February 27, 2012

Collards

Collards. So good! I didn’t know how much I love them until fairly recently. A couple years ago I discovered just how much a bowl of collards in winter can change your life. Have you had this moment of realization? Typically, it’s the dark greens combined with bacon or a ham product of some sort. However, I don’t usually keep ham products around my refrigerator. (Allow the gasps in horror to commence.)

Okay. Recovered? So. This is a non-hammy collard recipe. I just wanted to see if I could get a good flavor profile without frying up a bit of bacon or including a ham hock. Or hocking anything at all. I think I did it, which is why I share it with you here. Now. This is not vegetarian. It could easily be. But come on, guys, I wanted to retain a little meatiness for my greens.

Collard Greens

1 T butter, unsalted
1/2 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 c chicken broth (or 2 c broth, 1 c water)
1 lb. collards, fresh from the garden
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste

Saute onion and garlic in butter in dutch oven over medium heat. Once the onions become translucent, add the chicken broth. Bring to a near boil. Add the collards and spices. Simmer for a couple of hours. To add more flavor depth, you may also add chicken drippings from a certain stuffed chicken recipe that you might be making at the same time.

January 29, 2012

Stuffed Chicken

I cannot believe I haven’t posted about this recipe before. That’s just nuts!!! I’ve made it thrice now. My apprehension has a good foothold: Every time I make this recipe, I’m worried it won’t turn out well or I’ll mess something up. Also, there’s a lot of hands on time. And I get really excited when I make it.

This recipe is incredibly versatile, which means I narrowed down the options to share with you. To just one! Aren’t you proud?? It goes like this:

Single Serving Stuffed Chicken
Inspired by Cooking Light, June 2010

1 T olive oil
1 chicken breast
4 kalamata olives, roughly diced
1/4 c spinach, chopped
1 T feta
1/2 oz mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat oil in an oven-safe pan over medium-high. Combine filling: olives, spinach, and cheeses.

Slice a one-inch slit into the side of the breast, move the knife around so you don’t puncture any other side but so that you give yourself room for the fillings. Fill. Place onto heated pan. Saute for 4 minutes. Turn the chicken over and put into the preheated oven for 12 minutes or until a slice into the thickest part reveals a thoroughly cooked chicken with no pink or translucency. Let stand for 3 minutes.

Enjoy. The melted cheese! The melded flavors. Oh. Man. I’m so happy for you that you might get to eat this. And, for that matter, I’m really happy for me, too.

Ehh. I couldn’t do it! Most of you probably want more than one serving, more than one option. Right? Here’s another, closer to the original and four servings.

Stuffed Chicken with Hummus, Feta, Tomato, and Olives
Inspired by Cooking Light, June 2010

4 chicken breasts (about 2 lbs., maybe a bit less)
1/4 c hummus
1/4 c feta
3 T diced tomato
2 T chopped kalamata olives
1 T olive oil

Follow same instructions. Enjoy.

January 25, 2012

Minestrone

I could eat soup at almost every meal. I say almost, because there’s still brunch and breakfast to consider.

Propped, Prepped

One of my favorite parts about this recipe is the fact that for most people, a grocery trip might not even be necessary. I needed to pick up a zucchini (That’s right. Just one.), some broth, and pasta. THAT’S IT!! For me, that’s an incredibly short shopping list for something that’s a) so, incredibly delicious and b) SO much food.

Minestrone
Inspired by Cooking Light’s Slow Cooker

3 c dried Great Northern beans
5 1/2 c chicken broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 large red onion
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
1 medium carrot, chopped
32 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 c spinach
1 c kale
3 t Italian seasoning
1/2 t peppercorns, ground
1 c small pasta shells, uncooked (Aren’t you glad I didn’t make the MINIstrone joke?)
1/2 c Parmesan cheese

Have Halved

In a slow cooker, pour in your Great Northern beans. Top with water. Two inches above the beans will be sufficient. Crank it up to high for two hours, until fork tender.

Pour chicken broth into a large dutch oven and turn heat onto medium.

Mince garlic, chop zucchini, and dice onions. Sauté all. Once browned and smelling delicious, add mixture to broth. The broth should be hot enough to look like this:

Add sautéed vegetables and carrots to the broth. Add tomatoes. Add spinach and kale.

Add spices. Mix together. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer for about two hours. Okay, you can simmer for about 30 minutes and get a similar effect, but the longer it goes, the more concentrated the flavors will be. After two hours (or until you don’t feel like waiting anymore) add your miniature shell pasta. Bring back up to medium heat, and boil the pasta in the soup. (Oh, the flavor!! The intensity!) Once the pasta is cooked through, the beans should be ready from the slow cooker. Add.

