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down time, and a recipe

October 16th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

October is a great month for many good happenings in the kitchen, like baking, and soup simmering, and fragrant dishes of all kinds, but THIS October is different as I’m in the midst of a 3-week detox, with many a limitation on what I’m eating. I’m hoping it helps to re-set some health issues I’ve been having, and support more consistent sleep patterns.

It isn’t all bad. I’m actually allowed a lot of delicious foods and I’m never hungry, but I’m wishing I could make pumpkin bread and eat a thick slice dredged in good butter. I’ll be celebrating Halloween by doing just that.

Until then…..


This recipe is so perfect for right now. We’re being drenched in Autumn rain and it’s become quite gloomy outside. Fall color has it’s own beauty against the dull and gray rainclouds, though, and inside your kitchen, this dish can bring a blaze of burnished color to a chilly and uninspiring day.

I first made this dish last Winter and we absolutely fell in love with it. While it does take a bit of work, the flavor is compelling, and well worth a bit of time. Pour a glass of good wine, or a delicious craft beer and sip while you cook, stir and inhale.

 

Caramelized Vegetables with Pearl Couscous

Salt
2 c. pearl couscous
Grapeseed, or coconut oil
1 large sweet potato (about 3/4 pound), peeled and diced, about 1/4″-1/2″
1 large onion (about 1 pound), finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3-inch piece fresh ginger — peeled and chopped fine, about 1 tablespoon
1-8oz pkg portabella mushrooms, sliced, with stems removed
1 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. soy sauce
3 big leaves chard or kale, stalks removed and leaves finely chopped — about 2 cups (I subbed in the equivalent of arugula)
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan, optional

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and salt it generously. Cook the couscous until barely al dente — about 5 minutes. Drain and toss with a generous drizzle of oil so that the grains are lightly coated with oil. Set aside.

Heat a large sauté or frying pan (the largest you have — you want plenty of room and hot surface) over high heat. Drizzle in a little grapeseed or coconut oil (not olive oil — you want an oil with a high smoke point) and heat until very hot. Add the sweet potatoes and arrange them in one layer. Cook them over high heat until they are beginning to caramelize and turn brown — about 4 minutes. Flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes or so.

Turn the heat down to medium and add the onions, sprinkling them with about a teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are beginning to turn brown. Add the minced garlic and chopped ginger and stir them into the onions. Push the sweet potato and onions to the edges of the pan, making room in the center.

Add the sliced portabella mushrooms to the hot center of the pan and cook them for 4 minutes without turning them. Then flip and stir them and cook for another 4 minutes. Once browned, stir them in to the sweet potato and onions. Keep the heat at medium, or slightly higher. Stir the vegetables occasionally. You want them richly browned.

At this point everything should be getting well-cooked; the onions should be quite dark brown and the garlic should be golden and soft. The potatoes should be softening.

Whisk together the vinegar, soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of oil. Pour this into the pan with the vegetables and mix everything together, scraping the bottom as you go. Cook all the elements together for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Then turn the heat up to high, as high as it will go.

Add the couscous gradually, shaking in about a cup at a time, stirring and scraping constantly. Cook the couscous over high heat with the rest of the vegetables for about 5 minutes, letting the couscous get browned on the bottom of the pan, then scraping it up. You are developing a little more color and flavor on the pasta, and helping all the flavors combine. (I cooked this a bit longer to get more flavor in the couscous. The browning of it smells glorious)

Finally, toss the greens into the mix and cook for 1 more minute or until the greens are barely wilted. Turn off the heat and taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot, with shavings of Parmesan if desired. (We didn’t even consider the parmesan. And I don’t think it even needed it.)

ratatouille, and october

October 9th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

I love October. I love everything about it, from it’s blazing maples and fiery Sumac to the clear, crisp nights of abundant stars, the scent of woodsmoke floating on the chilled air. I love that switch to snugglier clothes and another blanket on the bed. I love a simmering soup pot, a pan of fragrant cornbread, baking with apples and fresh-pressed, rich apple cider

I just LOVE October!

I haven’t always loved Ratatouille, though. And I’ve made it multiple ways that have been OK, to an extent, but haven’t been so wonderful that I jumped at a chance to repeat the recipe. Yet every year, when the abundance of zucchini and eggplant and tomato is all there, ready and waiting to be slowly cooked together in this classic peasant dish, I always want to try something again.

There are so many ways to make a simple dish like this.

This recipe I would repeat. Over and over again. While it is a bit extensive, with the grilling and the simmering, the end result is well worth the extra effort. This Ratatouille was silky smooth and simply melted in my mouth, with hints of smokiness from the grill. And as all good dishes go, it was even better the next day.

