What’s Cookin’? Winter 2014 Edition

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* Quinoa is my new favorite thing to eat for breakfast: plain with butter, smothered with cheese or topped with a soft-boiled egg. (Oh, and you can freeze quinoa – just like rice.)

* Now that we have switched to the breakfast bar Monday through Thursday, we have been making a big breakfast for dinner on Tuesday nights. The leftovers are then part of the options for the next morning.

* Coconut sugar! Where have you been all my life? I’ve replaced white sugar in my coffee and 95% of our baking.

* My new favorite cookbook is The Gluten Free Girl Everyday – and I’m not even gluten-free.

* My brother-in-law is a great cook. While he was here in August, he made an amazing shrimp appetizer that we have made several times since. Saute garlic in butter and olive oil with a generous spoonful of tomato paste. Add about a cup of white wine and cook the shrimp. Serve on top of little toasts. We made this for dinner two nights in a row when we were at the beach.

* My sneaky way to get more protein into Jude’s soup? Puree a cup of white beans with the stock. I then add all the regulars: carrots, celery, onion, chicken, lentils and spinach. The beans make the broth slightly creamy and give it a nice body. He’s none the wiser.

* My sourdough starter was rather lackluster in its performance. For some reason, I started storing it in the refrigerator instead of on the counter. I take it out once a week to bake and it’s back in top form.

*One more thing about sourdough, this ebook has really clarified lots of details I didn’t know. It’s free when you subscribe to the Cultures for Health newsletter.

* I have been cutting back on grains. Hummus and kalamata olives served on napa cabbage leaves is a crunchy and yummy lunch.

We are still working through our pantry challenge, just not as intensely. Here are our best discoveries:

* Make compote with all that frozen fruit. Easier than making jam, less guilt than making cobbler. I altered this recipe by subbing coconut sugar (and only using half a cup).

* Mix a variety of leftovers with a white sauce, top with a biscuit dough and bake. Think chicken pot pie surprise!

* Add a cup of frozen pumpkin or other winter squash to almost any soup. The broth takes on a rich orange color and there is no noticeable flavor change, except for maybe a slight sweetness.

* Press thawed sugar cookie dough into a pie plate and bake. Top with jam for an easy quick dessert.

What’s been cookin’ at your house?? Do tell!

Soup, Bread and a Giveaway!!

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This post was supposed to be “Last Minute Holiday Recipes” according to the Holiday Blog Hop, but at this point in the season, I’m pretty much done. Truth be told, I never got into high gear this year. We have had the best December ever (well, except for last night, ahem . . . ) and I don’t know if this is a correlation of any kind. Anyway, I have decided to look toward those lazy, cold days after the holidays and offer up some easy comfort food. (Check out the links at the very bottom of this post for a few festive recipes from fellow Blog Hoppers!)

Soup and bread constitute the majority of our meals in the winter. The boys and I can eat the same soup for lunch and dinner for days on end. One of our new favorites is this tomato soup. Oh my goodness. It is so, so good. The whole thing takes about 15 minutes from start to finish and it is divine. Serve it with a grilled cheese sandwich and you will be a happy camper. Usually, we don’t get that fancy and just settle for toast on the side. I have an old post about baking bread here. The tone makes me cringe (those early blogging days are not pretty) and you can find most of my bread recipes here. The soup recipes (some new, some old) are below.

Now for the giveaway: I have a brand new copy of my favorite bread baking book of all time The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Rick Curry. It is a wonderful book of both basic and not-so-basic breads. If you would like to be entered into the drawing, please leave a comment below. I will announce the winner on January 3, 2014. Good luck.

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Chickarina with Rice

  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 can whole tomatoes with liquid
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 3 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 parsnips
  • 3 cups cooked rice
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound of ground beef

Add all ingredients – except ground beef – to a big soup pot and cook until vegetables are tender. Meanwhile mix granulated garlic, dried parsley, oregano, salt and pepper with ground beef. Shape into tiny meatballs (less than an inch in diameter.) Cook these in a separate pot of boiling water until done. After soup has cooked for about an hour, it should be nice and thick from the rice. Add cooked meatballs and serve with crusty bread.

Feel Better Chicken Soup

  • 2 quarts chicken stock
  • 1 quart water
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 ribs celery
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme (or 3 T fresh if you have it)
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (or 3 T fresh if you have it)

Dice veggies. Cut garlic into slivers. Add all ingredients to liquids and simmer for about an hour. This soup gets better the next day.

Butternut Squash Soup 
(This one is for Mama.)
  • 3-4 pounds butternut squash, roasted in the oven and scooped out of skin
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 jar roasted red peppers, with liquid
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
Brown onion in butter until almost caramelized. Mix in with remaining ingredients. Puree with hand blender.