Spoon into a bowl (with or without a piece of crusty bread waiting at the bottom of the bowl). Top with Parmesan. Enjoy.

As a side note: Feel free to use beans from a can or precook your beans (as I could’ve/perhaps should’ve done) and add when you add the tomatoes.

This makes a LOT of delicious soup. After you add the pasta and the beans, be prepared to add more seasoning. Also, be prepared to freeze at least a portion. This is the gift that just keeps on giving.

November 16, 2011

Roasted Winter Squash Soup

I’m all for vegetables on their own, shining for themselves. I love vegetables in their raw form. Lately, I’ve been wondering if this is just laziness in me. I went to an incredible restaurant where they did magical things with wintery vegetables. Vegetables that I like okay but loved that night. Brussels sprouts, I’m sorry I never gave you a chance as a kid. We’ll make up for lost time.

This soup is amazing (no Brussels sprouts in this one, but squashes). I’m out of my lazy rut, because however delicious vegetables are in the raw, they don’t hold a flickering candle to this hero of foods, this bowl of beastliness, this delight of the senses.

Roasted Winter Squash Soup

1 medium acorn squash
2 1/2 T butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large red onion, diced
15 oz vegetable broth
1 1/2 c butternut squash, roasted with olive oil
1 1/4 t thyme
1 1/2 t cumin
1/2 t ground white pepper

Slice acorn squash in half then slices 1/2 inch thick, or as close as you can get to that. In a preheated to 375 degrees F oven, roast the acorn squash for 20 minutes. I had leftover butternut squash, but I roasted that in a 400 degree F oven for about 15 minutes. You could roast these guys together probably. Whatever order you do it in, just drizzle with olive oil and make sure the pan gets a good little bit of olive oil, too.

Once you’ve got your roasted and peeled squashes (Squash is about 40 times easier to peel post-roasting. I didn’t know. Should’ve. Didn’t. Do now.), you’re ready for the soup bit. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Saute garlic and onion until tender.

Add broth, squash, and herbs. Bring to boil. Lower heat and let simmer until squash is really tender. This’ll take about 25 minutes or so.

Puree soup in food processor or blender. Return soup to pot. Bring to simmer. Add a little more vegetable broth to make it soupier.

This soup will make you melt. This soup will make you fall in love. This soup will make you very sleepy. Creamy without cream. Decadent. Flavorful. Oh my god. I’m going to get some more right now.

November 14, 2011

Banana Bread, sans Egg

Banana bread is a tricky, slippery, mysterious enigma. I’ve basically kept with the same “recipe” for several years now, but because it isn’t perfect yet, I keep tweaking slightly to discover entirely new worlds when it comes to banana bread. It’s an exciting endeavor, unless I don’t use enough butter or forget an ingredient. This time, I didn’t forget anything (except the fact that I didn’t have any eggs in my house); I adventured into the world of banana bread with an open mouth and ready heart; and I was greatly rewarded for my experimentation. I give you They’ll Never Know You Were Out of Eggs but Wanted to Bake Anyway Banana Bread.

Going into this attempt, I thought my house contained eggs. Those elusive scrambleable necessities for breakfast and baking went for all they were worth, apparently. And more quickly than I anticipated. So, I did a bit of research. Dear internet, what is a good egg substitute other than Egg Substitute? You know, internet, something I can use from my cabinet or fridge, so I don’t actually have to leave my house or my pre-heating oven?

Banana Bread, sans eggs
Inspired by Mark Bittman

1 stick butter, softened
1 c A-P flour (I used white wheat.)
1 c cake flour
1 t salt
1 1/2 t baking powder
3/4 c light brown sugar
5 banananananananas, smushed (Did you know bananas act as a perfectly acceptable and delicious egg substitute? Isn’t that perfect for banana bread??? I added a little bit of yogurt just ’cause and was thankful for the baking powder in this recipe to help the leavening.)
1/8 c plain yogurt
2 t vanilla yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Ready a dozen muffin cups and a small loaf pan.

Whisk dry ingredients together. Cream brown sugar and butter together. Beat in bananas. Add yogurt. Mix until incorporated. Add vanilla extract.

Pour batter into tins. I did it six at a time then the loaf. The muffins took about 12 minutes each. The loaf took a bit longer. Just bake until golden brown and they pass the toothpick test. Really, a good measure is to watch until the edges of the muffins begin pulling away from the tin. But not any longer than that. They’ll get dry.