This recipe does not use fresh tomatoes, and I love the rich flavor that fire-roasted canned tomatoes gives it. Feel free to use fresh if you wish, knowing you will lose some of that smoky taste if you do.

 

 

Ratatouille, Grilled and Simmered

3 small zucchini, sliced horizontally
1 medium eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/2″ slices
2 medium onions, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 each red, yellow and orange bell pepper, gutted and halved
1 28-oz can fire roasted tomatoes (strongly suggested for the amazing flavor they will add- sub in fresh if you wish)
1/2 c. good quality olive oil
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. mixed fresh herbs, like oregano, thyme, parsley, basil, all finely minced
2 t. smoked paprika (smoked is preferred; use regular if it’s all you have)
Salt and pepper

Whisk the olive oil and balsamic vinegar together in a measuring cup. Brush a small amount on one side of the eggplant slices, being careful not to spread on too much. Brush some on the zucchini and reserve the remaining oil/vinegar mix for later.

In a 6-qt stockpot, heat a small drizzle of olive oil and add the sliced onions. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are opaque. Add the garlic, reduce the heat and cook, stirring often, until the onions and garlic are very soft.

While the onions cook, heat your grill, and when hot, place the peppers, skin side down on the hottest part. Add the sliced zucchini and eggplant, and cook until tender and slightly charred for all vegetables. Place peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam so you can remove the skin. Rough chop the zucchini and eggplant and add to the pan with the onions, stirring to combine. Drizzle in a small amount of the oil/vinegar mix to moisten and add the smoked paprika. When cool enough to handle, skin the peppers and rough chop those, adding to the pan, along with the can of tomatoes. Stir everything, get it simmering, then reduce the heat and cover the pan. Allow it to cook, slowly, for 30 minutes. Stir it once or twice to insure it isn’t sticking. Reduce heat if it is, and drizzle a bit more of the oil/vinegar mix in, if needed.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, and add in half the fresh herbs. Allow to simmer about 5 more minutes. Stir, taste and season more, if needed. Serve warm or room temperature, over brown rice or pasta, or with a thick, hearty bread to soak up the juices.

 

KATE’S NOTES: I am nuts for fire-roasted tomatoes and have tried multiple brands, always coming back to Muir Glen Organic. The taste is bar none for a canned product- it tastes like tomato right off the vine! You can use fresh tomato in this dish if that’s your thing, but the extra fire-roasted taste will lend well to the final result, along with the grilled and charred vegetables. 

The smoked paprika also adds a nice deep, smoky flavor, and has been one of my most favorite spices to add to just about everything lately. You will get a much different taste if you use regular paprika.

rice bowls to the rescue

October 3rd, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Rice bowls sound so 1970. Especially brown rice bowls. With tofu. I’m old enough to remember the 1970′s, the retro colors, long flowing skirts and hair and the food culture of healthier options. I look around now and see so much of the same, in people far too young to even know what it was all about.

Come in to my kitchen…

fall, and apples

September 25th, 2013 | Comments Off

We’ve passed that equinox now, where the last days of Summer fade in to Fall and everywhere you look comes a pop of color from the trees that wasn’t there yesterday. It happens in a blink, sometimes right before your eyes.

Fall is all about apples. And pumpkin. But with the onslaught of pumpkin recipes that have been spilling out of the Internet since we rolled over the calendar to September, the iconic Fall ingredient stands to hit the saturation level long before Halloween even arrives.

So, let’s talk about apples.

{Baker Orchard, Centuria WI}

Baker Apple Orchard is near our lake home, and we visit this beautiful place multiple times a year, our families being long-time friends. The orchard is wonderful for a leisurely hike, exploring the century-old barn and the woods around the property. We always take home a jug of their exceptional fresh apple cider and often, multiple bags of gorgeous apples.

We could eat apples every day, and sometimes, Mike does just that. But we also love them in baked goods, and I love making fresh applesauce each year. Many years back I made a batch of apple butter too, one of my most favorite spreads. Our first visit to Baker this year netted us a sack of Honey Crisp, so hopefully, this upcoming weekend when we return we’ll have access to baking apples. I’ve been dreaming of applesauce, a simmering batch on the stove, and of these Apple Streusel Bars, too. This recipe is one of my most favorite things to do with apples every year. It yields a tender, buttery bar with that all important crunchy topping amidst chunks of savory apple. We can polish off a pan in no time.

My favorite Applesauce recipe is made with maple syrup and cinnamon, making a holy trinity of Fall flavor that coats the house in a comforting scent. One batch makes a decent amount, and I prefer to make it fresh, and on repeat, over making a large batch. Warm from the pan, in thick, flavorful chunks, with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream on top is a perfect treat.

