Friday, October 29, 2010

Cranberries




The Cranberry. What an amazing little fruit.







But it's not one that I have ever experienced a mad craving for...like M&Ms
Not that M&Ms are a fruit.
Duh.







I liken them to dancing the Macarena...not much to look at by itself,  but awesome when accompanying other performers.







And so when I saw them sitting in the produce section next to the sugary sweet Honeycrisp apples I tossed them in my basket.
I also grabbed some of those apples.
I was thinking about making an apple crisp with cranberries. But that didn't happen because the kids ate half of the apples in the store, where they politely threw the cores away in the cashier's garbage can...and the rest in the car on the way home, where they tossed their cores on the floor.






Plan B: Cranberry Oatmeal cookies. My friend Susan had made these a while back and swore they were amazing. Best. Cookies. Ever. So I was told. I never had the luxury of tasting one because I moved 2000 miles away from her.
Bummer.






 I pressed 'S' on my phone which magically connects me to her {truth be told, I couldn't recite her number to save my life} and asked for her recipe which she willingly shared. Now, I realize that the rest of you probably won't be connected to Susan if you press 'S' on your phone, but you can find her recipe here.







I tweaked mine a little because I found the humidity in the South is greater than that in the North, as are hand gestures...polite ones in any case.  My cookies tended spread a little so I added more flour than she calls for. Also, I squeezed in half an orange...for no other reason than it was sitting on my counter; remnant of a earlier breakfast.






 These also make great bars if your lazy pressed for time, which is why I made some in little tart pans.






Orange Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

8oz Vegan Butter (Earth Balance)*
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup  cane sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups whole oats
1 cup raw cranberries, rinsed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine flour, soda, cinnamon and salt and set aside.  Cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.  Add flour mixture and stir until well-blended.  Add oats and cranberries and mix well.  Spoon heaping teaspoonfuls of batter onto ungreased baking tray or parchment paper on tray. Bake 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack before munching. Enjoy!

*I used fake butter for my 4yr old, N, who can't tolerate dairy, in the hopes that he would try something new. He didn't. So the next time I make these I'm using butter. Then I'm sure he'll want some.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

S'mores Brownies




One of the best parts about being a kid is roasting marshmallows over the fire. During my childhood this was a summertime ritual, like weeding the vegetable garden.
Or pulling ticks out of your hair.
Or painting yourself with calamine lotion because you have failed to steer clear of all the poison ivy lurking in the fields.







We would scour the woods in search of the best stick to roast marshmallows on. It had to be long enough to get close to the coals but short enough so you could have a prime spot over the grill. Diameter was important as well. Too narrow and the marshmallow could fall off; too thick and you would lose half the inside after poking through. And it had to be green which was perhaps the most important criteria. After all, it was okay for your marshmallow to catch fire...not your hand.







A perfectly toasted marshmallow itself was ambrosial, but the coup de gras was the heavenly s'more.






Chocolate.
Marshmallow.
Graham Cracker.







Although nothing can match the pure delight experienced in that first bite: The initial crunch of the sweet graham cracker followed immediately by the rich creamy melting chocolate and ooey gooey marshmallow all fighting for the gold medal in the Sugar High Olympics, we always managed to scarf down at least 5 or 6 before passing out from a sugar coma  realizing that wasn't such a good idea.






Nowadays in my house a bar of chocolate has a life span shorter than that of an average housefly, so we rarely manage to make them. Instead we have discovered its kissing cousin: the Brownie S'more.






And the trees are thankful.



*I'd like to thank my 4 yr old, N, for helping me style these shots :)



S'mores Brownies
*These ones I made in ramekins so I cut the bake time in half 

brownie mix
bag of marshmallows
graham crackers

Go ahead and make the brownies the way the box recommends {although I usually have to cut down on the cooking time because only half the batter makes it into the pan. Guess where the other half goes?} When there is only about 5 minutes left of baking time take them out... spread the marshmallows on top, then the graham crackers and return to the oven for the last 5 minutes. If you're Type A, go ahead and break the graham crackers before placing them atop the marshmallows. This will allow you to cut them into nice, perfect, Martha Stewart squares.