Cool on rack or whatever (see above for my very and professional cooling method) before removing. Enjoy. Share. Love.

November 13, 2011

Failure

In any endeavor one pursues and hopes to grow from, one should expect learning opportunities, bumps, and disasters. Trying to make this bread helped me realize how much I’ve grown in every other area save for bread making. I think I need new yeast. I used lots of patience this time, trying to wait for something, anything to happen with my dough. Rise, dough, rise. I encouraged, to no avail. Maybe it rose and I’m not remembering the original size very well. I will try to bake it, and maybe, just maybe the lump of elasticky dough will react with the warmth of the oven. No, no, no.

For a loaf that began its life with so much promise– so much delicious, orange-zest-filled, chocolatey goodness, this loaf didn’t rise to the occasion. And I realize it is not entirely the loaves fault. I, the baker, take full responsibility for this baking endeavor becoming heft for my trash bag. What’s the trick with bread???? As soon as I find out, I’m happy to share. Happy to teach. Happier still to learn and eat my own bread.

One day, when I learn me some bread baking skills, I will share this recipe with you. Until then, I will just show you that I can go on. I can create Food. That is Edible. And delicious. Despite specific setbacks and tribulations.

There will be bread. Someday. In the future. I’m sure of it. There has to be. Until then, I will continue to either support my local (well-loved) bakeries or go without bread. It’s not so torturous, really. But it is motivation to face my worthy opponent, my windmills.

Love,

Don Quixote

October 22, 2011

Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice

There’s a juicer in my house. Technically, I guess there are two. There’s a machine that you plug into an outlet then use a plastic plunger type tool to push the to-be-juiced object into the whirring blades. It hasn’t been used since my roommate, its owner, moved it. I don’t know when it was last used. I took it out to examine it as a candidate. I immediately put it back in the box and returned it to its storage location. It, obviously, has been used. And when last used wasn’t properly cleaned. I’m not sure why I’m divulging all this unnecessary, kind of gross information to you except to say, I am juicer!!

Why didn’t anyone tell me how AWESOME freshly squeezed juice is??? It is far superior than bottled up, purchased straight from the store juice. Oh, I’m so excited about this orange juice. So the process is simply. Look:

I have a bowl. I have a strainer. I have the best juice now.

And it was hand squeezed. Fancy, right?

What’s even more exciting that glorious glasses is thinking of all the recipes I might use the juice and, of course, these guys for:

If anyone needs zest, at all, please let me know! I have about a pound of oranges here for the zesting.

Oh, boy. Stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted. Promise.

September 25, 2011

Pie Top Cookies

I made cookies. They looked like pie tops. What to call them? Well, the most obvious answer, of course. I like learning new techniques. I adore cute things. I can’t help it usually. I just get really excited when something is adorable, feel exuberant around the sorts of creatures or crafty or cookery things that make people talk in a slightly higher pitched voice or at a faster pace than typical.

It just so happened that I had two pie’s worth of dough in my freezer. Not in as much luck?? You can whip up a fresh batch. Here‘s a perfectly useful link in a time like this.

So that’s the actual recipe. This is a tutorial, a run-down if you will, of how to make the cookies themselves so as not to needlessly repeat myself on how to make awesome pie crust. The important step for this bit (if you’re making from frozen and not from fresh) is to defrost overnight in the refrigerator. I apologize, as this recipe does call for forethought. Unless you make from scratch! There are always loopholes to stumble through and around!

First step is to make sure your surfaces are well-floured. You can wear an apron if you don’t like flour handprints. I always seem to leave traces wherever I work.

Flatten your pie crusts out, rolling evenly from the middle out in all directions.

Cut strips of the equal width. Leave intact. Begin lattice work work by folding every other strip of one pie crust down to the middle. See picture.

See? Easy. Now take the middle strip from the other pie crust and lay it across your opening. Fold up the ones folded down. Fold down the ones that were previously up and you’re ready to lay down your next longest strop of pie crust from that other one.

Once you have gone all the way to the top. Start from folding up from the bottom again starting from the middle then working down this time until you finish your latticing work.

Now you may get a biscuit or cookie cutter or whatever you might have on hand. I used a tiny mug.