What’s your favorite way to eat apples in the Fall??

Apple Streusel Bars

Pastry:

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. real butter, softened
1 egg, beaten

Apple Filling:

1/2 c. white sugar
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
4 c. (about 3 medium) sliced, peeled baking apples

To prepare crust, mix flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or two knives until you have pea-sized crumbles. Gently mix in beaten egg.

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Gently pat about 2/3 of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the dish. Preheat oven to 350° and set aside.

To prepare apple filling, combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon and toss with apples.

Spread apples out on prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved crust mixture over apples evenly and bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

 

 

Maple Cinnamon Applesauce

6 McIntosh or other tart apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Golden Delicious or other sweet apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine apple pieces and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the apples are very soft and falling apart, about 30 minutes. Mash the apples to the desired consistency and stir in maple syrup and cinnamon.

heirloom flavor {review & recipe}

September 19th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

I have been fortunate lately to receive some really nice books for review purposes. This particular one, ‘Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday’s Best Tasting Vegetables, Fruits & Herbs for Today’s Cook’ by Doreen Howard, was highly anticipated, as our CSA offers many heirloom varieties, an option that was a huge draw for me in selecting it in the first place.


Come in to my kitchen…

bless the hands that grow {szechuan style green & black beans}

September 11th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

It doesn’t take much to get my hands dirty, foraging in the garden for the tomato harvest, cutting herbs for the kitchen or pulling up the few weeds that mock the dwindling layer of mulch over the soil. And those tomato plants love to leave their thick, green coloring on my hands and arms as I pick, the fuzzy leaves and stalks brushing against me. When I wash off afterwards, the water runs green in the sink, soap turning an odd greenish-yellow, the color of life from the soil.

(photo courtesy of Bossy Acres) 

 Come in to my kitchen…

try everything once, including grilled cabbage

September 4th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

It’s pretty rare that I won’t try something new. For food, that’s a given; and I’m willing to try most everything once. You can never say that you don’t like something if you never try it, and more often than not, you should try a food a minimum of five times before declaring it off limits. Certain foods, however, I have taken one bite, just to say “I’ve tried this.” but there was never any chance of a repeat performance.

Like beef tongue. And for the record, I realize that it’s ‘beef’. But when you walk in to your culinary class at 6:45am, bleary eyed and in search of coffee and a massive, pale, gross looking slug of WHAT-THE-HELL-IS-THAT??? is laying on the counter, to which your instructor glibly tells you ‘That’s beef tongue.’, it truly turns your stomach. You cannot even imagine how enormous the tongue of a cow is unless it’s laying on the counter in front of you. Think of what you see, then add about 18 inches. Plus, cooking that thing is…. pungent. Then you have to peel it, and that’s as horrible as it sounds, because it’s truly wretched when you hear, and see it happening. I asked my instructor if my grade would be based on eating the beef tongue and he shook his head, thankfully. I took one taste, though, fresh with the memory of that pale slug looking thing, and the ripping of skin in my head and that was the end of that.

These days, the list of foods that I eat is extensive, no more surprising that 90% of them, I’m betting, were foods I didn’t touch even 10 years ago; beets, fennel, tomato, chard, spinach, mushrooms, eggplant (jury is still out on that one), salmon, onions, squash (both varieties), fresh herbs, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts…. it just goes on and on. The expansion of your palate will never be a quick and perfect thing, and that’s ok. As long as you never stop trying new foods, new methods of cooking foods and keeping an open mind to it all, there may come a day when mushrooms are on your plate because YOU put them there. This is no more surprising to me than being jabbed with a pin, as mushrooms were so revolting to me for so long that I nearly gagged just being in the same room with them.

My work allows me a constant window to people’s eating quirks. And even after 2-1/2 years at this  job, I still am surprised to come across food aversions. I’m not talking about avoidance for health reasons, such as lactose or gluten issues, I’m talking about people who visibly shudder when I serve salmon. “It’s fishy.” is the standard response. And they don’t want to hear that it’s only fishy when it isn’t fresh. That the cooking method goes miles towards making it taste good. That even if they haven’t eaten it in 20 years, they really should try it again. Once someone makes up their mind that they don’t like a food, it’s pointless to even open their minds again.

And that’s sad. If that had been me 10 years ago, my life, my meals and my mind would be terribly stagnant. And what’s the worse that can happen? You make a dish and end up not liking it? Maybe it was the method. The seasonings. It was overcooked, or undercooked. Did anyone really love kale the first time they ate it? I sure didn’t. But I kept on trying, because if nothing is ventured, nothing is gained.  Which brings me to Grilled Cabbage.