OR: don't break them...cut the brownies after they've cooled (if you can wait that long)... make a huge mess...and eat whatever is left in the pan.

Friday, October 22, 2010

pasta with roasted squash

red kuri squash



For the longest time I thought there were only two types of winter squash: butternut and acorn. The latter is nice because you can easily cut it in half and it turns into a handy bowl perfectly suited for holding copious amounts of butter and brown sugar. I, however,  tend to buy the former because it's easier to peel and I'm lazy not good at that.







Then  I read this post by Cannelle et Vanille
Red Kuri squash? What the heck is that? The next thing I knew it was popping up all over town. Everywhere I went Red Kuri Squash. The farmer's market, the grocery store, Target (yes, Target!! I couldn't believe it either)



delicata squash




I couldn't stop thinking about it. It invaded my subconscience. Snuck into my dreams. I even started dressing my kids in dark orange.



roasted squash: before
roasted squash: after



Something had to give.







So here's what I made:






Pasta with Roasted Squash

winter squash {I used red kuri and delicata}
roasted garlic
olive oil
fresh basil
salt & pepper
cooked spaghetti


Cut & seed the squash, then toss with olive oil and salt & pepper. Place in 400 degree oven until soft and golden...{for me this took about 20 minutes...or maybe 10. I wasn't really paying attention. I just check when I can start to smell it} Peel the red kuri squash and cut into bite size pieces. No need to peel the delicata, but you can if want.

Toss it all into a bowl with some cooked spaghetti. Pop out those gorgeous garlic cloves and add those. Drizzle some more olive oil on top and finish it off with some fresh basil.

note: go easy on the garlic if you are planning on a hot date

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Roasted Garlic




Some like to bake cookies to make their house smell warm and inviting.






I roast garlic.




 



Super easy.








I'm so thankful I'm not a vampire.

Roasted Garlic

giant head of garlic
olive oil
italian seasoning
salt & pepper

Cut  the top off the garlic.
Drizzle with olive oil.
Add seasonings.
Wrap tightly in foil.
Roast at 400 degrees until your neighborhood smells like a pizzeria.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another favorite of mine...this time Chicken Soup




Soups can be really easy to make.  They will simultaneously fill your belly and feed your soul. Simple ingredients meld together to envelope your space in an aroma so hearty you'll feel satiated before that first spoonful leaves your mouth. 







Also, it's a good way to clean out your fridge: that sad looking stalk of celery? Toss it in! Those carrots wilting in that 5 pound bag you bought at Costco thinking you'd snack on those instead of the 5 pound bag of  Kettle Corn? Toss those in too! Onions starting to make your kitchen smell ripe? In you go!! 








I try to make extra so there is some to freeze. I do this with everything
Except eggs.
Because that would be gross.







In a  a former life I was a carb Junkie! White rice was my drug of choice.  I have since seen the light and now gobble up quinoa faster than a 10 year old scarfs down the contents of her plastic orange pumpkin on her way home from trick-or-treating. 
Seriously.
I love the stuff.







Wow that's good!







Chicken Soup 
*I like to kill two birds with one stone (my apologies...i couldn't help myself)) and make chicken salad as well so I boil a TON of chicken when I make this

**please note: the vegetables I photographed for this were not the wilted  ones I am intimately familiar with. Instead I used fresh, beautiful vibrant ones. They are just more photogenic. Go figure!


Obviously, if you start with a whole carcass and boil it for a few hours with lots of vegetables, then pull it out, skim the top layer of fat off, and fish out any remaining bones, you're going to make the best tasting stock you have ever had in your entire life.

But that takes a lot of time...and effort.
And I can be lazy impatient at times.