I liked the shape, and with the help of a butter knife, it was perfect. Make sure you pull the dough away from the cookies and don’t try to move the cookies just yet.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

I found that I easily got four cookies at a time. I took the whole sheet of wax paper, carried it like a tray to the fridge and let the cookies hang out in there while I balled up the left over dough, stuck it in the freezer for a couple of minutes (in a plastic bag or plastic wrap) to rechill, so that I could make a new lattice and make four more cookies, pull the dough away, take the four new cookies on their wax paper tray to the fridge to chill, take the left over dough to the freezer for a couple of minutes, then lattice up my third and last batch of pie crust to get my final four cookies, put those in the fridge on their wax paper tray while I mixed up my sugary topping and egg wash.

I simply mixed a tablespoon of raw sugar with a teaspoon of cinnamon in one bowl (or cute, tiny mug) and one egg with one tablespoon of water in another bowl.

First brush the tops of each cookie with the egg wash then top with a pinch or two of cinnamony sugary goodness. Bake six at a time for 15 minutes then turn on the broiler to high for a nice, golden brown top. While the first six bake, keep the others in the fridge.

Top the cooled cookies with local honey for added sweetness. Although alone gives them a nice savory/sweet flavor that might be up or alley. I highly recommend playing with toppings or fillings. But alone is absolutely devine. My favorite topping was the honey though.

This recipe was inspired largely by not martha. Check her out. I’m just learning about her.

September 4, 2011

Chocolate + Pear Cake

I wasn’t sure how this combination would work or if it would or if it could. I love the individual ingredients. So much. Juicy pear. Dark chocolate chips. They’ve never even crossed my mind as a combination. Never. And that is saying a lot.

So, of course, when I read about this cake over here at a LOVELY blog written by an incredibly witty and inspiring lady named Deb, I had to have it.

Chocolate and Pear Cake
inspired by smitten kitchen

1 c white whole wheat flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
3 eggs, room temperature
8 T (1 stick) butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1 lb (about 3 medium or 2 large) pears, peeled and diced
3/4 c bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips

Preheat the oven to 35o degrees F.

Prepare pan (I used a 9 in round cake pan. The original recipe called for a springform pan.) by swiping butter all over the bottom and sides. Then, sprinkle a little flour and powdered sugar into the pan, tipping, turning, and tapping to cover the entirety of the pan.

In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Beat the three eggs with the whisk attachment on high for a really long time. But have no fear, during this time, I’ll give you something exciting to do! Ten minutes should get the eggs to go from eggs…

… to lightly colored and pretty thick froth.

Then, beat a little longer until it’s custard consistency.

(Next time, I’ll actually use the whisk attachment instead of my regular beaters. It turned out fine. So you should be relieved to know that this is a forgiving recipe.)

As promised, something exciting:: Browning butter!!

What’s better than butter? Browned butter. And even though I was pretty frightened of this process when I first heard of it, I love it. It adds a richness, nuttiness, and depth of deliciousness. Oh, man. Okay. So. Put your stick of butter in a medium sauce pan and leave it on medium-ish heat for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally especially a lot in the last couple of minutes so the browning happens all over not just for the first bits to be browned. And yes, those bits are okay. They’re good and welcome, even. Once the butter’s browned, take it off the heat, but keep it in a pretty warm place.

Now, that your eggs are fluffed and your butter browned, add the brown sugar to your egg mixture. Mix until incorporated.

Add flour mixture to egg fluff mixture. Now, get a spatula and fold the flour into the eggs to try to maintain the fluffiness. Add browned butter; fold.

Pour into prepared pan.

Add peeled and diced pears and chocolate chips.

Bake for about 40 minutes. Don’t take the cake out of the oven until your doneness tester comes out completely batter-free. I used my Doneness Tester (butter knife) to go around the edge of the cake just inside the pan to make sure it was separated before turning it out on a cooling rack.

Let it cool for at least 15 minutes.

If I can wait that long, you can, too. It’s possible.

And enjoy.

Every single bite.

September 2, 2011

This Summer

I’ve eaten food.

I’ve made food.

I’ve enjoyed it.

Really.

I just haven’t written about it. At all. Oh, how I’ve missed writing about it. It’s been two months! A lot has happened. I watched and celebrated my best friend getting married; I started a new job; I’ve been in the hospital waiting room for an entire day while someone very close had surgery. Boy, that’s an exhausting process to go through. I’m here!!

Here’s an overview.

Perfected hummus.

I also really enjoyed remaking a favorite.

Then there was the season’s tomato to enjoy. And what better pairing than mozzarella??

And now I’m looking forward to getting back in to the swing of things. Let’s do it!

I’ll try desperately hard to never miss half of a season ever again.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.