that you will never find margarine in my kitchen. Butter, usually unsalted, that’s it. Why? Because I believe that all the fat I could ever eat from butter will still be healthier for me than the following combination: whey protein concentrate, soy lecithin, vegetable monoglycerides, potassium sorbate, vegetable color, artificial flavor, vitamin A palmitate, alpha-tocopherol acetate. I have a high preference for products with few ingredients. Less chemistry lab mumbo jumbo. There is definitely more to “healthy food” than fat and calories.

As for the recipe, did I say, I love rhubarb? Oh yes. I love that Minnesota has such fabulous amounts of rhubarb in the spring and early summer. This dessert (which even served as breakfast for me one day) had an excellent mix of sweet and tangy flavors. It was also a good way to use up some bread that was getting dry, but was not yet stale. Also, I used shredded coconut, I think I’d like flaked better next time. I highly recommend serving this with vanilla ice cream.

When baking, I usually do not alter sugar or salt amounts, however the baking in this recipe is only for the purpose of cooking the rhubarb and heating it all through, so I decreased the amount of sugar by a half cup. Still excellent. I believe that in general we rely much to heavily on sugar and salt to satisfy our taste buds when there are hundreds of combinations of herbs and spices – or in this case orange zest – that would be much more enjoyable and exciting. So, don’t be surprised in the future if I tell you again that I cut the amount or eliminated completely the sugar or salt listed.

July 14, 2011 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

Ya sure, ya betcha!

Today is the Norway Day celebration in Minneapolis, so I feel it is only appropriate to post something Norsk. I’m a quarter Norwegian myself (and a quarter Swede too), and my Scandinavian heritage has always been a significant part of my life.

Growing up, we learned about the food, the dress, where we came from and of course, we came to know of the infamous couple, Ole and Lena. One of my favorite memories is of my mom making dozens of krumkake (literally “crumb cake”) and enjoying them filled with canned whipped cream. This bit of our culture is something my mom passed on to me a few years ago with the gift of my very own krumkake iron – the modern electric kind versus the stovetop version of days past – and every year I make around 14-18 dozen to share with family and friends.

One of my favorite things about making krumkake is teaching the skill to others. You’ve got to have patience, but you’ve also got to be quick. You have to be willing to touch the really hot cookies as they come off the griddle. And you’ve got to be ok with breaking a few. I have given kitchen lessons to a few friends and last fall gave a demo to my Daughters of Norway lodge. Next weekend I’ll be teaching a class for Ingebretsen’s “Christmas in July,” and we’ll even be trying something new to me, Norwegian fortune cookies!

So, as we celebrate Norway Day today, I leave you with my favorite krumkake recipe, which came in the instruction manual with my Bethany Housewares krumkake iron

Krumkake

4 large eggs
1½ c all-purpose flour
1 c sugar
½ c butter/margarine, melted (1 stick)
2 Tbsp corn starch
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cardamom seed

July 10, 2011 at 6:11 am 2 comments

Sticky Pomegranate Chicken Wings

Since the last two posts have been on the “heavy” side, this next edition is the first of MANY recipes. I absolutely love to cook – one of the main reasons I started this was several friends saying I should share my cooking photos on a blog –  so mark this as a place you can check when you are not sure what the heck to do with another batch of beets.

Also, since the last post was mostly about meats I don’t eat, here’s a little treat for all the chicken lovers in the crowd. This one comes to us from Edible Twin Cities, a local edition of the Edible Communities magazines.

Sticky Pomegranate Chicken Wings

8 appetizer servings, or 4 main-dish servings

1⁄3 cup pomegranate molasses
1⁄4 cup soy sauce, preferably Japanese (such as Kikkoman’s)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1⁄2 teaspoon finely minced garlic
2 to 3 pounds chicken wings/drumettes, excess skin trimmed

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients except chicken wings. Heat just to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside until completely cool. Place wings in large non-aluminum baking dish. Add half of the pomegranate mixture, turning wings to coat. Cover dish and refrigerate for 3 to 5 hours, turning wings occasionally; refrigerate remaining marinade separately. When you’re ready to cook, heat the oven to 375°F. Transfer wings to large, oiled broiler rack; the wings should not be crowded or they won’t cook properly. Discard marinade. Bake wings until tender and cooked through, 30 to 40 minutes, turning and brushing with reserved pomegranate mixture about every 5 minutes. For browner, crispier wings, turn on broiler at the end of cooking time, and broil the wings for 5 to 10 minutes, turning and brushing with pomegranate mixture once or twice. Serve hot, with plenty of napkins; they’re really sticky!

MY NOTES: I tried this once a while back using wings, as suggested. It was too much of a mess. So now, I use the sauce as a marinade for cut up chicken breast and cook it in a pan, not the oven. For a no-meat alternative, this is also excellent for veg stir fry. Whatever your preference, its delicious.

July 9, 2011 at 9:12 am Leave a comment

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