The last few months in food

While I’ve stuck to my resolution to try at least four new recipes each month, I’ve done a terrible job of sharing them here. Since I have neither the inclination nor the data to figure out everything new that we’ve cooked since, oh, April, here are some highlights:

The Best Lentil Salad Ever – My New Roots
YOU GUYS, we ate this one to death over a couple of weeks of Sunday night picnics followed by several weekdays of lunches. The ingredient list is long, but that’s because the dressing is complex and wonderful and only improves the next day. If you are open to the possibility of a lentil-based salad, get you to the kitchen (and maybe the spice aisle to stock up) and make this right now.

Secret Ingredient Frozen Hot Chocolate – My New Roots
Let’s get this out of the way: the secret ingredient is frozen cauliflower. But I assure you that you won’t taste it at all. Really. This was delicious, especially with a dollop of coconut cream. If you’re less strict about refined sugars or dairy products, I bet you could doctor this up to be sincerely wonderful while still containing sneaky vegetables/fiber.

Roasted Cauliflower Tacos with Chipotle Romesco – Minimalist Baker
This romesco will blow the socks off your Taco Tuesday. This recipe requires relatively little effort unless you are like me and think that making tortillas from scratch is a reasonable thing to do on a weeknight with a broken finger.

Quinoa Cauliflower Tabbouleh – In Pursuit of More
Oh hello, another grain salad obsession. The combination of herbs, fruit, nuts, and a citrusy dressing is perfect for summer.

Vegan Banana Cake – Imagelicious
$1 bags of bananas from Open Produce sometime mean that we make a spontaneous cake. This was simple and delicious and will likely be revisited for the toddler’s birthday in a few weeks. I omitted the walnuts because: why.

Spring Cabbage Wraps with Couscous, Za’atar, and Spicy Tahini Dressing – My New Roots
The toddler likes saying “couscous”. I like that this took about 20 minutes to put together WITH the toddler from start to finish, including making the couscous, the spice mix, and the dressing. The red cabbage we used was a little too tough, but otherwise, this was a winner.

Red Earth Beet Burger – Harvest & Honey
I’ve been fumbling around trying to find a recipe for homemade veggie burgers that I really like. We had leftover beets and lentils from the Beet Party (see below), so I used this recipe as a guide. Good stuff.  This burger recipe from Blue Apron was somewhat less successful.

Fairy Tale Eggplant and Mozzarella Pizza with Blistered Cherry Tomatoes and Summer Squash – Blue Apron
We had two really solid pizzas in our Blue Apron boxes this summer. The flavor of this eggplant was really superb. This pizza was also nice.

Sundown Carrot and Grilled Corn Salad – My New Roots
One of many solid picnic dishes from this summer, especially with in season Midwest corn.

Watermelon Fattoush – Blue Apron
Another great picnic dish, though unfortunately this yielded a ton but didn’t keep all that well.

Beet Party – My New Roots
Another solid picnic dish, though I made all kinds of substitutions with what we had on hand. The recipe is vegan, but crumbed feta is an excellent addition for non vegans.

Poke-Inspired Beet Bowl – My New Roots
We eat fish, so I can tell you that this is not a substitute for actual poke, but it was a nice weeknight dinner. I like composed bowls of things, even if they require a bit more prep up front, in part because everyone can take as much of the things they actually want.

Summer Tian with Chermoula – Harvest & Honey
While I didn’t make exactly this, I made something extremely similar to this, and while it was gorgeous, it was also hard to serve.

Sweet & Savory Korean Rice Cakes – Blue Apron
This was interesting! I didn’t know what to expect from the Korean rice cakes, so it was a nice opportunity to try an ingredient we never would have worked with on our own.

Cod & Tomatillo Salsa with Summer Squash & Sweet Potato Hash – Blue Apron
While we eat fish, we rarely buy it, so this was a nice treat – an easy fish dish complemented by a really nice vegetable hash. N doesn’t tend to like sweet potatoes, but he liked these!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Gai Lan, Mushrooms, & Ginger Lime Peanuts – Blue Apron
A nice stir fry, but nothing to write home about. This dish sort of exemplifies my dissatisfaction with Blue Apron – the meals are generally good, but definitely not worth the $10 per-portion cost.