My only exposure to warm cabbage in a meal was when I was young and the corned beef with cabbage dinner was prepared in our house. The smell was nauseating, and I couldn’t eat the pale, limp cabbage that was the result. With this memory, I’m not sure how I decided that grilling it might be better, but I’m always willing to take a shot and see what I hit. Something about that additional smoky grilled taste caught in my head, and I drizzled olive oil over sliced cabbage in an oven safe skillet and sprinkled it with a bit of sea salt.

Then I set the entire pan in the middle of a very full grill.

This was totally new for me, and I wasn’t even sure I would like it, but I let it brown all over, tossing it occasionally with tongs as it cooked. When it seemed tender, but still a bit crisp, I took it off the heat and scattered a handful of crumbled blue cheese on it.

A tentative first bite, and contemplative chew revealed the smoky taste I was looking for, and a surprisingly crisp yield. A pop of blue cheese sealed the result; it was really good. Unbelievably, outrageously good; so good that I ate the entire pan, a half head of Napa cabbage, along with the rest of my dinner.

You know when you’ve had something extraordinary happen, and it seems to fill you with a sense of wonder? Like the air around you has shifted and you can almost feel a change taking hold of you? This, coupled with the start of September, a new month, and all around me seeing my friends children go off to school in new clothes, to new schools, from new homes and new states and begin brand new experiences and somewhere inside you, this time of year says ‘What was will never be the same again.’

And I don’t think I’ll look at a plain head of cabbage again, now that I know what heat and smoke can do to it. So try something new, and keep your mind open to possibilities and just TRY those foods that you maybe once hated, that maybe made you gag or roll your eyes. You just never know, do you?

What are some foods that you eat now that you once couldn’t stand??

Grilled Cabbage

Napa cabbage, shredded, but not too fine
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Blue cheese crumbles (or feta, if you are so inclined)

Heat grill to high, or prepare coals to make a good hot base.

In an oven safe skillet, or a cast iron pan, lay cabbage in one layer as best as possible. It will shrink a bit, so you can wedge it together at the beginning. Drizzle with about 1/4 cup of olive oil and sprinkle with a teaspoon of sea salt, or to taste. Place pan on grill grate and shut the lid. (Remember…. the handle will be HOT. Keep an oven mitt or towel close by, with a set of tongs)

Allow to sit, undisturbed, for about 15 minutes, then toss lightly, pressing it back to one layer. This helps with the browning, which provides tons of flavor. Cook, tossing occasionally, until cabbage is wilted and browned all over. How long you cook it depends on how crisp or soft you wish it to be. My pan was probably on the grill for (maybe) a half hour, possibly less, and the end result was crisp, but still tender.

Remove from heat and toss blue cheese on top. Allow to cool slightly, and consume warm. Season with pepper, if need be.

herb marinated cherry tomatoes

August 28th, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Earlier this Spring, we took the leap and purchased a CSA share in the Bossy Acres farm. Bossy Acres, run by the team of Karla Pankow and Elizabeth Millard, grow organically on a farm in Northfield, and specialize in unique, heirloom varieties. Being a family of three, we decided to get the Mini share that would deliver every other week, plus an add-on share for fresh farm eggs and fresh roasted coffee.

Hands down, it was the best decision we made this year. In previous years, I would visit the Farmers Markets up to three times a week to keep a good stock of fresh vegetables on hand. In deciding on our CSA delivery, I figured that I would still be able to browse the markets on our off week from deliveries, but the wealth of vegetables showing up in our boxes keeps us chugging along in between delivery weeks, and only on a few occasions have I needed a quick visit to our local market to fill in around the edges. Our garden has also been producing well, and we’ve enjoyed broccoli, chard and a bounty of tomatoes from our own backyard, and the garden at our lake home.

In one delivery from Bossy Acres, complete with a copious harvest from the lake, I faced a counter full of cherry tomatoes that I desperately needed to do something with before they all started collapsing.

These simple marinated cherry tomatoes were a perfect option to take care of the bounty. One quart jar later, they were ready for a few days soaking in the refrigerator, redolent with fresh thyme, oregano and crushed cloves of aromatic garlic. The hardest part of the entire procedure was peeling the little things. The olive oil marinade even made enough to have some left over to fill an extra bottle for use on salads or drizzled over good bread.

A good marinated tomato has endless uses. I love using them on pizza, or you can toss them on your greens, too. Mashed and blended with vinegar, they make a simple vinaigrette, or like pictured here, scooped out and placed on bread, with some of the oil scattered over the top. Once the jar has had time to meld all the flavors together, what happens after that is only limited by your imagination and appetite.