Sausage and Kale Soup

  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 5 potatoes, diced
  • 1 can white beans
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 package roasted garlic chicken sausages, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • salt, pepper, thyme to taste

Saute onion in about 4 tablespoons of bacon grease. Add carrot, celery, garlic and potatoes. Fill pot with water and add white beans and spices. Simmer until veggies are soft. (I made this part early in the day and then just let it sit.) About an hour before serving, add the sausage. About 15 minutes before serving, add the kale. Serve with crusty bread on a cold night. (Like all soups, this one improves with age.)

New England Clam Chowder This recipe is adapted from The Joy of Cooking – or “The Joy” as my mom calls it.

  • 1 large onion
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup bacon grease
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cans chopped clams, with liquid
  • 2 cups diced potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups hot milk

Lightly brown onion in bacon grease. Add flour. Whisk until incorporated. Add 3 cups water and potatoes. Cook until potatoes are tender. Add clams, butter and milk. Simmer, but do not let chowder come to a boil. Cook for about 20 minutes.

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And more soup:

*Tom reminded me of a soup we used to make when we were first married. It was called Dutch Farmer’s Soup. Saute a large onion in 3 tablespoons of butter in the bottom of a large soup pot. Cut a cauliflower, 3 medium potatoes and 4 large carrots into chunks. Add vegetables and 8 cups of chicken stock to pot and cook until vegetables are tender. Serve with thick slices of sourdough bread topped with melted, smoked gouda cheese.

* My cure-all elixir has made its seasonal debut. It is great for whatever ails you, even if you just have a chill you can’t shake. Fill a mug with chicken stock, crush in half a garlic clove, add a liberal spoonful of coconut milk and a nice pinch of sea salt. When we are sick I also add crushed red pepper (for respiratory ailments), ginger (for stomach stuff) or lemon (for sore throats).

* Butternut squash soup is a fall staple here. I just had a wonderful version at a friend’s house: pureed butternut squash, roasted red peppers and coconut milk. She served it with brown rice, garnished with chopped nori. Oh it was good!

* I haven’t tried this one yet, but I hope to soon: Green Soup. It looks so yummy.

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Check out these recipes from other folks participating in the blog hop:

Holiday Blog Hop #7

PrintLil Footprints captures the sights and smells of the season with her wonderful gingerbread cookie recipe. Baking with little ones while telling a story is a long-lasting memory maker. Join me there for some cookies and milk!

Here is the full link http://lilfootprints.wordpress.com/2013/12/11/gingerbread-cookies/

 

 

Recipe of the Month: November 2013

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Almost all the leaves are gone, which means soup season is in full swing. I’m going to tell you my new favorite soup starter: bacon grease. Oh yeah. It started because I had all these little containers of bacon grease in my freezer and no chicken stock. I wanted something to give my soup some meaty depth, so I gave it a try. Wow. It was one helluva soup. (I’ve also tried it in my regular lentil soup, and again the bacon grease delivered.) Anyway, here is my offering for this month. Anything good in your soup pot lately?

Sausage and Kale Soup

  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 5 potatoes, diced
  • 1 can white beans
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 package roasted garlic chicken sausages, diced
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • salt, pepper, thyme to taste

Saute onion in about 4 tablespoons of bacon grease. Add carrot, celery, garlic and potatoes. Fill pot with water and add white beans and spices. Simmer until veggies are soft. (I made this part early in the day and then just let it sit.) About an hour before serving, add the sausage. About 15 minutes before serving, add the kale. Serve with crusty bread on a cold night. (Like all soups, this one improves with age.)

Recipe of the Month: October 2013

IMG_6322My friend Leslie makes the best salad in the universe. Oftentimes at her house, I will opt for more salad instead of dessert – her salad is that good. It’s really all because of the dressing. I will give you the recipe/technique, but tell you that hers is always better than mine. Smash two garlic cloves with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and make a paste. Scrape this slurry [Leslie’s term for this substance] from the cutting board into a jar with 1/2 cup olive oil and a splash or two of vinegar. Shake to emulsify. Yum.

Last time I went to dinner at her house, she served a raw kale salad that was easily one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Thanks in part to Tom’s kale-o-rific fall garden, I have made it at our house probably four times in the last two weeks. In addition to tasting so damn good, eating kale always makes me feel virtuous, as if this one particular vegetable somehow neutralizes all the coffee and Nutella I consume on a regular basis. Well, anyway, it can’t hurt.

Raw Kale Salad

  • 2 bunches kale with center stems removed, (be sure kale is really dry after washing)
  • 1/4 cup manchego cheese, slivered (crumbled feta would be good too)
  • 1/3 cup toasted almonds, pecans or walnuts
  • 2 T dried cranberries
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • salt, pepper, granulated garlic and chipotle powder (to taste)

Chop the kale into small pieces. Leslie would tell you to chiffonade the kale – but she grew up in Europe, and you know, I’m from NJ. Massage with olive oil, lemon juice and spices. The kale will literally wilt beneath your fingers and turn tender in a very short amount of time. Taste and adjust spices. Add cheese, nuts and cranberries. Toss, serve and try not to eat the whole bowl yourself!!