Blueberry Cardamom Chia Pudding – My New Roots
This was nice, but the volume did not work with our Vitamix. Alas.

Chilled Hiyashi Chuka Ramen – Blue Apron
This Blue Apron meal was a solid dud. The noodles were stuck together. The eggs popped while boiling. My attempt to make sesame mushrooms with $1 bag produce only sort of worked.

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Butternut Squash Soup a la Bill Jusino

Shane came home from poker the other night raving about Bill’s butternut squash soup, so we got the recipe and made it over the weekend.  It was every bit as good as he said it would be – and the recipe is flexible enough to make lots of different delicious variations.  Here’s what we did:

Butternut Squash Soup a la Bill Jusino
Serves 4

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 large onion, minced
1 large sweet apple, finely chopped
2 C chicken or vegetable broth or stock (optional – you can just use milk, half and half, or heavy cream if you want it crazy rich)
1/4 C whole milk (give or take, more if you want the soup creamier)
Butter or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional spices to taste: cinnamon, ground nutmeg, finely ground cloves, curry powder, cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 325F while you cube the squash.  Roast squash, lightly salted, on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer until it’s really soft – 20-30 minutes.  Wait about 15 minutes after starting the squash, then heat 1-2T butter or oil in a soup pot on medium-low heat.  Saute minced onions with salt, pepper, and whatever else you feel like throwing in until onions are translucent.  Add apple, and cook til soft.  Add squash and smush around with the back of your spoon.  Add the broth or stock and bring to a simmer.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender (or a regular blender if you’re brave, but don’t look at me if you mess it up and blow soup all over your kitchen).  Add the cream or milk to enrich, adjust seasoning to taste, and serve warm with some crusty bread or a fancy garnish of your choice.

10 November 2008

Pumpkin Protein Bread

adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Sunlight Cafe

Nonstick spray

1 C all-purpose flour

1 C soy protein powder (we’ve used cinnamon bun and chocolate powders, both with excellent results)

1 t salt

2 t baking powder

1/2 C sugar

2 C pumpkin

2 large eggs

2 T vanilla extract

3 T unsalted butter, melted (optional)

1 C chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray.  Stir together the flour, protein powder, salt, baking powder, and sugar until thoroughly combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips (if using).  In a separate bowl, combine the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, and butter (if using) and stir until uniform.  Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly blended.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and bake in the center of the oven for 45-50 minutes.  Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then cool on a rack for another 20 minutes.  Bread should be golden – almost caramelized – on the outside, but rich, dense, and moist inside.  With a little whipped cream, you can almost pretend you’re eating a big slice of pumpkin pie – except with protein!

Thanksgiving Recipe #1 – Kay Fesenmeyer’s Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes

I’m fairly sure I’ve posted this recipe before, but it was specifically requested at Thanksgiving, so I’m posting it (potentially again) anyway. I have “official” directions, but I never follow them anyway, so here’s my best approximation.

6 medium potatoes (~2 lbs?)
4 oz sour cream
3 oz cream cheese, cut up
2 T butter plus more for greasing
1 t onion salt
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 – 1/2 C milk

Peel, boil, and mash the potatoes. If you’re lucky enough to have a Kitchenaid mixer or a food processor, pulverize the potatoes in there, and leave the mixer/processor on. Add the sour cream, cream cheese, 1 T of butter, and the seasonings to taste. My grandma swears by the onion salt – I’ve replaced it with garlic salt, and am thinking about trying other seasonings as well. I really do mean “to taste” here. Spoon the potatoes into a greased casserole dish.

Here’s the nice thing about this recipe: at this point, you can either put the potatoes straight into the oven, or you can refrigerate them for a day or two. This makes big meal preparation soooo easy because the potatoes can be made the night before and then baked with the main entree.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut up the remaining butter and top the potatoes with the butter and milk – start with 1/4 C, but if the potatoes look dry, add more. Bake uncovered at 350F for one hour, stirring twice.