So here's what I do:  use a good canned stock and boneless, skinless chicken breast. Toss in some onion, carrots, and celery, and let that boil for a while.  When it's cooked through, the chicken will easily fall apart like an overdone ravioli. Remove the chicken and shred it. Using a hand blender puree the vegetables in the pot. I like this a little chunky, but if smooth is your thing...by all means. Add the chicken back in. Toss in some cooked quinoa.  Adding something green like parsley or green onions is always nice.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Slurp.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Guilty pleasures: chocolate chip cookies




I'm sitting at a stop light. I fiddle with my Blackberry...then quickly put it down because I know it's not safe... (even while stopped at a stop light). I scan my mirrors to see if a police car is nearby, all the while coming up with excuses for what I was doing: "Just checking the time, Officer." or "Wasn't me" As I steal a  glance over my right shoulder I catch my little girl, T, sitting in her car seat with her right finger knuckle deep in her left nostril. The look on her face says it all: Nirvana.






I wink at my little ray of sunshine and telepathically tell her to enjoy this while she can because you just can't do stuff like this when you're an adult. I know she hears me because she unplugs her finger from her left nostril and continues on to her right. Smiling and humming to herself like someone who has just  gotten away with something naughty: like poking a wet finger in the sugar bowl when no one is looking. 






I know the light will turn green any second. Surreptitiously I gaze out of my window to my left and catch the woman in the car next me ....you guessed it: picking her nose.






A guilty pleasure that knows no age limit.
Apparently.
I outgrew nose-picking at an early age, but I have never been able to shake my sweet tooth.
Tame it perhaps, but not shake it.







And so after our noses were cleared and our hands washed, we made cookies.

 Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies  by David Lebovitz.
* this recipe is taken directly from David Lebovitz's blog

Makes two dozen cookies.

2/3 cup packed (110g) dark or light brown sugar
1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup (180g) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt
1 1/3 cups (200g) coarsely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 cup toasted nuts, coarsely chopped
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, or by hand, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar just until smooth and creamy.
2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
4. Stir the flour mixture into the beaten butter until combined, then mix in the chopped chocolate (including any chocolate dust) and the chopped nuts.
5. Cover and chill the batter until firm. (It’s preferable to let it rest overnight.)
6. To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
7. Form the cookie dough into rounds about the size of a large unshelled walnut. Place the mounds evenly spaced apart on the baking sheets, and press down the tops to flatten them so they are no longer domed and the dough is even.
8. Bake the cookies for ten minutes, rotating the baking sheet midway during baking, until the cookies look about set, but are not browned.
9. Remove from the oven and quickly tap the top of each with a spatula, then return to the oven for two to five more minutes, until the tops of the cookies are light golden brown.
Remove from oven and let cookies cool.
Storage: The cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to five days in an airtight container. The dough can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for one or two months.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Minestrone Soup: It takes One pot, whether you make it yourself, or heat it up from a can...





When I was in college I ate a lot of soup.
Out of a can.







What did I know? It was what I grew up with. 
And convenient.
And I'm lazy. 
Anything that required more than one pot was considered gourmet.
Plus, I only owned one pot.








Truthfully, it never occurred to me that I could actually make it, and it might even taste better than what came out of that can, no matter how comforting that red and white label seemed.







So these days I make it from scratch. Partly because it tastes better, but mostly because I can never find my can opener.






Minestrone Soup

*this is a really easy soup that can be made lots of different ways. Just take a look at what you have on hand and throw it in


Poor yourself a glass of wine.

In a big pot saute onions, carrots, zucchini, potatoes,  and red pepper. Add beef stock ( I always use stock: the flavor is more robust than that of broth) and spaghetti sauce. Really, any kind of tomato will do, but I think it tastes better with sauce.

Cook until the vegetables are tender, then add the broccoli until it's soft, but keep it green. Brown broccoli is just plain gross.

Boil some little pasta separately and add to your bowl just before serving to keep it al dente. Otherwise it will get way overdone and make your beautiful soup starchy (don't quote me on this, but I think that's what makes canned soup taste funny. That, and all the chemicals they add)

Top with shaved Parmesan cheese which is easy to do with a vegetable peeler. Salt & pepper to taste.

Crusty french bread is always a plus!
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