For your bounty of garden tomatoes, pack up a jar or two of these beauties. You will love them.

Herb Marinated Cherry Tomatoes

2 c. high quality olive oil
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 t. crushed red pepper
2 sprigs each fresh thyme and oregano
1 t. mixed peppercorns
1 t. flaked sea salt (I used Maldon smoked)
2 pints Cherry Tomatoes

The Cherry tomatoes need to be peeled, and this was the most tedious part of the whole procedure. Score an X on the bottom of the fruit with a sharp knife and bring a pot of water to a boil. Place a large bowl of ice water nearby. Working in batches, drop the scored tomatoes in the boiling water for 15 seconds. With a slotted spoon, remove from the pot and immediately drop in the ice water. Once cooled, simply peel off the skins. Place the tomatoes in a quart canning jar with a few sprigs of fresh herbs. I liked using the flowering tops of the herbs in the jar.

In a small saucepan, warm the oil, garlic, red pepper, peppercorns and salt gently, stirring to dissolve the salt. Do not bring to a boil. Add the fresh herbs and remove from the heat. Allow to cool completely, then strain out the solids, pouring the oil over the tomatoes in the jar. Any remaining oil can be poured in to a carafe for other uses in the kitchen. Cover the jar and give a gentle shake, then allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Refrigerate for up to two weeks. I doubt they’ll last that long.

You will see the oil solidify in the refrigerator. This is normal. Allow the jar to sit at room temperature for a short time before serving to bring the oil back to liquid.

linwoods super food products {review}

August 26th, 2013 | Comments Off

It’s hard to believe, when I think about it, what I used to eat on a regular basis. I was a certified junk-food addict for certain parts of my life, but I could easily justify it because I was so active that I was always thin. Trouble was, I was never healthy. I suffered severe sinus problems for years, respiratory illness was common for me in the Winter and my skin was always breaking out. I may have been a year-round bicyclist, riding upwards of 100 miles a week or more, and taking leisure rides for hours at a time, but on the inside, my body was showing all the signs of relentless poor nutrition. It wasn’t until I had a small child, and saw the foods that I was teaching him to eat that I decided I had to make some permanent changes.

Thankfully I’ve managed to move away from the poor foods and junk that I used to consume, and eating healthy is a huge priority for me and my family. Even my boy, an avowed carnivore, has embraced the plant-based eating that Mike and I took on in 2011, as long as he can still have a steak here and there. Mike does not eat any meat at all, no eggs and very little dairy. I will eat a small amount of meat, I eat eggs and a bit of dairy, but at home, we follow a vegetarian diet, with grains, nuts and seeds and legumes as well.

When the makers of Linwoods Super Food Products contacted me about sampling some of their items, I knew it would fit right in with our way of eating. Linwoods Super Foods are packaged and ground foods that pack a crazy good nutritional punch.

From their website:

“Super foods are also known as Functional Foods, or a food that delivers a Structural or Functional benefit. Our Super Foods range offers you a wide variety of health benefits due to the vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids that are found naturally in these foods. When used daily, they may help maintain a healthy heart, boost your energy and support a well-balanced diet
and active lifestyle.”

Out of all the choices Linwoods offers, they sent me three varieties.

The samples can be used in multiple ways, from adding to baked goods to sprinkling over Oatmeal or other hot cereals, or adding them to smoothies. I received small sample packets and basically just poured them over my cold soaked Oats that I eat every morning. The flavor is minimal, mostly a nutty texture as the product is fairly well ground. I like that it’s simple enough to use that I just need to open a package, and not go through chopping nuts or grinding flaxseeds. I use whole nuts, flaxseeds and other items like this already in my kitchen, but sometimes those extra few minutes to chop or grind and add them hardly seem worth it. The Linwoods products make it a lot easier.

Linwoods has a wide selection of packaged and ground Super Foods available, and their website also lists extensive nutritional information on what these products can do for your health. I love the combinations they have, and at reasonable prices too, considering what you’d pay if you purchased all of these separately. And if you need inspiration for them beyond using on cereal or in smoothies, they have a nice recipe page to peruse, too.

{I was provided sample packets of Linwoods Super Food Products free of charge in exchange for this review.
All opinions are solely my own, and I was not compensated for this post.}

dark chocolate nutella muddy buddies

August 23rd, 2013 | 1 Comment »

There’s only a few foods that I simply can’t imagine not having on hand. Can you guess???

At the top of the list is peanut butter. But I bet you thought I was going to say Nutella, didn’t you?

Come in to my kitchen…