A couple of notes:

  • Light sour cream or light cream cheese (or neufchatel cheese) is fine, but fat free is not. It’s a consistency thing.
  • I always err on the side of too many potatoes as these always go quickly, and as a result it’s good to have extra enriching ingredients on hand.
  • You can generally buy cream cheese in little bricks – this is an easier option than scooping it out of a tub.
  • In case there isn’t enough fat already, I’ve had good luck with stirring in about 1/4 C shredded cheddar cheese after the second stir.
  • I’ve been meaning to experiment with other seasoning options. Let me know if you try something cool and different!
  • eggs

    I started off the month with the lofty goal of posting every day – and not just that, posting a review every day – and not just that, posting a review every day of a different protein/energy bar, as of late they’ve made up a large part of my diet.

    Well, it’s now June 8 and I haven’t posted at all, much less any reviews, much less about any bars. I was doomed before I even started.

    Instead of dwelling on my own failures, let me talk about eggs for a minute. In the last week, SB and I have gone through approximately 2 dozen eggs. That’s right, we’ve consumed just about 24 delicious eggs in 7 days – 6, actually, since we went shopping on Saturday.

    When I get tired of cooking, eggs are wonderful friends. A couple of eggs, whatever’s left in the fridge, a little butter, and you’ve got yourself a fabulous meal. On Saturday, I made an egg mess with fluffy scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, green onion, the last of the cheddar, and chives from our garden. On Sunday, I made another one with scrambled eggs, Canadian bacon, Vidalia onion, and the last of the Mexican cheese (and maybe some veggies, but I can’t remember). Yesterday morning, in honor of the fact that I didn’t have to be to school until NINE instead of leaving at 7:30, I made an egg mess with fluffy scrambled eggs, turmeric, Boca breakfast sausage, Vidalia onion, red and green peppers, and cheddar cheese. It’s a lot of food, but not a tremendous amount of calories, and oh god, so good.

    The secret to the egg mess is really good scrambled eggs. I used to think that my mom made the best scrambled eggs ever, but I think mine are getting to be as good, if not even better. I’ll clue you in on the secrets, though: water, lower temperatures, and patience.

    Best Scrambled Eggs Ever
    In a non-stick skillet, melt a little butter over medium heat. Beat together the appropriate number of eggs and a little water. If you like, add salt and pepper directly to the egg at this point. When the butter is melted and has coated the pan, pour in the eggs.

    Now here’s the tough part: leave ’em alone. Let the eggs sit until they start bubbling through and getting set all the way across the pan, then slide your spatula around the edge and nudge the set part over to allow the runny parts to get to the heat. Keep doing this until the eggs are cooked almost all the way, using your spatula to break up the nice omelet-like sheet of egg (but not too much!).

    When the eggs are cooked almost all the way, turn off the heat, but leave the eggs in the pan. They’ll continue to cook for a little bit. If you turn off the heat when they’re cooked all the way, they’ll just dry out. Serve with freshly snipped chives (if you like).

    If you’re making an egg mess, I would saute the veggies and/or meat in the original butter, lowering the heat and pouring the eggs over the top. Don’t worry about even meat/veg/egg distribution – it’ll all work out in the end. Fresh herbs are a blessing, and don’t be afraid to try spices – the turmeric addition was positively inspired, and thanks to Jesse in Boston.

    Now I’m hungry. Dang! Oh well, breakfast is just around the corner.

    Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

    2 large ripe bananas, mashed
    3/4 C sugar
    1/4 C milk
    3 T vegetable oil
    1/2 t vanilla
    3 eggs
    2 2/3 C bisquick
    1/2 C chocolate chips

    Heat oven to 350F. Grease 5″x9″x3″ loaf pan. Stir together bananas, sugar, milk, oil, vanilla, and eggs in large bowl. Stir in bisquick and chocolate chips. Pour in pan. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaf from pan, then remove. Cool 1 hour before slicing.

    Mean Nancy Casserole

    1 C sour cream
    1 can cream of chicken soup
    1/4 C dry white wine
    2 C cooked chicken breast
    1/4 C minced onion
    4 oz sliced water chestnuts
    1/2 C sliced black olives
    1 C cashews
    1 C grated cheddar cheese

    Mix sour cream & soup & wine together. Add chicken, onion, water chestnuts, olives, and cashews and stir to combine. Top with cheese and bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes. Serves 4-6. Good with rice or soft French bread.

    This recipe, a family favorite, was given to my mom by her friend Nice Phoebe. Nice Phoebe got the recipe from her friend Nice Nancy, who knew the eponymous Mean Nancy. Mean Nancy was not a nice person but made a good casserole.